A return this week for a new ukulele model in a hugely popular range from Enya Music. This is the brand new Enya Nova U Tenor Ukulele and, I suspect, one of the first full reviews you will see of it thanks to Enya getting it to me early!
It was back in autumn 2019 when I first looked at the (then) newly released Nova U line of carbon / composite ukes from Enya. That first offering was a concert uke, offered in both acoustic and with a transacoustic pickup system for onboard effects. I followed that up with the mini or soprano offering, which I actually liked a little bit more though I think they are both great. The popularity of them went through the roof, not simply because it was a plastic based uke (which always do well - ok, some people have an aversion, (and if you plainly hate plastic ukes, you probably won't be reading this), but trust me - plastic ukes sell VERY well), but because, well... they were simply very good ukes for not a lot of money. I think it really shone a light on Enya and their approach to development as in a fairly short space of time the true ukulele specialist stores like Uke Republic, SUS and World of Ukes started carrying them too. That says an awful lot to me about how Enya are regarded and took them away from being anything but 'just another Chinese Amazon brand'. About a year later and I'm sure most uke players at least know someone who owns one. But there is one question people posed on both of my reviews... repeatedly..
'When are they doing a tenor version?'
Well, the answer is.. right now with this new model, the Nova U Pro. And what that name might tell you is that this is more going on there than just a new scale. Early disclosure though - whilst I saw a lot of people calling for a tenor version, I actually wasn't one of them. In fact I thought the soprano was just great. Tenors are not 'better' just because they are tenors. Still, it's nice for them to complete the range as it were.. (CUE: Baritone lovers 'When are they doing a baritone?.....')
This new model follows largely the same construction approach as the concert and soprano version in that this is a body made of a composite of polycarbonate and carbon fibre added to the mix - 40% in this case (an increase on earlier models). That's not to say carbon fibre matting ( a mistake people repeatedly make about these and I do think Enya themselves should change the way they describe it), but it's not straight polycarb either - rather the carbon addition in the mix strengthens it. It's made in the same clamshell design such that the body back and sides, back of the neck and headstock are all one piece onto which the top and fingerboard are placed to create a sound chamber. It's also in the same Les Paul contoured shape with a single cutaway and looks just as appealing for it.
The bridge is integral to the body like the other Nova U models and is a slot style where you simply drop the knotted end of the string into the hole and pull to secure it in the slot. The saddle is the same black composite with a compensated top. String spacing here is 42mm.
There is no other decor here other than the flame shaped soundhole in the usual place and side sound port on the upper shoulder like the other models. The pieces of the construction are then coated in a kind of painted satin enamelling which hides the joints and gives it a smoothed off tactile feel on the hands with no sharpness. In an improvement on the other scales the edges on the sides are smoothed off a little more giving it a more rounded edge to the top and back.You certainly feel it and is a welcome addition. For the moment this new model will come in black or white. The black is a little different than the other scales in a way I much prefer too - kind of a very dark gun metal black with an almost metallic element which I think looks killer. It's also less of a finger smudge magnet than the regular black. I do think they will need to consider other colours though down the line as whilst black would be my choice, for many people it won't be.
The insides of plastic ukes are always hard to talk about as there is not much to see and they don't share the same construction elements as wooden ukes. Enya say the bracing pattern on these has been changed, which may well be the case, but even with a camera inside a dark black chamber, I can't tell you how!
Up to the integral neck with the same swoopy heel joint. This tapers down to a slightly flattened profile at the nut and a width of nearly 38mm with 30mm from G to A. Unsurprisingly that's wider than both the soprano and concert varieties of this model and certainly appeals to me.
That is topped with a black fingerboard distinct from the body colour but not jarringly so. And the big news that I think a lot of people were hoping to see - real metal frets. Enya have pushed the boat out here too as they are 'semi-hemi' rounded on the ends before fitting which means superb smoothness and absolutely no chance of sharpness or sprout. I was astonished to see these as they are usually the preserve of very high end instruments (you may recall the Flight Anniversary Series use them). Just wonderful. Now, I actually have nothing against the plastic frets myself. If you use the right strings (not wound, not compound) they stand up well enough for me. My original Flea with plastic frets is now about 13 years old and still going strong as has my 2019 Nova U. But a few people have been put off by the Nova for the plastic and being limited on what strings they can use. This gets over that issue in one fell swoop. Use what you like on these, they ain't going to wear down. You get 18 of those, joined at the body at the 13th and in another improvement the top of the fingerboard looks to my eyes to be slightly more radiused. They don't specify the radius number, and it might be a trick of the light so don't quote me on that. The familiar star shaped white fret markers are inlaid into the 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th and 15th spaces. And.. finally.. they've included side dots too! Yay!
