July 18, 2009 by Tim
I want to start this out with saying that this is a fun instrument……..but it could be better. I received a Fluke and Flea from The Magic Fluke Co. a few weeks ago, thank you Dale Webb for being the first to send me instruments to review. I have played them a few times and have seen many of them at different fests and shops. Many people play them for their looks and the fact that the basic ones with the plastic (Yes I know polycarbonate, but plastic is shorter to type) back and fret board, along with a laminate top, they are almost indestructible. I read a story about a person that actually had to use their fluke as a paddle because they lost the oars on their boat and it was still playable!! I digress; read the full review below.
Specs: Concert size, Australian Hoop Pine top, mango colored (Comes in and ever changing array of colors, designs, and woods), injection molded body, polycarbonate single piece bridge, Maple neck with an Injection molded Polycarbonate fret board with frets part of the mold, Grover non-geared tuners, and Hilo Black nylon strings
First look: (4) The first thing I said when I saw one was “That looks like a boat paddle. Cool!!”. You know a fluke when you see one. One of the things that I like is that the only place that you see the brand is the label on the inside of the instrument, very classy and minimalist. I think the headstock design is just as much a logo as any you see on many ukes like Martin or Bushman. I gave this one a 4 because it is a plain boring mango, they have much cooler looking ones. If I had to pick one it would be the surf fluke with the rosewood fret board.
Fit and Finish: (4) The construction on this instrument is tight. Every bit is sanded with no discoloration in the finish. The neck is smooth with not a single hard edge. Where I ding it is in 3 places. The fret board is slightly smaller than the neck, so there is a slight ridge. The second
thing that I can see is the glue under the bridge where the strings slide in. My last issue is that the wood on the top sits lower in the body, leaving a ridge which makes for some uncomfortable playing when it digs into my arm. All are very minor items that are not noticeable to most people.
Sound Type: Bright and punchy.
Intonation: (3) The intonation is not that bad, but it cannot be fixed. With a combined bridge/saddle it cannot be adjusted. Many times the A and the C need to be slightly altered at the saddle (As with this instrument), and that is not an issue for many instruments. With this one, if you go too far there is no way to replace the saddle. you will never notice any issues unless you play past the 9th fret.
Volume: (4) Like all other molded back instruments, it is loud. It can be loader with strings like Aquila or Worth.
Sustain: (5) Notes rang out loud, clear, and long. A very hard plastic fret board and a thin top let it ring. It breaks down very nicely. I think that having the frets molded into the fret board helps the sustain when you are using a vibrato technique (Where you wiggle your finger on the string on the note you want to keep going).
String Height: (Medium) The 0 fret design always helps with making the strings very low. One of the nice parts about having molded parts is that they were able to have consistent string height.
Neck Radius Depth: (3/4″) It might be a pretty standard depth, but it far from standard. The neck is the same thickness from the headstock to where it meets the body. The back of the neck is flat; making bar cords a little easier to play. The neck feels very thick, even though it is not.
Frets: (5) The frets are part of the mold when you get the plastic fret board, so they are very consistent. Very easy to make a solid note or cord. I really like the way that they are very low so sliding from one note is like butter. An interesting feature that many ukuleles don’t have is the 0 fret. makes it nice to have the strings start out so low to the fret board.
Tuning: (4) Friction tuners are my preference, but many people like geared tuners. The tuners did slip at first so I tightened them and they stayed. I did have some small issues though. One of my issues was with the C string, it would catch at the nut causing me to go sharp as soon as it let go. It would be an easy fix if I owned the instrument. Just take a file and loosen it up. By the second week the strings stretched at it stayed in tune.
Comfort: (4) With the composite parts and the laminate wood top, this is a very light uke. I could not weigh it, but is light and also balanced. It almost balances at the 13th fret. One of the other things that I really like is the flat back on the neck along with the consistent width all the way from the first fret to where it meets the body at the 11th fret. My only issue in the comfort area is that it really digs into my arm where I am holding it on the body. I leaves a really deep indentation in my arm. This is due to the top being set in lower into the body, leaving a ridge where my arm holds it. I don’t notice it unless I play for at least an hour or more.
If this was my instrument I would upgrade a few things. 1. Go with a wood fret board. 2. Different strings. 3. Have a design on the body (Very few ukuleles have that option). All in all I really do like the fluke. I think I would use it more for stage use and also a travel instrument because it is bullet proof, so it can take a beating and change in climate and still keep rocking.
All Rating on a scale of 1-5
Click here for an explanation of reviews
|Fit and Finish||4|
|Sound Type||Bright and Punchy|
|Neck Radius Depth||3/4″|
Places to buy on the web:
Direct from Flea Market Music store (The only place you can customize the snot out of it) As reviewed $195, Custom can get over $400.
Elderly has it for $189
Hope you enjoyed this full review. Please comment.