Flight TUS50 Travel Soprano - REVIEW

1 Apr 2018

Flight TUS50 Travel Soprano - REVIEW

Another look at a musical instrument brand I've featured a couple of times before, but this time something quite different for them. It's part of their new 'travel' series of ukulele, and this one is the TUS50.

Flight Travel Ukulele



When I first saw this I had to do a double take because it's extremely similar to a ukulele I have reviewed before in the form of the Alic / Mahilele Soprano. There are some differences though, one of them quite significant, but we will get to that in the detail. What it is though is a ukulele made in large part from plastic, with a wooden top - meaning it's tough and befitting of the 'travel' moniker.

Now looking back at the Alic review, I recall I did give it something of a bashing for being so similar to the Flea ukulele. On reflection I think I was overly harsh as there are really plenty of models that share plastic backs with the Flea, and of course, plastic ukes generally are pretty widespread now.  (Plus, it didn't change the review score - I was just having a grumble). One other thing I didn't like about it was that the fingerboard on my review model was soft and the strings wore the frets easily. I was told that this must have been a temporary issue, as others were not experiencing the same - but hey ho - that's what you get with one off reviews. I can only review the one in front of me. What I DID like about it though was the sound and the price, both of which were terrific. So what differs here?

Well, first up, the body on this is identical to the Alic / Mahilele, and that's because Flight have sourced these from the same production line. These too come in a range of different top colours, but this walnut wood version, with an engraved soundhole rosette (salamanders, if you were wondering) is unique to Flight. I think it looks rather attractive and is certainly an improvement on the flat colour options to my eye. Otherwise though it's all the same, so we have a laminate wood top set into an ABS plastic rounded one piece back and sides. Very like a Flea, but with a figure of eight shape instead of a boat paddle. That top is very lightly satin finished, meaning you can see and feel the wood grain. The natural feel is a nice contrast to the plastic back.

Flight Travel Ukulele body

The bridge is the same one piece ABS slotted style bridge as on the Alics, and like on that model, it's trouble free and works well. The integral saddle is compensated too.

Flight Travel Ukulele bridge

There is not much to see inside of course as you are looking into a black plastic box. There are some strengthening ribs on the inside to stop it deforming, and whilst I can't see a top brace, I presume there is one. Like the Fleas, the back has a slightly dimpled outer finish to ensure it's not too slippy when held against a soft jumper or shirt. The whole thing is well put together too, with no issues I can spot.

Up to the neck and this departs from the Alic in a significant way. Whilst it's the same profile, it isn't wooden, rather a pale cream coloured plastic. I think it looks better than the wooden neck on the Alic all round, mainly because the Alic neck wood was rough as old boots and looked like a tree branch!. Being plastic this is uniform in colour though, and is textured with a wood grain effect. As I say above, there are an increasing number of plastic ukes out there that hold up pretty well, but there are one or two I have looked at where the neck was not strong enough and flexed easily with even light pressure. I can confirm no complaints on that score here from what I can feel.

Topping this is a plastic fingerboard with integral plastic frets and a zero fret, very reminiscent of the Flea. I have also tested the strength of the plastic as I do with all plastic frets by pushing a thin metal screwdriver down onto them to check on deformation. Nothing that I can see, leading me to think these will stand up at least was well as those on a Flea. We have 15 frets in total, with 12 to the body, and small butterfly and flower shapes as outward fret markers at the 5th, 7th, 10th and 12th. Whilst the outward markers are inlaid plastic shapes the side markers appear to be screen printed, and the fret crowns also appear to be painted. One wonders how long these will last, as you may recall the silver tops on the Makala Waterman that disappeared after about a day! Still, I would argue why there is any need to paint the fret tops at all. The Flea doesn't have them painted and nor did the Alic. I wouldn't miss them. Incidentally - that neck width is a comfortable 35mm at the nut. Nice.

Flight Travel Ukulele fingerboard

Moving past that zero fret (to help with intonation) we have a really attractive shaped headstock that has been faced with more of the walnut wood. It's leagues nicer than the plain Alic headstock and looks classy and brings the walnut theme of the instrument together. Printed on this is the Flight logo in black.

Flight Travel Ukulele headstock

Tuning is provided by unbranded open gears with chrome hardware and small black buttons. They work just fine, but are otherwise generic.

Flight Travel Ukulele tuners

And finishing off the package are a set of (what else?) Aquila strings and a good quality padded gig bag (note - these were limited early supply and there will now be sales without - but from June all will come with bags..)..  Price wise, this will set you back what I think is an entirely reasonable and tempting €49 (or about £40).. That works out at less than the Alic was in the UK back in 2015, and this one includes a gig bag on top. A really great price.

