Enya EUR-X1 Round HPL Soprano Ukulele - REVIEW

Donate to help keep Got A Ukulele going!

5 Aug 2017

Enya EUR-X1 Round HPL Soprano Ukulele - REVIEW

It's another return for 'High Pressure Laminate' on Got A Ukulele (you see I TOLD you there was going to be more of them!) with this attractively circular ukulele from Enya - the EUR-X1.

Enya EUR-X1 Ukulele


Enya are a Chinese ukulele brand that are 'fairly' new on the scene. They are actually the same company behind Kaka ukuleles, which you may recall I wasn't particularly keen on, and not just for the name either. But lately I have been seeing some interesting and rather pretty instruments coming out under their main name, including a range of ukes made from HPL laminate called their 'X1 series'.  This was brought to my attention on the new I've Got A Ukulele Facebook Group and since it appeared people seem to have been going crazy for them! This one is the starter in the Enya HPL line up and is also one that was on a tremendous price offer in order to kick start interest. A REALLY tremendous price as you will see.

The EUR-X1 is a soprano scale instrument that is completely round, reminiscent of the old Camp style instruments from the early 20th Century. The camp style goes back to the early 'camp uke's 1920s made by Lyon and Healy and subsequently Gretsch and have a very traditional and old fashioned look about them that I rather like.

The body of this one is about 8.5" in diameter, totally round and quite shallow in depth top to back. The back is slightly arched and as I say the whole body is made from HPL with an outer Koa graphic. For those who don't know, HPL is the same formica material used in kitchen counter tops and contains no wood whatsoever (not even the outer image, that's a photograph) - it's made from sheets of paper in a resin. It's the same sort of material as used in the Martin 0X series ukuleles and in fact looking at the literature that comes with this one, Enya themselves confirm that this IS indeed 'Martin HPL'. So exactly the same stuff as the 0XK soprano ukulele is made from. Interesting. And like the 0X series from Martin, this one seems to be very tidily put together, with clean joints, chamfered edges and the telltale look of HPL on the top and back join giving the effect of a black binding strip. Sadly also like the Martin, they chose to go with a false wood look that I think is missing a trick. It's not wood, so don't pretend it is. Why not go a bit more crazy with the graphic? It could be anything at all after all!

Enya EUR-X1 Ukulele body


Bridge wise this is attractively shaped and made from rosewood in a 'through body' style. That means that the strings go through holes directly into the body where you tie knots in them to stop them pulling back through. It's a fiddly sort of arrangement for string changes, but is said to be good for alleviating unnecessary pressure on the bridge plate and pulling tension and hence vibration down into the top of the uke. The saddle is compensated and made from bone. Incidentally, Enya confirm that these bridges are now starting to change and will be made from Richlite - a paper composite as used by Blackbird Guitars and presumably as a way of avoiding CITES restrictions on the shipping of rosewood. I have no complaints with that as Richlite works well on the Clara, and is widely used by guitar makers like Gibson. In fact, like HPL, I expect we will be seeing more of it all round in the ukulele world.

Enya EUR-X1 Ukulele bridge

A glance inside shows a very tidy build with delicate bracing, neat notched kerfing and no mess at all. Like the Martin 0X the inside shows off the real colour of HPL as a dull dark grey. the central back wooden strip has the Enya logo embossed into it, as does the neck block which is nice.

Enya EUR-X1 Ukulele inside

Up to the neck and things start to get very interesting indeed. It's made from mahogany and in three pieces with a joint at the headstock and the heel. Nothing particularly interesting about that you may say, but read on. The neck is attached to the body in a pocket and held in place with a bolt arrangement. Only that bolt is not on the inside of the ukulele as normal, rather it's visible on the outside and doubles as a neck strap button. And that is deliberate because Enya supply these with an allen wrench that not only allows you to adjust the neck relief, but also allows you to remove the neck completely and swap it for another. I guess you might either want to do that in the event of a break or just because you want a different headstock. I have never seen that before on a ukulele and whilst I can't immediately think of a reason why I would  personally want to swap necks, I must admit it's still kind of cool. Inside the neck is a carbon fibre strengthening rod too. I am not entirely sure why as I cant imagine the tension on a ukulele means it needs it, but there you are. By the way, that neck strap button is complimented by another button the base of the ukulele.

