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Tao Guitars / Phaeton "Villa D’Este" / 2020's / Black / Cherry / Guitar For Sale

Tao Guitar's Phaeton is a fine instrument player's and collector's dream. The design is a modern take on the carved- top Archtop guitar. It is an inspiring instrument with a plethora of great and inspiring tones, eye catching details and easy play-ability up and down the neck. The "Villa D'Este" is probably Tao's most striking example of the Phaeton. Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este is a high-end car event that takes place yearly in Italy. Between this and the Phaeton being a symbol in the world of early high-end cars; the Phaeton "Villa D’Este" was the name given to this particular guitar.

The Phaeton was designed to be a 15" fully hollow carved top Archtop that can sound just as sweet overdriven as it does clean. The style of carving, bracing and internally routing this guitar are all done in a way, so that the Phaeton wont feedback at high volume or gain levels. You can press on an overdrive pedal mid song and not have to worry about harsh screeching feedback like with most carve-top Archtops. The methods used to make this instrument able to be played in higher gain settings, does not negatively affect the guitars clean tone in any way. Last thing to note on feedback, is that while you won't get any of that un-wanted screeching; you can still easily conjure up controlled feedback type-tones, that are so much fun to use with this style of instrument. It's just much more controllable. 

At 5lbs 11oz the Tao Phaeton "Villa D'Este" is a beautifully balanced and lightweight guitar. Like with every part of Tao's instruments, weight distribution was very important to get just right. You'll notice this guitar sits just right on your knee or on a strap, with ease and without a dive from the neck or body. 

The tonal properties of the Spruce and Mahogany hollow construction are rich and sweet acoustically, with nice volume, though like an L-5CES this guitar is meant to be played plugged in, which is where it truly shines. The pickup is a proprietary Tao design wound by Benedetti Pickups. It's called their "Large Ribbon" Pickup. This particular example is a floating version, so not to touch the top of the guitar. It is an asymmetrically wound Humbucker with the ability to be split three ways without a large volume drop, like with most Humbuckers. The tone can be described as a low output PAF mixed with a vintage Gold-Foil pickup. It has a nice amount of sparkle with a beautiful airiness and clear note definition and string separation. In Humbucking mode it sounds the most like a traditional Humbucker, it is very warm and articulate with bold lows and a nice hint of evenly distributed mid-range. When flicking the 3-way toggle to the left you are now playing a single-coil, this is the coil closest to the neck, for a warmer split-pickup tone, a great way to tame some of the mids and decrease bass. With the toggle switch moved closest to the bridge you are only utilizing the coil closest to the bridge. This position is great for cutting through a mix overdriven or clean and getting the most treble response out of the pickup. It is more sparkling with even less bass and mid-range. All three positions sound incredible and having the ability to alter the bass and treble response along with the volume and tone controls, makes for a very versatile single pickup guitar.  

Those who appreciate the guitar as an artform and are looking for the best in playability, ascetics and functionality will not be disappointed in this beautiful one of a kind piece by Tao Guitars.  You can read more about how Tao developed the Phaeton below the list of specs. 

Model Name: Phaeton "Villa D’Este"
Body Material: Mahogany
Top Material: Spruce
Neck Material: Mahogany
Neck Shape: C Round Asymmetrical (Flatter on the Treble Side)
Fretboard Material: Ebony
Headstock Veneer: Ebony
Binding Material: Acrylic
Finish: Thin Urethane
Scale Length: 24 3/4"
Fretboard Radius: 12"
Nut Width: 0.0305555555555556
Frets: 22 Nickel Silver Medium Jumbo, Custom Tao Fretting (Jumbo Until the 12th then Smaller Until the End)
Inlays: "Gauge Panel" Type Pinted Side Dots
Bridge: Ebony & Bone Adjustable "Jimmy D’Aquisto Style" Machined Aluminum Tailpiece
Pickups: One Neck Large "Ribbon" Humbucker
Switch: 3 Pos
Tuners: Gotoh "Stealth"
Case: SKB 1 Series with Custom Shape Foam


 Tao on the Phaeton model:

This project started out in 2009 as a cure for a friend & customer who was diagnosed with a very acute form of the G.A.S (Guitar Acquisition Syndrome).

