Twisted Wood Ember Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

4 Dec 2021

Twisted Wood Ember Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

Two Canadian ukuleles on the bounce for Got A Ukulele. This is a new brand for me called Twisted Wood, who have sent over their Ember Concert.

Twisted Wood Ember Concert Ukulele


Twisted Wood are a Canadian based company headquartered in Alberta, Canada and they have lines of acoustic and Weissenborn guitars as well as ukuleles. Their ukes range from the more entry level full laminate starting at about $99 (US) through to full solid Koa models that top $1,300. This one is more in the middle as it is a solid top instrument but with laminate back and sides. As you might imagine it's a lot more affordable than last weeks Canadian ukulele! Like a number of other brands in the west, they design their ukuleles in Canada, have them built in China, then ship then back where their own Canadian technicians finish them off for setup. That makes for a good value option for the buyer.

The Ember is a mahogany instrument with a curvy double bout shape and attractive Florentine cutaway on the upper shoulder. The top is made from two pieces of solid mahogany, whereas the back and sides are two pieces of mahogany laminate on each. The woods have a certain amount of attractive stripe to them and can shimmer a little in the right light. I've certainly seen much plainer mahogany in my time. The body feels nicely and very exactly put together with no oddities in the joints I can see. In fact, dare I say it is almost too exact as I find the edges, particularly around the cutaway to be rather 'severe'. That's a minor issue and probably not even a criticism, but I suppose I'd just like it a bit softer round the edges.

Twisted Wood Ember Concert Ukulele body


The bridge is a through body style made from purpleheart wood. I suspect it has been stained as purpleheart can have a purple hue whereas this is almost black. Either way though it is extremely tidy with a pleasing smooth finish. I know many people shy away from through body bridges, but I really like them and think that fear is unfounded. In fact they are easier to string change than a tie bar as all you do is push a string into the hole and keep feeding it until you can grab it through the sound hole. Tie a knot on it or a bead and pull it back. Done! The saddle is made of bone with a compensated top. String spacing here is 40mm.

Twisted Wood Ember Concert Ukulele bridge


Decoration is simple yet effective. Around the top, back and the edges of the cutaway is a strip of black edge binding and around the sound hole is a wooden inlay in a herringbone pattern. I suppose it's not the most interesting decor for bling lovers, but it works for me and the herringbone in particular is very neatly inlaid. The body is then finished in a satin that is open pore though not so open pore as those that feel rough to the touch. This is really smooth and tactile to hold on the faces of the instrument (though subject to my comment about the edges I mention above).

Twisted Wood Ember Concert Ukulele decoration


Inside is very tidy. The bracing is in a regular pattern and not overly heavy, the kerfing is notched and I can't see any glue excess at all.  The top wood isn't the thinnest I have seen on a solid uke, but it's not too thick either.

Twisted Wood Ember Concert Ukulele Inside



The neck wood isn't specified, but I am guess is mahogany too. It's in three pieces though the joints at heel and headstock are pretty much impossible to see. It's finished in satin and tapers to a more rounded nut profile than I would like, though what I expected from a Chinese made instrument. Nut width is your 'average' if not 'standard' for a concert at 35mm and 27mm G to A. Yes, I would like that a touch wider myself but your mileage may vary.

That is topped with a fingerboard made of Richlite which is pleasing to see. Richlite is a paper based composite that is used by some very high end guitar makers as a sustainable alternative to cutting down rosewood trees. I'm also glad they've used the matte version rather than the glossy that I see some brands use occasionally. Naturally, it's completely even in it's black colour all over the face. It seems to be edge bound in black, hiding the ends of the 20 frets joined at the 14th. That's a generous number for a concert and because of the cutaway you may even dare to go that high! They are all dressed well with no sharp ends. Pearly position dots face out at the 5th, 7th, 10th, double 12th and 15th and these are paired with side dots.

Twisted Wood Ember Concert Ukulele neck


Beyond the bone nut is a ubiquitous (i.e boring) crown headstock with the Twisted Wood emblem laser etched into the top face. I like the logo, but you know my views on laser etching. I just think even a pearly screen print would add some sparkle up here and find the headstock a touch plain.

Twisted Wood Ember Concert Ukulele headstock


Tuners are unbranded chrome sealed gears with (thankfully) small black buttons. These work just fine even if they are not something exotic.

Twisted Wood Ember Concert Ukulele tuners


Finishing it off are a set of Aquila strings and a nice quality branded gig bag, cleaning cloth, care guide / chord sheet and a Twisted Wood sticker. The RRP for these is $279 US. You can choose to bump that up in price by having it come with one of a range of pickup systems from the basic up to an excellent LR Baggs 5.0 option. There is also a tenor offering.  

