14 May 2016

Pono ATDC Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

I am a lucky boy. Sometimes I get a ukulele on loan that genuinely makes me gasp when I first open the box. And Pono hit that right on the button with this new model in the shape of the ATDC Tenor. I mean, just look at it.


Pono ATDC Tenor Ukulele


First, the specs and background to that name. The ATDC is a solid Acacia (the A)  Tenor scale (the T) gloss finished (which Pono call their 'deluxe', there's the D) ukulele with a cutaway for upper fret access (the C). The model is also available and has been for some time in ATD form without the cutaway, but this is a new addition. And I think it just looks pure class.

For those that don't know, Pono are the Asian line of master Hawaiian Ukulele makers Ko'olau. So essentially a line of instruments made outside Hawaii to save cost, but made under the careful watch of one of the oldest and most revered ukulele makers on the planet. And what I have found with other examples from Pono (hey, not wishing to show bias here, but I own three!) is that they create a balance between the highest end instruments but at a more consumer friendly price point. I'll go further and say that I consider Pono to be pretty much my favourite brand for that reason. But that is based on the others I own... will my view change when I get into this one?

The ATDC is a fairly standard sized and shaped tenor ukulele (double bout, flat base) only modified by that cutaway. It's made from all solid acacia wood, a tone wood used due to it's striking looks and similarity to Hawaiian koa. It's a type of koa, but not from Hawaii and that means a far more reasonable price. (If this was made from Hawaiian koa it would be signifiantly more expensive). Some more unscrupulous manufacturers call their acacia instruments 'koa' and argue that the they are technically correct. It's a bugbear of mine - when an instrument is called 'koa' it should relate to Hawaiian koa. Fair play to Pono for telling it like it is. If a brand sells acacia and simply calls it koa they are trying to mislead you.

Pono ATDC Tenor Ukulele body


And that striking look of acacia certainly comes through on this one. We've got stripe, curl and flaming all in the one instrument and for a consumer level instrument, I think that's pretty awesome. First the top, this is made of two pieces, beautifully bookmatched with angled stripe  fanning out towards the base. In the right light, that stripe really flames and shimmers on the lower bouts. It's quite beautiful and thankfully not spoiled with tons of other 'bling', only an inlaid rope marquetry soundhole rosette. When wood looks this good it really doesn't need inlays and binding.

The sides are two pieces, perfectly bookmatched at the base and showing off some really wavy stripes at the upper bouts. The body depth is actually nice and chunky and deeper then many tenors which should help with projection.

Pono ATDC Tenor Ukulele sides


The back is very slightly arched and is also made from two pieces, which almost identically match the top. This is a nicely crafted instrument!

Pono ATDC Tenor Ukulele back


The whole of the body is finished in gloss with a mirror finish and not pooling or bubbles. The gloss really sets off the stripe and flame on the woods and gives it a really high end feel and look.

The saddle is a tie bar style and made from ebony with a bone saddle.

Pono ATDC Tenor Ukulele bridge


A look inside reveals an extremely tidy build with absolutely no glue blobs, shavings or mess. The bracing looks delicate as does the notched kerfing. As well as the manufacturers label the end of the neck block inside is stamped 'Ko'olau Pono' together with the serial number. You can also spy the end of the truss rod (but more on that later).

Up to the neck, I believe this is made from Mahogany, and from four pieces with a three piece stack at the heel and a joint at the headstock. It too is finished in gloss and the end of the heel is capped with a sliver of stripy acacia. It's a fairly rounded C chaped profile which I like.

Topping the neck is an ebony fingerboard which is in great condition and has a very faint orangey stripe running through it. The edges are bound in black and it is fitted with 20 nickel silver frets with 14 to the body. They are all dressed perfectly and are on the jumbo side which I also like. We have pearloid dot position markers at the 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th and 15th spaces and thankfully these are repeated on the side. The nut width is a little wider than most far eastern tenors, but not quite as some like the Kanile'a K1.

