Taylor Guitars: Made In Mexico vs USA – What Are The Differences?
All Taylor guitars are made in one of two factories; either the El Cajon factory in California, or the Tecate factory in Mexico. They’re roughly 40 miles from one another.
Anything that’s a 200 series or lower (so that’s the 100 series, GS Minis, Baby range and Academies) are made in the Mexican factory. The 300 range and upwards are all made in America.
A question we get asked all the time is “aside from where the guitars are made, what are the differences between Mexican and US-made Taylors?” In a nutshell, it’s this; American-built Taylors have all-solid wood construction, whereas the Mexican-built guitars have a solid top, combined with layered back and sides. The US models are also more advanced in terms of their craftsmanship, such as detailed binding, inlays and finishes, plus each one comes with a hard case (all Mexican models aside from the 200 Deluxes come with a soft case). More recently, we’ve started seeing Andy Powers’ ground-breaking, patented V-Class bracing on a lot of American-made guitars, whereas all Mexican guitars feature X-bracing. We’ll go into more detail on all of these points.
It’s worth noting that, although there are differences, the Mexican and US-made Taylors both share the same, incredible quality control as well as many of the manufacturing processes, including the drying of the wood and the construction of the necks and bodies. Whichever one you choose, you’re getting an incredibly well-made instrument, plus if you register your guitar with Taylor, you can extend your warranty to 12 years, for extra peace of mind.
Mexican vs US-Built Taylors: Wood Construction
Every Taylor built in the El Cajon, USA factory features all-solid wood. The back and sides contribute a lot to the guitar’s overall sound (combined with the top and body shape) – different woods can dramatically alter the sound of the instrument. For example, rosewood tends to wield a strong low end and a clear, crisp top-end, whereas mahogany has lovely warm, mid-range to it. The solid back and sides will mean the harmonics ring out differently, and (to my ears, at least) resonate and respond better than the layered version. Unlike laminate or “layered” wood as Taylor call it, solid wood also ages – over time, the tone actually improves the more you play it. A great incentive to pick up your guitar!
There are more wood combinations to choose from in the USA lineup of Taylors, meaning you can really nail the sound you’re after or pick a wood with a dazzling finish – Koa being a huge hit for Taylor on this front. Their flagship 800 Series pairs a sitka spruce top with rosewood back and sides – it’s a classic combination and provides exactly the sort of sound that many acoustic players are after, however the 324ce, for example has a mahogany top and sapele back and sides. This means it will sound more mellow, more mid-focused and will lend itself to a different style of player. Just a couple of examples, these wood pairings only scratch the surface of what’s available in the comprehensive American lineup of Taylor guitars.
Mexican vs US-Built Taylors: V-Class Bracing
We’re seeing more and more US-built Taylors now with V-Class bracing. This braces the body in such a way to improve both volume and sustain, but also has a wonderful side effect in that it improves the perceived intonation all the way up the neck – where traditional X-braced guitars tend to go a little wayward in terms of tuning. It’s incredibly useful if you’re playing, or recording with keyboards or virtual instruments that are perfectly in tune. I’ll let someone more qualified than myself explain the science behind V-Class bracing:
Mexican vs US-Built Taylors: Detailing
There’s a lot more going on when it comes to the finishes, binding and inlays etc. when it comes to the American-made Taylor guitars. They take a lot longer to make – part of price difference is the cost of the luthier’s time. A lot of these upgrades are largely aesthetic, however some of the seemingly small details such as the the finish that coats the guitar can have quite an impact on the sound. The 600, 800 and 900 Series Taylors feature a thinner 3.5mm gloss finish meaning that the guitar sounds a little livelier and more resonant. Also the Builder’s Edition models feature a ‘Silent Satin’ finish – the result of this is less unwanted contact noise when you’re playing the guitar making them ideal for the studio. All the Builder’s Edition guitars have a raft of player-centric features (comfortable body contouring, refined body shapes, unique wood combinations etc) that have helped make them increasingly popular in recent years – all of these are built in the El Cajon, USA factory.
Mexican vs US-Built Taylors: Body Shapes
As it stands, there are some body shapes that are exclusive to the American factory. The redesigned, big-bodied Grand Symphony offers a unique voice with a wide dynamic range that lends itself to strumming and fingerpicking particularly well. There’s also the Grand Pacific, which has proven its success in recent years as Taylor’s reimagination of the timeless dreadnought body shape. The Grand Pacific is currently only available in the 300, 500 and 700 Series.
There’s more than just the 40 miles that differentiates the Mexican and US-built Taylor guitars. The American-made models feature a solid top, with solid back and sides which improves the sound of the instrument, whereas the Mexican guitars have a solid top and layered back and sides, which is still a great guitar but won’t have the depth of tone or age as well in the long run. There’s more choice when it comes to wood combinations and body shapes with the US models, as well as the spread of Taylor’s patented V-Class bracing throughout the range. There’s also a lot more time that goes into the US-built Taylors, particularly on the inlays, binding and finishes, plus the fact that you get a hard case with each one.
I’ve never played a Taylor guitar I didn’t like; they all sound great and each one plays like a dream, partially due to Taylor’s patented “NT” neck construction. In my opinion, the Mexican-made Taylors should be held in the same high regard as the US-built guitars – they offer the same incredible quality and craftsmanship, however if you do want more from your acoustic, then the US-made 300 series and upwards offers just that.