Flight TUSL-35 Concert Scale Soprano Ukulele - REVIEW

7 Dec 2019

Flight TUSL-35 Concert Scale Soprano Ukulele - REVIEW

Here's a brand new ukulele model that I have been looking forward to featuring on Got A Ukulele, simply because it's an update option to a ukulele that went on to be one of the most read reviews of 2018. This is the Flight TUSL-35 Concert Scaled Soprano Ukulele.

Flight TUSL-35 Concert Scale Soprano Ukulele

Flight are a Slovenian brand I often refer to as the 'hardest working in uke-dom' - as Juliana and Primož seem to be forever jetting around spreading the word and building ideas for new instruments. And it seems to be paying off as they regularly impress me with how they are developing new lines and ideas. You may recall my look at the Flight TUS50 Soprano ukulele, an instrument that i've seen more people grab to have in the locker than most others I have reviewed. And for good reason, it's an utter 'no-brainer' ukulele for the price.  Like this one, it forms part of their 'travel' series, with the 'travel' moniker indicating toughness of construction. I was therefore excited to hear from Flight asking me to take a look at their new travel uke based around the same model. The difference? They are now offering a second line of travel ukes with the same soprano body as the original, but fitted with a concert scale neck. Long neck sopranos are hugely popular, so I was keen to look at this one.

As an initial comment, don't worry too much about naming here. You will note that like the sopranos, these come with a range of numbers after the TUS (or TUSL in this case). You need not worry about that too much as they really just indicate different sub series which are built the exact same way. For example, the 25's seem to be reserved for those with printed designs, the 35's (like this) the flat colours and the 50 for the walnut finish with an engraving. But they are all laminate tops and as such don't change the ukulele. In other words, go for the 'look' you prefer, as the construction is otherwise identical. The actual title of a 'concert scaled soprano' is also a little confusing, but marginally better than calling it a 'long neck soprano' which I feel is even more of a misnomer. Terms like 'soprano' and 'concert' are derived from the scale length of the instrument, not the body size. As such a 'long neck soprano' is actually a concert ukulele with a small body. Flight do better here by referring to it being 'concert scaled', but just because the body is the same size as their soprano, doesn't make it a soprano. Oh well, not something to lose sleep over, and I mention it here merely for interest.

Flight TUSL-35 Concert Scale Soprano Ukulele body

So this one comes in dark blue, but like other Flight travel's, comes in a range of colours and patterns.  And the construction is, in the main,  identical to the TUS50 I reviewed. The same soprano body with a rounded ABS back as seen on the Flea, Flukes and Mahilele's (the latter of which this is very much the same as), fitted with a dropped in laminate wood top. It's a technique that has been shown to work by Magic Fluke, and provides a tone that is far removed from an all plastic ukulele whilst still being tough as old boots. Like the walnut soprano I reviewed, you can see the wood grain of the laminate through the coloured staining. Whilst in that first review I said I preferred the look of the walnut, I had not seen the flat colour models in the flesh at the time. I can happily state now, that I actually like this equally. I think it looks great. The swirly grain really stands out and provides more interest than a flat colour as you will see on standard Flea ukes.

The bridge is almost identical in that it too is made of plastic in one piece. It's a slot style for easy string changes, but the integral saddle means that you won't be able to easily adjust the action. It was the same on early Flea's though and I've never needed to adjust the action on mine, nor did I feel the earlier Flight TUS-50 I reviewed needed it either. EDIT - I can confirm that the saddle piece IS removable so this issues is not a worry! Where it does differ is that it is not compensated by the soprano, but I suspect that is because intonation is easier to dial in on a longer scale than it is on a sop.

Flight TUSL-35 Concert Scale Soprano Ukulele bridge

The top of the body is the only part that is wooden and therefore 'finished'. It is a satin finish like on the earlier Flight I looked at, but is very thin. I suspect it could easily pick up marks from playing it.

Inside there isn't a huge amount to see as it's dark black. The plastic body sides are ribbed for strength, and the top is braced and the bridge screwed to a plate. It's tidy.

Flight TUSL-35 ukulele inside

Also identical is the neck which is made from a piece of cream coloured plastic with an open face for the headstock into which a wooden piece is fitted. It's pleasingly shallow in profile too an not a broom handle. That's topped with an ABS fingerboard with integral plastic frets and a zero fret. Like the TUS-50, these are coloured silver, but it is of course longer. Because of that you get 17 frets in total with 14 to the body. People expressed some concern at the silver paint coming off (as it does on the Kala Waterman) but I never personally found that on the TUS-50. If it did, it would only end up  looking like a Flea, so it would be no big deal. The outward facing dots are an improvement on the TUS-50 in my opinion. They are plastic inlays, but out go the 'twee' flowers and butterflies an in come regular dots. Much better. The dots are placed at the 5th, 7th, 10th and a double at the 12th. And, yes, you get side dots too. The beauty of a plastic neck like this is that they are uniformly accurate in placement, and of course the zero fret helps intonation even more.

