Antica Ukuleleria Allegro Sopranino Ukulele - REVIEW

9 Aug 2020

Antica Ukuleleria Allegro Sopranino Ukulele - REVIEW

Another week and another delve into the weird ukulele world of Antica Ukuleleria. This week I am looking at the Allegro Sopranino ukulele.

Antica Ukuleleria Allegro Sopranino Ukulele


I do hope that opening line is taken with the humour it was intended to carry by the brains behind Antica Ukuleleria, Marco Todeschini in Verona. It's just that I've reviewed a number of his creations now and they have all been very different to the norm! This is a good thing! Those other models though were all more standard in their scales and sizes including the Sacco ukulele I recently looked at. This one moves to the sub soprano scale that so many uke fans and collectors seem to be drawn to these days.

And, being an Antica Ukuleleria build, it also does things differently. At first glance you will note that it's a standard double bout shape, and an attractive, curvy one at that. It's not the worlds smallest sub soprano ukulele, but still small at an 11 inch scale length. Overall though it's made smaller still by the low bridge placement and small headstock. Then you look at the sides and see just how shallow it is too...

Antica Ukuleleria Allegro Sopranino Ukulele body

The back, sides and, indeed, neck and headstock of this instrument are all carved from a single piece of wood, hollowed out in the body area to create a cavity. You get a choice of woods for this part and Marco chooses to make these from local sustainable hardwoods such as cherry and ash, and in this example, from local Pear wood.  I must say, I absolutely adore the swirly grain patterns on the back here. The top is then dropped on to the chamber that has been created making the whole thing a little reminiscent of a Tahitian ukulele, or even the same concept of how most plastic ukes are built. Incidentally, Marco explains that this technique does create wood waste and he is experimenting with making the back and sides from separate pieces too going forward.

The top here is made from old Spruce taken from the same Italian forest that Stradivari sourced spruce for his violins. It's a beautiful even grain and Marco says he chose it because of the small body needing as much help as it can get with resonance. Where that top meeds the edges of the back bowl, the joint is complemented by a black edging strip of vulcanised fibre that really sets off the paler colours nicely. The look of the whole thing comes together into a very pleasing package I think.

The bridge is a very small slot style also made from pearwood and really nicely finished. Into this is set an extremely thin black saddle. The material isn't specified, but it it's like other Marco builds it will be black perspex plastic.

Antica Ukuleleria Allegro Sopranino Ukulele bridge

The whole body and back of the neck is then finished in the same non toxic tru oil alternative Rubio as used on the Sacco giving it a smooth tactile feel. In fact, this finish coupled with the build technique in the body makes for a VERY enjoyable instrument to hold. Absolutely everything is smooth and comfortable.

Antica Ukuleleria Allegro Sopranino Ukulele decor

Inside there is very little to see on account of the construction type. There are no linings I can see but I can see why they are not needed. There is thin top and back bracing that I couldn't get an angle to photograph. It's interesting to see the back brace which suggests that Marco has routed the back very thin. The only other thing you will spy are what look like the guide dowels to fit the bridge in the right place. All very simple, but very tidy.

The neck is, naturally, all one piece as it forms part of the back. It tapers to a flat profile at the nut with a pleasing 36mm nut width and 30mm from G to A. It's nice when a builder makes a sub soprano uke but does what they can to ensure the nut does not get correspondingly narrrower to the point they become unplayable. Many just shrink all the dimensions down. Top marks here Marco.

It's topped with a pearwood fingerboard which, like the Sacco also sits over the top of a vulcanised black stripe. Like the Sacco it's also extremely smooth and well finished. I love the look of it and curved end section. It comes with 12 frets to the body joint and a zero fret just below the nut to assist with intonation - something that becomes more difficult to dial in the smaller you go. They are skinny frets and all dressed beautifully.  White dot markers face out at the 5th, 7th, 10th and a double at the 12th. You also get side dots.

Antica Ukuleleria Allegro Sopranino Ukulele neck

The headstock is also shrunk down in size so it's in keeping with the rest of the instrument, something else many soprano makers don't seem to 'get'. The Antica Ukuleleria logo is inlaid in the top end. I like the look of it.

Antica Ukuleleria Allegro Sopranino Ukulele headstock

Less pleasing for me are the use of geared pegs. I am not a fan of them on sopranos at the best of times, so on an even smaller instrument they jar with me even more. Sure, they are great quality Der Jung tuners, and the buttons are not too big, but I would really prefer to see friction pegs on a ukulele of this scale. Some other sopranino builders have used them and shaved down the buttons to ensure that the headstock is not crowded. I am sure that could be done here and would like the option.

