Uma UK-20ST Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

19 Feb 2023

Uma UK-20ST Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

It's the third outing for this fairly new ukulele brand on the reviews bench, but this time a much more traditional affair. This is the Uma UK-20ST Tenor Ukulele.

Uma UK-20ST Tenor Ukulele

And that turn to the traditional compared to what came before is because my first two outings with the Uma brand were both a little out of the ordinary. Whether that was the highly rated Baby T - a tenor ukulele with a small body or the much more unusual Pulse Multi-scale concert with fan frets, both were something different from the nom. The UK-20 series though, sitting kind of mid-range for Uma is very much a more standard and trad ukulele build. Coming in concert scale, a soprano and a concert pineapple, or this one, the tenor, the UK-20's are all solid wood ukuleles in traditional shapes, few frills and no curve balls like the other two I looked at. And there is nothing wrong with that as I am always on the lookout for good, standard ukuleles that 'just deliver'.


Uma UK-20ST Tenor Ukulele body

This tenor is in a usual double bout shape and is made from all solid Okoume wood. It's something of an irritation to me that they are listed everywhere, including on the Uma site as being 'solid mahogany' when Okoume is NOT mahogany. Sure it looks very similar and sonically it's supposedly similar too, but I would prefer them to just call it what it is. The use of Khaya in instruments (commonly referred to as African Mahogany) is another guilty party doing this as the Khaya tree is not mahogany, but at least in that case, the name 'African Mahogany' has become common parlance. With Okoume though I am not sure i've ever seen it called mahogany before. A minor point perhaps, but I would prefer accuracy.

I've since looked into this further with the brand distributor and it turns out the reference to Okoume on paperwork was a mistake and the ukulele is actually made from South American Mahogany - happy to correct the record here.

Anyway, on the more positive side it's simple but attractive enough wood with two pieces in each of the top, back and sides. In the right light you get some nice shimmer in the grain and it comes in a natural stain which gives it a pleasing deep orange brown glow. (I believe these instruments may also be available in other colour stains too, but I like this). It's all well put together too with a nice slight chamfer to the top and back edges which I find always gives an instrument a classier feel.

The bridge is a very generic tie bar akin to something you'd find on a Kala instrument. They specify this is made of 'Engineered Wood' which I find can mean one of two things. Either a softer wood that is chemically treated to stain and harden it or laminate blocks of reconstituted wood. With the latter you can tend to see the lamination in the wood which I can't see here, so I suspect it's the former. Either way, I like how dark it is and it's very tidy. Sitting in the bridge slot is a compensated top bone saddle giving you string spacing of 42mm. (note also - Uma are transitioning from rosewood to engineered woods on these ukuleles, so you may find some older stock models of these hanging around with rosewood fittings.)

Uma UK-20ST Tenor Ukulele bridge

The finish on this is a gloss which is largely very tidy bar a slight touch of over pour around the end of the fretboard. I've seen much worse though and to me this has a finish reminiscent of a certain brand beginning with P which is a lot more costly. Decoration is limited to a simple abalone ring around the sound hole with black edge purfling. This is just enough abalone for me and suits the deep colour of the wood just fine. It's plain I guess, but hardly offensive.

Uma UK-20ST Tenor Ukulele decor

Inside is extremely tidy with no mess I can see. The kerfing is notched and the braces not overly done. The top is vertically braced and I can see that the soundboard is also very thin.

Uma UK-20ST Tenor Ukulele inside

The neck wood is not specified, but is likely also Okoume and it too is finished in gloss. It's formed of three pieces with a more obvious heel joint and a next to impossible to spot headstock joint. I really rather like the almost squared off heel joint on this which is very comfortable for playing upper frets compared to some brands who have almost sharp heel carvings. It also feels quite shallow in profile right up the neck to the nut which also provides comfort as does the wider than average 38mm nut (30mm G to A). A very comfortable neck all round for my hands.

Topping that is more engineered wood for the fingerboard which, like the bridge, is uniformly dark all over. It ends with a touch of end shaping over the top of the sound hole and the sides are bound in black hiding the ends of the 18 frets (joined at the 14th). They are dressed impeccably too. Position markers in pearl face out at the 5th, 7th, 10th and 12th and they are paired with side dots. Again - very traditional.

