Time for another review on Got A Ukulele and another from the Noah series of ukes that are put out by Saigon Guitars. You may have read my earlier review on the Noah Monkeypod Tenor instrument, but for this one we go down to the concert scale and with a different wood, in the Mahogany Concert.
Noah offer something a little different in the uke world - a range of ukes from the far east (Vietnam in this case) but not instruments that are turned out in bulk in factories - rather they are made by a luthier who Matt from Saigon hooked up with to develop his own range. The other thing I have liked about the Noahs I have seen is that they are priced extremely keenly and offer little build details that you would normally only see on instruments of at a far higher end. Read on, and be sure to visit the video review at the end also!
The Mahogany Concert is completely solid in construction, and for £150 that is already quite a surprise, particularly when you note some of the other features. The body shape is fairly standard in layout with a double bout and waist, but you will note the upper bout is actually a fair bit smaller than the lower - I like that. The whole body is finished in gloss which, on the whole, is nicely applied (more on that later), and does allow the mahogany grain to shine through. The top grain is rather pretty with a bit of curl at the top and a nice darker wood stripe down the middle. That gloss does allow it to shimmer in the light too!
The side grains are nice and straight in line with the body, and are matched where they meet at the base perfectly - I regularly see solid wood concerts at this price where that level of detail is just not present.
The back also has a lovely book matched grain with a strip of lighter sap wood showing towards the bottom which I think works to great effect.
Finishing the body off is top and back binding which is applied neatly and looks great. On closer inspection you will note that this isn't cheap plastic binding, but used real wood (maple in this case) for the material - again, this is not something one may expect at this price point.
We have more usage of wood on the top in the sound hole rosette which is inlaid in the top in wooden marquetry and looks great and natural.
The bridge mounting is made of rosewood and is a traditional style tie bar design. Like the Noah Tenor though, the whole bridge mounting is finished in gloss like the body. That is unusual and I would much prefer unfinished wood on this part of the uke. I have no idea why I say that, apart from purely aesthetic reasons as I can see no reason for the gloss to affect the play of the instrument. I am just not a fan. The gloss application has also lead to some gloss pooling around the edges of the bridge which I think are noticeable. That said, the rest of the gloss on the body is nicely applied and the gloss seems a nice quality (i.e. not thick or sticky). The bridge is trimmed with white edging and the nut material is bone and is nicely shaped and set. Action here is just right for me.
Looking inside and all is neat and tidy with notched kerfling, clear indicators that the back is solid, and the hand finished Noah label which includes a unique serial number and the manufacturers signature. Nice!
Moving on to the neck, this is also made of mahogany, and is in only two pieces that I can see with the jointing being at the heel. Another nice touch is the maple end cap on the heel which gives it another hint of a professional finish. The back of the neck is finished in gloss with one or two bubbles and dull spots, but nothing that I noticed while playing, nor that can be seen by an audience. It also has a nice (for me) chunky profile that fits my hand well.
Topping the neck is a rosewood fingerboard which is nicely coloured and finished. There are some tooling marks on the fingerboard, but remember this is not made on a fast production line by a machine. I like that they remind me that it is made by a person! You can see them, but I certainly could not feel them. The frets are nickel and we have 16 of them with 12 to the top of the body. They are neat, low key and finished well with no sharp edges.
Fingerboard markers are inlaid at the 5th, 7th, 10th and 12th in mother of pearl and look great, especially the double marker at the 12th. Sadly there are no player facing markers facing the player.
Past the bone nut (which is cut well and set right) we are at the headstock and full marks again to Noah for not going with a generic Martin clone crown shape. The shape is plain, but I like it and it sets it apart. The Noah logo is inlaid under the gloss and the whole of the faceplate is a mahogany veneer. Tuning is provided by unbranded sealed chrome gears, and they work just fine with no slop or grinding and they hold well.
The whole package is finished with a zippered and padded gig bag and (of course) Aquila strings.
Overall I am impressed. I think the uke looks great and contains enough details to set it apart from the generic factory models, particularly that edge binding and the grain pattern. There are some finish details, but nothing that is particularly noticeable.
To play, the uke is comfortable enough, and a little on the heavy side (though not uncomfortably so, and is nicely balanced). The setup is also just fine, and even if it wasn't, it is clearly built properly and could be set to play easily. A look at the top shows a wood that seems a little on the thick side to me and I wondered how it would affect volume tone (you may recall that I thought the Tenor Monkeypod Noah was a little on the quiet side, albeit with a very nice tone). Thankfully with this one I think it is just fine - there is bags of volume when strummed or picked (no doubt also helped by the Aquila strings and slightly arched back), but it comes with a good tone and voice too. There is no bark when it is overpowered, and strummed it has a kind of 6 or 8 string jangle which I quite like, whilst still providing clarity across the strings. There is a bit of an echo to harder strumming, but that is something I notice more with Aquila strings and as such will not level that observation at the instrument.
Compared to, say, a Mainland mahogany concert, I think it has more character. The Mainland may have a little more chime when picked (although I suspect a string change on this to fluorocarbons would help here), but the Mainland can, I find, get a little lost in the mix when strummed, whereas this one likes to make its presence known!
It isn't a high end tone, but nor would you expect it to be for £150, but it is perfectly enjoyable and acceptable and will fit in with your club or band nights just fine. And that really sums up why I will recommend these ukes. At £150, there are a fair few choices of all solid concert ukes and I find many are quite generic and plain. This one delivers more looks and finish that you would expect for the money, yet doesn't totally let itself down on the sound either.
All in all, I think they are a bit of a bargain!
Value for money
Some finish question marks
Looks - 9
Fit and Finish - 8
Sound - 8.5
Value For Money - 9
OVERALL - 8.6 out of 10
To understand my review scoring and see this result in context - visit my review page at