As you can probably imagine, I get an awful lot of new ukulele brands sent over for review. It's become quite dizzying how many new musical instruments are coming out of China, and this is another new brand for me, a concert scale ukulele from VTAB.
Now, it must also be said, that whilst 'on the whole' the quality levels coming from China have improved, I still find they can be somewhat hit and miss. In fact, when I am advised there is one coming over, I tend to assume I will be underwhelmed rather than massively impressed. I know that's pre-judgemental, but there you are. They are not as dreadful as they once were but they rarely wow me. But I was actually pleasantly surprised opening the packaging on this one as you will see.
This MV-TS2401 (seriously guys, work on that model name, please!...) is in concert scale, and in a traditional double bout shape. And it's really quite striking to look at. It's what they call their 24 series, which refers to the fact that the whole thing is 24 inches long. I'm noticing this naming convention more and more from China and personally find it both irrelevant and a little confusing. I don't actually care how long the overall instrument is, but I DO want to know what scale it is from the traditional scale categories. So a measurement of 15" from saddle to nut tells me this is a concert ukulele. So why not put the word 'concert' in the name? It's what most people understand.
We have an all solid Engleman spruce top, made from two pieces, with a really nice warm colour to it and supremely straight grain. It really is very nice, and also appears to be pretty thin too. This sits on top of a body and sides made from laminate mahogany again with a pleasant warm colour and grain. The back is slightly arched and made from two pieces, and we have two piece sides. It's all put together accurately too and feels secure and solid.
We have some edge decoration in the form of maple bindings to the top and back, with some black / white / black detailing on the top edge. Note that is actual maple, not cheap plastic and that is always nice to see. We also have an inlaid abalone rosette around the sound hole. Both elements of this decoration are nicely done.
Bridge wise we have a pin style bridge (something that I always like), made from rosewood and fitted with a compensated bone saddle. It's a nice design, with touches of Taylor guitars in it, but I'm not as keen on the overly glossy finish on the wood. I much prefer bridges to look natural. Still, it's neat and tidy and applied well. People often get confused by pin bridges, but they really couldn't be simpler. Putting on new strings is as simple as tying a large enough knot in one end, removing the pin, putting the string in to wedge the knot inside the hole and putting the pin back in to secure it. Those pins incidentally seem to be plastic.
Talking of gloss, the whole instrument is finished in a gloss that is actually pretty wonderful. One or two very minor bubbles and a tiny bit of pooling near the end of the fingerboard, but on the whole a really high gloss. In fact, I will stick my head out here and say that apart from the significantly more expensive aNueNue models, this is one of the nicest gloss finishes I have ever seen on an instrument from China. It's up there with some of the great glosses on some upper end Chinese Kalas and the like. Seriously. I hope this isn't a one off as it really is very good.
Inside and things are also pretty neat, delicate bracing, notched kerfing and no mess. The makers logo, like several I have seen from China is a wooden sheet with the logo applied in pyrography.
Up to the neck, this is made of mahogany, from three pieces and also finished in gloss. It's a fairly generic profile and is kind of a medium 35mm at the nut.
Topping it is a rosewood fingerboard that looks a little dry, but at least is nice and dark and even in colour. We have 18 nickel silver frets, with 14 to the body and they are dressed very well. This is helped by more maple edge binding on the edges which gives it a very classy look. Nice appointments all round on this one I think.
We have plastic pearly position dots at the 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th and 15th spaces, with the 12th being a double spot. These are repeated on the side too. Nice.
Past the bone nut and we have a really REALLY attractive headstock. It's faced in rosewood and glossed too and looks very high end to me. Oh, and of course, it's a slotted headstock which always make me weak at the knees! I suppose my only gripe is the VTAB logo which is in plastic abalone, seems a bit lost and too dark against the dark facing. Would like it to stand out a bit more. There is a bit of polish unbuffed out of the slots, but that is easily tidied up with a cloth.
Tuning is provided by unbranded, chrome rear facing pegs with vintage shaped buttons. Very nice. Very similar to those on the Kala ASAC slot head tenors.
Finishing off the package is a branded gig bag, some picks, a clip on tuner and a spare set of strings to accompany the Aquila strings it is fitted with. And here's the thing. This is going to have an RRP of $115 and an expected retail of $95. You read that right. That's not a typo. There's a bit of shipping when getting one from them, but only taking the price to $107, so still a very very good price. And that price really took me by surprise because on closer inspection, this is a ukulele that is very well put together, brilliantly finished and extremely attractive to look at. I was honestly expecting that price to be much higher. It looks like a much higher end instrument. Yes, I know it's only solid in the top, but still...
It's nice in the hands, not overly heavy either and also balanced. This thing just keeps ticking the right boxes. Surely there has to be a catch?
Well, sorry to disappoint you, but I'm struggling to find a major one. Setup is within acceptable limits OK, so it's not the highest end tone in the world, but it has the things I want. We have decent volume, we have decent sustain, we have some harmonic jangle, it SOUNDS like a concert should! About the only thing I would complain about is that the geared tuners feel a touch grindy, but that could easily be solved with a drop of sewing machine oil.
The individual notes are clear in the mix and as I say, the projection is really surprising. Intonation is good on acount of the accurate build and setup and you get a pleasing vibration into the chest on strumming. Dead and unresponsive this is NOT. I've had a lot of fun playing this. Strummed and picked equally too, this has surprised me. Picked it projects just as well and this isn't going to see you lost in the group.
It's a fun instrument to play with a nice voice that is just very pleasing. And I am simply foxed as to how they have done it for the money. Really.
I suppose the only thing I am concerned about is how to get hold of them. At the time of writing this I think you can only buy from them direct from China (links below) which may put some people off. I really do hope we see some dealers outside of China start to pick these up though. Recommended!
Great classy looks
Very good construction
Excellent gloss finish
Nice wooden bindings
How to buy one?
Logo lost on headstock
Somewhat grindy tuners
Looks - 9 out of 10
Fit and finish 8.5 out of 10
Sound - 8.5 out of 10
Value for money - 9 out of 10
OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 8.8 out of 10
UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW
© Barry Maz
WHY NOT DONATE TO HELP KEEP GOT A UKULELE GOING?