Enya Feather Solid Mahogany Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

10 Apr 2021

Enya Feather Solid Mahogany Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

Back again with a brand that always seem to put a smile on my face. This is the much talked about Feather Solid Mahogany Tenor from Enya.

Enya Feather Mahogany Tenor Ukulele

I first came across Enya in about 2017 when they launched the HPL models that I really rather liked. I was actually in two minds about them as a brand as at that point they fell firmly in the 'Amazon only' category for buyers in the west at least. What's impressed me with them though is how they have grown and are now being carried by some of the ukulele stores I hold in the highest regard. That says a great deal about the brand for stores to put their faith in them, and is more than can be said for some other Amazon brands (naming no names..). I suppose though it was the Nova U plastic / carbon composite concerts that really created the biggest buzz for not a lot of money. This one moves to the more serious end of the price scale, and whilst some had seen my early photos and thought this was part of the Nova line, it's not - this is made from all wood and the similarity is just in the shape. In fact it's actually one of a pair of instruments made from wood, but using the same kind of Les Paul shape. The other is the more expensive E6 Tenor, made from all solid flamed maple, whereas this is made from all solid mahogany.

Enya Feather Mahogany Tenor Ukulele body

Let's get into the details. So yes, wood, not plastic composite, but carved on a CNC machine to the same shape and contours as the Nova. It could be said that the use of the term 'solid mahogany' is a little misleading as this this not made in the same way as a regular wooden uke. It IS made from solid wood, but the back and sides of the body and the neck to the back of the headstock are actually routed out of a block of wood to create an 'ashtray' of solid wood onto which a top is dropped on the body and a fingerboard on the neck. If anything it's more akin to the construction used by Pete Mai in some of his Bonanza ukuleles. I'm certainly not against it and think it's rather clever. See the image below taken from the Enya website which shows the base body construction.

enya feather construction
Credit: Enya Music


Looking more closely it looks like the top pieces are a more traditional pair of wood sheets to close the sound chamber. The beauty of this sort of construction is rather like that with an electric guitar - you can be more creative with your shaping and not be constrained by the usual ukulele build system. As such it has the same flowing contoured curves and chamfer on the back of the cutaway and is thin on the body like the Nova. You also get a chamfered arm rest on the top of the lower bout for arm comfort. It's subtle and, thankfully, not a garish colour as it is finished in black. I like how it blends with the dark blue here.

The bridge is made from richlite and despite looking like a through body it's actually a slot bridge where you tie large enough knots in the end, pop them in the holes and pull taut. I believe the first incarnations of these were through body but the process of fishing them out of the tiny soundholes was proving a hassle. This is a sensible change. It's really tidy and low profile if a little large in footprint. It does kind of melt in with the look of the uke though. The saddle looks like it is made from bone and is compensated. Spacing here is 41mm.

Enya Feather Mahogany Tenor Ukulele bridge

The front soundholes are the Enya 'flame' type logo as are found on the Nova U, and like the Nova you also get a side sound port on the upper shoulder.

The finish here is in a deep blue, but it also comes in a 'natural' mahogany or black.  On top of that is a gloss finish that really makes the grain shimmer and glow. To be fair, the wood on the E6 version is more interesting to look at as it has a flame to the maple, but this is hardly ugly. In fact I think it's beautiful and glows in the right light.

And also like some variants of the Nova this comes with a transacoustic pickup system made by Double. As I said in my review of the Flight Diana Soundwave Tenor Ukulele (of which this is the same tech), whilst I don't tend to go for active systems, I can live with the controls on this because of what it does. This allows you to apply effects (reverb, chorus, delay) to your ACOUSTIC sound as well as your plugged in tone. It does that through an actuator mounted inside which applies your chosen effect to the vibration of the body itself. This is actually pretty much identical to the system on the Flight, albeit with a different control panel. You also don't need to worry about batteries here as it is rechargeable via a mini USB socket on the base next to the jack socket output.  We'll come on to how it works later on, but I do think they are a lot of fun.

