Noah 8 String Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

21 Feb 2021

Noah 8 String Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

It's always an enjoyable ukulele review day when a model from Noah ukuleles comes my way. And this is a first for me in this flavour. This is the Noah 8 string Concert Ukulele.

Noah 8 string concert ukulele

Noah are the UK based brand set up by Matt Cohen who, for many years now, has used the contacts he built when living in Vietnam to set up a ukulele business that has instruments made by a luthier over there to his specifications. So these are hand made instruments, from a small workshop in Vietnam, but put to market (largely) in the UK. I've looked at lots and always liked the concept and the models. They've also steadily improved over the years. I've never looked at an eight string from them though, and in fact, Got A Ukulele is too light on this popular style of ukulele. This is something of an unusual one as most 8 string ukes you will see tend to be in tenor scale. This is a concert.

There's no reason why an 8 string should not be in concert scale though, but Matt explains it came about via a custom order (he does those too) from a buyer, and he liked the idea so decided to make more of them. 

Eight string ukuleles, for those not in the know, have additional strings to the normal four, designed to be played exactly the same way. People think they are harder to play or have more fingerings to worry about, but that is just not true. That is because the extra four strings are paired with the regular four, very close together rather than being extra strings to played separately. It's much the same as the way a mandolin works or a 12 string guitar. They create a much fuller, richer sound on account of the extra strings in the mix, but the tuning is, for all intents and purposes, exactly the same. So is the way you play it, the chord shapes the lot. Don't be under the misunderstanding that this is a whole different instrument with extra fingerings to worry about - it's not. I come on to how this one is tuned a little later in the review.

Noah 8 string concert ukulele body

Like all Noah ukuleles, this is hand made from all solid tone woods. In this case it's made from all solid spruce on the top and all solid mahogany for the back and sides. The spruce here is particularly pretty with the usual straight tight grain pattern, but you may notice some hints of flaming and shimmer in the lower bout giving this one a little more interest than your regular spruce wood. The two piece back and sides are particularly attractive here and nicely matched. On the back that matching is set on a V giving a wonderful fan effect in the deep red / orange colouring that shimmers in the light. It's a very pretty combination of woods.

The bridge is a tie bar style without overly large side wings made from Vietnamese Gō gō mật hardwood. One day I will learn to pronounce that for the video, but today is not that day... Anyway, it's very tidily done and fitted with a straight topped bone saddle. String spacing from the outer strings is a broad 50mm.

Noah 8 string concert ukulele brige

Decoration comes in the form of pale maple edge binding to the top, back and tail stripe, complemented by thin black and white purfling around the top and back edges. For the soundhole you get an abalone ring. Yes, regular readers would know that I would like consistency in decor and I am not a fan of abalone, but I say that with every Noah ukulele, and it is not harming his sales! Finishing off the body on this is a gloss finish, although you can also choose satin if you wish for no difference in price. I've reviewed a lot of Noah ukuleles over the years and always say that they have little finish foibles that show you they are fully hand made, and not a robotic factory finish. I must say though that recent examples have tidied up greatly and this follows that path. In the body I can find one very minor mark in the tail binding and a slight divot in the upper bout and that is about it.  The gloss on the top is a little heavy around the end of the fingerboard though and might look tidier in a satin finish. That's a minor complaint though and i've always said that I don't mind little foibles in a ukulele of this price and origin.

Noah 8 string concert ukulele decor

Inside is pretty tidy with one or two ugly wood shavings but I have seen much worse. The kerfing is notched and the top bracing runs vertically from soundhole to tail. Interestingly there is no bridge plate, but I presume the vertical braces are providing the strength at the lower bout.

Noah 8 string concert ukulele inside

The neck is made of maple, though a much darker maple and is in three pieces. It has a single stack in the heel and an extremely well hidden scarf joint up near the headstock. You also get a maple heel cap to set it off. It's finished in gloss and is certainly one of the tidiest necks i've yet seen on a Noah. It is glossed though and I would prefer satin, even if I chose the gloss body.  It's chunky at the nut, though that is more down to the extra width needed for the paired strings rather than profile. It actually has a slightly flattened back profile which is nice. At the nut it measures a roomy 41mm with about 35mm from the outer strings. Of course with eight of the things you need this extra room to make the nut work and the strings not buzz against each other. 

