Antica Ukuleleria Sacco Soprano Ukulele - REVIEW

12 Jul 2020

Antica Ukuleleria Sacco Soprano Ukulele - REVIEW

One of the joys of writing Got A Ukulele is the ability to look at things which are totally different from the usual 'same old same old' in the uke world. And one of the brands that always fits that bill perfectly is Italian brand Antica Ukuleleria. This is his new development. The Sacco Soprano Ukulele.

Antica Ukuleleria Sacco Soprano Ukulele

Antica Ukuleleria is the ukulele output of Verona based luthier Marco Todeschini and he's lent me a couple of his creations before including the Moderno Tenor Ukulele and an earlier iteration of the much loved UFOS Ukulele. Both were supremely well made, well thought out and very different.  So when I saw the development pictures and videos of the Sacco, you can bet I was interested in taking a closer look at what he had been working on.

The Sacco has been a year in development and testing and came about from Marco's desire to create a lower priced, tougher and more eco friendly instrument by innovating in both sustainable material choices and construction style. And the main innovation here comes from the clue in the name. Sacco is the Italian word for 'Sack', and the one piece back and sides shell on this model are made from Jute sackcloth (the sort of thing you would get potatoes or coffee beans in) encased in a bio-epoxy resin to strengthen it into a shell.

The body is formed in a mould into which the resin is forced and pressed in a vacuum to hold the cloth fibres in a hardened and incredibly smooth, swoop shaped hardened shell. The concept is not, of course new, and Marco freely admits this. The long established material carbon fibre is made by pressing carbon fibre cloth sheets in a resin, and the eKoa used by Blackbird in their Clara ukulele uses fibres of flax in the same way. This is the first I have seen that uses sack cloth though!  It's fascinating to look at as it looks just like a soft cloth bag, but on touching it you realise the resin has made it completely hard and extremely smooth. I also like the fact that you can see light through the weave of the sack cloth, and absolutely adore the overall teardrop shape.

Antica Ukuleleria Sacco Soprano Ukulele body

For the top you get a choice of either a birch laminate top or, for a modest price upgrade, a solid cedar top (like in this example) or a solid spruce. Marco actually seems more of a fan of the more resilient laminate option and I can see why if you consider this ukulele as a tougher more 'outdoor' uke. He also thinks the sound differences are minor which I don't doubt. But this one is solid and the quality of the grain and outer finish of this cedar is superb.

For the bridge we have a through body design with an elliptical bridge plate very nicely carved from pear wood. The saddle is straight topped and made of black plexiglass plastic.  I love the simplicity and style of the bridge. And of course pear wood is more sustainable than rosewood or ebony.

Antica Ukuleleria Sacco Soprano Ukulele bridge

The only other decoration on this example is an optional binding strip around the top edge made from an eco friendly alternative to ebony called SaRaiFo (Save The Rain Forest). It's a material made of lots of thin slivers of hardwood offcuts pressed together into blocks which are then cut as if it was fresh wood. Nice.

That whole body is then finished in Rubio oil, a non toxic alternative to TruOil that protects the ukulele from dirt. It's not as tough as a regular oil, but Marco prefers the natural material (Rubio is food grade) as it does not hinder the mechanics of the wood. I must say, it feels great under the fingers. For those that want a more resilient finish, Marco can arrange that too.

Inside there is not much to see due to the nature of the construction, though you will see the inner jute matting on the photo below. There is no need for back bracing due to the shell shape, but the underside of the top is braced in the normal way. There is also a thin un-notched lining strip around the top edge to provide a better joint between the top and the body and a bridge plate provide strength. You'll also note that the top wood is extremely thin. That bodes well too.

Sacco Soprano Ukulele inside

Up to the neck this is made of cherry wood with some wonderful grain patterns. I like the diminutive heel due to the narrow nature of the top of the body (though it is heavily strengthened inside by a neck block). It's also a pleasingly shallow profile and a roomy 37mm wide at the nut and 30mm from G to A. Wonderful.

