Singer RT5R-CS Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

30 Oct 2022

Singer RT5R-CS Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

We return to very special ukulele territory again this week with a look at the new Singer RT5R-CS Tenor Ukulele.


Singer RT5R-CS Tenor Ukulele


If there is a ukulele brand that has had something of a glittering resurgence in recent years, it must be aNueNue. Whether you are looking at something like the keenly priced Color Series or the giddy heights of the Moon Birds, they've probably done more than most other brands for shifting the 'norms' of the ukulele market with some cracking stuff in the last few years. So it was with great interest that I heard about the new brand 'Singer'. And that's because Singer are a new line from aNueNue themselves to create a range of more 'classic vintage' looking instruments that sit apart from their more funkier modern designs. No, it's not the sewing machine company!

This is one of a handful now available at World of Ukes and kindly loaned to me by Matt and I think is their top of their line. And it certainly is a more traditional affair than other aNueNue ukuleles with a much more standard and smaller double bout shape that reminds me of Eastman's and Martin's. Naturally we are talking all solid woods here with a couple of pieces of solid Swiss spruce for the top and paired pieces of solid rosewood for the back and sides. It's a classic combination often seen in the guitar world with the darkness of rosewood softening the natural crisp brightness of spruce. The grain of both looks wonderful and immediately gives off a very classy look.

Singer RT5R-CS Tenor Ukulele body


The bridge wood type isn't specified in their listing, but it looks dark enough to be ebony. It's a tie bar style holding a compensated top bone saddle and is similar to the aNueNue but with enough difference to set it apart. It's very tidy here. Spacing at the saddle is about 40mm.

Singer RT5R-CS Tenor Ukulele bridge


The finish and looks here are dominated by the sunburst red finish on the top, created by staining the whole of the top with red then buffing out the central portion to reveal the spruce colour. I adore sunburst finishes, not least because my favourite acoustic guitar is a standard Gibson J45. The red here is a bit more unusual though and it looks great because of it. The rosewood is nicely grained too and well bookmatched and the body is finished in a flawless looking gloss which, judging by how I can see the ripples of grain in the spruce though the very thin finish, may well be a nitro gloss (I'm not sure but it has a similar look to my J45 which IS nitro finished). Looks are, of course, highly subjective and on that point I have to point out that I personally don't care for the abalone inlay around the top edge and sound hole. I think it detracts from the natural beauty of the sunburst top and the whole thing would look better with a simple cream edge and a more basic sound hole rosette. There is regular dark wood binding here too to the top and back, but it's the purfling of the abalone which looks too much to me.. Ho hum..

Singer RT5R-CS Tenor Ukulele decor


Inside is extremely tidy with thin braces and notched linings. I'm told that aNueNue have braced this differently to their main line, and I suppose I can see why as there is less top real estate with these than on, say, the Moon Bird. From what I can see the vertical top bracing is extremely light and almost hard to see. It has small little side wings into the edges of the lower bouts and there is no bridge plate. The top is so thin it's almost translucent. Interesting.

Singer RT5R-CS Tenor ukulele inside



The neck wood is not specified, but also finished with a vintage burst stain through which I can only make out one joint in the heel. Personally speaking I would prefer this neck to be satin, but it certainly looks great and the wood grain is beautiful, especially on the back of the headstock. The neck tapers down to a very comfortable flattened nut profile that wider than average at 37mm wide and 29mm G to A.

Topping the neck is a dark fingerboard which, like the bridge, could well be ebony.  It's clearly very tidy, but there are remnants of polish still showing in the grain in the wood which irritate me. That's a minor gripe and likely easily solved with a bit of lemon oil and some wire wool, but it's just obvious so I couldn't really not mention it. The board is pleasingly radiused on the top and fitted with 20 frets, joined at the 14th. They are low but jumbo frets feel very comfortable and have some of the best end fret dressing I have seen other than on semi-hemi's. I love the position dots too which are a mix of shapes including snowflakes inlaid in pearl at the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th and 15th. These are repeated with dots on the side.

Singer RT5R-CS Tenor Ukulele neck


Beyond the bone nut is a headstock very different to the regular aNueNue shape with an attractive asymmetric carving to the top. It's faced in a darker wood giving it a piano black outer look and the Singer logo is inlaid in pearl on the top face. I must say, the Singer logo looks FAR classier than the aNueNue!

Singer RT5R-CS Tenor Ukulele headstock


Tuners are another real positive as they have gone with Gotoh Planetary pegs in all black. Just superb! You'll also spy the usual aNueNue QC sticker on the back of the headstock, reminding you which company are behind these.

