VTAB FS-C25 Concert - REVIEW

30 Jun 2018

VTAB FS-C25 Concert - REVIEW

A welcome return to the VTAB brand this week, this time with a higher end model from their range- the all solid FS-C25 Concert.

VTAB FS-C25 Concert Ukulele


Regular Got A Ukulele readers will know that I gave VTAB the accolade of my 'ukulele brand of the year' for 2017, and for good reason. 2017 was the first year I saw examples from the US / Chinese brand and I was throroughly impressed with their quality versus price. Well made, nice looking, nice sounding instruments for very little cash in the scheme of things. Those reviews though were either for a laminate or only 'part solid' instruments and I wanted to feature something a bit more professional on the review page this time. To scratch that itch I turned to their 'FS' series which stands for 'Full Solid' wood. This particular ukulele is their mahogany concert model. In the same FS series you will also get this style in tenor scale and can also find a concert in solid acacia.

As I have reported before this is a Chinese made instrument, overseen by a company that is actually run from the USA (the owners being a married couple, one half of which is American, the other Chinese). The are still building up their distributor network in Europe and the USA, meaning that you will get these increasingly in physical stores - a definite plus for me.

The FS-C25 is a standard double bout shaped ukulele, and for the natural simplicity of mahogany is still a very attractive looking instrument. The top, back and sides are all made of two pieces of mahogany each, with the back being ever so slightly curved and the sides joining with a wooden inlay strip in the base. It's a pale mahogany, but not unattractive, with grain lines running in north to south in line with the body layout. In the right light it's actually got some very pretty shimmer, almost crossing into that 3D effect that flaming can create in more exotic tone woods. It's helped of course by the fact that the whole body is finished in gloss which makes the wood grains pop and shine. The glosses on other VTAB's I have reviewed have been utterly terrific, and whilst this is no slouch, it's not quite the flawless  finish I have seen before with VTAB. Don't get me wrong - there are no bare patches, no pooling and it's still hyper glossy, but under the fingertips it's not quite as smooth as you would expect. This is a minor gripe though as it's very well done. I think it probably needed a final rub back with a very fine mesh, that's all, and only a picky reviewer like me would point it out.

VTAB FS-C25 Concert Ukulele body

The decoration is simple but effective with black binding to the top and back complimented by white inlaid purfling stripes. It's classy and doesn't try to detract from the rest of the ukulele or clash. So often these bindings are over done or out of place. We also have a simple black and white sound hole rosette which is inlaid in the wood, not a transfer.

Bridge wise we have the normal VTAB shape which is a nice departure from the norm. It's a pin bridge which I am always fond of, despite them making string changes a touch more time consuming I find. The pins appear to be plastic with abalone dot inlays. The bridge itself is made of black walnut and is fitted with a compensated saddle in bone.

VTAB FS-C25 Concert Ukulele bridge

Inside the construction is really neat and tidy. There is no mess whatsoever, the braces are thin and delicate and the linings are neatly notched. You also note the VTAB logo and model name embossed in the centre strip on the back rather than a makers label. I like that.

The neck is made of mahogany and is also finished in gloss. It's in three pieces with a joint at the heel and headstock, and unlike many necks which can be, frankly, boring to look at, the grain in this is really pretty. I love how it changes from dark to light and also has a shimmer like parts of the body. The profile though is typically Chinese with a fatter more rounded C shape back than I would like. At the nut though it is 36mm across and about 28mm from G to A string, so perfectly roomy.

VTAB FS-C25 Concert Ukulele neck

This is topped with a black walnut fingerboard, which is in very good condition, though paler than I like with fingerboards. I can't blame VTAB for that though, blame CITES that made the use of rosewood so difficult. We have a concert standard 18 frets in total with 14 to the body joint and they are dressed extremely well. That dressing is helped by the fact that the edges are bound in black to match the body binding.  We have pearl dot position markers at the 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th and 15th with the 12th being a double. Thankfully these are repeated on the side with white dots in the black edging.

VTAB FS-C25 Concert Ukulele fingerboard

The headstock is something of a stand out that appeals direct to my heart as it's a slot head style. Shaped with a three pointed crown it looks just great. The VTAB logo is inlaid in abalone, but like other VTAB's I have seen it just doesn't stand out enough for me and gets lost in the grain. A white pearl inlay would look much better I think. Again, a minor gripe.

