Flight A10 QM Aqua Blue Anniversary Series Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

2 May 2021

Flight A10 QM Aqua Blue Anniversary Series Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

Something rather special and limited on the ukulele review bench this week. Today I am looking at the A10 QM Aqua Blue Tenor in the Flight Anniversary Series.

Flight A10 QM Tenor Ukulele

Everyone in the uke world will know Flight by now and they are a brand I have featured many times and have enjoyed how their lineup keeps improving with each new model. I didn't realise how long they have been going and in fact recently celebrated their ten year anniversary. As a way to mark that, they have released a set of four anniversary models in limited numbers. And when I say their lineup keeps improving, these take things to the next level. 

All four models are tenors and made by hand in China by a master luthier. Other models in the series include a flamed maple model (this is quilted maple) in a blue fade similar to the colouring on the pathfinder electric, an all mango model and a spruce top with cocobolo back and sides variant. All share the same headstocks and bridges, but only the maple models get maple necks. 

Flight A10 QM Tenor Ukulele body

So this one is all solid quilted maple in the body with a modern extremely rounded double bout body shape. It's a shape I really like in ukes so was immediately drawn to it. It's all about the wood here of course as the quilting on the two piece top, back and sides is simply astonishing. The choice of a blue stain is inspired because the quilted wood grains look like ripples in water. The top is stained in a burst meaning the outer edges are darker and it is lighter in the central section, whereas the back and sides are flat blue on the quilting. The back, incidentally is very slightly arched too. What a looker!

The bridge is made of ebony and is a pin bridge style very similar to that on the Flight Fireball with which it shares the Taylor-eque shape and black bridge pins capped with red dots that look great. Where this goes the extra mile though is that it has a very thin pale wood purfling strip edging the bridge that gives it an extra air of classiness. The saddle is made of bone and heavily compensated. String spacing here is 40mm.

Flight A10 QM Tenor Ukulele bridge

Decoration is subtle but effective. There is a black top binding strip and next to it a thin inlaid purfling strip of abalone. Because of the colour of abalone it blends in with the blue of the top wonderfully. Even better on that front is the abalone inlaid into the sound hole ring. It's different enough from the top wood to not clash, but blends in. I love it. Also on the top edge of the lower bout is a subtle comfort edge coloured black. Again, this does not jar and stick out against the blue. The whole thing is finished in a flawless gloss that is clearly very thin on account that when viewed on an angle you can see the ripples of the wood quilting. That could also mean it's a nitro gloss as they tend to melt into the wood and allow it to breathe, but I am guessing. Either way, it's really well done.

Flight A10 QM Tenor Ukulele arm rest

Speaking of decoration, the mango and spruce models get an 'X' inlay on the sound hole to denote the ten year anniversary, but not the maple instruments. This seems a bit odd. Those other models also come with an inlay of a dragon, being the emblem of the city of Ljubljana (where Flight are from), which unlike the 'X' I do not personally miss here. Perhaps the two maple models are less decorated as the wood is clearly the focus of the decor. Still, I think it would have been nice for all of them to carry the 'X' marking to denote the anniversary.

Flight Anniversary Tenor Ukuleles

Inside is very tidy with notched kerfing and no mess. The top is X braced. No complaints here.

Flight A10 QM Tenor Ukulele inside



The neck is made of maple with a fairly well hidden joints at the heel and headstock. There is something I really like about the feel of maple necks, and it's certainly the case here. Even better is the fact they avoided gloss here so it feels smooth as you like. It also has a touch of flame in it when looked at in the right light. The profile is rounded but not overly so. Width at the nut is a more average 37mm, but with 30mm from G to A. Not something I would complain about. 

That is topped with more ebony for the fingerboard which reaches down to the top of the sound hole You will notice that there are one or two naturally occurring pale patches in the wood which can happen with ebony. Some people like these for a bit of interest, but personally I would prefer an ebony fingerboard to be jet black. That's very much a personal subjective dislike.  I don't think the edges are bound as such, but there is no need for them to be on account of a very high end technique applied to the frets. The ends of the frets are finished in a style called 'semi-hemispherical' (sometimes called ball end frets, or hotdogs). That means the frets are fitted into slots that don't reach the end of the fingerboard, and also are not tapered down with a file rather are rounded and polished on the ends. It means they not only feel great, but look great too. You really only see these on higher end stuff. You get 19 of those joined to the body at the 14th. Outward position dots are made of abalone and placed offset at the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th and 15th. These are repeated with white dots on the side. 

Flight A10 QM Tenor Ukulele neck

[EDIT] Close up pic below of the semi-hemi frets for those who didn't have a clue what I was on about!!

Flight anniversary ukulele semi hemi frets


Beyond the bone nut is slotted headstock with an assymetrical design that looks marvellous. That's faced in more glossed ebony together with a black purfling strip adjacent to it. I love how the purfling strip also runs around the slots as well as the outer edge. The Flight logo is inlaid in pearl at the top end.

Flight A10 QM Tenor Ukulele headstock

The tuners are side mounted, rear facing gears in gold. I'm told they are custom made and just looking at them tells me they too are very high end. The metalwork, mechanism and gears are all impeccable without a single tooling mark. The buttons are small white and pearly. Gorgeous.

Flight A10 QM Tenor Ukulele tuners

Finishing it off are a set of fluorocarbon strings Flight tell me are made in Brazil and a very nice branded padded gig bag.  All other models in the series are €1,079, but this one is €1,129 presumably on account of the quilted maple wood. A serious price, but you will have noted throughout the description above that there are a lot of serious appointments going on here. As such it needs to be judged against the likes of upper end Rebels, aNueNue's, and, to be fair, the K brands. That's a tough top table of course.

