Bumblebee Hive Soprano Ukulele - REVIEW

4 Jun 2023

Bumblebee Hive Soprano Ukulele - REVIEW

Another new ukulele model for you this week on Got A Ukulele, and one that kind of took me by surprise. This is the Bumblebee Hive Soprano Ukulele.

Bumblebee Hive Soprano Ukulele

Bumblebee are in the Almires group from Slovenia which includes Flight who, I believe, developed the Bumblebee line with Hal Leonard, and are a brand I have looked at once before. They are aimed  at beginners and children. I reviewed this simple wooden soprano of theirs in 2021 and it turned out to be a no-nonsense and GREAT little uke that was a far cry from some of the brightly coloured cheap sopranos on the market. This one though has me a little confused on the purpose of if I am honest.


If the looks here are familiar, it's because this has clearly taken 'inspiration' from the Magic Fluke Flea with it's boat paddle shape, flat base, plastic back and sides and wooden top. And I guess that is where my confusion came in, because Flight already make a plastic bowl back / wood top ukulele in the ever so popular Travel soprano series - a uke that is HUGELY popular and has won awards. I'd argue that uke already makes for a great beginner ukulele in the stable, and a great kids uke (I scored it very highly too).. so.. why make another? I'm honestly not sure. I mean, there are some striking design differences here that may suit different tastes, but the core concept is just the same?

And I need to get this out of the way from the off, I think this leans far too close to the design of the Magic Fluke Flea  than makes me comfortable.  I gave the Flight Travel uke a bye on that point as it was a different double bout and more trad shape, but this is is a boat paddle.. with a flat base.. plastic back.. wood top. I mean it's not exactly the same but come on, what else is it supposed to look like?? I put a couple of early pics up on the Socials and had more than one person state that they thought it was a Flea or from the Magic Fluke Co... That ain't good in my view. I suspect Magic Fluke will be watching closely, but I'm happy to go on record with my personal opinion that I think it's very lazy design work at best.

Bumblebee Hive Soprano Ukulele body

So very much a Flea uke in look, this is made from a all one piece bowl back and sides made from injection moulded ABS into which is dropped a laminate wood top. It's a concept that divides opinion but the Flea has shown quite categorically that it can work. The wood here has very much the same feel as the standard Flight Travel ukes with a matte finish and a translucent stain through which you can see the grain of the wood. It comes in a range of flat colours from the more sedate to the more striking like this Pink example (which I am rather taken by!!). I get that this colour may have some people run for the hills, but as I say there are simpler ones too. Like the Magic Fluke Flea it comes with a flat base on which you can stand it up...

The bridge is the same sort of style as the original Flight Travel models (which have now changed a little), but is ostensibly the same ABS plastic slot style bridge with a removable straight topped plastic saddle. It's a simple bridge style which will suit beginners just fine - about as easy as it gets to change strings. Spacing here is 42mm

Bumblebee Hive Soprano Ukulele bridge

There is no other decoration to the body, and you will spy a crazily large sound hole which I think looks a very odd and all out of proportion. It's a misconception that large soundholes make more sound - that's not completely true. The sound hole is there to allow the passage of air in and out thereby allowing the sound board to vibrate freely. It's the sound board that makes most of the noise. I'd rather more board here and less hole!  As I say above, the finish on the top is matte and the back and sides have only a slight matte finish which may prove a challenge in holding the uke against slippy clothing. That's a criticism of all of these sorts of ukes (the Flea included) and can be remedied by attaching a velcro strip or two on the back. Still, the whole thing at the body end is put together neatly with no issues I can see.

Bumblebee Hive Soprano Ukulele finish

There isn't a great deal to see inside as it's mainly the inside of the plastic shell. There is a top brace below the sound hole though and the bridge is supported with an internal plate. Oddly there is some sort of tail block in the base too.

Bumblebee Hive Soprano Ukulele inside

The neck is integral to the body and made of the same satin finished ABS plastic. It's very chunky all the way along but finishes at a wide nut (for a soprano) at 37mm with 30mm G to A. I do like the neck and think it feels (and looks) nicer than the Flight Travel.

Bumblebee Hive Soprano Ukulele neck

That is topped with more ABS plastic with integral silver painted plastic frets much the same as the Flight Travel (and the Flea...). It has 12 of those to the body with a zero fret at the nut end to help dial in intonation. Incidentally the action on this example is just where I would want it, but if you get one high it looks like the saddle is easily adjustable.  White screen print position markers face out at the 5th, 7th and 10th and they are paired with dots on the side. A note to bear in mind - avoid metal wound strings or even compound strings (such as Aquila Red) on frets like this - you WILL wreck them. 

Beyond the integral ABS nut is a very funky looking open frame headstock in an asymmetric shape. Flight love their open headstocks, and this gives enough of a nod to that, yet it looks different to other Flights. But guess which ukulele also has an open frame headstock... Yep - Magic Fluke..

Bumblebee Hive Soprano Ukulele headstock

The tuners are unbranded open gears on 'two to a plate' pairs each side facing backwards. They look quite cheap to me, and I think the black plastic buttons are overly large. They seem to work ok though.

