You will no doubt remember the buzz around social media when I reviewed the last HPL ukulele from Enya. Frankly it went completely crazy, with some musical instrument channels selling out of stock. So i've since been looking forward to featuring one of their more standard shaped insturments to compliment that review. Step right up the EUS-X1 Soprano.
That first Enya review was of their camp style round EUR-X1 made from all HPL laminate (the non-wood, paper and resin composite used for kitchen counter tops and identical to the stuff used by Martin in their 0X series. I REALLY liked the EUR model, as it was extremely well made and had a quite wonderful neck. But it had one thing letting it down and that was it's very low volume. The tone was nice, but it just didn't have a punch. People questioned whether the low tension strings were the issue, but a change to Martin Fluoro strings, whilst increasing the tension, did nothing for the volume. My theory was that because the bridge was so far down the body it just wasn't sat on the most resonant part of the top and this was limiting the vibration transfer. Ho hum.
So with the EUS-X1 we have a more regular proportioned soprano ukulele with a bridge where you would expect it - slap bang in the middle of the sweet spot. That's why this one has been interesting me.
The construction here is up there with the construction of the EUR model and that means, equally, it's also up there with something like the Martin 0X ukuleles, which is really saying something considering it's one third of the price! It's really well put together. It's quite a curvy soprano body which I find to be rather attractive, and is similarly finished with an outer Koa graphic and the same edges of the HPL showing on the joints giving a binding effect. Top back and sides are all single pieces, with the back being dead flat. It's essentially identical to the EUR model, just in a more traditional soprano shape.
As I reported in my review of the EUR, Enya are moving to a non-rosewood bridge material to avoid CITES issues on shipping, so this one is still a through bridge, but the plate is made from richlite composite. That's a paper pulp and resin material as also used by Blackbird in their eKoa instruments (and Gibson guitars for that matter). It's jet black in colour, a different shape than that on the EUR-X1 and ultra hard making it perfect for a bridge plate. Amusingly, Enya call this material 'technology ebony' which makes me giggle, though I am not sure why. Names aside, it's nice to see the use of another non-wood material in a time of increasing pressure on natural resources so there are no complaints from me here. Fitted into this is a compensated saddle made of bone and similar to the EUR model. One other thing I would say about the bridge is that I think it looks overly large on a small body like a soprano..
Looking inside and we have another tidy build with notched wooden kerfing and delicate braces. Again, the Enya logo and model number are pyrographically etched on the back strip and it looks every classy. What you will also spy looking inside this one are a set of controls for the integral pickup. It's the sort where the battery compartment (cell batteries) and tone and volume controls are located on the inside of the sound hole edge. I am not a fan of active pickup systems, but I do admit that if I was going to go for one, I prefer the controls here and not in a huge box cut into the side of the instrument. Bear in mind though - this pickup system is just an option. You can get these without electrics too. Naturally the base strap button doubles as the jack socket. I think given the choice I would pass on it, but I know many people who like their ukes to come ready to roll as it were. Incidentally, that pickup is an under saddle strip and testing it out the sound is not muddy and the volume across the strings is equal, so no complaints here.
Neck wise this is the same as the EUR with that clever removable neck to allow changes / relief adjustment by way of the adjustment bolt in the heel that doubles as a strap button. It's also made of mahogay in three pieces and has the same pleasing nut width of 36mm.
Topping this one is the same radiused fingerboard with rolled edges as on the EUR that is supremely comfortable, only this one replaces the rosewood with more richlite. It works very well as a fingerboard material - as well it should considering Blackbird use it! We have the same 36mm nut width, the same 16 nickel silver frets with 12 to the body and wooden postion inlays at the 5th, 7th, 10th and 12th. Sadly these are not repeated with side dots on this one. It's otherwise identical to the neck on the EUR-X1 and considering the necks are interchangeable, that is hardly surprising. And as you may recall I was extremely positive about that EUR neck and felt that it was more than a match for the neck on the Martin sopranos in quality and comfort. Good going.
It continues to be identical beyond the bone nut too, with the same crown headstock, the same logo and the same geared pegs. Yes I'd still want friction pegs myself.
And also included again is the same attractive box packaging, another good quality padded bag and another array of accessories including cloth, strings, pics, capo, tuner, strap and rhythm ring. The strings sadly are also the same so that same low tension I didn't like and I quickly swapped out on the EUR. I will be doing the same here.
And the initial special offer on the EUR aside, the price of this one is also the same. RRP on the EUR-X1 was actually $96, and on this one we are looking at the same, or up to $126 in this flavour with the pickup fitted. Interestingly I believe these ones are only currently available in the US, so my UK readers will have to do without for now at least. I believe the concert version may be available in the UK though.
So let's put it through it's paces... Firstly, as I say, the construction is superb on this on like the EUR-X1. No joint or finish issues anywhere I can see. It also has the same supremely comfortable neck. It's balanced too, but this one is noticeably heavier than the EUR model, but bear in mind it does have a pickup system and controls inside it. I am sure it would be lighter without it.
Action and setup, like the EUR are excellent - in fact the saddle action is actually on the low side and I may shim it up a touch as I have done with the EUR as it can assist with volume. It's not often you see that in a ukulele!!
But the big question everyone will want answering is - is it louder than the EUR-X1. The short answer is, yes it is, and by quite a margin too. The EUR was indeed very quiet but it still had a pleasant character to the tone. The EUS has the same sort of character but is clearly more pronounced in it's projection. It's really pleasing actually. Sustain is good too, as is playability. Those stock strings remain to feel horrible though and I did change them. Strummed, it's typically soprano staccato fun, but it has a roundness to the tone that is surprising for a sop. Picked it's really nice too, on account of that character and the sustain.
How much louder is hard to quantify in words so I put some Martin strings on it to make a comparison fair to something like the Martin 0X. These are two instruments that are made from the same material and are also the same shape and dimensions (double bout sopranos). Tested side by side The EUS is nowhere near as loud as the Martin 0X but is much louder than the EUR model. It's kind of a halfway house between the two of them and that surprises me as the construction is so similar. But it's still passable, certainly more usuable than the EUR and still has a great build, neck and enjoyable voice. When you consider that the Martin is three times the price, that means that the Enya for me is no bad thing. If I have one gripe, it's a function of geography. I am in Britain and I don't believe these are available to buy in the UK at the time of writing.. I hope that changes. I am also advised by Enya that early stocks of these may sell out, but that they are in the process of re-stocking too.
Still recommended thoughand I think for those of you put off by the lower volume of the EUS model, that this could perhaps be the one for you. And as for that detachable neck? Well this one recently travlled 3000km with me in two pieces inside a small item of cabin baggage and went back together perfectly after the journey. Brilliant!
Lots of added extras (great gig bag)
Wonderful neck comfort
Use of sustainable Richlite and HPL
Rich characterful tone
Improved volume over the EUR model
No side fret markers
Feels slightly heavy with pickup added
No friction pegs!
Horrid stock strings
Bridge plate looks overly large
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
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