Pickapick UC23 Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

6 Mar 2022

Pickapick UC23 Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

Got A Ukulele returns after a short break with a new instrument that carries a certain look that may seem familiar. This is the Pickapick UC23 Concert Ukulele.

Pickapick UC23 Concert Ukulele

And that familiarity comes down to the looks. A coloured top, wood finish back and sides, maple fingerboard? Yep, there is clearly a nod going on here to the hugely popular aNueNue Color ukulele series.  In fact, this one comes in a range of colours that are very similar too.  That's not to say it's a 'copy' (something that DOES happen in the ukulele world quite often) as there are several differences, but, let's just call it a 'homage'. I don't personally mind that as the aNueNue was a successful head turner and it's a case of flattery if others are choosing to take the same route. Of course, when you put something out that has such similarities you have to do you best to create something that stands on its own two feet rather than all being mouth and no trousers. Plenty get that wrong, but did Pickapick? That's what Got A Ukulele aims to find out.

Pickapick UC23 Concert Ukulele body

The Pickapick (odd name, sorry!) is a concert scale ukulele built in a traditional double bout shape with a 'two tone' colour and wood finish body. They claim the shape is a 'redefined OM body' but I call gobbledegook on that - it's a pretty regular double bout to my eyes. The top of this example is in what they call Coral Red, but it also comes in Aqua Blue, Cherry Pink, Pearl Black, Sky Blue and Sunshine Yellow. The colours are much bolder expressions than those from the Pantone catalogue on the aNueNue, but hardly horrible to look at and represent a nice alternative... if you like coloured ukes. Actually, this colour has grown on me a little more than the similar red of the aNueNue as I like the stronger look. It's a painted finish over a wooden top through which you can just about see the straight grain, but in the first major difference to the aNueNue, the top here is laminate Alaskan Spruce rather than solid wood. As I always say, laminate does not bother me if it is done well, and of course, being painted like the aNueNue, there's no real way you'd tell the woods apart (or even that it IS wood from a distance). The back and sides are like the aNueNue in that they are made from laminate mahogany with two pieces on each. It's a look that I think works as it does on both brands, but I know there were those who flatly didn't like the colour contrast. Each to their own.

The bridge is a slot style made from maple fitted with what they call a 'plastic steel' saddle with an uncompensated top. Plastic steel is a new definition for me and I presume it means it's a composite like NuBone or Tusq. I'm not sure. Either way the whole thing is very tidy and well finished if very chunky looking. String spacing here is 44mm.

Pickapick UC23 Concert Ukulele bridge

Decoration is similar to the aNueNue too. We have cream edge binding to the top and back which sets off the colour nicely. The top soundhole is offset and in a kind of honeycomb shape which I personally find rather attractive, and that is complemented by a side sound port. You wont see a pick guard in the images here, but it does come with one made of white plastic which you can apply yourself. I think that's a clever move because the pick guard on the aNueNue (in fact a pick guard generally on ukuleles) divides opinion. Personally I prefer the look of this without it, but I hold up the pickguard in the video to show you what it looks like fitted in place. It's nice to have the choice and to highlight that divided opinion, I know a few people with the aNueNue Color who have tried to take that guard off the instrument. The overall finish is a satin and the construction and outer coating all over the body is pretty flawless. It's certainly on a par with the aNueNue in the body build and finish.

Pickapick UC23 Concert Ukulele decor

Inside is tidy enough and pretty standard - notched kerfing and regular bracing. Whilst the laminate wood on the sides is thin, the top wood is hellishly thick as you can see.

Pickapick UC23 Concert Ukulele inside

The neck isn't specified though looks like a fairly standard mahogany / okoume type wood. It's in three pieces with fairly well hidden joints. It tapers to a rounded profile at the nut and a very average 35mm nut width with 27mm G to A. The aNueNue nut is wider and the neck flatter and I much prefer it. It's finished in satin too which means no grippy feel on the hand.

The fingerboard is made of maple like certain colours in the aNueNue series and doesn't offer a rosewood option. That's fine with me as I really do like maple boards. This one has some attractive swirly grain too it which adds to the appeal.  It comes with 19 frets joined at the 14th and, surprisingly for the low price, these have 'semi-hemi' ends meaning they are rounded and smoothed before fitting. I'm seeing that more and more on ukuleles from the far east and it's a nice touch that in the past was the preserve of high end stuff. Saying all that, whilst the main ends are not sharp, there is a touch of 'fret sprout' happening on the fret tang in the wood which is irritating. It's not edge bound so you see the ends too. Position dots are formed in small attractive white squares on the offset at the 5th, 7th, 10th and 12th. I like them, but they really missed a trick in not having them wrap around the fingerboard end to make side dots too. And I say that particularly as there ARE no side dots at all.  Silly.

Pickapick UC23 Concert Ukulele fingerboard

Beyond the composite nut is an asymmetrical headstock which is different enough and faced in mahogany. The Pickapick logo is laser etched and looks really basic and cheap. Considering Pickapick do have a logo which is quite attractive, it makes no sense to not use that here. This looks lame.

Pickapick UC23 Concert Ukulele headstock

The tuners are generic sealed gears in chrome with offset placement to match the headstock contours. There's not much more to say here other than they work ok.

