August 5, 2012 by Tim
I would like to start by saying that I love to review ukes that have been discontinued. If you are reading this, then either you have found it for sale new, or you are looking at a used one. Either way; they sent it to me and I will review it either way.
Cedar has become a very popular tone wood. I have found it to be a little too mellow of a sound for me (I love spruce tops) but saying that, I see the attraction to it if you like the more mellow muted sound. Unfortunately this would not be the ukulele for you. I am not sure if it is the hard rosewood sides and back or what, this thing is loud and proud.
Read on to see what I thought.
Concert: 19 Frets
Tuners: Open Geared
Nut & saddle: Bone
Top: Solid One Piece Cedar
Sides: Laminate Rosewood
Back: Laminate Rosewood
Neck: Mahogany, Rosewood Fretboard
String Attachment: Tie on
Case: No case included
Full Specs: No Specs, Was a limited Ukulele
First look: (5) Most ukes today seem to rely on looks to sell them, although important, it should be secondary to the sound and playability. This is not flashy by any means, but that is the charm. The flat finish with a slight antique yellow tint makes it look rustic. Along with the white and black binding and soundhole rosette, it really just looks comforting and understated.
I am also a fan of not making the headstock match the body. With the majority of the uke being rosewood (Sides, back, fretboard, and headstock veneer) it makes the normally dull cedar top pop.
Fit and Finish: (3) After all the lovely things I said about its looks, it is the fine details that matter sometimes. Keep in mind everything that I take issue with has nothing to do with sound, intonation and overall playability.
The tinted finish is thin in places and looks sloppy when you see it on the white binding. Also there are glue marks around the butt of the neck, bridge, and bracing on the inside. Another flaw I found is on the back where they sanded through the finish and chipped the laminate rosewood. The last of the cosmetic things is the glue around the fretboard where it meets the body. All things that you see on mass produced ukes when they make a ton of them and don’t have the time to be more careful.
Build wise the top could have been thinner with all the bracing they do to it, but it does not affect the sound. I can only imagine if it was thinner though. I also am disappointed by the strip Kerfing that is responsible for keeping the back and top on the uke. The last bit a of weirdness is the extra wood block used for the neck block. Did they cut it too short? All that with glue everywhere at every joint.
Intonation: (5) Really good for a sub-$200 Ukulele. If super sensitive, it may need a little work, but it has plenty of room on the nut and saddle.
Volume: (5) Loud and full.
Sustain: (5) Not super long, but clear.
String Height: (medium-High) The strings are a little high, but not crazy high.
Neck Radius Depth: (3/4″) C shaped neck. Not over built like some mass produced ukes.
Frets: (5) I like when a fretboard is bound with the same wood that it is made of (In this case rosewood) . Since it is bound there are no frets sticking out. All the frets seemed to well-dressed and leveled by someone who cared
Tuning: (4) Never mind the fact that it has geared tuners, they seem to be standard for mass produced ukuleles, the 4 is because even after a month it falls out of tune very easily. I have looked at the tuners, bridge, does it bow at all?, to no avail. It just falls out of tune every so often.
Comfort: (4) very light and the head does not feel too heavy with the geared tuners . My only real issue is that the binding was not rounded enough on the body. This makes it uncomfortable to play when you don’t use a strap. A minor thing, but it is a thing I look at.
Sound Hole Smell: Dish Soap. Dawn?
Once I got over the not in production thing, I was blown away by the sound of this uke! I have brought it to several uke events and almost everyone loves the sound. I have been offered trades for ukes that are worth a lot more, and I had to turn it down since this is a review uke and it should go to someone who wins it (Hint hint…contest coming soon)
The sound is the most important thing next to playability in my book, and it has both for its price range for sure. My only issue is in finish. The glue marks drive me crazy. I have seen other Makai ukes and they are not this bad. it may have to do with the matte finish that makes it harder to cover the glue marks.
Overall I really do like this uke, it actually has personality and is different than most cedar top ukes out there. If you are lucky enough to find one, I would pick it up. If it is anything like this one you will be very happy with your purchase.
All Rating on a scale of 1-5
Click here for an explanation of reviews
|Fit and Finish||3|
|Sound Type||Like a Bright Spruce|
|String Height||Medium -High|
|Neck Radius Depth||3/4″|
|Sound Hole Smell||Dish Soap|
Places to buy on the web: Not Super easy to find online
HD Audio Samples: