A long overdue return for Lanikai this week on Got A Ukulele. This is their ACST-CET Tenor ukulele.
It seems strange I have featured so few Lanikai models on the reviews pages, and equally that I haven't looked at one for so very long (the last was the LU21 as part of my soprano ukulele shootout back in 2015). I haven't been avoiding them, and in fact have been talking to them on and off since. I believe though they have been going through an re-organisation, both of their business and their model range. It's still a shame though as if you've played ukulele as long as I have, you know that Lanikai have always been one of the big names in far eastern ukes, alongside Kala and Ohana. Anyway, we got there in the end with this tenor model.
The ACST-CET (yes, what a mouthful) is a tenor scale instrument made from Acacia wood. That's not to say it's all solid wood though, rather this has a solid top only with laminate back and sides. Still, it's nice looking wood in two pieces on the top, back and sides with the top book matching showing an attractive V shape. For decoration you get pale maple edge binding front and back, a maple soundhole ring and a maple tail stripe. It's not over the top and compliments the acacia really nicely. Also on the body you will note a cutaway in the top shoulder and a pickup system in the side and base.. more on that later. Finally it's finished in a well done satin very reminiscent of the Kala solid ukes. That name though... I usually manage to pin down what they are getting at and am sure the A is for Acacia, the ST for 'solid top'. The T is likely for 'tenor' and the E for 'electro'.. but why two C's? There's only one cutaway. Never mind...
The bridge is a standard tie bar style in what looks like walnut. It holds a NuBone saddle and is one of those 8 hole varieties which are suppose to be superior on holding the right break angle for the strings. Either way, i've never had an issue with the break on a regular tie bridge and prefer the look of knots. These are easier to tie when you get the hang of it.
Inside is very neat and tidy with notched linings and thin braces. It does also show me that the solid top is pretty thick which won't be great for resonance. And what you also spot is the excess of wiring and gubbins associated with that pickup. Regular readers know I would MUCH prefer a simple passive pickup leaving me to do the EQ off the uke and removing unnecessary weight. This is a decent brand Kula pickup from Fishman, but I still consider the controls unnecessary and total overkill. Making that worse is the use of a heavy 9 volt battery in the base. This is a ukulele not an acoustic guitar and that's a lot of gear to hide in such a small instrument. Not for me.
The neck is unspecified but looks like pale mahogany with joint an obvious heel joint and a well hidden join at the headstock. It's a typically far eastern rounded back profile, but full marks for the roomy 38mm nut with 30mm string spacing from G to A. Very comfortable.
It's topped with what looks like a walnut fingerboard which is in nice condition and nicely shaped at the soundhole end. It's complimented by nice maple edge binding too which looks great. You get a slightly mean 17 frets in total with 14 to the body, but they are dressed very well. Simple outward maple dots are fitted at the 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th and 15th and these are repeated with black dots on the side. Nice.
Beyond the bone nut is an attractive 'not quite three pointed crown' headstock with a gold Lanikai logo in screen print. It's faced in more acacia and looks smart. Might have been set off more with some more maple binding, but it's hardly unattractive as it is.
Tuners are unbranded generic open gears with chrome buttons, but I can confirm they work ok. No further comment!
And to complete the package are opaque D'Addario strings (the ones I 'think' are made for them by Aquila), a couple of strap buttons (nice!) and a really nice quality padded branded gig bag. And that comes in at an RRP of $350. I think that's a bit high myself for something only solid topped, and come on to that point later.
The build throughout is extremely tidy with no issues I can spot. Joints are clean, the finish is flawless and the setup is just right. It is, however, very heavy on the body side which is hardly a surprise with all that electronic stuff inside. It's far better to be heavy this way than on the neck, granted, but it's still something that puts me off. Ukes are meant to be light..
To play though it's a lot of fun, bouncy and just plain nice in the tone department. The notes are accurate and clear and it's a pleasing melodic instrument. It has very good volume and whether strummed or picked that richness that acacia imparts comes through in the tone. One thing it does disappoint with though is sustain which feels a touch strangled. Maybe it's on account of that weight in the body, or the thick top, but it could be something as simple as needing different strings. It just made me wanting it to ring out for longer. One other thing I can hear is a hint of buzz which I tracked down to the wiring inside the body. Not surprising when you consider how much wiring there is in there, but easily sorted by taping them down.
There is no getting away from the looks though, as this is one very classy looking uke. I do love the look of acacia and full marks to Lanikai for decorating it with something subdued like maple rather than throwing the glitzy parts bin at it as some other brands tend to do. The weight though is something that bothers me. If you only play with a strap, you would never notice it, but still.
But we have to talk about that price. Bear in mind that with current discounting you can get a Kala acacia tenor, with a pickup, with a slotted head AND with all solid wood rather than just the top for not a lot more, (or less) one wonders what the Lankai aim is here. It could be that it's just a headline price and they are too going to be discounted. At RRP though I think you can get more for your money elsewhere. Still, this is a decent uke and still gets a recommendation as the looks and tone boost the scoring - I'd just advise that you shop around on prices!
And many thanks to Lanikai and Sutherland Trading (the UK distributor) for loaning me this model to take a look at. Good to have them back on the site.
Very classy looks
Nice bouncy 'acacia' tone
Good gig bag
A touch pricey at RRP
Low on sustain
Just give me a passive pickup
Looks - 9 out of 10
Fit and finish - 8 out of 10
Sound - 8 out of 10
Value for money - 8 out of 10
OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 8.3 out of 10
UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW
© Barry Maz
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