Mr Mai MD-T Cutaway Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

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16 Feb 2019

Mr Mai MD-T Cutaway Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

It's always good to get a new brand for my shores on Got A Ukulele, and this one is hot off the presses as it were. The Mr Mai MD-T Cutaway Tenor.

Mr Mai MD-T Tenor Ukulele



Mr Mai ukuleles are a range of Chinese made ukuleles brought to the UK by another new venture called Freebird Music - a new online music store from the south side of Leeds set up by Liam Gordon, a chap who has been involved with a fair few ukuleles including work with the UK distributor deaing with the likes of Snail. He got in touch recently to see if I would be interested in taking a look at his new brand.

The MD-T Cutwaway is one of a small handful of Mr Mai models on offer and is currently the only Tenor. And it really is one of those that made my eyes widen when I first opened the box as I am sure you are gathering from the photos in this review!

The MD-T is a standard shaped double bout tenor with a very pretty, almost Florentine cutaway on the upper shoulder. The general construction here is a solid spruce top and laminate flamed maple back and sides, but there is quite a bit more to get through in the review.

Mr Mai MD-T Tenor Ukulele body


The top is made from two pieces of spruce, and being spruce it's rather plain. Saying that the grain is nice and straight and there are no ugly knots or mis-matched curls in the bookmatching. The back and sides though are anything BUT plain. The maple here is stained in a deep electric blue which shows off the tiger stripe flame in the maple, particularly evident on the bookmatched back. I admit here that when I first took it out of the box I thought 'no, that's not a colour for me', but the more I have been playing it and photographing it, the more it has really grown on me. I really like the contrast with the pale top and it certainly makes a statement! Incidentally, that back also has a very nice gentle but obvious arch.

Additional decoration appears in various guises, but thankfully none of it gaudy or a case of a 'parts bin mis-match'. There is mahogany binding around the top and back edges and these work well, especially against the blue. There is more mahogany inlaid around the sound hole, completed with some mother of pearl inlaid dots and another outer black ring. I don't think it needs the black ring myself, but to be fair, I can't picture it without it, so it might also look bare if it was gone.  Still, it all comes together for me as decoration that is 'just enough' and not overaking the look of the instrument.

Mr Mai MD-T Tenor Ukulele decoration

The bridge is made of ebony in a tie bar style and is shaped differently enough to be distinctive without being too big. It's fitted with a bone saddle with a compensated top.

Mr Mai MD-T Tenor Ukulele bridge


The whole body is then finished in a gloss which really helps to set of the look of the back and sides in particular in which the colour and flamed grain really pops. It's not quite mirror finish though with a touch of pooling around the end of the neck and one or two minor finish bubbles that make it less than perfect. I have seen FAR worse and am really nit-picking here.

Inside is extremely tidy with thin braces, notched linings and the Mr Mai 'label' made of a veneer of wood. There is absolutely no other mess, shavings or glue here and that's nice to see. The top also doesn't look overly thick and the simple test of a knuckle rap on the top tells me that this is VERY resonant.

The neck is made of okume with a very obvious joint at the heel and a less obvious one at the headstock. It's finished in gloss and it has a nice rich brown colour. The heel is capped with a piece of dark mahogany. The profile is rounded as expected from a Chinese instrument but is a 'touch' flatter than usual. It's also 38mm at the nut and around 30mm from G to A, so no complaints from me.

Topping that is an ebony fingerboard which is both in good condition and also edge bound in mahogany. It has 18 nickel silver frets in total with a body joint at the 14th so fairly standard. The edge binding means there are no sharp ends either.  Position markers are inlaid at the 3rd, 5th 7th, 10th, 12th and 15th in white pearl floral type motifs. They are not my cup of tea to be honest, but thankfully you also get simple side dots too.

Mr Mai MD-T Tenor Ukulele neck

Beyond the bone nut is an interesting staggered topped headstock shape faced in mahogany and glossed. I like the shape. Inlaid in this is the Mr Mai logo in a pale wood. I never like saying I don't like logos because it IS the brand, but sorry, I don't really like this. It's kind of a modern design that reminds me of something from 8 bit computer games.

Mr Mai MD-T Tenor Ukulele headstock

It's fitted with sealed geared tuners with Mr Mai logos on the covers. The hardware is gold and the buttons are small and made of black plastic. They work well too. On the back is also the somewhat cheesy statment of 'Life is just better with my uke' - the sort of design touch which is sure to raise my blood pressure. Still, I think that says more about this grumpy reviewer than anything else, and it's definitely better than the frankly awful tagline of Caramel ukuleles which reads 'Caramel melts in your heart'... (yes, seriously..)

Mr Mai MD-T Tenor Ukulele tuners

It's finished with Aquila strings and a branded padded gig bag and these are launching at a UK price of £299. It's a serious enough price, but there is a lot going on here which will add to the price.

All in all the construction is excellent. There are a couple of design cues here and there that don't float my boat, but that's a personal thing. The finish isn't absolutely perfect, but i've seen worse on more expensive ukuleles. Where it does excel though is that it is very light, nicely balanced and really resonant. It's one of those ukuleles which starts resonating when you pick it up if you lightly brush the strings. That bodes well. Set up is ok - the nut is just perfect but the saddle needs dropping a touch. No biggie.

Mr Mai MD-T Tenor Ukulele back

And sure enough that resonance in the top is working wonders because this has terrific volume and projection and a punch that doesn't die off when you play up the neck. It's the first thing that grabbed me about the instrument. This has a real bark that is reminiscent of the snappiest high end sopranos for punch. It's remarkable. Sustain is good too and this comes together to create an instrument that really makes itself heard.

The tone is extremely bright on account of that spruce top, perhaps some would say too bright, but I am not personally complaining as it creates a snappy jangle and shimmer that I found extremely pretty on the ear. Strumming this is huge fun and it kind of has a life of its own, and picking is bell like, clear and very chimey. There's not much to dislike here I don't think.

All in all, this is a ukulele which punched higher than I expected it to. Sure, there are one or two design cues that are not to my personal taste, but they are not life and death. The price might be a stretch for some people, but you are getting a fair bit for your money here. All in all, hard not to give this a hearty recommendation!

https://www.freebirdmusic.co.uk

UKULELE PROS

Great distinctive looks
Great overall build
Terrific volume
Good sustain
Jangly chimey tone

UKULELE CONS

Some design cues not to my taste
Gloss is not quite perfectly done

UKULELE  SCORES

Looks - 9 out of 10
Fit and finish - 8.5 out of 10
Sound - 9 out of 10
Value for money - 8.5 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 8.8 out of 10

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2 comments :

  1. Thank you for your time and consideration, your honesty always prevailing!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Although I am not in the market for another tenor, I will use this as a guide to their other sizes in the range when I need to replace (get another???) soprano, or possibly a concert size. These reviews are always informative.

    ReplyDelete

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