Lanikai QMPU-CEC Quilted Maple Concert - REVIEW

8 Aug 2021

Lanikai QMPU-CEC Quilted Maple Concert - REVIEW

It's been quite a while since i've had this ukulele brand on the site. This is the Lanikai QM-PUCEC Quilted Maple Concert.

Lanikai Quilted Maple Concert Ukulele

I'm not sure what happened with Lanikai. When I started this website they were everywhere and in the 'intermediate value' range of ukuleles were as ubiquitous as Kala and Ohana. In fact, short of going high end Hawaiian, or low end Mahalo, there was a time what that trio really were the only choice. Then I seemed to not see many of them about in stores or online, at least in the UK. One or two models came out here and there I guess, but nothing like their competitors. In fact the brand rarely comes up on searches for new ukuleles. This one caught my eye though purely because of the colour, but more on that later.

This is a traditionally shaped double bout concert ukulele that is immediately striking. One of the shoulders of the upper bout is staggered creating a cutaway that isn't 'cut away' as it were. The body wood is laminate quilted maple and laminate or not, it's really beautiful to look at. This one is finished in a purple stain which I personally think is the pick of the bunch, but it also comes in a black, blue, red and natural stain each using the same laminate quilted maple. I honestly can't stop looking at it.

Lanikai Quilted Maple Concert Ukulele body


The bridge is a tie bar made of walnut fitted with a straight topped NuBone XB saddle. It's drilled with eight string holes which allows you the choice of either this method of stringing or the regular knots. It's claimed that this method aids even pressure on the saddle, but i've never been able to notice a jot of difference. I simply don't like the way this method looks, but it's not affecting the review as it can be easily changed. String spacing here is 39mm.

Lanikai Quilted Maple Concert Ukulele bridge


Decoration, other than the drop dead gorgeous wood finish comes in the form of black edge binding to the top and back, with the top binding having the addition of a black and white purfling strip alongside it. The sound hole rosette is abalone and whilst I don't normally like mismatches, I think works well with the quilted maple. The body is finished in a deep gloss which really makes the quilting shine and look almost 3D.  What I like less about the gloss is it's a little over applied with noticeable pooling around the end of the fingerboard.

Lanikai Quilted Maple Concert Ukulele decor


Also on the body is a bugbear of mine.. and active pickup system made by Fishman. I rant so much about these, but honestly - just give me a good passive system and stop adding weight and ugly control panels to pretty instrument.. PLEASE!  To make things worse it uses a 9V battery rather than button cells so even more to carry around. More on that weight point later. 

Lanikai Quilted Maple Concert Ukulele pickup


Inside is tidy enough apart from the ridiculous amount of wiring and kit associated with the pickup. The kerfing is notched and the braces not too big on the back. They look quite chunky on the top though which is X braced. The top of the instrument is not too thick.

Lanikai Quilted Maple Concert Ukulele inside


The neck is made from mahogany with extremely well hidden joints in the heel and headstock. It's also stained purple and gloss finished. What I don't like about it is the different wood has the effect of the purple being a slightly different shade to the body. Nobody will notice it watching you play of course, but it sent my OCD into overdrive. The neck tapers to a fairly flattened profile and a roomy 37mm nut width with 30mm from G to A. That's nice to see (for my hands!) on a far eastern instrument from one of the usual suspects. Kala take note!

The fingerboard is made of walnut, and whilst I know it has been used to match the bridge wood I think it looks far too pale and 'stands out' on an otherwise pretty instrument. It's in good condition though. The edges are bound in a black 'material' hiding the fret ends and removing any sharpness. You get 18 of those joined at the 14th. Abalone dots face out at the 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th and 15th and these are repeated with white dots on the side (including an extra at the third).

Lanikai Quilted Maple Concert Ukulele neck


Beyond the NuBone nut is a hefty (thick) slotted headstock faced in more quilted maple. The Lanikai logo is a gold screen print on the top face. It's a nice looking thing though is a touch scruffy inside the slots and the thickness bothers me as this can add weight to the neck.

Lanikai Quilted Maple Concert Ukulele headstock


The tuners are another pleasant surprise in the form of open gear Grover tuners mounted on the side and facing back. Top notch.

