12 May 2024

Magic Fluke Baritone Ukulele - REVIEW

This week Barry at Got A Ukulele realises that he has now 'played them all'... Say hello to the new Magic Fluke Baritone Ukulele. 

Magic Fluke Co Fluke Baritone

CONSCIOUS BIAS WARNING!... Regular readers will know that I have, for a long time, talked about my love of the instruments made by the Magic Fluke Company in the USA. Heck, if it wasn't for me buying a Flea many years ago following my first uke disaster with a Mahalo, I may never have stuck with the ukulele and be here now writing this. It's the uke I've played more than any other as it represents my first serious foray into the uke world all those years ago. I also own a Fluke Concert, a Fluke Tenor and have reviewed their bass and two of their banjo ukuleles. I have always loved them. So that needed to be said up front when I was offered a chance by World of Ukes to take a look at this new one. This is their first outing in baritone territory and considering my history with the brand I was eager to have a try. I will do my best to put my affinity with them out of mind as I do with all my reviews.


For those not in the know on what I am talking about, Magic Fluke is a business set up in the late 1990's by Dale and Phyllis Beloff Webb in their basement in Connecticut, USA. Dale was inspired by Phyllis' brother Jim Beloff - the very well known musician and uke champion coupled with  the fact that back in the early 90's there was very little choice for a new, reliable ukulele without spending top Hawaiian dollars. That led to some prototypes being made and a bit of a push on the ukulele for those learning (using Jim's excellent books), eventually leading to a growing business making what have become their iconic, injection moulded poly carbonate backed and wooden topped ukes. When I look at them I think what really succeeded was their consistency and playability compared to the surge of cheap far eastern ukes deluging the market. I speak from experience here, as despite having done some work in instrument tech in the past I made the cardinal error with my first uke of 'buying as cheap as i could'. I ended up with an instrument with a badly set neck and frets in the wrong place. I binned it, bought a Flea, then never looked back. That little uke is the reason I stuck with the ukulele. Out of the box they just work - it's as simple as that. Oh, and I think they sound great too. Today they are still made in the USA, but in Massachusetts and are not just played by uke enthusiasts but a slew of famous names on stage too. They've offered all sorts of scales, basses and banjo's as I say, but the baritone is a new one. They have some critics, but I've never personally played one and disliked it.

This uses the same Fluke shape as on the other Fluke instruments which is a boat paddle with the flat base which allows you to stand it up (a feature I've always thought cool and doesn't get shouted about enough. I have one sat beside my sofa most times.). In fact, the body is the same size as the concert and tenor Fluke and only the scale is different. A small bodied baritone then. In base spec this can be had with their usual flat coloured laminate tops made from Australian Hoop Pine or as an upgraded model with solid koa or spruce tops, this being the koa version. In all honesty, all my other Magic Flukes are laminate tops and i've been perfectly happy with them and would challenge anyone in a blindfold test to tell me they were laminate. Still the demand is always there for solid wood tops so that's what we have here sitting in that familiar triangular wedge shaped body. It's a nice sheet of wood and looks great with some interesting stripe and shimmer. That top sits in the one piece polycarbonate 'bowl' back, kind of Ovation style, which completes the body. I'm intrigued by the size of the body not changing on the baritone, but I suppose you could call this a travel bari!

Magic Fluke Co Fluke Baritone body

The bridges on Magic Fluke instruments have changed quite a bit over the years, with the type on my first Flea being an all in one slot bridge with integral saddle made of fibreglass. People, perhaps rightly, pointed out that this made adjusting the saddle very difficult so in time Magic Fluke introduced separate saddles in their bridges as we have here. The slot bridge mounting here is still made of fibreglass in a cool shape and this holds a straight topped NuBone saddle if you wanted to adjust it. In what I think is a fairly new development this employs their 'Clip Lock' system to secure the bridge plate. Rather than just glue-ing (or screwing) it down, this bridge has a kind of lip / flange that goes inside the top through a slot then applies pressure to the underside of the bridge under string tension. That looks really clever and I can't see how this would ever come loose (check their website to understand that more). Spacing here is 44mm.

