Always nice to go back and review a ukulele brand I've looked at before - in this case a new model for me from Noah called the Campanella.
I was at the recent Grand Northern Ukulele Festival in Huddersfield, UK and spotted Matt Cohen of Noah in the marketplace where he was running a Noah stall. Nice chap that he is, he passed a couple of ukes over on loan for me to take a look at on the site. The one in this review is a model I have seen online for some months now, but had never seen in the flesh before.
What I like about the evolution of this one is that Matt developed it in conjunction with a ukulele player (Tim Morrisson) to take ideas on board as to what a player would like to see. Matts ukes are made in Vietnam (and that is not a fact he tries to hide, unlike some big brands) - you see, Matt used to live there and built up a friendship with a Vietnamese luthier over there who he trusts to bring all his ideas to life. I like that about Noah.
The Campanella appears to be built as a uke for finger style players (hence the name) and consists of a concert sized uke body fitted with a tenor scale neck to give more space and frets on the fingerboard. I do like hybrid uke.
The Campanella is an all solid wood instrument, with a body made of straight grained matched solid spruce on the top, and an orangey matched mahogany back and sides. I think the colour contrast looks great myself.
The top is nicely finished and joined to the sides (as is the back) with the addition of some chunky cream coloured edge binding with black stripe details.
The sides are in two pieces and match at the butt evenly, and the back has a very slight arch to it.
I'm sure the first thing that strikes you about the looks is the inclusion of a pin bridge at the saddle mount - not something you see on a lot of ukuleles. I think it looks great and is made from a very nicely finished and shaped rosewood mount and what feels like a bone saddle. The knotted strings are held in place by plastic bridge pins complete withe abalone looking details on their tops. It is striking and different, and scaled to compliment the size of the instrument top very nicely.
The top is elsewhere complimented by a nicely applied sound hole rosette inlay which completes the look nicely I think.
Taking a look inside we see the hand written makers label with the serial number and signature of the builder (me like!) and the uke is otherwise tidy in construction with notched kerfing aroudn the side joints and tidy bracing. A glance at the edge of the sound hole though shows me that the top wood is rather on the thick side for a solid wood uke. More on that later.
The whole of the body is finished in a satin coat which gives it a very tactile feel in the hands.
The hardwood neck ( mahogany I think) is, as I say, tenor scale and has a nice relatively chunky profile and a very smooth finish. Also nice to see is a wider than average nut width which I really do prefer when playing uke.
The neck appears to be made of two pieces with a joint at the heel and it topped in an evenly coloured rosewood fingerboard. It is fitted with 18 nickel silver frets which are quite chunky, with 14 in total to the start of the body. The edges of the fret board are not rounded, but equally they are not sharp and nor are the fret ends which are dressed nicely.
We have mother of pearl inlays for the fretboard markers at frets 3, 5, 7, 10 and 12 and thankfully these are repeated on the side of the neck too. I think the fretboard markers themselves are a little on the large side, perhaps more suited to a guitar neck, but that is personal preference - I prefer small dots.
Pass the nut and we have the Noah shaped headstock with the inlaid Noah logo in pearloid. The headstock appears to be faced with Mahogany to give a straighter grain look on the face and looks good. Tuning is provided by unbranded silver geared tuners which work just fine.
Looking closer at the neck and headstock I do notice some finish flaws that it is only right I mention. They do not affect the play at all, and I have seen much worse on other uke of this price (RRP is £229) but it would be wrong for me not to mention them. The body seems unaffected by them, and there are not flaws on the outward edges of the uke that an audience would see.
The package is finished by what look like Aquila Nylguts and a good quality zippered padded bag. Not a bad deal all in for a solid wood uke I think.
Overall, I think the Campanella looks terrific, particularly the body looks and the combination of the larger neck with concert body. How does it play though?
Well it arrived really well setup - I would drop the saddle a very slight touch, but that is just me. The nut is cut perfectly and intonation all down the neck is very good indeed. One thing that did strike me on first play was the instrument does seem a little heavy for what is a concert body. This takes me back to that thick top and I wonder whether the body is a little on the over built side? How does that translate to play?
First up, the tone of the instrument is really rather nice. Very sweet and good separation between strings. Fingerpicked it is very nice to play, but the volume seems a little low to me. I do like a bit of punch to a picked ukulele, and one that will stand up to play in that way without amplification and I don't think the Campanella really has that. All seems a little subdued to my ears. That comes through a good deal more when strummed as I kind of expected it to have more punch than it does. Even when giving it some powerful strums it doesn't seem to keep up with the power. The tone remains decent as does the clarity across notes, but it just kind of left me wanting a little more from it. Perhaps a string change would help, but actually I do think it comes back to the tone wood thicknesses. Perhaps more arch on the back would help too, or even a change in string brand. But.. I have to tell it like I see it.
An important word here though - volume is NOT everything, and I would advise to choose tone every time when selecting a uke. That said for a uke that I think looks so good, it left me in a bit of a dilemma for this review. You see, it ticks many boxes for me on design and looks, but I just wish it had a bit more punch.
I would still recommend you take a look at this and other Noah uke as your mileage may vary. For me though, as a tenor lover, perhaps I'd like this with a tenor body too! Check out the video below for some sounds (though forgive my shonky playing and failing voice - am down with a bad cold at the moment!)
Contrasting wood colours
Nice neck and nut width
Some finish flaws
A little heavy
Looks - 9
Fit and Finish - 8.5
Sound - 7
Value for money - 8
OVERALL - 8.1 out of 10