Cordoba 15CM Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

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31 Aug 2019

Cordoba 15CM Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

After my short break the ukulele reviews are back, this week with a well known brand. This is the Cordoba 15CM Concert Ukulele.

Codoba 15CM Ukulele

Cordoba are a brand I have featured a couple of times before and a very well known instrument maker who have had lines of ukuleles available for quite some time. They are a US brand, perhaps most synonymous with guitars (and Spanish guitars in particular) who have a range of instruments on their shelves. The majority of their offerings are made in the far east with the exception of some of their higher end, Spanish made acoustic guitars, but there ukuleles are, I believe, solely far eastern. Whilst they are a respected instrument maker I will say at the outset that as far as ukuleles go, they have not yet impressed me muh. I've reviewed a tenor, slightly higher in spec than this one (The 20TM-CE Tenor Ukulele) and one of their value line of Protege instruments (the U100CM Concert Ukulele). Neither were bad instruments, but equally, neither of them lit a fire in me either. I thought they were a bit bland to be honest and suffered with guitar makers approaches to ukuleles in that they felt overbuilt and lacked sustain and character. Thee 15CM sits above their Protege value line, but is still more of an entry level ukulele.

The looks will immediately look familar to you. It's a standard double bout concert shape made of laminate mahogany finished in an open pore satin. It's plain, simple and hardly offensive if a little generic. That familiarity comes with the contrasting cream edge binding to the top and back placing it alongside other similar laminate mahogany instruments like the hugely popular Kala KA-C and the (now discontinued) Lanikai LU-21C. In fact from a distance they all might as well be the same instrument. Where the 15CM adds some glamour to the party on the body is the inclusion of an abalone inlaid soundhole ring. Sure, it's another classic combo, but I personally don't like the mix of abalone and cream binding and would prefer something simpler here. Otherwise though, the body is soundly put together and finished well with no flaws that I can spot. The top, back and sides are two pieces each with the back being flat and the sides joining at a cream strip in the tail. To be fair to Cordoba, their finishing is usually very good in my experience. First minor gripe? Cordoba list the body construction as 'layered'. What is it with brands refusing to use the word laminate? It's LAMINATE!!

Codoba 15CM Ukulele body

The bridge is a very standard tie bar style and described differently depending on the shop you look at.  It looks like dark stained wood to me, but I am not sure exactly what it is. Perhaps rosewood, perhaps walnut, perhaps something else. It's fitted with a straight topped composite saddle, so I suspect that is a NuBone material or similar.

Codoba 15CM Ukulele bridge

Inside is basic but tidy. The back braces look a touch thick to me and the side kerfing is not notched, but there isn't much  glue mess if any to be fair. As well as the makers label the neck block holds a serial number sticker too. Looking inside does show me that the top is pretty thick. Usually (but not always - see my last review of the Takamine) that doesn't bode well for sustain, but tapping the top on this seems to suggest things may be ok.

The neck is made of mahogany with some stupidly obvious joints. We have three pieces in the stacked heel and a really ugly joint halfway up the neck below the headstock. It's finished in the same satin but has that rounded far eastern profile I am never much of a fan of. Coupled with the average 35mm nut and only 26mm from G to A this immediately tells me it's not a neck I will really enjoy. Your mileage may vary of course.

The fingerboard is unspecified but again looks like rosewood and is fitted with 19 frets joined at the 14th. They are all dressed well, but that is helped by the attactive edge binding strips and a heel cap in cream which, to be fair to Cordoba, elevate it again over the Kala KA-C on looks. I like bound necks as it gives it a classier feel and look. Position markers face out in pearloid dots at the 5th, 7th, 10th and 12th and thankfully these are repeated with black dots on the side. That's something missing from the cheaper Protege offering.

Codoba 15CM Ukulele neck

The headstock is the usual Cordoba shape, but to me is merely reminiscent of the Kanile'a headstock. It's simply decorated with the Cordoba logo in a gold screen print.