Pono ATDC Tenor Ukulele neck


A word about that truss rod. This is something you dont see a lot on ukuleles but I see a lot on Pono instruments. It's basically a threaded bolt that runs through the full length of the neck. By tightening or loosening it (using the bolt I referred to above accessed via the sound hole) you can change the relief of the neck. That isn't about action (people wrongly assume it is), but rather the very slight concave curve that a well setup neck should display to help avoid buzzing. The jury is out with me on the need for these on ukuleles as it's something that is more often adjusted on guitars in view of the considerably higher tension their strings exert on the neck. I just dont see that with ukuleles. Oh well, not a complaint and I suppose over the years it's a nice thing to have if age and humidity start to bend the neck.

Past the nut which is made of bone, we have the usual Pono shaped headstock, faced in stripy acacia and inlaid with the Pono logo in white pearl.

Pono ATDC Tenor Ukulele headstock


Tuning is catered for by my absolute favourite open geared Grover tuners in gold with small glossy black buttons. Regular readers will know I rate these tuners highly. When you bear in mind that they are used by Martin and Kanile'a on their tenors and that I specified them on my Tinguitar custom model you will know why!

Pono ATDC Tenor Ukulele tuners


Finishing the deal are Ko'olau strings as is usual for Pono instruments. Some like them, and some don't. I'm in the don't category and to make matters worse this one has a wound C string (something else I despise!). Saying all of that, you should know by now that I don't rate ukuleles up or down based on the strings they come with. They are like car tyres - and you will most likely change them to your own preference.

For that you will pay around $699 RRP or just under £500 in the UK. Yes, that's a serious price but when you consider that a K brand tenor will likely cost you twice that money, it's certainly mid level to me in terms of cost. You know my view on this - ukuleles are musical instruments and not toys. If you think a £100 ukulele is 'mid-level', then sorry, I completely disagree with you.

So as you have probably gathered, it hasn't let me down so far.... will it let me down in playability?

Firstly it's nicely weighted, balanced and set up. Nothing I would change at the bridge or the nut and that doesn't surprise me in the slightest with Pono. Intonation and action are just how I would want them.

Sound wise I found it quite a surprise. It doesn't quite have the raw power of some of their mahogany bodied ukuleles I have played, but it improves on them with a really nice mix of chime and warmth. It's a complex sound that I really rather love actually.

Strummed it can sound jangly in the way smaller bodied instruments do, whilst still having some bigger bodied warmth and resonance. Individual strings stand out in the mix clearly and the dynamic range is impressive.

Pono ATDC Tenor Ukulele butt


Sustain is excellent allowing you to easily add some tremolo to fingerpicked notes. In fact this thing really shines when fingerpicked. The clarity is superb and the range of frequencies it throws out really are far closer to some highest end instruments than the price would suggest.

So different from mahogany, but then in should be because... err... it's not mahogany.  I really like it actually. That chime and warmth together makes for a nice sound to my ears. In fact the more I play it the MORE I like it.  Why am I beating around the bush? Just come out with it Barry... OK - it's the nicest Pono I've personally played.

So all in all, Pono have done it again I'd say. It has looks to die for, a complex and interesting tone and is just brilliantly made. A ukulele that shimmers with both it's looks and it's sound. I've never played a Pono I didn't like and this one doesn't buck that trend. In fact I'm quite annoyed with you Pono. I have been downsizing my ukulele collection and I REALLY want to own this one...!!!

Highly recommended.

http://koolauukulele.com/pono/


UKULELE PROS

Looks to die for in every aspect
Chimey sound yet warm
Superb build quality
Great tuners

UKULELE CONS

I'd change the strings! But nothing else really!


UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 9.5 out of 10
Fit and Finish - 9.5 out of 10
Sound - 9 out of 10
Value for money - 9 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 9.3 out of 10

UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW


10 May 2016

GNUF Preview - Flea Bitten Dawgs

Another look forward to this years Grand Northern Ukulele Festival and a real treat for ukulele fans. The Flea Bitten Dawgs in their first UK mini tour and festival slot.


