Leolani Ricky Somborn Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

13 Feb 2022

Leolani Ricky Somborn Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

A return to Got A Ukulele for the Leolani brand this week. And this is their Ricky Somborn Concert from their Artist Series.

Leolani Ricky Somborn Concert Ukulele

Leolani impressed me with the first instrument of theirs I looked at, the Cedar Topped Tenor. So I've been keen to take another look. The company itself was set up by Hong Kong born Jenny Liu who settled in Hawaii many years ago and since set up the Leolani company in Honolulu. So it's a Hawaiian brand, but they have their instruments made in the far east rather than on the islands. I'm cool with that because, of course, not everybody can afford or justify a Hawaiian built instrument. As for the Ricky Somborn name I was, I'm afraid to say, not sure who he was (sorry Ricky!). I think that's mainly because I don't use the beginner play along YouTube offerings, and that is what Ricky does, with what appears to be a very successful channel. He hooked up with Leolani a few years back to develop a 'signature' model which is what we have here. Apparently he had a say in the specifications and looks too.

The Ricky Somborn Concert is a solid top, laminate back and sides model that goes big on the looks and pizazz. This is made from curly okoume to create an attractive stripy, flamed look to the whole of the body. It's made of two pieces on the top, back and sides and the stripes are nicely book-matched to create a tiger stripe effect. I put up some early pictures of this one and some people suggested the book-matching was not lined up. It actually is - when you split wood like this to create two book-matches pieces you are looking at the inner of the wood on one side and the outer of the other. That creates an alternating stripe effect that changes as the light moves. If the dark and light stripes were lined up each side the book-matching would actually be shifted out of line. Anyway, stripy it is indeed, though I would say that the back is more attractive than the front on this model. Of course you need to bear in mind that the grain is a natural thing and each example will differ. For me though, I'd prefer the top and back were swapped around!

Leolani Ricky Somborn Concert Ukulele body

The bridge is not specified, but I suspect it could be the same reconstituted 'eco' rosewood Leolani used on the tenor I looked at. I'm cool with that and it's very neatly and smoothly finished. It's a tie bar style and sitting in that is a straight topped bone saddle. Spacing here is about 40mm.

Leolani Ricky Somborn Concert Ukulele bridge

Decoration is really all about the colour with the okoume wood stained in what they call 'Kai Blue'. It's a very nice blue indeed in my opinion and is the star of the show (if you like coloured ukes of course!). Around the top an back edge is a black binding strip which kind of 'finishes off' the look without detracting from the blue flaming. Around the soundhole is an abalone ring which again, just adds a touch of flair without taking over. The body on this one comes in their 'tux' satin finish which is open pore, although the same model is available in a full gloss. I suspect the gloss would make the flamed wood pop and shimmer more, but the body finish here is done nicely without under or over-application.

Leolani Ricky Somborn Concert Ukulele decor

Inside is pretty tidy with little mess. The linings are neat and notched and the braces not overly thick. The top seems to be vertically braced and there is a tail block. That top doesn't look too thick either.

Leolani Ricky Somborn Concert Ukulele inside

Moving on to the neck, this is made of okoume wood too, and is also stained in the same Kai Blue. There are joints at the heel and headstock but they are very difficult to spot giving the neck a very even colour along the full length. It tapers to a rounded, but not overly so, profile at the nut which I find comfortable in my hands. That's complemented by a slightly wider than average 37mm (30mm G to A) for a concert neck. Nice.

That is topped with more unspecified wood which is likely the same as the bridge. It's nice and evenly dark along the whole length with a hint of swirly grain. It's edge bound in black which hides the ends of the 18 frets joined at the 14th.  There are no sharp ends and the edges of the board look slightly rolled / chamfered for comfort. That's nice, but I must say that I spied a touch of scruffy finishing up at the dusty end. Position markers face out at the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th and 15th. These are in form of small diamonds with the 12th marker being the letters 'R.S' for the signature element. Whilst I personally don't go in for signature instruments, I must say that I much prefer something subtle like that rather than a massive signature on the headstock, or, in what I saw from one YouTuber, a laser etching of his face on the body (I kid you not!). Thankfully these markers are also repeated down the side.

