Flight UTS-35 Ultra Travel Ukulele - REVIEW

22 Jan 2023

Flight UTS-35 Ultra Travel Ukulele - REVIEW

This week it's another new ukulele offering from a brand that do anything but sit still!  This is the Flight UTS-35 Ultra Travel ukulele.

Flight Ultra Travel Ukulele


It was back 2018 when I looked at Flight Ukuleles first foray into the world of plastic ukes with their TUS50 Soprano ukulele. I thought it was a great little instrument for very little money and it went on to prove extremely popular for the Slovenian brand. The concept with that one though was less of the 'full plastic' but rather taking their nod from the Magic Fluke Flea insofar as it had a wooden top with plastic bowl back and sides. Some people did raise gripes with that wooden top (somewhat unfairly in my view as they work great on the Flea), but on the basis it was not so rugged as a plastic top would be. And of course all plastic ukuleles have proved incredibly popular too with some nice offerings from the likes of Enya, Lava and Outdoor in a LOT of players hands. So Flight have followed suit with the new Ultra.. 

Yet.. it's not quite so simple as them just taking the regular Travel and swapping the top to plastic - as whilst there are some similarities, this looks like it's actually been developed from the ground up - the details of which I will point out as we go through it.

Flight Ultra Travel Ukulele body


This one is in soprano scale and is the same double bout shape as their regular travel. The similarity with that model isn't just in the shape but also in the rounded polycarbonate back people will be familiar with. The first minor difference is this loses the injection moulding point on the back and comes with a completely uniform look with some 'grain' to stop it being too slippy - it just 'feels' a nicer material that is very different to the original. Another difference I note from the product spec is that Flight call this 're-enforced polycarbonate'. In the world of brands wrongly calling this strengthening 'carbon fiber' it's nice to see Flight avoiding that trap!

Then the obvious big change is that wooden top is gone and in comes a braced polycarbonate top. One of the things that made the original travel so popular (and won them a NAMM show award) was their ability to decorate or personalise the top to suit. And so it is with this one as whilst the 35 series are all flat colours (this one a smoky grey called 'Fog') there are other iterations of the Ultra that come with a range of printed designs. Nice.

Flight Ultra Travel Ukulele top


Another change is in the design of the bridge which is still a slot style made from polycarbonate but it uses stylised holes into which the knotted strings are hooked. I like the look of it. Like the original travel I looked at the saddle is integral to the bridge, though is not compensated. I am not sure why they didn't make this removable for adjustment like they did on later travel models so I really do hope the intonation and action are ok here.. This would be a challenge to adjust if you need to.

Flight Ultra Travel Ukulele bridge


Inside there isn't much to see as regular ukulele construction doesn't apply here, but I note that the top is lattice braced. You may also see that the the sound hole edge is extremely thick, but i'm pleased to report that is just an edging lip as part of the bracing and the whole top is not that chunky!

Flight Ultra Travel Ukulele inside


The neck is also made of polycarbonate and looks to be integral to the back of the body unlike the separate pale yellow plastic neck of the regular travel ukes. I know a few people didn't like the look or feel of that original neck and I can confirm that this not only looks better but feels MUCH better too.  In fact it doesn't feel like plastic at all. In another positive change this tapers to a flattened profile and roomier than normal 37mm nut with spacing of 30mm G to A. That's great.

Topping that is a polycarbonate fingerboard with 12 integral frets. They are skinny and look to the eye like semi hemi frets, but are plastic and painted silver like the original.  The board itself though is much improved to my eye as the original used a kind of 'faux wood' grain in the moulding which looked very artificial. This loses that look and has a more uniform finish in what is almost a very dark grey. Sure, it still looks plastic, but not as MUCH, if that makes sense. Like the original this has a zero fret too to help with intonation. Fret dots are screen printed on the spaces at the 5th, 7th and 10th and they are paired with side dots.

Flight Ultra Travel Ukulele neck


Beyond the integral polycarbonate nut is the same headstock shape as the original but out goes the wooden 'inlay' piece to match the body and is replaced with a plastic face.  The Flight logo is in black and screen printed on the top.

