Martin Beck Solid Cedar and Rosewood Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

17 Jul 2022

Martin Beck Solid Cedar and Rosewood Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

It's another 'lucky me' week at Got A Ukulele towers. One of those when I get to look at something very high end in the ukulele world. This is the Martin Beck Solid Cedar and Rosewood tenor.

Martin Beck Cedar Rosewood Tenor Ukulele


You probably think I am pre-judging this before review, but, for some context. Towards the end of last year I was lucky enough to road test a hand made instrument that was SO good it went into the joint top spot on all reviews I have ever written. That was a handmade tenor ukulele made by Martin van Humbeck, a luthier based in Vancouver Island, Canada. It was absolutely flawless and a joy to play so my response to World of Ukes when they got in touch to ask me to look at another was instantaneous.  Yes please Matt!

As I say, these are handmade by Martin under the name 'Martin Beck' (because 'Beck' fits on the headstock better!) in Canada and that last one showed an attention to detail and quality that was, frankly incredible. It was a spruce top but here we have a change of woods using solid rainbow cedar for the top and solid master grade indian rosewood for the back and sides. Both sets of woods here are superb looking rather than just 'off the shelf' with the top in particular showing some wonderful light and dark stripe rather than the flat coffee colour that is usual with cedar. The rosewood too has some wonderful colour definition and a deep red glow when held in the right light. I think the combination of the two 'browns' here works extremely well.

Martin Beck Cedar Rosewood Tenor Ukulele body


The bridge is made from pinkish red coloured Amazonian rosewood and is a nicely shaped pin style fitted with tamarind wood buttons. It's extremely smoothly finished and tidy and is fitted with a bone saddle. Spacing here is 45mm.

Martin Beck Cedar Rosewood Tenor Ukulele bridge


There is quite a lot of decoration here, but I don't think any of it on the body is ostentatious and hangs together well with the wood choices. Around the top and back is a bubinga binding strip with black and white edge purfling. The tail stripe is spalted maple, also edged with purfling and there is more of that around the asymmetric sound hole ring which has a core stripe of paua abalone. It's all rather wonderful. You may have also spied the Beck signature side sound port in an abstract shape on the top shoulder. The body is finished in a tru oil with an open pore meaning you SEE the grain of the wood. That also means you don't get a full mirror finish, but that adds to the air of this being made by a man and not a machine.

Martin Beck Cedar Rosewood Tenor Ukulele decor


Inside is extremely tidy with notched kerfing and thin shaped braces. The top is X braced with additional spur braces in order to 'tune' the tension of the top woods.


Martin Beck cedar rosewood tenor ukulele inside


The neck is carved from a single piece of mahogany with a carbon fibre strengthening rod set in a channel inside it. The shape is wonderful tapering to a flattened nut profile and a roomy 37mm with 30mm G to A spacing. I also really like the veloute 'stopper' carved where the neck meets the headstock.

That is topped with more Amazonian rosewood in excellent condition. It looks like it might be edge bound, but interestingly the frets cut through the binding. There are zero sharp edges and these are made from 'Evo gold' material - a VERY high end choice made from a copper alloy that is hypoallergenic. They are mirror polished and some of the tidiest frets i've ever seen. Small position dots face out at the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 10th, double 12th and 15th and these are repeated down the side.

Martin Beck Cedar Rosewood Tenor Ukulele fingerboard


Beyond the bone nut is a nice diminutive sized headstock which looks modern and different from the norm. It's faced in more rosewood with purfling edges and holds the 'Beck' logo in pearl at the top. Also in the face is a hummingbird inlay in abalone. That's not my 'thing', but it certainly shows a level of skill commensurate with the rest of the instrument.

Martin Beck Cedar Rosewood Tenor Ukulele headstock


Flipping that over and we see my all time favourite style of tuner - Gotoh UPT's. These are in gold with black tulip buttons. They work wonderfully well and it's a joy to see them on a tenor!

Martin Beck Cedar Rosewood Tenor Ukulele tuners


Finishing things off are a wooden tail strap button, a set of worth clears in high G (though there is a low G in the case if you prefer) and a wonderful hard case with the Beck brand on the name plate. This is all very high end stuff and as you will imagine commands a high end price. In the UK this comes in at £1,999 which is serious top table stuff. But you know what? I can see where every hour of that two grand has gone in this. A LOT of work in fact!

Martin Beck Cedar Rosewood Tenor Ukulele back


This thing is just gorgeous. It's so very well made and feels wonderful in the hands on account of that finish too. It's not heavy (675g) and balances perfectly at the 12th.

The volume is superb as you would expect and has great ringing sustain too. Lot's to play with here no matter your style.

It's all about the character here. Certainly warmer sounding than the spruce top I looked at but with the same pretty damn stunning self harmonisation between the strings. That is to say that when strummed, the individual notes are clear in and over themselves but the strum brings them together in a warble that makes it sound like you are playing more than one instrument (or certainly one with more than four strings). It's an absolute joy to listen to this way and left me spotting new little characters every time I play it. Complex yet clear. A charming sound.

Martin Beck Cedar Rosewood Tenor Ukulele sound port


You just know fingerpicking will be sweet too and it certainly doesn't disappoint. Soaring bell like notes no matter where you are on the neck coupled with a roomy fingerboard make this a joy. In fact, probably one of the nicest instruments to fingerpick I've ever played. Played in either style in fact I don't think i've had an instrument in my hands that has caused quite soo many 'ooohs' and 'aahs' when playing!

Oh boy.. There is really nothing wrong here. Regular readers will know I will never likely give a 10/10 for sound, because you never know if there is something better around the corner but, boy it's close. Fit and finish is a flawless ten. This is another at the very top of the tree on Got A Ukulele. If you see a Beck instrument and have the funds - just buy it. In fact, even if you don't have the funds... sell a, kidney, sell a limb, sell your body...

Extremely highly recommended.



UKULELE SPECS ROUNDUP

Model: Martin Beck Solid Cedar and Rosewood
Scale: Tenor
Body: Solid rainbow red cedar top, solid master grade Indian rosewood back and sides
Bridge: Amazon rosewood pin bridge (pins made of Tintul (Tamarind) wood)
Saddle: Bone
Spacing at saddle: 45mm
Finish: Tru Oil
Neck: Mahogany with carbon fibre reinforcement
Fingerboard: Amazon rosewood
Frets: 20, 14 to body Gold Evo 
Nut: Bone
Nut width: 37mm, 30mm G to A
Tuners: Gotoh UPT
Weight: 675g
Extras: Hard case, low G option, tuner
Country of origin: Canada:
Price: £1,999 (UK price)

UKULELE PROS

Everything!

UKULELE CONS

Nothing!

UKULELE SCORES

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

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 9.6 out of 10

UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW




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