Hricane UK-23 Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

17 Nov 2019

Hricane UK-23 Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

Back to the cheaper end this week on Got A Ukulele, and a brand that heavily markets itself via the Amazon shopping channel. This is the Hricane UK-23 Concert Ukulele.

Hricane UK-23 Ukulele
So, it's by and large an Amazon only brand, but because of the keen pricing across their range, is a brand I am regularly asked to take a look at by my readers. Happy to oblige where I can so I grabbed this one to take a look. I have to kick off with the brand name of course.. Hricane. How do you pronounce that exactly? Now, I am not going to mark a ukulele down for the brand name, but that dropped vowel spelling just smacks of being kooky for the sake of it. Maybe it means something, I don't know but still.. I suppose I will get over it.

The naming they use actually goes further in annoying me though as it is one of those instruments that really go to town with in their Amazon listings (in order to get more hits from searches). So despite this being labelled inside as a UK-23 model on the inside label, on Amazon it appears as a (deep breath) 'Hricane Ukulele Concert Professional Matte Ukulele with Gig Bag (23 Inch)'.. Ugh....  A couple of things to note here. First I take issue with calling anything 'professional' when it is a actually a cheap laminate uke. It's a ploy to create cachet that doesn't exist in reality. It's lazy. But it's the constant use of the 'overall length' of the ukulele that these brands employ which irritates me the most. The overall length of the ukulele (23 inches in this case) is TOTALLY irrelevant to anything that really matters to player. What we more likely NEED to know is the 'scale length' - the distance from nut to saddle. That dictates the scale. The overall size of the ukulele can be anything at all - it doesn't change the scale.  I suppose it can be helpful for packing dimensions, but it means nothing else. They do it with their soprano too (21 inch) and their tenor (26 inch).  The product description then goes on to make other silly claims. You know, the usual: 'easiest to play', 'high-end construction' and so on. And, surprise surprise, this has a huge amount of 5 star reviews on Amazon.. make of that what you will...

I also spotted this gem on their product description which still has me confused..

"When people around the world laugh at you, your home will not. When people around the world despise you, your home does not. The home is your home, it will only accept you, it will tolerate you, it is a homelike instinct."

In the product description?? Really? Oh DO be quiet... But I digress. Let's take a closer look at the actual ukulele.

Hricane UK-23 Ukulele body

This one is is a traditionally shaped and scaled double bout concert ukulele made from sheets of laminate sapele wood. Unsurprisingly Hricane don't go to any lengths at all to tell you this is laminate, but it most certainly is. In fact reading their product description with the talk of wood that has been 'air dried' and 'kept for three years', you would be forgiven for thinking this is something it isn't. I hate that. And it's a very generic looking uke too with a style shared by so many of these brands, probably because they share factory lines. It's a very pale brown laminate with cream edge binding with black purfling. You've seen countless ukes like this before. I've reviewed loads of them. It's boring, and it's repetitive.  To be fair, it does look like a ukulele though, and I suppose it is hardly offensive, but you know... yawn.

The bridge material is specified as Rosewood, but that might be out of date now due to CITES restrictions. It's a tie bar style and it's pretty roughly finished too which running your finger over it will attest. Sandpaper wouldn't go amiss here! The saddle is made of bone and not compensated and the whole thing is clearly screwed in place.

Hricane UK-23 Ukulele bridge

There isn't much more to say about the body other than it being so very generic. The cream binding on the top is complimented by black purfling strips which look nice enough, and the whole thing is then finished in an open pore satin... It's, well... it's a brown ukulele... Oh, and you get the other much over-used design feature too... an etched soundhole rosette. Oh please.. It's not even a very nice etching and is rather limply done.

Hricane UK-23 Ukulele decoration

Looking inside and it's reasonable. The braces are not too big and the linings are notched. There are examples of glue seepage though and some wood shavings on show but I have seen worse. The makers label is also placed on an angle. That's not a show stopper for how a ukulele plays of course, but it's annoying as hell! Also worth noting is the fact the soundboard top doesn't actually look overly thick. In fact I have seen thicker tops on Kala ukuleles. Not bad.

Hricane UK-23 Ukulele inside


The neck wood is not specified, but is obviously made from three pieces with obvious joints at the heel and headstock. Unsurprisingly again it's typically Chinese in both profile and width with a broom handle roundness to the back and only 34mm at the nut with 27mm from G to A. Too narrow for me. I also don't like the overly chunky heel which kinds of sticks out.

That is then topped with a 'rosewood' fingerboard which looks quite pale. Perhaps it's now actually walnut. It comes with a standard (for a concert) 18 frets in total joined at the body at the 14th. Position markers are provided in outward facing dots at the 5th, 7th, 10th, double 12th and 15th, but sadly you get no side dots at all. The frets themselves look like they could be brass or a brass alloy as they have a slightly golden tinge to them They are also dressed pretty poorly with quite a few sharp edges down both sides. Not good.

Hricane UK-23 Ukulele neck

Beyond the bone nut and things stay on track for the 'generic' with a crown shaped headstock. It's labelled with a laser etched Hricane logo. I'm not entirely sure what the logo actually IS, as it looks like the letters C, M and E to me in a script terminating in an inline instrument headstock. Confusing, but to be fair, hardly offensive or ugly.

