Flight Fireball EQ-A Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

13 Sept 2020

Flight Fireball EQ-A Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

It sometimes seems like I need to calm down with the number of Flight Ukuleles appearing on the reviews page, but here is another one for you This is the new Fireball EQ-A Tenor Ukulele.

Flight Fireball Tenor Ukulele

I say 'calm down' because there have been quite a few of them over the years. Saying that, it's not been a chore because with each model they send over to me the quality is always very good. And of course, you can't blame a brand for having a high output! Something is paying off beyond my thoughts though because since the days of first looking at Flight, where they were limited in availability in the UK and the US other than ordering direct, the specialist ukulele stores have started to recognise how good their output has been, and I am now seeing them appearing in places like Uke Republic in the USA and Southern Ukulele Store and The Uke Room in the UK. In fact this one has been lent to me by Flight and will be winging its way to one of those stores next! As you will know by now, Flight are a family brand from Slovenia who (mainly) sell models made in China. What they have always demonstrated to me though is an ability to improve new models as they come out.

The Fireball is a brand new offering and I 'think' is now top of the line in the ever expanding Flight range. It sits in their 'Royal' series of models alongside ukes like the Mustang and Phantom and shares the same headstock look as those. It's an all solid wood ukulele made from mango, two pieces on the book-matched top, curved back and sides (which comes with a tail stripe). The shape of the ukulele is also a modern curvy outline which I very much like. Mango is a sustainable wood with a mellow tone similar to mahogany, but with a bit more richness often compared to acacia. The top here has some nice touches of flame going on and a pleasing orange hue, but you will note something that always puts me off mango - the tendency for some of the grain patches to look almost black and stained. It's the case here and whilst many people love it for the interest it provides. I always think it looks like I had an accident with an ink pen and couldn't rub it off. This is purely subjective on my part of course and you can't 'blame the wood' (plus other examples will, of course, differ). Subjectivity is something that very oddly seems to rile some people. (These reviews share lots of personal opinions, I always point them out and, of course, you are not obliged to agree with them! A review without any subjective views would surely just be a list of specs and a price...)

Flight Fireball Tenor Ukulele body

The bridge here is made from rosewood, cut in a shape that reminds me of Taylor guitars. It's a pin bridge fitted with extremely attractive black pins with red beads set in a thin gold edging on the tops. I love little details like this and the red colour ties in with some another colour cue we will come on to. The bridge plate itself is fitted with a compensated top bone saddle and the whole thing is extremely tidy. The string spacing here is 40mm.

Flight Fireball Tenor Ukulele bridge

Aside from the stripe in the tail, the decoration here is largely limited to the top of the uke. The top edge is bound with a black material, wrongly listed in some stores as 'blackwood', because it's actually died maple. Along the top edge of the lower bout this widens into a very tidy comfort edge. The black continues with a bold sound-hole circle and an extremely nicely done scalloped cutaway in the top shoulder. I love the way the black contrasts with the paler body and it gives it an extremely classy look. Along with the top binding, the top and bottom edges are also chamfered leaving a very comfortable smooth edge all around the ukulele and not just on the comfort edge.

Flight Fireball Tenor Ukulele decor

Elsewhere on the body you get a side sound port, but not a regular circle or oval, rather a gemstone / flower type shape cut into the body in multiple sections. It's very attractive. You will also spy an active pickup system made by Double (the people behind the Soundwave - note this is NOT a transacoustic, it's a regular pickup. Despite not going for active systems myself, it's nice to see the sound hole mounted controls (rather than a chunky panel on the side), the use of cell batteries (to reduce weight, though of course the controls still add weight) and a base mounted jack socket that doubles as a strap button in the stronger tail block. If pushed to go with an active system, this is how I would take it. Heck, I own a Gibson acoustic guitar that has a pickup fitted in the same place so I can hardly complain. Still.. that's a guitar. If the Fireball was available without a pickup I think I'd go for that one myself, and this one is probably easily removed.

The body is then glossed with a mirror finish which is very well done and, despite me looking carefully, has no flaws I can find. It really does make the contrast between the decor and the mango 'pop' and stand out. Nice.

Inside is very tidy with notched linings and thin braces. The top lower bout is braced from the sound hole to tail and the cross braces have holes drilled through them to reduce weight whilst keeping strength very much like Kanile'a.

Flight Fireball Tenor Ukulele inside


The neck is made from African mahogany with a joint at the heel and headstock and also along its length to create a black 'skunk stripe' which is I find very attractive. It's also finished in satin to get away from the grippy feel that some glosses can impart on the neck. It's rounded at the nut profile, but hardly a broom handle and has a comfortable 38mm nut width with 30mm from G to A.


