GOT A UKULELE - Ukulele reviews and beginners tips

15 Jul 2018

Ortega RFU11Z Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

Staying in the more affordable part of the ukulele spectrum this week, and another first for a uke brand on the site. This is the RFU11Z Concert Ukulele from Ortega Guitars.

Ortega RFU11Z Concert Ukulele

Ortega are German musical instrument brand with more than ukuleles to their name. As well as ukes you will find Ortega guitars, basses, mandolins, banjos and accessories. I say a 'German' brand, but that's really just the HQ. What they oversee though are ranges of far eastern produced, good value instruments. Nothing wrong with that at all. But together with having a range of instruments, this one comes from only one of a large range of ukulele product lines that they offer. Honestly, I gave up counting how many there are. You can go for the Raven series, the Eclipse series, the Lizard series, the Bonfire series.... and so on, and so on. This one forms part of their 'Friends Series' which appears to comprise a range of scales made from either laminate mahogany or laminate zebrawood. This one is, obviously, the zebrawood variant. I'm not entirely sure what the 'friends series' relevance is.

It's a standard concert scale ukulele with a traditional double bout shape made from that laminate zebrawood on the top back and sides. I've made my views known on this wood before, and that is that I don't really like it. But not only that, I think it's a wood that has been totally over-exposed. A quick search on Amazon for ukuleles will show you what I mean. Zebrawood laminates are ten a penny at the cheap end. The first thing this reminded me was the Caramel ukulele I reviewed some time ago. That one still gives me nightmares, so this does not bode well. I know some of you will like it but sorry it's not for me. And yes, I guess mahogany is just as ubiquitous in the ukulele world, but mahogany is not so, well, 'in your face'.

Ortega RFU11Z Concert Ukulele body

Thankfully though, the finising on this is better throughout than the Caramel with no flaws, bare patches or mess in the satin outer coat. It's nicely put together, despite me not liking the look. It's an open pore satin so the thing actually feels like wood too which I always prefer. The top, back and sides are all made from pairs of woods and the back has a slight arch.

Ortega RFU11Z Concert Ukulele back

The bridge is made from walnut and is a tie bar design with a curved plate. Ortega call it their 'Ortega Bridge for easy string change and perfect tune'. That makes it sound like it's something they specially designed, but it really isn't. It's just a regular tie bar bridge. I wouldn't say that was the easiest style to string change at all, and as for 'perfect tuning', I have no idea what they are on about. Never mind, it's a pale bridge and holds a straight top plastic saddle. It really didn't need 'bigging up'.

Ortega RFU11Z Concert Ukulele bridge

There is no other decoration on the body which is a good thing. The last thing a wood as gaudy as zebrawood needs is an abalone strip on the top. What you do get, curiously, is a black painted edging to the sound hole. That used to be a 'trick' used by brands to hide the fact that the wood is laminate, but that can't be the case here. Ortega clearly state that the wood is laminate, plus you can see it is because the outer edges are not bound (another trick to hide it). So I'm not sure what it's for, but I think it looks a little weird and out of place.

Ortega RFU11Z Concert Ukulele sound hole

Inside is tidy, and tidier than many I see at this price. Fairly chunky braces, notched kerfing but no mess or glue drops. Interestingly you see a veneer of zebrawood on the inside of the ukulele too, so the laminate part is the unspecified sandwich wood in the middle between two thin sheets of zebrawood. That doesn't stop it being laminate by the way, as certain other unscrupulous brands have started suggesting in their marketing. But again - fair play to Ortega. It's made quite clear what it is on their website.

The neck is extremely pale mahogany with a joint at the heel and one at the base of the headstock.  It's finished in satin too, and whilst it has a typical far eastern rounded back profile, at least the nut width is a more 'standard' concert of just under 35mm with 28mm between the G and A strings. Oddly, the Ortega website specifies the nut width as 36mm, which is patently incorrect. I'd prefer 36mm,  and this is a touch narrow for me.

It's topped with a walnut fingerboard holding a concert standard 18 frets with 14 to the body joint. The edges of the board are stained / bound black which still isn't helping the fact that most of the fret ends are sharp on this review model. Badly so too. That's a shame. We get outward dot markers at the 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th and 14th (14th??) and they are repeated on the side in white. An unremarkable neck let down by poor finishing.

Ortega RFU11Z Concert Ukulele fingerboard

Beyond the plastic nut we have a distinctive headstock shape also faced in zebrawood. The Ortega logo is a thick screen print in silver which was scraped off a little before I even opened it. Examining it further tells me there is absolutely no way this will stand up to a clip on tuner. It's just not very permanently applied.

Ortega RFU11Z Concert Ukulele headstock

Tuners are unbranded sealed chrome gears with small black buttons. They work ok, but are otherwise unremarkable.