I've said many times before that one of the things that makes GNUF very special is their ability to get artists to the UK that haven't previously been over here. And that is to say, they create a bill that stands out from the multitude of other ukulele festivals where you tend to see the same names over and over. The breadth of the bill is astounding year after year. GNUF brought Aaron and Nicole Keim over for their first UK Festival last year (and they are back this year). GNUF is bringing Danielle Ate The Sandwich over for her first UK dates, and of course the GNUF organiser was responsible for the first UK tour of Jake Shimabukuro and the first ukulele festival appearance for the Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain. This year sees the appearance of another US outfit who are revered in ukulele circles - the Flea Bitten Dawgs.

Formed in 2010 by three musicians with MANY years experience in performing (and having shared stages with some seriously impressive names), Flea Bitten Dawgs consist of David Henry Spangler and Thom Pallozola on ukulele and vocals, with percussion provided by Lee Kram. These are real players players and have opened for / shared the stage with some of the ukulele worlds biggest names, such as Gerald Ross, Stuart Fuchs and Cali Rose. Their style? 'Ukulele Jazz Americana'. Sounds great to me!

Their slot at GNUF this year marks the end of a mini tour of the UK and Europe also being organised by GNUF. It sees them perform in Brussells, Bradford, Reading, Belper (with Phil Doleman and Ian Emmerson) and Liverpool.

Take a tip from me - this is an act to watch. Take a look at their 'hello' to the UK!



And have a tune!



Nice huh?


The Grand Northern Ukulele Festival takes place on 27-29 May at Huddersfield, UK.

http://northernuke.com

http://fleabittendawgs.com

Grand Northern Ukulele Festival


3 May 2016

How To Adjust Ukulele Action At The Saddle

A little while ago I put up a video explaining that any ukulele player should not be afraid of adjusting their instrument for optimum play. Ukuleles, like many stringed instruments are designed to have certain things adjusted to assist the player. It's called a 'setup'. For some reason it's an area that people are scared of but they really shouldn't be. That video is here by the way. (How To Adjust Ukulele Setup)


That was, however just a general introduction, and I thought it was about time that I actually did a demonstration video and written guide to look at one of these adjustments in a lot more detail. The action at the ukulele saddle.

The vast majority of ukuleles will come with a removeable saddle at the bridge end of the strings, and that is removable for a reason. It's the white strip, usually made of bone or plastic, sitting in the bridge mounting over which the tail end of the strings sits before being tied off. The bridge does a number of highly important things for the ukulele. Firstly, it transfers the vibration of the strings down into the soundboard. Secondly it sets the accurate scale length of each string - ie the vibrating length of the string for accurate intonation  when you fret them. And thirdly it controls the height of the string off the top of the fingerboard. This last point is called the 'action' and it's what we are looking at today.

Often a ukulele can arrive with an overly high action, or can even develop a higher action over time as the stresses of the strings start to pull the neck up. They can also arrive with a low action. A high action makes it harder to press the strings down onto the frets at best, and if it is very high it can affect the tuning accuracy when played (the intonation). A low action can create buzzing as the action of plucking a string creates a wave down the length of it that can clip the top of the frets.

First of all, and contrary to many armchair expert advisors views, there is no perfect action setting that suits everybody. There is only an acceptable 'range'. And that is a range that gives the best compromise between playability and tuning accuracy. Go too high and you have the difficulty in fretting I mentioned above, and go too low and you create buzzing. One of the biggest myths is that you should set the action as low as you can go without buzzing. This is not particularly good advice as some very low, but non buzzing action settings can suck all tone and volume out of the strings. In short it needs to be a little higher than that. The point you go for is really down to you as a player. I know how I like my action (at the lower end) but not everybody does. The only way you will work that out is to try it.

What I find though is many players who have never considered adjusting their ukulele may be missing an opportunity. They struggle on with overly high action settings and think that it is 'just the way it is'.