Enya EUR-X1 Ukulele neck


Topping this is a fretboard made of rosewood that is not edge bound but is very nicely finished and even has rolled fingerboard edges. It's fitted with a generous 16 nickel silver frets with 12 to the body joint. I am also advised that like the bridge these are changing to Richlite in due course. We have attractive star shaped position markers at the 5th, 7th, 10th and 12th made of inlaid wood and these are complimented with dots on the side. Another very interesting feature about the neck is it has a very slight radius to it. That is abolutely startling for an instrument of this sort of price. It's not a hugely noticeable radius, but it is there. A radius AND rolled edges. Wow.

Enya EUR-X1 Ukulele fingerboard

Beyond the bone nut we have a three pointed crown headstock (ugh..) and this is faced in a darker wood, but interesting doesn't seem to be HPL. It has the Enya logo inlaid in what looks like pale wood and I think looks quite attractive.

Enya EUR-X1 Ukulele headstock


Tuners are sadly open geared pegs and not friction and threfore look a bit large on a soprano. They are however a nice design with black plastic mounts, metal gears and small red plastic buttons. I'll let my deep rooted dislike of gears on sopranos slide on this one as I quite like the look of these.

Enya EUR-X1 Ukulele tuners


Completing the package is a mind boggling array of accessories.  As well as the strings that come on it, you get a spare set. You also get a clip on tuner, a strap, a polishing cloth, an allen wrench for the neck, a capo, some picks, a rhythm ring shaker and some brochures all in a zip up leatherette pouch. The ukulele also comes with a really nice quality padded bag, a good thing considering the unusual shape.  And the price will probably astound you. These were originally listed on Amazon (the only place to buy them at present I believe) with an RRP of £129, but are available on an introductory special price of £45. In the USA I have heard reports of fluctuating prices, with the latest being around $28 all in. Clearly that isn't a sustainable price and  in due course these will be at a more realisting price point (and indeed Enya have confirmed that it WILL be going back to a more normal price at $95) Still, it's a killer price for now, and considering the sound construction and the fact the Martin HPL is about £350, I think even the RRP is a very good price.

Enya EUR-X1 Ukulele accessories


So let's get on to playing it. As I say, it's very well put together with no build issues I can spot anywhere. I will get one thing I really DON'T like out of the way first though, and that's the strings. They are apparently fluorocarbon, but they are incredibly low tension and feel just awful and floppy on the fingers. Looking at them more closely the gauges look very odd too with only the C string being noticeably different in width to any of the others. Very strange and I will be changing them.

The instrument itself is light though and very nicely balanced. I really like the feel of HPL as I did on the Martin. It doesn't feel like wood, but then it doesnt feel like plastic either. It has a pleasing tactile matte coating to it that is rather pleasant. I spent some time looking for build flaws and honestly I can't find any that are obvious.

The uke is obvously a different shape than most and I must say camp ukuleles despite their roundness are normally a joy to hold. This one though has the bridge right down at the end of the body. That means the arm that tends to cradle the ukulele  is immediately pressing onto the bridge and is a bit uncomfortable. It's not really an issue when playing seated, but standing you do notice it. This is definitely one to play with a strap I think, which I find odd for a soprano.

Action at the nut and saddle on this one are both incredibly good. Really, just how I would like them. And as I say, the manual explains that tweaking the neck bolt can also adjust the relief and action up and down. I have not tried that, because as I say, this is how I would like it regardless, but it's good to know it can be done. Seriously though, the setup on this is one of the best I have seen out of the box and talking with other buyers this week, this seems to be common amongst others. That's great news.