Ortega RFU11Z Concert Ukulele tuners

Also in the package are Aquila strings and a really rather nice padded gig bag with strong zips and a very well padded handle. Certainly one of the better gig bags I've seen come as standard. And these can be picked up in the UK at least for just under £100 or about $145 in the USA. That's a keen price and one that will surely attract a lot of buyers.

In the hands it feels nice enough (apart from the sharp fret ends) and it's balanced ok too. Setup is a touch high at the saddle, but that is easily remedied and the nut looks just fine to me. Not bad really.

And the sound has impressed me too. Yes, you can tell it's a laminate instrument, but the volume is very good and the sustain reasonably so. It has a very direct and clear sound with the individual notes coming through clearly. It's a bright tone that is quite snappy, and I like it for that. Strumming gives me a bright jangly sound, and picking has a bell like clarity which makes that very enjoyable. Not top end but far from a bottom end sound, and for only a hunded quid. For a player looking to get a first sensible ukulele or a second step up from the likes of cheap Mahalo's, then this would not disgrace you at all.

It's really surprised me as I don't mind admitting that the first look led me to believe that I wouldn't like this ukulele very much at all. It has some issues, but I suppose they are not hugely major - just annoying, and still sounds and plays ok. The looks are not for me, but many will like them. Not a bad ukulele at all really if a little generic. Fair play Ortega.

https://ortegaguitars.com





UKULELE PROS

Generally well built
Good price
Great gig bag
Good volume
Decent enough sound for the price

UKULELE CONS

Not personally a fan of zebrawood
Poor fret finishing and setup
Badly applied headstock logo
Would prefer slightly wider nut as per their website description!

UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 7.5 out of 10
Fit and finish - 8 out of 10
Sound - 8 out of 10
Value for money - 9 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 8.1 out of 10

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11 Jul 2018

Kala KA-SLNG Long Neck Soprano Ukulele - REVIEW

It's actually been quite a while since I featured the very well known Kala brand on Got A Ukulele. Over the years I have looked at a variety of models from them, from the very cheapest to their top end ukes. But one that missed my attention is also in a scale combination that I have never featured before either. Today we look at the KA-SLNG Long Neck Soprano ukulele.

Kala KA-SLNG Ukulele


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7 Jul 2018

Antica Ukuleleria Moderno Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

This week we have ukulele brand I have been longing to feature on Got A Ukulele for quite some time. It's a first for them on the site, and it's also the first instrument from Italy to feature. This is the Moderno Tenor from Antica Ukuleleria.

Antica Ukuleleria Moderno Tenor Ukulele

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30 Jun 2018

VTAB FS-C25 Concert - REVIEW

A welcome return to the VTAB brand this week, this time with a higher end model from their range- the all solid FS-C25 Concert.

VTAB FS-C25 Concert Ukulele


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23 Jun 2018

Paul Barnard Wildcat Baritone Ukulele - REVIEW

Mixing things up again this week on the Got A Ukulele reviews page, as it's another hand made ukulele review. Added to that it's a type of ukulele I have been meaning to feature more of as it's a baritone. This one is hand made by Paul Barnard at Wildcat Ukuleles and Guitars.

Paul Barnard Wildcat Baritone Ukulele

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16 Jun 2018

Blackbird Farallon EKoa Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

A change of pace this week on Got A Ukulele reviews as we move to the upper end of the scale and welcome back Blackbird Guitars. This week I am looking at their Ekoa Tenor Ukulele called the Farallon.

Blackbird Farallon Tenor Ukulele

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9 Jun 2018

Snail BH-1C Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

One of the ukulele brands that had a special mention from me in 2017 was Snail, so i'm pleased to be bringing you yet another of theirs. This week we look at the BH-1C Concert Ukulele.

Snail BH-1C Ukulele


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2 Jun 2018

Brunswick BU4C Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

A first for this ukulele brand on the Got A Ukulele reviews page, and a maker I have known for many years. This is the Brunswick BU4C Concert Ukulele.

Brunswick BU4C Concert Ukulele


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31 May 2018

Maccaferri Islander Vintage Soprano Ukulele - FEATURE

Something of a first today for Got A Ukulele. This time I am looking at a vintage ukulele called the Islander. All the way from 1950's USA.

Maccaferri Islander Soprano Ukulele

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27 May 2018

Baton Rouge V2-SW Sun Soprano Ukulele - REVIEW

A welcome return to a ukulele brand I have always been impressed by. This one may look familar, but holds a subtle yet very important difference - The Baton Rouge V2-SW Sun Soprano Ukulele.

baton rouge v2-sw sun soprano ukulele

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19 May 2018

Sound Smith Resonator Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

It's always nice to feature a new home grown brand on the Got A Ukulele reviews and that's exactly what Sound Smith musical instruments are. This week we look at their tenor resonator model.

Sound Smith Resonator Ukulele


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12 May 2018

Martin 0XK Soprano Ukulele - REVIEW

Something this week that may look quite familar to you on Got A Ukulele. It's the Martin 0XK Soprano Ukulele.

Martin 0XK Soprano Ukulele

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