Noah Rosewood Spruce Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

14 Jun 2020

Noah Rosewood Spruce Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

A welcome return this week to a UK based brand I've always enjoyed looking at. This is the Rosewood Spruce Tenor from Noah Ukuleles.

Noah Rosewood Spruce Tenor Ukulele
Noah are the brainchild of Matt Cohen in the UK who, working with a luthier he got to know in Vietnam when he lived over there, arranges builds of hand made instruments which he ships back to the UK and distributes himself. There are numerous Noah reviews on the site, so go to the full Got A Ukulele review listing to find the others and learn a bit more about the background to the company. 

Matt sent me this over on loan recently and it's one of those that on opening the box I immediately fell in love with on looks. It's actually a slight update to an existing Noah ukulele. It's a beautiful classic looking instrument made from all solid tone woods is a swoopy curved double bout shape.  The main reason for that classy look is the tried and tested combination of spruce and Indian rosewood. We have a couple of pieces of golden looking solid spruce on the top with straight grain paired with chocolate dark rosewood in a couple of pieces on both the back and sides. Spruce always pairs well with a darker looking wood and I think rosewood is the king in that regard. The contrast is just wonderful!

Noah Rosewood Spruce Tenor Ukulele body

The bridge here is a pin style made from Gõ gõ mật, a Vietnamese hardwood which is very tidily finished. The bridge pins are plastic and the saddle is straight topped and made of bone. It may be an optical illusion, but the bridge plate does look a little large for the body, but that may just be my eyes. What will matter is whether that affects volume or sustain. (Incidentally, don't be confused if you visit the Noah website linked below and see this one with a tie bar bridge. Due to the virus, Matt has not been able to get his usual photographer out to update the pictures. These now do come with a pin bridge!)

Noah Rosewood Spruce Tenor Ukulele bridge

Decoration is provided by pale maple edge bindings to the top and back with black and white purfling strips added to both. You also get an abalone sound hole ring which is nicely done, but I would have preferred more consistency with the edge binding.  The body is finished in satin on this example, but is also available in full gloss. What I am duty bound to point out here is that there are one or two tooling marks and flaws in some of the finishing. That's always the case with Noah ukuleles and, to be fair, is largely to be expected as this is not a factory line instrument. I actually don't mind them and remind me that it's made by hand, not a machine and, to be fair, it's one of the tidiest from Noah I have come across.

Noah Rosewood Spruce Tenor Ukulele decor

Inside is tidy and shows of thin braces, with vertical top braces which fan out and notched linings. You will also spy the bridge pins.

Noah Rosewood Spruce Tenor Ukulele inside

The neck is made of maple from a couple of pieces with well hidden joints. I really like the slightly curved heel shaping on this brand and that also comes with a pale maple cap. The profile is pleasingly squashed and flattish, but the real star of the show here is the 39mm nut width with 32mm from G to A. That is supremely roomy!

That is topped with more Gõ gõ mật slightly end shaped and nice and dark along the whole length. Like elsewhere on the uke though there are one or two minor tool marks, but again that's a reminder of how it was made. The 18 frets (14 to the body) are dressed well and hidden on their ends by black edge binding. We have pearly dot markers facing out at the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th and 15th and thankfully they are repeated on the side. This is something Noah didn't always feature, but I know Matt has been listening!! This is a really nice neck. I don't personally need a 3rd though!

Noah Rosewood Spruce Tenor Ukulele neck

Beyond the bone nut is a slot head headstock which looks great faced in more rosewood. Again though, there are one or two tool marks, but only if you look closely.  The Noah logo is inlaid in maple.

Noah Rosewood Spruce Tenor Ukulele headstock

Tuners are open gears with chrome hardware and pearly buttons facing back off the sides of the slothead. Despite being unbranded, they are good quality. 

Finishing off the standard package are Aquila strings, a tail strap button pre-fitted and a decent quality gig bag. What will likely surprise you here though is the pricing. Consider this is hand made. Consider this uses a more expensive wood like solid rosewood... Now, consider that this is a penny shy of £260. That is a bargain as far as I am concerned. A really, really good price for this sort of build. Matt can also offer extras like pickup fittings too, and for a very fair price, but that base price alone is excellent.

As I say, this really is the looker. OK, there are one or two finish issues, but I only mention them to be fair to readers who may spot them in the photographs - they don't actually worry me. That bridge may be a touch large, but we will see how it plays. Otherwise it is really well put together, and the neck is wonderful!

To hold it feels hefty, no getting away from it. That isn't to say overly heavy, but it is substantial. But remember, this has solid rosewood in the body and that's a heavy wood. All rosewood guitars are heavy for the same reason. Yet it's really nicely balanced so you don't notice it to be fair.

And I need not have worried about that bridge because both the volume and sustain here are really very good. No complaints from me at all in those departments, and the sustain really does project vibrations back into your chest. It's lively and punchy!

Noah Rosewood Spruce Tenor Ukulele back

But what of the tone? Well, most people will know that spruce can impart a bright almost brittle tone to a ukulele and is easily over done giving some instruments an overly zingy edge. It's why they are usually paired with something darker sounding. And rosewood is very much a dark tone wood and whilst only on the back and sides here you would expect it to balance the spruce well. And it certainly does. A strum of this shows that the tone has the bright elements of spruce with some very chimey highs ringing through, but there are a good amount of lows and a prominent almost shimmery mid tone coming right through in the mix. It never sounds muddy to me and all those tones are clear in your mix. It's a lovely strummed sound and has really pleasant balance.

Fingerpicking is equally nice to my ears for the same reason. Often, the brighter instruments can sound almost too piercing when picked, particularly with melodies up the neck, but the balance here is really attractive and the tone feels 'calmed' and broad no matter where you play.

No, it's not a K brand tone or richness, but then look at the price. The tone here is extremely good and an easy competitor for a far more highly priced offering from someone like Pono. Heck, it's two hundred and sixty quid. It's remarkabale for the money.

I'm happy to state this is another of the 'best of Noah' that I have had a chance to look at. Those looks did it for me alone. The price then put a bigger smile on my face, but then you learn that it's also a joy to play and listen to. What's not to like? 

Highly recommended



UKULELE SPECS ROUNDUP

Name: Noah Rosewood Spruce
Scale: Tenor
Body: Solid Spruce top, solid Indian Rosewood back and sides
Bridge: Gõ gõ mật, pin style
Saddle: Bone
Decor: Maple binding, abalone soundhole
Neck: Maple
Fingerboard: Gõ gõ mật  
Frets: 18, 14 to body
Nut: Bone
Nut width: 39mm, 32mm G to A
Headstock: Slothead
Tuners: Unbranded gears
Strings: Aquila
Extras: Strap button, Gig bag
Options: Matte or gloss, pickup options
Price: £259.99

UKULELE PROS

Wonderful classy looks
Extremely comfortable neck
Great volume
Great sustain
Very rounded, balanced tone
Great price

UKULELE CONS

Some tooling and finish marks
Bridge still looks large to me, though it's not affecting anything

UKULELE SCORES

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

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 9.1 out of 10

UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW




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