I'm pleased so far. Sadly, on the first strum I found something very disappointing. The instrument is seriously quiet. Not just slightly, but massively quiet. It's a real shame because the sound itself is really very nice for what it is. It's also surprising as the body materials seem thin enough, the box is resonant and the bracing doesnt seem to be heavy. In fact it's very like the Martin models which bark loudly if needed.  My only guess (and it is just a guess) is that the bridge being set so far down the body is not driving vibration down into the most resonant part of the top. Tapping the top between the bridge and the soundhole and it's like a drum, yet tap it near the bridge and it isn't. And I think I might be right with this theory because I have heard reports of people swapping the strings on these to things like Martin fluorocarbons and it still being quiet. The string change improves the tension issue, but is not increasing the volume at all. I was going to do a follow up video to the one below with a string change, but having seen there is little change, there doesn't seem a lot of point. The volume IS an issue and you should be aware of that.

One other thing that is noticeable is you can get the best volume out of it if you play it kind of away from your body on the back and without resting too much arm on the top. Again, using a strap can help with that. Still, you shouldn't have to and it's still very quiet regardless.

But volume aside though, it IS a pleasant, jangly sound, full of character and this has had me thinking of the benefits of tonal character against volume. What would I rather have if given the choice of one or the other? It's hard to say, but I am not personally in the market for a quiet uke and want a instrument to have some bite when needed.

Back to the positives - the great setup means it is very accurate to play too with no intonation issues on this review sample. It's fun and easy to play whether strummed or picked with a very light touch on the fretting hand. And as someone very fairly pointed out to me recently, the lack of volume makes for a great late night / practice / kids ukulele. I think all those points are valid, but this player would rather a ukulele that you can either play softer or mute to quieten it down, but still has a bark if you want it. And I just can't get this one to bark at all. Yet, all of that said, there is still 'something' about the tone of this one that I rather like. In fact I've been playing a lot more than many review instruments I get my hands on, so it must have something about it! Maybe it's the shape, maybe it's that neck, maybe it's the excellent build... I dunno! I just like it! I'm also keen to try more of the X1 series, particularly those with a more regular shape.. Dang this one has me torn...

So my view is, at this sort of price then why not? I think this will make a great travel / camping / practice uke.  Just don't expect super power I suppose.  And scoring this one was a challenge because I KNOW the price will be going back up soon. But like I say, even at $100 or so, I still think i'd like this one because there is just 'something' fun about it, even without the volume. So I have broken with tradition and there are two end scores below reflecting the current and higher price point. They are actually not that much different in the scheme of things, and that's because most of the other stuff that matter is highly rated. So it's recommended either way I say, and most certainly at the low price, but only if you can live with low volume.

STOP PRESS

Now strung with Martin Fluorocarbon strings. The string tension is MUCH improved, and therefore the play feel. Volume slightly increased, but only slightly and not enough to make a noticeable difference on a video.

STOP PRESS 2

I am seeing a number of people online incorrectly stating that these have 'gone up' in price. They haven't - read the review. The low price was a one of introductory special. The real price of these is $95 or so in the USA. That IS the correct price. Please refrain from saying they hiked the price. They didn't! It just reverted back to where it always was. It's called a 'sale'.

http://www.enyamusical.com







UKULELE PROS

Great build quality
Great looks
Marvellous adjustable neck with radius and nice rolled finishing on edges
Nice tuners, even if they are gears!
Bang on setup
Killer price (at the reduced price that is!!) Although, the RRP is still pretty good value.
Light weight
Nice tone and jangle
Nice added bundle of accessories and great bag

UKULELE CONS

Just too darn quiet!
Low position bridge can be a little uncomfortable
Absolutely horrible stock strings
Like the Martin - why the false wood look? Be bold Enya!

UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 8.5 out of 10
Fit and finish - 8.5 out of 10
Sound - 6.5 out of 10
Value for money - 9.5 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 8.3 out of 10 (8.0 out of 10 at full price!)

UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW





WHY NOT DONATE TO HELP KEEP GOT A UKULELE GOING?





THANKS!

18 comments :

  1. HPL is typically 0.7mm - 1.0mm thick. It therefore requires to be bonded to a substrate otherwise it would be too flimsy and brittle to make a ukulele out of. What substrate has this laminate been bonded to?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't think that's actually correct / you are referring to the outer image only. You'd need to ask Martin what the rest of it is as they've used it for 20 years described as HPL

      Delete
  2. Hi there...just watched your youtube review, so am very interested in buying an Enya-X1 at the introductory price. Can't seem to find it for sale on the UK Amazon site though..also having problems finding it on the US site. Am living in Cork, Ireland. Would really appreciate any guidance on where to get this one at the special price. Cheers! Traze

    ReplyDelete
  3. There are links to both in the written review?

