Millar SP-210LL Long Neck Soprano Ukulele - REVIEW

16 Aug 2020

Millar SP-210LL Long Neck Soprano Ukulele - REVIEW

It seems there is no let up in new brands appearing on Got A Ukulele. That's perhaps not so unusual, but a fair number of them are very serious instruments as opposed to the 'Amazon gold rush' stuff. This is a good thing. This is another new one to me. The SP-210LL Long Neck from Millar.

Millar SP-210LL Ukulele


Millar are one of an increasing number of far eastern makers building to higher than the volume factory standards, but rather in small workshops. They are Taiwanese and have a range of instruments that seem to fall in the intermediate to lower end of the upper scales. They are now being carried by World of Ukes in the UK who very kindly let me borrow this one.

The SP-210LL (I hate names that sound like Droids..) is what is most commonly called a long neck soprano model. In reality that means it's actually a small bodied concert, because it's the scale length that dictates things, but 'long neck soprano' seems to be a convention that has stuck. Either way, that's what it is. A traditionally shaped and sized soprano body fitted with a longer neck giving it a scale of about 15.5 inches.

The body here is made of all solid wood. We have a couple of pieces of solid Engelmann Spruce on the top and a couple of pieces of nicely book matched solid Acacia on the back and sides. The spruce is tightly grained and the acacia is warm stripy and they come together in a nicely contrasting pair. I think the 'look' is excellent myself.

Millar SP-210LL Ukulele body

But the thing that every photo draws you too has to be the decoration. The top edge of this is bound with wooden inlays in a rope style. It's a design cue used by several ukuleles, but not quite so boldly as this. This is not just inlaid purfling but shaped pieces of woods (mahogany, maple and ebony) which are bold and look absolutely terrific. The same wooden inlays are also placed around the soundhole and work just as well. I am very taken by this detailing but I do accept that this is very much subjective and some may find it a little too ostentatious! I think its been really well done though and is flawless.

Millar SP-210LL Ukulele decor

The bridge here is really tidily finished and pleasingly small. It's made of rosewood and is a slot style (which I always think suits soprano bodies the best). It's fitted with a bone saddle with a straight top. The whole thing is really clean.

Millar SP-210LL Ukulele bridge

The body is then finished in a very well done satin that doesn't leave the grain too open and feels wonderfully smooth under the fingers yet not artificial. There is a quality to the feel of this which is hard to put into words. It feels hand made but not obviously so.

Inside is extremely tidy with no mess I can see. The braces are tapered and thin and the kerfing is notched. The top at first glance looks thick, but poking a finger inside shows me that the edge is strengthened so that is just a thicker edge, not a thick top overall.

Millar SP-210LL Ukulele inside

The neck wood is not specified but looks like mahogany or sapele and is finished in the same satin. It has a pleasing slightly flattened profile at the nut, but is otherwise an average 35mm in nut width (28mm G to A). I would probably like that a touch wider, but the flatter profile helps. Picky as I am though I spied a wood knot in the side of the wood at the headstock end. It's the sort of thing that makes no difference to how the ukulele plays but little things like that can irritate me.

It's topped with a very dark rosewood fingerboard which looks great. It's also either edge bound in dark wood or stained, hiding the ends of the 18 frets, joined to the body at the 14th. They are extremely well dressed making the neck very comfortable. Pearl inlay dots face out at the 5th, 7th, 10th and a double 12th and thankfully these repeat on the side.

Millar SP-210LL Ukulele fingerboard

Beyond the bone nut is an attractive looking headstock with a similar overall shape to the likes of Mainland and Ohana (so not a real crown as is were). It's faced in more acacia and carries the Millar logo in inlaid pearl which looks really classy.  What really sets it off though is a repeat of the hardwood inlay edge binding as seen on the body which runs around the top edge. It looks superb.

Millar SP-210LL Ukulele headstock

Tuners are another tick in the right box for me as they opted for rear facing planetary tuners. They look like Der Jung brand and have gold metal work and white pearl buttons. Great tuners!