Lanikai Quilted Maple Concert Ukulele tuners


Completing the deal are a couple of strap buttons (including one in the back of the heel - an acceptable place, but boy did that cause consternation online when I shared an early picture), Aquila strings and a very decent pod style foam case with the Lanikai logo embroidered on the pocket. Pricing for this really confuses me as they seem to be all over the place on line. I see some shops listing them at an RRP of £420 which is, frankly, a bonkers price for a laminate concert. I see some major discounting on eBay but am not convinced that is the arbiter of pricing to rely on. Going with the middle ground I saw this on Thomann for about £320 which is what I paid. Even at that price I think that is too expensive for what you are getting and in view of the wider market. £250 or even £275 would seem more on the money. 

So a few issues here and there but I keep coming back to the way it looks. The build throughout is sound and I can't find any major issues bar the slightly overdone top gloss and scruffy headstock slots.  But I think the pickup lets it down. And not just in a subjective way. I talk about these a lot and one of my main dislikes is the amount of hardware they add to a diminutive instrument that simply isn't needed. And this one is probably the best example I have seen of the downside to them. It really is adding weight to the instrument as it feels mighty hefty and not 'ukulele like' to hold. And despite that thick headstock which I worried about making it neck heavy, it's actually slightly body heavy... With a regular headstock this one would not be balanced at all. Hmmm. Overall it's 750g which is certainly heavy for a concert uke and quite a bit heavier than a lot of tenors! I largely blame the pickup.

Lanikai Quilted Maple Concert Ukulele back

To play I would say it's something of a mixed bag. The setup is reasonable, though I would personally drop the saddle a little, but it's there or thereabouts. The sustain is reasonably good, but the volume is disappointing. It's hard for me to get that across in the video as compression will even out the video sound, but trust me - it takes quite a bit of effort with the strumming hand to get it to project.

The tone itself is pretty enough when playing individual notes (bar that volume issue) but when strummed they come together into quite a thin sound without a lot of character. Lifeless would be too harsh a word to use, but it's lacks a charm that put a smile on my face and sounds quite one dimensional played this way. And certainly when I consider the price. Fingerpicking is an improvement and I suppose it's quite chimey and pretty played this way, but the projection is just not there for me to be enamoured with it. I'm not entirely sure what is coming together to impact it this way as the top doesn't look overly thick, but something is deadening the body. Maybe it's all that gear inside, maybe the heavy top braces. Without being too negative, it works as a ukulele and plays nicely on the neck too. It just doesn't have much spark. I don't want to be too hard on it because I love the way it looks, but looks don't make sound. This can be beaten on tone very easily for quite a lot less money.

It started so well when I opened the box because I fell for the looks (and still love them). It's not a badly made ukulele (save for the weight), and nor is it an utter howler on the tone stakes when picked. But if you are putting an instrument out there for £300 - £400, then it really doesn't cut it on tone for that money no matter how it looks. One i'd recommend if you see it discounted I suppose.  Still, you can always plug it in....






UKULELE SPECS ROUNDUP

Model: Lanikai QMPU-CEC Quilted Maple
Scale: Concert
Body: All laminate quilted maple
Bridge: Walnut
Saddle: NuBone
Spacing at saddle: 39mm
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Walnut
Frets: 18, 14 to body
Nut: NuBone
Nut Width: 37mm, 30mm G to A
Tuners: Grover open gears
Finish: Gloss
Strings: Aquila
Extras: Strap buttons, Fishman pickup system, pod case
Weight: 750g
Country of origin: China
Price: Circa £320 (RRP £420!!)

UKULELE PROS

Gorgeous looks of the body wood
Good build in most areas
Comfortable, playable neck
Great tuners
Reasonably good sustain
Reasonably pretty fingerpicked
Nice case

UKULELE CONS

Pale fingerboard lets it down
Mismatch colour on neck irritates
That pickup system
Heavy uke (and slightly body heavy)
Not great volume
Not a lot of character to the strummed tone
Price

UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 9 out of 10
Fit and finish - 8 out of 10
Sound - 7.5 out of 10
Value for money - 7 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 7.9 out of 10


UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW





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2 comments :

  1. £420rrp for a laminate????? Weighty, sound not good and looks soooooo Danny la Rue. Sorry Baz not for me.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very good review, Baz. Thanks. It's truly beautiful to look at but it's also a good example of an appreciable imbalance between form and function with form clearly the factory's intent. The price is too high for what it is and sounds like. Too much mids and highs, no low or resonance.

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