Antica Ukuleleria Allegro Sopranino Ukulele tuners

It comes with a set of fishing line strings that Marco has adjusted the gauges to ensure this will work tuned to regular GCEA without the tension being all wrong. That's interesting as many sopraninos are built to be tuned higher, including those which require you to tune a full octave higher just so you can annoy the neighbourhood cats and dogs..

And that is yours for a standard price of €320. That's not bad for any hand made instrument, but I can think of a couple of other sopranino's from luthiers that I reviewed for less money. That said, they were some time ago now, so perhaps time has changed that.

Let's have a play.

The build here, like everything I have ever seen from Marco is exemplary. It's wonderfully put together in every department and as I say above, really comfortable to hold. It's not heavy at all at only 310 grams but the tuners are, I think, throwing it off balance at the 12th. I am not going to make such a big deal of that with this one though because it's all relative to the featherweight overall weight so you don't feel like you are fighting it. In fact, you don't feel like you are holding much at all!

Volume here is remarkably good. It punches and barks really hard when you dig in and required me to adjust my usual microphone settings for the video review recording as I was peaking with minimal effort. You will have not issue being heard here. The sustain is short, and dies off quickly. To be fair though, that is common with a lot of sopraninos as they don't have a lot of vibrating body to work with.

Antica Ukuleleria Allegro Sopranino Ukulele back

On to the tone, and this is where I found the review difficult to write. When Marco sent this over he was typically humble and warned that it doesn't sound like a soprano and to him sounded like a valve radio. I know exactly what he means. When I first played this I have to say I was not all that enamoured with the tone. It sounds like the ukulele is much smaller than it is, or that it was being played into a tin can. Very much like an old radio broadcast on a small speaker. I find that effect is more pronounced when strummed where it can sound very thin and echoey. If it was accompanied by some vinyl crackle you would be convinced you were listening to a uke recording on an old 78RPM record! It's less pronounced when fingerpicked though, and I think this is where the ukulele shines most, not least because the neck is so comfortable. It just sounds prettier that way and almost chimey.

So something of a juxtaposition.. A volume level that suggests the ukulele is bigger than it is, but a tone that suggests smaller. Interesting!

That all sounds a bit negative, but then I started to play it more and the tone grew on me. Something clicked. I think I realised it 'is what it is'. No it doesn't sound like a soprano, and in fact does it really sound like a ukulele? It sounds  like itself. Perhaps that's not very helpful, but it does make music and does so comfortably and accurately. I also then found this video of Ukulele Uff playing one which shows what it can do more than my shonky review video will...



Get the 'old valve radio' reference? Dare I say it - the tone is almost like a banjo if that makes sense.


All in all, on tone I think this is a marmite ukulele*. It's not for everyone, but many will 'get it' for what it is and probably really dig the old timey sound. Where I think it also shines is that it has been well considered in the build. Marco didn't just make everything smaller to the point of it being unplayable. It's really comfortable despite being so small you could stow it in a small handbag. And I think that's why i'd consider one. A great 'holiday' ukulele that will let you take your music with you wherever you go without sacrificing any baggage space.

So have a think about the tone yourself. If you are looking for rich woody tones and long lasting sustain this is not the ukulele for you. If you want something that is a lot of fun, a talking point and something that didn't sacrifice build quality to get there, then it gets my recommendation. It's a lot of fun!

(* Do they get Marmite in Italy? Answers on a postcard!)

https://www.anticaukuleleria.com

UKULELE SPECS ROUNDUP

Name: Antica Ukuleleria Allegro
Scale: Sopranino (11 inch)
Body: One piece chamber carved from Pear
Top: Solid Spruce
Bridge: Pear, slot style
Saddle: Black perspex
Neck: Pear
Fingerboard: Pear
Frets: 12 plus zero fret
Nut: Black perspex
Nut Width: 36.5mm (30mm G to A)
Tuners: Der Jung open gears
Strings: Fishing Line
Weight: 310g
Country of Origin: Italy
Price: €320

UKULELE PROS

Brilliant build quality and finish
Sustainable wood choices
Comfortable to hold and light
Built without sacrificing comfort
Great volume
Marmite tone!

UKULELE CONS

Would prefer rear facing tuners
Low sustain
Marmite tone!!

UKULELE SCORES


Looks: 9.5 out of 10
Fit and finish: 9 out of 10
Sound: 8 out of 10
Value for money: 9 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE: 8.9 out of 10

UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW




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


THANKS!

1 comments :

  1. The Ukulele Uff performance is stunning! It seems this is meant for a songster type player who uses the fan strums and other flourishes. To me it has a bit of a banjo sound. Lovely instrument, but for someone who could show it off (not me!).

    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.