Hamano U30 Soprano Ukulele - REVIEW

8 May 2021

Hamano U30 Soprano Ukulele - REVIEW

From the sublime last week to the... well, let's not judge this ukulele just yet.. This is the Hamano U30 Soprano Ukulele.

Hamano U30 Soprano Ukulele

You may be looking at this and not expecting much, and it certainly couldn't be further away in quality (or price) than last weeks review. But do bear in mind that I looked at another Hamano some time ago, the H-100 Soprano and it was something of a lesser known gem for me. That one, like this was made in China, but underneath the terribly unfinished outer coating was a really rather lovely all solid mahogany uke. A bit of polishing with some micro fiber pads and it came up very nicely. In fact I still own it and think it's one of the better sounding sopranos I have played at the asking price of about £200. They are hard to find, but if you can find one I'd urge you to get it. Anyway, Got A Ukulele has never been about ONLY reviewing high end instruments and there are a lot of people needing guidance at the budget end too so it's only right I try to look at as many as I can at all price points.

But we are not here to talk about the H-100, rather this one, the U30 soprano, one of those ubiquitous ukuleles that come in a range of brightly painted colours that you know I love so much...  This one is in the more boring all black colour, but you can get these in various other rainbow colours too. It's a standard scaled and shaped double bout soprano made from laminate, but billed as maple laminate. That's certainly different from the norm for these brightly coloured ukes as they tend to come in laminate basswood or linden, or or in other words, very cheap plywood.  Whether that makes much of a difference here we shall see, but Hamano chose to mention it.

Hamano U30 Soprano Ukulele body

The bridge wood is not specified, but I would wager it is a stained / painted cheaper hard wood. What seems odd here is the choice to go with a tie bar style bridge on something that is patently aimed at kids and first timers. A slot bridge would make things much easier for string changes for the newbie. It's screwed in place and fitted with a straight topped plastic saddle. String spacing here is 41mm and to be fair the whole thing is pretty tidy to be fair. Incidentally, don't assume that a screwed down bridge is necessarily the mark of poor quality. I can think of some very high end ukes and guitars that screw their bridges in place. Where they differ though is that they cover the screw heads to hide them, but it's actually a good way of ensuring secure contact. They don't bother me though the screw heads are certainly ugly.

Hamano U30 Soprano Ukulele bridge

Decoration is limited to the black paint job and a white soundhole rosette transfer. To be fair to it, whilst it's ripply like an orange peel due to being applied badly and too fast, it doesn't look to be massively pooled and overly thick in itself and I can't find any defects such as bare patches or scuffs. The same cannot be said for many coloured ukes at this price. It's not my choice of finish, but I have seen much worse. 

Hamano U30 Soprano Ukulele decor

Inside is simple and relatively tidy. There's a bit of glue seepage I suppose. There are no braces at all on account of the thicker laminate construction, but the sides are joined to the top and back with kerfing, albeit un-notched. There's also a tail block and a plate strengthening the bridge area, though this seems a bit too far forward to actually work. Still, i've seen worse even on much more expensive instruments.

Hamano U30 Soprano Ukulele inside

The neck wood is not specified, and could be anything. It's also painted black so I can't tell where or how it is jointed, but I would imagine in the usual places. It tapers to a slightly flattened rounded profile at the nut which is surprising, but the nut is a very generic 34mm and only 26mm G to A. Far too narrow for me, but likely ok for a child or an adult with small hands of course.

That is topped with an unspecified fingerboard wood, but the wood type hardly matters here as it has been painted black, and very badly too. It's pretty horrid. It has a standard 12 frets to the body which appear to be made of brass the ends of which are scruffy insofar as the guy with the paint pot ended up brushing black over the fret ends too which looks hideous. As a total surprise though, there are no sharp ends at all. They are really smooth and covered over so no fret ends to sprout either. You don't get any outward marker dots, but two side dots in white paint at the 5th and 7th. Odd. Still, when I took this out of the box I would have put good money on the fact that the frets would be sharp.

