21 Apr 2024

Luna Uke Henna Dragon Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

Got A Ukulele isn't just about the brands that I personally like, but rather tries to cover all bases for ukulele buyers to consider. This week we go back to a brand that is, sadly, yet to impress me with the Luna Uke Henna Dragon Concert. Or more specifically the imaginatively named UKE HEN DRA MAH C.. 

Luna Uke Henna Dragon Concert Ukulele

Luna are a USA brand dealing with Chinese made instruments that usually come with striking top designs. There are a huge number of them out there with players, but I think that speaks more for some clever distribution and getting them in the large high street outlets rather than in the specialist ukulele stores where you rarely see them. I've reviewed a few over the years and personally found them to be  rather basic instruments at heart with some worrying quality control stories. More on those later. When people see I am reviewing a Luna they assume I will dislike it, but that is unfair. I give every review a fair crack of the whip and if a Luna appears that I like I WILL say so. You never know, today may be the day!


And when I say 'striking top designs' with Luna, I mean to say that they have a propensity for going with bold laser etching patterns on tops. Not all of their instruments are decorated that way, but many are and it's kind of become their 'thing'. Regular readers know that I don't like laser etching at all, so when I point out that dislike here (more below) that is a purely subjective view on looks. In fact I'm using that 'subjective / objective' point a lot in reviews to make them as fair as I can. It is, however also coupled with a more practical and totally objective issue I touch on later too. Aside from the engraved decor here this is a pretty basic laminate concert ukulele in a trad double bout shape that also comes in tenor scale. They say it is 'Eastern Mahogany' and don't go to any great lengths to tell you it's laminate. In fact 'Eastern Mahogany' is not actually mahogany at all either, it's Nato wood from the Mora tree... but hey.. that doesn't sound as good in the blurb does it?.... When I say basic, that's seriously basic. Like other Luna laminates, if it were not for the top decoration there's really not a lot to write about here as it's pretty bland wood without much interest. In fact, whilst the back and sides are kind of smooth and a bit shimmery when you look beyond the etching on the top wood, that sheet is pretty raw and cheap looking. Almost like it's a different wood. It's very plain and the laminates on the top and back are also clearly pretty thick. Here and there there are slight chips on the top edging too and there is no binding to hide them.

Luna Uke Henna Dragon Concert Ukulele body

The bridge is a tie bar made from Pau Ferro wood in an interesting enough shape that is not too large. It's very pale to look at though and the finishing is extremely rough and scruffy. It's essentially bare wood that needs some sanding let alone some coating. That holds a straight topped, uncompensated bone saddle. Spacing here clocks in at 37mm.

Luna Uke Henna Dragon Concert Ukulele bridge

That laser etching on the top is what the gives the ukulele it's name. This is in the form of Henna style tattoos encompassing flowers and dragons. There is certainly a lot of it and as with all laser etching, looks cheap and scruffy in the depths though the design itself is nicely done. Still, unlike their earlier tattoo models, I am thankful for the etching not running under the bridge here. Why do I say that? Well, you want your bridge joint to be as clean and flat as possible and running edging under there will create a weakness.  I have a folder on my laptop with dozens of photos readers have sent me of Lunas with failed bridges.. and several of those have failed where there is etching under the bridge and you can see the wood has split apart rather than it just being the glue that has failed. Sadly i've also got many examples of none etched Luna's with failed bridges too where the top has de-laminated too, so I don't think their laminate is that good regardless! So no, this is not for me on a subjective footing, but the evidence I have of QC fails is very much objective too as I think this affects the strength. It's finished in a pretty basic satin and as I say there is no other decor in the form of binding, inlays or a soundhole rosette.

Luna Uke Henna Dragon Concert Ukulele decor

Inside is pretty tidy to be fair, bar all that pickup wiring. It's regularly braced and the linings are notched. Looking into it this way though really does remind you how thick the laminate is. Oh, and you'll spy something else that I come on to below..

Luna Uke Henna Dragon Concert Ukulele inside

Also on the body you will note another bugbear of mine and that is an active pickup system with a side mounted control panel. Again, a subjective view 'perhaps', but I think they look ugly. This has the usual tuner offering which is so loose on the accuracy i'd not bother and adds weight to the instrument and a bunch of extra wiring with more to go wrong. At least this runs on cell batteries and not a 9V brick, so thank heavens for small mercies (not that the batteries in this one had any charge on arrival..). What is less subjective is that this terminates to a jack socket mounted on the side of the lower bout of the instrument. That is always a loopy decision in my book, particularly when there is a stronger tail block as you can see above. This is simply not a strong place to mount a jack. Trust me - I have seen first hand a performer walk, not knowing their cable was snagged on an amplifier and it pulled a hole in the side of the uke with one of these fittings... No thanks.

Luna Uke Henna Dragon Concert Ukulele pickup

The neck is made from more eastern mahogany (Nato!) and is in three pieces with a very obvious heel joint and a more well hidden one at the headstock. The grain here is actually quite nice, as is the satin coating, but I dislike how pale it is compared to the body. Back on the subjective points though the profile at the nut is like a broom handle and the width listed at 35mm (I measure it at 34mm and  27mm G to A) is generically narrow. Really not for me at all.

It's topped with more Pau Ferro for the fingerboard which is even enough in colour but needs more sanding as there are obvious wood tufts in the finish. It's edge bound in black, yet the fret ends are still very slightly sharp. You get 19 of those joined at the 14th. Pearl position dots are in the form of moon phases which actually don't run in the right order / direction for moon phases. The are placed at the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 10th and 12th and they are paired with regular dots on the side.