Flight A10 QM Tenor Ukulele decor


As you can see I really like the looks, build and finish. On these elements it stands up very well to the competition. It's a very comfortable instrument to hold too particularly on account of the glassy smooth satin neck. It's not heavy at 730g and, naturally, is well balanced too. I can's stress enough how much I like the gloss and the frets.

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a lightly built all solid wood tenor the volume and sustain don't disappoint either. It's punchy without much effort and I have little complaint here. 

Maple is a brighter, crisper sounding wood with good balance and, putting my purely subjective hat on I have to say I prefer darker, woodier sounding ukuleles myself. This is certainly bright and crisp with a real zing to the tone. Putting the objective hat back on, it's patently a very clever, high end tone that has bags of prettiness. When strummed I don't think I have heard a ukulele that harmonises with itself quite so much. In fact it does that so well that sometimes it sounds like I am playing an 8 string! Talk about complex.. 

Something I often say in ukulele reviews about otherwise decent ukes is that they may not be 'characterful'. I say that to mean they sound passable, but pretty much like many other ukuleles. This could not be further from that, in fact I don't think I've played a ukulele that sounds quite like this. That's a high accolade and something you only tend to get with very high end stuff from brands like Koaloha, at least to my ears.

Fingerpicking is the star of the show here as that crispness is so direct, clear and bell like it would be hard for anyone to dislike. Throw a couple of strums in with your melodic playing and the jangly fizz comes back to spice things up. It's extremely entertaining and very grown up.


Flight A10 QM Tenor Ukulele back

When I first saw these announced there was a fair amount of comment from people online as to whether they were 'worth' the asking price. It's not a cheap ukulele for sure, but I found the assumption of 'oh it's Flight, it should be cheap' to be confusing. You didn't see people saying that about aNueNue when they put the Moon Birds out, so why here?  Price is a function of build quality and appointments and I can see EXACTLY where the money has gone here. Does it deserve a place at that top table with the K brands, aNueNue, The Rebel and others? I'd say based on this example, absolutely it does. This is one hell of a uke to look at AND to play. 

As such, VERY highly recommended by Got A  Ukulele. Happy anniversary Flight!



UKULELE SPECS ROUND UP

Model: Flight A10 QM Anniversary Series
Scale: Tenor
Body: Solid quilted maple
Bridge: Ebony pin bridge
Saddle: Bone, compensated
Spacing at saddle: 40mm
Neck: Maple
Body finish: Blue stain under gloss
Fingerboard: Ebony
Frets: 19, 14 to body, semi-hemispherical ends
Nut: Bone
Nut width: 37mm, 30m G to A
Tuners: Gold gears
Weight: 730g
Country of origin: China
Price: €1,129

UKULELE PROS

Looks to die for in all areas
Wonderful bridge
Glassy smooth neck
Wonderful fret ends
Excellent tuners
Great volume and sustain
Serious character to the voice

UKUKELE CONS

Give me an X!
Would prefer completely black ebony on fingerboard

UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 10 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 - 9.4 out of 10

UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW



GOT A UKULELE IS NOT PAID BY BRANDS OR SHOPS - DONATIONS KEEP THE SITE GOING!

OR


THANKS!

6 comments :

  1. Great review!Thanks! You have pretty much persuaded me to buy a Flight A10. For the record: The Flight Voyager have semi-hemispherical fret ends as well - and I think the Flight Fireball have them as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Flight Spirit concert ukulele has semi-hemispherical fret ends as well.

      Delete
  2. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and rightfully so. Although I fully respect your review, your impartiality and your professional opinion as to its quality and sound you and I must still agree to disagree.

    This Flight model may truly be worth every bit of that 9.4 out of 10 score but for that amount of money, I would rather buy and own a K ukulele. That way, I have an instrument that is hand made in Hawaii of Koa, that is world-renowned for its quality and that will retain a good deal of its value if properly cared for.

    Needs change over change and it's nice to know that a musical instrument can be more easily traded in or sold for a good portion of its original purchase price. In some cases, the value will increase. To that end, I don't feel that this Flight model will be lusted after or worth anything near its purchase price 5 years from now because numerous glitzier and better appointed models will have been released.

    A $150 ukulele is a purchase but for me a $1,560 (U.S. dollars) ukulele purchase becomes an investment as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry - that seems like blind nationalism to me. I don't give a single damn where the instrument is made - only what it plays like, is built like and sounds like. Some of the best ukuleles I have ever seen were not made in Hawaii. Admittedly many also ARE made in Hawaii, but.. that's my point.

      I've never bought an instrument on the basis of it's value appreciating either.

      Delete
  3. Thanks Barry for this one. I saw the 10th anniversary series being announced on their website and was pleased to see that Flight was upping their game once more. I hope I'll be able to try one of these out (the mango one or this blue inkwell explosion). Your video and this review is promising.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank's a lot!
    That's always a pleasure to ear an objective review from you!
    I really like Flight brand I have the Phantom (do you ever try it ?) and the LUS-5 (super soprano).

    You said thats a beautiful crispy sound and not really a warm dark tone.
    Do you know a ukulele until 1500€ that have a really warm dark tone ?

    Because that's really what I want for a big big gift for my 5 year playing (that's at this day a little bit more that 1 year).
    And I really want to know your advice about that.

    Thank's in advance.

    ReplyDelete

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