Flight Maia EQ-A Steel Strung Baritone Ukulele - REVIEW

23 Jun 2024

Flight Maia EQ-A Steel Strung Baritone Ukulele - REVIEW

File this ukulele one under 'maybe you didn't see this one coming'. Or maybe it was a natural progression that you should have done. This is the Flight Maia EQ-A Steel Strung Baritone.

Flight Maia Steel String Baritone Ukulele

People outside uke circles often (wrongly!) call the uke a 'small guitar'. Sure it's another chordophone, but it's development actually came about alongside the modern guitar rather than being a derivative of it. The baritone ukulele is the newest of the bunch (though still quite old) and even some uke players call these ones 'small guitars' or even 'poor mans guitars'. I kind of see that this tagging makes a bit more sense but there are still big differences. Yes, the body is much closer in size to a parlour or tenor guitar though the scale is much shorter (the thing that makes a uke a uke for me). And the other obvious difference from the more regular modern guitar (classical guitars excepted) is the trad use of nylon / fluoro uke strings rather than going all steel. I regularly see uke forum discussions where people are asking about putting full steel strings on a uke and I often recoil in horror as my advice is DON'T. Steel strings exert much more tension than nylon and unless the uke is built for it (it likely won't be) you are asking for trouble, potentially catastrophically. But that barrier to doing so really is just down to construction strength and bracing... so Flight decided to address just that with this brand new model - a baritone with full steel stringing. I've actually known this was coming for some time now, but they have finally landed with dealers.


Sorry to delay getting into the detail even further, but I find this one a somewhat tricky uke to review, and that's for a purely personal reason. You see I already play guitar and own several - in fact I've been playing guitar for longer than I have the ukulele so I am not entirely sure this is aimed at me as I can get my small body steel string fix with one of my parlour guitars. But that's just me of course and there is no getting away from the rising popularity of the baritone in recent years and I am convinced some of that is driven by uke players who are 'guitar curious'. What convinces me of that even further is the fact I produced a range of 'small guitar reviews' in the last few years which turned out to be incredibly popular and are regularly requested from followers of the site. The feedback I was getting was just that - uke players who were put off by large dreadnought guitars but wanted to dabble with something familiar feeling but that was a guitar. Now this is NOT a regular guitar, and i'd say at best it's a short scale tenor guitar - but it fits that popularity i've noted down to the ground. Something between the regular baritone and the smallest body acoustic guitars. And I think that's a very clever move, regardless if I am the market or not. Heck, it may also appeal the other way around too -  to guitar players who are 'uke curious'.

The Maia looks immediately familiar to me from the front because the top wood and parts of the decoration scream 'Flight Fireball' to me. That's in part because the top is made from solid mango which looks great. That's paired with laminate rosewood back and sides as per the Flight Aurora which gives it a great contrast and as anyone versed with guitars will know, laminate back and sides are both much more common in guitars and of less tonal impact than they are on smaller ukes. As such I have no issue with this pairing which looks classy and is a kind of 'best of both worlds' from two Flight Baritones I loved, one of which I own!. The shape is now well known modern rounded double bout Flight shape and looks like a mini grand auditorium shape guitar. I think the looks of this are absolutely superb and it's ticking all the right boxes for me.

Flight Maia Steel String Baritone Ukulele body

The bridge screams Fireball too being a rosewood pin bridge, a little less decorated on the wood, but holding similar red gem topped bridge pins. The saddle is made of bone with a compensated top and spacing here of 44mm.

Flight Maia Steel String Baritone Ukulele bridge

The decoration is classy and sympathetic to the woods, with a black gloss bevelled cutaway like the Fireball and black edge binding to the top and back of the body. It loses the comfort edge of the Fireball and the thick black rosette which is replaced with a subtle looking abalone ring. The body is finished in a gloss which looks to be well done in all places and not overly thick. Elsewhere on the body is a Double brand saddle pickup with soundhole controls which seems to be the standard for Flight now. 