Singer RT5R-CS Tenor Ukulele tuners


Finishing things off are a set of aNueNue Black Water Fluorocarbon strings and one of the nicest quality hard cases (with a divine green velour liner) I think I've ever seen. I suspect that you recognise that this has some very high end appointments and that is reflected by the price at a not inconsiderable £1,699.  Serious money, and whilst there are enough serious buyers out there for it to garner interest, it needs to have serious tone and playability to sit at that top table.

Singer RT5R-CS Tenor Ukulele case


So there's an awful lot to like here. The overall build and finish is superb and you just know you are holding something that is high end. My gripe on the abalone is very much subjective, and I can't argue with the way it has been done. But overall the mix of the sunburst, the neck decoration, the classy headstock and the chocolate brown back and sides screams class and style. It's not heavy either at 630g and balances wonderfully. I can't emphasise enough how comfortable the neck is too. Just dreamy.

First up, volume. Oh.. my... word... This has a massive voice and superb projection. Quite amazing really! And the sustain is excellent too as it just goes on and on.

Singer RT5R-CS Tenor Ukulele back

The tone when strummed is quite remarkable. There is a brightness from the spruce, but it's not overbearing as the rosewood is indeed balancing it out. It's got superb range right across from the bass through the mids to the trebles. It's incredibly balanced, incredibly crisp and incredibly clear. That clarity and ability to harmonise with itself results in a really complex jangle to the strummed tone that is anything but muddy and hugely interesting to listen to. Oh boy, this is a special one indeed.

Fingerpicking is naturally no slouch either helped by the volume and sustain, and with one of the most chimey bell like tones i've heard on a ukulele in quite some time. Remarkable. This is too good a ukulele for my standard of play (and apologies for my shonky work in the video), but in the right hands I think this would knock anybody for six. It's a stunning sound.

I often say with uke reviews when talking about tone that I don't want to 'get ahead of myself' saying certain tones are at the top table. With this on though it's absolutely at the top table and quite possibly one of the nicest sounding ukuleles I think I have ever played. It is deliciously complex to listen to and feels alive in the hands. Couple that with a sunburst to die for, a wonderful build, super thin gloss and a sexy case and yes, I can see where the money has gone. Not for every pocket of course, but if you have the means and the beans... this is extraordinarily lovely. Very highly recommended!


UKULELE SPECS ROUNDUP

Model: Singer RT5R-CS
Scale: Tenor
Body: Solid Swiss spruce top, solid rosewood back and sides
Bridge: Unspecified tie bar (Ebony?) 
Saddle: Bone, compensated
Spacing at saddle: 40mm
Finish: Sunburst and gloss
Neck: Unspecified
Fingerboard: Ebony? with top radius
Frets: 20, 14 to body
Nut: Bone
Nut Width: 37mm, 29mm G to A
Tuners: Gotoh Planetary in all black
Strings: aNueNue Black Water fluorocarbon
Weight: 630g
Country of origin: China
Price: £1,699

UKULELE PROS

Wonderful overall build
Love the sunburst
Frets and neck are lovely
Great tuners
Superb gig bag
Superb volume and sustain
Balanced tone right across range
Superb clarity

UKULELE CONS

I'd ditch the abalone myself


UKULELE SCORES

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

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 9.3 out of 10


UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW





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7 comments :

  1. Agree, the fancy abalone binding with the burst finish is a bit much, imo. Sometimes simpler is better...again imo. Is it the tail block or brace that is off center? And is there a reason for that?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Optical illusion - not off centre - weird angle

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  2. I’m with you in the abalone and I don’t even really like sunburst finishes, but oh my, when I heard Kalei on this, I didn’t mind either. Plus, if it really is a nitro finish, I’m all in, nothing else shows its age as well.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Shiny,shiny……lovely details and apparently sounds like heaven on earth (thank you, Belinda Carlisle!) The only problem is the price…..must win lottery

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yikes! Just when I decided to stop, I mean stop buying Ukuleles you come up with the review of this beautiful instrument. But I appreciate your wonderful reviews and the opportunity to get a close look at the many that are out there. So glad you keep at it, and I appreciate your honesty in these columns. The Ukulele community owes you its thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Really a first class ukulele. Wonderful. I'd like to see you get your hands on a ukulele by Wilkinson Guitars & Ukuleles here in Australia. I think you might like it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Really nice review and Uke, even if it is a pricy. I will be interested in hearing your review of the full mahogany one : it seem to sound as good - albeit different -, it is more beautiful in my opinion, and a lot cheaper :).

    ReplyDelete

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