Snail SR04-TE Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

29 Apr 2018

Snail SR04-TE Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

Another brand that has featured several times on Got A Ukulele. This week we take a step up with Snail musical instruments with their SR04-TE Tenor Ukulele.

Snail SR04-TE Tenor Ukulele


And it's a step up because most other Snail ukuleles I have looked at have either been full or part laminate, whereas this one rolls out the full solid woods on top back and sides. Nicer still, that solid wood is Koa - a much prized wood choice in ukulele building. Let's take a closer look.

The SR04-TE (oddly labelled SR-TC4 inside the uke, so maybe the name is changing?) is a tenor scale solid koa ukulele with typical double bout shaping and size. A quick glance at the pictures though will tell you that this one comes with a heap of decoration to add to the bling stakes. Before we get on to that a quick word about the wood itself. We have two pieces on the top back and sides, and in all cases it shows some nice stripe. It's not the highly expensive curly koa, but for what it is, it's rather pretty and the top shows the start of some flaming in the right light. The slightly curved back in particular has some very attractive bookmatching.

Snail SR04-TE Tenor Ukulele body

The top edge is inlaid with an abalone purfling strip which is matched by more abalone around the sound hole. In addition on the top lower bout we have a 'comfort edge' chamfer in a darker stained wood - a feature used by a number of makers to provide more comfort on the underside of the forearm of the strumming arm. It's a feature I don't object to, and in fact looks quite nice, but personally I don't consider them essential. And more of that darker wood is on display in the shaped curved cutaway on the top bout. Now those I DO like. It is a bit of a shame that there are some small flaws in the edge finishing where the two woods meet though.

Snail SR04-TE Tenor Ukulele comfort edge

The bridge plate is made of ebony and fitted with a well compensated bone saddle. It's a through body bridge (something I am seeing more and more of) and looks like a Batman logo...  Oddly, some trade pictures of this ukulele online show a more regular rectangular bridge so I don't know if they vary. Still, I quite like this one.

Inside is very tidy too with notched linings and delicate bracing. And the whole body is finished in a pleasing satin that feels very nice on the hands. Saying that, a high gloss finish would have no doubt set off the koa and really made it 'pop'.

Snail SR04-TE Tenor Ukulele cutaway

They don't specify the neck material but it looks like a pale mahogany to me, with a joint at the heel and well hidden one at the headstock. The profile is typically Chinese with a rounded feel and a very disappointing width of only 34mm at the nut... for a tenor..

It's topped in ebony which is extremely nice and even in colour and looks to be in good condition. It has 18 nickel silver frets with 14 to the body joint and it's not edge bound but 'edge stained' so you can see the fret ends. The dressing is ok too, but they are kind of on the verge of being sharp. Very close! Position marker pearloid dots at the 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th and 15th and these are repeated on the side.

Snail SR04-TE Tenor Ukulele fingerboard

Beyond the bone nut (indicentally it's that type that sits a little proud of the fingerboard and feels sharp against the fretting hand - I'd need to get some sandpaper to that..) we have the extremely attractive Snail shaped headstock. I do like these and it's faced in a darker wood that kind of sits proud of the rest of the headstock. It's also complete with the Snail logo in inlaid wood.

Snail SR04-TE Tenor Ukulele headstock

Tuning is provided by Snail branded chrome sealed gears. They are pretty generic but work just fine.

Snail SR04-TE Tenor Ukulele tuners

It's also refreshing to see a ukulele that comes with something other than Aquila strings as standard. I do not dislike Aquila as a brand, but I always remain staggered at just how many come with them from the off. These are Worth clears. You also get a functional Snail branded bag and that will set you back the not inconsiderable price of £450.

So apart from one or two very minor gripes, it's put together very well, feels well made and is nice in the hands too. It's not heavy and the balance and setup are just fine for me.

Sound wise and you immediately get the tone wood here - it's a fizzy, jangly rich tone with sounds coming from right across the register which is so typical of acacia woods. And that means you get the bass notes, you get the treble notes and you get a nice mix inbetween too.

Sustain is particularly impressive I found, although the volume, whilst not poor just felt a bit on the low side to me. Don't get me wrong, it can hold its own, but I just found myself wanting to to punch that little bit more. It's certainly nicer and punchier when picked, but that isn't to say strumming is a let down.

Playability though, for this particular reviewer is let down by that string spacing and an uncomfortable nut. In first position chords I found it a downright pain on my fretting hand and it started annoying me. You mileage may vary of course, and I have large hands and I know that some people love narrow necked instruments. For me it was a bother though.

Snail SR04-TE Tenor Ukulele back

Still, most if not all of these gripes are personal ones and this is still a terrific instrument, very well put together with a gorgeous rich tone. Price wise though I think it might be a tad too rich compared to competion in models like the (sadly discontinued) all solid acacia World Of Uke Pioneer which was a good deal cheaper for essentially the same sort of ukulele. Koa does bump prices though, and I get that, but I did find the price jumped out at me. No doubt there will be deals on these.

Still - it's recommended and for many of you this will be a sound choice.

Thanks to Red Chili Audio for the review sample - UK distributors of Snail ukes.

http://www.redchilliaudio.com

UKULELE PROS

Great looks
Overall build is great
Gorgeous sustain
Nice rich jangly tone
Yay - Fluorocarbon strings!

UKULELE CONS

One or two minor finish issues
Neck far too narrow for my liking
Volume could do with turning up
Expensive

UKULELE SCORES

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

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 8.6 out of 10

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4 comments :

  1. I've heard better sounding laminates for under half the price (especially from Ohana). Imo They've placed way too much emphasis on the appearance (and wood) and little consideration on the player. My verdict......snail blazers !!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really like the tone. Just a touch quiet

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  2. That's disappointing that the nut is narrow. One of the features I really liked about the Amahi/Snail ukes was that the nuts were wider than usual. Hopefully that feature won't continue to appear on their other models.

    I'm glad they started putting Worths on their instruments! The sound of the instruments from that brand, in particular, seems to really be improved by using the Worths instead of the Aquilas. If you get a chance, you might want to try some Worth browns on it. I've gone through about five different types of strings trying to find the ones that had the best volume, sustain, and sound quality (for picking and strumming), and the browns are the only ones I've kept for any length of time. The clears, for whatever reason, were quieter (not sure if that has to do with the clears having larger diameters or slightly less tension).

    Out of curiousity, are there any benefits for having a through-body bridge?

    ReplyDelete
  3. The through body bridges aim to direct more vibration down into the top than other styles

    ReplyDelete

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