Flight Carabao T-SUS Spruce Mango Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

14 Nov 2021

Flight Carabao T-SUS Spruce Mango Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

Got A Ukulele returns with a ukulele choice that always impresses me - a store's own exclusive. This is the Southern Ukulele Store Flight Carabao T-SUS Spruce Mango Tenor.


Flight Carabao Tenor Ukulele


As I've said before I find there is a certain quality guarantee with a store's own ukulele model. Whilst it doesn't totally rule out a dud, if you are a specialist uke dealer, choosing to put your own name on a model really does come with some risk and a real need for you to be sure of your choice. Southern Ukulele store have done it before (to great effect) with Kanile'a so it was really interesting for me to see they've also chosen to work together with a much more affordable brand in Flight. Interesting, but not surprising as I know full well that SUS have done extremely well with the various Flight models they have stocked. And, of course, you know that I've never given them a bad review either.

Just to get the name out of the way, Carabao is nothing to do with the Carabao animal, or what I first thought of when I saw it - the current sponsor of the English Football League Cup.. It's named after a wood type on the instrument. More on that in a moment. It's a very modern shaped double bout tenor with really attractive curves on the upper and lower bouts. It's all solid wood too with solid spruce on the top and solid Carabao mango on the back and sides. I know how much Alex at SUS loves his mango wood in ukuleles so I am not the least bit surprised to see him spec that here. Carabao mango is from the Philippines. The top is made from two pieces, but as usual with spruce it's hard to see the join because of the very tight straight grain. The back and sides are made from the mango which is nicely book-matched and gives a nice contrast to the flat coloured top. It's not curly mango or even that striking on this example, but it's pretty. It's nice to see that this doesn't come with that almost sooty black staining you get with some examples of this wood.

Flight Carabao Tenor Ukulele  body


The bridge is a Taylor-esque pin bridge that is very reminiscent, in fact identical to that on the Flight Fireball Ukulele. That is to say, it's made of Indian Rosewood and the black pins are topped with red inlays surrounded by a gold ring. Fitted into the plate is a compensated bone saddle. It's extremely tidy in finish and, like with the Fireball, I love the detailing on the pins. String spacing here is 40mm.

Flight Carabao Tenor Ukulele  bridge


Other decoration looks simply yet effective. Around the top of the instrument is a black binding edge with no other purfling, also repeated on the tail strip, and around the soundhole is an abalone ring edged in black. It doesn't 'scream' bling and I think it's all the better for that. The body is then finished in a gloss which on this example is flawless with no hints of over application. It's also nice to note that the back edges are slightly chamfered off so no jarring lines.

Flight Carabao Tenor Ukulele  decor


Inside is extremely tidy with regular transverse bracing and notched kerfing. The top braces are drilled through, Kanile'a style to reduce weight whilst maintaining strength.

Up to the neck, this is made of mahogany and out of three pieces. The joint in the headstock is nicely done and matched, but the heel joint is a bit too obvious for my liking. I'm really pleased to see that this is finished in satin meaning it's quick to navigate. The profile at the nut is rounded, but not overly so and the width is really pleasing at 38mm (30mm G to A). 

Topping that is more Indian Rosewood for the fingerboard. The wood is so dark, you could be forgiven it was ebony and in great condition. I like the way it curves around the sound hole and also is chamfered thinner at the end too. It's fitted with 19 frets, joined at the 14th. Even better they have 'semi-hemi' fret ends like the Fireball and their much more expensive models. That means it's impossible to have sharp ends because they don't quite reach!  The position markers are offset like the Fireball, but are longer rectangles which remind me of the Kanile'a Manako. They also use a design feature I don't think I have seen before where they wrap around the end of the board to create side 'dots'. That's really cool. Incidentally, if you see a mark on the 15th marker on the side I 'thought' I was going to have a gripe with that as flaw. It's actually just a remnant of the polishing compound that hadn't quite been rubbed away. I rubbed it with my finger and it is gone as you will see on the video! And another bonus with the fingerboard is that the edges are 'rolled' meaning silky smooth sides. Things are getting better and better.