Magic Fluke Co Fluke Baritone bridge

The finish on Flukes is always simple (though you can work with them for your own designs which I have always liked) - so no rosettes or binding (not that I could see anything to bind). The top is finished in satin and the back and sides the raw polycarbonate with a bit of texture in the moulding. Yes, I KNOW those bodies can be slippy to hold but the common trick is to run a couple of strips of velcro on the back to grip your top when you play. I've gigged with a Fluke ukulele held without a strap so it can be done!

Magic Fluke Co Fluke Baritone finish

Inside there is not much to talk about as there isn't much to see on the back and sides. They are ribbed for strength and there is a bit of glue mess where the top is applied. The top is braced vertically and laterally and you can also see the inside of that clip lock bridge system.

Magic Fluke Co Fluke Baritone inside

The neck wood on these changes depending on the colour of the top wood you choose. In this case it's made of walnut. Magic Fluke necks also divide opinion with their square-ish shape, but I have always found they suit my hand shape just fine. Your mileage may vary of course. Like others I have played this is smooth all over in the finish. This tapers to a roomy 37mm nut (30mm D to E).

The fingerboard is made from walnut to match the neck (again on the maple neck you get a fingerboard to match) and brings me on to a point about Magic Fluke more generally, though not relevant to this review as such. With the baritone you only get the wooden fingerboards and not their well known plastic boards. I presume that is to do with the use of wound bass strings which would eat the frets. But I wanted to take a moment on the topic of their plastic boards. I regularly see on forums discussions regarding these that you 'MUST' get the wooden board. I've played both, but actually all my Magic Fluke instruments have plastic boards. My first Flea is now about 17 years old and, yes there is a bit of slight wear on the frets, but I have played it for a LONG time. It still plays just fine and I am perfectly happy with it. In fact for me (subjectively) I prefer the plastic boards on feel...... So it's kind of irrelevant here as you don't get an option, but I just wanted to make the point that if you are considering another Fluke or Flea scale, don't be put off by the plastic boards. (Rant over)..  Anyway, back to the baritone.  The wood here is in great condition and fitted with 19 frets with 14 to the body. It has outward facing dots in black at the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 10th, double 12th and 15th and this example has white side dots. A word on those though that they are an additional cost option if you buy direct. That cost is baked into the dealer price as below, but I will say that is a gripe of mine as I think it is crazy in 2024 that you are having to pay $15 extra if you want them. They really should come as standard!

Magic Fluke Co Fluke Baritone neck

The nut here is made of black NuBone but is for string spacing only as this has a metal zero fret like all Magic Fluke instruments to hold the string height. Some people don't like these for not being height adjustable, but I revert you back to my earlier comment about how good Magic Flukes are out of the box. I've never played one that needed adjustment. Beyond that is the famous hoop headstock shape you get on all of their instruments and which, to be fair, Magic Fluke were the first of its kind I'd ever seen.

Magic Fluke Co Fluke Baritone headstock

The tuners here are the standard Magic Fluke choice on friction pegs, being Grover 2 series. They are kind of entry level and whilst I find they work ok, they are not as good as 4's or 6's (which I swapped to on my original Flea and Fluke!). I guess this is another divisive point on Magic Flukes as so many people don't like friction pegs. Of course, fitting gears to a headstock like this would be tricky (not impossible) so they do offer an upgrade to PegHeds which are planetary tuners that look like friction pegs. I have them on my Fluke tenor and they are sublime. All that said though, I kind of think that by now Magic Fluke should switch their standard pegs to Grover 6's. Still, these work and I don't totally mind them.

