The Rebel Quark Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

14 Dec 2019

The Rebel Quark Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

I've been thrilled to be able to look at this ukulele brand for a second time. It's a brand that seems to create a buzz (in a good, non-string way!) wherever it goes. This is the Quark Tenor by The Rebel.

The Rebel Quark Tenor Ukulele
I first looked at a ukulele from The Rebel earlier this year in the form of their Cheesecake Super Concert Ukulele and, boy, what a cracker it was yielding a massive 9.4 out of 10. As I explained in that review, The Rebel are a bunch of highly talented luthiers who got together in Thailand in 2011. They were trained in the main by Koaloha and are also the team responsible for the outsourced 'Opio' line by that brand - another ukulele that gets people excited, and for good reason.  The ukuleles brought out under their own name share some funky traits throughout the ranges. And that's not just funky names (Creme Brulee, Cheesecake, Quark..) but with funky looks and builds too. Every one I look at makes me turn my head.

The tenor is something of a step up in the ranges from the Cheesecake, on account of much more going on in the decoration and the tone-woods.  The Quark is, I believe, a limited edition model in their range and was listed in the Southern Ukulele Store list of '10 Dream Tenor Ukuleles'. Incidentally, this one is on kind loan from the guys at SUS, so thanks to them for that! It's a standard tenor scaled instrument that looks 'kind of' standard, though with a trademark 'The Rebel' curvy based double bout shape that is just different enough to stand out on its own. I really like it. The top on this one is made from solid spruce in two pieces and is clearly very good quality wood with nice even colour and straight tight grain. Spruce is, of course, a classic wood for musical instruments from ukes to guitars and violins on account of its frequency response across the range, but with a zing in the sound.  It's a very good all round choice. Some would say it's the best for strings.

The Rebel Quark Tenor Ukulele  body

The back and sides here are made from solid Indian rosewood which is another superb wood choice to pair with spruce as it helps with volume and balances the sound. Oh and the contrast in the colour pairing looks great too! It's a pairing seen in some of the highest end Martin guitars for a reason. The back and sides here are two pieces each also and the grain is beautiful. Whilst there isn't edge binding to the top and back, you do get a detailing I have not seen before, but one I think looks beautiful. This has an inlaid strip of maple running around the top of the sides giving it a kind of 'go faster stripe' that I think works brilliantly.

The Rebel Quark Tenor Ukulele  back

The body is also fairly shallow in depth, like the Cheesecake. Whilst you will often worry about that in terms of projection and volume it did absolutely nothing to harm the Cheesecake, so we will see how this one fares.

But, of course, the most eye catching thing here are the teardrop / apostrophe shaped sound holes on the upper bouts. They are very nicely done with black and turquoise blue edging to the sides and really stand out. Quirky as you like. I have to stick my neck out though and state they are not my cup of tea though, but there you are. Many will love them and they are certainly different.

The Rebel Quark Tenor Ukulele soundholes

The bridge is made of ebony in an interesting lozenge shape (meaning not too much wood on the sound board) and I think looks great. It's really tidily carved and fitted with a TUSQ (synthetic ivory) saddle with a straight top. Nice.

The Rebel Quark Tenor Ukulele  bridge

Finishing off the rest of the body is a gloss finish which is also done very well on the hole. Close up you will see it is not grain filled so you don't quite get a mirror finish like you do on some instruments, but this is not a huge downer for me. Kamaka and Koaloha ukuleles are finished that way and they are some of the most revered in the world. Saying that, there is a bit of pooling here and there together with some polish marks. It certainly looks more 'hand finished' than I suppose it should.

Due to the sound hole style it was tricky to get a shot inside that was straight on, but I kind of managed it. You will see that it is braced top to bottom on the underside of the top. It's otherwise generally tidy inside bar an irritating polish run on the back, and like the Cheesecake has un-notched linings. The bracing though is thin and not over done. The bridge is also screwed in place which irritates some people, though I've nver understood why.

The Rebel Quark Tenor Ukulele inside

The neck is made of mahogany, glossed and with a single joint at the heel. It's wonderfully dark in colour to match the darkness of the back and the carving is also exquisite with nice swoopy curves at both the heel and the base of the headstock. The profile is a little more rounded than I would like, but still hardly a broom handle. It's also a generous 38mm at the nut, yet still only 27mm string spacing. That's very much a Koaloha thing and whilst it's still comfortable, I know some people who prefer spacing around the 30mm mark. You also get a kind of ugly makers label on the back of the neck in a sticker. aNueNue do this, but place theirs under the gloss. If this is meant to be removeable i'm glad because it looks ugly.

That is topped with a rosewood fretboard, which is an odd departure considering the ebony bridge. It's in good condition, but I think would look better in a blacker wood to match the bridge.  It's nicely end shaped though and also bound down the sides and around the end with more maple meaning absolutely no sharp fret ends. You get a generous 20 of those with 14 to the body. Outward dots are provided in small wooden inlays at the 5th, a double 7th, 10th and double 12th. You also get a small inlay of a couple of interlocked rings at the 15th. I don't quite know what they represent.

The Rebel Quark Tenor Ukulele neck

Beyond the TUSQ nut is a really attractive headstock shape. It's faced in dark ebony creating a kind of offset ridge around the top which I think is gorgeous. Inlaid into that is the Rebel origami bird logo which is specified as 'stone'. I think that might mean a sliver of actual stone. It's a deep blue like the soundhole edging and looks terrific.

The Rebel Quark Tenor Ukulele headstock

Flipping it over and we see the tuners are the sublime Gotoh UPT's with gold metal work and black keystone shaped buttons. Utterly wonderful tuners.