So how do you measure your action? Well, you need to take a careful measurement of the distance between the bottom of the strings and the top of the 12th fret of the ukulele, this being the halfway point of the string. To measure this you really need to invest in a metal straight ruler with measurements that run right to the end of the metal so when you place it down at the tip you get an accurate reading. They are not expensive and available in all DIY stores for a few pounds. Even better you can use a string height ruler designed for stringed instruments which come with markings for common string heights in various formats. You simply hold the ruler on the top of the 12th fret and note the distance between the top of the fret and the bottom of the strings. You can check each one as on most ukuleles the fretboard is flat so they should be around the same (taking into account the different string thicknesses). (Note - if you do have a curved fingerboard, called a radius fingerboard, you will need to adjust for this).



What is the optimum? Well, like I say -it's a range really. That range depends on the string gauge and also how you play the ukulele. A more vigourous style of strumming will require a little more clearance to allow for the excessive string vibration.  For me a low action would be about 6/64ths of an inch (or 0.093 inches, or about 2.2mm). At the upper end I would go no higher than about 8/64ths (or ⅛ inch, or 0.125 inches or about 3mm). If you check your instrument and you are below the lower figure it is likely you are on the verge of string buzz or not getting the optimum tone projection and you you need to raise the saddle. If you are above the higher figure, you may be finding it a chore to press the strings down on upper frets, or are finding your fingers are getting tangled on strums or even having intonation issues.

Now for the adjustment downwards. You can take the long winded path of removing the strings, sanding the base of the saddle a little, replacing it, re-stringing it, checking it, then repeating it until it is right. You can also use a bit of mathematics to help us. Because the string creates a very long thin triangle between the saddle and the top of the 12th fret, if you find your action at the 12th is (say) 0.5mm too high, because the 12th is the halfway point of the string, taking down the saddle by double   that amount will lower the action at the 12th by 0.5mm. So it's a case of noting the height you are at, working out how much lower you want to take it, and then multiplying that by 2. That is the amount to drop the saddle by. Want to drop the action by 0.5mm, drop the saddle by 1mm.. and so on.  You can then mark that depth on the saddle with a pencil and a straight edge.

Now the tricky part - you now need to sand down the base of the saddle (leave the top alone!!) to just reach the line you marked. The trick here is to keep the base of the saddle perfectly flat. If you dont do this you will find that the saddle will dip back or forward in the slot, affecting tuning, or wont make a clean contact with the soundboard.  You can do this with a large piece of sandpaper on a hard surface working it slowly and monitoring what you are taking off. Even better is to put the saddle in a metal topped vice upside down with only the amount of saddle below your pencil mark visible. Even a cheap hobby vice will do as it's not a particularly strenuous job. You can then take a file, sandpaper or a Dremel to the base and be sure you are only taking off what you need. Sand it down, keeping it flat until you are at the marked point. I cannot stress enough how important it is to keep the base absolutely flat!

And that is it for a high action - replace the saddle and restring and you should be good to go. If you measured accurately you shouldn't face problems and your action will be lower.

Of course mistakes do happen though, so what if you go too low and create a buzzing? Or what if the saddle was too low to start with? Dont panic - this is easily remedied by simply putting a shim of thin card or wood veneer under the white saddle to raise it back up a little. You may need to add a couple of layers to get the saddle to the right height, and remember you can use that 'double the required height' rule. In other words, if your string action is 0.5mm too low at the 12th fret, raising it by about 1mm at the saddle will do the trick.

And if that lot has foxed you, I created another video that shows the process in more detail!



At the end of the day - the action should be right and there is no reason why you should struggle to play an instrument that is designed to be adjusted.  A well adjusted ukulele can be a revelation. I see some shocking examples that people battle with and it need not be like this. Sure, you can pay someone to do this for you, but really it is SO easy to do - why would you do that? Get to know your instrument!!

Just go carefully and logically and you should be fine.