    ReplyDelete
  4. It really does look very well made and it would be way better than the very poor plastic uke I currently take camping. I'm sure lots of people will buy one to have something different in their collection. It'd be great if you did a post script to this review once you've changed strings.
    Cheers
    Ed

    ReplyDelete
  5. The US site is already sold out. If you can't find the links in the review, do Baz a favor and whitelist him on your ad blocker :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Ed - not a huge amout to say - put Martin strings on it. Tension is much improved. Tone is the same, sadly, so is the volume. Still like it though!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Are people not seeing the links because of ad blockers - had a complaint today that I wasn't being clear.. I can't bloody win...

    ReplyDelete
  8. Excellent review...I would get one today if the $28 ones were still available.

    ReplyDelete
  9. In the market for something to replace my dolphin in a soprano size for playing around the house. The quiet doesn't bug me since I mostly get to practice when the kids go to sleep; might even be a benefit.

    If the price heads back up though, and prices start looking the same, would you go ohana with a professional set up, or one of these off the internet?

    ReplyDelete
  10. Okay Barry, you've got me drinking the HPL koolaid! Just the packaging and all the accessories make me want one. I've been wanting a pineapple lately, so if it was just a bit more oval ...

    I came close to ordering a laminate Kiwaya recently. They don't say they're HPL, but with their quality, I'm suspecting.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Geoff the Chef (AKA "Blue Food Busker")8:34 am, August 07, 2017

    Great review and managed to find still available so ordered via Amazon (UK). It will be good addition to collection and ideal for leaving in car boot for travel. JUST A NOTE Barry... you mention low volume and "possibly" due to bridge being placed low down to bottom of uke. I have a KALA KA-15S soprano and this is similar idea with bridge fixed lower down but I just love the low volume and tone of it. Thanks for in depth review on the Enya anyway, I'm looking forward to it arriving.

    ReplyDelete
  12. After plentiful discussion on the FB group (which might soon end up getting renamed "Enya EUR-X1 Buyers' Club" :-P ), I ordered one over the weekend, along with a set of Martin fluorocarbons. For the kind of uses I see myself putting this uke to - songwriting, demo-recording (where I'd probably close-mike this little chap) and playing in places where I'd want to keep the noise down - I suspect the quietness may well be an asset to me rather than a liability. Still, at this price, I felt I'd almost be mad not to!

    One observation from the video: the Enya has to my ears, an unexpectedly-pleasing tone - surprisingly rich for an effectively-synthetic soprano at this price point, yet with a nice jangle/brightness. I look forward to experimenting with recording this fella close-miked...

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hi Barry. I've read that a few people with a "through the body" bridge put a small bead on the string to prevent it pulling out. Do you see any merit in this rather than just a good knot or could it cause unwanted vibrations ?

    ReplyDelete
  14. I personally don't but only as I find it quicker to just tie big knots!

    ReplyDelete
  15. How do you change he strings?

    ReplyDelete
  16. Push strings through - fish out of sound hole - tie knot - string up. Moderately fiddly, but very secure

    ReplyDelete
  17. Well, I bought one of these.
    Really nice to play.
    I like the strings too and I have Martin strings on most of my other ukes !
    It is quiet, so what ! Partly this may be because of the low action ? I'm noticed lowing the action on some ukes does cause a lowing of volume.
    Major plus for me is that this soprano is a couple of inches shorter than other sopranos and fits into my regulation size ryanair cabin luggage !
    Anybody want as Ohana sk38 with the top of the headstock sawn off ?
    I won't be needing it anymore :-)

    ReplyDelete

Please leave me a comment!

Got A Ukulele will always be free to view - help keep it that way!

If you enjoy this blog, donations are welcomed to allow me to invest more time in bringing you ukulele articles. Aside from the Google ads, I don't get paid to write this blog. Call it a labour of love! And, no, I don't get to keep the ukuleles that are loaned to to review...