Flight Carabao Tenor Ukulele  neck


Beyond the bone nut is the very 'en-vogue' open frame headstock which I am really taken with. I know some people dislike trad slot heads, and I can almost see why as they can be chunky things. This style, losing the inner strip means a lot less real estate and a modern slinky look. It's faced in more rosewood and glossed and holds the Flight logo in pearl at the top.

Flight Carabao Tenor Ukulele  headstock


The tuners are side mounted open gears by Prowel with screws, main gear and peg post left in gold for contrast. They are great.

Flight Carabao Tenor Ukulele  tuners


Finishing things off are a set of clear fluoro strings and a really good quality red padded bag with both the Flight logo and that of Southern Ukulele Store logo embroidered into it. And I really did do a double take when I saw the price. These are available for £349. Now when you consider it shares a lot of appointments with the Fireball (minus the cutaway, edge chamfer, pickup etc) it's otherwise a very similar instrument. The Fireball is the best part of £500. Incidentally, the do offer this with a pickup for the same price as the Fireball, but.... It's a MiSi pickup - BIG difference! Oh, and there are also Concert models too. This is a great price.

Flight Carabao Tenor Ukulele  back

As I think is pretty obvious there's really not much to fault here at all. The build is excellent as is the finish. I suppose some will want their mango to be more striking, but it's hardly ugly as I am sure you will agree. And all the other appointments like the bridge pins, the semi-hemi frets, the markers and headstock really set it off.  It's also very light at only 650g and balances well. It just feels 'right' in the hands.

Volume and sustain are both extremely good here so no complaints on that front.

Tone wise, the pairing of spruce and mango did concern me for my own subjective reasons. That's because I like darker and woodier sounding tenors and Spruce is a very bright sounding wood. It tends to get paired with woods like mahogany or even rosewood to dial that brightness back down, but a rich wood like mango may not do that quite so much. And it's certainly bright and zingy to listen to. That mango is coming through though and it's not full on 'melt your face' brightness as there is a richness to the background of the sound. Strummed it's extremely peppy and bouncy - not fully to my tenor taste, but it will be for a great many people. That's really not a criticism as it very obviously has a great tone. I don't tend to play low G any longer, but it's probably the sort of instrument that would push me to using one.

Fingerpicking is where it really put a smile on my face most though. It's delightfully clear, zingy and really charming to listen to. Everywhere on the neck is clear and the volume stands up. Coupled with that fast and comfortable neck it's a pickers delight I think.

I've been concerned with scoring lately because so many instruments are getting into the nines. Though it's not because I have lost my edge in calling out duff instruments, it's just that there is so much out there these days that is just 'right'. I've long admired Flight as a brand who listen and develop, and kind of knew from the off that a collaboration with Alex at SUS was going to be something of a winner (he wouldn't want the store name to go on something useless). And so it is with this one. I do adore the Fireball still, but it's really hard to ignore the value for money here. I genuinely wouldn't have been surprised if it was well over £400. 

Highly recommended!


UKULELE SPECS ROUNDUP

Model: Flight Carabao T-SUS
Scale: Tenor
Body: Solid Spruce top, solid Carabao Mango back and sides
Bridge: Rosewood, pin bridge
Saddle: Bone, compensated
Spacing at saddle: 40mm
Finish: Gloss
Neck: Satin mahogany
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Frets: 19, 14 to body with semi hemi ends
Nut: Bone
Nut width: 38mm, 30mm G to A
Tuners: Prowel open gears
Strings: Clear fluoro
Extras: Branded gig bag
Weight: 650g
Country of origin: China (I assume)
Price: £349

UKULELE PROS

Extremely classy overall looks
Excellent build and finish
Great neck
Great volume and sustain
Rich, bright jangly tone
Fingerpicking is a delight
Great price

UKULELE CONS

None really!


UKULELE SCORES

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

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 9.3 out of 10

UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW




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