Hamano U30 Soprano Ukulele neck

Beyond the plastic nut (incidentally in desperate need of the slots being lowered, the action here is WAY too high) is the ubiquitous crown headstock, also painted black. The Hamano logo is a gold decal and looks really basic.

Hamano U30 Soprano Ukulele headstock

The tuners are really low end too of the type seen on entry level Mahalos. They are open gears with massive black plastic buttons. Whilst they don't have those ugly white front collars, rather chrome, they are pretty awful pegs nonetheless. Every one of them grinds, they are all different tensions and the G tuner button occasionally slips on the post meaning you can only turn it by pushing onto the post as you turn. Not good.

Hamano U30 Soprano Ukulele tuners

Finishing it off are unspecified strings which, judging by how they stretched like rubber to get to pitch are cheap basic nylon. At least they are different gauges though which you don't always see on these cheapies! You also get a cheap bag which is nothing more than a dust cover. In the UK you will pick one of these up for about £36 and in USA anywhere between about $40 and $50. Cheap for sure, though not as cheap as some and about the same price as a Flight Travel soprano. There's food for thought...

Ok, so some build issues with the neck, the awful tuners and the need of a setup (it's a touch high at the saddle as well as the very high nut), but the overall construction is better than many I've seen that come with brightly coloured paint finishes. There is not much too it either so it's light enough at 390g and balanced to hold too. The neck is not for me though, as I say.

After taking an age to tune up and hold pitch, time for a play. The first thing that struck me with this one compared to some of the real trash ukuleles out there is that the volume is really pretty good. You can get a passable 'bark' out of this with a strong strum. Sustain too is not too bad for a soprano. Often with some of these painted ukes they are muted to the point of the strings being dead creating that textbook 'plinky plonky' sound that haters of the ukulele assume all ukes sound like. There is certainly more going on here.

I can talk about tone, but the video gives away the real problem with this one and that's the setup affecting the intonation. At first positions that's because the nut is far to high and the distance the strings need to come down to engage the frets pulls them sharp. For that reason you will see the video and assume it's fit for the bin. I don't actually affect the sound scores too much for intonation because it can be readily fixed. If I could be bothered here, it would take me about 15 minutes to get it playing in tune as nothing else is in the wrong place (something else i've seen at this price are mis-placed bridges and frets which are a fatal error). But lets put that to one side. This actually HAS some tone, which again is more than I can say for some of these sort of ukes. Lets not get ahead of ourselves, it's not characterful and has that trademark cheap laminate echo boxiness, but it is playing recognisable notes. Strummed, if this was set up ok I could imagine it would make for a fun little rhythmical instrument. Fingerpicking is also something of a surprise, helped along by the above average sustain meaning notes actually ring rather than sound like muted thuds.  I can see this has potential.. if you are prepared to go through a setup. Of course, no ukulele should arrive with a new player like this though, and that's long been my gripe at the cheap end. Not everybody knows how to do a setup, and if you had to pay for one on top... well, it's then much more than a £36 instrument and you'd be crazy to increase your outlay here.

All in all, it's hard to give this a recommendation for a beginner over something like a Dolphin, a Shark or the Flight Travel ukes, but I have seen MUCH worse than this in the 'brightly coloured soprano' camp. Just look at the Ashton UKE100 or this Martin Smith UK-212 for examples of the truly terrible. There's much here I don't like of course, but it's not terribly finished (for gloss paint). The fingerboard is horrid, but at least the fret ends are not sharp. The tuners ARE horrible. And yes, it sounds like cheap laminate of course, but somehow is pushing out some genuine sustain and volume rather than sounding totally like rubber bands on a tissue box. The setup does need work, but then so do many Dolphin's when new. A mixed bag erring on the negative.

But it's all about where it stands at the price point that is my main problem. Sure, you could set it up, put better strings and tuners on it, but then your overall cost is even more.  When the Flight Travel, and ukes like those from Octopus exist for the same sort of money as the base cost, why would you go here and have to meddle and spend more? There was a time where a uke like this would stand out at the price point for being better than many of the rest of the coloured painted ukes, but I think it's long since been left behind now.  For that reason, whilst it's still very cheap, it is dragged down on the value for money element of the score as you can easily do better for the same or even less money. 

