1.8.15

DJ Morgan Mahogany Soprano - REVIEW

Aside from the many factory made ukuleles I have reviewed on this site, it is always nice to get to test something handmade and bespoke. I've been doing that for the last couple of months with this mahogany soprano model from DJ Morgan.


DJ Morgan Soprano ukulele


Dave Morgan is a UK luthier, based in Dudley in the midlands who hand makes a range of instruments in a traditional style. He is a small volume builder so these are not available in huge numbers (another nice thing about them!)

This soprano is made from all solid woods, and comes in at a fantastic price of just under £300 in this spec. We have a traditional double bout shaped body made from reclaimed solid Brazilian mahogany and they really are some nice pieces of wood. Nothing gaudy (hey, this is mahogany) but nice, subtle and with a  lovely orange glow. The top and back are made from single pieces of toned and the sides are in two pieces with an unbound yet still book matched join at the butt. A closer look at the edges of the sound hole show that this is a nice thin top too.

The instrument also has a nice curved butt which I really like.

DJ Morgan Soprano ukulele top


Aside from an inlaid black and white simple sound hole rosette, the body is otherwise unadorned with no other inlay or binding. I like that. It looks simple yet classy and not over done.

DJ Morgan Soprano ukulele sound hole


The back is slightly arched both along its width and length to help with sound projection which is nice to see.

DJ Morgan Soprano ukulele back


We have a slotted style bridge made from ebony with a nicely cut corian saddle. Very reminiscent of original Martin mahogany sopranos and also really user friendly for the player.

DJ Morgan Soprano ukulele bridge


A look inside shows off one of the tidiest ukulele builds I have seen for some time. Absolutely no mess, delicately scalloped braces and hand made notched kerfing all applied extremely neatly. Aside from the simple makers label with serial number, there is not much more to say here!

The whole body is finished in a kind of semi gloss cellulose lacquer. I like it. It doesn't give the instrument a mirror finish, but it doesn't feel unfinished either. The other advantage is that it leaves the pores in the mahogany grain open so you feel like you are holding a wooden instrument rather than something artificial.

On to the neck this is all one piece of Sapele and joined to the body with a tenon joint.  Capping the neck heel is a small piece of ebony. I like the neck. It has a fairly flat D shaped profile that I know many traditionalists will like. I prefer a bit more chunk to a neck, but this is perfectly playable. What I really do like is that it has a decent width at the nut.


DJ Morgan Soprano ukulele fingerboard

The fingerboard is ebony and unbound, and fitted with 19 nickel silver frets with 14 to the body. On a soprano scale instrument this is a real bonus. None of this '12 frets is your lot' nonsense. They are all finished and dressed expertly with no sharp edges. The fingerboard has a nice pleasing curve to the end of it which I rather like too.

Position markers are provided via white abalone dots at the 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th and 15th with the 12th fret marker being a double spot. Thankfully these are repeated in the same abalone on the side of the neck for the player. The nut is Corian and cut perfectly.

Up to the headstock and we have a very simple unfussy shape faced with mahogany and inlaid with ebony curved stripes which are really distinctive. I have seen a range of Daves ukuleles and some others have that same stripe motif inlaid in less contrasting woods. I think I would prefer that, but don't get me wrong this still looks great and it's a motif style I have not seen before. With no makers mark on the headstock this IS your DJ Morgan design!

DJ Morgan Soprano ukulele headstock


Flipping it over and we have (thank you thank you thank you) friction tuning pegs. I sense some of you are recoiling in horror but you should know if you read Got A Ukulele more deeply that I am a big fan of friction pegs, particularly on sopranos. They get such a bad press, but really, that applies to the cheap and nasty ones. Thankfully, these are anything but. They are unbranded but clearly good quality and turn like butter. Similar to those used on Koaloha ukuleles with full metal collars and parts. Honestly - sticking mickey mouse ear tuners on a ukulele like this would be sacrilege!

DJ Morgan Soprano ukulele tuners


Completing the deal are (what else) Aquila Super nylgut strings. If this was my instrument I would definitely be experimenting with others.

So all in all a beautifully built and finished instrument. I can't find a flaw on it to be honest. So you are sensing that I rather like this one aren't you. Yep. Definitely, but that would all mean nothing if it played badly.

DJ Morgan Soprano ukulele neck heel


Setup was spot on for me at both the bridge and nut. In the hands it feels well made, nicely balanced and light. Ticks in the right boxes when it comes to a soprano!

Tone wise it is typically soprano, bright and bouncy but with a warmness that comes from a mahogany instrument. The clarity of individual strings is absolutely superb and when strummed every note of every chord has it's place in the mix.