Enya Feather Mahogany Tenor Ukulele transacoustic system


The neck is integral to the body as you can see above, so is also made from mahogany. The profile at the nut is rounded but slightly squashed and a very roomy 38mm wide with 30mm from G to A.  I previously commented that I found the Nova U a little too narrow for my hands so this is a welcome improvement.

Topping that is a fretboard made of Richlite composite decorated with (very well done) feather inlays down the neck. I don't go in for inlaid fretboards myself, but this is a lot less decoration than on the E6 and  I prefer it for that. The Richlite is also the shiny variety that I saw on the Blackbird Clara Concert Ukulele so is a bit of a fingerprint magnet. I know that Enya use a satin Richlite on some other ukuleles, and indeed on the bridge plate here so I think it would be nice for them to offer the option of 'either / or' here as, I believe, Blackbird do. I'd prefer a satin if it was made available. Still it is extremely tidy and a nice sustainable material to use that needs no conditioning or real care. You have 18 frets joined at the 13th on that upper left shoulder. Position dots are not used on the fingerboard itself as they'd be confused by the feathers, but you have side dots at the 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th and 15th. The sides are edge bound hiding the fret ends and there are no sharp edges at all.

Enya Feather Mahogany Tenor Ukulele fingerboard

Beyond the bone nut is the same Enya headstock shape as seen on many of their instruments, and faced in piano black which looks classy. The Enya logo is inlaid in pearl. 

Enya Feather Mahogany Tenor Ukulele headstock

The tuners are also similar to others used by Enya and are Enya branded gold sealed gears with orangey agate type buttons. 

Enya Feather Mahogany Tenor Ukulele tuners

Finishing off the package are a set of D'Addario Titanium strings (nice to see a move away from the Enya brand strings which I never usually like), a couple of strap buttons and a really nicely made gig bag with internal neck rest). Price wise though, this is not the Enya for those who collect their sub £100 instruments as this has a retail on their site of $599.  In the UK they are on Amazon at £479, but you will need to pay another £50 for postage as they come from China. Whilst that's a fair bit of money, I actually still think it's pretty keen for the level of finish and quality of construction here. This is NOT made in a plastic mould. Still, whilst I don't think it's fair to compare pricing to the Nova U, it is still quite a bit more than the Enya M6 wooden tenor with a pickup which currently sell for £227 ex shipping (admittedly without the transacoustic system). Still, the question is whether this is worth the price for the build quality. I would say it is.


Enya Feather Mahogany Tenor Ukulele back

Let's get down to having a play. As you will tell from the comments above I haven't found anything that troubles me about it bar the shiny fingerboard (and even that didn't put me off the Blackbird Clara). It's extremely well put together in all departments and has killer looks.  To hold it almost doesn't feel like a tenor despite it having a true tenor scale length of 17 inches. The small body and thin profile make it very comfortable to hold even without a strap, and the lack of any harsh or sharp edges only adds to that.  It seems unfair to compare the weight to other tenors, but it does feel substantial here and clocks in at 855g. That's not to say it's uncomfortable though as the dimensions really make if feel less.

So.. routed body, thin profile, unconventional build... I freely admit that before I played it I thought this was going to be one of those semi acoustic instruments that really only make sense when you plug it in (remember the Epiphone Les Paul ukulele?). It must be said that it's not the loudest tenor out there yet it still has fairly decent acoustic volume and feels free and responsive to play. It surprised me. These things can be deceptive so I played some firm strums on it into a decibel meter and got exactly the same peaks as on the aNueNue UC10 Colour Concert I reviewed recently. That aNueNue packs a punch so maybe I am doing this a disservice.  Sustain, again, is not the longest I've heard but not too shabby either. Put simply, it works nicely as an acoustic.

The tone here is really pretty I think. It's a bright chimey little thing and kind of more concert sounding to me, though I don't mean that in a bad way. The notes in strummed chords all come through clearly with no hint of muddiness and it's easy to get a pleasing harmonic jangle going with faster strums. The picked tone is particularly nice I think and has that music box type zing to the notes. It's also nice to note how the volume holds up played high up the neck too. As I said, responsive. Where I think the volume at first made me think it was quiet (but isn't) is the smaller body gives it a more closed in feel that is, as I say, more reminiscent of concerts than tenors. I guess that stands to reason and isn't a complaint, more an observation. 