And as a final (final) word - there are some instruments that dont have removeable saddles. Many plastic ukuleles do and some others with moulded or carved wooden saddles. I am afraid this process wont work for you, and if you have high action you have a far more complex job on your hands involving taking the top of the saddle down. I would urge lots of caution here as whilst dropping the top will work, it is very easy to throw the shape of the saddle top out and create tuning issues. I'd seek professional help for those! There are also some rarer features on some ukuleles that can assist with buzzing strings called truss rods running through the length of the neck. You really dont see many of those though and they are more for neck relief and NOT for adjusting action. I may deal with those in a future post.

Good luck!

(and if you want a string action ruler - it's one of those things that Amazon are perfect for.

String Action ruler - Amazon.com

String Action ruler - Amazon.co.uk )



2 May 2016

Ashbury AU50 Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

Ukulele review time. A brand here that is not new to me personally, but new to Got A Ukulele. It's the Ashbury AU50 Concert Ukulele.


Ashbury AU50 Concert Ukulele


Ashbury are a UK based brand who make their cheaper instruments in China / Indonesia, but compliment them with their solid wood 'Pacific' range of instruments which are luthier made in Vietnam. This is part of the latter series, so not a re-badged factory instrument. You will find them mainly in Hobgoblin music stores in the UK, but also some other independent dealers and across Europe too. I guess they are a less common brand, but they do have some professional endorsees including Pete Williams from Dexy's Midnight Runners and members of the band Staves.

So as I say, it's in the concert  scale, and I love the shape of the body with that fatter lower bout. Gives it a slightly different look and is slightly bigger than a regular concert ukulele. The body is made from all solid Sapele, an African hardwood that is related to Mahogany and is finished in a satin coat that shows the grain through the finish. I really like the traditional simplicity of it and it comes with no edge binding or soundhole rosette. OK, it's not the most striking wood grain in the world, but it's certainly not offensive. It exudes a warm orange glow which I rather like.

Ashbury AU50 Concert Ukulele top


The top and back are made of two pieces each, nicely book matched and the back is arched. The sides meet at the base with a strange filler piece of wood on the join. I dont know why I mention that as it's hardly a complaint.

Looking inside we see a tidy if simple build. The braces are not over done, and the kerfing is not notched. No real complaints though and no glue mess!

The bridge end of the strings terminates in a rosewood slotted bridge with a buffalo bone saddle piece. Nice to see that. It means easy string changes, but the extra sustain from the bone saddle should be evident on playing it.

Up to the neck - this has a fairly standard profile and width and is made from three or four pieces of mahogany with joints at the headstock and heel. It is topped with a fairly pale looking rosewood fingerboard with hidden fret ends due to a painted edge (as opposed to bound). Speaking of frets we have 14 in total with 12 to the body. Personally I would like to see a few more, but this is fairly standard I guess. They are all set and dressed nicely with no sharp edges.

Ashbury AU50 Concert Ukulele fingerboard


We have white pearloid dots for position markers in the 5th, 7th, 10th and 12th spaces and thankfully these are repeated on the side.

Past the bone nut we move up to a fairly basic headstock shape and my first true complaint about the instrument. The Ashbury logo is screen printed on in silver and looks cheap and horrible. In fact, it's not even screen printed on very well either. Let's the instrument down I am afraid. I like the logo that they use for the letter A, and think it would look much better with that really.

Ashbury AU50 Concert Ukulele headstock


Tuning is provided by open gears that are stamped 'Ashbury' with small black plastic buttons. They look like they are decent quality and they work well too.

Ashbury AU50 Concert Ukulele tuners


Completing the deal are Nylgut strings branded by D'Addario (still made by Aquila I believe!) and a decent quality padded gig bag with funky red interior. And for all that you have to stump up an extremely reasonable £129.... Yes, £129. For a solid wood non factory made instrument. With a bag. Seriously good value, no doubt about it. In fact if you shop around you can grab these for a lot less than that. Amazing really (see the Amazon link at the end of this review)

Construction wise, all is sound and I can find no faults there. It's not overly heavy or thick and is nicely balanced in the hand. That satin coat is really tactile and all in all it looks like a very nice thing.