Fingerpicked that warmth coupled with the soprano voice makes for a lovely mix, and the bonus of some extra frets give you a range you wouldn't normally find with many sopranos.

Volume wise, it is certainly not quiet, but I have played punchier and louder hand made sopranos. This may be down to the strings, and it's certainly not a criticism - just being honest. It's an enjoyable sound though but definitely a mellower soprano. If you want a soprano that delivers a punch in the guts, you may want to talk to Dave about other wood choices. Anyway - as I say, not a criticism - just have a listen to the video to get a better idea.

In summary, a delightful instrument and so good to see yet another quality hand made ukulele offering on UK shores. You may prefer more bling  - speak to  Dave to see what he has on offer. For me this one is understated and traditional and that makes it look classy enough. Oh, and that price. Under £300 - I would personally pay considerably more for an instrument of this calibre. Will be sad to see this one go back...

http://djmorganukuleles.co.uk

UKULELE PROS



Build quality throughout
Price
More frets than expected
Quality friction pegs

UKULELE CONS



Pretty much nothing!

UKULELE SCORES



Looks - 9
Fit and Finish - 9
Sound - 9
Value For Money -

Overall Ukulele Score - 9 out of 10



UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW







27.7.15

Win a Makala Waterman - THE RESULT!

Well this one proved to be one of my most popular competitions with hundreds of entries from all around the globe. The names have gone into the hat, and as in previous draws one lucky winner has been drawn by my five year old daughter!





This shiny, brand new Makala Waterman is winging it's way to..

Karl Catteeeuw from Bruges, Belgium.

Congratulations Karl, and everyone else - thanks for entering - there will be another giveaway soon!

Oh - and the answers to the questions were...

1. Which Acacia Wood ukulele did I review and what was the score - the answer was the Kala KA-ASAC/TE/C - and I gave it 8.9 out of 10

2. Who was the uke designer who made the original plastic uke the Waterman is based on - Mario Maccaferri

3. What is the name of the new Kala US Koa series of instruments? They are called the 'Elite'.





19.7.15

Ukulele Album Roundup

With life getting in the way of this ukulele blog, I have been finding it hard to get reviews done as quickly as I would like. And as part of that I have a stack of ukulele albums that I have been listening to that I haven't got around to reviewing on this site as yet. Feeling guilty about that, I figured I would give them a shout out in a combined roundup of what I have been playing in the last few months.



Manitoba Hal - Dancing In The Moonlight


Manitoba Hal Dancing In The Moonlight


I adored Hals 'Flirting With Mermaids' album, and have seen him perform live a couple of times since then, so have really been enjoying this one. The Canadian bluesman really shines on this short album in what sees his blues show of more of their country side (which is a real love of mine). A mix of originals and covers (including a sublime take on Wayfaring Stranger) I thoroughly enjoyed this one and it cements his position as being one of this bloggers favourite ukulele artists.

Available from http://www.manitobahal.com/#!music/c1erv


Ben Rouse -  Love Of Rin


Ben Rouse Love Of Rin

If you have not been wowed by one of Bens stage performances lately, then you have missed a treat. But for those that struggle to get to shows, you can now hear what all the fuss is about with this 12 track recording of total wizardry on the strings. For anyone who thinks Ben is 'that guy who plays rock tunes' on the ukulele then this album really shows that the breadth of his tastes go way beyond that. Whilst we have rock in covers of Zeppelins Immigrant Song and a sublime medley of Thunderstruck and Highway To Hell we also have the likes of tango in Por Una Cabeza, classical music, folk and an inspired choice of 'Baby Now That I Found You'. If you like your solo ukulele you will love this. Something for everyone really. Another performer in the 'how does he do that' category.

Available from - http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/benrouse2


Ric McCormick - Pies, Love and Ukulele EP


Ric McCormick Pies Love and Ukulele


I first saw Ric perform at the Grand Northern Ukulele Festival but had been hearing good things about him for a while. Really enjoyed listening to his new EP selection of self penned witty tunes. If you are compelled by song titles such as 'Bunny Stew' and 'Who The Hell's George Formby?' or subject matter including Ethel Austin knickers you will like this. It's all very tongue in cheek, but well performed. In addition, Ric is making this available in return for a charitable donation to The Christie hospital.

