April 24, 2011 by Tim
At NAMM this past January this was the ukulele that everyone was talking about. Sure there were some really nice high end ones and K-brands that got a ton of buzz, but this was the one that I kept hearing “Did you stop by the Magic Fluke booth yet?” At NAMM it did not have a name yet, we just called it the fluke banjo uke. Also there were several different one, so watch for more (Here is the NAMM coverage I did on them)
Move forward 4 months and the firefly is being shipped to great fan fare, and they cannot make them fast enough, and people are raving about them. I was lucky to get one for a few weeks for banjo uke week, and I would be remiss if I did not have it in the lineup since it is so unique.
I do have a nagging question that I can’t stop thinking about and others have asked. Is the firefly worth $229? You can buy the hand drum for $15 on Amazon, and a maple bridge is $4. is the fluke neck, wood coordinator, and tail piece worth $210?
Read on to find out.
The Magic Fluke co. Firefly Banjo Ukulele
Tuners: Friction with Black Buttons
Maple & Ebony 3-Leg Bridge
Nut: Plastic, but it is a zero fret
Head Material: Synthetic skin
Head Size” 8″
Rim: Acousticon pot?
Tone ring: no
Neck: Walnut, Wood Fretboard
String attachment: Knot in a hole
# of J-Hooks: 0
Weight: 1 LB
Case: Denim bag
First look: (5)although plain it is striking in its sparseness. It looks like an alien when it is near other banjo ukes since it has no j-hooks. You know it is a banjo uke right from the get go, but it is missing stuff. I think that is what attracts people to it. Also the signature fluke/flea head makes it that much more interesting to look at since it is so different than most ukes out there.
Fit and Finish: (4)Some will look at the rim (Hand drum) and say “How cheap” but that is not the reason for the point deduction at all. I expect The Magic Fluke co. to use innovative materials to make their ukes, that is why we buy them. Yes the rim is a weird hardboard laminate of some kind that has the markings of a cardboard tube on the inside, but I did some research into it and it is cardboard, but a high pressure laminate for Remo for these hand drums to make them acoustically work. If you just use a cardboard tube the drum would sound dead. But the reason for the point deduction is for the way the fretboard joins the neck and the nut. On close inspection it is a little off near the body, also since they round the corners before gluing the fret board on it leaves a ridge that I feel makes it feel strange to play. The nut is just plastic looking and a bit wavy but does nothing to the sound since it is a zero fret, which I prefer in all my instruments.
Intonation: (5) If the intonation is off, it is your own fault for the most part. most banjo ukes are shipped with the bridge laying down and you have to set it up, or find someone to do it for you. This one didn’t come setup and ready to play, it was very easy to setup.
Volume: (4) As I said in the sound part, it is not super loud, and that is fine for playing with regular uke players, but I expect banjo ukes to be loud and stand out a little more..
Sustain: (4) Same as a regular uke, nothing special, It would be a 5 on an all wood uke.
String Height: (Me-Low) Not low but not high either. just right..
Neck Radius Depth: (3/4″) Same as any fluke or flea with the flat back to the neck.
Frets: (5) Perfect. Well dressed. no frets sticking out.
Comfort: (5) 1 LB Banjo uke!! And no metal j-hooks to jab you makes it really nice to hold without any straps or having to sit to play it. I would say that is one of its big selling points.
Sound Hole Smell: What sound hole? Hint of Varnish
Right now this is the new shinny thing that is fueling many people UAS (Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome) and many people are buying them, even if they have no clue if they like banjo ukes at all. I don’t see that as a bad thing at all. It is one of the cheapest ones on the market today. For some this will be what starts them down the banjo ukulele path and they may go and explore others like a Gold Tone or one made by Aaron Keim (Bean Sprout), while others will sell them in a few months because they are not banjo uke people, and that happen all the time.
Yes this is a take on the DIY banjo uke that you could make for $50, but would it be half as good as this one, I doubt it. Making a neck, figuring out the coordinator so it does not implode, and making a nice tail piece like this one takes a lot of skill and investment to make it right and playable. That is one of the things I applaud Dale at Magic Fluke for, he finds some of the coolest ways to make ukuleles, and the Firefly is just another example of that ingenuity that he has, and the vision of the whole company to sell it.
If you are looking for a light playable banjo uke that is not starting at $300, then this is it and you will be happy with it for a long time, but I guarantee that if you like this, you will be on the path to exploring others out there. This is a true gateway banjo uke, and you will have BUAS (Banjo Uke Acquisition Syndrome) in no time.
I will not have this one at the Mighty MO Ukulele Fest, they will want it back since there is such high demand.
Review 6 done, WHOOO, No more banjo ukes to review, at least for now.
All Rating on a scale of 1-5
Click here for an explanation of reviews
|Fit and Finish||4|
|Sound Type||Mellow and clear|
|Neck Radius Depth||3/4″|
|Sound Hole Smell||What sound Hole? Paint? Faint varnish|
HD Audio Clips:
Places to buy on the web:
Flea Market Music - $229