Antica Ukuleleria Sacco Soprano Ukulele heel

Topping that is more pear wood for the fingerboard which is pretty in its simplicity and wonderfully smooth. The fingerboard also sits on top of a thin sliver of a black material giving it a kind of purfling effect down the side  and under the end of the board.  I love the shaping at the bottom end too which works well with the teardrop shaped body. The frets are skinny and you get 16 of them with 12 to the top shoulder of the body. You also get a zero fret to improve intonation. They are extremely well finished. Tiny black dots face out for position marking at the 5th, 7th, 10th and 12th and these are repeated with dots on the side.

Antica Ukuleleria Sacco Soprano Ukulele neck

Beyond the black nut is an open frame headstock in much the same overall shape as some of Marco's other ukes, particularly the UFOS. I think it looks smashing.

Antica Ukuleleria Sacco Soprano Ukulele headstock

The tuners are side mounted open gears with black buttons made by Der Jung. The quality of the metalwork make them indistinguishable from Grover tuners to me. They work really well too.

Antica Ukuleleria Sacco Soprano Ukulele tuners

Finally these come with Marco's own gauge selection of fluorocarbon fishing line (a man after my own heart!).  And as for pricing, these start at €380 for the laminate top version without binding, but in this spec you are looking at a moderate price increase to €440 (€25 for the solid top and €35 for the bindings). Either way, for a hand made instrument made in the EU, I think that is a very fair and good price. Putting in perspective - the UK equivalent of that price is around the cost of getting a fairly standard UK luthier made soprano instrument. In fact, arguably a bit less.


Marco's Strings for ukulele

As you will gather from the words above, I have found nothing of issue in the build of this one. Absolutely nothing. The build quality and finish are absolutely superb and to be fair, it's what I expected. With other instruments from Antica Ukuleleria I have seen, the attention to final detailing is out of this world. Marco warned me that the resin finish on the jute can come out with tiny flaws or bubbles, but I can't see any here. The whole thing is glassy smooth.  All joints are exacting and accurate and everything feels put together extremely well. It's also light ( 445g / 0.98lb ) and extremely comfortable to hold (though if you like straps you would have to ask Marco for advice on drilling for a strap button in this material), it's light yet re-assuring and very well balanced.  The comfort of that smooth wide neck is also a joy to have in the fretting hand. There is really nothing wrong for me here.

And it gets better. Both the volume and sustain on display here are both terrific. This is a punchy instrument for a short scale and the resonance vibrating through he body is extremely pleasing. Again, no complaints here as you are not going to struggle to be heard or put some nuance into your playing.

Tone wise I'm also happy. First up.. No, I don't think it fully sounds like a traditional wooden ukulele, but it's really not far away and certainly doesn't sound plasticky or like a lunchbox, just a bit different.. (traditionalists - bear that in mind). The first thing that came to mind on playing it was that it sounds to me like how a Magic Fluke Flea ukulele would likely sound if it wasn't for their plastic back and sides. I adore the Flea sound, but there is an edge of plastic in the tone. Whilst there is edge of something 'different' here, it's not artificial sounding at all. It's an altogether richer and, despite not having any wood on the back, a woodier palette! I suppose what it DOESN'T remind me of is a traditional soprano sound. Maybe that's down to the jute material or possibly that the scale is a touch longer than average at about 13.5 inches, I don't know. Either way though that isn't a criticism - it sounds like 'what it is'. And I like it. It actually sounds and feels a bit more like a concert to me!

When strummed it has a complex, characterful tone whilst not losing the clarity of individual strings. That means it can sound bouncy and rhythmical when played with faster strum patterns, but laid back and relaxed when thumb strummed more slowly. Fingerpicking is clear, bell like and projects really well too. Both of these styles of play are a joy on that comfortable neck too.   As I say, it's not trad soprano 'bark' in sound, but very pleasing in its own right.

