Takamine EGU-C1 Electro Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

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12 Aug 2019

Takamine EGU-C1 Electro Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

Here we go.. Another guitar brand that feels duty bound to jump on the ukulele bandwagon and put one out in their name... In my experience it rarely ends well, and so it is with some trepidation I approach a ukulele from a guitar brand I am rather fond of. The Takamine EGU-C1 electro acoustic concert ukulele.

takamine egu-c1 concert ukulele


Takamine are ostensibly a guitar company, and one founded in Japan in the late 1950's. Since then they have gone on to be a really sound choice in acoustic guitars, particular studio and stage acoustic guitars. I've owed one in my time (and loved it) and you will see some of the worlds biggest performers using them on stage (Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Don Henley, Glen Frey etc...) Why? Well, because they are pretty damn good and perhaps more important, really reliable workhorses. Shabby they are not. But as I say in the introduction, this is not the first guitar brand for which I hold a soft spot that has decided to dabble in the ukulele world. I am not saying it CAN'T be done, but my experience suggests that if you apply guitar making techniques to a ukulele, particularly a ukulele made to a low budget, then things rarely come out that well. Don't let me down Takamine.. I don't think I could stand it.... please.

This EUG-C1 is an instrument I've actualy struggled to get some tech real detail on. Whilst it appears on the Takamine website, the specifications are scant. Being a Takamine  they appear in the big music stores that also sell their guitars (naturally, as such ukes tend to be bolted on to orders for guitars) but again, the details are not particularly... well... detailed.  Crime number one is the description of the body which in any product page I can find simply lists it is 'mahogany', or 'all mahogany'. That is a cardinal sin for me as it suggests that this is a solid mahogany instrument.  And dealers are doing it too. I even saw one music shop that has it listed as solid wood. It isn't. It's made of laminate as you can plainly see from the unbound edges. Nothing wrong with that of course, but you really should say so in your blurb.

takamine egu-c1 concert ukulele body

Anyway, down to the details. The EGU-C1 is a concert scale ukulele made of all laminate mahogany in the body. The 'E' here indicates that this is an electro acoustic, in that if comes fitted with a pickup, but more on that later. There is also a GU-C1 which is the vanilla version of this uke without (surprise surprise) the pickup, though I found that harder to find in stores. It's otherwise identical though.  Mahogany is rarely interesting to look at but a well sourced piece of wood can look pretty enough when a nice finish is applied. It therefore always surprises me that when a brand opts for laminate mahogany, that they don't ensure the thin outer veneer piece looks even slightly attractive. This one is dull as you like. Plain old orange with very little in the way of interesting grain. The top, back and sides are a couple of pieces each. Saying that, as dull as it looks, it is clearly put together very well.

The bridge is a tie bar style made from (a new one on me for ukuleles) laurel wood. It's a dark Indian hardwood so I presume chosen because it looks similar to rosweood but gets around the CITES restrictions on international shipping. One does wonder how well CITES is doing it's job if it is restricting the trade in rosewood, only to see increases in the trade in things like this, walnut, and other exotic hardwoods. Ho hum.  And, saying all of that, many product listings still have this down as rosewood, so maybe they are in the process of change. Still it's nice looking, nicely shaped on the base and the unspecified compensated saddle (looks like bone) sits in a contained slot rather like on Martin concerts and tenors. I like this.

takamine egu-c1 concert ukulele bridge

Decoration is limited to a silk screen sound hole rosette and nothing else. It's basic and does nothing much to lift the plain looks of the rest of the body, but it's hardly offensive.

takamine egu-c1 concert ukulele sound hole

The body is then finished in a rubbed satin which, again, whilst doing nothing for the looks, is applied very well throughout. It's a smooth finish with no flaws and makes the instrument nice to hold.

You will spy the pickup controls on the side of this one and are probably thinking that I am gearing up to complain because I don't like active, heavy systems with battery packs. They are just so unncecesary and overkill on a ukulele when you can (and will anyway) do the amplification and EQ off the uke. Well, it's a yes and no with this Takamine. Firstly this is actually a passive system, so there is no onboard power adding weight to the ukulele in the form of batteries. The pickup outputs through a (admittedly overly large) jack socket cum strap button on the middle of the base of the uke. Dead simple and all you actually need to amplify a ukulele. But they also chose to put a control panel in the side, rather obviously gouged in the body. If you are going passive I will applaud that, but please - leave out the side controls. OK, so it gives you control at the actual ukulele, but I could and do live without them. My feelings are a bit mixed on this one! I would still just prefer a jack socket and nothing else.

takamine egu-c1 concert ukulele eq controls

The decent build and finish extends to the inside of the uke with neat notched linings, thin braces and absolutely no mess anywhere. A glance at the sound hole shows a top thickness which, at first sight, looks woefully thick. Poking a finger in though shows me that it's actually just the edge of the sound hole which is strengthened with a ring of wood and the rest of the top is much thinner. That is borne out by a rap of the top with the knuckles which shows that this is a resonant box. Phew! It had me going for a moment this one!

