Ortega Gaucho Series RUGA-ORG Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

31 Jul 2021

Ortega Gaucho Series RUGA-ORG Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

A ukulele brand this week I have seen mixed success with. This is the new Ortega RUGA in their Gaucho Series. This is the RUGA-ORG Tenor ukulele.

Ortega Gaucho RUGA-ORG Tenor Ukulele

The Gaucho's are a range of laminate bodied tenor ukes, each with distinct colouring options. This one is in orange, but it's also available in a very bright 'Green Apple', a baby blue 'Sky Blue' and a more conservative 'platinum grey'. Why they are called 'Gaucho' (a South American cowboy) I have no idea though their own website suggests that the ukes follow their 'spirit of discovery and freedom'.... Erm.. OK..  Clearly the design here is following a trend we have seen in 2020 / 2021 for ukulele colouring that bucks the trend of the usual mahogany / cedar / spruce / zebrawood we have seen so much over the years. There also certainly seems to be a design similarity here to the wonderful aNueNue Color series, even to the point that they released a guitar version of the same...... as did aNueNue.  I bought this one blind rather than it being a loan from Ortega.

This one is pretty much a standard double bout ukulele, though with a very swoopy lower bout that I find attractive. The body is made from all laminate agathis wood. That's quite a cheap wood for any instrument construction and much used in the bargain guitar market. It's also quite dull wood to look at if left unfinished, but that isn't an issue here because of the colouring that covers the whole instrument.

Ortega Gaucho RUGA-ORG Tenor Ukulele body

The bridge is made from walnut and is the familiar style seen on a lot of Ortega ukuleles. It's a tie bar, fitted with a straight topped saddle that isn't specified but looks like plastic. I quite like the look of it, but the outer facing is a little scruffy and I would like it darker. Spacing here is 42mm.

Ortega Gaucho RUGA-ORG Tenor Ukulele bridge

Decoration is provided with white ABS edge binding to the top and back and a teardrop pick guard also in white.  I think that, colour aside, this is what immediately made me think of the aNueNue, even if it is in a different place (and shape). And on that point, I am not entirely sure WHY it's in this place. The most common sweet spot for strumming a ukulele is over the end of the fingerboard. OK, there are no rules to stop you strumming further down, but the vast majority of work tends to take place further up. On that basis the guard is in the wrong place entirely. My ukes that have strum wear simply don't have it in this position... Sorry to labour that point but this says to me that the design was put together by someone who doesn't understand ukuleles... Another gripe for me on this one is there is an irritating air bubble under the guard which will not shift. You know when you apply a screen protector to a phone and can't get rid of a bubble, and how annoying that is? Yeah.. that..  

Ortega Gaucho RUGA-ORG Tenor Ukulele decor

The body is finished in a fairly thick gloss which I don't care for with my own tastes and prefer the semi gloss of the colour finish on the aNueNue's. This finish gives it an air of 'novelty' I think, though to be fair it is a deep gloss and I can't as yet find any flaws in it. It's certainly mirror finish and not over done.

Inside is very tidy with notched kerfing and tapered braces. The top is braced both vertically and laterally and there is no glue seepage. The top is also pretty thin for a laminate.

Ortega Gaucho Tenor Ukulele inside

The neck is made from Okoume and because of the painted finish I can't tell you how many pieces it's made from. It tapers to a typically rounded far eastern profile and, for a tenor a disappointing nut width for this player. It's just under 36mm at the nut and 28mm G to A.

That is topped with a walnut fingerboard which is in decent enough condition though like the bridge I would like it a little darker. It's edge bound in more cream ABS and whilst done well there is some scruffy overpaint from the orange body on the bottom end. A bit of a rub with sandpaper would remove it but it shouldn't be there.  The binding means none of the fret ends are sharp and you get 18 of those joined at the 14th. The position markers are somewhat different and a look I like - they are pale wooden inlays in increasing size offset in the fret spaces at the 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th and 14th. I like those. You also get small black dots on the side.

Ortega Gaucho RUGA-ORG Tenor Ukulele neck

Beyond the plastic looking nut is a slotted headstock covered in more of the orange gloss. On the top face is the Ortega logo in as silvery screen print. The finishing up here takes a real nosedive as it appears they just didn't bother with the insides of the slots. Take a look at the closeups in the video and the picture below - utterly hideous.