Beyond the integral nut is the usual Nova U asymmetric headstock shape with the Enya logo screen printed in gold on the top. I like that look.
The tuners look identical too in the form of gold open gears with small black buttons. I didn't have any gripes with them on other models bar feeling that the gold jarred with the jet black body. It suits this dark grey better though I think, but I wonder whether another improvement could have been made to the tenor by going with a more exotic tuner choice. Ah well, can't have everything..
Finishing off the package are the usual Enya additions - a branded pod case, a couple of strap buttons, a strap, capo and spare strings. As I say you also get a choice of the model with the transacoustic system with onboard effects too, and that will come with a charging and instrument cable. In another change, the instrument itself comes strung with D'Addario Titanium strings which is a wise move as I was not a fan of the stock Enya strings myself. Very oddly though, the spare strings in the goodie bag are NOT D'Addario though, rather Enya's own... hmmmm. And it's now available for pre-order from Enya at $139.99, and the transacoustic version at $229. I expect they will appear on Amazon in due course but for now it's only available direct. And despite that 'pro' in the name, they haven't hugely put the price up over the concert. The difference is worth it to me for the rounded frets alone.
So it comes as no surprise that I have spoken positively about this one so far - it stands to reason, when you consider I really liked the soprano and concert versions. But what impresses me most here is that they didn't just make it bigger, but addressed some concerns buyers had made such as the frets, the strings and the side dots. With those taken care of, any gripes I had raised with the other scales are evaporated and I am left finding little to complain about. The feel of the body is also much nicer with those smoothed edges. It's very nice to hold indeed.
Naturally it's a bit heavier than the others as there is more of it, but I wouldn't call it 'heavy' at all at 745g. The setup on this example is decent, and for those of you who sniff and assume 'they are only going to send you good ones', I do keep brands on their toes. For example, whilst Enya sent me the concert version, I bought the soprano and they knew nothing about it in advance. Both were well finished and setup. The feel of the neck is much nicer on my hands than the concert on account of the string spacing, but of course your mileage may vary on that score.
The first thing that impressed me here is the volume. It packs a really good punch. Sustain is decent too. I suppose both of those things should come as no surprise as there is more real estate in the body. You will not be lost in a jam playing this thing.
I've thought all Enya Nova models always sound a touch brighter than you would expect for their scale lengths and this is no different. This has a spritely zingy tone that you don't hear a lot on tenor instruments. It's got a harmonic jangle going on too and reminds me more of a concert in sound. That's not a criticism, and of course there is no wood in here so it would be impossible for it to sound 'woody', but it's certainly bouncy. Fingerpicking is extremely chimey and bell like, with good volume right up the neck.
What is immediately obvious to my ear though is how much fuller in sound and tone it is to the concert, and certainly the soprano (which sounds thin and weedy in comparison). There is much more range in the tone here compared to the other two scales and is mighty pleasing for that fact. That's not to dismiss the others, but it's clearly ahead of them to my ears. And if you find that tone too bright and sparkly, with metal frets this will take a wound low G no problem and likely with no adjustment at the nut slot needed.
So it's improvements all round on this one. I wasn't desperate to see a tenor myself, but that's just me, but it's hard to not give this a higher score than the other scales as the improvements are obvious and do make a real difference. Of course the whole of the Nova range is always going to have some people dismiss them - some people just cannot accept plastic ukuleles - and that's fair enough. I'm not trying to convert anyone here. For me though, I think the design and concept is a great one and clearly I loved the first two. Of course, I wouldn't like a composite ukulele myself either if it sounded poor, but that's where the Nova line have really impressed me. They sound and play great for not a huge amount of money. You can make your own minds up from the comparison in the video but for me this edges the others in many ways, tone included. Highly recommended!
UKULELE SPECS ROUNDUP
Model: Enya Nova U Pro
Body: All in one composite / carbon clamshell
Bridge: Integral, slot style
Saddle: Composite, compensated
Spacing at saddle: 42mm
Finish: Powder coated gun metal grey
Frets: 18, 13 to the body - semi hemi metal frets
Nut width: 38mm, 30mm G to A
Tuners: Unbranded open gears
Strings: D'Addario Titanium
Extras: Pod case, strap buttons, strap, capo, spare strings
Country of origin: China
Price: $139.99 ($229.99 with Acoustic Plus system)
Much improved body feel
Improved nut width / string spacing
Fuller tone and much more rounded
Still a great price
Maybe a tuner upgrade would have been nice
Tone is brighter than many tenors, though a low G would work easily
Give us D'Addario strings in the spare pack!
Looks - 9.5 out of 10
Fit and finish - 9 out of 10
Sound - 9 out of 10
Price - 9.5 out of 10
OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 9.3 out of 10
UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW
© Barry Maz