Bumblebee BUS-23 Soprano Ukulele - REVIEW

27 Jun 2021

Bumblebee BUS-23 Soprano Ukulele - REVIEW

A new ukulele brand this week, created by a much liked brand and one aimed squarely at younger beginners. This is the Bumblebee BUS-23 Soprano.

Bumblebee BUS-23 Soprano Ukulele

Bumblebee are a new line of simple, entry level soprano and concert ukuleles created by Slovenian brand Flight.  The mention that these are aimed at younger beginners is purely my own take on them, but borne out both by the low price, the bright colouring and the bumblebee moniker. Well, we have Octopus ukes, Dolphins and Sharks, so why not a Bumblebee? It's a fun and quirky naming that I think will appeal to kids. Got A Ukulele is always on the lookout for low priced instruments that I am happy to recommend to new players, and in fact one of my first ever reviews was the Makala Dolphin, an instrument I still recommend to this day. The price point is also one that is closely looked at by educators with limited funds to get young kids in schools playing. For those buyers, something tough, reliable and needing minimal setup work post purchase is key. We shall see how this fares and whether this is another option worth considering for parents and teachers alike or falls into the traps of so many ukes made to this price point.

The range is small, simple and comes in both soprano and concert scales and also comes in a range of colours (plus one more where the wood choices change slightly). They are all laminates of course, made from laminate mahogany on the top, back and sides, but there is a model in the range that swaps the top for spruce laminate. This model is in red, but it also comes in green, blue, black and natural so lots of choice for coloured uke lovers and keeping the kids happy even if brightly painted ukes are not to my own tastes.

Bumblebee BUS-23 Soprano Ukulele body

This is a standard scaled and shaped double bout soprano and apart from one or two design cues that are not for me (bear in mind, me = 49 year old, and not a kid...) I thought it looked rather nice on opening the box. As I say, the laminate here is all mahogany, the grain of which shows through in the open pore satin finish. It must be said that at this price point the finishes can often be shocking, but in the body at least, this one is pretty well done, even and tidy.

The bridge is made of kuku wood, and Indonesian hardwood similar to teak and is a tie bar style screwed in place. For a model clearly aimed at younger beginner players I really think it would have been better to fit a slot bridge here for easier string changing. Aside from that I think they just look better on sopranos. The saddle is made of what looks like a plastic composite and is straight topped. Otherwise it's tidy enough though a little rough on the face finishing.

Bumblebee BUS-23 Soprano Ukulele bridge

There is no other decoration to the body other than the colouring and the laurel wreath looking engraving around the sound hole. I don't like laser etching and find it can look scruffy and cheap and that's certainly the case here. Not for me.

Bumblebee BUS-23 Soprano Ukulele decoration

Inside is relatively tidy too. Notched kerfing, thin tapered braces and only a touch of glue seepage. I've seen much worse. What is also obvious is the darker mahogany wood on the inside rather than the usual pale plywood look of a lot of cheap ukes. That suggests to me that this is fully mahogany laminate rather than just a thin outer veneer.

Bumblebee BUS-23 Soprano Ukulele inside

The neck is made from meranti wood  with a well hidden joint in the heel and one in the headstock. It tapers to a pleasingly flattened off profile at the nut. Even better is the 37mm nut width, though the string spacing is still only 27mm. I think that could have been wider. Still, the profile and overall width is nice and comfortable, and unusual in a cheap far eastern instrument.

That is topped with more kuku wood for the fretboard which looks and feels to be in good condition. It has 15 frets with 12 to the body joint and they are all dressed well with no sharp edges. Outward dots are positioned at the 5th, 7th, 10th, double 12th and 15th, but sadly there are no side dots. Again, if this is aimed at beginners, side dots should be a given. In fact I think they should be a given regardless. That's a silly omission.

Bumblebee BUS-23 Soprano Ukulele neck

Beyond the composite nut is a crown shaped headstock complete with the Bumblebee logo laser etched in the top face. My daughter adores it. Despite the decent finishing on the body there are one or two flaws in the finish at this end where the paint isn't even or the wood is less than smooth.

Bumblebee BUS-23 Soprano Ukulele headstock

The tuners are generic open gears with small black buttons and whilst they don't set the world alight they work ok and the gearing is not uber cheap. I'm also pleased they didn't go with enormous buttons such as you will see on brands like Mahalo.

Bumblebee BUS-23 Soprano Ukulele tuners

It comes with nothing else other than the unspecified strings which look Aquila-ish, but I suspect are not. And the shop price for the soprano is a tiny £32.99. The concert isn't much more at £34.99. A bargain.. if it plays ok of course..

