Snail UKS-220 Rosewood Soprano Ukulele REVIEW

6 Apr 2015

Snail UKS-220 Rosewood Soprano Ukulele REVIEW

A new brand for me, and quite a looker. Brought to you by Snail Ukuleles, this is their UKS-220 Rosewood Laminate Soprano. What a nice looking musical instrument!

Snail UKS-220 Rosewood Soprano ukulele

Snail brand ukuleles are fairly new to me. In fact I have been aware of them for a couple of years, but don't think they were being widely distributed in the UK. That now seems to have changed, and this is available from Omega Music where this one is on loan to me from.

The UKS-220 is a pretty standard shaped and sized soprano ukulele built from laminate wood with a rosewood outer veneer. It comes in at about £99 and includes a gig bag (more on that later).

First things first - this one has, in my opinion, looks to die for. Sure it's a laminate so not solid Rosewood, but the darkness of the outer veneer is not only something slightly unusual in the world of ukuleles, but it contrasts so perfectly with the lighter coloured edge binding that I think it just looks extremely classy.

Snail UKS-220 Rosewood Soprano ukulele  body

The body is finished in a satin coating which allows some of the grain pores in the outer veneer to show through the finish. This is a good thing in my view as I am not a fan of laminates that are finished so thoroughly that they almost look fake. This looks like wood. And the finish is pretty flawless too. There isn't a mark or rough spot on it anywhere that I can see.

But let's look at that binding first of all. I must say, it comes as something of a surprise at this price point to see that it is not plastic. It's actually made of individual pieces of contrasting lighter woods set in place. It appears on both the top and back edges and I think looks really, really smart and reminiscent of something from a much higher end instrument.

Snail UKS-220 Rosewood Soprano ukulele binding

Around the sound hole too, we have wooden inlay, and not a transfer. It's interesting to see a normal round sound hole here as on some other Snail instruments I have seen, the sound hole has been Snail shaped. I must say, I think this is better for the normal sound hole. I think the snail shaped ones were overly quirky and also looked a little fragile to me.

Snail UKS-220 Rosewood Soprano ukulele sound hole

Otherwise on the top, we have a rosewood tie bar style bridge mount which is very neat and tidy and fitted with a plastic saddle piece. I'd expect plastic at this price, but to be honest I never think they make all that much difference.

Snail UKS-220 Rosewood Soprano ukulele bridge

The back is very slightly arched, and the sides are made from two pieces.

The quality of construction can also be seen when looking inside the instrument. The bracing and kerfing is neat and thin and a look at the edge of the soundboard shows that this is NOT an over built instrument. That should mean for a light body, better resonance and projection. I particularly liked the makers label inside which is not printed on a paper sticker, but rather is a piece of wood that has the details burned into it in pyrographics.

The neck is made from hardwood and I suppose a little bit of a let down on the looks department when compared to the body. It's made from three pieces, with a joint at the heel and the headstock, but thankfully it is topped with a very nice uniform piece of rosewood for the fingerboard. It's not a bound fingerboard, but fitted very neatly, as are the 14 nickel silver frets which have no rough edges at all.

We have pearloid finger position markers set into the 5th, 7th and 10th spaces, but sadly there are no side markers for the player. Why do they continue to miss those off?

The nut is neat and looks easily removable for adjustment. That's a bonus that I don't think you see enough of on ukuleles and I despise nuts that are layered with loads of gloss and finish as removing them is likely to mess up the finish on the headstock. Not here.

I adore the headstock for a couple of reasons. First, it's faced in that same dark rosewood, but also because it eschews the 'easy' choice of a Martin headstock copy and goes with a shape of it's own. I also like the logo as they didn't go for a transfer, but rather an engraved Snail logo. Flip the headstock over and you have another logo and the serial number, also engraved. Nice.

Snail UKS-220 Rosewood Soprano ukulele headstock

Tuners seem decent quality and smooth. They are silver sealed but unbranded tuners, but the buttons are small enough and finished in a black rubberised coating which feels nice on the fingers.

Snail UKS-220 Rosewood Soprano ukulele tuners

Finishing the deal are a set of Aquila New Nylgut strings and a padded gig bag with shoulder straps and a Snail logo. As gig bags go, this is a nice one and a far cry from some of the nylon things you see with cheaper instruments (and better than no bag at all).Snail UKS-220 Rosewood Soprano ukulele gig bag

So there we have a it. A great price, striking looks, really nice looking construction. How does it sound though?