Hricane UK-23 Ukulele headstock

Tuners don't let the side down on the generic stakes either, as they are unbranded chrome sealed gears. The buttons on these are black, but i've also seen examples that are white. They are cheap and visibly so by the look of the pressing / tooling marks on the metalwork, but work ok. I'm also thankful the buttons are not too large.

Hricane UK-23 Ukulele tuners

Finishing off the deal is a very nice padded and branded gig bag (Good quality zips, straps, neck support kind of nice) and unspecified strings which might look like Aquila, but the lack of a swing tag tells me they are probably not. You also get a cleaning cloth and a spare set. And that comes in at the usual bargain level price point of about £50 in the UK, or about $65 in the USA where you also seem to get a strap and a tuner thrown in. Cheap as you like, and that's because you should remember that these are being turned out in high volumes on a production line.

Hricane UK-23 Ukulele extras

Overall though, despite the generic looks it's fairly well put together I suppose. It's not overly heavy and also well balanced too.  But we do have those sharp fret ends and one or two minor scuffs in the finish when it arrived, both front and back. More positively there are no joint gaps or obvious fatal construction flaws I can see. The setup out of the box leaves a lot to be desired though with both a slightly high nut and a 12th fret action nearing 3mm which is too high for me. To play it, the neck troubles me and I found it uncomfortable both in terms of width, but also it terms of the sharp edges catching my hand. The latter can be easily, the former cannot. Setup too can be fixed, but it still shouldn't reach a purchaser like this.

Plus points come in with volume, and to an extent the sustain. The former is pretty good and you won't have trouble being heard at your jam nights. Sustain is not stellar, but I have heard much worse at this price and it's hardly strangled in it's voice. Not bad.

Hricane UK-23 Ukulele back

Tone is far more generic, but not entirely unpleasant I suppose. It has a bright bouncy feel particularly when strummed which is pleasing enough. It's rather one dimensional though and one of those generic ukuleles that I actually find it hard to write about on the tone stakes as nothing really grabs me. At any ukulele price point you find a lot of instruments fall into the very 'samey' category on sound - probably because they are built so similarly. Occasionally one leaps out at you with something else going on in the sound that sets it apart. The Hricane is not one of those. As I say though, it's not entirely unpleasant and 'works' as a ukulele, but it lacks character. That comes through particularly when picked. It's still chimey enough, but not earth shattering or anything that stands out at the price point. Regarding that setup, you may also notice from the video that despite being accurately in tune at the nut, it's affecting the intonation slightly too. It needs work.

It also has that typical feature of the more generic laminate ukuleles in that it can sound a bit boxy and echoey. Not all laminates do that, and the better made ones show off a roundness and balance to the tone that removes the feeling that you are playing strings over a plywood box. I'm not saying this has  rough edged tone,  and compared to many cheap laminates it has more going on, but again, like the tone it's not standing apart here. It kind of sounds a bit cheap. Which, of course, it is.

Hricane UK-23 Ukulele heel

All in all, whilst this is far from a howler of a ukulele, it's so very generic that it doesn't do much to excite me either. This is a very busy price point and I'm afraid this doesn't stand out as anything other than 'just another cheap uke' for me. It plays ok I guess, and the tone is enjoyable enough if a little uninspiring. It's built ok too I guess, but then is let down by some of the typical QC issues that plague this price point and are an issue with Amazon only offerings because they don't go through a dealer to weed them out. The price is very good too of course, but only can be considered in a congested market where I think you can easily find more extras for your money. And bear in mind, if yours arrives with a high action and sharp frets, if you don't have the skills to sort them yourself you ill be paying more to get them sorted.

But overall it just doesn't have a final 'oomph!' to turn my head away from the competition. You won't do 'badly' with this ukulele, but you ain't going to be shouting about it from the rooftops either. One for beginners to put on their comparison lists perhaps, but remember that you do have a lot of choice out there.

https://www.hricane.com





UKULELE SPECS ROUNDUP

Name: Hricane UK-23 Concert
Scale: Concert
Body Wood: Laminate Sapele
Neck: Unspecified
Bridge: Rosewood?
Saddle: Bone. Uncompensated
Fingerboard: Rosewood?
Frets: 18
Nut: Bone
Nut Width: 34mm (27mm G to A)
Tuners: Unbranded chrome sealed gears
Strings: Unspecified
Extras: Gig bag, spare strings, cloth
Price: £50 / $65


UKULELE PROS

Price
'Generally' good build
Nice gig bag
Good volume
Reasonable sustain

UKULELE CONS

Very generic looks
Some rough finishing
Sharp fret ends
No side markers
Poor setup
Narrow nut
Tone is unispiring
Misleading product specs


UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 8 out of 10
Fit and finish - 7 out of 10
Sound - 7 out of 10
Value for money - 9 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 7.9 out of 10

UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW





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3 comments :

  1. Good review! If I was looking for a uke at that price point I would definitely take a look at the very well done Kiwaya laminates...

    Hey Baz, please upload the Kai review soon :) I'm planning on getting one and want to know what do you think!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you very much for your review. We will improve our product as good as we can

    ReplyDelete

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