28 Apr 2024

Clearwater UCW7MT Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

Back this week with a ukulele brand that i've not looked at since 2018 and it's sending me down quite a pleasant memory lane. This is the Clearwater UCW7MT Spruce  Tenor Ukulele.

Clearwater UCW7MT Tenor Ukulele

Clearwater are a brand who are (mostly, if not only) carried by a UK supplier called the Really Useful Music Company and back then the couple of instruments I looked at that really caused a stir were the bowl back models including the UCW7B Baritone. What was really staggering about these was the price to quality ratio, something noted by some professional performers on the ukulele circuit (Zoe Bestel used to play the baritone model on stage in her act). Digging deeper it became apparent that RUMC may have sourced instruments from the same line as models made by the very famous Ohana brand. In fact that Baritone was pretty much identical to the BK70RB by Ohana to most eyes. That is not to say copied, but rather perhaps they had an arrangement to use the exact same line and put them out under their own name. I have no issue with that, as if Ohana failed to protect their line that is their lookout. But the big kicker was that the Clearwater versions were a small fraction of the price of the Ohana versions. That speaks volumes about how buyers are charged in this market that I will leave you to draw your own conclusions on! Incidentally, those bowl backs are now available again too!


Anyway, the team at RUMC recently got in touch to ask me to take a look at a newer couple of theirs made in more regular build styles, including this one. Bearing in mind that paragraph above, I did a bit more digging again and sure enough, the specs show this to be almost completely identical (to me) to the (now discontinued?) Ohana TK-70G. From memory that was a highly regarded instrument (that I seem to recall the UK Ohana rep back then performing with) that these days I can't really find for sale. I seem to recall they were a few hundred pounds back then. Keep that price in mind for this review! And to be clear I am NOT saying this is an Ohana..

The UCW7MT is a standard double bout shaped instrument that clearly comes with some decent appointments rather than just being the same old same old  plain instrument. This has a solid premium spruce top paired with flame maple (laminate) back and sides. We've had something of a run this year on 'pale on pale' instruments and here we have yet another. Though bear in mind what I said about that Ohana - this is not a new development. The woods are in two pieces for each face and I must say that the quality looks good with tight straight grain on on the spruce and attractive even and bookmatched flaming on the maple which is not 'over the top' and just enough. It's a very classy looking instrument and whilst I have said that I prefer more contrast between top to back, this still appeals to me as being a bit different from the norm as most spruce ukes you will see will be 'pale top, dark back'. It's also a fairly skinny instrument front to back which is nice to hold.

Clearwater UCW7MT Tenor Ukulele body

The bridge is a generic tie bar in a wood type made from a material that isn't specified. It could be rosewood, it could be dyed hardwood, but it looks tidy and is finished well. That holds a saddle made of NuBone and spacing here is 41mm.

Clearwater UCW7MT Tenor Ukulele bridge

The decoration is classy too and not over the top with wooden bindings to the top and back and extra black and white purfling to the top face. It works well against the very pale body and is applied well too. Incidentally, I seem to recall the Ohana used tortoiseshell bindings, and I much prefer this choice. Around the sound hole is an abalone ring edged in black which isn't too large or taking over the top. It's all 'just enough'. The body is finished in a gloss which, bar a little bit of pooling here and there is not bad at all and really helps make the flame on the maple stand out.

Clearwater UCW7MT Tenor Ukulele decor

Inside is pretty basic I must say with regular braces and un-notched linings. There's a fair bit of glue mess too. On the positive side the top is clearly nice and thin! You'll also note the passive pickup mounted just north of the bridge plate.

Clearwater UCW7MT Tenor Ukulele inside

It also comes with a pickup which I am pleased to say is just a passive soundboard transducer - so no weight, no ugly control panels, no mass of wiring. Good news! What I like less is the mounting of the jack socket on the side of the lower bout rather than in the tail block. This is a more fragile place to mount them.

The neck wood isn't specified, so could be mahogany, okoume or something like that.  It's glossed and made from three pieces with fairly well hidden joints in the heel and headstock. The neck profile is not overly rounded which is a tick in the box for my preferences. The nut width is more average at 36mm (28mm G to A). That's skinnier than I like, but I do find the combination with the profile matters to me so this works.

