Taylor Guitars Expression System

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The Taylor Guitars Expression System

The Taylor Guitars “Expression System” is a series of proprietary electronics designed from the ground up to maintain the unique sound and aesthetics of Taylor Guitars. The expression system is fully optimized for the Taylor sound and is unlike any other guitar pickup system. Since its introduction in 2003, the Expression System has gone through a few iterations as Taylor constantly searches to improve upon the state of the art.

Taylor Guitars ES1.1

Taylor Guitars ES1.1 Preamp

The original version of the expression system was used from 2003-2006. It features a magnetic pickup/dummy coil mounted underneath the guitar’s fingerboard extension and two “body sensor” pickups located on the underside of the instrument’s top. It is most easily identified by a AA battery box with a CAT5 signal cable connection visible on the preamp.

Groundbreaking as it was at its introduction, this model is considered obsolete and most replacement components are no longer available.

If the parts you need are no longer available, Taylor offers two field service retrofit options to replace the original system that are available for installation by a Taylor factory authorized service center.

Taylor Guitars ES1.1 Replacement Options

The original Expression System 1.1 is unique in that it is the only version to have featured a AA battery box. Both of the retrofit options listed below are modified versions of later systems that have been adapted to fit the existing AA battery box body rout. These retrofit systems are sonically identical to their 9-volt battery powered counterparts. Complete system replacement components are not available to the public and the service must be performed by an authorized service center. You can find your nearest service center by visiting Taylor Guitars’ website.

Clients seeking to modify their instrument to fit a 9 volt battery power supply are advised to contact Taylor Guitars to make arrangements for factory service. The job requires significant modification to the instrument’s end-block that must be done with the aid of custom jigs; Taylor does not authorize outside service centers to perform this task.

This offering is often best for users that were happy with the sound of their original system and wish to keep their guitar sounding as close to original as possible.

The ES1.3 retrofit adapts this later version of the expression system for compatibility with the AA battery box that your instrument is routed for. The redesigned AA battery box uses a molex signal cable for compatibility with the redesigned preamp, while maintaining the same outward appearance as the original. It still features a pickup mounted underneath the NT Neck fingerboard extension, but utilizes one body sensor pickup instead of the two that were used in the original system.

This option offers an opportunity for owners of legacy Taylor Guitars instruments to upgrade to a special version of Taylor’s current expression system. While it still uses AA batteries, the fingerboard pickup and body sensors are removed and Taylor’s patented behind-the-saddle pickups are installed. You can learn more about this option here.

Taylor Guitars ES1.2

Taylor Guitars ES1.2 Preamp

The second iteration of Taylor’s Expression system was used from 2007-2009. This system introduced a 9 volt battery box, fused string ground, and an upgraded preamp with a battery indicator light and two on/off switches for the body sensor pickups.

This preamp is most easily identified by peering through the sound hole to observe 2 switches on the preamp that allow for independent control of the systems two body sensor pickups.

Taylor Guitars ES Blue

The ES Blue was a short lived “lite version” of the expression system. Discontinued in 2006, it was used on electrified versions of the 100/200 series models. It utilized the same magnetic fingerboard extension pickup as the regular system, but lacked the body sensor or external controls found on the full system. The system is no longer supported and replacement preamps are not available. 

Taylor Guitars ES1.3

Taylor Guitars ES1.3 Preamp

The third version of Taylor’s Expression system was used from 2010-2013 and is most easily identified by a single switch on the backside of the preamp circuit board.

This version of the expression system features and upgraded preamp from the ES1.2 and uses a single body sensor in conjunction with the fingerboard extension pickup.

Taylor Guitars ES-T Pickup

The Taylor ES-T pickup was the second offering of an “expression system lite” It was widely used on instruments made in the Tecate Mexico factory up until about 2014.

Taylor Guitars EST / ES2 Preamp

It represents a departure from other versions in that it utilizes an under saddle piezo pickup.It can be positively identified by removing the instruments strings and saddle to confirm the pickup underneath.

For identification without removing the strings, after assuring that there are no pickups mounted behind the saddle, indicating Taylors ES2, users will notice a preamp with an 1/8″ jack and a phase switch protruding off of the back side.

Taylor Guitars ES2

The Taylor Expression System 2 (ES2) pickup design was introduced in 2014 and is the latest in Taylor’s ongoing innovation in acoustic guitar amplification.

Taylor ES2 behind-the-saddle pickups

The heart of the Expression System 2 is Taylor’s patented behind-the-saddle pickup, which features three uniquely positioned and individually calibrated pickup sensors. The location of the sensors is designed with the intent of capturing more dynamic range vs other pickup types.

In 2016, the original ES2 preamp was modified to reduce gain and adjust the EQ curve.

Upgrade Your Guitar's Electronics to the ES2 System

In our shop, The Taylor ES2 upgrade is available for Taylor guitars that already have an earlier version of the expression system installed. This includes Taylor guitars that were factory equipped with systems ES1.1, ES1.2, ES1.3, or ES-T. We are the only shop in the tri-state area authorized to perform the upgrade in house.

Taylor Guitars ESB

The ESB is the current “expression system lite” offering. In use on Taylor’s GS Mini and Academy series instruments, it features the same patented “behind the saddle pickup” design as the ES2 system, but with a small side mounted control panel that includes an onboard tuner.  

Picture of Erik Salomon - Calico Guitarworks Owner / Head Technician
Erik Salomon - Calico Guitarworks Owner / Head Technician

Tech Talk articles are part of an ongoing effort to provide clear and detailed answers to common questions about guitar maintenance, modifications, and repairs.
While not intended as a step-by-step guide to servicing your own instrument, we hope that you will find value in the information provided.

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About Calico Guitarworks

Calico Guitarworks is the area’s premier destination for fretted musical instrument care and maintenance. Owned and managed by Erik Salomon, the shop is dedicated to providing quick, honest and reliable service. The staff at Calico Guitarworks has a combined 25+ years of professional guitar repair experience. Sharing the knowledge that we accumulate in this focused pursuit is at the core of what we do. Learn more About Calico Guitarworks, explore our Frequently Asked Questions, or Contact us with a specific request.

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