Pickapick UC23 Concert Ukulele tuners

Completing the package are a set of unspecified nylon strings (which are far too loose and flabby for my liking) an attractive gig bag with red interior and trim, a strap, two strap buttons, a pick, the optional pick guard, a learn to play book and (in a nice touch) a small greeting card with stickers that you can fill in if you are giving the instrument to somebody as a gift. It's all rather well thought out and, in another major departure from the aNueNue, comes in at a very cheap price. It's Amazon dynamic pricing so it depends when you look but at the time of writing this it's about $67 (sorry - not available in the UK yet..). OK, I know the aNueNue uses solid wood so is always going to be more money but still - that's really not a lot to spend for a well put together uke.

Pickapick UC23 Concert Ukulele extras


So all things considered, the offering here is mostly on the positive side for a low price. The setup out of the box seems ok on this example too, but I would stress my point about those strings - you WILL want to change them. I get that string 'feel' is a subjective thing, but for me these are like rubber bands and very easy to bend out of tune or get tangled in when strumming. Still, a string change is easily done. It doesn't feel heavy at 505g either, balances well in the hands and the satin coat means it's nice to hold in the way the aNueNue is.


Pickapick UC23 Concert Ukulele back

Describing tone in a review is always the most subjective part, so of course I have done a side to side with the aNueNue in the video so you can make your own minds up. But as an opening statement I am not wholly disappointed here - in fact for a $70 instrument I have played a LOT worse.

Neither the volume or the sustain are a match for the aNueNue, but irrespective of the comparison, this doesn't perform particularly poorly on either of these fronts. Volume between the two is closer, but the aNueNue has a more impressive ring that hangs around when it comes to sustain and feels a bit more 'alive' whereas this feels a bit more constrained. With my hand size I fine the aNueNue much more comfortable to hold and fret, but this is hardly unplayable (bar those strings which are highly irritating). A string change could bring these closer of course, but your mileage and perception may vary.

Tone wise it's certainly bright like the aNueNue, and particularly peppy and jangly when strummed. Despite being a laminate it's not giving off that tell-tale 'boxy' sound some cheap laminates can have. I am sensing a little less character though and whereas the aNueNue excels in attack and superb clarity with some strumming on the Pickapick I find things losing their footing a little. It's not a muddy tone, but just not quite as precise as some other instruments. Again though, the comparison aside, it's not a 'bad' sounding instrument to strum and better than a lot of the Amazon offerings I have seen for this money. Just not the aNueNue to my ears.

It's a similar story when picked - this instrument does not perform 'badly' and it 'works' as a uke, but just doesn't have the same character and prettiness to the notes played singly. Still, the volume is maintained fairly well up the neck and out performs some others if not the aNueNue. One thing that is clear to me, however it is played, is how easy it is to bend the notes out of tune when fretting on account of those strings. You will hear it in the video, particularly in fingerpicking. It's not an accuracy issue with the instrument itself, it's just the strings which act like elastic! I'm just getting that in because people are BOUND to add a comment saying it's out of tune. It's not, nor is the setup off - it's the ease of pulling the strings sharp when playing. In other words - blame my technique -  but then, it should NOT be so easy to do.

When I first saw these I did wonder whether it was going to be a pale imitation of the aNueNue which just didn't live up to the hype as an instrument (much like I found with the Rosen which was trying to be the Enya Nova and failed). I was wrong here though as the build and finish is pretty damn good and it sounds ok. The neck profile and width are not for me personally and I think the headstock looks cheap, but I'm nit-picking on those. It doesn't stand up to the aNueNue on volume or tone to my ears, but it's a lot closer than aNueNue should be comfortable with. And all for quite a bit less money. There's much to like here I think and whilst it wouldn't replace my aNueNue Color instruments, you would not be making a huge mistake grabbing one. Sorry UK players (for now) though.

STOP PRESS!

Whilst I never like doing string changes to reviews, and you SHOULD view the original review video at the foot of this review FIRST - I recorded this with a new set of strings. A very different beast!! (PLEASE - see original video first then the one below for reference)







UKULELE SPECS ROUNDUP

Model: Pickapick UC23
Scale: Concert
Body: Laminate Alaskan Spruce top, laminate mahogany back and sides
Bridge: Maple, slot style
Saddle: Composite
Spacing at saddle: 44mm
Neck: Unspecified
Fingerboard: Maple
Frets: 19, 14 to body
Nut: Composite
Nut width: 35mm, 27mm G to A
Tuners: Unbranded sealed gears
Finish: Satin, coloured top
Weight: 505g
Extras: Gig bag, strap buttons, strap, pick, pick guard, starter book, greeting card and stickers
Country of origin: China
Price: $67

UKULELE PROS

Nice striking looks
Good overall build and finish
Attractive fingerboard
Semi Hemi frets (but see below)
Decent enough volume and reasonably good sustain
Nice enough tone
Good price

UKULELE CONS

Basic headstock decor
Fret sprout
Strings are woeful

UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 8.5 out of 10
Fit an finish - 8.5 out of 10
Sound - 8.5 out of 10
Value for money - 9.5 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 8.8 out of 10

UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW






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