Still, if you are a parent who bought one of these for a child to learn on, you could have done MUCH worse.



Model: Hamano U30
Scale: Soprano
Body: Laminate Maple
Bridge: Unspecified, dyed black tie bar
Saddle: Plastic
Spacing at saddle: 41mm
Finish: Choice of glossy coloured paint
Neck: Unspecified
Fingerboard: Black painted wood
Frets: 12 
Nut: Plastic
Nut Width: 34mm (26mm G to A)
Tuners: Unbranded open gears
Strings: Unspecified
Extras: Gig bag (dust cover)
Weight: 390g
Country of origin: China
Price: Circa £36


Whilst I don't like painted ukes, the finish is not the worst i've ever seen
Surprising volume and sustain
'Some' tone in there
No sharp fret ends!
Cheap (though easily matched by better ukes for the same money)


Slot bridge would make more sense
Awful fingerboard painting
Narrow string spacing
Dreadful tuners
Desperately in need of a setup
Poor strings
Echoey boxy tone


Looks - 6 out of 10
Fit and finish - 5.5 out of 10
Sound - 6.5 out of 10
Value for money - 7 out of 10






  1. I understand why you don’t mark down for requiring a setup due to high nut but I think there is a line that needs to be met. As a ukulele shop owner, why would I want to spend any time making a low margin instrument work. In my own internal system I dock marks from any builder including higher end that requires more than a saddle adjustment to meet personal playing preference.

    1. I definitely see your point as a merchant but many people are driven by price without knowing the pros and cons of what they're seeking to buy. That's where in-person test drives and your salesmanship make the difference. It's also why GotAUkulele reviews are so valuable, especially for those who don't live anywhere near a music store and have to shop online. Baz is doing nearly all of the legwork for us.

  2. Excellent! Another thorough and honest review, Baz. Thank you.

    I'm of the opinion that if the carcass of the instrument is physically sound, has a straight neck and correctly dimensioned frets, then a DIY or project type of enthusiast can create a very nice-sounding "upgraded" ukulele with new tuners, strings, nut and bridge sanding, etc. The solid color finish is like a blank canvas and can be artistically embellished as well. A new bridge is even a posiibility. There's no time limit on doing or completing the project either.

    What I appreciate is that painted ukuleles are made from visually imperfect or damaged woods and unappealing laminates. It enables builders and manufacturers to utilize scraps, odds 'n' ends, seconds, overruns, etc. left over from producing the better ones. The same applies to furniture. What we don't see doesn't seem to bother us.

    I'd buy this Hamano ukulele if for no other reason that to make a garage workshop project out it.

  3. You mention the kerfing is un-notched - does that make a difference?

    Is there a reason that it is worthy of mention?

    1. There being or not being is certainly worth a mention (as it means better strength). Whether it is notched or not is less important, but people like to know. Notched kerfing CAN indicate a better approach to the build as it's more time consuming. But it's certainly not a hard and fast rule - The very high end Maestro I reviewed recently had un-notched. Not a bad rule of thumb though

  4. You are very kind, Baz, in the way you are reviewing this ukulele. But what you basically say - at least what I got out of it - is: if one buys this hamano uke, one has to re-built and set-up it from scratch. This instrument sounds awful, obviously! It's cheap craft work, loveless and torn to people who look more on saving a penny than appreciating the musical experience. Is that the idea of "uke-ing"? Of making (and listening) to music at all? If we want to create a sustainable way of living (and appreciating our life), I think we shouldn't go for ukes like this. It's trying to sell itself just to sell itself - an unfortunate result of industrial mass production. Isn't it like this: If we buy a ukulele (any instrument), we want to have fun with it. It's about love and enjoyment. Is it possible with this uke (unless one is a hobby-ukelele-rebuilder or notorious uke collector)?
    I do thank you for this review - and that you are able to combine honesty with kindness - but I feel to ask: Would the world be a better place if items like the Hamano U30 wouldn't be produced/waste ressources anymore?
    ...pardon my rigid look on it.


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