Snail SUT-M1 Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

5 Jul 2020

Snail SUT-M1 Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

It's ukulele review day and i'm pleased to be revisting a ukulele brand I have featured a few times before, though not for some time. This is the SUT-M1 Tenor from Snail Ukuleles.

Snail SUT-M1 Tenor Ukulele

Snail are one of those brands that make me do a double take regarding just how long I have been writing ukulele reviews. The first one of theirs I looked at was back in 2015, but I had seen them around for a good few years before that. They still 'feel' like a new brand, but they are much more established.  I've always found them to be rather like Flight - a very sound, even quirky alternative to the usual suspects on the ukulele block. Good value, well made instruments that with each review I have recommended readers consider if they are ukulele shopping. It seems the uke specialist stores agree too as these are carried by dealers who's opinions on uke I trust implicitly.

This one, the SUT-M1 is one of those that actually surprised me on opening the box as being something that looks far more expensive than it actually is. It was kindly loaned to by by Red Chilli Audio and I hadn't really looked into the specs before the review. On first look I was convinced this was a solid mahogany tenor on first handling it. It's not, it's all laminate. Now, I appreaciate that with laminates the outer veneer can really be anything, but there is something about the sum of the parts here - the grain, the thin top and tidy sound hole edge, the book matching that convinced my brain this was solid wood. That bodes well!

So laminate it is. Mahogany laminate in a standard shaped and scaled tenor body. For a wood that is often extremely plain, the grain on this is attractive, shimmery and nicely bookmatched on the two piece top, back and sides. It's also a deep orangey brown colour which adds to the attractive look.

Snail SUT-M1 Tenor Ukulele body

The bridge is made from ebony and is a through body design shaped in the 'batman-esque' style that Snail (and one or two other brands!) have used on other models. The bridge looks like bone and the whole thing is very tidy.

Snail SUT-M1 Tenor Ukulele bridge

Decoration is a mix of the understated and the more blingy.  Around the top and back edges is some wooden binding largely the same colour as the body wood. The purfling strip though is on the sides, not the top which gives the effect of the top and back kind of overlapping the sides and blending in to them. I think that works really nicely and is subtle but interesting. The sound hole goes a touch more generic with an abalone ring. I usually prefer more consistency in design, but if this used the same wood as the binding you would hardly see it. I can live with it.

Snail SUT-M1 Tenor Ukulele decor


The body is then finished in a really nice gloss that doesn't look overly thick and really makes the grain stand out. It is largely tidy with a tiny bit of scruffy finishing on the end of the fretboard, but is other wise great with no pooling, runs or bubbles I can see. Very good.

Inside is tidy with thin braces and notched linings.  I can see the odd bit of wood shaving and a touch of glue on the bridge plate, but it's really not too bad.

Snail SUT-M1 Tenor ukulele inside


The neck is made from mahogany too, made from three pieces with extremely well hidden joints at the heel and headstock. It's glossed too but doesn't feel too sticky or grippy.  The profile is a bit more rounded than this player would like and nut is only an average 35mm and 28mm G to A. They are not dimensions I would reject, but I would still prefer a bit more width. That is very much a personal view though.

Topping that is an ebony fingerboard which is wonderfully dark and black all over. That comes with some wooden edge binding to hide and dress the 18 frets (14 to the body) such that there are absolutely no sharp edges here. Positon markers face out at the 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th and 15th and thankfully they are repeated with side dots.

Snail SUT-M1 Tenor Ukulele neck

Beyond the bone nut is the usual Snail headstock, something I think I like most of all with Snail designs. Not only is it a more interesting shape than many, the top facing in a darker wood (ebony) with chamfered edges around it give is a feel of quality and almost like it's been hand carved. I love them. The Snail logo is inlaid in paler wood.

Snail SUT-M1 Tenor Ukulele headstock


Tuners are Snail branded sealed gears with small black buttons which are unremarkable but work just fine.

Snail SUT-M1 Tenor Ukulele tuners


Finishing off your deal are un-named (possibly D'Addario) fluoro strings and a good quality gig bag embroidered with the Snail logo. And for that you can pick these up from the usual ukulele specialist stores for around £165. That's a very fair price for something so nicely put together and finished I think. Particularly when you consider elements like ebony and a bound neck. Very fair.


As I've mentioned above the build and finishing here are exemplary. I really can't find any major issues with it anywhere and the gloss is an absolute mirror. It's also really light to hold and perfectly balanced. Another reason when I first unboxed it that I thought it was much more expensive than it is.

On to playing it. The volume here is good. Not stellar and not the loudest ukulele I have played, but not bad at all. Sustain is very good with some long decay and nice resonance vibrating back into your chest. Very pleasing and lively.

The tone really surprised me on this one. Sure, it has a laminate tone, but is not boxy or echoey like many you will come across and punches in the 'better quality laminates' category for sure. But it is the brightness here that really surprised me for a mahogany (laminate) ukulele. It really zings and chimes and creates a really bouncy, rhythmical tone when strummed quickly. The notes in the mix remain really clear and cut through very well which is a bonus too. It's REALLY bouncy.

That 'zing' is even more evident in fingerpicking which is extremely clear and precise. Some may prefer some more bottom end of course, but it's not a dislikable tone as it is. I think the zingy sound is, in part, down to the very light gauge strings fitted to this example. I suspect a change to a thicker gauge, like heavier Worth Browns or Aquila may warm the tone a bit.. But that's for you to experiment with! Either way, it's a competent fun sounding instrument.

Snail SUT-M1 Tenor Ukulele back

As I said at the off, it's nice to have alternatives to the usual suspects and Snail have always pleased me one way or the other as a sound brand that should always be on your short list. This one is no different. The overall build and finish here belies the £165 asking price and it then goes on to deliver a very clear bouncy sound too. Not much not to like here really. Recommended!

http://www.redchilliaudio.com

http://snail-ukulele.com

UKULELE SPECS ROUNDUP

Namel: Snail SUT-M1
Scale: Tenor
Body: Laminate Mahogany
Finish: High Gloss
Bridge: Through body, Ebony
Saddle: Bone, compensated
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Ebony
Frets: 18, 14 to body
Nut: Bone
Nut Width: 35mm, 28mm G to A
Tuners: Snail branded sealed gears
Strings: Fluorocarbon
Extras: Gig bag
Price: £165

UKULELE PROS

Extremely good build and finish
Very classy looks
Light weight
Great sustain
Clear notes with no muddiness
Pretty bell like sound
Good price

UKULELE CONS

This player would prefer wider nut
Very light strings, would prefer a meatier tone

UKULELE SCORES

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

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 9 out of 10

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2 comments :

  1. Baz, If you get a ukulele with a gloss finished neck, a fault to me, what to do about making it more of a satin finish? I have "moist" hands, gloss finished necks are a bit of a pain.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Probably give it a rub down with some very fine paper / wire wool.

      Delete

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