Maestro UT-MR Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

28 Feb 2021

Maestro UT-MR Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

A first for this brand on the Got A Ukulele reviews, and one I have been itching to write about since it arrived. This is the Maestro UT-MR Tenor ukulele.

Maestro UT-MR Tenor Ukulele

Maestro ukuleles are made by the company Maestro Guitars who have been building a range of high level instruments since 2004 in their workshop in Singapore (some question whether they are part made in China, but it matters little to me as I don't like flag waving). Built by a team overseen by a master luthier by the name of Ho Zen Yong, a browse around their website will demonstrate that their instruments are anything but run of the mill. And alongside their guitars they have a range of ukuleles on offer of which World Of Ukes in Carlisle generously loaned me this one to take a look at as part of their 'Island Series'.  I kid you not, part of me felt like this review didn't need many words, just pictures.. but... let's have a look.

Being a high end instrument maker, it will come as no surprise to hear that this is made from all solid tone woods. For the top we have two pieces of German Spruce, nicely quartersawn so that in the right light you will see the two sides contrast in opposites to each other. It's clearly very good wood and had tight, uniform grain. For the back and sides we have two pieces each of Madagascan Rosewood which is deep dark chocolate in colour and contrasts wonderfully with the pale yellow top. I've said it before that this is both a nice combination in looks as it is for tone and it's really nice to see here. I was somewhat surprised they didn't go with a more striking rosewood, or chose to place the grains on an angle for more interest as, dare I say it - it's a little plain? Heck, that really IS nitpicking! But it's not just about the look of the woods for me, the shape is a really modern double bout that I immediately fell for. It has a really rounded more relaxed lower bout shape coupled with a more severe upper bout curve which I think looks superb. 

Maestro UT-MR Tenor Ukulele body

The bridge is specified as being made from ebony, but it's pale ebony if it is. It's a small, extremely tidy tie bar style with tapered sides. Sitting in that is an unspecified saddle which I am assuming is bone. If I have a gripe it's the lighter colour of the ebony compared to some on the Maestro website. I'd like this to match the darkness of the ebony on the fingerboard myself. String spacing here is 45mm

Maestro UT-MR Tenor Ukulele bridge

When it comes to decor there is a lot to get through on this model, and not just on the body. Though I don't mean to say that it's my usual bugbear of design elements that don't hang together, because it's all really sympathetic with itself. Around the top and back are strips of rosewood edge binding complemented by very thin pale wood purfling stripes. These also segment the two side pieces at the base and look really classy. On the back of this example is a thin strip of darker wood in the joint between the two back sides. It's not edged and, if I am honest, looks a little lost on the already dark back and really isn't needed. Looking on the Maestro site, it doesn't appear on their example, so maybe this is a one off.  Elsewhere on the body we have a sound hole ring in padauk edged in pearl / abalone pieces which is very well done and also works with the rest of the instrument without looking too glitzy. Interestingly this too doesn't appear on the Maestro website example. On the side is a sound port. I'm in two minds about them to be honest, but not in a negative way. For me, I don't ever feel like I miss one if it is not there, but certainly have no issue when they are. A nice feature, but not essential.  This example is really neat and also has a strengthening piece around the edge.  On the bottom bout we have a dark wood (rosewood? ebony?) arm rest bevel which again is both nicely done and does not jar in contrast like some I have seen. 

Maestro UT-MR Tenor Ukulele decor

Finishing off the body is a gloss finish that deserves it's own paragraph. This is a wonderful gloss and certainly one of the better ones I have seen. It's deep in shine without feeling thick or tacky. It really does bring the look of the wood grain to the fore and is very well applied in every area. I would point out that there are some very slight open grain pores visible in the back, but I don't mind that so much as it shows the finish is not glooped on too thickly.

Inside is as tidy as the outside with thin braces and, surprisingly, un-notched bent kerfing. The top is braced vertically and interestingly there is no bridge plate with support I presume coming from the three braces that run down over this area. They have also gone with the Kanile'a style of drilling through a couple of the top braces to lose weight but keep stability. It's all very tidy in here and the two glue spots you can see are from where the dowels were placed to align the bridge plate accurately.

Maestro UT-MR Ukulele inside

Maestro UT-MR Ukulele inside braces

Moving up to the neck, this is made from Khaya Mahogany from Africa and is in three pieces though it's hard to spot the joints at the heel and headstock. It's also finished in satin which will please people who don't like the gloss feel on a neck. It tapers to a shallow profile and a roomy 37mm nut width (30mm G to A) together with some carving to maintain strength where it moves to the headstock without having a clumsy change in shaping. Talking of strength, Maestro advise that the neck is strengthened with carbon fibre rods internally to help avoid bending over the long term.

Topping this is an ebony fingerboard which is wonderfully dark and uniform. Whilst there is nothing to suggest so on the Maestro website, my eye tells me there is a very slight radius to it. It might be an optical illusion but it looks like it to me though it is slight. It's edge bound in rosewood hiding the 19 frets joined at the 14th. There are no sharp edges here. You don't get any outward facing fret dots, but rather an inlay of Koi Carp /  Fish around where the neck meets the body. Regular readers will be assuming 'oh Baz hates these', but I am actually kind of drawn to it. Heck I like it. It's extremely neatly done, different and doesn't take over the uke. The colours also work well with the sound hole ring. For those worrying about finding position, thankfully there are side dots at the 5th, 7th and a double 12th.

