It was earlier this year when I started hearing something of a growing buzz about CloudMusic ukuleles, but it was a while until I saw one of their ukes. The first time was when Zahra Lowzley (who endorses them) blew the N'Ukefest crowds away performing on her Cloud Music soprano and we got talking about a review on this site. It has taken some time, but here we go with the CloudMusic HM12 Concert.
CloudMusic ukes are made in the far east and this one retails for a very reasonable £179 in the UK ($239) putting it squarely in the more serious beginner category or a true intermediate.
The HM12 comes from what they bill their 'Cedar Family' and comes with a rather clean but nicely finished solid cedar top. The uke is standard double bout shaped and looks to be extremely well put together.
The cedar top is in two pieces, nicely book matched and with a very straight grain running north south across the instrument. It is otherwise unadorned, but I like the understated classy look it gives. It is only when you turn the instrument over that you see the striking contrast they have created in using a much darker back and sides made from laminate and finished with Rosewood. I think it looks beautiful and has a lovely dark stripy grain pattern that works very well against the cedar front. The grain is straight and lines up with the uke on both the back and sides (both being made of two pieces). The back also has a slight arch to it.
There are still some people out there who will scoff at laminate, but it isn't nearly as important to tone as the use of solid wood on the top (Taylor and Martin Guitars use a lot of laminates on backs and sides). This particular laminate also looks to be good quality and the whole satin finish on the body of the uke works really well. Perhaps a gloss on the cedar would help it stand up to scratches better, (it is a softer wood), but I think it looks classy as it is.
The bridge mounting is made of rosewood and is nicely shaped on the edges. The compensated saddle (made of bone) is also shaped to fit in with this and I think it both looks great, and also gives it a higher end feel too. Incidentally, it is a tie bar bridge, and is probably screwed in place as hidden by the two mother of pearl inlays. Otherwise we have no sound hole rosette, and the only other body adornment is the black metal strap button fitted to the base (nice to see a button as standard I must say).
Inside looks neat and tidy, with no glue drops and notched kerning around the inner edges. The bracing is not the smallest I have seen, but they are neat and nicely tapered.
Moving on to the neck, this is made from mahogany and is in three pieces with a joint at the heel and headstock. It looks to have had some staining applied (as given away by a little discolouration to the edge fret markers), but is otherwise satin smooth. Its a fairly shallow profile with an almost flat back (so a very shallow D shape).
Applied to the neck is a fingerboard in rosewood which is neat and nicely uniform in colour. The frets are nickel silver (18 in total and 14 to the body) and are thin and very neatly applied with nice dressing to the edges. Pearloid fret markers are applied to the fingerboard at the 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th and 15th, and it is good to see these repeated on the side of the neck. The 12th is also a double marker which I always think looks nice.
Past the nut (made of bone and really neatly cut and seated) it is nice to see the headstock with its own distinctive shape. It is faced in rosewood to match the back and the CloudMusic logo is inlaid in pearloid on the face.
The tuners look just great in their black finish. They are unbranded sealed units, but I must say they work extremely well - smooth and with no play whatsoever.
The package is finished off with a good quality zippered soft bag (with an embroidered CloudMusic logo) and it is strung with Aquila. Regular readers will know that I tend to roll my eyes when I see so many ukes using them as standard, but these are their NEW Nylgut strings and I have been taken aback. It seems that all the things I didn't really like about standard Aquila strings have been addressed with these new ones (gone is the rough finish, gone is the overpowering boom). I'm impressed and welcome them on this instrument.
So we have something of a good looker here, and I just wanted to also say again that I am really impressed with how neatly it has been built. It feels great to hold.
And it is also nice and light, signifying that there isn't any 'over build' in this instrument. It feels nice in the arms and balances well. All good so far.
It arrived with me setup pretty much perfect. The nut action is spot on, and whilst I may have taken the bridge down a tiny amount, that is only personal preference. It is perfectly acceptable to pick up and go, and checking intonation all the way down the neck I didn't find any issues.
The neck is really comfortable on the fingers (I might not be saying that if they were regular Aquilas though!) and it just feels very playable.
Sound wise, there is quite a difference to my ears between strumming and picking. Strumming wise, It doesn't have the biggest volume from a concert I have ever heard. Volume is not everything of course and tone is arguably more important, but it was the first thing that jumped out at me. Thankfully it doesn't sound muddy or confused when strummed, and you can hear the separation between the notes, but it didn't quite blow me away.
For me it sounds far better fingerpicked and has some nice sustain all the way up the neck and a very sweet tone that I have really fallen for. I think it stands up really well against other concerts at a similar price point such as Mainlands, and would be a great choice for a first real uke.
I love the classy looks and the contrast between the woods. Having owned satin cedar topped guitars I know how easily they can pick up wear and tear, so wonder how long this will stay pristine after heavy strumming, but you know, that isn't really a huge criticism.
My only gripe is not really with the instrument, but with trying to get hold of them. I appreciate CloudMusic are just starting out, but looking at their dealers section on their website, I am not seeing a lot of well known uke store names on the list. I really think they should be trying to get these into the more obvious stores, as the obvious stores are the ones people trust.
Take a look at the scores and Video Review below - and if it wasn't obvious, this gets my thumbs up.
If you are interested in Cloud Music products - check out their Amazon Store here
PROSLovely contrast finish
Excellent build finish
Like the black hardware
Sound great fingerpicked
CONSA little quiet on strumming
Potentially easy to scratch the cedar top
SCORESLooks - 9 out of 10
Fit and Finish - 9 out of 10
Sound - 8 out of 10
Value For Money - 9 out of 10
OVERALL - 8.8 out of 10
To understand my review scoring and see this result in context - visit my review page at