Topping the neck is a fingerboard of more Gō gō mật which is uniformly dark and clearly in very good condition. Like other Noah ukuleles you can see some luthiers marks in the finish, but I rather like that hand made feel. The fingerboard has a nice simple curved end shape and is also edge bound with a darker wood to hide the fret ends. You get 16 of those joined at the 12th and they are all really skinny and have no sharp edges. It must be said that 8 strings do take a bit more fretting effort on the fingers, so seeing skinny frets here is a tick in the right box for me on playability. Fret markers face out with pearl dots at the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 10th and a double 12th. These are repeated with small white side dots too.

Noah 8 string concert ukulele neck

Beyond the nut is a headstock style that isn't essential to, but tends to be more common on 8 strings as it's a slot style. It's generally pretty tidy save for some excess polish in the slots (easily removed) and is faced in mahogany. The Noah logo is inlaid in pearl at the top though is a little scruffy on the edges.  I will re-iterate that point though that slot heads are not essential for an 8 string. I do think that on this smaller body scale it looks a little out of proportion and would prefer a regular headstock.


Tuners are unbranded side mounted gears on plates holding four each side. They come with small pearl buttons and look the part. What is odd is that on the treble side the main gears are chrome / steel in colour but on the bass side they are brass. I am not fully convinced that is deliberate and it would be hard for me to complain, but I have to mention it. Two tone! Something else that I only noticed when recording the video is there is a screw missing from one of the gears. That's clearly something that has gone missing in transit and I am not adjusting the score, but it shouldn't happen. Thankfully I know Matt's after sales service is decent and I am sure he would post out a spare screw!

Noah 8 string concert ukulele tuners

Like all Noah ukuleles it comes with a padded gig bag, and this one also with a tail strap button. We need a separate word on strings here though.  This model comes with an 8 string GHS Lili'u set that uses black nylon for 7 of the strings and a wound low G on the fourth course. As I referred to above, 8 strings can be tuned in a variety of different ways depending on the string set you have chosen. There are no rules, no rights and wrongs, it's up to you. This one though comes in a traditional tuning method that uses octaves on courses 3 and 4 and unison pairs on courses 1 and 2. That is to say that the E and A string courses have a pair of strings both tuned to the same octave A and E notes (identical notes) whereas the G and C courses have pairs of strings tuned an octave apart (so low G and high G, and low C and high C). This method extenuates the lower notes in the mix, but as I say is not a hard and fast method of tuning. If you don't like this method - change the strings. Some people like the strings in all unison in Taropatch style. It's up to you. Therefore, the review score takes no account of the tuning choice here, but I will say that I am not the biggest fan of either nylon strings or wound strings used here. The world is your stringy oyster though - easily changed, even if it does take twice as long for eight of them!!

And for that package you are looking at a price of £279 with free shipping within the UK. Whenever I review a Noah some people complain 'oh they are not available here'... but that is not true. Matt can ship these worldwide, but just asks that you get in touch for a shipping quote. It's a decent enough price for something hand made and all solid, but I do need to compare it to regular Noah concert ukulele, for which it is quite a bit more expensive. I get that there is a bit more work in the nut and saddle to account for extra strings, but it's not all that much is it? Still, it gets a good overall price score, though I just think the regular concerts are better value.

Noah 8 string concert ukulele back

So it's all very positive so far. It's well put together and despite some very minor finish spots is one of the more tidy Noah ukuleles I have seen. It's not too heavy either at 680g and despite all that extra hardware at the headstock remains well balanced in the hands. 

With any eight string, playing it requires tuning it. No, that isn't the most obvious statement of the century, but eight string owners will know what I am getting at. It naturally takes more time and because of the pairing of strings, it's essential you are accurate and the strings are tuned identically. The notes really do need to match or you will create a discordant 'warble' when the strings are played as a pair. Forgive my delays in the video review on that score!

