After numerous problems with the pickup system in my Taylor (314CE-LTD) both during and after the IM shows in June, I finally broke down and decided to send it to the factory (in El Cajon, CA) for repair.
Taylor guitars used to have a Fishman pickup system, but back in 2002 or 2003, they switched over to their own custom Expression System (ES) which includes a series of transducers, a pickup and a preamp that provides a low impedance signal (instead of the typical high-impedance signal from other systems).
When it works, the system sounds great. Very clear and natural. Very little of the peizo “thwack” that is customary with Ovations and other acoustic-electrics. Some owners with early versions of the ES system have experienced problems, and it looks like I am one of them.
The problem is, the ES system takes two AA batteries, which sit end-to-end in a compartment like a hot dog. There’s a number of flaws with how the battery makes the connection inside the compartment. There’s at least two places (the knob and where the two batteries meet in the middle) that can fail. On some gigs, I’d have signal for one song, but then after jostling around a bit, I wouldn’t have sound for the next song. Since the only time I really make use of the electronics is for gigs… that’s a problem! (The guitar plays and sounds great acoustically, so when I record I just use a condenser mike).
I’ve had problems with the guitar at almost every gig over the past year, and in fact I recall having trouble from Day 1, but always thought it was just me. Recently I started to get some other rattles inside the guitar, which could have been from all the jumping around troubleshooting it. At that point I figured it was best for the experts to look at it. Now I’m on pins and needles waiting for it to get back safely. The shipping and insurance were outrageous, but I figure if this helps me solve the problem, it is worth it.
I dropped the guitar off at our local Mailroom shipment center, and despite having pulled up in front of the UPS truck on 9/19, the guitar didn’t actually leave town until 9/20. The next IM show is on 10/5, so I have my fingures crossed that it can get back here. The folks at Taylor told me they would put a rush on it. We’ll see if they pull through.