The neck is made of mahogany and actually appears to be one piece with no obvious joints, though perhaps one at the headstock. It's really nicely finished in satin and is smooth as glass. I love the curving of the heel and also note that it isn't overly rounded at the nut end either. For a concert it's also a generous 36mm at the nut, but a more average 27mm from G to A. Not bad, but the flatter profile in the mix suggests to me this will be a comfortable play. I like this neck a lot.

Topping that is a fingerboard for which listings vary between laurel wood and rosewood. It's in really nice condition, edge bound with more wood to hide the frets and shaped at the end around the top of the sound hole. The frets are skinny, well dressed and you get 19 of them with 14 to the body. Outward pearl dots are fitted at the 5th, 7th, 10th, a double 12th and 15th and these are repeated on the side. Very good!

takamine egu-c1 concert ukulele neck

Beyond the nut is a 'nicely different' shaped headstock with an attractive taper. It's just the same mahogany wood with no facing and is completed with the Takamine logo in a silver screen print. Again, it's hardly offensive, but I think it looks plain and rather cheap. The shape lifts it away from the totally mundane though.

takamine egu-c1 concert ukulele headstock

Tuners are undbranded open gears with small white pearly buttons. They are unremarkable, but work ok. Not much more to say on those.

takamine egu-c1 concert ukulele tuners

Finishing the deal are a set of D'Addario strings and a branded padded gig bag of pretty good quality. And these are out and about for around £210 or $250 though you will find some big discounts if you Google. It's not a super cheap price for a laminate, but I suppose it does have a pickup.

takamine egu-c1 concert ukulele back

As i've said at various points, the build here is extremely good. I can't find a fault with the construction, joints or finish anywhere on the instrument. The neck in particular is really nice. It's not overly heavy either and balances well in the hands. Setup out of the box is also just right. All good so far.

And that resonant top translates to some excellent volume and pretty good sustain. For a laminate box it has a really nice clear voice with some character to it which I found very attractive. Strummed it can get quite jangly and fun, which coupled with the nice neck feel makes for a fun strummers instrument. A very playable uke in this regard.

It shines also with fingerpicking. It has a nice blend to the tone. Not too bright, not to warm, and not muddy at all. The sustain helps lift it and makes for a pretty sounding pickers instrument. No, it's not a solid wood tone with a shimmery voice and huge dynamic range, but it's still a very good sounding laminate. Oh, and whilst I didn't plug it in on the video (little point, sound will depend on your amp), the output is typically piezo, but is clean, non muddy and will be easy to shape at your pre-amp or amplifier. All in all, as laminate ukes goes, this is a nice sounding one.

There had to be a gripe though and that is the fact that this one has an annoying buzz coming from inside. I tracked it down to one of the pickup wires being loose on the back of the instrument. THIS is one of the many reasons I don't like unnecessary wiring!!! It's really easily fixed with tape, but a problem that should never have been there in the first place.

takamine egu-c1 concert ukulele jack socket

All in all though, this is an instrument I didn't hold out much hope for, but actually has left me pleasantly surprised. Sure, it's massively plain to look at, but it is put together very well, plays well, and sounds very good too. I could do without the passive control panel myself, but it's not a deal breaker I guess. I would keep an eye on the price and discounting because you can find similarly specced concerts with passive pickups for half the RRP of this one. Still, it's not a ridiculous price as it is I suppose, and certainly not for such a well made instrument from a reliable brand.

Seems that there is hope for the guitar makers who turn to ukes after all. Recommended. Good job Takamine.

As for me - school holidays await and I am booked to give my daughter some days out. Will be back on the reviews at the end of August. Enjoy your summer breaks!

https://www.takamine.com

SPECS ROUNDUP

Scale: Concert
Body: Laminate mahogany
Neck: Mahogany
Bridge: Laurel or Rosewood
Saddle: Unspecified
Frets: 19
Fingerboard: Laurel or Rosewood
Nut width: 36mm (27mm G to A)
Tuners: Unbranded open gears
Strings: D'Addario
Extras: Passive pickup with side controls, gig bag
Price: RRP $250

UKULELE PROS

Very well built and finished
Resonant top
Wonderfully comfortable neck
Terrific volume
Good sustain
More character to the tone than most laminates

UKULELE CONS

I'd not have the side control
Buzzy wiring
Plain looks
Expensive RRP

UKULELE SCORES

Looks: 8.5 out of 10
Fit and finish - 9.5 out of 10
Sound - 8.5 out of 10
Price - 8 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 8.6 out of 10


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