Fender T-Bucket

THE SEEMINGLY INEXTRICABLE TIE WITH California car culture that Fender has nurtured over the decades has led to guitar names like the Mustang and Coronado, and the “Hot-Rod” moniker for the Deluxe amp of the mid ’90s. Keeping the motor trend alive with the recent introduction of the Hot Rod Design T-Bucket, Fender has given legendary psychobilly artist Vince Ray the task of decorating one of its very affordable acoustic guitars with a pin striping motiff similar to what’s de rigueur on custom cars, surfboards, and motorcycles from the SoCal region. In doing so, Fender has made the T-Bucket something that looks completely different from the multitudes of au-natural acoustics, and Mr. T could probably lure anyone who simply appreciates cars and twangy guitar music. Of course, if you do play guitar, the T-Bucket has the added factor of being a pretty nice instrument for the money.
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The blue finished, quilted maple top is a treat for the eyes, and the gloss black sides and back are highlighted with ivory colored binding. The sleek neck has a comfy “C” shape and features a bound rosewood fretboard and a matching heel cap. The frets aren’t highly polished, but their tips are trimmed for a smooth ride, and even the nut’s edges are rounded off to keep them from nicking your hand. Looking into the soundhole we see a clean interior with crisply sanded bracing, no obvious glue drips, and the wiring tucked out of the way.

The T-bucket arrived with a good setup, and all it took was a little twisting of the silky feeling machines to get it up to pitch using the onboard tuner. The guitar sounds tuneful as you play it in different positions, and while the acoustic tones aren’t overly rich or complex, they are satisfyingly balanced and non-boxy, with a nice sense of roundness on the lows and good crispness on top. The orchestra-sized body isn’t a big sound pump, but the volume it produces is certainly sufficient for unamplified jams and low volume gigs. With its controls set flat and plugged into a couple of new acoustic amps—an L.R. Baggs Acoustic Reference Amplifier and a SanGreal IMC-1— the T-Bucket sounded more electric than acoustic, which is to be expected given its very basic preamp system. However, with some tweakage of the guitar’s controls—a reduction in midrange, a touch of treble boost, and little bump in bass—the tones smoothed out and sound ed more convincingly acoustic. Feedback is a little tough to control from the guitar as there’s no phase switch or any means of zeroing-in on the frequencies you need to cut. Not a big deal, since most acoustic amps have these functions, but you get what you pay for when it comes to onboard electronics, and the TBucket’s 3-band EQ offers a minimal amount of control and nothing more. Battery access is great, though, and replacing the 9-volt cell merely involves pulling its holder out of the plastic control panel, slipping in a fresh battery, and sliding it back into place. An LED starts blinking when battery voltage drops to an unacceptable level.

All in all, the T-Bucket is a stylish, easy playing guitar that sounds good and is very reasonably priced. If traditional flat-tops are getting a little boring for you, give this thing a try. Fender has packed a lot of fun factor into the T-Bucket, and you could hardly ask for a cooler ax to pack along with your ice chest and surfboard for your next trip to the beach.