Uluru Lehua IIICX Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

6 Apr 2020

Uluru Lehua IIICX Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

Here's a ukulele brand that I have known about for many years now, but surprisingly for me, is actually the first one I have seen in the flesh. This is the Lehua IIICX Tenor from Uluru ukuleles.

Uluru Lehua IIICX Tenor Ukulele


Uluru ukes are a subsidiary of the well regarded Taiwanese guitar brand, Ayers guitars. They make a range of ukes ranging from what I would call the 'serious mid range' (think solid woods in the Pono mould) up to much higher end models that are completely hand made. This is one of those, made by their luthier team (based in Vietnam I think) under the watch of Australian luthier Gerard Gilet. I'm also pleased to feature them now as they are a brand carried by the independent ukulele stores who will be in need of your business right now. In fact this one has been lent to me by Matt Warnes at World Of Ukes.

There's actually another connection to Matt with this model which makes for interesting reading. Many of my readers will know that Matt performs on ukulele with the ever popular outfit, the League Of Ukulele Gentlemen. And... he plays this exact model uke (well, one with a pickup added). So when you have a ukulele store owner actually putting his faith in one of his products to perform all over Europe with one... well, you kind of assume that it must be pretty good...  In fact, does that make this a Matt Warnes Signature model?!

Gulp... no pressure then. Now it gets the Got A Ukulele once over...

So, this is a tenor scale ukulele made, naturally, from all solid tone woods. And for wood on this one Uluru go with what they call 'premium' koa. I'm not sure what the term 'premium' means here as it actually looks like quite standard koa to me. All koa is nice to look at, but if you think 'premium' means flame and curl, that is not what you are getting here.  Still, it IS shimmery and the two piece top, sides and back are all very well bookmatched. And to be fair you do get a bit of shimmer in the right light.

Uluru Lehua IIICX Tenor Ukulele body


The bridge here is a tie bar style made from ebony and quite possibly one of the tidiest I have ever seen on a uke. It almost looks like richlite it's so smooth. It's fitted with a bone saddle with a compensated top. Nice.

Uluru Lehua IIICX Tenor Ukulele bridge


There are quite a few decoration elements to get through in this review, but even so, I don't find it too gaudy.  Thats mainly because it keeps the various elements in harmony with each other rather than just throwing a different material in different places out of the parts bin.  Firstly the top and back are edge bound with a red wood, padauk I think, that looks great. You also get a tail strip of that too. Then on the top this is complimented by abalone purfling strip with a thin white edge that works nicely with it and the koa colour. This is repeated around the sound hole, with more padauk and abalone. You also get a swoopy comfort edge on the upper edge of the lower bout, which is also one of the nicest examples I have seen of these. It doesn't feel forced on or 'out of place', but rather a smooth natural extension of the body curve. Finally, in a first for me, the cutaway on the upper shoulder also has a comfort edge on it's top edge. I have no idea why you need comfort there, but still - I think it looks great! So some nice elements here, but this reviewer could still live with just a plain koa body. That is just me though!!

Uluru Lehua IIICX Tenor Ukulele decor


The body is then finished in a flawless mirror finish gloss which I can't find a single issue with anywhere. There are no bubbles, there is no over spray, and no pooling.

Inside is flawless too with not an ounce of mess anywhere. The linings are notched and the braces are skinny with the top braces running vertically from the sound hole to the tail. Really tidy!

Uluru Lehua IIICX Tenor Ukulele inside


The neck looks to be made of mahogany and would otherwise be a single carved piece (i.e no joint in the heel), but is actually in pieces along it's length because it sandwiches a very attractive skunk stripe of dark and light wood. That looks terrific too. The profile is very slightly flattened, not as much as some, but certainly not broom handle like Pono can be. It's a 35mm nut width (29mm G to A) which is not the widest for a tenor, but still playable and comfortable.