Leolani Ricky Somborn Concert Ukulele neck

The headstock is a slot style and on first look is very attractive, using a deep black facing to contrast to the blue. In the top face the Leolani logo is inlaid in pearly. Looking more closely though and the open bare wood in the slots are both scruffy, but also shows some over painting which is just shoddy. I understand why they left the wood unpainted in there to create more contrast, but if you do that you really need to keep the finishing tidy here.

Leolani Ricky Somborn Concert Ukulele headstock

The tuners are side mounted open gears as you would normally see on a stot head. They are unbranded in an attractive black with brass gear and looking at the teeth they look to be of decent quality. The tension on them is far  too slack for my liking and I'd prefer more 'feedback' when using them. Being gears, they hold ok though, but I suspect you will easily knock these out of tune just be putting it in the bag!

Leolani Ricky Somborn Concert Ukulele tuners

Finishing things off are a set of Aquila strings and a decent quality padded gig bag (with VERY good zips!). I think it would have been nicer to have the RS signature on the bag too, but I really am nit picking there. And to grab one of these we are looking at a US RRP of $220. That's not the cheapest solid top ukulele in the world, but not the most expensive either and it's clearly not a simple plain instrument. A reasonable price I would say.

Leolani Ricky Somborn Concert Ukulele back

So overall I am pretty impressed. Aside from a bit of scruffy finishing from the neck up and wanting better tuners, the body is very well done and presented. It's very light to hold at 500g too and balances really well. I like the feel of the neck too and the setup on this example seems ok.

Volume and sustain are both very good and won't let you down. It feels lively to play and not strangled or muted. This really doesn't take a lot of finger effort to produce sound.

I freely admit to not really knowing what the signature 'okoume sound' is, but this seems quite rounded to me with a tendency towards the brighter side of the range.  Strummed it is very crisp and clear to listen to with a jangle happening on faster rhythms.  I find it really quite pleasant though as you will know by now I prefer a little more darkness to a ukulele tone. Still, it is a concert I suppose.

Fingerpicking is  impressive with good volume right up the neck. The sustain is helping here and the neck width makes playing this way comfortable for my hands. Again it's a bright sound but the chime is a real positive I think that creates zingy and very pretty notes. As ever with my reviews of more 'value' instruments I am not trying to get ahead of myself here. No, it doesn't have the character of a K brand, but then it's not trying to be and only costs $220, not $2000.

All in all I suspect this will either turn you on or off on the colour stakes (I like it), but if that blue colour IS for you what lies beneath is a competent good value instrument that is nice to play and listen to. It's another one from Leolani that has impressed me, and whilst a 'signature model' is never a mark of quality on it's own, they pulled this one off. And it's nice that it's the wood that is being showy and not the signature name!

Worth a look!


Model: Leolani Ricky Somborn
Scale: Concert
Body: Solid curly okoume top, laminate okoume back and sides
Bridge: Unspecified tie bar
Saddle: Bone
Saddle spacing: 40mm
Finish: TUX (Satin)
Neck: Okoume
Fingerboard: Unspecified
Frets: 18, 14 to body
Nut: Bone
Nut Width: 37mm, 30mm G to A
Tuners: Unbranded open gears
Strings: Aquila
Extras: Gig bag
Weight: 500g
Country of origin: Far east (not specified)
Price: $220


Striking looks without being too ostentatious
Decent overall build
Great volume and sustain
Clear bright tone
Comfortable neck


Some finishing issues on neck and headstock
Wish the back was swapped with the top on this example!
Slack tuners


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









  1. looks nice other than the blue.....wonder how it will look when faded/ aged


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