Mr Mai M-M80 Solid Koa Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

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20 Apr 2019

Mr Mai M-M80 Solid Koa Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

The second appearance for the Mr Mai brand on Got A Ukulele this week, but this time we move to the top of the line with their M-M80 Solid Koa Concert Uke.

Mr Mai M-M80 Concert Ukulele


The first Mr Mai I looked at was the MD-T Tenor Ukulele, and that was very obviously quite striking to look at. On opening the case of the M-M80 it was clear that this was another striking looking ukulele, but in different ways. It's a Chinese made instrument fairly new to the UK market, brought over here by Freebird Music.

This is a concert scale ukulele with that swooping curvy double bout shape that I like so much and is becoming more and more common. And this one is made from all solid (top, back and sides) koa tonewoods. They don't claim it's Acacia Koa, or Asian Koa (no such thing) so perhaps this is the real Hawaiian deal.  I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt.   It certainly looks like nice quality wood using two pieces on the top, back and sides all neatly bookmatched. It's not the curliest koa to be honest, but the colour is beautiful with some nice dark and light striping and a rich reddy brown tint. The back in particular is a standout with a heart / sapwood pale stripe running down the middle which looks wonderful.

Mr Mai M-M80 Concert Ukulele body


We have some wooden edge binding to the top in an unspecified darker wood - possibly mahogany, or possibly a paler ebony. That swoops out into a bevelled edge or 'comfort edge' on the top edge of the lower bout to create a nice arm rest. Around the sound hole are inlaid arrow head motifs in multiple wood colours and I think that too looks great and works well against the colour of the koa.

The bridge mount is made of ebony and is a tie bar style in a reverse moustache shape and looks very tidy. Into this sits a compensated bone saddle. All very tidy here.

Inside is extremely tidy with absolutely no mess around the notched linings and thin braces. The makers label is pyro etched onto a thin wooden plate glued on the inside of the back. Looking in the sound hole also shows me the thickness of the top which is super thin which bodes well for resonance.

The body is then finished in a gloss coat which has been done very well indeed. There is only limited pooling at the end of the fingerboard, but the whole thing is pretty much flawless giving a nice mirror finish. It also serves to make the colours of the stripes in the koa shine and stand out. This is nicely done on a par with models from Pono and aNueNue.

Mr Mai M-M80 Concert Ukulele decoration

The neck is made of Okoume wood with reasonably well hidden joints at the heel and headstock. It's typically far eastern rounded in profile, but it's pleasing to note a generous (for a concert) nut width of about 37mm with 30mm from G to A. Excellent.

Topping this is an ebony fingerboard with and extended end that is shaped around the top of the sound hole. The wood is in good condition and uniformly dark in colour all over it. We have 18 frets with 14 to the body, all dressed back without any real sharp edges. (It's close, but they are not sharp!).  I also like the fact that it's not emblazoned with outward fret markers, save for a nod to the 'arrowhead' motifs in a stripe of pearl inlays at the 12th fret. I like that. But worry not about getting lost on the neck as we have side dots at the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th and 15th. Great!

Mr Mai M-M80 Concert Ukulele neck

Past the bone nut and we have what is, I suppose, the 'main event' on the design of this one. It's a slot head headstock with only one slot and I think looks great. It's a design idea which isn't actually new, as it's the same concept as on the Magic Fluke Flea and Fluke ukuleles - basically a ring of wood with the tuners fitted to the side pieces - but it's not a look you see every day. I like it a lot. This is then faced in glossed ebony and a 'M' logo for Mr Mai is inlaid in the top. I certainly prefer this logo to the 80's style font they used on the MD-T.

Mr Mai M-M80 Concert Ukulele headstock

The tuners are unbranded gears but look to be good quality as evident by the thickness of the metal and quality of the gears. They are finished in a burnished metal colour and have koa round wooden buttons for the tuning keys. Nice.

Mr Mai M-M80 Concert Ukulele tuners

The package completes with a set of Aquila strings and a branded semi rigid hard sided case very similar to the Crossrock semi hard cases. I love these cases and this is a great addition. And that comes in at a UK RRP of £449. That's lower mid-price in the ukulele world, and a price that people will need to have a think about, but it's actually good value to my mind for a solid koa instrument with this sort of detailing.

Mr Mai M-M80 Concert Ukulele case

To hold the ukulele feels good in the hands, is not over heavy and balances just right at the 12th. Setup on this review model is also great as is the comfort on that roomy neck!

The first thing that strikes me with this one is the volume. Wow. Seriously! This punches in a big way and will provide you with no problem being heard. Then we have the sustain. Another wow! Honestly, this goes on and on and on and provides you with a pleasing vibration back into the chest but also in the cradle of the fretting hand. This really is a resonant instrument in every way. And remarkably that sustain and volume don't really die off much even up to the 12th fret. Impressive.

Mr Mai M-M80 Concert Ukulele back


But volume and sustain are not the be all and end all, and are rather pointless if the tone is poor. Thankfully I am not disappointed here either as the koa is doing what koa does so well. A rich mix of chimey highs and more fizzy richer mids and lows that all come together into a very pretty sound. It's all about the dynamic range with koa and this doesn't disappoint. Each string sits clearly in the mix without getting lost, even when strummed fast giving it a jangly bouncy sound that is very traditionally ukulele.

Fingerpicking is also a delight with that long sustain making some vibrato a breeze and really putting a smile on my face when a couple of strings harmonise together. The comfort of the neck makes this style of play enjoyable too and makes for a great instrument to 'noodle' with.

Mr Mai M-M80 Concert Ukulele comfort edge


Bringing myself back down to earth, no, it's not up there with koa concerts from the like of Koaloha or Kamaka, but then it's less than half the price of those. However, it's closer to them than I suspect they would like to admit! Where I think this sits well is against the Pono ukuleles and some of the more entry level aNueNue's like the Africa Mahogany. And that's high praise in itself.

I'm really struggling to dislike this one in any department and the score shows that. This is really highly recommended and well worth a look.

Thanks to Freebird Music for the loan of this one who stock it. https://www.freebirdmusic.co.uk

UKULELE PROS

Nice looks and design cues
Nicely done gloss
Simply effective fingerboard
Great headstock
Superb volume and sustain
Clear rich koa tone
Great gig bag
Good price for the appointments

UKULELE CONS

Not much, not the most striking koa wood I suppose.

UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 9 out of 10
Fit and finish - 9 out of 10
Sound - 9 out of 10
Price - 9.5 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 9.1 out of 10

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2 comments :

  1. not my size, of course, but a very pretty uke. Mr. Mai knows how to do bling right. plus side dots are always a welcome feature.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great review. Mr Mai got my attention

    ReplyDelete

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