Magic Fluke Co Fluke Baritone tuners

Finishing things off are a set of D'Addario strings with wound 3rd and 4th and that's your lot. Another gripe of mine is the lack of a bag. Magic Fluke do sell cases and bags and (in the UK at least) when I first bought one they came with a simple drawstring bag in the asking price. I really think they should consider a basic drawstring as standard these days considering the odd shape. Protection is not really my concern (Magic Flukes are tough as old boots!!), but more just something to keep them in to keep the dust off. Which brings me to the price. The starting standard spec for these in laminate tops will be $399 direct from them, but in the UK with this koa wood top upgrade you are looking at £499. Magic Flukes have never been 'cheap and cheerful' and even back in the day when I bought my Flea I had to have a think about the cost.  And they have gone up quite a bit in the intervening period too. But I try not to be totally sniffy about them when you consider they are a home-made family business with USA costs, prices, wages, taxes and not made on a faceless line in the far east. Added to that UK pricing is not really a fair comparison anyway as we are hammered with import duty and VAT (the USA price in this spec is $479). A fairer stateside comparison instrument is hard to find, but I suppose the price is very similar (if not cheaper in standard spec) to a baritone from Bonanza Ukuleles (also hand made in the USA, also a bit quirky and unconventional) so I suspect the core US price is probably about right these days for something not made in the far east. It just looks skewed to UK buyers. Still, I think some of those paid extras should be included in the asking price.

Yet there is also a value in that home-grown nature of the brand (which can also help you out with after sales if you have an issue as they are famously good on that front). There's also that first point of just how worry free they are out of the box and how tough they are (I saw my Fluke Concert go tumbling down the concrete stairs of a car park once and it was still in tune at the bottom!). The price didn't totally shock me, let's put it that way.

Magic Fluke Co Fluke Baritone back

From the off I really didn't know what to expect from a Magic Fluke baritone. Their other scales, even down to the Flea are impressively punchy in volume and rich in tone which is one of the things that always impressed me. They don't SOUND like plastic ukes. So add in this longer scale and lower tuning - how is it going to handle that? Like other instruments from this company the build quality, finish quality and setup are all excellent. It's also a light baritone at only 495g and balances nicely.

Volume on Magic Fluke instruments is never an issue I find, and this one has good volume, though not stellar when compared to other bigger bodied baritones. That's understandable I guess and it's still no slouch but just a little more laid back. Sustain is utterly superb with the whole instrument vibrating in your hands as you strum it. Just lovely!

Tone wise this one has intrigued me. Whilst I find the other Magic Fluke instruments sound like their standard counterparts (the Flea in particular sounding like a damn good soprano), this one doesn't sound like a baritone to me. In fact it doesn't sound like a ukulele, if that makes any sense! That isn't a criticism as the tone is something I find really attractive, and it has a kind of softness and jangle to it that brings to mind old renaissance type instruments, maybe a cittern or something like that. Strummed it has great clarity and warmth but with a kind of fizzy jangle particularly in the lower register chords. The range is certainly more on the mids and bass than the trebles, and the tone is kind of woody and dark but with that fizz that I am struggling to describe!

Fingerpicking is lovely to play, chimey and again with a kind of soft, comforting edge which I find very pretty indeed. I'm really struggling to describe this one other than saying that I think it's a lovely sounding instrument in it's own right. It kind of is what it is - in a very good way. As I say, intriguing!

I've said it many times before but the Magic Fluke team really do deserve some credit that goes beyond just their instruments as they were integral to the start of the current boom we are in. I'm so glad they introduced this 'big gun' scale to their range and in doing so have created something quite, quite different that I'd be happy to have sit alongside my other scales.  No it's not an impulse buy price, but there is real quality here and superb after-sales service. There are minor things that I think they should address these days, but I remain a big fan. 

Highly recommended!


Model: Magic Fluke 'Fluke'
Scale: Baritone
Body: Injection moulded polycarbonate bowl back and sides, solid Koa top
Bridge: Fibreglass slot bridge
Saddle: NuBone
Spacing at saddle: 44mm
Finish: Satin
Neck: Walnut
Fingerboard: Walnut
Frets: 19, 13 to body plus zero fret
Nut: NuBone
Nut width: 37mm, 30mm D to E
Tuners: Grover 2B
Strings: D'Addario with wound bass strings
Weight: 495g
Country of origin: USA
Price: Starting $399, in this spec $479 (UK price £499)


Typical Fluke quality build and finish
Now 'iconic' look
Great setup
Clever bridge concept
Great sustain
Wonderful neck
Intriguing 'soft' tone that sounds rather unique


Perhaps a standard tuner upgrade?
Side dots should be free!
Give us a carry bag!


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








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