Uma Pulse KC Multiscale Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

19 Jul 2020

Uma Pulse KC Multiscale Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

And now for something completely different on Got A Ukulele. A new uke brand for me and also the first time I've played one with the design concept it employs. This is the Uma Pulse KC.

Uma Pulse KC Ukulele

As I say, Uma are a new brand to these review pages, and they have recently started being represented in the UK by Stones Music who have kindly loaned me this to take a look at. They are a Taiwanese company and this one is made in China. At a first glance at the close up photos in this review it might just look like a regular ukulele but that is down to the photo angles. Look at little closer.. There is something very different going on here, and that's because this is a multi scale ukulele with 'fan' frets.

It's actually not a new idea and something I have seen on high end guitars before, and is essentially a build modification which gives significantly different scale lengths to, mainly, the lower strings. It does that with a combination of an angled bridge, and angled nut and frets that fan in slightly changing positions down the neck.  People often (wrongly) assume that this is all to do with playing comfort, but it's actually more about tension and intonation accuracy.  Firstly, this ukulele is designed to be low G only (which it comes with). With any ukulele the strings come in different gauges to accommodate the different notes they are tuned to. But because of this, and the fact that string tension is partly the product of the vibrating mass of the string, it means that some strings, often the low G and C strings can feel overly loose or floppy compared to, say, the 1st string. By fanning the frets this way and compensating at the angled bridge and nut also, it gives more length to the G and C strings, and therefore more tension.  And that fan layout has to be there to accommodate the scale differences to ensure the right notes are generated at the frets. The other advantage comes with accuracy up the neck as many people do find that low G's in particular can get a bit out of whack at the higher frets. This fanning aims to reduce that too. Does it work? Yes, insofar as the fact the ukulele plays just like a ukulele should. Is it essential? Well, the jury is out with me. After all some of the worlds greatest ukes through history didn't need fanned frets. Still, I am not against new innovations so long as they don't detract from the core purpose of the instrument. And to be fair, you'll see below that they don't. But I am getting ahead of myself.

The Pulse KC is a traditional double bout shaped concert* made from all solid acacia, a wood that is always more interesting to look at than something like mahogany. It's made from two pieces on the top, back and sides and whilst not showing any extreme stripe there is a touch of flaming going on with this example and it exudes a deep, warm orange brown colour which I find very attractive. The bookmatching is great here and  it's clear that the tone woods are nice quality.

(*I say concert, but that 4th string is getting on for 16 inches!)

Uma Pulse KC Ukulele body

The Uma website says that the bridge is made of 'engineered wood' (a term for a hardwood made of lots of pieces laminated together. It looks just like rosewood, and is said to be more eco-friendly.  It's a tie bar style with a thin wooden purfling insert. It's fitted with a compensated bone saddle and, because of the fan frets, is set on the top at a strikingly severe angle. Because of that, it's nice to see that they didn't just put regular bridge on set on an angle, but kept the end shaping perpendicular to the run of the body.

Uma Pulse KC Ukulele bridge

I find the decoration here to be particularly classy and well done. Firstly we have ebony edge binding to the the top and back with thin white purfling running alongside. They feel slightly chamfered on the edges and both look and feel very pleasing. The ebony inlay continues with the tail stripe and back stripe which really add to it. The soundhole ring is chunky and made of what looks like flamed maple. I love the contrast with the darker appointments elsewhere, and it's always nice to see a move away from 'mother of toilet seat'. The body is then finished in very well done gloss that I can find no flaws in or pooling anywhere. As you will see in the video review, it's such a mirror finish that I have a real job dealing with reflections! Before I even get to the summing up, the body here reminds me very much of a higher end Pono ukulele (something like their Pro Classics), which is a generous comparison indeed when you get to see the price!

Uma Pulse KC Ukulele decor

Inside is extremely tidy with no mess. The linings are notched and the braces nice and thin with end shaping.

Uma Pulse KC ukulele inside


The neck is made of mahogany with a very well hidden joint at the heel and headstock. It's a typically far eastern rounded profile but has a roomy enough 36mm nut (29mm from G to A). What I like most about the neck though is that they finished it in satin, not gloss. That's been well thought out for the player as a satin neck will always feel faster with less grip on the palm. Nice.

The fingerboard is made of more engineered rosewood, edge bound with a darker wood to hide the fret ends and reduce chances of sharpness (there isn't any). You get 19 of those, joined to the body at the 14th and as I say above they fan in a steadily changing angle as you move up the neck.  Inlaid into the fingerboard is a representation of an ECG output (Pulse.. geddit?). Which looks great. I often pause for thought in non standard inlays on fingerboards as I have found in the past that they can confuse me on positions, particularly where large design elements are placed in non standard places. Thankfully the 'pulse' beats in the design match the usual positions at the 5th, 7th, 10th and 12th. To assist further you have white dots at the same positions on the side.

