Lâg Guitars Tiki TKU10S Soprano Ukulele - REVIEW

27 Oct 2019

Lâg Guitars Tiki TKU10S Soprano Ukulele - REVIEW

This week it's a ukulele brand that has been around for quite some time but has strangely been absent from Got A Ukulele. They are called Lâg Guitars and this is their TKU10S Tiki Soprano Ukulele.

Lag TKU10S Soprano Ukulele

Lâg Guitars are a French company who have been around since the 1980's, perhaps more well known for their guitars than their ukes, but certainly known in uke circles. In fact they are not 'new kids' to the ukulele world at all, and in fact I first saw a Lâg ukulele when I first started out and before this website even existed. Now and again I still see them at events, but not as often as I think I should considering the size of the brand. They also have some interesting names on their artists roster (for guitars at least) such as Brendan Benson, Jean Michel Jarre, Dweezil Zappa and a huge host of Euro metal bands.

Their ukulele range is not massive at the moment, but does cover a number of bases running from the basic cheap laminates through to some models with solid woods. They all tie together design wise with what is their trademark elongated polynesian style soundhole rosette. Their entry level laminates come in a couple of different series, the '8' and the '10', and this one is in the 10, so not quite entry level. To be honest, I am not entirely sure what the core construction differences between the 8 and the 10 really are as the specifications look the same to me bar slightly different tuners and one other feature that I will come on to...  And no, they are not made in France, but made in China. It's just a French owned company.

So this is a standard double bout shaped ukulele in soprano scale which also comes in concert flavour too. Larger scale uke fans will only get a tenor offering from Lâg at their top end 150 series though, and not in this variety. The body on the TKU10S is made of all laminate sapele wood, a tonewood very similar to mahogany in both looks and sound, and it's good to see that Lâg are not trying to hide the laminate fact in their website descriptions. Their dealers may need to take note however, as i've found a few being a bit more economical with the truth in this regard... The top and back and both seem to be single pieces, and the back is also dead flat. The sides are in a pair.

Lag TKU10S Soprano Ukulele body

Other than that Lâg design soundhole rosette in a black print there is no other decoration on the body such as bindings, purfling or inlays... until..... you turn it over. Oooof! Pass the smelling salts!  THIS is where you see the other main difference between the 10 series and the 8. On the 10 you get a huge gaudy Tiki emblem screen printed on the whole of the back in black (and I mean WHOLE of the back. There is nothing subtle here - it's massive). I also say 'screen print' but on closer inspection it's actually a water slide decal - so a very thin sticker for want of a better description.  In other words the black parts are not individually applied, but held on a sheet of clear plastic that holds it all together. The downside to that is if you catch the light with it, the 'clear' parts turn slightly opaque and look ugly as sin.  If you ever built model aircraft kits as a kid you will know what I am talking about here - the ugly clear webbing that held the fine details on the decals never really got hidden when you put it on the model and left a silvery shiny outline. And that's what we have here as you will see in the photo.  In my own opinion it's utterly hideous and I'd much rather the plain 8 series. I mean... why? OK, OK, some people might actually LIKE the design. But if you ARE going with such a bold design image, then, come on, at least do it tidily. This looks like a child's art project. Awful. And WHY didn't they put it underneath the satin?? Oh, and I didn't even get into the cultural appropriation aspect...

Lag TKU10S Soprano Ukulele tiki decal

The bridge is made of a dark walnut with a somewhat individual shape, and is fitted with a graphtech (or similar material) black saddle with a straight top. It's a tie bar style, screwed onto the body. Always nice to see something other than plastic here of course. No complaints all round - it's a tidy bridge.

Lag TKU10S Soprano Ukulele bridge

Finishing the body is a satin coat which Lâg call a 'French Satin'. That's classic example of marketing speak though as it's just a standard open pore satin and no different to any other satin I can see. To be fair, it's been done quite well and gives the instrument a nice feel in the hands. And, hey, they ARE French. French Satin - sounds nice huh? Hmmm. Maybe they applied it whilst playing La Marseillaise?

Looking inside and it all looks pretty standard with notched kerfing and small enough braces.  There is quite a lot of glue seepage in all areas, rough wood and general shabbiness though. It's not a total mess, but pretty obviously untidy.  On the positive side, looking at the sound hole edge this looks to be fairly thin laminate which is a good thing.

Inside Lag Ukulele

Up to the neck and this is made of sapele from three pieces with joints at the heel and headstock.  It's a typical far eastern neck on steroids with a round neck profile that feels like a fat broom handle and a generic 34mm nut width with 26mm from G to A. That round profile coupled with the narrow nut renders this totally uncomfortable to me and one of the sopranos that make people say 'I can't play sopranos, I have big hands'... I wouldn't blame them with dimensions like this. (They are not all like this though!) Another design feature on this that I really don't like is the overly sharp and large heel which I am finding quite uncomfortable. There's no need for it to be like that and the sharp, dog legged heel cap is most irritating.

