Fender Guitars, long known for its iconic Strats and Teles, may turn a few heads with the flame-maple-topped, dreadnought-sized T-Bucket 400CE, which is not only good looking, but sounds good and, most importantly, is affordable.
The striking shimmer of the maple soundboard is complimented by laminated lacewood back and sides that have a pebble-grained appearance. The hot-rod-themed aesthetics are reflected in the rosette and fret markers, which feature “nuts” and “bolts” icons. The butter-bean tuners add vintage style.
The Test Drive
The T-Bucket has a thin C-shaped neck and slippery low action that should keep rockers happily flying around with speedy precision on the T-Bucket’s stock light gauge strings (.012–.052). The thin neck (1.625 inches at the nut), which sports an attractive maple headstock, allows for easy thumb-over-the-neck Pete Townshend “Pinball Wizard”-styled chord grips.
At $399, you get a lot of bang for your buck
from the T-Bucket 400.
I try some Django-inspired runs through “All of Me” and “Swing 42.” The T-Bucket is hardly a Gypsy-jazz guitar, but it does sound convincing in this setting—the slightly compressed sound and mid-range punch of the T-Bucket makes for a good rhythm guitar for the Gypsy style. Also, the cutaway lends itself to string excursions beyond the 14th fret, a boon for players of all styles.
The TB features a Fishman Isys III pickup system that is equipped with onboard volume, EQ controls (bass, middle, treble), and tuner. I plug the TB into a Fishman Loudbox Mini. Some onboard preamps have only one or two EQ controls, but I’m happy to have three to dial in the proper amount based on the style that I’m playing—for example, a little more bass for strumming or a little less mid for fingerpicking.
With its narrow nut, the TB feels a little cramped for fingerpicking (2 1/8-inches of string spacing at the saddle), but if you have small hands, you may welcome the compact fit.
I bring the Fender to a gig and ask my second guitarist to play the TB through a separate amplifier (another Fishman Loudbox). Although she is mostly strumming and I’m fingerpicking, her sound is a little crisper and clearer.
I find myself envious of her sound.
The T-Bucket does not come equipped with a case or gig bag, so you’ll need to factor in the extra expense, but at $399, you get a lot of bang for your buck.
AT A GLANCE: Fender T-Bucket 400CE
SHAPE Dreadnought cutaway with a 14-fret neck junction
TOP Laminated flamed maple
BACK & SIDES Laminated lacewood
BRACING Quartersawn scalloped “X”
NUT 1.625 inches
STRING LENGTH 25.3-inch scale
PROFILE “C” shape
HEADSTOCK Maple laminate
NUT Graph Tech NuBone
STRINGS Fender Dura-Tone Coated 80/20 Bronze (.012–.052)
TUNERS Chrome die-cast
Fishman Isys III system with active 3-band EQ and tuner
Made in Indonesia
This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.