Romero Creations S-M Signature Model Mahogany Soprano Ukulele - REVIEW

29 Aug 2021

Romero Creations S-M Signature Model Mahogany Soprano Ukulele - REVIEW

Got A Ukulele has always had a soft spot for ukuleles that break with convention - it annoys the purists... And this is certainly one of those. This is the S-M Signature Soprano from Romero Creations.



This is not my first look at the Romero Creations ukes - I first looked at their Tiny Tenor back in 2017.  Romero Creations were founded by luthier Pepe Romero Jr, member of the esteemed Romero family of classical guitarists. Whilst Pepe still makes (I believe) some very high end instruments in the USA, the Romero Creations line aim to keep the price more sensible by being designed in the USA to his specs, but luthier built in Vietnam. I really liked the Tiny Tenor, but my main gripe with it at the time was that the dealership network was meaning that UK prices were off the scale to the US - in fact that TT model was part laminate yet cost about the same as the USA all solid version. Thankfully that disparity seems to have sorted itself out now and this is more comparably priced to the USA.

As for breaking with convention that will become obvious as we go through the review, but the obvious one was that I was surprised that this was a soprano. More on that in a moment. The S-M is a far more traditional shaped ukulele than the innovative Tiny Tenor, yet still looks, well, very different. Firstly, whilst it's a double bout ukulele the overall shape is anything but traditional soprano. It has a really extended lower bout coupled with a larger than average sound hole that looks to be located higher up than normal. That all comes together into a striking look that places the bridge higher up than you might expect, leaving all that real estate at the bottom bout to resonate freely. The other thing that stands out is the overly deep body with tall sides at 8 cm wide. All of that means - yes - you guessed it - bigger sound chamber - bigger sound. Incidentally, there is no laminate here at all, this is made from all solid mahogany on the two piece top, sides and ever so slightly curved back. I will say this from the off though - the way the looks come together is not for me - the fat base and tiny headstock seem out of proportion to each other for my eyes.

Romero Creations S-M Signature Soprano Ukulele body


Speaking of the bridge, this is a low profile through body design (strings go in through the holes, fish out of sound hole, tie knot / bead, and pull back) and is extremely smooth and tidy. It's fitted with a compensated saddle which isn't specified, but I think may be bone. I do like this style of bridge - whilst people think they are difficult they are really not (knot.. geddit?) and also they are said to aid sound transference directly up and down through the saddle due to the more severe break angle. String spacing here is 42mm

Romero Creations S-M Signature Soprano Ukulele bridge


Decor is simple but effective, limited to an abalone sound hole rosette which extenuates the large sound hole. The body is finished in a very nice gloss which makes the grain in the mahogany almost glow. Rather like the Big Island review last week, this is a paler mahogany example (though not as pale as that koa), yet I have seen other sales pictures on other examples which look much darker. Like koa, mahogany can vary. I think this is pretty.

Romero Creations S-M Signature Soprano Ukulele decor


Inside is interesting insofar as there are vertical back braces to match the vertical top braces. The kerfing is notched, though there is quite a bit of glue mess.

Romero Creations Signature Soprano Ukulele inside


The neck is not specified, but I am presuming that like the body it will be made of mahogany. It's a single piece and tapers to a flattened profile at the nut and a roomy enough (for a soprano) 35mm at the nut with 28mm G to A. It's glossed too and like the Big Island I looked at last week that gloss extends up on the to the sides of the fretboard. One thing I don't like is the overly high and almost sharp edged neck heel which I find quite uncomfortable.

The board is made of ebony and is shaped around the top of the soundhole. In the pictures here it looks a little dry, but it was an extremely bright day and it's not actually all that bad as you will see on the video. You get 17 frets joined at the 14th which is also more unusual for a soprano. Position dots in white pearl face out at the 5th, 7th, 10th and 12th and they are repeated on the side.

Romero Creations S-M Signature Soprano Ukulele neck


Beyond the bone nut is the same odd headstock shape as on the Tiny Tenor, faced in ebony and carrying the Romero logo in a pearly inlay. It's extremely tidy. Whilst I kind of 'got' why the tiny tenor used this shape in order to keep the overall dimensions down to being, well, 'Tiny', as I say above I find this doesn't work with the bigger body and makes the whole think 'look' off balance.

Romero Creations S-M Signature Soprano Ukulele headstock


The tuners are matte black sealed gears with small black wooden buttons. They look to be nice quality and work well too.