The neck is topped in ebony which, like the bridge plate is extremely neat, smooth and uniform in colour. The edges are bound in more padauk meaning no sharp frets on the 20, extremely skinny and low profile frets (14 to the body). That will make for a fast comfortable neck too. Outward facing pearl positon dots are fitted at the 5th, 7th, 10th and 12th and you get tiny white dots on the same positions on the side.

Uluru Lehua IIICX Tenor Ukulele fingerboard

Beyond the bone nut is my favourite headstock style - a slot head, faced in more koa. It's actually rather plain though as despite the pearl Uluru logo inlaid in the top there is no other decoration here. A sliver of paduak under the veneer may have given it a little something to tie it back to the body, but I am really nit picking. Oh, and I must say, I find the Uluru logo a little 'childs cartoon', but, again, that's a minor gripe.

Uluru Lehua IIICX Tenor Ukulele headstock


Tuners are unbranded open gears which, just by looking at the quality of the metal, you can tell are good quality. They work very nicely too.

Uluru Lehua IIICX Tenor Ukulele tuners


Finishing the deal are a set of Matt's own Clear Water strings (if you buy this from World of Ukes) and a frankly wonderful rectangular hard case which I have totally fallen in love with. And that is yours for what I actually think is a reasonable £1,149. Sure, that's a high end ukulele price, but the question for this review is whether it deserves to sit at that same top table as entry level Kanile'a ukes, Moon Birds and others that occupy that sort of price point.  That will be partly dealt with in the playing, but as you can tell from the description above I really am finding little wrong with the  build here. It's superb all over. It's great to hold too. Certainly not heavy and really nicely balanced. A very comfortable ukulele.

Basics first. The volume here is excellent and the sustain is sublime. It's such a resonant instrument that making yourself heard will not be a problem, and you feel every strum in your chest, forearm and fretting hand. It rings and rings.

I'm pleased to say that tonally it sounds like good koa should. Shimmery, rich and with really broad dynamic range. I'm actually staggered by this one, possibly more than I was with the Koa Moonbird and more in Koaloha territory. Strummed it has an incredibly rich complex jangly tone that is hugely interesting and charming. It's sparkly, it's fizzy, it's just really... interesting! It almost makes you think there are more than four strings in the mix, whilst still never sounding muddy. That's a very clever thing to achieve. And being koa that 'rich' doesn't just mean bright - it means all the tones are there.

Uluru Lehua IIICX Tenor Ukulele back


Fingerpicking is utterly divine and it's one of the chimiest, pretty sounding tones for melodic play I have come across. It's remarkably good, and with that sustain you have loads of opportunity to add in flourishes to your note such as hammer on and offs and vibrato. It's gorgeous.

I can totally understand why Matt chooses to play this model and has done for some time. It's got a heck of a voice. My gripes are minor and purely subjective, because this is a terrifically made, wonderful sounding instrument that very much deserves it's price. Sure, any uke at this price will make players think twice, but if you are in the market for a high end tenor from the usual suspects this really should be on your list for consideration. Marvellous.

http://www.uluruukulele.com

https://worldofukes.co.uk/tenor-ukuleles/uluru-lehua-iiicx-all-solid-koa-tenor-ukulele


UKULELE SPECS ROUNDUP

Brand: Uluru
Model: Lehua III CX Tenor
Body: Solid Hawaiian Koa
Bridge: Ebony
Saddle: Bone, compensated
Decor: Padauk with abalone edging. Padauk comfort edge on side and cutaway
Neck: Mahogany with skunk stripe
Fingerboard: Ebony, edged with Padauk
Frets: 20, 14 to body
Position dots: Pearl and repeated on side
Nut: Bone
Tuners: Unbranded gears
Strings: World of Ukes Clear Water
Extras: MiSi Option. Hard case
Price: (Acoustic) £1,149 (Electric) £1,299

UKULELE PROS

Superb build and finish
Superb volume
Excellent sustain
Complex rich tone
Fast neck
Fair price

UKULELE CONS

Not the curliest koa
Not a fan of the Uluru logo
Prefer less decor on ukes myself
All of these are grumpy reviewer subjective!!

UKULELE SCORES

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

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 9.4 out of 10

UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW





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