When I first started doing reviews my vision had been to provide reviews of consumer tech products. Had you told me 4 years ago that I’d be reviewing the Fender CT-140SE on my technology website, I would have laughed. While I’ve played guitar since I was at least 13, I didn’t think the opportunity to review one would ever come up. Well, when you’ve been in the business of reviewing products online for such a long time. Sometimes opportunities just spring up. Fender was kind enough to ask us to take a look at their new Fender CT-140SE.
First, some background on myself. I’ve played guitar for at least 30 years. I’ve played as a hobby and I’ve played in bands where I actually made a few bucks (I think it was $27 per gig to be exact). I’ve played at my kids birthday parties and the largest crowd I’ve ever played in front of was just under 2,000 people. I’m a self-taught play by ear kind of guy and this review is going to mirror my skills and likely won’t be touching on too many technical points. I’d say this review would be helpful for those looking to buy their first guitar or who are still novices at playing guitar. With that being said, let’s get this Fender CT-140SE review rolling. Read on and find out why this auditorium style short scale has been awarded our Techaeris Top Pick Award for 2017.
- Travel body style
- Solid spruce top with scalloped “X”-bracing
- Rosewood back and sides
- Easy-to-play neck with rolled fingerboard edges
- Fishman Presys pickup/preamp
- Graph Tech nut and bridge saddle
What’s In The Box
- Fender CT-140SE
- Hardshell case
- Allen key
- Case keys
- Documentation and user guides
The Fender CT-140SE review unit that was sent to me came in the Sunburst color which looks brilliant on this guitar. The guitar is also available in a Natural wood color as well, if you prefer something less flashy. Both versions will give you a Rosewood fingerboard which is pretty basic given the price point of this guitar. The fret inlays are a bit small, I wish they were bigger with a nicer design other than dots. The top of the guitar is solid Spruce and the back and sides are Rosewood and the whole thing is finished off with a brilliant shine.
The tuning machines look to be made from stainless steel and the nut and bridge saddle are both made from Graph Tech. The fingerboard has rolled edges which are more comfortable for new guitar players to play on. The fingerboard has a slight bit of drag but I’d wager that’s from the newness of the guitar. It will take a bit of time for the fingerboard to cure and get nice and slick.
The Fishman presys/preamp and tuner are at the top edge of the guitar where most people’s elbow sort of rests. It’s a basic setup that offers bass, treble, mid tone control as well as a phase toggle and built-in tuner. Having that built-in tuner really adds a lot of value to this guitar and Fishman makes very solid pickups that have a very solid, rich tone.
The shape of the guitar is an auditorium style that has been scaled down to 23 ½ inches. Auditorium style guitars are not as deep as say, a dreadnaught style guitar. This style offers some advantages for both young players and beginning players. The thinner depth allows for better comfort and not feeling like you’re swimming in a large body. The scaled down version we have here also offers better portability.
The included Fender case was actually a really pleasant surprise. The case is really well made, so much nicer than many of those crappy gig bags places like Guitar Center push off on you. The interior of the case is cloth lined with padding. It’s not as nice as higher end cases with the svelt fuzz lining but it’s not cheap either. The buckles are sturdy, the lid strap is well secured, and it just feels very well built and ready for action. This case really adds huge value to the overall package and price of this guitar.
Overall this guitar’s design is very nice. I love the auditorium style more as I get older, I often play dreadnaught style bodies just because of their deeper tone and richer low end but I love the portability and comfort the Fender CT-140SE offers here.
The Fender CT-140SE is a scaled down version of an auditorium style guitar. Auditorium style guitars tend to be richer in the highs and mids because of their thinner profile. The CT-140SE lacks a deep rumbly low end simply because of its size. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t sound good, it just’s not very bassy. I’d describe the sound of the CT-140SE as bright and cheery and it’s actually really great for just about any situation. You could change your tone slightly by changing the strings you use as well. The strings this guitar came laced up with were a little stiff and had a bit of drag to them. Finding a set of strings you like is also a huge part of fitting the guitar to your needs.
Plugging in the Fender CT-140SE into my VOX Pathfinder practice amp we discover the sound is really quite awesome here as well. Fishman has been known to make excellent acoustic guitar pickups and while I’m sure the one here is lower end, it still performs really well. Another thing to keep in mind is the amp we’re playing out of here. The VOX Pathfinder isn’t exactly an acoustic amp. If you’re serious about getting the best out of any acoustic/electric guitar, then picking up a nice acoustic amp is key. Something like the Fender Acoustasonic 15 watt amp would be brilliant with this guitar.
Still, even playing out of the VOX Pathfinder the guitar had a nice rich tone using the built in tone controls and those controls I had on the amp. Overall the sound here is great. It’s what you should expect from an auditorium style body. Bright, cheery, not very bassy, but still rich and carries well to your audience. If you’re looking for a deeper tone in a guitar then I’d look elsewhere. I do think this sound is great for those just starting out and if you pick up the CT-140SE, then spend that extra $100USD to pick up the Fender Acoustasonic as well.
Out of Box Setup
Out of the box setup is something that can be a hit or miss with any guitar. I’ve experienced many guitars I’ve purchased from Guitar Center or other music stores that just had a horrible setup. What I mean by setup is how the guitar feels and plays in your hand and how it sounds and performs for you. One area many first-time guitar players aren’t aware of is the guitar’s action. Action refers to the distance of the strings from the fretboard. Some players like a higher action while others prefer a low action. I prefer a low action.
The lower the action of your strings, the easier it is to fret chords and play licks and lead parts. But you also have to be cautious not to lower your action too far as it could create fret buzz. Lowering or raising the action of a guitar involves small adjustments to be made at the nut and bridge of the guitar. I found the action on the Fender CT-140SE (out of the box) was nearly perfect for my playing style. Players who prefer a higher action, often play fingerstyle or slide guitar.
Often times when purchasing a guitar there are other minor adjustments that need to be made such as tightening the tuning machines. The tuning machines are located on the head of the guitar and they are what keeps the tension on the strings. The CT-140SE sent to me for review had nicely secure tuning machines that kept the strings in tune even when moved in and out of the case. Of course, the built-in Fishman preamp and tuner was very helpful when the guitar did require minor tuning adjustments.
Overall I was really impressed at how well balanced the out of box setup was on the Fender CT-140SE. I didn’t feel it needed to have any work done to help balance it for my playing preferences. If all of them ship this way, then Fender should have very happy customers.
You can find the Fender CT-140SE on Amazon and on Fender’s website for $399.99USD. If this price tag was just for the guitar alone I’d think twice on that, but it’s not. The price tag includes a very nice and well built hard shell case that adds tremendous value to this whole package.
This is a really great auditorium style guitar with a short scale that’s perfect for just about anyone. Even old pros might like to pick this baby up as a chair side quick strummer. The body style and short scale of this guitar really lend’s itself well to younger guitar players and those who are just learning to play.