Setup on this one was spot on, with no action or intonation issues that would worry me. It's got a chimey sound that is very 'delicate' and pretty, particularly when picked. Sustain is there too, helped by that bone nut and saddle no doubt, and it has nice clarity and bell like chime when strummed too.

Ashbury AU50 Concert Ukulele back


But I suppose there had to be a negative for me, and that is that I just prefer my ukuleles with a bit more punch and volume. Dont get me wrong - I really DO like the tone it delivers, I just wish there was MORE of it.

If you are playing at home or recording it into a microphone I think it will do you very well indeed, but I think it could quite easily get a little lost if you played it in a group acoustic setting or busking with it.  I have a pretty heavy hand when it comes to strumming, but couldn't generate a tremendous amount of volume from this one.

So I guess it depends what you are after. Certainly volume is not the 'be all and end all' when it comes to ukuleles, but it is something this reviewer likes, particularly on soprano and concert scale instruments. Still, at only £129 for a hand made solid wood ukulele, you could pretty much justify having one for the sake of it. Terrific value really.

Bargain price on Amazon! (At this price I would DEFINITELY buy one!)

http://www.ashburyguitars.com

UKULELE PROS

Price
Nice construction and shape
Decent tuners
Solid wood
Nice bell like tone

UKULELE CONS

Lacks projection and volume
Cheap looking headstock logo

UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 8.5 out of 10
Fit and finish - 8.5 out of 10
Sound - 7.5 out of 10
Value for money - 9 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 8.4 out of 10


UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW




23 April 2016

Mabuhay MC-11 Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

A new brand for Got A Ukulele, that have been around in the UK for a couple of years now. Thanks to Omega Music in the UK I have been lucky enough to test one one - it's the Mabuhay MC-11 Solid Mango Concert.


Mabuhay MC-11 Concert Ukulele


Mabuhay are a hand made brand from the Phillipines, who specialise only (I believe) in Mango wood ukuleles. And that's what we have here - solid mango wood and then 'more mango'... More mango? Read on.

The brand story is suitably stylistic in it's description, proudly stating that the ukuleles are made from 'Century Old Tonewoods'. It gives it an air of something special, but the reality is that a tree that is over 100 years old is not actually a rare thing.. Marketing eh?

Anyway, Mango it is, a wood that I rather like in ukuleles for it's looks. This one is in the Concert scale, and is in a traditional double bout shape. I think it looks particularly nice in the shape department on account of that curved butt which you dont see all that often and I think makes a ukulele look classy. The body is all solid Mango and is free from any adornments whatsoever, giving this one a plain look.  But you know me.. I like plain.

Mabuhay MC-11 Concert Ukulele body


And that plain look is strengthened by the fact that it's not just the body that is made of mango. On the top we have a slotted style bridge that is made from mango too, making it blend in with the top. I actually prefer a contrasting bridge wood myself, but there you go. It's functional and the slotted style means fuss free string changes. The top and back are made from single pieces of wood and the saddle is plastic and slightly arched (more on why later). It's not the most striking mango wood I have ever seen. The back is particularly plain and whilst there is a bit of stripe on the top it's off centre.

Other than that there is little else to comment on regarding the body, which is unbound, and flat backed. I would however comment on the wood used on this example on the sides. Mango is a wood that can often be subject to spalting which leaves dark stains and stripes in the wood and there is an example of this on the sides of this one. Spalting like this doesn't really change the wood, but I think this example just make it look mucky. Like someone spilled a bottle of ink on the side of it and wiped it off. I know it's a natural feature of woods like this, but personally I would select one without that marking. It might have been more acceptable if the markings were book matched but they are not. The whole body is in a satin hand rubbed oil finish.

Mabuhay MC-11 Concert Ukulele sides


Inside is neat and tidy with delicate looking braces (made from mango) and notched kerfing (mango again).