Uma UK-20ST Tenor Ukulele neck

Beyond the bone nut is a slotted headstock which I find acceptable on tenor ukuleles, but note that they also put them on their concerts (no thanks!). Like most slot heads it's quite chunky front to back to fit the tuners on which I know is something that also puts some people off and I will be keen to check on whether this is neck heavy as they often can be. I've also spoken before about the Uma logo, inlaid in wood in the top face here, as I think it looks childlike and something that would suit a baby toy brand. A purely subjective little gripe of mine!

Uma UK-20ST Tenor Ukulele headstock

Tuners are side mounted open gears by Der Jung which are great quality and work well.

Uma UK-20ST Tenor Ukulele tuners

Finishing the package off are a set of unspecified strings which look and feel to me like some form of fluorocarbon and a really nice quality branded gig bag. And now, the pleasant surprise as these can be picked up for a price of £209. For an all solid wood tenor that's really good and particularly good when you note my reference to a certain P brand above for which you would pay double that for something of a similar spec. Dare I say 'a bargain'? I'd say so.. if it plays ok.

Uma UK-20ST Tenor Ukulele back

So much to like here so far. It's put together and largely finished well and I love the feel of the neck. I need not have worried about the headstock either as neither is the overall weight too much at 625g, but it balances nice in the hands too. All good here too then!

Volume on this one is absolutely belting - a great projecting instrument with little effort on the strumming hand. Sustain too is very good with the whole instrument vibrating in the hands. It's a very lively instrument with a big voice just waiting to get out.

Tone wise I will state my view here and say that this does not sound like mahogany to my ears as it comes across as much brighter and crisper than i'd expect from that wood. I am not talking the zing of spruce here, but it's not what you would call woody or dark. None of that is a real negative though as there is still a rich edge to the bright tone here that is really rather pleasant and, strangely, reminding me of an acacia type sound.. Strummed it has a real peppy jangle that is closer to the sound of a concert to me, and makes for great rhythmical play. And with all of that it is superb clarity from the individual strings in the mix. It's all very clear and pleasing.

Fingerpicking is extremely zingy and direct too with good volume right up the neck. It's a music box sound that I always particularly like when picking and again the clarity of tone is extremely good here too. A real pickers neck as well of course.

Is it too bright I suppose was the question in my head. I'm erring more and more towards crisper brighter toned instruments these days so it's working for me (and I stress this isn't just one trick pony brightness - there is a rich background to the tone too), but it just kind of surprised me when I looked at it as I was expecting a darker tone. Not a gripe, more an observation that others should be aware of. It doesn't scream 'mahogany' at me - just something else.

But the real standout for me is the value for money you are getting here. I genuinely thought this would be quite considerably more money considering the build and tone. Sure, Okoume is a cost saver, and so is engineered wood, but don't overlook the finish, great neck and those tuners. Oh and a bag which is hardly cheap and cheerful either. 

For £209 this is an absolute no-brainer to me. An extremely sound musical instrument that I would wager you would struggle to beat very often at the ticket price. Very much recommended.


Model: Uma UK-20ST 
Scale: Tenor
Body: South American Mahogany
Bridge: 'Engineered Wood' Tie Bar
Saddle: Bone, compensated
Spacing at saddle: 42mm
Finish: Gloss
Neck: Unspecified
Fingerboard: 'Engineered Wood'
Frets: 18, 14 to body
Nut: Bone
Nut width: 38mm, 30mm G to A
Tuners: Der Jung chrome gears
Extras: Gig bag
Strings: Unspecified
Country of origin: China
Weight: 625g
Price: £209 street


Clean and tidy looks
Very well built and finished
Good tuners
Nice neck
Great volume
Good sustain
Crisp clear tone
Great price


Perhaps 'too plain' for some?


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









  1. Thanks for the edit, Barry. THIS WAS 100% A MISTAKE ON MY PART - THE WOOD IS CORRECT IN THE CATALOGUE AND WEBSITE - IT IS ALL-SOLID SOUTH AMERICAN MAHOGANY (Swietenia macrophylla). I passed on some incorrect information in a hurry just before the review was recorded and this is me holding my hands up to a genuine mistake 🤷🏻‍♂️
    Just think, if I'd said it was Mahogany, as I had presumed all along, it could have been the first 10/10 review on GaU!! Seriously, apologies for the misunderstanding 🙂

  2. Thanks Barry. I picked up a Una CS-17 a week ago. Never seen one before but, after picking it up and playing it a bit, I fell in love. My next buy will probably be a Uma.

  3. A great ukulele. The strings are not 100% my taste, and with other strings you get a more typical sound. But the value for money is fantastic. Cheers, Peter


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