Mahalo Uke-Banjo –Red Cedar Full Review


July 12, 2011 by Tim

I am so confused by this ukulele for so many reasons. For starters is NOT a banjo uke! It is a camp uke, and I told Saga music that over a year ago. The other thing is that the name says cedar, but is actually a solid spruce top with laminate mahogany sides and back. I think the proper name would be Spruce top Camp uke. By no means is this a 1925 Lyon & Healy Monkeypod Camp Uke, but being round like a frying pan makes it a camp uke, just like being oval-ish makes a uke a pineapple uke.

I am happy to see the camp uke being made since it is such a fun shape, and Mahalo actually has 3 to choose from.

Today I am reviewing the Mahalo Uke-Banjo –Red Cedar, one of the 39 ukes under the Mahalo name. Saga also makes Hamano and Diamond Head ukes.

I won’t lie, I have been playing this uke on and off, and every time I have a different opinion of it. It is a weird uke. Read more to get the full picture.

Soprano : 14
Tuners: Gold with black plastic buttons
Nut & saddle: Nu Bone
Top: Solid Spruce
Sides: Mahogany Laminate
Back: Mahogany Laminate
Neck: Mahogany with a Mahogany fretboard
String Attachment: Knot in a slot
Finish: Matte
Case: Custom shaped gig bag
Full Specs:


First look: (2) I have one word for how it looks, Cheap. You would never know that it has a solid spruce top. It looks like nato (Basic nondescript wood used in really cheap ukes). Also with the slide on Mahalo logo at the top it does not help. My friend Alex said to me other day “The headstock looks like a tongue depressor”.

Fit and Finish: (3) I would give it a 2, but it is a really cheap uke. There are glue marks all over, and the finish is uneven. I also noticed that the grain is raised on the sides and back, probably caused from a really wet stain. The bridge is straight and so is the neck. For the most part it is cosmetic and to be expected of a uke in the price range. One big thing that I noticed is that the top is stupid thick. Not sure why they braced it, it is so thick.



Sound Type:  It depends on if you are the player or the person listening. When I play it I hear it but it is really muted and seems trapped, but if I have someone else play it or I make the front face me it sounds clear and punchy. I would liken it to an old-time sound. After a little while I figured out the difference in sound. I have a small belly that I press the uke against, well, if it is not pressed against my belly it sounds so much better! I guess the sound depends on how fat you are.

Intonation: (3) I expected so mush more from this uke since it has this really nice compensated saddle, but a lass it is not that good. I would give it a 2, but it is fixable if you lower the action…I think.

Volume: (4) When standing in front of it is loud. Although the player might think it is very muted and dead sounding. This thing is in need of a side port-hole.

Sustain: (3) Not long, but that contributes to the old-time kind of sound


String Height: (High) It is higher than it should be. It can be lowered since there is no pulling.

Neck Radius Depth: (3/4″) Basic C shaped neck.

Frets: (4) Not bad. You can kind of feel the frets on the side, but I have to forgive it a little for the price. My fingers are not caught on them and over all they are not sharp.

Tuning: (4) I do like traditional friction tuners, and these work. They are very cheap plastic tuners, I would upgrade them.

Comfort: (4) Weird to hold compared to a standard ukulele since it has a round body and the bridge is so far back, but they make things a little easier with the strap button on the butt of the uke standard. Using a strap makes it pretty comfortable to play. I did find the edges a little sharp and I had to hold it just in back of the bridge and ended up muting it a little when I did not use the strap.

Sound Hole Smell: Elmers Glue

Final Thoughts

I am not super impressed by this uke. As first uke or a beater I would say that it is ok, but I would go with a cheap Oscar Schmidt over this one. It is fun looking and the other versions are nicer looking but play the same.

I just wish they would change the name to Camp Uke.

All Rating on a scale of 1-5
Click here for an explanation of reviews

First Look 2
Fit and Finish 3
Sound Type Depends on how fat you are
Intonation 3
Volume 4
Sustain 3
String Height High
Neck Radius Depth 3/4″
Frets 4
Tuning 4
Comfort 4
Sound Hole Smell Elmers Glue

Places to buy on the web:

Amazon $52

HD Audio Samples:



7 thoughts on “Mahalo Uke-Banjo –Red Cedar Full Review

  1. Tammy says:

    Aw, it makes me sad that you weren’t thrilled with it. I bought mine second hand for a steal, and I know the previous owner had a set up done on it…maybe I just got a good one. Mine didn’t come with a fancy pants case though.

  2. Mike says:

    If they could improve the quality I’d buy it for the deco-like simplicty of the design.

  3. Paul Cote says:

    I like the sound of it!

  4. Ralf Youtz says:

    My L&H Camp Uke is broken beyond repair. Glad that body style’s available again. I don’t care what it’s called—it’s round and cute.

    Your review confirmed my (low) expectations—I’m guessing this one of those ukes where a few are great (like Tammy’s) and the rest are not so great (like yours).

    One question: does the thick heel affect playability up the neck?

  5. P.J. says:

    Hmmmm, with the sound hole so far from the fretboard, I’ll bet you could stick a 6″ resonator in there… hmmmmmmmmmm!

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