It's topped with more unspecified dark wood for the fingerboard, but whatever it is it's in great condition with even colour. It's edge bound with wooden strips hiding the fret ends of which you get 19 joined at the 14th. They are dressed well too and I can't feel any edges. Pearl position dots face out at the 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th and 15th. Sadly there are no side dots which is a real omission these days.

Clearwater UCW7MT Tenor Ukulele neck

Beyond the NuBone nut is a headstock that really DOES look like an Ohana uke in shape. It's faced in more flamed maple and edge trimmed in dark wood and black and white purfling which all looks really high end. The Clearwater logo is a pearly screen print under the gloss. 

Clearwater UCW7MT Tenor Ukulele headstock

The tuners are sealed gears and these differ from the Ohana which used open Grover tuners with smaller white buttons. These work ok, but i'd much rather see open gears as opposed to guitar tuners.

Clearwater UCW7MT Tenor Ukulele tuners

It comes with Aquila strings and a gig bag or case option for extra cost. But it would be churlish of me to pick holes with the fact that those don't come as standard when we see the price of the ukulele. This is available for only £89.99 from RUMC. I really had to do a double take on that price as it's quite simply remarkable on value for money. Bear in mind again the similarities to that Ohana which was hundreds of pounds. This speaks volumes about how ukulele pricing can raise an eyebrow. In fact, never mind that Ohana, you'd be paying quite a bit more for any other brand for a ukulele of this sort of spec. Superb value.

So it's all pretty positive here with a build and finish which are up to very good standard and nice decor. My gripes are minor (shift the jack socket, change the tuners, and the lack of side dots is silly these days), but that price though.. It's hard to be too sniffy!

Clearwater UCW7MT Tenor Ukulele back

All of that is irrelevant if it doesn't play ok though. It sits well and balanced in the hands and is light for a tenor at 600g. The setup on this example is also spot on. 

Volume here is great for a shallow body with a terrific punch that is very pleasing. Sustain is good too - not the longest out there but really not shabby either. It's a lively instrument to play.

Looking at the woods, and despite the fact that half of it is laminate i'd expect a bright tone here with all that spruce and sure enough this one is certainly on that end of the scale. This is a totally subjective thing of course as whilst I like my tenors to sound woodier and warmer, there are a great many people who like the bright zing sound on an instrument. This certainly has that with a jangly almost fizzy sound when strummed. The clarity of tone played this way is the standout to me as there is no muddiness here at all. It's a crisp sound that to my ears is more concert like than tenor played like this.

Fingerpicked it's really very pretty to listen to with a sleigh bell like chime to the tones all over the neck. I found it particularly charming in this style even if the brightness on the strumming was less to my own personal tastes. But it's clearly still an accomplished sounding instrument that will stand up to a great many models costing considerably more than this does. Remind me of that price again.... Wow.

So it's a great many ticks in boxes for me bar the one or two faults I mentioned. But all of that fades away when you consider the price. This is NOT a junk instrument built to a low price, rather this is an instrument I expected would cost twice as much if not more. And that, like those bowlback instruments from the same brand really does give us something to think about when it comes to fairness of ukulele pricing. Bear in mind RUMC are still making a profit on these at this price..

This is remarkable value and worth every penny. 

Highly recommended!


Model: Clearwater UCW7MT
Scale: Tenor
Body: Solid spruce top, laminate flamed maple back and sides
Bridge: Unspecified hardwood tie bar
Saddle: NuBone
Spacing at saddle: 41mm
Finish: Gloss
Neck: Unspecified
Fingerboard: Unspecified hardwood
Frets: 19, 14 to body
Nut: NuBone
Nut width: 36mm, 28mm G to A
Tuners: Sealed chrome gears
Strings: Aquila
Weight: 600g
Country of origin: China
Price: £89.99


Good build and finish
Classy looks and decor
Great volume
Good sustain
Clarity of tone
Incredible price


No side markers
Shift to open gears
Move the pickup jack


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









  1. Thanks Barry. Your review mentioned that the neck has a gloss finish, how was it to play? I generally prefer a satin finish on the neck as it tends to be a bit smoother. I agree about the side dots - personally I would rather have them and no outward facing dots.

    1. Would also prefer a satin neck, but it's quite skinny in profile so nice to play

  2. Morning, Barry. Excellent review, as ever. I see that RUMC has a concert version of this ukulele. You mentioned that a couple of ukuleles had been sent your way, and I wondered if you would be reviewing the concert, too? Thanks.


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