Background to Mainland is quite interesting - they are assembled in the USA by hand by Hoosier Mike (from Ukulele Underground's) team in Nashville Indiana. The parts though are made and shaped in the far east in the same production facilities as many other mid level ukes such as Ohana I believe. Mike used to be the man at Bushman Ukuleles, (which still exist I think) but went it alone.
What he has provided though is a range of beautifully finished all solid ukuleles at a great price point that I personally would argue is hard to match for the money.
I had read so many good things that I placed my order from the only UK Mainland dealer - the very nice people at Eagle Music in Huddersfield. I opted for the Concert scale uke, and for something a little classier the slotted traditional headstock with backwards facing tuners. Was £179, though I think its a touch cheaper if you go for a standard headstock.
On opening the box it was clear that this was a lovely instrument. The Mahogany finish is wonderful, deep grained with a kind of 3d shimmer effect to it. The colour just glows a lovely dark orangey brown. the top and back have a white bound edge, and the top is finished with Mainlands trademark ropework finish around the edge and sound hole. Some love this, some hate it, but I usually find that those that dislike it have seen trade pictures that make it look a stark black and white - it isnt - the white is very creamy and the whole thing looks mellow.
The neck is wonderfully finished and the fingerboard is a beautiful smooth dark wood that just looks quality. Frets are nicely finished too. I think the saddle and nut are bone which is a nice touch.
Came strung with Aquilas which are obviously nice, but to be honest, I dont think a sweet solid instrument benefits from these butch strings that well. As you will read elsewhere on the blog, I have been playing around with string types on the mainland and seem to have now settled on the new edition Martin Flourocarbons - they give the nicest balance to my ears between volume and sweet chiming sound.
And that sound is what I really like about the Mainland - and what sets well made all solid instruments apart from the cheaper end - the sound is just really sweet and rings - nice sustain (yes, sustain - on a ukulele) but real bell like chimes from it.
I've found myself getting very precious about this uke - certainly not a uke I would take to the pub for a jamming session - I polish it too much (how sad) - but then it has its place - this is my "sit down when the house is quiet and relax with my uke" ukulele!
It therefore comes totally, 100%, no ifs buts or maybes recommended from me. If you are looking for a step up from a beginner uke, or just a uke in the £150 -£200 price bracket, you would be daft to ignore these.
Keep an eye on the Mainland Site too, as Mike is introducing new models, new wood types and shapes - all look nice. I hear the red cedar models are lovely too!
Looks - 8.5
Fit and finish - 7.5
Sound - 8
Value for money - 9
OVERALL - 8.3