Volume is very good here, and that's not just on account of the extra four strings. It's clearly good volume instrument anyway, as all other Noah's have been for me. Sustain is also extremely good with a long ring that extenuates the shimmery sound of the eight and a pleasing vibration into the chest. Good news so far. 

The tone is an awful lot of fun - that's what 8 strings do.  I have to say with 8 strings though, they don't really suit ALL types of music and songs, but there are some that just really work well with them. This didn't disappoint me and has a richness, peppyness and bright jangle to the strummed tone that is really nice to listen to. The string pairings work well here with both bass and singing highs coming through (even though I do NOT like the feel of the strings, i'd want more tension).  It's certainly on the brighter side and I put that partly down to the scale as much as the spruce, but if you are looking for a woodier darker tone maybe this is not your eight string. Saying that, if you are looking for a woodier darker tone, you probably wouldn't be buying a spruce ukulele either, so that seems an overly obvious statement! 

You will note that some strums sound a bit different because of that mix of extra lows and highs. In fact you get markedly different sounds strumming an eight string up and down, but hey, that's all part of the charm and you can change the way songs sound just by how and where you hit the strings. Fingerpicking is crystal clear and bell like and, despite the naysayers, perfectly possible to play that way with care. I must admit though, these shine best when strummed. I really do like the tone here, but then I have to score it based on how versatile it is. Naturally 8 strings are a bit narrower in usage. Unless you are spending serious dough, it's also unusual for them to sound as clear as regular 4 string ukes. You kind of need to know what you are getting. Those who like them though, I am sure will like this.

OK, one or two foibles in the finish and I don't like the strings, but all in all this is yet another nice instrument from Noah. Yes it's more cost than the regular concert and I have to adjust the score to reflect that, but it's still good value in and of itself. Remember this is a hand made all solid wood instrument, not a factory made laminate. Much to like here and well worth your attention. It's all about that jangle!


UKULELE SPECS ROUNDUP

Model: Noah 8 String
Scale: Concert
Body: Solid spruce top, solid mahogany back and sides
Bridge: Gō gō mật
Saddle: Bone
Saddle spacing: 50mm
Neck: Maple
Fingerboard: Gō gō mật 
Frets: 16, 12 to body
Nut: Bone
Nut width: 41mm, 35mm outer G to outer A
Tuners: Unbranded side mounted gears
Strings: GHS 8 string set
Extras: Padded bag, strap button
Weight: 680g
Country of origin: Vietnam
Price: £279

UKULELE PROS

Very good build
Beautiful wood combination, particularly the back
Tidy small bridge
Comfortable neck
Well balanced
Good volume and sustain
Rich shimmery tone like an 8 string should be!

UKULELE CONS

Minor finish flaws
Where's me tuner screw??
Odd mismatch on tuners
Would change strings

UKULELE SCORES


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

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 8.8 out of 10

UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW



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7 comments :

  1. Hi Baz, A unusual question, is there such a thing as a LOW "E" & LOW "A" string.??... You say on the 8 string Uke it has a LOW "G" & LOW "C".... Regards,

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    Replies
    1. Don't know of any packs that come that way myself, but it's certainly do-able. Just a case of finding the right gauge (thicker) string for the E and A.

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    2. I've tuned my 8 string tenor with the G strings in unison and the A in octaves. I simply switched the low G string for one of the A strings as the gauge of the high G & A strings is virtually the same anyway. So the Low G is a low A. I'm using worth CT clears, btw so no wound strings.

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    3. Ken Middleton sells strings for cuatro tuning with a low a string. He would probably also do a custom set with low e and a string...

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  2. Well that's a first for me - never seen an 8 string concert before - trust Noah to go with something like that. Wouldn't have thought I'd like the idea (once had an 8 string tenor which sounded good but didn't play it enough to keep) but this does sound really nice. My only issue would be that that big slotted headstock just doesn't look right on a concert size ukulele. Would you keep this one?

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  3. Sounds like a duet of one! Lovely.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Not a million miles away from my charango which I love to bits

    ReplyDelete

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