4.8.12

Long Term Test - Fluke Ukulele

A new feature for Got A Ukulele. I have reviewed many instruments, but it struck me that it is one thing writing about what I think of an instrument in the first few weeks of ownership, but what about how the instrument has stood up longer term - do I still stand by my original thoughts?


My first long term test looks at my Fluke ukulele, first reviewed here in October 2010.

Fluke ukulele

It's nearly two years since I brought this baby home and it has been a regular player for me ever since. I actually bought this one slightly used but in top condition. So how has it gone since buying it?

Well the Fluke still is the instrument that I like to grab now an again despite owning more higher end instruments now. I still love the tone and the volume that the ukulele brings, and it is just one of those fun shapes that feels great to play. Add to that, the flat bottom means this uke sits beside my sofa for when I feel I have a quick urge.

Over the last couple of years I have tested a few string types on it, and have settled for Worth Clears as being my favourites on the uke. I still love the low action and accuracy the setup brings.  It isn't (by far) the sweetest sounding uke I own but it is a reliable war-horse of a uke. I can leave this for weeks and know when I pick it up it will be bang in tune. This has also become my 'go to' ukulele for gigging in situations where I either expect it may get knocked, or where we are outdoors and I may expect rain - as it will stand up pretty well to those.

It isn't all good news though - perhaps it is my vigourous strum style but the top finish of these ukuleles is really not very sturdy at all and I have worn through to the wood - both from the bad habit of finger placing on the soundboard when picking, and from plain old fingernail wear and tear from strumming.

Fluke ukulele soundboard wear

I am not overly bothered about the way it looks (and have applied a layer of clear coat to the top to try to slow down the damage) but am surprised how quickly it started to wear down. Oh well, it shows I play it.  Another gripe is with the plastic fingerboard. Despite never using wound strings, the plastic frets have started to develop grooves in most of them up to about the sixth fret. That amount of wear in two years leads me to believe that if I keep playing it as much as I do, I will need a fingerboard replacement in about a years time - perhaps not the sort of shelf life you would expect for what is a relatively expensive instrument. The new fingerboards are not hugely costly, but it will be a hassle to fix. If I was buying a fluke again I would certainly now consider the wooden fingerboard with metal frets.

The back of the uke has stood up very well (not that you can tell that easily as it has become a magnet for ukulele stickers!)

fluke ukulele back with stickers


Not long after getting the Fluke I fitted a pickup to it (a K and K Bigshot ) which was easy to do as you will see on the link - the point with the Fluke is that with no removable saddle, the a piezo strip is not an option, so this has a transducer pad stuck under the soundboard. It works very well, though does pick up a bit of body noise. The other downside with a pickup on this uke is that the natural place to put the jackpin is not really an option as you then lose the ability to set the ukulele on it's butt to stand it up. This means I fitted it on the side of the uke. This is great for a trailing cable, but makes using a strap on it a bit tricky.  Still - it works.


fluke ukulele pickup jack mounted on side

So in summary - am I still happy with it - yes I am. It's still the war horse I expected it to be. I am concerned at how quickly the finish and frets wear down, but the former is just cosmetic and the uke sounds as good as it ever did. I have not dropped it down the stairs yet, but I still think it would come out of a tumble unharmed.

Would I buy it again if I lost this one. Yes, without any shadow of a doubt (though I would plump for the wooden fretboard)


2 comments:

John M said...

Hi Barry. It's interesting that in the initial review, and also in that of the Flea, you see the polycarbonate fingerboard/frets as a great innovation, yet your closing comment here in the long term review is that if you bought another you'd choose the traditional wooden fingerboard with metal frets. Is it simply the issue of durability that has out-weighed the intonation advantages of the one-piece moulded fretboard?

Barry Maz said...

Exactly that John - and I should probably go back to do a stop press on the original reviews. That isn't to say I dislike the polycarb - they are at a much more reasonable price and I have had many years out of them - I just like the quality of the wooden ones so much when I played on in the flesh.

Incidentally - the wooden boards have superb intonation and use a zero fret too to help with that (and nut action)

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