Named for the distinctive shape of the new bracing system designed by Andy Powers, the V-Class guitars are an intriguing step forward in guitar evolution. Perhaps the most noticeable attribute of the new guitars is the increase in sustain and overall response. These guitars produce impressive sound at the lightest touch and yet they can be played aggressively without breaking up. Another notable feature is the balance of tone up and down the neck. No matter where you play on the neck, the notes ring out clearly without any variation of timbre or volume.
As good as the V-Class guitars sound we’re even more impressed with the engineering that Andy Powers has put into them. Frank Ford and Richard Johnston have been restoring and repairing guitars for almost 50 years and so have seen just about every style of bracing imaginable. Tone is very important, of course, but structural stability is equally vital. The V brace delivers both. If you look at an X-braced top compared to Taylor’s V-braced top you’ll notice how the upper portion of the V borders the right and left (bass and treble) sides of the soundhole, after going underneath the larger horizontal brace just below the soundhole. Compared to an X-braced top, there’s a lot more bracing that’s in line with the pull of the strings on the bridge. Yes, these long continuous “legs” of that V pattern increase the guitar’s sustain, as Andy Powers points out, and that long V brace also increases the soundboard’s stability.
Since Gryphon does a lot of repair long-term stability issue is a big deal to us. We’re constantly dealing with problems that result when a guitar’s soundboard just can’t withstand the strain of a set of steel strings pulling on the bridge (a set of light gauge strings exerts over 150 lbs of “pull” on a pin bridge). The top bulges behind the bridge under the strain, the top sinks in front of the bridge as that bridge rolls forward under string tension, and often the top gets distorted around the soundhole because right where the top needs to be strongest, there’s a big (sound) hole! This flexibility where you don’t want it also increases the chance of the string action going up and down depending on how the soundboard reacts to changing humidity levels.
We agree that Taylor’s new V-Class guitars sound both different and impressive when compared to a typical X-braced acoustic guitar of similar size and materials, but we feel players will also benefit from a guitar that’s far less likely to need adjustment or repair in order to be optimally playable. If you look at the design, you can see these V-braced Taylor soundboards are a lot stronger, but only where they need to be. To increase the guitar top’s stability while at the same time improving the volume and sustain is quite an achievement.