Antica Ukuleleria Sacco Soprano Ukulele back

All in all, over the years I've come to the conclusion that Marco is something of a magician. It's clear to me he understands musical instruments and can build them VERY accurately indeed. But the addition of his more 'out there' design and construction ideas make Antica Ukuleleria, for me, one of the most exciting builders around. Because funky designs and novel ideas would mean nothing at all if the end results were instruments that played badly. This is anything but a bad instrument. This is wonderful. VERY highly recommended indeed.

https://www.anticaukuleleria.com

UKULELE SPECS ROUNDUP

Model: Antica Ukuleleria Sacco
Scale: Soprano
Body: Jute in bio resin shell back and sides, solid cedar top
Bridge: Pearwood - through body
Saddle: Unspecified
Neck: Cherry
Fingerboard: Pearwood
Frets: 16, 12 to top of body
Tuners: Der Jung open gets
Strings: Marco's Strings fluorocarbon
Weight: 445g / 0.98lb
Price: €380 - €440

UKULELE PROS

Superbly well made and finished
Eco friendly cues throughout are to be applauded.
Wonderfully different looks
Light but re-assuring
Wonderful neck and nut width
Great volume and sustain
Very pleasant tone
Fair price

UKULELE CONS

None that I can put a finger on...


UKULELE SCORES

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

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 9.4 out of 10

UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW




GOT A UKULELE IS NOT BRAND SPONSORED - YOUR DONATIONS KEEP THE SITE RUNNING!


THANKS!

10 comments :

  1. Thanks Baz, I Love it when you show us something you really love! This, being eco friendly, should be in everyone's home!
    (I'd buy one, but my spouse would kill me.)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Everything looks great but, sorry, IMHO... 400 euros is far too much regarding the materials. In this I find the 9.5 Value for money score absolutely incomprehensible.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What value are you putting on hand made time here, and what value takes into account EU costs of taxes, power, rent, living etc. I have reviewed a LOT of instruments including many luthier builds. THis is actually cheap compared to a home-grown uke. The price is not down to the materials it's down to the cost of putting it together.

      Delete
    2. Maybe I was comparing with other Italian brands... which are MaYbe having their ukes made in China.
      OK, I got you. But Baz, 9.5 "value for money". I mean, with that score, it is more like "What??? That cheap?! But I was expecting the double!" 9.5 is so close to excellence.
      It's only a matter of points of view. I have at the most 5 months in the uke world. You are a reference. And I have no doubt you are 1000% objective so... :)

      Delete
    3. The value for money score is not about how cheap or expensive it is - it's about the price versus all the other elements.

      This is a handmade uke made by one guy in Europe. Compared to some sopranos in the UK made by luthiers it's on a part with Rob Collins, Cheaper than KM Ukuleles. Far cheaper than Pete Howlett etc...

      To get this made in UK to this spec and finish would cost more. I am sure of that. In fact, i think it's cheap.

      Sure, it's not cheap compared to some imports.. But it's not an import made in a factory.

      Delete
  3. This is such a beautiful thing! I'm overwhelmed with uke-envy.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I bought a ufos from Marco for my wife, which blows my pono tem out of the water. Currently I have a sacco on order for her, but in spruce with a ziegenspeck contact pickup and.. drum roll.. blue epoxy binding and inlay.

    Oh, that's going to something very special.

    Also, Marco genuinely is one of the nicest people you could ever wish to meet.

    On another point, Baz you have alot to answer for. Here are some of outukes.
    Koaloha opio
    2 john daniel sopraninos, john is a friend though
    A ufos
    A blackbird clara in matt
    A candy apple red beltona blue uke #2
    A deering banjo uke

    Watching you reviews can get expensive 😄

    ReplyDelete
  5. I bought a ufos and have nothing but respect for Marco. I think it’s hard work and to be this creative and daring to innovate in the meanwhile is fantastic. A magician indeed. And i don’t know the system in Italy, but as a solo entrepreneur in Belgium you have pay a lot on investements and taxes. But he stil makes it possible for a wide public to buy a uke from him (after Some saving 😉). And it’s worth every penny

    ReplyDelete

Please leave me a comment!

Please Help Keep This Site Going!

If you enjoy this blog, donations are welcomed to allow me to invest more time in bringing you ukulele articles. Aside from the Google ads, I don't get paid to write this blog and for reasons of impartiality a not sponsored by brands or stores. Your donations all go back into the site to allow me to keep bringing you reviews, and in the end the ukuleles acquired are given to local schools and charities.