A welcome return to Noah Ukuleles on these pages, a brand I like for a variety of reasons. This time it's one of their soprano models in the Mahogany Soprano.
And yes, as you probably know, I really like sopranos, so this is a good one for them to send over to me! I think they get a bad deal and I really dont know why ( I blame the media claiming they are 'beginner models' or 'hard to play'. Both of those claims are completely wrong and indicative of someone who has NO idea about what a ukulelel is).. This one is actually very similar in specs to the Mahogany Concert Ukulele of theirs I reviewed back in 2014 and forms part of their wider mahogany series of instruments. By way of a quick recap, Noah are the ukulele wing of Saigon Guitars, a UK company run by Matt Cohen. They source their instruments from Vietnam, in fact from a small luthier workshop in Vietnam where Matt used to live, and that makes for a hand made feel at a very good price. If you like your small independent businesses, then Noah are worth taking a look at I think.
The Mahogany soprano is standard in it's soprano dimensions, double bout, body depth and the like and looks really classy in all aspects I think. The body is all solid mahogany on the two piece top, two piece sides and two piece slightly arched back and those woods look like good qualoity that have been put together well.
For decoration we have some edge binding that looks like maple with some black and white purfling on both the top and back and we also have an abalone sound hole ring. The whole body is then finished in a satin coat which is on the shinier side not totally matte. I think the look of it is incredibly classy and interesting. Not ostentatious, but just enough decoration to make it stand apart from other mahogany sopranos.
Bridge wise this is made of rosewood and is a tie bar style, and it's also nice and small. Like other Noah ukes the bridge is glossed and I don't like that as I prefer them to be bare wood. Ho hum. It makes absolutely no difference to the sound of course, and my gripe is purely one of personal opinion. Fitted into this is a straight topped bone saddle.
Looking inside and it's very tidy, notched kerfing, small braces and a makers label that is signed and dated - something else giving you a feel of individuality about things.
Up to the neck, this is mahogany and seems to be in two pieces with the joint at the heel. I don't like the huge contrast in colours at this joint and prefer them to match up more to be honest. Still, the maple heel cap is a nice classy touch. Topping this is a rosewood fingerboard which is in good condition, housing a generous 16 nickel silver frets with 12 to the body. The fingerboard is also shaped at the end, Martin style.
We have pearloid dots at the 5th, 7th and 10th spaces, but sadly these are not repeated on the side and i'd urge Matt to consider this with his luthier. I mean, surely they can't increase the price to any great degree? The fret ends are not bound but they are very nicely dressed though and the fingerboard is comfortable. The nut width is also narrower than I would personally like at about 34mm, but that's fairly standard for far eastern sopranos I guess.
Beyond the bone nut we have an interesting, yet simple shaped Noah headstock with an inlaid Noah logo. I like these headstocks. Once again, not ostentatious.
Sadly they have gone with generic sealed chrome geared tuners on these, and I know that is commonplace but I really really wish they offered friction pegs as an option. It is a soprano after all. Still, the tuners work just fine. They just wouldn't be my choice on a ukulele of this scale.
Completing the package are Aquila brand strings and like all Noah ukes, a decent quality padded gig bag. And the price is pretty attractive too at £189. That's a good deal for this sort of build.
So far so good with only one or two gripes, but nothing life and death. The build quality is good all over too, and whilst you can tell this has come from a small workshop rather than a faceless factory line (small blemishes in some of the finish and some tooling marks) I actually think that makes them feel a bit more 'real' as it were. I am never a fan of perfect factory finishes that seem to have no character whatsoever.
It's also very light and very well balanced to hold, so no real complaints here either. But it is typically soprano in it's voice and that's what matters most!
Strummed hard it has a good bright bark that you really want from a soprano. You will certainly not be lost playing this in your club and it sits right up there with other more expensive sopranos made in mahogany. It also has that signature jangle which is so nice on a soprano. And those sound signtatures are not at the expense of the notes getting lost in the mix. Clarity is the order of the day here.
Fingerpicked and it's got a particularly clear and pleasant tone that is really sweet to listen to. Extremely. No it's not a Kiwaya or a Martin, but then its only £189.
In fact this has been my favourite Noah to play to date. I think it's a really sensible alternative to the solid sopranos from the likes of Kala and Ohana, not least because of the classy looks, but also because of the nice small maker story behind it. I'd gladly own and play one of these as part of my soprano collection. In fact, other agree as Noah is also endorsed by UK performers of the likes of Danielle from the Mersey Belles and Matt Hicks (Redshirt).
Recommended once again by me too!
And I just spotted that Noah are selling direct on Amazon too. I don't normally recommend Amazon where Amazon are the seller as you wont get a setup - with this though it appears they are coming from Matt - so no worries
Great classy looks
Good build quality
Terrific price for a small workshop build
Nice typically soprano sound and bark
No side fret markers
Some minor finishing issues
Geared pegs on a soprano
Looks - 9 out of 10
Fit and finish - 8.5 out of 10
Sound - 9 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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