Isuzi SST-1T Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

7 Jun 2020

Isuzi SST-1T Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

Review day and a third outing for this Chinese made ukulele brand. And, it's a step up in level from both of the earlier reviews too. This is the new Isuzi SST-1T Tenor Ukulele.

Isuzi SST-1T Tenor Ukulele

Isuzi were first brought to my attention by their UK distributor, Red Chili Audio in Leeds who have loaned me this one to look at. Previously I looked at their QM-T Tenor Ukulele and their EAK-B Baritone (which I preferred). Both ended up with recommendation level scores, but each had one or two issues that held them back from the stellar heights of the upper end scores. Still, I liked them.

As I say, this is a step up over both of them in terms of price and specs. And I immediately understand why when I opened the box. I think this is a very attractive ukulele!

At first glance this looks like the same body woods all round, but they are not. The two piece top is made of two pieces of creamy coloured solid spruce with nice straight grains. This is then complimented by two piece sides and two piece curved back made from bookmatched flamed maple laminate. It's a subtle contrast between the two, but the flaming really works for me and is really pretty. In the right light the back is really wonderful to look at.

Isuzi SST-1T Tenor Ukulele body

That pale colouring is then complimented by a the high contrast of dark wood binding around the top and back edges and around the curves and point of the florentine cutaway. That's further added to on the top with inlaid abalone purfling around the edge and around the sound hole. I think it looks classy and really great against the pale woods of the body.

Isuzi SST-1T Tenor Ukulele decor

The bridge also contrasts nicely and is made from a very dark ebony. It's carved really neatly and is a tie bar style holding a compensated bone saddle. Really nice.

Isuzi SST-1T Tenor Ukulele bridge

The body is then finished with a gloss which really helps make the flaming pop and shimmer. It's nicely done 'on the whole' but I do spy a bit of pooling around the end of the fingerboard. It's there, and I have to mention it, but it's really not the worst I have seen.

Inside is pretty tidy with thin braces and notched linings but otherwise simple. The top bracing runs sound hole to tail and the whole thing looks decent enough inside. All pretty good so far.

Isuzi SST-1T Tenor Ukulele inside

The neck wood is unspecified, but I think is mahogany. The joints at the heel and headstock are well disguised too and the whole thing is finished in gloss also. It's a typically rounded far eastern profile, which doesn't come as a huge surprise considering where it's made. The nut width is only average for me though at 36mm and 29 G to A. I'd like that a bit wider personally.

The fingerboard is an extremely tidy and evenly coloured dark ebony that looks great. It's not edge bound, but edge stained which hides the 18 frets joined at the 14th. I'm glad to say there are no sharp edges at all here. Position dots face out at the 5th, 7th, 10th, double 12th and 15th and thankfully these are complimented by dots on the side.

Isuzi SST-1T Tenor Ukulele neck

Beyond the bone nut is a really attractively shaped and finished headstock. I love the contrast here of the dark gloss (possibly ebony) face plate which looks really high end. It's that kind of 'piano black' which always works well on musical instruments. The Isuzi logo also looks great here and despite it being a gold decal it's under the gloss so protected from things like clip on tuners. I really like the look of this.

Isuzi SST-1T Tenor Ukulele headstock

Tuners are more unremarkable gold sealed gears with small black buttons. Still, they work ok and are all even in tension.

Isuzi SST-1T Tenor Ukulele tuners

You get nothing else with it (bar the Aquila strings) which may set it apart these days from some of the competition (a gig bag would be nice for example), but at an RRP of £239.99 I still think it's a fair price considering the build and appointments (solid wood, flamed wood, ebony, bindngs etc). Sure, it's not bargain basement end either, but it's patently not a bargain basement ukulele.

It's built very well with no real flaws I can find. It's also light and balanced well at the 12th too. No complaints from me on the structural stuff.

Volume is good, if not stellar, but perfectly passable and is not going to leave you lost at your local jam. Sustain is very good though and really allows you to add some character to melody lines. Both of these may change with different strings, but you know my views on that..

The tone actually surprised me too. With spruce, and a back and sides the almost trick you into thinking the whole thing is spruce you may expect it to sound overly bright and snappy. But that back and sides are laminate maple of course - a wood not renowned for being overly resonant or snappy. And for me that compliments the top here very well by toning it down and mellowing it.

Sure, it still has a chimey brightness from that spruce, but it's not a sharp edged sound and certainly not strident. It's a much more rounded sound that I found really pleasant, even jangly when strummed. It's very pretty.  Fingerpicking is pretty too, though perhaps maybe even suffers a little for that roundness. You don't get quite as much zing when running through melodies. Still, it's no slouch. It's just that I prefer this for strumming.

Isuzi SST-1T Tenor Ukulele back

I will sum up by pointing out that the instrument has had more play by me than many review instruments that come on loan for the simple reason that it puts a smile on my face. That probably tells you what you want to know more than any waxing about tone characteristics. Yes I'd like that nut a touch wider, but it's still a nice comfortable ukulele to play for a klutz with hands the size of mine.  Is it the best sounding ukulele ever? No, of course not.. It costs £240.. Is it the best at it's price? Well that's totally subjective too and you know I don't DO 'bests'. But it IS a very well made and pretty sounding ukulele that I think looks terrific. It's certainly not like every other mahogany uke that are ten a penny at ukulele clubs and will stand out for that reason alone. Thankfully though, it's not just style over substance either. Recommended!

**Oh - and for a short time, Steve at Red Chili is offering Got A Ukulele readers a 10% off if you order through his Red Chili store (link below) and use the code BAZ10 at checkout. Fair play!**


Name: Isuzi SST-1T
Scale: Tenor
Body: Solid spruce top, laminate flamed maple back and sides
Decor: Dark wood binding, abalone purfling and sound hole, florentine cutaway
Bridge: Ebony tie bar
Saddle: Bone, compensated
Neck: Mahogany?
Fingerboard: Ebony
Frets: 18, 14 to body
Nut: Bone
Nut width: 36mm, 29 G to A
Tuners: Unbranded sealed gears
Strings: Aquila
Price: £239.99


Very nice looks
Good build
Ebony contrasts the pale woods very well
Good volume
Very good sustain
Nice rounded, pretty tone
Fair price


Would like wider nut and / or flatter profile
Slight finish pooling around fingerboard
Throwing in a gig bag would seem fair


Looks - 9.5 out of 10
Fit and finish - 8.5 out of 10
Sound - 9 out of 10
Value for money - 9 out of 10






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