Available from - https://www.justgiving.com/ricmacfeegle/


Jono and The Uke Dealers


Jono And The Uke Dealers


I had no idea what to expect with this one. I have been in touch with Jono Bell, lead singer and uke player with this Northampton four piece for some time,  but I have to admit that I had not heard his music before this EP arrived. It's really nice when something new arrives that is just up your street and this certainly is. Six self penned tunes and one of those records that, whilst clearly having a ukulele in their, is more of a full band sound. Kind of a punk / mod / grebo / groove sound to it which I am really enjoying. Includes a guest performer in the form of Rev D Wayne Love from Alabama3 just to add to the cool factor. I'd recommend you give this a listen. It's my pick of the bunch.


Available from http://grassrootsrecords.bigcartel.com/product/jono-the-uke-dealers-ep


More reviews coming soon!


13.7.15

PSI-S-LEO II Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

Catching up with the ukulele review schedule and a new brand for me that I have had on loan for some time now from Southern Ukulele Store. PSI Ukuleles and their PSI-S-LEO II Tenor uke from their Standard Series range.


PSI-S-LEO II Tenor ukulele


The first thing that grabs you about this instrument is bling bling BLING! Regular readers will know that I prefer plainer instruments, but it is worth pointing out that I don't down score any instruments I review just because they have bling. I will down score if there are issues with how it is applied, but let's carry on.

So yes, a glossy glitzy instrument all round. It's made of solid Acacia in the far east and finished in gloss.

On the top that acacia has a really nice stripe to it that I think looks wonderful and the two piece sides have the same. Would have been nice for their grain to run parallel to the ukulele but they look well made.

On to the back though and that stripe has more curl to it and some really nice flame under the gloss. Would have been nice to see that on the back but I suppose we can't have everything..

PSI-S-LEO II Tenor ukulele back


That gloss finish is very nicely done, with no gaps, flaws or pooling of the finish that I could spot.

Back to the top and the bling screams out at you. Firstly we have a mother of pearl / abalone ring around the sound hole which is nicely applied. But my gripe comes with the edge binding. The Leo II uses wooden rope inlays in brown / white / brown around the edges which I think looks great, but then it is topped off with an extra inlay of abalone next to it. I think it's over the top and unnecessary. To see what I mean, the back and sides are joined with just the rope inlay and I think it looks just fine like that. Adding in the abalone seems to me to be overkill and almost as if they went through the parts bin at the factory and threw both on.

PSI-S-LEO II Tenor ukulele binding


The bridge is a tie bar style, screwed down with an uncompensated plastic saddle. The bridge mounting has been glossed, something I have seen on a couple of other ukuleles and not something I think looks that great.

PSI-S-LEO II Tenor ukulele bridge

Looking inside the sound hole and we have a wooden makers label with the PSI logo in pyrographic inlay, rather like those on Snail instruments.

PSI-S-LEO II Tenor ukulele sound hole


But the LEO has another sound hole in the form of a personal side port cut in an oval on the side of the instrument. I like these and you don't see many of them in the uke world. Basically as well as projecting sound out front they project sound up to the players ear. A nice touch.

A side hole like this also allows for a closer inspection to the inside of the instrument and the first thing I noticed was notched edge kerfing on the joints and a fan bracing pattern on the lower half of the top. Unlike the more common simple two parallel braces to strengthen the top, this employs several braces laid out in a fan pattern. It's a technique from classical guitar design and interesting to see here.

PSI-S-LEO II Tenor ukulele side port


The downside to a side hole is that it also allows you to see all the parts that are usually hidden. Unfortunately things are pretty messy inside this instrument. Stains on the wood, glue seepage, wood shavings and a ton of dust all on show to the owner. Does this affect the sound? Probably not, but it does give an indication as to the care than went into the build. Really very messy indeed.

Moving on, we have a hard wood neck with a joint in the heel and at the headstock. It's got a nice chunky C shaped profiled which I found very comfortable. The width at the nut though is fairly standard far eastern style and I would have preferred it a touch wider.

PSI-S-LEO II Tenor ukulele neck heel


The fingerboard is rosewood and edge bound in cream which is the sort of bling I can live with. We have 14 nickel silver frets to the body and 19 in total and all are dressed really well with no sharp edges. The rosewood though shows some marks that look like glue spots and has also taken on the polish applied to the instrument in the grain giving it a speckled look.

More bling in the position markers which use an inlaid PSI logo at the 5th, 7th and 10th, then a different double marker at the 12th, before reverting to the PSI logo at the 15th and 17th. I would have preferred dots, or at least that the PSI logo was used throughout. Incidentally we have inlays in here from white mother of pearl, so yet another choice of bling from the parts bin. Thankfully we have position markers in the same places on the side of the neck with small dots.