Enya Feather Mahogany Tenor Ukulele jack socket

And then of course you have the transacoustic system. They are huge fun to noodle with and this sounds very much like the acoustic effects on the Flight ukuleles. The reverb and delay are the ones for me and are great for messing around with. I didn't like the chorus effect so much on the Flights as it was too spacey for me, and here it's extremely subtle to the point you really have to listen for it as it's so slight. In fact, I have to say that the transacoustic effects on the unplugged tone are much less obvious and prominent here all round than on the Flight ukes. Maybe that's down to the way the body is made but they don't have the same punch and clarity. I'm not sure that's a criticism, but it has to be noted.

But of course those effects can also be applied to the output into an amplifier, and here they are much more obvious which stands to reason. Plugged in I think it sounds great and, of course you can play around with your EQ and other effects to your hearts content. It shines here regardless of effects though and because the looks of it mean that I think this would make a mean stage performance ukulele. You don't HAVE to keep them switched on!

Enya Feather Mahogany Tenor Ukulele sound port

All in all I am very taken with this instrument. The build and finishing are excellent and really the only small negative for me is that shiny fingerboard. The looks are stunning and it really surprised me for having life acoustically considering the construction. No, it doesn't really sound like a tenor I suppose, but it plays like one. Aside from all that I really admire Enya for disrupting the usual run of the mill ukulele world with things like this. They just get better and better.  I love it!

Highly recommended!



UKULELE SPECS ROUNDUP

Model: Enya Feather Mahogany
Scale: Tenor
Body: All solid routed mahogany 
Bridge: Richlite
Saddle: Bone
Saddle spacing: 41mm
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Richlite
Frets: 18, 13 to upper bout
Nut: Bone
Nut width: 38mm, 30mm G to A
Tuners: Enya branded gold sealed gears
Strings: D'Addario Titanium
Extras: Double Transacoustic Pickup, Strap buttons, Padded case
Weight: 855g
Country of origin: China
Price: $599, £479 in UK ex shipping

UKULELE PROS

Stunning looks
Excellent build and finish in every department
Sleek and slinky to hold
Very comfortable neck
Whilst volume is not out of the park for a tenor, it's not disappointing unplugged at all
Pretty chimey clear tone
Double system is always a lot of fun, though better plugged in
Really nice bag

UKULELE CONS

Would prefer satin fingerboard finish
Not as full in sound as a traditional tenor (unplugged)
Double system not as prominent acoustically as on more traditional bodies

UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 9.5 out of 10
Fit and finish 9.5 out of 10
Sound - 8.5 out of 10 (unplugged)
Value for money - 9 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 9.1 out of 10

UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW








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4 comments :

  1. I've made a few similarly constructed ukes from concert to baritone. The volume and tone are a great supprise. There's also something special about the Feel of these in the hand, people pick them up and noodle away for hours.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very interesting. This or the solid maple version at $999 (which has a rosewood fretboard) have been on my wish list for a while. Having seen your video review, I still love the look, but since I already have a Bonanza Homestead and a Pono solid body electric, I am left wondering whether I can really justify this one. I think I might spend my money on a Flight Fireball Mango instead.

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  3. I have one of these Enya feathers in natural this is my forth Enya purchase so you can see I am a fan, but very disappointed with the customer service on this Enya feather. Not cheap has you have said but arrived with finger marks under the lacquer on the head stock very annoying. Enya told me to deal with the distributor I explained that they had offered a refund but this would leave me £40 out of pocket when exchange rate and import duties were taken into account! Enya would not take any responsibility and said my argument had to be with the distributor! It was a question of lose £40 or keep the instrument which plays perfectly well. I kept the instrument but get annoyed when I see the finger marks. Very poor customer service!!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I like to have fret markers on both the front and the side. So, although those feathery inlays on the fretboard look pleasantly decorative, I would prefer to see smaller versions that actually serve a useful purpose as fret markers.

    ReplyDelete

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