It is topped with a rosewood fingerboard which is uniformly dark and looks to be in great condition. It seems to be edge bound with darker wood which hides the ends of the 19 frets (14 to the body) and is curved around the top of the soundhole at the end. There are absolutely no sharp ends here. I love the offset look of the outward facing position dots at the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th and 15th which give it a quirky finish. Thankfully these are repeated with dots on the side too.

Flight Fireball Tenor Ukulele neck

Beyond the bone nut is an open frame headstock which is very similar to some others I have seen before. I suppose the idea most obviously harks back to the Flea and Fluke ukulele, but it also reminds me of the headstocks on the Mr Mai instruments. Looking at them closely though the shaping is very subtly different, so I think this is more of a case of an idea being repeated rather than the same production line. The Flight logo is set in the top face in pearl, but looks a little lost to my eyes. I wonder if it would look better in black?

Flight Fireball Tenor Ukulele headstock


Black colouring repeats with the side mounted rear facing geared tuner branded Prowel. The majority of the parts are jet black, but the gears and peg post stem are pleasingly in gold which provides a nice contrast. They look great.

Flight Fireball Tenor Ukulele tuners


Completing your package are Worth Brown strings and a really nice quality red padded gig bag with embroidered Flight logo. Whether the red on the pins links to this deliberately or by happy accident I don't know, but it works for me. In the right light they match the strings too! And that comes in at a price of €599. As I said, that's top of the line for Flight and their first foray (to my knowledge) up to this sort of price level. Still, it doesn't stand out as a price and puts it in the category of several other brands, including Pono of course. There is clearly a market at this level.

Throughout this ukulele has been put together very well and I can find no flaws in the general build, the joints or the finish. It feels high quality. The weight comes in at 735g which is a touch hefty (no doubt assisted by the pickup). It also makes it very slightly (and I stress 'slightly') body heavy, but it's not wholly bad.

Flight Fireball Tenor Ukulele back

The volume it produces is excellent and I have no complaints on that score - this projects very well. Sustain is very good too and hangs about in a way that allows you to add some expression to picked notes.

The mix of mellow and rich that mango is known for really comes through in the strumming. It allows the ukulele to create a peppy, bouncy, jangly tone which is not one dimensional or too brittle. There's a warmth that comes through which balances it off into a very nice rounded tone. The notes stay clear in the mix, but do also harmonise with themselves which is very nice.

Fingerpicked the same applies and whilst there is zing there is a mellow edge particularly from the lower notes which makes it sound very pleasant. I did find that the mango was more responsive to heavier strumming though and fingerpicking needing more 'digging in' to make it really speak, but that's a minor complaint - it still sounds great.

Flight Fireball Tenor Ukulele cutaway

All in all Flight have done it yet again for me. When I think of the first basic laminates from Flight I looked at years ago, the difference is staggering now. This is clearly well thought out, well built and well finished ukulele that only has very small (and personal) gripes for me. The tone is very pretty indeed and despite sitting against some stiff competition from the likes of Pono I think it holds its own perfectly well. For that reason, it really should be on your shortlist. Highly recommended.

These are shortly to be hitting shops, but being so new supplies my be variable. Flight recommend you contact them direct with your location for advice on where best to buy one.

https://flightmusic.com/product/flight-fireball-eq-a-tenor-ukulele/

And I believe you will get 10% off at MusicRoom if you use the code GOTAUKULELE on the checkout.

https://www.musicroom.com/product/almvicteq/flight-victeq-victoria-tenor-electro-ukulele.aspx

UKULELE SPECS ROUND UP

Name: Flight Fireball EQ-A
Scale: Tenor
Body: Solid Mango
Bridge: Rosewood, pin bridge
Saddle: Compensated bone
String spacing at bridge: 40mm
Decor: Dyed black maple binding, comfort edge, soundhole, scalloped cutaway and side sound port
Finish: Gloss
Neck: African mahogany, satin
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Frets: 19, 14 to body
Nut: Bone
Nut Width: 38mm (30mm G to A)
Tuners: Prowel black open gears
Strings: Worth Brown
Extras: Double pickup system, gig bag
Weight: 735g
Country of Origin: China
Price: €599


UKULELE PROS

Very classy decor
Great build and gloss finish
Comfortable neck
Great volume
Good sustain
Mellow tone with richness, particularly when strummed.
Fair price

UKULELE CONS

I'd take no pickup
Mango is not a wood for me (personally!)
Slightly hefty weight


UKULELE SCORES

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

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 9.1 out of 10

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