Romero Creations S-M Signature Soprano Ukulele tuners


Completing the package are Romero's own US2 string set which are fluorocarbon for strings one to three and a wound low G by La Bella. Yes.. a low G on a soprano. *subjectivity alert again as discussed below*. It comes with a very nice semi hard padded bag with the Romero branding and comes in at a price of £579. I don't think that's too bad for the quality I am seeing here.

Romero Creations S-M Signature Soprano Ukulele gig bag


So aside from the overall looks / dimensions not working for my own tastes, it's quite clear that there is some serious build quality going on here. It's finished extremely well and I am struggling to find any defects. Despite that large body it's not overly heavy at 620g (though that IS heavy for a soprano) and despite that big bottom end and small headstock, still balances perfectly at the 12th.

Tone wise I have to come back to that subjectivity. You see I don't really like low G on a ukulele and certainly don't like it on a soprano which I think suits the higher register much more as it's a rhythmical instrument it was designed to be. I know some of you will disagree with me, but I think the re-entrant sound is THE sound of the ukulele. You can use what you like of course, but despite dabbling with low G I have never stuck with it. Now, that larger body may be the key here and maybe it won't sound like a soprano (and trust me, it IS a soprano as the scale is about 13.5 inches). But then.. why not just give it a longer neck and be done with it?

Romero Creations S-M Signature Soprano Ukulele back

Volume and sustain here are both terrific, especially the latter trait. It feels alive in the hands and projects very well - all to do with that big body of course. No complaints there at all.

Tone wise it is a very nice sounding instrument with extremely clear note separation and lots of range to the sound because of that lower tuning on the G. I rather like it as a musical instrument tone really, but would still prefer a high G (though that's just me as I say). Strummed it shows of some complexity in the harmonics and sounds peppy and jangly enough - bouncy even. Picked it is really clear and chimey right up the neck. In fact, not much to dislike here....  but.... it doesn't sound like a soprano, and sounds more like a tenor. Yet it doesn't play like a tenor. I'm very confused, but possibly in a good way.. In fact my summary of tone is deliberately short because of that and think you would do better to watch the video and tell me what you think (including my shonky use of the low G - because I don't like the sound and feel of them!). Subjectively I wouldn't play a soprano that sounded like this, but objectively I can clearly hear that it's a great sound.

All in all there is much to like here in the build, finish and sound even if the looks are not for me personally. It's certainly different and quirky and I applaud that. I'm not sure it knows what it wants to be, but that is hardly a complaint when it plays well as a musical instrument, and I can attest that it does. Fair price, nicely made uke. Comes recommended (unless you are a traditionalist when it comes to soprano...).




UKULELE SPECS ROUNDUP

Model: Romero Creations S-M Signature Model
Scale: Soprano
Body: Solid mahogany
Bridge: Ebony
Saddle: Bone?
Saddle spacing: 42mm
Finish: Gloss
Neck: Mahogany?
Fingerboard: Ebony
Frets: 17, 14 to body
Nut: Bone?
Nut width: 35mm, 28mm G to A
Tuners: Unbranded black sealed gears
Strings: Romero US2 fluorocarbon with La Bella low G
Weight: 620g
Country of origin: Vietnam
Price: £579

UKULELE PROS

Great build and finish
Very nice neck
Decent tuners
Not overly heavy and balanced to hold
Terrific volume and sustain
Wide range to the tone
Decent price
Nice bag

UKULELE CONS

Overall looks don't work for me
Uncomfortable neck heel
Doesn't sound like a soprano
Wouldn't choose low G myself

UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 8 out of 10
Fit and finish - 9 out of 10
Sound - 9 out of 10
Value for money - 9.5 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 8.9 out of 10

UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW


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2 comments :

  1. It does sound like a Tenor, but (in my case), it would feel very odd to have it sound like a Soprano, with that lower bout. I do like the unusual, let us say unique, look. This is one of my fav reviews exactly because you are at odds with some features, but acknowledge that and put your preferences aside.

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  2. As the soprano lover that you are, Barry, you do sound a bit confused by this one, and I am not at all surprised, lol. I love mine, but then again, I prefer tenors, so I like a bigger sound. It is certainly not typical. It has a nice big, rather full, rich, resonant voice for a small uke. The woods are gorgeous too, and the abalone trim is a nice touch. It is admittedly very unsoprano-like. I call it the soprano for those who don't like the soprano sound. I like to take mine when I travel, as I get a more tenor-like tone in a very portable size. I think you gave it a bit of a low score on looks, because it's a really very attractive looking uke. Except for that headstock, which I totally agree with you on. I wish Romero Creations would put a more normal size headstock on their ukes with the double bouts, and save the shortened ones for the Tiny Tenors.

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