That is then topped with a walnut fingerboard shaped at the end to match the headstock, but looking a little dry down the edges. It's fitted with just 12 frets to the body joint which is perfectly standard for as soprano and nothing more. The frets are not edge bound as such, but painted black down the edges, and to be fair have no sharp ends. It's also very slightly rolled on the edges too which is nice to see but doesn't change the lack of comfort created by the narrow nut and round back.  Dot position markers face out at the 5th, 7th and 10th, but sadly there are no side markers at all. Hmmmph...

Lag TKU10S Soprano Ukulele neck

Beyond the graphtech nut is the usual Lâg headstock, which is a shape I rather like for being a bit different. The 10 differs here from the 8 in that it is faced in a darker wood and looks all the better for it. The Lâg logo is inlaid in pearl and looks rather nice against the dark wood. Fair play to the less than obvious shape here.

Lag TKU10S Soprano Ukulele headstock

As I say above, the tuners differ from the 8 series here in that these are black sealed gears as opposed to chrome open gears. But you know, I don't really care for either style. This is a soprano after all and gears are not my thing on this scale.  Still, they work ok and are not overly large to the point of looking like mouse ears. I've seen worse I guess.

Lag TKU10S Soprano Ukulele tuners

Finishing it off are a set of Aquila Nylgut strings and a functional decent quality branded gig bag. And these come in at the very reasonable price of around £80 (or a touch more or less depending on where you shop). Not a barrier to owning one at that price I don't think. In fact quite the bargain.

To hold, it feels heavier to me than a soprano should though. It's not  a real heavyweight but still has more heft to it than I would like considering there is nothing else going on in the body like batteries and pre-amps. It also has that really odd balance characteristic I've seen in one or two other ukuleles where, despite it being balanced along its length at the 12th, it forever tries to fall backwards towards you when held. Not nice to hold really. The setup on this review model was also rather high and needing adjustment, but that's achieveable. It is however throwing the intonation off slightly in the review video.

Sound wise and the word 'generic' comes through in pretty much all departments. Volume is ok, but not earth shattering, sustain is ok, but not earth shattering. It's kind of doing 'just enough' in these departments, but not much more. The tone itself is clearly a laminate tone, rather boxy, and rather thin too. Whilst with strumming that lower sustain and thinner tone turns into a half decent jangly tone, it's lacking when you really listen to it. The thing lacking here is any sense of character to the voice. That really shows through when you fingerpick it, as it shows off a very generic uninspiring tone that is hard to love. Don't get me wrong, I know this is a cheap instrument, and it still DOES function as a ukulele - it plays musical notes - but it just doesn't light a fire in me. Firmly in that category of what people who don't know what a ukulele can sound like think a ukulele sounds like. Plinky plonky.


Lag TKU10S Soprano Ukulele sound hole


And there lies my problem with it. How it stands in its place in the market..

All in all I suppose it's quite a generic ukulele at a fair price which will appear on the radar of many people shopping in the sub £100 price.  And yes, sure, it IS a good enough price, but it's not hard to find others at this sort of money. It's a very congested price category and, as such, needs to stand out and punch above its weight. And for various reasons I don't think it does. The overall build is pretty decent, as is the finishing, then let down by things like the decals and side markers. It's a bit hefty to hold though, oddly balanced and the neck comfort is not good if you have hands like mine making it a less than comfortable soprano. The tone is also generic, thin and uninspiring. Mainly though, I see absolutely no need for the rear decal. I get that such things are subjective, and you might even like the design (I don't, it's tacky and stereotypical). But it's been done badly. I'm not dismissing it totally for that, but if you have a generic instrument that isn't setting the world on fire in the way it plays, things like that become the deal breaker. I'd overlook it somewhat if the ukulele itself was making my heart soar, but, you know... meh. Look elsewhere.

https://www.lagguitars.com



UKULELE SPECS ROUNDUP

Scale: Soprano
Body wood: All laminate Sapele
Finish: Satin, with water slide transfers front and rear.
Neck: Sapele
Bridge: Walnut
Saddle: Graphtech
Fingerboard: Walnut
Frets: 12
Nut: Graphtech
Nut Width: 34mm (26mm G to A)
Tuners: Sealed black gears
Strings: Aquila
Extras: Padded gig bag
Price: £80 approx

UKULELE PROS

Generally sound build and finish
Functions as a ukulele!
Rolled fingerboard edges
Good price (though in a crowded market)
Nice headstock

UKULELE CONS

Fat broom handle neck with narrow nut
No side markers
Odd balance
Doesn't set world alight on volume, sustain or tone
Thin generic sound
Hideous rear transfer decal
Scruffy innards
Would prefer rear facing tuners

UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 6 out of 10
Fit and finish - 8 out of 10
Sound - 7 out of 10
Value for money - 8.5 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 7.4 out of 10

UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW




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1 comments :

  1. Wow! Too bad about the logo. I rather like the design. Better if it would have been stained into the wood. But taking in some of the other issues with this uke, a decal doesn't surprise me. Thanks for the review.

    ReplyDelete

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