There is one thing missing here for me though and that's a pickguard. Now.. pickguards do exist on regular ukuleles, though a bit more rarely and when they do appear a lot of players get apoplectic about them as they are not sure of the 'need'. I personally don't find them offensive, but can see the point about need when playing with fingers as you are not going to scratch a top up anywhere near as much as with a pick. With this though, I don't think I am the only acoustic guitar player out there that plays with a plectrum as steel strings shred my fingernails, and i'd want to do that with this uke. And because this is on loan to me I don't want to scratch it so can't! And there lies the point. I think Flight should take note and at least consider putting a clear teardrop guard on the top for that reason. A minor gripe perhaps as they are easy to fit yourself, but my first 'want' when taking this out of the bag was to grab a plectrum!

Flight Maia Steel String Baritone Ukulele decor

At first glance inside it looks like a regular uke with braces in the normal places and notched linings. The top is X braced and is clearly a heavier bracing size than on a regular uke. That's normally a 'no no' unless you want to kill projection, but with steel strings an absolute necessity to stop the tension imploding the body. And with steel strings of course, your projection and sustain should be just fine.

Flight Maia EQ-A Baritone Ukulele inside

The neck is made from African Mahogany and feels much like other Flight necks and is pleasingly satin coated. It's made of three pieces with well hidden joints.  It has a very roomy nut at 38mm but because of the type of strings here, particularly the thin 1st and 2nd string, you really notice the room with the 30mm string spacing - it's all very comfortable.  You will also note an adjustable truss rod here which, for the first time with a uke I GET. Truss rods are one of the most mis-understood elements of a stringed instrument with people online claiming all sorts of weird reasons for them, most commonly that they are for setting action. They are NOT for setting action, but rather for setting slight neck relief for playing comfort and to counteract the tension of steel strings. This is why i've never seen the need on a regular uke (hey - Kamaka don't use them) as the tension is just not there to need it. With all steel strings i'd say this is essential so good to see!

The fingerboard is rosewood and in very even colour and good condition. Once again Flight go with their supremely comfortable semi hemi dressing on the 19th frets with a 14th body join. I adore the triangle inlay position markers here at the 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th and 15th and these are repeated with regular side dots.

Flight Maia Steel String Baritone Ukulele neck

Beyond the bone nut I was surprised, (but not in a bad way), to see a regular headstock. Flight regularly use slot heads both their own hoop style and also double slots and whilst I say I can be turned off from slots on ukes, that view of mine really only goes for sopranos and concerts as I think Baritones suit them. Then again, all things considered I think I still prefer a regular headstock and that's what we have here, faced in gloss black and one that isn't too large.  It's the same as the Aurora headstock and holds the Flight logo in a pearly inlay in the top. Classy looking and matches the instrument well.

Flight Maia Steel String Baritone Ukulele headstock

The tuners are open gears with a brand change from the Prowel you tend to see on this sort of Flight with these listed as being made by Pinwell.  I'm not sure of the difference as they look to be good quality, but the only tuners I know with a name kind of like that are Pingwell? I also wonder if the change was necessary as part of the move to the stronger string tension? Anyway, whatever they are they work ok. 

Flight Maia Steel String Baritone Ukulele tuners

Finishing it off are a set of what Flight label as 'custom strings' (meaning I don't know the brand) but I am told they are a steel core set of 11's with Phosphor Bronze windings on 3 and 4. For tech geeks they are 11, 15, 23W and 30W. You also get the decent and now famous Flight red gig bag. And what really surprised me here was the final price as these are going for £339 in UK stores.  I know it's a laminate back and sides, but for some reason I was expecting these to command a bit more on account of the extra work in the build. That's the same price I paid for the Aurora so it gets a similarly high score on that front as I think it is great value.

So as you can see i've not found anything wrong here. I love the look of the mango top with the rosewood, the build, the finish, the fingerboard markers - it's one classy looking uke, even if I may not be the target. It doesn't feel heavy compared to a guitar, but feels substantial for a uke. It clocks in at 1.025kg (presumably on account of the strengthening inside) though balances nicely. It's actually very comfortable to hold, though that may be my guitar brain thinking that there is much less to it than my guitars. 

But the challenge for me on this one is the review of the sound. And that's because...well... how do you compare this to a regular uke? Steel strings are naturally going to sound different and volume and sustain will certainly be much higher. Is it even fair to compare it to other ukes?