Flight TUSL-35 Concert Scale Soprano Ukulele fingerboard

Beyond the integral nut and zero fret is the usual Flight travel headstock. As I say, it's a piece of wood to match the blue body is dropped into pocket in the neck top and a Flight logo is then screen printed on in silver. I think the blue looks just great!

Flight TUSL-35 Concert Scale Soprano Ukulele headstock

Tuners are the same generic open brand gears which work just as well as the standard soprano version. They are clearly not ultra cheap as the gear look well made, but there is not much more to say here really. They work ok.

Flight TUSL-35 Concert Scale Soprano Ukulele tuners
And finishing it off is a very thin branded carry bag (I prefer the thicker padded Flight bags),  a set of Aquila strings and a starting to play booklet featuring songs by Flight's starlet, Elise Ecklund. One other thoughtful addition considering the body material is the inclusion of a strap button in the base. I know people panic about attaching buttons to ukes like this, so it's a nice touch. It's also one that people might need more on account of that extra real estate on the neck. And for that extra scale length you face a slight price increase on the £40 for the soprano as these are around £45. Not a huge increase at all!

Flight TUSL-35 Concert Scale Soprano Ukulele back

Like the first travel I looked at, this is built very well with no issues, gaps, rough finishing marks or scuffs that I can see. It feels re-assuring in the hands and despite the extra neck length doesn't feel heavy and is still balanced at the 12th. Like a Flea, it has a part feel of plastic, but not totally. If anything, I prefer the larger dimensions over the straight up soprano version myself. With a plastic neck on any ukulele people will have concerns about it bending. Some plastic ukuleles I have looked at like the Korala Explore are woeful in this regard. All it needs though is a bit of internal strengthening. The soprano version of this had no issues. Here, with the extra neck, I can get it to bend very slightly, but I stress, that this only happens with very strong deliberate force. Unlike the Korala which did it by looking at it, I can confirm that when playing this one, nothing moves. That's a relief. Like the soprano version I also tested the strength of the frets with a metal straight edge, and can confirm they feel as strong. That's not to say that over time strings won't wear the frets a little, but they do that on the Flea too, and mine is still going strong despite that, and it is now nearly 15 years old.

Flight TUSL-35 Concert Scale Soprano Ukulele neck

Tone wise, I sadly don't have the original soprano to do you a side by side, but it reminds me of my memory of it in many ways. Like that soprano, this doesn't sound like a plastic uke at all, and sounds remarkably similar to a Flea ukulele which will cost you several times the price. The point here is that, like the soprano version, whilst it doesn't sound like an all wood ukulele, it also doesn't sound like a plastic lunchbox either. Theres a warmth here to balance off the brightness that gives it a nice rounded tone whether strummed or picked. And like the soprano there is great volume, projection and decent sustain too. It really is hard to pick them apart on tone. Whilst I suspect there is a slight tension difference on the strings due to the scale change, I personally can't remember the soprano feeling or indeed sounding all that different. And because of those integral frets and zero fret, the intonation accuracy is bang on, and thankfully, so is the action on this example. It's just immensely playable and fun... oh, and cheap.

Sure, it may not suit the ears of wooden ukulele purists, or those with an aversion to anything plastic, but you know, it's not a lot of money, sounds and plays great as a ukulele, is tough as nails and hard not to like really.

One thing I am conscious of in writing this is that you are BOUND to see other reviewers going down the route of this being 'easier on the hands' because it's a concert scale. Regular Got A Ukulele readers will know that I don't buy that argument for the simple reason that it is nut width that makes the difference for space on the fingerboard. It's therefore interesting to note that I measure this the same as the soprano at 35mm with a pleasing 30mm string spacing.  I will go out on a limb though and accept that the fret spacing is marginally greater here, not that it helps you all that much. But this one DOES feel a touch more comfortable in the hands irrespective. Maybe that is because I am six foot four tall and the whole thing is a bit more substantial, I don't know.  But in summary, not I or ANY other reviewer can tell you which one will be best for YOU. Only you can work that out. Personally I slightly prefer the feel of this model over the soprano, but it really is very slight and I like them both! Of course, you also get more frets for playing at the dusty end which is another bonus. The soprano is a touch cheaper though and probably more 'travelable' on account of it being a bit shorter. So it's swings and roundabouts really.  So, sorry, please don't message me asking which one you should get! If you like the look of them, I think you will be happy with either. Heck, get both, they are cheap! Highly recommended.