So all in all a pretty decent build with a couple of gripes but really not in the category of some of the cheapies I've looked at like this Ashton soprano ukulele.. The overall build here is good and I do like that neck. It's very light too at only 410g and balances well.

That thin top and light body is clearly helping the output from the uke as the volume here is terrific. A real punchy bark with a firm strum which is impressive. Sustain too is really not too bad either, and this is the area where most cheap ukes really fall down with. I can feel this vibrating through the back and into my chest when playing it. It's certainly resonant.

Bumblebee BUS-23 Soprano Ukulele back

For a shade over thirty quid nobody should be expecting characterful, complex tones and, starting with the negatives, it certainly is a little one dimensional and a bit too thin and bright for my tastes.  We are clearly not dealing with a Koaloha here, but as I say it's only a touch over thirty pounds. What does impress me though is the peppiness and rhythmical jangle that you can very easily create with strumming. That's a function of both the decent sustain, but also an instrument that is 'in tune with itself'. Often at this price point, sopranos can sound dead and muted with no life, but this is bouncy and very easy to get decent sounds out of with little effort... Good punchy volume, jangly rhythmical sounds.. that's what you WANT from a soprano. For the low ticket price I am extremely impressed. 

Picking is pretty enough too, though it must be said the intonation strays off up the neck, probably cured by a saddle height adjustment. I don't make too much play on that fact as many instruments, particularly sopranos can do this and it is only on fret 10 upwards.. territory that most beginners won't touch, but it is there. Elsewhere though, the picked tone is clear, chimey and the volume remains decent all over the neck.

Overall, no, the looks are not to my taste, but there isn't a huge amount wrong here in the key areas. The bridge should be changed and the lack of side dots is a big omission, but sound wise I think this is punching well above its weight. In fact it's pleasing to note that I now have another option to recommend to parents and teachers looking for a reliable and cheap instrument alongside the Dolphin and the Octopus. 

In fact, I think this edges both of them. If that is your price point, the Bumblebee should firmly be on on your shortlist.



UKULELE SPECS ROUNDUP

Model: Bumblebee BUS-23
Scale: Soprano
Body: Laminate mahogany
Finish: Coloured, satin
Bridge: Kuku, tie bar
Saddle: Plastic / composite?
Spacing at saddle: 41mm
Neck: Meranti
Fingerboard: Kuku
Frets: 15, 12 to body
Nut: Plastic / composite?
Nut width: 37mm, 27mm G to A
Tuners: Unbranded open gears
Strings: Unspecified
Weight: 410g
Country of origin: Indonesia
Price: £32.99

UKULELE PROS

Good general build
Light
Wide nut, flattened neck
Great volume
Good sustain
Jangly rhythmical tone
Very low price

UKULELE CONS

Not a fan of laser etching
A slot style bridge would make more sense
No side dots
Minor finishing gripes at headstock

UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 8 out of 10
Fit and finish 8.5 out of 10
Sound - 8 out of 10
Value for money - 9.5 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 8.5 out of 10

UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW






GOT A UKULELE IS NOT PAID BY BRANDS OR SHOPS - DONATIONS ARE WHAT KEEP THE SITE GOING! THANKS FOR YOUR HELP!

BUY ME A BEER!

BECOME A GOT A UKULELE PATREON

OR



THANKS!

2 comments :

  1. Sounds interesting - my thought: given the near-identical price-point, why would someone choose a Bumblebee over a Flight TUS35? I bought my TUS as a uke for the car and to take around with me, but some Living Water strings transformed it, and I now even record with it. The Bumblebee looks OK, but even at the ultra-budget end, there is quite some competition these days!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Interesting review - many thanks! I'm mildly surprised that Flight have added a new option for a "kids'/beginners'" uke, as it seems to me they have pretty much the perfect instrument for this in their range already: the TUS35. Tough-as-old-boots ABS plastic (mostly); reliable; slotted bridge; colourful; stable; and to boot, they sound and play really well for their price (about the same as the Bumblebee). Is there any reason you'd recommend the BB to a parent over a TUS35 as a first uke?

    ReplyDelete

Please leave me a comment!

Please Help Keep This Site Going!

If you enjoy this blog, donations are welcomed to allow me to invest more time in bringing you ukulele articles. Aside from the Google ads, I don't get paid to write this blog and for reasons of impartiality a not sponsored by brands or stores. Your donations all go back into the site to allow me to keep bringing you reviews, and in the end the ukuleles acquired are given to local schools and charities.