Up to the neck and this too is made from mango and the fingerboard that tops it is (you guessed it) mango too... The neck is nice though and I do like the paler looking fretboard. Interestingly for the price, the neck is a single piece of wood. It means it's dead straight grain pattern is unbroken down it's length giving it a classy touch. It's fitted with 18 nickel silver frets with 14 to the body. I am seeing more and more ukuleles coming to the market with flat tops to the fret crowns and this one has them too. I hope that is not a fashion thing because I really don't like them. I actually think it's done to avoid intonation issues. Whatever the reason I find them uncomfortable when sliding up and down the neck. A purely personal gripe.

Mabuhay MC-11 Concert Ukulele fingerboard


More positvely on the neck it is built with a slight radius to it which is unusual at this price. It means the face of the fingerboard (and frets) are not dead flat, but have very slight curve. It is said to provide comfort in playing.  I like radiused fretboards a lot myself.

We have black dot fret markers at the 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th and 15th spaces, and these are thankfully repeated on the side.

Past the plastic nut and to the headstock we have a generic three pointed crown shape with a small white silk screened M for for the name. I like the headstock and the minimal look.

Mabuhay MC-11 Concert Ukulele headstock


Flipping the headstock over and we have another logo on the back in black. The Mabuhay logo with tree design. I like that as it's a bit different.

Tuning is provided by open geared tuners. Mabuhay say they are Gotoh brand, but I am not convinced they are - they look more like generic open gears to me. They work ok, although I do think the cream buttons are a bit on the chunky side.

Mabuhay MC-11 Concert Ukulele tuners


Completing the deal are Aquila strings and a price tag of £199. I must say for an all solid ukulele, particularly one in a less common wood that is extremely good value. How does it play?

Thankfully it's good news in this department. First of all let's get the other details out of the way. Setup and intonation are spot on for me. I wouldn't adjust this action myself, either at the nut or the saddle, and it plays pretty accurately all the way up the neck. It's also comfortable to hold on account of most of it being finished in a satin hand rubbed oil finish (nice and tactile) and it not being heavy. It's nicely balanced in weight around the 12th fret. No complaints.

Mabuhay MC-11 Concert Ukulele back


Sound wise. It sounds like a ukulele. Come on Baz, you can do better than that. But I mean it, and I mean it in a very good way. Many ukuleles I come across are starting to sound less and less like ukuleles. They can lack the traditional ukulele bite. This one though has a punch and brightness that to me screams ukulele. It's got excellent volume, projection and sustain but combines those with a bright punch that is unmistakenly ukulele.

The clarity of individual strings in the mix is absolutely superb, with every one in it's place and that gives it a kind of shimmer in fast strumming, almost like it had more than four strings. It's not muddy,  and even strumming it hard produces a typical ukulele bark that is a good thing I think. Another observation - regular readers will know I am not normally a fan of Aquila strings - but I have no complaints with them on this instrument.

Mabuhay MC-11 Concert Ukulele bridge


So all in all, I think it's a mixed bag on the looks front, (you will love it or hate it), but is well made, keenly priced and great sounding. If you rank your ukuleles based on the sound they make rather than what the woods look like, then I think you should probably give this one your consideration.

Mango mango mango!

http://mabuhay-ukulele.com
http://www.omegamusic.co.uk

UKULELE PROS

Great value
Clear bright tone and great projection
Radius neck
Nice finish and tactile to hold
Good overall build quality

UKULELE CONS

Flat topped frets
Some mismatched woods
Would prefer nicer tuners
Looks will be love or hate

UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 8 out of 10
Fit and Finish - 8 out of 10
Sound - 9 out of 10
Value for money - 9 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 8.5 out of 10



UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW






Do you enjoy this blog? Donate to help keeping it going!

If you enjoy this blog, donations are welcomed to allow me to invest more time in bringing you ukulele articles. Aside from the Google ads, I don't get paid to write this blog. Many of the review instruments are bought by Got A Ukulele then sold on at a loss or donated to charity. But buying them takes funds! Thank you!