Maestro UT-MR Tenor Ukulele neck


Maestro UT-MR Tenor Ukulele fish inlay

Beyond the nut is a slim and attractive headstock shape with a darker wood face plate that doesn't quite go to the edges creating a staggered tier effect much like on the Godin Multiuke. I really like the look of it. There is though, a touch of a flaw in the grain next to the inlaid abalone Maestro logo. it looks like polish that was not buffed out but is under the gloss so will be permanent. It's a minor issue and in some lights hard to catch at all. You might see it on the video and pics though, so it would be wrong for me to not mention it.

Maestro UT-MR Tenor Ukulele headstock

The tuners are wonderful Grover open gears so no complaints from me at all. The hardware is gold and the buttons small black ovals. These work wonderfully.

Maestro UT-MR Tenor Ukulele tuners

Completing the deal are strings that Maestro supply (Aquila) but Matt at World Of Ukes re-strings these with his clear fluorocarbon which he thinks gets more out of it. You also get a wonderfully made substantial hard case with plush interior, tough antique metalwork and the Maestro makers plate riveted to the side (nice!). And that comes in at the sort of higher end prices we are seeing from China for this level of build, though actually better value than many. It's on at £1,099. That comes in cheaper than the regular Moon Bird, which will be what most people are pegging it against, and a lot cheaper than something like the aNueNue Lion. Whenever I review a ukulele at this level some people will say 'that's far too much', but remember that everything is relative. The quality of the build here is plain to see - it's an extremely special ukulele and not something that has been rolled out on a production line next to Kala's and Ohana's... 

Maestro UT-MR Tenor Ukulele case

Anyway - looks and build are only part of the story, so let's have a play. First up, it's a delight to hold. The weight is not too great at 730g and it's nicely balanced. The neck is supremely comfortable - a combination of the satin finish, the slight radius and the generous width. A joy to play. 

The volume here quite staggering, not just on account of the side port, but it's like a cannon anyway when played with some force. Certainly one of the loudest tenor ukuleles I have played when you need it to be. Sustain too is very good indeed meaning expressing fingerpicked play with be a lot of fun. Boy it's lively.

Tone wise the first thing that struck me was the superb clarity of the sound. Every string is distinct in the mix giving you a very precise tone. Strum the thing and it shimmers as it resonates with itself and it plays well both quietly and more firmly. It's incredibly responsive and an instrument totally in tune with itself. The volume power and the ability to vary that with strums because of the response means it works very well for strumming variety and adding accents and colour to your playing. A fun instrument to strum as well as one that makes a nice sound!

Fingerpicking really shines too as the clarity and sustain really help and give it a bell like tone that cuts through without any notes falling away or getting lost in the piece. It's also clear and loud right the way up the neck at the very highest notes which is a great attribute. As I say - responsive indeed. Overall, there is certainly a brightness here from the spruce which is to be expected, but the tone is really nicely balanced off by the darker sounding back and side woods and the overall construction. It's just where you want the tone to be. This is a terrific sounding ukulele that really has put a smile on my face, on both looks and sound.


Maestro UT-MR Tenor Ukulele back

All in all, it's a delight to feature yet another great build from the far east. I will never understand the uke buyers who automatically reject this point of origin on the assumption that everything is cheap and nasty. Those eyes need opening as this is not a new development and you would be crazy to ignore just how good things are getting from this part of the world. On the basis of this Maestro model at least, we have another contender at the big table that absolutely should be part of any discerning buyers shortlist.

A terrific ukulele.



UKULELE SPECS ROUNDUP

Model: Maestro UT-MR
Scale: Tenor
Body: Solid German spruce top, solid Madagascan rosewood back and sides
Bridge: Ebony, tie bar
Saddle: Unspecified, straight topped
String spacing at saddle: 45mm
Finish: Gloss
Neck: Khaya Mahogany
Fingerboard: Ebony
Frets: 19, 14 to body
Nut: Unspecified
Nut width: 37mm (30mm G to A)
Tuners: Grover open gears
Strings: (from World Of Ukes at least) Clarity Fluorocarbon
Extras: Branded hard case
Country of origin: Singapore / China
Weight: 730g
Price: £1099


UKULELE PROS

Superb build
Dreamy body shape
Wonderful gloss finish
Extremely comfortable neck
Incredible clarity of tone
Great mix of tone across the range from treble to bass
Superb volume and good sustain
Wonderful hard case
Fair price

UKULELE CONS

Very minor mark in headstock finish
Shame the bridge wood is not darker
Is the back stripe needed?



UKULELE SCORES

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

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 9.3 out of 10


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2 comments :

  1. Nice looking uke, lots of nice details. Personally, I'm a fan of anything with koi on it. I'd love to hear how it sounds with low g. German spruce and rosewood is such a good combo.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh what a lovely thing! Thanks for showing us, Baz (and Matt).

    ReplyDelete

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