Fender’s seminal T-Bucket is revamped with a shiny modern style in the form of the visually striking and highly economical 400CE. The silky ripples in the laminated flame maple top on this particular guitar grew tighter towards the edges where they met a tortoise-color binding that looked like a classic Fender plectrum. Its laminated lacewood back and sides have an eye-catching mosaic pattern, and a rich, reddish-brown color similar to snakewood. The rosewood rosette’s white outline made it appear to pop out from the top, the “Viking” bridge indeed looked like a Viking ship, and the 12th fret inlay—the letter “F” inside what looked like a pyramid with wings—added a fine bit of flair.
The new T-Bucket is cut from a different cloth compared to many cumbersome dreadnoughts of yore, and it’s a breeze to handle and get around on. The C-shaped neck and the super-easy, consistent action on the fretboard felt more like a Fender electric than, say, a classic Martin dread. Even playing an E barre chord at the 12th fret felt almost effortless, and it sounded remarkably well intonated up there too. The Bucket’s deep cutaway made the upper register not only accessible, but game for actual musical applications. Lead licks flew under the fingers on the fretboard so naturally that, as a longtime Strat cat, I instinctively reached for a whammy bar on occasion. The bridge took a bit of getting used to, however, as the pointed “bow” occasionally jabbed my wrist when I went for sweeping strums [Fender notes that the sharp bridge edges have been addressed and are now being sanded a bit softer at the factory]. But the heel of my hand rested well where the bridge was scalloped away between the beginning of the extended bow and the top point. In fact, it seemed designed for such a purpose, and facilitated pluckinghand muting from that position.
The new T-Bucket had the shimmering highs one would expect from a cutaway dreadnought, and its sprightly overall character matched its shiny style. The tone seemed to flow from the top down through the mids and lows to achieve its sonic balance. The T-Bucket did not deliver the abundant bass associated with some dreadnoughts until I plugged its Fishman Isys III system into a Rivera Sedona Lite 1x10 combo, and then—boom!—I was taken aback by a powerful overall presence that required backing the mids and lows off a bit. The amplified sound was not only far better than expected, it was better than some far more expensive instruments. The onboard tuner worked well too.
Fender’s refreshed T-Bucket is not a run-of-the-mill budget dreadnought. The 400CE delivers a distinctive look, modern features, and super-easy playability for low dough. Students, budding performers, and any player with limited funds will appreciate what the 400CE has to offer. Pick up the new Bucket and kick it around a bit. Traditionalists and professionals might want to consider Fender’s new Paramount Deluxe Series acoustics as well (reviewed in GP’s August 2016 issue), and then decide which Fender best fits the bill.
PRICE $399 street
NUT WIDTH 1.69", Graph Tech NuBone
NECK 3-piece laminated maple, gloss finish
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 25.3" scale
TUNERS Chrome die-cast open-gear
BODY Laminated lacewood back and sides, laminated flame maple top, scalloped X bracing
BRIDGE Rosewood-based with compensated Graph Tech NuBone saddle
PICKUPS Fishman Isys III system with active onboard preamp
CONTROLS Volume, Treble, Middle, Bass, Tuner
FACTORY STRINGS Fender Dura-Tone 880L, .012-.052
WEIGHT 5 lbs
KUDOS Slick contemporary look. A cinch to play. Performance ready and affordable.
CONCERNS Pointy bridge end. No gig bag.