Well first of all, that light construction makes for a nice balanced light weight instrument. This bodes well.

The first thing that strikes you is an impressive volume for a small laminate instrument. It really does have a good bite to it (a good thing with a soprano) and some reasonable sustain too.

In fact it has a voice that is what you would expect a typical soprano to sound like. Bright, punchy, jumpy and really rather impressive. The setup on this helps, as do the Aquila strings no doubt, but I do think the light construction and thin laminate is coming in to play here. It's resonant, responsive and a lot of fun to play.

Sure, it's not going to win in a contest against a high end solid Hawaiian soprano, but it's not trying to be that sort of instrument. It doesn't have the complex harmonics that those instruments will provide, but it's not a bad tone at all. In fact I've heard worse on more expensive solid wood sopranos which sounded dead. What it is, is a very well made, nice sounding and looking instrument at a great price.

Snail UKS-220 Rosewood Soprano ukulele wooden binding

I am finding it hard to fault for the price. Yes, for £100 -£125 ish you can just about get into solid wood ukuleles, but it won't look as nice as this and really, there is nothing wrong with the tone of this. Another fine example of what really can be done with laminates if a company puts the effort and quality control in.

In fact I'll be bolder. Whilst I know that money is tight for many people, I think the days of me recommending £30 ukes are really gone. I mean, £99 for an instrument that plays as well as this does, looks this nice, comes with a gig bag - well really - it's not a huge amount of money for a musical instrument is it?

Highly recommended. Good choice Omega!

Be sure to check out my other ukulele reviews here!


Build quality


No side markers


Looks - 9.5
Fit and Finish - 9
Sound - 8
Value For Money - 9

OVERALL - 8.9 Out of 10

To understand my review scoring and see this result in context - visit my review page at



  1. This Uke looks good... I reckon £80'is gives you access to a good standard of uke. whilst they have a nice tonal voice they also have a good build quality that the £30 Ukes cannot match.
    As a matter of intrest do you tune any of your ukes with Low G and if so do you have an Emin chord position that you could recommend as this chord just don't sound right for this tuning... but I love the warmness that this tuning gives. I've had my uke since December 2014 and threw a few tunes on Soundcloud... appreciate your opinion as fancy trying my hand a busking this summer :)

    Listen to Its Terry Jonesy by Terry Jones #np on #SoundCloud

  2. I have a tenor zebrawood laminate Snail from the same line, and it's great. Paid $150 at my local guitar shop in the Seattle. I'm a classically trained singer and have even studied acoustics a bit, so I know what clear tone sounds like, and the sound just spoke to me when I played it. It sounded as good to me as other ukes at my local shop that sold for twice the price. At first I thought I was crazy for liking the sound of a cheaper uke, but then I decided I was OK with crazy as long as I liked to play it.

  3. Love the look and sound of this uke for my budget, but interested in getting it in concert size. My local Snail rep will order immediately if I put down a deposit, otherwise I'll need to wait about a month until he gets his normal shipment.

    So, I'm curious if ukes of different sizes tend to be reliably of similar quality? I'd hate to find out the concert size is much worse than the soprano after having already purchased it based on the soprano high marks.


  4. As a first beginners uke I have just bought the zebra wood laminate concert Snail. I went to a local music shop as I wanted to see in the flesh rather than online. I wanted a step up from the £30ish beginners uke (I did also purchase a Lani LS200 in bright pink for that price which looks and sounds ok but obviously noticeably different from the Snail ) I really wanted the Cordoba 15CM but much preferred the look of the Snail. It may not be to everyone's taste but I really like the look of the stripy wood. I have to say the build quality and sound of the uke is excellent. Of course as a first instrument I don't have anything to compare to, apart from the pink Lani. I'm really pleased with the purchase and would say the quality of all the Snails seems to be good across the board, especially for the price.

  5. I've just received my Snail UKS-220 from Omega Music and it's as good as described in your review. I think it actually looks better than the one you reviewed as mine has shiny gold tuners with no rubberised buttons and the gold really highlights the dark rosewood finish. It's a fantastic looking instrument. It sounds really great even in my beginners hands. I'm really glad I bought one of these. Thanks very much for the review.

  6. Bought a Rocket US10-R on eBay as my first Uke. It felt "alright" and sounded "okay". I enjoyed playing the Uke, but didn't get the feeling I get when I play a quality guitar. I thought maybe that's a guitar-only feeling.