It's somewhat hard and perhaps unfair of me to judge price as these are not in the UK market, but I can't help thinking about the value for money here. For quite a bit less money than that you can get a solid top, glossed concert from the likes of Kala. Maybe it's a Canadian cost of living thing, but it seems a bit high for me, certainly when you consider you can get solid topped concerts in the UK from the likes of Kai, Uma and Snail for up to half the UK equivalent here. 

Saying all that.... bear in mind it's an RRP thing. A Google search shows that these are listed in Canadian music dealers for around $219 Canadian. That's a far more realistic price (about  and I am judging the review scoring based on my readers being canny enough to find the right deal not at RRP! (And, many thanks to friend Reid Hepworth for helping me get the lowdown on Canadian prices!).

Twisted Wood Ember Concert Ukulele back


And to be fair to it, the construction here is really sound and I haven't found any flaws with the finish. The bridge is extremely tidy and the fingerboard is too so there is certainly a level of quality control going on here that I don't always see on brands like Kala. This is a very tidy instrument. To hold, as I say, the faces of the body are very smooth though I would like the edges smoothed off a little and I would like the neck a little wider or flatter in profile. It's not heavy at 550g and it's balanced too. It all feels very re-assuring.

The volume here is really good so you will have no worries about being heard. The sustain is not stellar, but not bad either and about what I would expect for the price. I really think you need one of the all solid models for more depth here.

The tone is extremely crisp and clear and strummed it makes for a lively peppy sound which is a lot of fun. It's surprisingly bright for a mahogany instrument and reminds me a lot in tone of the aNueNue Color series for it's zing, but then that is a Spruce topped instrument so I expected that.  I suppose if you are looking for darker, woodier mahogany tones this may not be the instrument, but the clarity played this way it's really is pretty good. Fingerpicking takes that zing to the max and notes fire out no matter where you are on the neck. Compared to a lot of what's out there this impresses me more than similar solid topped Kala instruments I have played as it certainly has more life and bark. I know a lot of people saw my early release pictures of this and thought it was a Cordoba. I have always found Cordoba ukes can sound a bit strangled. That is not the case here. I'm not trying to get ahead of myself because it's not a high end instrument and because of that it doesn't have a huge amount of character to the tone. But it is accurate, clear and pretty for what it is.

To be honest there hasn't been a whole lot to dislike here for me. No, it's not the most staggering ukulele to look at but it's been put together and finished well. The nut width was never going to be what I personally like but that's just me, not you. I think they should be clearer on pricing because if their dealers are indeed selling these at $219 Canadian, advertising them on their own site at $279 US seems crazy. It's certainly a good deal and on a par with the competition at the $219 level, much less so at $279. But regardless, as I say, I trust my readers to shop around and if you are on those shores (Sorry UK!), I think this is another decent alternative in the affordable intermediate category and therefore gets a recommendation.



UKULELE SPECS ROUNDUP

Model: Twisted Wood Ember
Scale: Concert
Body: Solid mahogany top, laminate mahogany back and sides
Bridge: Purpleheart, through bridge
Saddle: Compensated bone
Spacing at saddle: 40mm
Finish: Satin
Neck: Mahogany?
Fingerboard: Richlite
Frets: 20, 14 to body
Nut: Bone
Nut width: 35mm, 27mm G to A
Tuners: Unbranded sealed chrome gears
Strings: Aquila
Extras: Gig bag, cloth, chord card, sticker
Weight: 550g
Country of origin: China
Price: $279 US RRP, $219 Canadian Street

UKULELE PROS

Very clean exact build - great quality control
Very well finished
Decor applied very well
Excellent tidy bridge
Smooth richlite board
Very good volume
Crisp clean tone

UKULELE CONS

Would personally want wider nut / flatter profile
Edges would benefit from being chamfered
RRP is too much (street price more sensible!)

UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 8.5 out of 10
Fit and finish - 8.5 out of 10
Sound - 8.5 out of 10
Value for money (Street price!) 9 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 8.6 out of 10

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2 comments :

  1. The 279 US$ is not as grazy as it seems. It gives a price indication and chases the customers to the dealers, who are happy with this. If they would offer it at the dealer prize, those would be unhappy and the manufacturer get to do a lot of shipping. It's a well thought-out strategy.

    ReplyDelete
  2. To get me back to my ukulele days my wife bought me a Twisted Wood tenor from a local music dealer. I know that's not the same as your review but simply wanted to add that it has decent sound, fretboard is comfortable for my big hands, etc. Considerably less than what you have reviewed but I'm sure that the tenor sold in a local music shop is not a high end model.

    I haven't played it for a while as I've been playing a Kala baritone I picked up a few months ago (and a banjolele).

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