Millar SP-210LL Ukulele tuners

Finishing off are a set of Worth Brown strings and this is yours for a price of £329 in the UK. I had to do something of a double take on that price for reasons I come on to below, but will say from the off that I think that is really keen!

I am finding absolutely nothing wrong with the general build or finish here - it really is excellent in every department. It's also extremely light to hold at 430g and nicely balanced at the 12th length wise (though does have that feature of tumbling back on its length towards your chest I have seen with a few ukuleles before). Still, it's not uncomfortable at all.

The first standout to me on playing this model is the volume and projection. I find it quite remarkable how a small body can punch quite as much as this one. It's astonishing and one of the punchiest ukes I've ever reviewed. Remarkable. How does that even work? Sustain is not bad either which is a relief too as it means it's not 'all mouth and no trousers...'

Millar SP-210LL Ukulele back

The tone is also a pleasant surprise. I usually expect brightness to the extreme when I see a spruce top but something about the matching with acacia gives this a staggeringly good balance of tone. I suspect the scale helps a little with that regard too, but this really does have a mix of everything.  Strummed, the ukulele can be peppy and jangly, but not strident or too biting as there is a warmth coming through too. All the individual notes are clear in the mix and muddiness is not an issue. You could be forgiven thinking this was a richer tone wood like koa in all departments. Fingerpicking is bell like and clear and, noticeably does not taper off up the neck. In fact the clarity and volume are just as punchy up beyond the 12th fret as they are at the nut end. Remarkable also! It has really left me with a big smile on my face.

Get off the fence Baz..... OK.. I can honestly say this is one of the nicest sounding ukuleles I have played for some time. It's an absolute cracker. And that has to bring me on to the price. You see, you may remember me reviewing small workshop Thai ukuleles from brands like The Rebel (the guys who built the Opio ukes) or the Korean Oulcrafts. I am quite certain that the quality of this Millar is on a par with those. In fact, swap the headstock logo and I think you would be hard pressed to tell the difference. But this can be yours for nearly a third of the price of something from those brands. See what I mean when I said I did a double take on the asking price? This is an absolute steal for the money. Sure, it's not a bargain uke and I get that for many this would be a serious decision, but for what you are getting here on build, volume and tone this price is excellent.

Does this one come recommended? You bet it does.  VERY highly.

http://www.millarukulele.com
https://worldofukes.co.uk

UKULELE SPECS ROUNDUP

Name: Millar SP-210LL
Scale: Long neck soprano
Body: Solid Spruce top, solid acacia back and sides
Bridge: Rosewood
Saddle: Bone
Decor: Hardwood rope binding
Finish: Satin
Neck: Unspecified
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Frets: 18, 14 to body
Nut: Bone
Nut width: 35mm, 28mm G to A
Tuners: Der Jung planetary
Strings: Worth Brown
Weight: 430g
Country of Origin: Taiwan
Price: £329

UKULELE PROS

Great build and finish
Light
Staggering volume
Good sustain
Rich broad tone, clear in all departments
Great tuners
Terrific value for money

UKULELE CONS

Rope binding may not be for everyone
Personally would like very slightly wider nut
Slightly unbalanced front to back

UKULELE SCORES

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

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 9.3 out of 10

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3 comments :

  1. Baz, this seems to have been designed with you in mind! They wanted to change your mind about long-necks.

    ReplyDelete
  2. A great review Baz,definitely one to consider.The decoration reminds me on something Spanish or Mexican. From here in N.Yorkshire we can visit Carlisle easily when heading to the Lake District I think this requires a serious visit.

    ReplyDelete
  3. There was a TV documentary filming the Millar workshop and the story of its founders, a father and son pair. The father, Mr HONG Mu, was trained by a Japanese guitar maker in 70s and has been in the instrument industry for over 40 years. The documentary is in Mandarin and Taiwanese but still you can look at the workshop's manufacturing process.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0cYR6Ig5fXA

    ReplyDelete

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