Codoba 15CM Ukulele headstock

Tuners are, sadly, the usual Cordoba offering. Unbranded open gears with silver hardware and ridiculously large pearloid plastic buttons. All Cordoba ukes suffer with this look and it would be SO easy for them to switch to something that looks better. These just look totally ugly. Shame.

Codoba 15CM Ukulele tuners

Finishing the package are nothing more than a set of Aquila Nylgut strings and these come in at a retail of $135 but a street price of more like £100 in the UK and about $100 in the US. That may seem like a keen price, but I am not so sure myself and come on to that in the summing up.

As I say though, the build is pretty good throughout, as is the finishing. In fact I can find little wrong in those departments. Unlike some Cordobas I have picked up this one doesn't feel heavy either and is nicely balanced to hold. Good news so far.

To play, the neck is not to my taste as I would have expected, but that is more a function of my hand shape and personal taste rather than a real problem area. Still, I remain firmly of the view that flatter neck profiles and wider string spacing should suit most people, not just me and such necks were the standard before the Chinese factories decided that everything had to go round like a baseball bat and narrow at the nut... Setup on this review instrument (bought blind) is just fine at the nut but too high for me at the saddle being about 2.8mm. Still, that is easily adjustable.

Codoba 15CM Ukulele back

Unlike some Cordobas I have played, this one does very well on the volume stakes with a punchy output that is easy to generate with minmal effort. You will not struggle to be heard with this one I can assure you. Sustain too is not too shabby either, and whilst not achingly long is not a problem area. That means you will get some diversity out of your play, particularly with melodies. Where it does impact the Cordoba is that it can sound a bit echoey and hollow if played hard. Boxy is the other word for it. I've heard much worse on that front, but it is still noticeably there.

Tone wise it kind of matches what I expected it to. It's a generic laminate entry level tone which doesn't break the mould, but then that's what it is. A generic laminate box. But to say that alone would serve to lump it in with all sorts of rubbish that is out there and that would be unfair. The tone here, whilst generic, certainly punches towards the upper end for laminate ukuleles, helped by that sustain of course, but with a nice bell like chimey character to the sound. In fact it's brighter than I expected it to be. Strumming is lots of fun fun with some shimmer and  jangle whilst fingerpicking is clear and pretty on account of that chime and sustain. I wish the neck was more comfortable as I think it could shine in that department. Ho hum.

Codoba 15CM Ukulele decoration

Still, apart from some personal gripes I rather like it and think that for a more serious beginner it will provide hours of good enjoyment. It works well as a ukulele which, ultimately, is all we really need and I'd recommend it on those grounds. However, I am struggling with the price. Sure, it's still not a lot of money and it does have some additional appointments over the Kala KA-C. But decorative appointments don't make a sound and I suspect there is not much between it and the obvious contenders on the sound and playability stakes. And there's the rub. This will cost you at least £100, but a KA-C can be found for about £75. I would personally pocket the change and buy a spare set of strings and a coffee. If you can shop around and narrow that price gap, I'd say go for it, but as it is, I find it a bit over priced in face of the alternatives.  A shame that.  All in all though, as more serious entry level ukuleles go, this is a good one that Cordoba should not be ashamed of.

https://www.cordobaguitars.com

SPECS ROUNDUP

Scale: Concert
Body: Laminate mahogany
Finish: Open pore satin
Decoration: ABS Cream binding to body and neck, abalone sound hole
Saddle: Composite
Nut: Composite
Nut width: 35mm (26mm G to A)
Tuners: Unbranded open gears
Strings: Aquila Nylgut
Price: £100

UKULELE PROS

Solid build and finish throughout
Nice binding touches
Great volume
Good sustain
Chimey tone

UKULELE CONS

Cheap tuners with large buttons
Neck profile and width could be improved
Ugly neck joints
Mixed design cues
Expensive compared to alternatives

UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 8.5 out of 10
Fit and finish - 8.5 out of 10
Sound - 8.5 out of 10
Value for money - 8 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 8.4 out of 10

UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW






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