Ukulele review time. A brand here that is not new to me personally, but new to Got A Ukulele. It's the Ashbury AU50 Concert Ukulele.
Ashbury are a UK based brand who make their cheaper instruments in China / Indonesia, but compliment them with their solid wood 'Pacific' range of instruments which are luthier made in Vietnam. This is part of the latter series, so not a re-badged factory instrument. You will find them mainly in Hobgoblin music stores in the UK, but also some other independent dealers and across Europe too. I guess they are a less common brand, but they do have some professional endorsees including Pete Williams from Dexy's Midnight Runners and members of the band Staves.
So as I say, it's in the concert scale, and I love the shape of the body with that fatter lower bout. Gives it a slightly different look and is slightly bigger than a regular concert ukulele. The body is made from all solid Sapele, an African hardwood that is related to Mahogany and is finished in a satin coat that shows the grain through the finish. I really like the traditional simplicity of it and it comes with no edge binding or soundhole rosette. OK, it's not the most striking wood grain in the world, but it's certainly not offensive. It exudes a warm orange glow which I rather like.
The top and back are made of two pieces each, nicely book matched and the back is arched. The sides meet at the base with a strange filler piece of wood on the join. I dont know why I mention that as it's hardly a complaint.
Looking inside we see a tidy if simple build. The braces are not over done, and the kerfing is not notched. No real complaints though and no glue mess!
The bridge end of the strings terminates in a rosewood slotted bridge with a buffalo bone saddle piece. Nice to see that. It means easy string changes, but the extra sustain from the bone saddle should be evident on playing it.
Up to the neck - this has a fairly standard profile and width and is made from three or four pieces of mahogany with joints at the headstock and heel. It is topped with a fairly pale looking rosewood fingerboard with hidden fret ends due to a painted edge (as opposed to bound). Speaking of frets we have 14 in total with 12 to the body. Personally I would like to see a few more, but this is fairly standard I guess. They are all set and dressed nicely with no sharp edges.
We have white pearloid dots for position markers in the 5th, 7th, 10th and 12th spaces and thankfully these are repeated on the side.
Past the bone nut we move up to a fairly basic headstock shape and my first true complaint about the instrument. The Ashbury logo is screen printed on in silver and looks cheap and horrible. In fact, it's not even screen printed on very well either. Let's the instrument down I am afraid. I like the logo that they use for the letter A, and think it would look much better with that really.
Tuning is provided by open gears that are stamped 'Ashbury' with small black plastic buttons. They look like they are decent quality and they work well too.
Completing the deal are Nylgut strings branded by D'Addario (still made by Aquila I believe!) and a decent quality padded gig bag with funky red interior. And for all that you have to stump up an extremely reasonable £129.... Yes, £129. For a solid wood non factory made instrument. With a bag. Seriously good value, no doubt about it. In fact if you shop around you can grab these for a lot less than that. Amazing really (see the Amazon link at the end of this review)
Construction wise, all is sound and I can find no faults there. It's not overly heavy or thick and is nicely balanced in the hand. That satin coat is really tactile and all in all it looks like a very nice thing.
Setup on this one was spot on, with no action or intonation issues that would worry me. It's got a chimey sound that is very 'delicate' and pretty, particularly when picked. Sustain is there too, helped by that bone nut and saddle no doubt, and it has nice clarity and bell like chime when strummed too.
But I suppose there had to be a negative for me, and that is that I just prefer my ukuleles with a bit more punch and volume. Dont get me wrong - I really DO like the tone it delivers, I just wish there was MORE of it.
If you are playing at home or recording it into a microphone I think it will do you very well indeed, but I think it could quite easily get a little lost if you played it in a group acoustic setting or busking with it. I have a pretty heavy hand when it comes to strumming, but couldn't generate a tremendous amount of volume from this one.
So I guess it depends what you are after. Certainly volume is not the 'be all and end all' when it comes to ukuleles, but it is something this reviewer likes, particularly on soprano and concert scale instruments. Still, at only £129 for a hand made solid wood ukulele, you could pretty much justify having one for the sake of it. Terrific value really.
Bargain price on Amazon! (At this price I would DEFINITELY buy one!)
Be sure to read all my other ukulele reviews here
Nice construction and shape
Nice bell like tone
UKULELE CONSLacks projection and volume
Cheap looking headstock logo
UKULELE SCORESLooks - 8.5 out of 10
Fit and finish - 8.5 out of 10
Sound - 7.5 out of 10
Value for money - 9 out of 10
OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 8.4 out of 10
UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW
© Barry Maz