(Purchase wise, I don't believe Flight are selling direct any longer. But you can check their website below for a dealer list. They also sell through the online Musicroom store linked below for which Flight have generously offered Got A Ukulele readers a 10% discount if you put in the code 'GOTAUKULELE' at the checkout! )

https://flightmusic.com

https://www.musicroom.com/product/almtusl35db/flight-tus35-long-neck-travel-ukulele-dark-blue.aspx

UKULELE SPECS ROUNDUP

Name: Flight TUSL-35
Scale: Concert
Body: ABS rounded back, laminate wood top
Bridge: Plastic slot style with integral saddle
Neck: Plastic
Fingerboard: Plastic with integral frets and zero fret
Frets: 17, 14 to the body
Nut width: 35mm (30mm G to A)
Strings: Aquila
Extras: Thin gig bag
Price: £45

UKULELE PROS

Great build and looks
Terrific volume
Good sustain
Killer price
Great fun to play

UKULELE CONS

Sound may not suit purists
Matt finish may pick up marks

UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 8.5 out of 10
Fit and finish - 8.5 out of 10
Sound - 8 out of 10
Value for money - 9.5 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 8.6 out of 10

UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW




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17 comments :

  1. Hi Barry, you are right, Flight stoppen sales through their website.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Interesting that you make little of the 35mm nut width on this but slate Kala for the narrow width on their concert scale soprano is this substantial easier to play? Is it the shape of the neck? Thanks.

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    Replies
    1. There’s much more to it. The Kala is 34.5 but also only 27 string spacing. This is 35 and 30. The Kala neck is also round on the back and this is flatter. Much more comfortable

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    2. Thanks, I will have to get one now! 😁

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  3. I am a big fan of your reviews, and am sure this is a good value and fun instrument (even slightly tempted to buy one). But I do wonder whether plastic ukes are a good thing in general. A wooden uke is about 90% biodegradable, probably more. And any fool with some woodglue and some elastic bands can patch up a broken one (I know, I have done it). But a plastic uke that gets broken? Its going to end up in landfill.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Dear Barry my name is Yannis and I live in Athens Greece.
    Ukulele is one of my favourite instruments and I am a fan of your reviews.
    Here in Athens I found in a music store and played the Flight TUS35 ukulele but unfortunately NOT the Flight TUSL-35 that I preffered because of more frets . The price is 42 euros.
    I suppose that the sound is the same between TUS35 and TUSL35. I found also the Flight TUS50 model with 48 euro price.
    I must choose between TUS35 and TUS50 .
    I have some questions for you .
    Is it possible to install by myself a strap button in these ukes ?
    Is there enough space for the screw inside so it is stable or may I damage it ?
    I suppose there is not anything inside ( like some wooden ukes that they have a piece of wood in this area ) to hold the screw .
    Does the TUS50 have a zero fret for better intonation ?
    Thanks a lot and Happy New Year . Kali chronia as we say in Greece.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They definitely sound the same (or so close as not to matter).

      Fitting a strap button is tricky as it's plastic. Go carefully - think you need to drill a wider hole so the screw doesn't stress the plastic when inserting - probably some loctite on the screw too. Some people glue buttons on, but I have not tried that.

      They all have zero frets

      Delete
  5. Dear Barry my name is Yannis and I live in Athens Greece.
    Ukulele is one of my favourite instruments and I am a fan of your reviews.
    Here in Athens I found in a music store and played the Flight TUS35 ukulele but unfortunately NOT the Flight TUSL-35 that I preffered because of more frets . The price is 42 euros.
    I suppose that the sound is the same between TUS35 and TUSL35. I found also the Flight TUS50 model with 48 euro price.
    I must choose between TUS35 and TUS50 .
    I have some questions for you .
    Is it possible to install by myself a strap button in these ukes ?
    Is there enough space for the screw inside so it is stable or may I damage it ?
    I suppose there is not anything inside ( like some wooden ukes that they have a piece of wood in this area ) to hold the screw .
    Does the TUS50 have a zero fret for better intonation ?
    Thanks a lot and Happy New Year . Kali chronia as we say in Greece.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I noticed that also the new TUS50 has a strap-button, circular dots on the fretboard and a removable saddle. A good improvement, imho. I like the brands that listen to their costumers...

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  8. Good review, thanks, following which I purchased one.
    Very surprised and please about construction, as I was very dubious about plastic.
    Very comfortable to play, and happy to leave out for anyone to pick up and play as a good sturdy little instrument.

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  9. Any leads on where to purchase in the USA?

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    Replies
    1. Flight website (link at end of review) has an authorised dealers page which lists US stores

      Delete
  10. Hi!

    I have a question since I'm hesitating between the soprano and the long neck. The fact the the long neck has a removable saddle, does this mean we can only change the strings on the long neck? Or is it just a question of action?

    Also, given that there is no strap button on the soprano, is it still comfortable to hold?

    Thank you for your time!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I believe (though you will need to check) that the original soprano saddles are now removeable also. Either way though a fixed saddle has nothing to do with ability to change strings!

      They feel the same in the hands but like all of these plastic backed ukes can be a bit slippy. I know some people who put a strip of velcro on the back to create friction

      Delete
    2. Thank you for you answer, it's much helpful!

      Delete

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