Mr Mai Le Petit Prince Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

14 May 2022

Mr Mai Le Petit Prince Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

A return for a ukulele brand that's had a couple of successes before on Got A Ukulele. This is the somewhat curious 'Le Petit Prince' Concert Ukulele from Mr Mai.


Mr Mai Le Petit Prince Concert Ukulele


Mr Mai are the ukulele brand of Chinese company SaFeng music and featured with me before as they became something of a staple of the FreeBird Music store in Leeds who carry them (at one point, and possibly still making their house brand uke for them). They've also been stocked by Matt Stead at The Uke Room (so there's two thumbs up for me). The last one I looked at was the rather wonderful M-M80 solid Koa Concert which was an absolute cracker for a price I didn't expect.  This one goes very slightly higher end still and is focussed on the decor 'theme' of the classic French book 'Le Petit Prince' by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, one of the most sold and translated books in the world. More on that decor later, but I quizzed Mr Mai on the choice and it's really just down to them loving the book and wanting to make themed instruments! More on that decor later.

The Le Petit Prince model on review here is in concert scale but also comes as tenor and also a travel guitar. It's a double bout shape with very nice modern curvy bouts, and made from all solid tone-woods. For the top we have two pieces of tight grained spruce and the back and sides are two pieces each of solid ebony. That's a nice combination of dark and light and, with the choice of ebony, a high end one too and the first real clue that this is not an entry level instrument.

Mr Mai Le Petit Prince Concert Ukulele body


The bridge is made from ebony and is a tie bar style holding a compensated bone saddle. It's very tidy and has a small detailing strip in the base. The string spacing here is 43mm.

Mr Mai Le Petit Prince Concert Ukulele bridge


On to the decoration which comes from the Little Prince book illustrations, and very faithfully too. The book tells the story of the Little Prince who travels from planet to planet and tackles themes like loneliness and friendship. Whilst framed as a 'children's book' it's actually quite the philosophical piece about human nature and commentary on society. (If you don't know it I DO urge you to read it!). So, alongside the ebony binding to the top we have a number of inlays in the top and around the soundhole of stars and planets in the style of the book. That sound hole rosette is an inlay that forms an outer ring of the planet surface from the book cover. That’s rather clever. The inlays look to be wood with resin edging and the wood around the soundhole appears to be some sort of burl wood which works to great effect. They are all done really well, but I know they will divide opinion. In fact I put the picture below up on the Socials this week and it certainly did that. Saying that - whilst there was a divide there was a clear majority in those saying good things rather than bad. Of course, some people don't like decoration at all. I'm in two minds, though, I stress, they are very well done, not shabby and certainly not transfers. The body is then finished in a gloss which looks extremely light in application. That's no bad thing for me as thick finishes are a resonance killer, but around some of the binding you will notice some pore holes if such things bother you. Not quite a perfect mirror.

Mr Mai Le Petit Prince Concert Ukulele decor


Inside is extremely tidy with notched kerfing and thin braces. The top has interesting vertical fan bracing that tapers down to the tail block with smaller side wings I have not seen before.

Mr Mai Little Price Concert Ukulele inside


The neck is made from okoume with a well hidden headstock joint and a slightly less well hidden heel joint. The heel itself is capped with ebony. And, as a really pleasing point (for a Chinese instrument), it tapers to a shallow profile at the nut rather than a broom handle. Sure, it's still an average 35mm wide and 27mm G to A, but the profile itself means my hands will find that less of an issue. I'm pleased enough with that.

Topping that is an ebony fingerboard in great condition and more of the Little Prince decor. Thankfully, unlike some brands that have gone big on fingerboard inlays, these don't distract from the positioning markers to throw you off. In fact the book images ARE the position markers. So at the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 10th and 12th we have the same star shapes as on the top and the Little Prince figure sits below those. Again, these are very nicely done. It comes with 19 frets joined at the 14th. The board is edge bound meaning you don't see the ends and there is no sharpness on account of their choice to go with very classy semi-hemi fret ends. Gorgeous. Oh.. and it has side dots too! I have absolutely no complaints with this neck.

Mr Mai Le Petit Prince Concert Ukulele fingerboard


Beyond the bone nut is a simple but effective shaped headstock faced in more ebony under gloss. A seated Little Prince image is inlaid between the tuning posts to tie it all together and the Mr Mai logo is inlaid in pearl at the top. I've said in previous reviews that I find their logo to be a little 'child-like' and it's the same here.  It always seems odd to criticise a brand logo, but I have to be consistent as I am not a fan.

Mr Mai Le Petit Prince Concert Ukulele headstock


The tuners are unbranded open gears in black and gold with small white buttons. The mechanisms are clearly good quality though one of them is fitted on a slight angle. ARRRGGHH. That's the first objective gripe I have found and is such a shame as this instrument was getting ticks in every box to this point. Whilst it has no effect on play my OCD alarm is buzzing in my head!