Uma Pulse KC Ukulele neck

Beyond the angled bone nut it has a very tidy slotted headstock, faced in more acacia and gloss on the front face. There is a wooden purfling strip framing it and thee Uma logo is inlaid in the same wood. First gripe! I am not a fan of the logo. Up to this point the ukulele has ticked every box to suggest this is a serious, classy instrument. Sorry, but I think it looks like the logo you'd see on a toy for a toddler.

Uma Pulse KC Ukulele headstock


Tuners are gold side mounted open gears by Der Jung. As I said in last week's review which used the same tuners, I cannot sense any difference between these and Grover quality. They are excellent.

Uma Pulse KC Ukulele tuners


Finishing the package off is an extremely nice padded gig bag and unspecified fluoro strings with a a near enough noiseless wound low G. And these are being carried by the ukulele specialist stores for £379... Remember that comparison I made to high end Pono ukuleles above? That is a good price for this sort of spec and finish.

And what a finish and build it is. Aside from the logo I really can't find anything wrong in the construction here. The body is wonderfully glossed, the satin neck is a boon, the frets are smooth, I love slot heads... What's not to like? To add to that, it's nice and light and very well balanced too. All good so far.

In playing it the first thing I will say (as people have already asked me) is that it's easy enough to adjust to the fanning and isn't difficult to fret. Sure, on a first go it tripped me up but it's quite natural to adjust. Barring is just as easy in case you were concerned! I can also vouch for that tension increase on the G which is noticeable on the fingers and feels a lot more zingy than many low G's I have played.

Volume from this model is very good, as is the sustain and it feels and sounds lively.

There is no getting away from how the increased scale length on the G is bringing the bass more to the front of the mix. It is very obvious no matter how you play it. It's a dark, rich sounding tone and very heavy on the deeper notes. Dare I say 'too heavy'?  I understand that many people like that dark, bassier sound, but for me, and purely subjectively I find it a bit too much at that end for my ears. Your mileage may vary, but I'd like it a touch brighter.

It's still very precise no matter whether strummed or picked, and doesn't get muddy or confused in tone, but that low G is always there and obvious. And I have to mention that, because, this IS a low G instrument and ONLY a low G instrument. I am not entirely sure it would be straightforward to turn this into a high G, or even what it would sound like. I prefer the flexibility myself, so if you are looking at these you need to be absolutely sure that you are happy for it to ONLY be a low G uke.

Uma Pulse KC Ukulele back

So I can't stress enough that a lot of people DO like that lower sound in a uke and for those buyers they will no doubt be delighted by the build quality, looks and richness of the tone. It's an extremely competent ukulele, but it's where subjectivity in a personal ukulele sound comes into it. It's just a bit too bass heavy for my tastes. That should not put you off of course, so long as you know what you are getting! Very much recommended for bass heads!

Uma Puls KC ukulele fan frets


https://www.umaukulele.com
https://sites.google.com/site/stonesmusicgbbo00

UKULELE SPECS ROUNDUP

Model: Uma Pulse KC
Scale: Concert, but multi-scale
Body: Solid Acacia
Bridge: Rosewood
Saddle: Compensated bone
Bindings: Ebony
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Frets: 19, 14 to body
Nut: Bone
Nut width: 36mm, 29mm G to A
Tuners: Der Jung
Strings: Fluorocarbon with wound low G
Extras: Padded branded gig bag
Country of Origin: China
Price: £379

UKULELE PROS

Impeccable construction and finish
Classy binding looks
Satin neck feel
Great volume and sustain
Good price for the quality

UKULELE CONS

Logo seems out of kilter with serious quality
Re-entrant G players may been to think carefully as it may not be possible
That clear low G makes it too bass heavy for my tastes

UKULELE SCORES

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

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 9 out of 10

UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW




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


THANKS!

5 comments :

  1. Hey Baz,

    As always thanks for the review. Just wondering why you said it could be a bit of a one trick pony. If 'you' like a low g surely having an instrument designed for this should be better than putting a low g on am instrument originally meant for the more traditional string configuration. Of course, I've only been playing for a few months so there's still so much I don't understand. 🙂

    ReplyDelete
  2. Simply because most uke players I know (Including me) tend to like to switch between tunings easily. That's all. This MAY prove easy, but the fact the maker tells you this is designed and built for low G tells me otherwise. Great uke for low G lovers though

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hey Baz, nice review as always and a good looking ukulele as well. You said the sound is a bit bass heavy. Do you think opting for the spruce top would balance the sound out a bit more what with spruce being quite a bright sounding tone wood?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Maybe putting a non-wound Low G will balance the bass, just a thought.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Less obvious in the mix perhaps / less zingy - but the level of bass would be the same

      Delete

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.