Back this week with another ukulele on review from a brand I have featured a few times before, but not a shape I have encountered from them yet. This is the NUP 310 Pineapple Soprano.
Flight, as you may know, are a Slovenian brand who seem to have something of a knack of putting out very reasonably priced instruments that punch above their weight. The usual thrown together 'cheap as chips' rubbish they are not. They are not a high end boutique brand either, of course but the models that have looked at have never (yet) disappointed me. I didn't actually know they made a pineapple shaped uke until I got into a conversation with them, then this one arrived on loan.
And pineapple shaped ukes are ones that I always have a soft spot for. Incredibly traditional in shape, in fact the very first ukuleles made by the esteemed Kamaka company in Hawaii were pineapples, there is just something about them I like. It's partly the looks, but also what I find they do with the sound. They make a smaller bodied ukulele sound fuller and richer than their double bout equivalents, and that is down to that lack of a waist and broader vibrating chamber. Either way I like 'em!
This one sits further down the price line offered by Flight than some others, and is made of all laminate woods. The laminate is in fact sapele, and African hardwood that is similar in looks and sound to mahogany and is used by many top luthiers as a cheaper alternative. In short, it works well as a ukulele wood. It's a plain wood for sure, but no plainer than mahogany really and this one with its two piece top and flat back shows some nice enough dead straight grain. It is a little on the pale side for my liking, but you get that with sapele. Holding the top and back apart are single piece laminate sapele sides and the shape looks just great I think. The wood build is very reminiscnent of the Baton Rouge ukes I have spoken fondly about in that the laminate is thin and resonant. Whilst you get no edge binding, the paler edge of the laminate where the back and top meet the sides provides a nice contrast to the brown wood in a similar way too.
The bridge is a very standard looking tie bar style made of walnut and screwed in place. It holds a straight topped plastic saddle. It's also not overly large meaning it fits the small top nicely. Not much more to say here, but bridges like this just work.
You will have spied the decoration on the top and may be thinking this is the point at which Baz tears it apart. It's a laser etched tattoo style design incorporating what looks like a shark (or a killer whale) around the sound hole. No, it's not my cup of tea personally, but I am not going to slate it in the way I have done with some other brands for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it's not overly done, and by that I mean it is not taking up the whole top and running under the bridge plate - a style I still shudder at. But it's also not overly deep either like some I see which not only feel horrid, but must surely be affecting the strength and tone of the top. It's much more considered than that. I'd prefer it much plainer still, but that is just me. What you are NOT getting here though is something that is totally taking over the top.
Inside is extremely neat and tidy without an inch of mess. The bracing is simple but thin and the kerfing is notched and very neat indeed You also see the thin nature of that top when looking at the sound hole edge. Nice.
The neck is made from Okoume wood and is similarly pale but matches the body colour nicely. It's jointed at the heel and headstock, but they are very well hidden and don't jump out at you. It's also 'relatively' flat for a Chinese made neck and at 35mm at the nut (27.5mm G to A) it's not the narrowest soprano scale neck I've seen either. Not bad really.
This is topped with a plain walnut fingerboard with some Martin-esque shaping to the end. It's not edge bound so you see the fret ends of the twelve nickel silver frets that stop at the body. Still, they are dressed really well and have no sharpness. We have pearl dot markers set in the face at the 5th, 7th and 10th and these are complimented by white dots on the side.
Beyond the bone nut we have a crown shaped headstock like most Flight ukes with the logo laser etched in the face. We also have another piece of etching to mirror the sound hole in the shape of a fish which is quite subtle.
Tuning is provided by generic unbranded open gears. On the plus side the buttons are small and they are not plagued by the usual woe of some being loose and some tight. But yes, you know what I am going to say don't you? I want friction pegs!!! It's a soprano! (Or at least give me the option).
Finishing it off are opaque white strings which are not branded Aquila so I am guessing they are something else, and the usual Flight padded and embroidered gig bag which is of decent quality. You also get a beginner book with some chords telling me this is clearly aimed at new players. And the price supports that too, as these come in at a trifling €77.
All in all there is not much to dislike here. OK, it's plain looking in the wood department, and I don't personally go in for etching, but it's not gaudy and is put together very tidily. Most of all though it's very light weight, nicely balanced and extremely resonant. That thin top is doing it's job as a rap with the knuckles tells me this one won't be struggling with volume.
That thin top and resonance I mentioned above really comes through in the play. This is a punchy snappy little ukulele with great volume and decent sustain. It's on the edge of being bright, and perhaps overly so, but thankfully that pineapple body shape really rounds the sound off to something pleasing. Added to all that you get a nice soprano jangle too which pleased me too. Sure, it's a laminate tone so isn't massively complex or characterful, but it's extremely clear and precise in sound. All in all it's a very competent and satisfying beginner ukulele that does what it aims to do properly.
All in all I realise this reads like I am gushing though I am not getting ahead of myself. This IS an entry level ukulele and not a high end model. But it's not trying to be anything else. Where it grabs me though is it falls into the (small) category of brands that show that you CAN make a well made lively ukulele at a low price point from laminates and not mess it up. No, it's not startling to look at, but it's bubbly, resonant, light and a lot of fun to play. This IS what beginners should be demanding at this price because Flight show that it CAN be done. As such its hard not to recommend this one. Beginners take note!
And as always, Flight have generously offered a 20% discount to Got A Ukulele readers on this (and in fact all Flight ukes) if you order through their website. Just put the code GOTAUKULELE in the checkout to get your discount.
Good sound build
Thin laminate woods
Very resonant and light
Pleasing rounded tone
Not the most startling looks
Soundhole design is not for me, but at least it's not overly done
Give me friction pegs option PLEEEEASE!
Looks - 8 out of 10
Fit and finish - 9 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
© Barry Maz
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