    After reading this and other reviews on the UKS-220, I took a long hard look at my little rocket. I thought I'd take a punt on the Snail. So glad I did!

    My Rocket feels a bit like a toy, whereas my Snail feels like a proper instrument. Out of the box and a moment to get it in tune and I was away.

    The finish is something to behold. The engraved logo and actual wooden inlay and trim just screams quality. The head stock isn't just a lump of wood that's holding the strings at one end; there's style and quality function there. And did I mention that engraved logo? Nice.

    I bought a gig bag for my Rocket (the one you get free with cheap Ukes is a bit poo), and expected to need to transfer it to the Snail. WRONG! The free gig bag you get with the Snail is better than the one I bought. Something of a similar quality would set you back about £15-£20 (so, a quarter of the price of your Snail).

    I really can't find fault with the UKS 220. I'm in love.

  7. I was looking to purchase the UKS-220 from a local music store but they instead stock the UKS-e220 (I believe the 'e' stands for Ebony rather than the Rosewood.
    Question being is this newer Ebony version a improvement or inferior version to the Rosewood??

  8. A change from rosewood I can understand as it's on the CITES list. But a change to ebony is odd as that is restricted too! Personally, I think ebony is superior

  9. Hello Berry!

    I wanted to take a moment to thank you for this review! I was not sure which one should be my first ukulele since there are so many out there, but then I came across this beauty and fell in love with its sweet sound. Maybe this helps others who are trying to find the rosewood soprano version:

    My significant other recently got in touch with Snail and it turned out they have stopped producing the UKS-220 Rosewood Soprano a few years ago. Instead he was offered the UKS-E220 which is a follow-up model. The body is still rosewood, but the fretboard is now made of ebony.

    They said there have been quality issues with the rosewood (and too much of it to meet the CITES list), so they chose ebony in order to enhance the uke's playability and longevity. I got my E220 yesterday (with silver tuners that have snail logos on the back) and I am smitten. It is a real joy to play!

  10. That's what you get for typing a text while you're hungry...
    Barry, of course! My apologies! (Ughhh, the ignominy...)

  11. I got the concert version for Christmas, and I'm really enjoying it. These rosewood ones come in quite different shades: mine is positively stripy, with very dark brown and lighter chocolate wood grain. Extremely beautiful and a nice, bright sound. Thanks to Barry for lots of good advice. Only problem is, my ten-year-old who had guitar lessons, is ten times better than me, and keeps taking my ukes when I'm trying to play, and showing me how its done...

  12. The music store by my parents' house in Michigan (McCourt's Music in Pontiac) sells pretty much all of the Amahi ukuleles. The snail ukes are some of their "higher" end instruments, but I found the quality was consistently lovely across even their cheaper models. I ended up getting a spruce top tenor and it's lovely. I compared the sound to a Leho tenor and a Kala tenor that were around the same price, and I prefer the Amahi hands down for a lot of the reasons you outline in your review. The sustain and the volume are really nice! They also have nice, wide nuts, which I like very much.

    One downside I found, though, is that any wound strings REALLY boom on these ukes. I had a wound low G on my tenor for a while, and everything I played sounded like it was drowning in the low range notes. I ordered some Worth Brown strings with an unwound low G, and I'm hoping that will sound better.

  13. Barry, thanks for all your reviews. I’ve gone through many in preparation for my first “real” uke purchase. Online research is great but one really must put eyes on the prize and hands on the wheel. From all my internet investigation I was leaning heavily towards a tenor size. But as I picked up and played quite a few different sizes at the Starving Musician in Santa Cruz CA, US I was surprised to find how much better I liked the concert size. But what was really astonishing was that quite by accident, next to all the brand new (mostly) Kala ukes was a used Snail UKC-458. Also astonishing was how beautiful the sound was compared to ALL the other ukes I played, not only in the similar price range, but against the higher priced instruments as well. This goes for “playability” too. The concert size felt quite at home when held and this surprised me because I am also a guitar player and I thought even the tenor might feel too small. Again, the only way to learn these things is an in person visit to the music store. In summary, the UKC-458 feels good, sounds great and is a joy to play. At $99 (this used uke looks brand new, no flaws or even scratches anywhere) I saved money and got a better ukulele than the more expensive ones I tried. Thanks again for all your help. I’m a very happy camper.

  14. Replies
    1. Sorry - this was a loan back before I noted measurements - no longer have it here.


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