The Rebel Quark Tenor Ukulele tuners

And there you are. Quite the ukulele. The extras include clear fluorocarbon (fishing line?) strings and a similarly quirky (or is that quarky) gig bag with a gaudy print that is either love it or hate it. It's not for me. And this clocks in at £1,299 in the UK. A serious price, but a seriously built instrument. Putting that in persepctive to other tenors we are in the same ballpark as Moonbirds, Kamaka's, Koaloha and Kanile'a, so it's sitting at the right table. Back to that gig bag a second though. For a ukulele of this price I WOULD want it in a hard case. You don't get a hard case with a Koaloha or Kanile'a but you do with a Kamaka and a Moonbird. So on the face of it, the padded case puts it between those brands, not that I would ever use it. I'd rather they didn't bother and trimmed the price a touch, or just provided a hard one.

So, clearly a very good instrument. On the whole I like the looks but one or two things jar with me like the soundholes and the fingerboard wood mismatch. On the whole the build is also excellent, though one or two areas of the finish jar with me too. It's still a VERY good instrument, but... you know... minor things... and I am easily irritated.

To hold it though, it's extremely comfortable. That's partly on account of the non jumbo body, but also a very nice feeling neck. It's well balanced too. The extended fingerboard is bothering me a little too as it comes quite far down the body and I found myself continually hitting it with the strumming hand. It's something I would get over if I owned it for longer, but, as I say... minor things.

First up - the 'hot takes'  before we get into the actual tone are that the volume is ear-splittingly good and the sustain is really excellent with a nice vibration back into the chest. It's a spritely thing that needs very little effort to play. It feels alive. Terrific resonance and projection here.

The Rebel Quark Tenor Ukulele sides

The tone itself is extremely rich right across the range. Sure, it's strung low G which helps on the bass, but I suspect it would still cut it on dynamic range with a high G too. I say that because you can pick out frequencies here right across the park - nothing is lost. There is a brightness here for sure, helped by the spruce, but a warmth balancing it as well and it's extremely pleasing.

Strummed it is an extremely enjoyable instrument to both play and listen to. All the notes are defined, are ultra crisp and sit in the right place in the mix no matter how much welly you give it.  But for me, rather like many other high end tenors, it's fingerpicking where it really shows its quality. It's a chimey, clear, pretty sounding instrument and the good sustain really makes you swoon. I warn you in the video that I cannot do a ukulele of this quality justice in playing it. But then my videos have never intended to dazzle with playing, rather just give a flavour of what the average person will deliver. But I've seen enough instruments to be able to judge between them, and trust me, on tone this is a cracker. If it reminds me of anything it's of a Koaloha instrument. Perhaps that is unsurprising considering the builders.

Ultimately it sits in a price point that is not particularly overcrowded, but is occupied by some pretty flawless competition. That's a tough nut to crack. For me the looks here are not my thing, but they may be yours. For that reason I still gave it a high score on that front because i'm a picky old coot and I shouldn't let it skew things. It certainy competes on tone though and I think that is what it will come down to for many people. Those that like the more traditional looking ukes will go with Kamaka and Kanile'a, and those that like a bit of quirkiness may warm more to this one. You will certainly stand out, safe in the knowledge that on the tone stakes you are at the highest end of quality. But in veering that way, you go head to head with the aNueNue Moonbird UT200. And there's the rub. The Moonbird is also quirky (though not quite so quirky as this!), but is also cheaper, I think is better finished and comes with a hard case as standard. Hmmm. A tough one, and I can't pick for you.

Don't take that last sentence the wrong way at all. This is absolutely a terrific instrument and gets both a great score and a high recommendation from Got A Ukulele. It's just going to be all about the looks though I think. How quirky / quarky are you?

Thanks again to SUS for the loan of this one!

http://therebelguitars.com
https://www.southernukulelestore.co.uk


UKULELE SPECS ROUNDUP

Name: The Rebel Quark
Scale: Tenor
Body: Solid Spruce top, solid rosewood back and sides
Bridge: Ebony tie bar
Saddle: TUSQ
Decor: Apostrophe soundholes with blue edging, maple side strip
Finish: Gloss
Neck: Mahogany
Nut Width: 38mm, 27mm G to A
Fingerboard: Rosewood, bound with maple
Frets: 20, 14 to the body
Nut: TUSQ
Tuners: Gotoh UPT
Strings: Clear Fluorocarbon
Extras: Soft gig bag
Price: £1,299

UKULELE PROS

Looks (for some)
Beautiful side stripe
Excellent build
Amazing volume
Excellent sustain
Crisp notes
Great dynamic range
Excellent tuners

UKULELE CONS

Looks (for some!)
Some finish wobbles
Odd mix of rosewood fingerboard and ebony bridge
Ditch the gig bag altogether or give us a hard case

UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 9 out of 10
Fit and finish - 9 out of 10
Sound - 9.5 out of 10
Value for money 9 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 9.1 out of 10

UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW




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2 comments :

  1. Nice uke and good sound, but for the money, I'll stick with my aNueNue Moonbird Tenor. I'm surprised they don't provide a hardcase.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Baz, excuse me projecting I don't normally feel the OCD design things as strongly as you appear to. However, those 'tear-drop shaped' holes are messing with my pedantic mind. If, as I suspect, they are supposed to look like inverted commas, then they are the wrong way round: surely the 6 should be on the left and the 9 on the right (which ever way you look at them)!

    Carry on!

    Mike

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