Flight Maia Steel String Baritone Ukulele back

And sure enough the volume and sustain are stellar, with the latter going on and on and on. Though I'd expect it to! Still - it would stand up to some of my parlour guitars just fine which is a great thing. No complaints on this score.

Tone wise is where it gets difficult to judge as this is a ukulele site and comparing it to the tone of regular strung ukes would seem unfair and pointless as I say. Likewise comparing it to a guitar would not be fair either as it has neither the scale or the amount of strings so will never sound as 'full'. What it does have though is a richer tone than I would have expected. I've looked at some of those tiny steel strung guitars and several of them suffer for sounding a bit reedy and thin - the combination of metal strings and less than decent overall build and tonewoods. 

Whilst this has more bright zing than a nylon strung uke on account of the full steel set, it actually has more range than I thought and a richness across it I found very pleasant indeed. Strummed I'd much prefer to play it hard with a pick, but as I say, with a loan instrument and no pick guard i'm not able to do that without risking a scratch. As such I find it a bit cumbersome to strum with the fingers, but that is just me as I rarely strum steel strings that way. Still, when played this way, I like the richness and there is great clarity to the mix too. Just ignore my clunky playing in the video on that score! Fingerpicking is huge fun, very clear and very pretty with notes that just ring on forever. I could play it this way for hours and hours as it sounds very melodic.

In short I love the tone for what it is. Does it sound like a guitar? No it doesn't, but it's not a guitar. Well, maybe a bit, if you are comparing it to picking higher notes on a smaller guitar, but a full strum doesn't because it's missing two strings. Does it sound like a uke, well insofar as the notes being the same it does, but a full steel set is never going to sound like a nylon strung uke as it has a zing that non metal strings will never deliver. And I guess that might either put off the trad uke player or even the guitar curious who think it's a step too far. So what does it sound like? Well I really don't know but I do like it.  And as I say, somewhat surprisingly for me on the richness of the tone. It sounds like a..... Flight Maia!

As you can probably tell I really rather like this one and I say that despite me not being the target market as I have guitars already that scratch my 'steel' itch. But I adore the looks here, the build and finish are great and the tone is surprising for a price which comes in less than I expected. If I am right about those 'guitar curious uke players' wanting more of this sort of stuff then this needs to be on your list. And fair play to Flight in putting it out as I have no doubt we will see some other brands follow in their steps.

Huge fun!

Thanks to Southern Ukulele Store and Flight for ensuring I had this one on loan. 


Model: Flight Maia
Scale: Baritone (Steel strung)
Body: Solid Mango top, rosewood laminate back and sides
Bridge: Rosewood pin bridge
Saddle: Bone
Spacing at saddle: 44mm
Finish: Gloss
Neck: African mahogany
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Frets: 19, joined at 14th. Semi hemi dressed
Nut: Bone
Nut width: 38mm, 30mm D to E
Tuners: Pinwell brand open gears
Strings: Custom steel strung set (11's)
Extras: Double pickup system, gig bag
Weight: 1.025kg
Country of origin: China
Price: £339


Superb looks
Great build and finish
Great volume and sustain (as expected)
Very comfortable neck
Rich interesting tone
Great price


Gimme a pick guard!
Will it appeal to trad uke fans on sound?


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









  1. Rather frustrating that you wouldn't strum it with a pick (for reasons I understand). What is it? For me it's a short scale tenor guitar (if there was such a thing), or maybe an "alto" guitar? IMHO, a uke it ain't. Also frustrating for me that Flight didn't bring this out 4 months earlier before I invested in a significantly more expensive tenor guitar (which I love) but would also have loved to have an opportunity to try one of these. Heyho, the world of music moves on. Good on Flight for trying to innovate.

  2. I liked it! I think Flight will sell a lot of them.


Please leave me a comment!

Help Support Got A Ukulele

Please Help Keep This Site Going!

If you enjoy this blog, donations are welcomed to allow me to invest more time in bringing you ukulele articles. Aside from the Google ads, I don't get paid to write this blog and for reasons of impartiality a not sponsored by brands or stores. Your donations all go back into the site to allow me to keep bringing you reviews, and in the end the ukuleles acquired are given to local schools and charities.