Flight Ultra Travel Ukulele headstock


The tuners have changed too, but are still unbranded open gears with small black buttons though on doubled mounting plates which I think look far too big and rather ugly. Yes I'd prefer rear facing pegs but that's just me. I always do wonder about these tuners on instruments that are designed to be 'take anywhere' though as they are not waterproof. Sure you could dunk the body on this one but you will want to keep the tuners dry if you want to avoid rust. That's an observation that applies to all plastic ukes though and I wonder when somebody will come up with a reliable composite to make for a fully waterproof uke.

Flight Ultra Travel Ukulele tuners


Finishing things off are a set of Flight fluorocarbon strings, a tail strap button, a really funky drawstring carry bag and a beginners booklet. And the price isn't going to break the bank either with a UK retail of about £55.

Flight Ultra Travel Ukulele back


As I say, I loved the first Flight travel, though it's nice to see this is not simply that with a swapped top but that they have given consideration to lots of other elements too. Like I say about Flight, they don't sit still! The build and finish throughout on this one is decent and it feels durable and reliable. In fact it feels a bit hefty at 600g though not uncomfortably so. In fact it's very nice to hold and I particularly like the neck. 

Action is (thankfully!) ok on this example and it's set up well. The volume here is very good, and to my ears has more bark and projection than the original travel models. Sustain here is good too, so no real complaints so far.

It's hard for me to do a full side by side with the first travel uke as not only is the original I have a long neck soprano (though I did think it sounded very similar to the regular) but it's also strung with Aquila strings. I said in that first review that I found Aquilas didn't suit it all that much, so some of my comparison is going from memory. As I say, I think the volume is better than the original though I sense that the tone is much brighter too (of course, that could be string difference). It's a much more direct tone whereas the original was a bit more laid back. Comparisons aside, this has an enjoyable, peppy zingy tone of its own that works great for rhythmical strumming on bouncy tunes - in fact it ticks a lot of the right boxes for a soprano. I am sensing more of a plastic uke 'echo' on this one more so than the original, but it's not too great i've played all plastic ukes which are worse.

Fingerpicking is a little bit thinner in tone than I would like and of course more limited than some instruments due to the shorter scale, but it's really not half bad. In fact I don't think either this or the original is 'better' than the other on tone, they are just slightly different. The original is a bit rounder, but this one seems to have more bark.

What I DO much prefer about this one though is the overall feel which, whilst still a non-wood material is much more tactile and feels more durable. And of course, neither are very much money and both are a lot of fun - so it's another recommendation for Flight whichever way you go.

https://flightmusic.com/



UKULELE SPECS ROUNDUP

Model: Flight UTS-35 Ultra Travel
Scale: Soprano
Body: All reinforced polycarbonate
Bridge: Polycarbonate, slot style
Saddle: Integral to bridge
Spacing at saddle: 41mm
Finish: Natural polycarbonate satin
Neck: Polycarbonate, integral to body
Fingerboard: Polycarbonate
Frets: 12, integral to board and with zero fret
Nut: Integral to board
Nut width: 37mm, 30mm G to A
Tuners: Unbranded open gears
Strings: Flight flourocarbon
Extras: Strap button, Drawstring carry bag, beginner booklet
Country of origin: China
Weight: 600g
Price: Circa £55 street

UKULELE PROS

Very nice tactile finish
Well put together
Great neck
Great volume 
Nice bouncy tone
Price

UKULELE CONS

Ugly tuners
Non-adjustable bridge

UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 9 out of 10
Fit and finish - 8.5 out of 10
Sound - 8 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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1 comments :

  1. HNY Baz. I have owned, donated and given away a half dozen Tus sopranos and tuc concerts. My yellow Tus soprano was a favourite. I found that I preferred the sound of the standard length soprano over the long neck version and the concert overall and to the Enya Nova soprano. Going to all plastic like Enya is interesting. It seems to sound somewhere in between the brighter Enya and somewhat deeper Tus soprano. I do like the texture and feel of the Enya so emulating them in this new model is “as you Brits say” ‘brilliant’. 😊

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