Flight Travel Ukulele back

So things are pretty positive so far and in many ways, an improvement on the originals. Like those, and like the Flea, it's comfortable to hold too, not heavy and feels tactile. It's hard to describe, but whilst it doesn't feel like a wooden ukulele, it doesn't feel like a toy either despite the plastic. Setup is also just fine, which is a good job considering it would be hard to adjust the nut and saddle action due to the construction.

And also, like other ukes that have applied the Flea 'plastic back wooden top' style of build, these sound great too. Scarily close to a Flea in fact, which will set you back 4-5 times the price of this. And that really does make you think!

OK, like a Flea it doesn't sound like a solid wooden ukulele, but what it does have is great volume, a very nice warm tone, great sustain and great intonation. I know there are some people who just don't like the sound of plastic instruments, but believe me, whilst this doesn't sound like wood, it is also miles away from the sound of a full plastic uke which can sound what I call 'lunchboxy'. It kind of has it's own sound, and  a nice one at that (as any players of Fleas will attest). One critisism I will level at it, is exactly the same as I say about the Flea - I think that Aquila strings overpower these style ukes and make them boom a little. I would immediately be swapping these for something a little sweeter.

It's immensely playable though because of that nice body feel, and you need not worry about the plastic neck as that feels good too. Not slippy, but not grippy either. I'm struggling to find much to dislike here as you can see.

And of course, let's come back to that 'travel' element. This is tough as nails, and seems to be a great option to sling into a rucksack and take off with. Sure, like the Flea you will want to protect the wooden top, but the rest of it will stand up fine to knocks and scrapes.

Flight Travel Ukulele rosette


All in all, I think this is something of a no brainer instrument for the price. I think it improves on the looks of the originals I looked at, and sounds just as good for a little less money. Why wouldn't you?

Recommended. And thanks to the folks at Flight Music, they have very kindly offered my readers a 20% discount if you use the code GOTAUKULELE at the checkout on their site below! Can't say fairer than that! I believe that code works with anything else on their store too..
https://flightmusic.com/




https://www.musicroom.com/product-detail/product1139186/variant1139186/flight-tus50-abs-travel-ukulele-walnut/



UKULELE PROS


Great price and build 
Loud, good sustain and 'playable' 
Nice looks 

UKULELE CONS 

Sound may not suit wooden uke purists 
Plastic haters, look elsewhere... 
Fret paint may wear away 

UKULELE SCORES

Looks 8.5 out of 10 
Fit and finish - 8.5 out of 10 
Sound - 8 out of 10 
Value for money - 9.5 out of 10 

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 8.6 out of 10 

UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW





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8 comments :

  1. walnut already sold out! lol yet :(

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great review. This looks very tempting. As a lefty, I swop my strings over. Do you think the compensated saddle would be a problem with that approach?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great review as ever Barry. I have just received mine and it doesn't disappoint. However there isn't a gig bag included in the deal for these, or at least i didn't get one and the flight website only shows the bags on their more expensive ukes. Keep up the good work

    ReplyDelete
  4. Just got one, and very happy with it. Sounds better and has smoother action than my other beginner level ukes.

    At first I thought it was a bit too mellow, but swapping stings out helped a lot. I find the lip of the plastic back over the walnut top a little in the sharp side when I've been playing a while and will probably put a simple strap on it (as I do with all my other ukes).

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi there, great review, this little one looks really tempting! Does it stay in tune? I was looking for something with enclosed tuners but this one seems like good value for the money but the open tuners leave me hesitating...

    ReplyDelete
  6. A uke staying in tune is not the mark of a good or bad uke - geared tuners simply dont slip whether open or sealed. They just dont

    If you get gears slipping either the strings are settling, the strings are not put on correctly or the tuners are broken

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi I have very similar Ukulele but in blue color Flight TUS35DB. Generally in this price I'm very happy. Stay in tune (new strings need time), solid build, perfect for travel as expected.
    Want only in future change strings for something better - any recommendation??

    ReplyDelete
  8. I never give string recommendations - it’s just too personal. What some like others do not and I think it’s a myth certain strings suit certain ukes. As for these staying in tune. They certainly do, but staging in tune isn’t a positive or negative point for a `Ukulele. It just means either it has geared pegs (like this - gears cannot slip),well set up friction pegs or that the strings are on properly. Ukes do t lose tuning unless there is a setup issue, and that can affect a 30 dollar uke as much as a 3000 dollar uke

    ReplyDelete

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