Sound Smith SSG-03 Guitalele - REVIEW

26 Mar 2023

Sound Smith SSG-03 Guitalele - REVIEW

I've been longing to get another instrument from this ukulele brand on the site for some time. This is the new Sound Smith SSG-03 Guitalele.

Sound Smith SSG-03 Guitalele ukulele

Sound Smith have only featured on Got A Ukulele once before back in 2018 with their Resonator Tenor Ukulele (which did rather well).  Back then they were only just getting going as a brand though. They are a home grown business in Bend, Oregon set up by musician Shannon Smith and carry a range of guitars, ukuleles, mandolins, and other accessories. They use a business model that has proven to work well by one or two others insofar as they have instruments made for them in the far east which are then finally checked, setup by a luthier and despatched from the USA. Mainland Ukuleles have done this for years and Noah spring to mind too and it shows with that extra 'western' check and control of what is being shipped you can avoid the pitfalls of buying blind from the big box shippers. I've heard a lot of reports from pleased Sound Smith customers since I last looked at that resonator, so it seems they are making it work in the same way.


This model is one of those outlier types that people will say 'is it a ukulele though?' - but when you consider that I am regularly asked to look at guitaleles by my uke loving readers,  and that brands like Flight, Gretsch and even Kanile'a make them, it seems clear to me that they generate a lot of interest in uke circles. For those new to the instrument, I hope this review will explain what we are dealing with, but it's basically a ukulele with two extra bass strings designed to be played in six courses, not four.

Sound Smith SSG-03 Guitalele ukulele body

The SSG-03 is a baritone scaled instrument both in playing scale and body size and looks and largely feels like a regular large ukulele. In fact at a scale of 20.5 inches it's a large baritone. It's constructed from a solid spruce top and laminate ovangkol back and sides which is a classy colour contrast used in a lot of instruments, not just ukuleles. The spruce on this one has a lot of interest to it as within the grain there swirls of variance in what is called 'bear claw'. It's actually said that bear claw indicates an old tree source for the wood with some luthiers saying that the wood will be stiffer and therefore better at projecting. Either way, I personally always like to see it just for the 'uniqeness' to the wood as spruce is otherwise pretty plain. I also should stress what Shannon rightly advised me - wood is natural and not every example will have this patterning. Helpfully though, she explains that in ordering you get to see images of what you are buying to enable you to select the look you want. Nice.

The bridge here is a very traditionally shaped tie bar made from ovangkol. It looks to be stained, but is nice and tidy. Sitting in that is a straight topped bone saddle. Spacing here is 55mm (though bear in mind this has six strings, not four!).

Sound Smith SSG-03 Guitalele ukulele bridge

Decoration consists of cream binding to the top and back with herringbone purfling around the top edge in which I can spy one or two grubby finish marks, but nothing major. It's a classy look that works well and doesn't take over. Around the sound hole is a black edged abalone ring which also isn't too gaudy and blends in with the look ok. The body is then finished in a satin which looks thin and well done. Also on the body you will find an active Fishman Sonitone pickup charged by a 9V battery in the base of the ukulele. I do share strong opinions on active pickups on ukuleles on account of weight and intrusiveness on diminutive instruments. On the plus side here though the controls here are not plonked on the side of the instrument, but rather just inside the sound hole and as for weight, this is a large instrument and it's nothing like fitting one on a soprano! And as for quality, well, I have the same pickup on a USA Gibson acoustic guitar so not complaints from me on that score either. Lastly on the body are a couple of strap buttons.

Sound Smith SSG-03 Guitalele ukulele decor

Inside is very well presented with neat notched linings and tapered braces. The top is X braced and I can't see any mess at all.

Sound Smith SSG-03 Guitalele ukulele inside

The neck is made of okoume with pretty well hidden joints at the heel and headstock. It too is satin finished and is fitted with an adjustable truss rod accessed through the sound hole. Being a six string, it naturally tapers to a wider nut than a regular ukulele and is 47mm wide (40mm A to A). The back profile though is not too rounded at all with a shallow volute at the nut end which I always like the feel of when running back down to first position with the fretting hand as it acts like a stopper- (even though a volute is there for strength and not that reason).

It is topped with more ovangkol for the fingerboard which is dark and even in its staining bar a few patches at the upper frets which need a bit more oiling. It's not radiused which I have yet to see on a guitalele (and think would be a boon), but I do sense the edges are slightly rolled for comfort. They look hand done as one or two areas are a little uneven further up the neck, but again, nothing major. It's fitted with 18 frets, joined at the 14th and I can feel no sharp edges. Position dots in pearl are fitted at the 5th, 7th, 10th and 12th and they are paired with small white dots down the edge bound sides.

Sound Smith SSG-03 Guitalele ukulele neck

Beyond the bone nut is an attractive tapered, almost arrow-head-esque headstock finished with a face of ovangkol with a satin open pore finish.  What I did spot in the open pore are some remnants of white guitar polish which you always run the risk of with open pore and should be buffed out. The Sound Smith logo is screen printed on the top face.

