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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
UKULELE PROSGreat value
Clear bright tone and great projection
Nice finish and tactile to hold
Good overall build quality
UKULELE CONSFlat topped frets
Some mismatched woods
Would prefer nicer tuners
Looks will be love or hate
UKULELE SCORESLooks - 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
© Barry Maz