Mr Mai Le Petit Prince Concert Ukulele tuners


Finishing things off are a set of D'Addario Titanium Concert strings, a humidifier and a pod case very much like the Crossrock cases (with Mr Mai logo and combination lock - in fact, I think it IS a Crossrock). And the price is currently $629 with delivery included. So that's a smidge over £500 equivalent. They can be had from Mr Mai direct, but do bear in mind the shops I mentioned in the intro as they may be able to source them too if you don't fancy international delivery. Either way, I expected that price to be higher, but equally it's not an impulse level tag. For solid woods like ebony and this level of decoration I can see exactly where the money has gone.

Mr Mai Le Petit Prince Concert Ukulele back


All in all this is an extremely well made and finished instrument with very well done decoration - if that sort of decor is your cup of tea. It's high end appointments all round really - decent woods, decent finish, great frets. In fact the ONLY complaint I have found with it at all is that slightly wonky tuner. Such a shame. Clearly they won't all be like this. Let's have a play.

It's not heavy at all at 540g and balances well. The neck is extremely comfortable for my hands too. It all feels well put together too,

Volume here is excellent with some real punch with minimal effort. Sustain is good (though i have heard better), but that could be changed up with different strings. On to the strings, I am not actually a fan of Titaniums, but they are decent strings. Normally my reason for that is they feel hard on my fingers, but here the tension is quite low. But you know.. strings... personal thing. Doesn't affect the score though I would try something different if this was mine.

Strummed, the ukulele has a clear brightness that cuts through from the spruce, but a good range of mids brought on by the ebony too. That's kind of what I expected, and it comes together in a really jangly, balanced and characterful sound that has bags of interest. I am really taken with the tone played this way and it's anything but one dimensional and a lot of fun.

Fingerpicking is clear and zingy right up the neck and also a very pleasant experience on the ears. It's quite a charming tone in fact. All in all I've been very impressed with the sounds here and it's also an instrument that doesn't require a lot of digging in to get it to project.

So this one hardly puts a foot wrong for me (bar that tuner) and is clearly a very well made and well specced instrument. The design work is going to be marmite for sure, and my own personal jury is still out, but it has been very well done. If decorated, themed instruments are your thing (or you are simply a fan of the book) you are not going to be disappointed here because the core ukulele is very good too. People who dislike decorated instrument have probably stopped reading already, but that's cool - something for everyone. But based on what Mr Mai intended to deliver here, this comes recommended!


'Dessine-moi un mouton…!'


UKULELE SPECS ROUNDUP

Model: Mr Mai 'le Petit Prince'
Scale: Concert
Body: Solid spruce top, solid ebony back and sides
Bridge: Ebony, tie bar
Saddle: Bone, compensated
Spacing at saddle: 43mm
Decor: Little Prince Inlays, ebony top edge binding, gloss finish
Neck: Okoume
Fingerboard: Ebony
Frets: 19, 14 to body
Nut: Bone
Nut width: 35mm, 27mm G to A
Tuners: Unbranded open gears
Strings: D'Addario Titanium
Extras: Case
Weight: 540g
Country of origin: China
Price: $629 (currently)

UKULELE PROS

Great build and finish
Very well done decor
Very nice neck and frets
Great volume
Complex characterful tone
Great for picking right up the neck


UKULELE CONS

Wonky tuner!

UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 9 out of 10
Fit and finish - 8.5 out of 10
Sound - 9.5 out of 10
Value for money - 9 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 9 out of 10

UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW



GOT A UKULELE IS NOT PAID BY BRANDS OR SHOPS - YOUR KIND DONATIONS ARE WHAT KEEP THE SITE GOING! THANKS FOR YOUR HELP!

SAY THANKS WITH A BEER!

BECOME A GOT A UKULELE PATREON

OR




THANKS!

3 comments :

  1. I love the decoration; it's great to see a fun uke that is also good quality. What I would *really* want, though, is a Totoro ukulele.... Or an Alice in Wonderland one perhaps!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very nicely crafted. Sounds quite nice, too. Not my cup of tea by any means but at least it's kitsch with a high degree of workmanship as opposed to funk with scruff. Good review, Baz.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Same here. I would definitely buy one if it is Totoro theme.

    ReplyDelete

Please leave me a comment!

Please Help Keep This Site Going!

If you enjoy this blog, donations are welcomed to allow me to invest more time in bringing you ukulele articles. Aside from the Google ads, I don't get paid to write this blog and for reasons of impartiality a not sponsored by brands or stores. Your donations all go back into the site to allow me to keep bringing you reviews, and in the end the ukuleles acquired are given to local schools and charities.