I had wanted a slimline travel uke for sometime, something I could slip into a suitcase easily, and it was going to be this or the Kala.
This uke is handmade in Germany from all solid woods. Whilst the finish is matt black (everywhere - everything bar the frets are matt black!), the top back and sides are all solid maple. Not sure how many pieces the neck is in as it is painted, but it is also maple.
Its very thin, and very very light. It has plastic but good quality friction tuners which work perfectly and have needed no adjustment. Like other Brukos, it has a wooden one piece saddle and a wooden nut. 12 brass finish frets on a black painted fingerboard. Also like other Brukos, there is no labelling on the headstock, and the only branding is the Bruko name that is literally branded onto the wood and visible inside the soundhole.
It is very very plain! In fact my wife did say "how on earth is that over £100" and I can kinda see her point. Its the way its made and the materials used that lead to that price (handmade, not Chinese and all solid wood, not laminate)
Another interesting point is the way the fingerboard joins the body. As you'll see from the pics, it is completely level, not raised like virtually every other stringed instrument I play - this is cool though, as it allows noodling with odd notes beyond the fretboard onto the body itself.
Its well constructed and holds its tuning well. Intonation all over the neck is spot on, so no complaints there. The inside is braced, but there is no kerfling around the inner edges, so not entirely sure how it is held together. As I say, the finish is totally matt black which I think looks great. One or two imperfections in the finish on the top which is disappointing for Bruko standards - ho hum...
That totally black finish means no fret markers either (either on the fingerboard on even on the side of the neck). That niggles me a little as I do use them, but not a deal breaker I suppose, and it allows the uke to keep its dark and broody look!
So, how does it play? - well, as I say, tuning and intonation is spot on. Sound wise, its warmer than my old Bruko 6 which is very bright. Its quieter than most of my ukes which is hardly surprising, and doesn't have a great amount of sustain, though I need to experiment with strings. But it does its job well and I like the sound. Volume may increase if the top opens a little being solid wood - we shall see (my old Bruko 6 certainly did)
Playability is great cos it is so damned light! - great uke to leave lying around and just grab - it weighs nothing at all!
The downside I suppose of that thin body and lightness is that I find the way I normally hold my ukes mutes the sound on this. In fact, I've never played a uke before where strum location and how you hold it change the sound quite so much - it is really dramatic, and again something I will experiment with. Thats not a downer - its just something that requires me to work on playing style.
On the whole, pretty darned good - its not a solid Hawaiian sound (obviously) but it aint cheap trash either. Just be aware that you are getting travel uke sound - heck, my Dolphin is louder...
Gripes - well as above, finish imperfections not great, and the ease in which you can mute sound. Other than that, I would have to point out that the strings it arrived with (Pyramid Carbons) were dreadful. I don't like Pyramid strings and these were no exception. Slippy, dull and low tension so I'd find fingers catching in strings, and fretting bending notes. Put trusty Aquilas on it which, as far as playability goes, are spot on, but I need to think about the sound. Might try Martin Flouros.
Other than that - no case or gigbag, which is a shame. Being an odd thickness, this may rattle inside my hard soprano case. Kala travel ukes come with a branded zippered padded bag - Bruko, you may want to think about that?
In summary - its a handmade solid wood uke for just over £100, so that has to be decent value. Its not a full sized sound, but it works, and is a nice sound. Best of all though is the way it looks and how very very light it is.
Looks - 8.5
Fit and finish - 7
Sound - 7
Value for money - 9.5
OVERALL - 8