PSI-S-LEO II Tenor ukulele fingerboard


Past the plastic nut we have a slotted headstock that I really like. It is let down for me by the rope and abalone edging once again, but the shape is very nice. The PSI logo is inlaid in white mother of pearl.

PSI-S-LEO II Tenor ukulele headstock


Tuning is provided by gold rear facing geared tuners which both look wonderful and work just fine.

PSI-S-LEO II Tenor ukulele tuners


The package is completed with Aquila Super Nylguts, gold strap buttons on the butt and neck heel,  and comes in at £280 RRP in the UK which is a pretty good deal for a tenor of this specification.

To hold it isn't overly heavy and feels nicely balanced in the hands. I love the feel of the neck in the hands and it just kind of feels 'right' to hold and play. Set up was perfectly acceptable for me at both the nut and the saddle.

Sound wise, that side port does it's job very well and the projection straight up the ear is noticeable and welcomed. I say welcomed, because it isn't the loudest instrument I have every played.

Loudness is of course subjective and tone is also important, but this just didn't seem to project enough for my liking even if I strummed it hard. Don't get me wrong, the tone is good, and very bell like. In fact a bit too bright for my tastes, but certainly very clear across the strings. More delicate than punchy and I prefer punchy.

Some will love it, and it makes for a very nice 'players' ukulele for those who play alone for personal pleasure. Played in a jam or club scenario though I think I would find it slightly lacking.

In short an instrument of contradictions for me. Well made, but a little messy under the hood. Looks great, but with a confusing choice of decoration. Nice bell like tones, but lacking projection. So it left me with mixed views. The price is right through, and overall it's not a bad instrument by any means.

http://www.psiukulele.com


UKULELE PROS

Looks of the wood
General build
Side port
Headstock

UKULELE CONS

Untidy inside
Lacking volume
Confused decoration

UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 8
Fit and Finish - 7.5
Sound - 8
Value For Money - 9

OVERALL UKUELE SCORE - 8.1 out of 10

UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW








29.6.15

Win a Makala Waterman Ukulele - GOT A UKULELE COMPETITION

COMPETITION CLOSED! RESULT COMING SOON!!


Would you like to be in with a chance of winning a fabulous Makala Waterman ukulele? Of course you would. So with thanks to the kind folks at Kala UK, I am giving one away in this free to enter competition!


Makala Waterman orange ukulele


You may have read my review of the Waterman and seen that I quite like it. The model on offer is brand new and in the orange swirl pattern, complete with Makala Waterman box and gig bag. All you have to do is a bit of snooping on this website to answer the following easy questions:

1. Which model of Kala Acacia wood ukulele did I review on this site and what score did I give it?

2. Which ukulele designer was responsible for the original plastic ukulele that inspired the development of the Waterman?

3. What is the name of the new series of instruments released by Kala, made in California from Hawaiian Koa?

To enter, email your answers to the above questions to bazmaz@gotaukulele.com and include the words MAKALA WATERMAN COMPETITION in the subject line (important - if you don't, the entry won't count). Also, you must send me your postal address for a valid entry!

Competition closes at midnight GMT on 24 July 2015. 

Please read the rules below and good luck!!


Makala Waterman orange swirl

Kala Ukulele logo




1. Competition  ends at midnight GMT on 24 July 2015
2. To be eligible for the draw you must enter by email with MAKALA WATERMAN COMPETITION in the subject line, providing correct answers to the three questions, AND provide a working email address and postal address by which I can contact you for  if you win.
3. I reserve the right to reject entries that are duplicates, offensive or anything else unsavoury!  My decision on this is final.
4. After the draw day, a name will be drawn from a hat (or hat shaped receptacle) to determine the winner.  My decision on the winnersis final and no correspondence will be entered into.
5. The winner will be selected within 7 days of the draw day, and will be announced on this site.  I will also contact the winner by email.
6. This prize has no alternative cash value.
7. No purchase necessary
8.  Emailing your entry is not proof that I have received your entry. No responsibility can be accepted for entries that are lost or delayed, or which are not received for any reason
9. The prize is not transferable to another person
10. The prize  will be shipped to the winner direct. Got A Ukulele, Kala or Barry Maz are not responsible for carriage of the prize and cannot be held responsible for problems with delivery. Your shipping address is critical as this is where the prize will be sent!
11. Got A Ukulele will NOT use any personal data submitted by you in entering this competition except as required under the terms of this competition
12. Got A Ukulele reserves the right to substitute, in their reasonable discretion, the prize with a prize of equal value
13. The competition is not open to employees or family of Kala Brand Music Co.

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