Blackbird Ekoa Clara Concert Ukulele Full Review3
July 22, 2014 by Tim
I can’t do any better than this video from Blackbird
Read on to see what I thought.
Concert: 17 Frets
Tuners: Open Geared
Nut & saddle: Graphtech
Neck: Ekoa, Richlite
String Attachment: Tie on
Case: Access Case included
First look: (5) I love pineapple shaped ukes. My main uke is a pineapple, just to put it out there. This uke is weird shaped and has a weird wood pattern to the top. When you see it you try to figure out what kind of wood it is, but this uke has no wood in it at all!! The shiny black bridge, fretboard, and nut with the white saddle on top of the Ekoa is just cool looking. The top look is carried into the headstock as well. The variation in color of the top is just pretty. The carbon fiber ukes are missing that, and honestly it would look bad if it had imperfections, but on the Clara it is the right thing. The back side is another story. it is a different thing all together. It is a repeating pattern like you see with carbon fiber, except it is Ekoa brown with little white dots. From the front pretty, back not as pretty.
Fit and Finish: (4) No glue marks, super solid, super light, no rattle or buzz, pretty Ekoa, so what is the problem?
The matte finish where my arm rests on the top became dull after a lot of play. I have been assured that it was a known issue and they have resolved it in the production process. I am always hesitant to not write about these issues when I am told it has been fixed. So far I have had no issues with Blackbird and they were very forthcoming with the issue. This is a review uke that goes back to them, so I have no way to verify that it has been resolved, but I am confident that they stand behind their products: and for the price they better.
The way the uke is built is amazing. The back and neck are one piece molded and hollow, then the top, fretboard, and headstock front are glued on. The neck is hollow and the headstock has a sound hole as well as the body. this allows the whole thing to put out a wall of beautiful sound.
Sound Type: Super nice and balanced. Like a AAA Koa or a vintage mahogany. It sounds like a well played broken in uke, and it was brand new.
Intonation: (5) Perfect all the way up the neck, and it stays that way no matter the conditions.
Volume: (5) LOUD. This is a cannon of sound. When played it projects. Super clear and nice plugged in as well.
Sustain: (5) Veeeeerrrrry long. The combination of the solid surface (like Corian) and the Ekoa, it goes forever.
String Height: (low) From the vendor it came setup pretty low. in a “normal” uke I would worry about it, but this is super stable.
Neck Radius Depth: (3/4″) C shaped neck.
Frets: (5) Rounded, nothing sticking out, just like a professional uke should be.
Tuning: (5) I will excuse geared tuners (Send hate mail all you want), but this thing stays in tune no matter what. When I was at Ukulele World Congress this year, it was in the heat of the day to the cold of the night, maybe tuned it 3 times? The manmade materials make it super stable
Comfort: (5) The Clara could be feather light if not for the solid surface fretboard and saddle. It is super light still and very easy to hold without a strap. the rounded back and smooth edges make it a dream to hold.
Sound Hole Smell: Wood? How can that be?
$1150 ($1350 with a pickup)?!?! You must be Straight up trippn’ right?
Actually for an American made uke it is amazing that it is that cheap. At first I was going around saying it would be a great $850 uke, but after showing it around and playing it, I get it. The cost for research and development, and tooling are a big undertaking and $$$$$. The risk that Blackbird took to make the Clara was huge. Between the Ekoa material and molds a lot of things could have gone wrong. The market is yet to embrace it, but as time goes on I hope it catches on. I know it will as more people get to play them as they start showing up in stores.
I have played a lot of ukes that cost way more than the Clara and they sound half as good. The smooth playability and the awesome sound out of the box combined with a super stable uke make this thing a winner in my book.
The fact that it only comes in concert so far might put some people off, but I think it was a smart move. It is smaller than a tenor but bigger than a soprano, with the sound of a baritone.
About the case; The case might not seem like much, but it really is all this uke needs. I beat it up a few times. the case is not a simple gig bag. It is very padded and really rigid. At first I was not impressed, but living with it for a bit showed me it is a great case for this uke.
All Rating on a scale of 1-5
Click here for an explanation of reviews
|Fit and Finish||4|
|Sound Type||Balanced Like Koa|
|Neck Radius Depth||3/4″|
|Sound Hole Smell||Wood?|
Places to buy on the web: Not Super easy to find online
Hawaiian Music Supply $1150, $1350 with Misi Pickup
HD Audio Samples:
I think this is what you were hoping for when the outdoor ukulele was made for the the $100 price tag. I might think of buying one of these if I lived in Arizona where dry is dry. I wish I’d been able to try it at UWC- missed it somehow.
If this comes with a tenor neck I think it would appeal to more players
The outdoor ukulele has improved with a new 150 to 200 price tag (from a recent youtube review I saw), and now sounds like it plays like a 200 uke should play. That is good. You can now buy the blackbird clara through the website. Reviews elsewhere have said it is exceptionally well engineered, and compares well with top of the line ukes. It comes down to playing a 200 dollar uke with an outdoor uke or a 1000 dollar uke with a great sound. —- Too bad there wasn’t an in-between for the average hard working joe like me….