VTAB FS-C25 Concert Ukulele headstock

Tuners are unbranded rear facing gears with vintage style chrome buttons. They look terrific and are very similar to those on the Kala slot heads like their solid acacia tenor. They are however a bit uneven on tension but work fine and are holding like they should.

VTAB FS-C25 Concert Ukulele tuners

The package finishes with a functional VTAB branded gig bag and a set of D'addario nylon strings. Note that they are nylon. Not actually my cup of tea at all, and whilst you should know I don't mark reviews down based on string choices (because they are easily changed), I do have a confession to make. I always like to review instruments with stock strings, but I actually snapped one on this before the review! So the review is made on the basis of the fluorocarbon strings I put on in their place. Don't worry, it won't affect the score, but I WILL say at this point that I really did not like the stock strings one bit... I would have changed them pretty rapidly. Anyway, the price for that package - a solid wood concert with decorative appointments and slot head? A whopping $255... No, that's not a typo, and the term 'whopping' is ironic.. This is really just $255 or about £185 in the UK. That's great value for what you are getting here

The build quality on this for the price is absolutely great throughout. Other than that 'very' slightly rough feel on the gloss, I can't spy any build issues here. The joints are all neat, the binding is neatly applied and it all comes together in a look that is classy and not over done. Set up is also really good out of the box meaning that intonation is excellent. It's not too heavy and pretty well balanced too. Not much to dislike here!

VTAB FS-C25 Concert Ukulele back

To play, this VTAB has decent volume and sustain, which not as earth shattering as a higher priced instrument, is certainly no slouch for this sort of price. The sustain in particular has a pleasing harmonic warble. It's a bright tone for mahogany too with a singing voice that I really rather like.  Strummed it has a bright jangle that reminds me more of a soprano than a concert and is a joy to play. But for me it's picking the notes that makes it ring. The notes have a great clarity and chime that is extremely pleasurable. No, again, it's not a Kamaka tone, but, you know... £185...

To sum up, VTAB have done nothing here to change my view of them as a remarkably good deal in the marketplace. They show again that 'Chinese' and 'good value' don't need to mean 'poor quality control'. My gripes are very minor. Not only is this a classy looking well made instrument, but it sounds and plays well too. And for a price under £200, it is, for me, a total no-brainer. If VTAB are not on your shopping list if you are considering Kala's or Snails, then they really should be. This comes highly recommended. Oh.. and VTAB have broken into the 9 out of 10 club!

http://www.vtabmusic.com

And for readers in the UK, Steve Kyle at Uke Shop is carrying these along with some others from VTAB. He has also kindly offered Got A Ukulele readers 10% off the price if you use code gotaukulele at checkout. https://ukeshop.co.uk/product/vtab-c25/

UKULELE PROS

Classy balanced looks
Great build quality
Terrific price
Nice sustain and volume
Pretty tone

UKULELE CONS

I would change the strings
Slightly uneven on tuner tension
Very slightly rough feel to gloss

UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 9 out of 10
Fit and finish - 9 out of 10
Sound - 9 out of 10
Value for money - 9.5 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 9.1 out of 10


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5 comments :

  1. Great looking concert. Sounds quite nice. For $250 it's a good bargain. I quite like pale mahogany wood. I think the logo would have looked better in the black binding material. To be ultra classy, they should drop the whit purfing and just have the black binding.

    Excellent review as always Barry.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've kind of got the opposite opinion of the headstock logo. To me VTAB sounds like a good ukulele in search of a better name. If it blends in too much, works for me. It seems like they've got the product nailed down at a great price and all they're missing is a catchy name. But maybe that's just me. Wouldn't stop me from buying one, but I almost feel like it's holding them back.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Looks amazing. Great review as always. I have just looked at the Ukeshop website and it appears that VTAB make another FS model. A concert made of solid acacia and covered in bling. all for £215! Don't suppose that you have played one Barry? I'd love to know what it's like!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great review, you sold me! But..... where do I buy one? I live in California.

    ReplyDelete

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