We offered to make him a unique masterpiece that would both calm his illness and at the same time bring us the opportunity to build our dream guitar with a “carte blanche”. The whole idea was to build a hollow jazz – guitar that could handle high volume feedback in a more compact rounded ergonomic body with a solid body style sustain…

Orville Gibson’s “Style 03” guitar being one of our fave, with its anthropomorphic visual and its experimental crafting method made it the most exotic vintage guitar in our eyes – some kind of mythical piece of craft, a milestone in Guitar History. This gave us the guiding conceptual direction for our “Phaeton”.

As explained by Lewis Williams in the first 1903 catalog “front and back made in swelled shape by being carved, leaving the layer grain of the wood in the same position as in its natural growth, thus insuring strength, free vibration, and unusual sympathetic resonance” or “special relatedness and agreements of parts”.

Our other major influence being automotive design In all its forms, car styling aesthetics are obvious here, from the two tone color scheme to the sound – holes bearing air intake visual reference, the whole thing breathing our love for the golden years of American Car Design.

The “Phaeton” name has always been synonymous with class and luxury in the automobile history.

The models from the 30’s & 40’s are the most striking examples with the likes of Cadillac, Chrysler, Cord, Packard…

After several brainstorming sessions, and the drawings that resulted, we could finally take to our workbenches with heart. As mentioned earlier, we decided to build the guitar as were built Orville’s style 03 : hand carved out of two solid slabs of wood, spruce for the top & mahogany for the back ( most of Orville’s were in walnut ).

Here we are embarked on a long and exciting journey,carving the top in this nutshell fashion. The shape of the top’s face that was quite a challenge, as we couldn’t easily work around it with our caliper, we decided to bring the piece to correct thickness using the spotlight technique : reducing differences in color shades by checking the top over a light source. From scraping to the final sanding, this process took us almost 200 hours to complete and a thousand more to finish the whole instrument… putting our love & passion in the slightest details, from the custom made pot buttons, the handmade ebony carbon layered tailpiece to our magnet locked lexan back plates. Every single part was either custom made or at least customized to our standards ( see specs ).

A year and a half later, we were finally able to hear the thing! This was the most emotional moment of all! The Phaeton’s sound was as bold as was striking its looks, leaning toward Gretsch character but with a real voice of its own, smooth sparkling highs and super tight and rich basses, the tuning – fork – bar design giving amazing sustain. Although the Phaeton comes in a hot jazz drapings, this guitar could also unleash a more rockin’ attitude when pushed, which was really pleasant to us!

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South Shore Guitar Boutique is a Boutique/Vintage guitar shop in Long Island, New York, dedicated to showcasing the best guitar, amplifier, and effects pedal builders in the world, as well as providing an intimate and comfortable place for musicians to experience and purchase these rare and unique instruments. Think of us as a rotating gallery of fine handcrafted instruments. When you visit our store, you will be able to discuss gear with like-minded, knowledgeable individuals, who can steer you toward the instrument and tone of your dreams. We will assist you in discovering the most inspiring gear to help you to achieve your best form of musical expression. We can even help you custom order an instrument from any of the extraordinary builders we work with. 

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Return Policy

Return Window

This product can be returned within 3 days of receipt.

General Terms

Items must be returned in original, as-shipped condition with all original packaging and no signs of use. Buyer assumes responsibility for all return shipping costs unless the item was not received as described.


Buyer receives a full refund in their original payment method less any shipping costs and a 10% restocking fee.

Special Conditions

Items under $3,000.00 are subject to only a 5% restocking fee. Items over $3,000.00 are subject to a 10% restocking fee. If an item is marked non-returnable or sold as is, then that item is non-returnable.

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