Bumblebee Hive Soprano Ukulele tuners

Finishing it off are a set of Aquila Supernylgut strings and nothing else. It's interesting they didn't include a bag because the Flight Travel has one. OK, it's a tough instrument (so is the Travel) and the Flight Travel bag is nothing more than thin cloth, but it's something to carry it in at least and keeps the dust off. Surely that can't be much money to include? And these are for sale for circa £35 in the UK. Whilst it IS cheaper than the Flight Travel (which in basic finishes can be picked up for just under £45), it's not THAT much cheaper, yet is ostensibly the same thing (and no bag). Now, a saving is a saving, particularly if buying for a classroom and if it plays as well as the Travel that becomes a no brainer if you like the looks. If the travel wins on playability though, it leaves me thinking 'why would you choose this?'  Let's see..

Bumblebee Hive Soprano Ukulele back

First of the overall construction and finish here is good, although there is not much to get wrong I suppose. It's very similar in feel, if not shape to the Flight Travel and I do like the neck and general look. The setup too is decent. It's really light at only 465g and balances very well.

The strings though.. There is something very wrong here. I am not sure what set of Aquila they have fitted but the tension is awful. They are like rubber bands and have a flabby feel under the fingers making them very easy to bend sharp. I tuned it up a couple of half steps to European tuning (ADF#B), which is marginally better, but still not great, and I can't believe for one minute a brand aiming at the educator market would choose for this to be MEANT to be in D tuning. I have no doubt I could improve this with a thinner gauge string change, but my policy is always to review with stock strings.  These are simply NOT right for the instrument in the slightest and I have no idea why they chose them.

And without wishing to labour the point on strings.. I don't normally tend to affect review scores on strings because they ARE easily changed, but I will do so if the initial choice is way off and flawed. If a brand chooses a string they should stand by it and they should work, especially a brand marketed to beginners and kids at low cost who really don't want to deal with a string change on day one. Maybe a change WOULD improve things here - but then the £35 instrument becomes a £45 instrument and we are back to the Flight Travel comparison and my value for money score gets messed up. 

And that string choice worries me for yet another reason and that's because this is a boat paddle / pineapple shaped instrument without a waist. It's a shape I love, but when you remove the waist you boost the mids of the instrument. I find the Magic Fluke Flea itself can be a little picky on strings for the same reason and I personally find Aquila strings make them sound a bit boomy. This is the same shape. Oh boy..

And sure enough I'm afraid, this has a tubby, echoey, lunchbox sound that I am not really enjoying. The Flight Travel I was happy to say got closer to the sound of the Magic Fluke Flea than its price deserved to, but this one is a country mile away. Aside from the fact the loose strings are not enjoyable to play either and I am sure are not helping. The volume here is only reasonable, but the sustain is  poor. It's extremely staccato with no character at all to it.

Strummed, it sounds muddy, echoey and rather lifeless and it's also very easy to bend the strings out with the fretting hand. There's really not a lot going on here played this way. Fingerpicking is marginally better, but the same issues apply and you have very little option to add any sort of frills. Up the neck it turns totally staccato and the volume drops off. Does it work as a ukulele? Well kind of I suppose, but there's the thing - at this price there are actually now a heap of decent entry level instruments that work really well for beginners, the Flight Travel and the regular Bumblebee being two of them. The comparison with the Flea is purely down to looks for me as they are on different continents when it comes to price, but on sound, they are on different universes too.  

I didn't want this review to turn out like this as I really liked that first Bumblebee soprano I saw. I was confused from the start with this one and remain so now, with a large dose of annoyance thrown in on the lazy design origins. It's a striking looking uke for sure (though maybe that's just the colour, the design is hardly 'new'), for a cheap price, and well enough put together.  I said that this would be a no brainer if it stood up well against the Travel, but it doesn't. Maybe a string change would improve it, but then it's no longer cheaper than the  Travel so why?. Scoring here was therefore tough. The looks will appeal to many but I remain extremely unimpressed with how close this comes to the much loved Magic Fluke Flea in overall look. Fit and finish take a score knock due to the string choice which is not fit for purpose. The 'sound' score suffers too for the same reason. Value for money is the tough one as it IS very cheap, no denying that, but bear in mind I think you'd need a new string investment to get it up to par on that so another knock back. Cheap isn't always cheerful.


Model: Bumblebee Hive
Scale: Soprano
Body: ABS moulded back and sides, laminate wood top
Bridge: ABS, slot style
Saddle: Plastic
Spacing at saddle: 42mm
Neck: ABS
Fingerboard: ABS
Frets: 12 integral to fingerboard, plus zero fret
Nut: Integral to neck
Nut width: 37mm, 30mm G to A
Strings: Aquila
Weight: 465g
Country of origin: China
Price: Circa £35


Striking looks (and there are less funky colours if you prefer), but derivative.
Decent overall build and finish
Comfortable neck
Good value only if you ignore all the cons and don't consider a much needed string change


Original designs please.. 
What's going on with that sound hole?
Totally wrong string choice
Average volume
Poor sustain
Tubby, echoey sound with no character


Looks - 8 out of 10
Fit and finish 7 out of 10
Sound - 5 out of 10
Value for money - 8 out of 10









  1. What awards are given for ukes? Seems a lot of sharp angles on this one, does that affect comfort?

    1. The Flight Travel won a best in category at the NAMM show in California - biggest music vendor event in the world.

  2. Considering all the cons, 7 (out of 10!) seems to be way too generous! 70% on the plus side??

    1. See my scoring explanation at top of the reviews page

  3. Knew I should have waited for your review before jumping for one of these! Anyone else who, like me, was impatient - I have found that strumming with the pad of my thumb improves the sound. Shouldn’t have to, but if you need to make the most of a bad decision… 🙄 Next stop string change. Ah well, only £35, and I do need a beater to take on a walking holiday. I won’t jump the gun next time!


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