Ortega Gaucho RUGA-ORG Tenor Ukulele headstock

The tuners are unbranded side mounted open gears with small cream white buttons. As always I judge these on the quality of the gearing and these look decent. They move smoothly too.

Ortega Gaucho RUGA-ORG Tenor Ukulele tuners

Finishing things off are a set of 'made for Ortega by Aquila' strings, a tail strap button and a padded gig bag with coloured piping to match the colour instrument you have chosen. And the pricing, perhaps unsurprisingly is on par with the aNueNue Color at about £139 though that is in from Europe so runs a risk of duty on top. Price on Amazon which avoids that is more like £159. Still not a huge amount.

Before we get into the playing, it's clearly something of a mixed bag I think. The bold colouring will not be for everyone, but there is a plainer grey version of course. The body finishing is decent enough, but it gets worse as you go up the neck to the headstock. That pickguard is just all wrong for me, but I suppose forms part of the 'look' of the thing. To be fair, the setup is pretty bang on with this example, and it's also not a heavyweight at 615g and balances well.

Ortega Gaucho RUGA-ORG Tenor Ukulele back

Sound wise this one has left me pleasantly surprised, pleased in fact. The volume is very good and the sustain is decent too meaning you can easily put a bit more nuance in your play. It's spritely with little effort. 

Tone wise it's bright, crisp and clear that produces an attractive jangly sound when strummed. If I have a complaint it's that it doesn't really sound like a tenor to me, and much more like a concert. I wonder whether the laminate and gloss paint is taking that fuller resonance off the tone and bringing it down to the more constrained sound of a concert. Either way though it still leaves it with a pretty bouncy tone that I rather like for what it is. There is a touch of laminate boxiness, but I stress, it's only a touch. Fingerpicking is decent too with no intonation issues or volume drop off up the neck. In fact it's really snappy and clear wherever you play it. My main gripe with the whole playing aspect here though is the nut width which I find a touch uncomfortable with my hands, though as I always say on that point, your mileage may vary here. It's not quite up there on tone with the aNueNue Color to my ears but it's close and similar.

All in all I've found my time with Ortega ukuleles somewhat frustrating. I can't hide the fact that there have been more misses than hits with my reviews, but even those I rather liked always had issues that dragged them down. They are not the only brand to do that with me, but it's certainly the case here. There's much I want to like here and, even much I DO like, but some of the final finishing is plain terrible and I'm not sure this stands up to the obvious comparator in the aNueNue for that reason alone. Still the sound is pretty decent I think and is certainly up to the mark at the price point. The looks are either going to be love or hate of course, but if you do like the style it's not a terrible ukulele at all. Just be aware of some of the finishing issues I spotted. Try to buy from a reputable dealer is my advice.


UKULELE SPECS ROUNDUP

Model: Ortega Gaucho RUGA-ORG
Scale: Tenor
Body: Agathis laminate
Bridge: Walnut
Saddle: Plastic?
Spacing at saddle: 42mm
Body finish: Gloss colour options (orange, green apple, sky blue, platinum grey)
Neck: Okoume
Fingerboard: Walnut
Frets: 18, 14 to body
Nut: Plastic?
Nut width: 36mm, 28mm G to A
Tuners: Side mounted open gears
Strings: Aquila for Ortega
Extras: Strap button, pick guard, gig bag
Weight: 615g
Country of origin: China
Price: £139

UKULELE PROS

Looks (if you like the style)
Body is finished pretty well
Thin top
Nice fingerboard markers
Decent tuners
Good volume and sustain
Clear bright tone
Fair price

UKULELE CONS

Some scruffy finishing to neck edge binding
Terrible finish to headstock slots
Misplaced pickguard with air bubble
Nut too narrow and chunky for me
Looks (if you DON'T like the style!)

UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 8 out of 10
Fit and finish - 7 out of 10
Sound - 8.5 out of 10
Value for money - 9 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 8.1 out of 10

UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW




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1 comments :

  1. The logo looks a bit Snail-esque - I wonder if that is deliberate?! :O)

    ReplyDelete

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