Luna Uke Henna Dragon Concert Ukulele neck

Beyond the bone nut (which, incidentally needs dressing back on the sides as it is sharp on the fretting hand on the raised edges) is a slot headstock. I'm still not fully convinced on slot heads on concerts as I find they can look quite large and this one certainly does. In fact it's overly thick front to back too.  It's faced in a thin veneer of the body wood, again showing the colour difference with the neck. We have more laser etching in the form of the Luna logo too.

Luna Uke Henna Dragon Concert Ukulele headstock

The tuners are unbranded open gears in chrome, naturally side mounted and to be fair they look and work ok.

Luna Uke Henna Dragon Concert Ukulele tuners

It comes with a set of Aquila strings, a functional but thin gig bag with the Luna logo and the pickup system. The price of this is an example is also one of those that annoy me greatly for the lack of transparency. Bear with me here as I explain...  On the Luna site these are listed as being $269 (£216 UK) which, if true would have me laughing this one out of town on cost. But.. the site has a little cross placed through that and it's listed at $179 (£143 UK). Taking that a step further I have seen UK stores selling these for £99.. £216 to £99 is quite the range and I call utter claptrap here. I don't believe this was EVER going to be $269.. So why say that? Luna are not the only brand that do this and it irritates the hell out of me. I could be extremely harsh and score the value for money here at $269 and utterly trash the overall score, but I am not that mean. The score below is based on the $179 price which, incidentally, I still think is expensive for what you are actually getting here regardless... That's a common complaint of mine with Luna. They 'appear' cheap, but they are expensive for the core specs. Uma, Snail, Kai, Enya all have offerings for less money than this and for better quality too.

Sigh....  I said I'd give this a fair crack and whilst the core build here seems ok, it's a very plain set of woods, laser etched to hell, with a chunky pickup, skinny neck, sharp frets and some mis-direction on both the wood type and the pricing. It also feels heavy for a concert at 595g (compare that to some of the light weight concerts i've looked at recently) and is very slightly neck heavy. I'm sure that's on account of the huge headstock and if there was not pickup in the body would be much worse. Setup also needs work too with the action at the 12th coming in at just above 3mm, which is above what I would consider acceptable and it also has a high nut too....  Bear in mind a couple of things on that front - you don't really see Luna's in specialist uke stores, so this came from a box shipper who hadn't even opened it to check it.. And on this one there isn't much saddle protruding above the bridge plate so I am not sure how much I could take the action at the 12th down.. And that to me suggested something more serious at play. I give my views on that in the video, but think that the neck may have a curve in it or is set wrong... Ugh..

Luna Uke Henna Dragon Concert Ukulele back

Basics first. I find the volume on this example subdued and strangled to listen to. It works but the punch is just not really there particularly on strumming. Sustain is better and somewhat surprising for a heavy and thick laminate box. It's not stellar, but not shabby either so at least gives it some character.

Tone wise, on first plucking I have to say I was not appalled. It has a pleasant enough sound on individual notes. And despite that high action (which is uncomfortable to play), I am not sensing major intonation issues on this - probably because it's high everywhere! 

Strummed though it still sounds like a typically cheap laminate box with the telltale echoey overtones and bit of muddiness on combined notes which is common at the cheap end. That coupled with the muted projection means it's not really a snappy or bouncy sound that i'd want from a concert. It just doesn't seem to have much life played this way.  

Fingerpicking though is more pleasant with a fairly clear music box type chime particularly up the neck that is perfectly passable. The reasonable sustain helps here too though I do wonder whether a ukulele priced and marketed like this, perhaps as a first timer, is really going to be played all that much in this way? All in all though - very generic on the tone. So another shame there too.

So I continue to wait for a Luna to impress me. Today was not the day. Is this an absolutely terrible ukulele? No it's not at all and i've seen much worse, but all things are relative and there's a big market out there.  It's a very simple uke with some poor finishing and setup that sounds very generic. And like other Luna ukes, I think that even at the discounted price this is not good value for what you are actually getting. Yes it works as a basic uke but there are far better alternatives out there for less money. Lots of them.

Look elsewhere.


Model: Luna Uke Henna Dragon
Scale: Concert
Body: Laminate eastern mahogany (Nato wood)
Bridge: Pau Ferro tie bard
Saddle: Bone, uncompensated
Spacing at saddle: 37mm
Finish: Satin
Neck: Eastern mahogany
Fingerboard: Pau Ferro
Frets: 19, 14 to body
Nut: Bone
Nut width: 34mm, 27mm G to A 
Tuners: Chrome open gears
Strings: Aquila
Extras: Pickup system, gig bag
Weight: 595g
Country of origin: China
Price:  $179 (£143)...


Generally good core build (subject to the cons below!!)
Pretty enough tone when fingerpicked
Good sustain
Fairly decent tuners


Some rough finishing
Dull woods
Sharp fret ends
Poor setup - is the neck mis-set?
Uninspiring boxy laminate tone strummed
Subdued volume
Scruffy finishing in various places
Heavy and off balance
Etching not for me (subjective)
Neck width not for me (subjective)
Pickup not for me (subjective)
Too expensive for what it actually is 
Misleading wood specs and pricing


Looks - 6.5 out of 10
Fit and finish - 6 out of 10
Sound - 7 out of 10
Value for money - 7 out of 10








No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave me a comment!