Sound Smith SSG-03 Guitalele ukulele headstock

Tuners (six of them of course) are unbranded open gears with small cream plastic buttons. The gearing looks excellent and I would wager they are made by somebody like Der Jung.

Sound Smith SSG-03 Guitalele ukulele tuners

Finishing it off are an unspecified set of strings for which strings 1-3 'look' like Aquila, and strings 4-6 being steeel wound nylon which I assume are from a classical guitar set. It also comes with a decent quality padded gig bag with the Sound Smith logo. Price wise you are looking at $355 in the USA. The UK price comes in at £295, but of course you are looking at international shipping on top of that as you can only get these direct from Sound Smith. To assist with that, they offer a 20% discount on international orders with the code INTERNATIONAL20 which seems a fair offer to me considering postal charges are not their fault or in their control. Not a bad price either way I think considering what we are looking at here. Consider something like a Flight Aurora baritone - only four strings, a lesser pickup, but solid top laminate back and sides will cost you over £300. In fact there are a host of solid top baritones out there for the low £300's.. I think this is a great price in fact.

Oh, and finally (and I suspect of real interest to some), Sound Smith also make this in a full steel string version with a slightly narrower neck on account of the thinner strings.  Interesting indeed!

Sound Smith SSG-03 Guitalele ukulele back

Anyway, as you can tell I am rather taken with this with only very minor cosmetic points that I have spotted so far. The build seems great though as does most of the finishing and there is something about the clean classy look, not trying to be something 'clever' - just a tried and tested look for a stringed instrument that really appeals to me. This arrived with their recommended tuning of A to A (so like regular uke, but with an A and a D on the two extra strings), but they advise that it can be tuned E to E, but prefer the A choice. I'll go with that for the review.

As to be expected for a large bodied instrument with two extra bass strings, the volume here is awesome and the sustain goes on and on and on. It projects wonderfully and really does seem to have the power of a small guitar. No complaints.

As for the playing tone, well... at this point in reading the review Shannon's heart will likely sink when I remind people that I am not really a fan of guitaleles. I think it's because I play regular acoustic guitar and never quite found the need for them... HOWEVER... This is the first one that I think has truly turned my head. I have been playing this a LOT and think it's an absolute hoot to play! In fact I was so giddy in the video review that I just played it rather than even talking about the tone...

The tone here really does remind my of guitars, with a really full sound and lots of dynamic range from the brightness of spruce to darker woodier tones in the background. I think the balance is excellent  and played strummed it has a great presence to the tone that fills out whatever you are playing very well indeed. If it reminds me of anything it's the smaller parlour blues box type guitars such as the Jim Dandy as it has some of the staccato edge of the ukulele in the mix yet with guitar sustain (if that makes any sense at all). A campfire sound if you know what I mean.. old timey..

I think it shines even better played picked up the neck or played with chord melody where the sound turns extremely sweet and more 'uke' on the upper frets. I think that element of the sound is what has really turned me the most, though it's a lot of fun to just kick back with and lazy strum. I love it. And as always with electro acoustics, I don't demo them plugged in as the amplifier choice will have a lot to do with the sound. I can, however, confirm that as an owner of an instrument with one of these pickups, they are very natural sounding indeed.

So there we are - I think you can tell what I think from the video rambling at the end. There really isn't a lot wrong here at all, and considering the amount of interest I get from ukulele players who are 'guitar curious' I think they should be beating a path to the Sound Smith door. Highly recommended!


Model: Sound Smith SSG-03
Scale: Baritone Guitalele
Body: Solid spruce top, laminate ovangkol back and sides
Bridge: Ovangkol tie bar
Saddle: Bone
Spacing at saddle: 55mm
Finish: Satin
Neck: Okoume
Fingerboard: Ovangkol
Frets: 18, 14 to body
Nut: Bone
Nut width: 47mm, 40mm A to A
Tuners: Unbranded open gears
Strings: Unspecified - three wound, three nylgut?
Extras: Gig bag, strap buttons, Fishman Sonitone pickup
Weight: 975g
Country of origin: China
Price: $355 inc shipping in USA


Great classy looks
Nice decoration that 'works'
Nice neck feel
Excellent pickup system
Good tuners
Terrific volume and sustain
Balanced, full, blues box type tone
Pretty chimey sound up the neck
Very good price


Some very minor cosmetics, but not much wrong here


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









  1. Wow loud and a nice sound. I went back to listen to your Enya Nova Go guitar review thinking that they were comparable sound wise. Liked both but this one is closer to what we ukulele players are used to in playability. Choosing between them otherwise would be tougher for me.

  2. Thank you Barry.
    Can you tell me the scale length?

  3. By comparison, the popular Yamaha guitalele, is a tight 17 inch scale. Just got one from Amazon, when the price dropped from $109, to $90. It has no truss rod. This not uncommon for a guitalele, though some do have them. The Caramels do, as do a few others. But, fun to play for my old guitar hack self? You know it! I even play slide on mine! Tight quarters for some chords, such as the e major shape, which is really an a major on an a tuned guitalele.

  4. Do they come with a cutout and electric with built in toner...😐


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