Sunday, 3 February 2019

Review About A Lump Of Shite

Not wishing to be left standing by the competition I've decided to do a review of a ukulele, so here goes. The "Mad About" Ukulele is readily available and represents the entry level of ukulele ownership. Throughout this review I would like the reader to keep that notion clearly in mind.

The "Mad About" Soprano Ukulele

I wonder if like me, you've ever stopped to reflect on how certain objects came to be made. This is a speculation I usually reserve for things that fall out of Christmas crackers, you know little plastic cars, thimbles and small plastic trumpets. You might, as I do, speculate that a design team got together, somebody drafted a proposal, somebody else created a piece of computer aided design, somebody else worked out how to tool up a production line, and somebody else worked out a marketing strategy, and all for what?

It's very much with this sort of speculation that I introduce you to Mad About Ukulele. It is marketed by and you can get one on Ebay for about 17 pounds. It is a soprano ukulele with nylon strings of unknown provenance. It is 55 cm long by 17 cm wide 5.5 cm deep. The body looks as though it is made of plywood and the tuning pegs are of the worm gear type. It comes in a wide range of colours and mine is white.
Right that's the technical bit done, and now for the crit.

I have played worse ukuleles but up to now I have never bought one. There are home made cigar box ukuleles that are inferior to this instrument, but in the interests of balance I have played home made cigar box ukuleles which are vastly superior to this excrescence. It is in almost every respect bad, bad, bad. I'll get the good stuff out of the way first so I can then concentrate on telling you what a piece of unmitigated shite this is.

The worm geared tuning pegs means that it is not too difficult to tune. This is handy given that the strings supplied with the instrument do not hold their pitch. You might want to replace these strings with something decent, but please bear in mind that installing decent strings on a ukulele of this quality might represent a criminal waste of good strings.

The one remaining good point of this uke is the colour. You can get this ukulele in any of the primary colours as well as green, black and white. I suggest the reason they are painted in bright colours is to mask the inferior plywood from which the body is constructed. The advantage to this finish is that you have complete licence to paint your uke whatever you like without detracting from its value at all.

The body has been fashioned out of ply wood. There is no attempt to build it with supporting ribs. The plywood is 2.5 millimetres thick and it is more or less bullet proof.

The fretboard is made of an indeterminate wood painted black. The 12 frets are properly spaced, and work as required. There are no fret markers, the clearest indication yet that this is not a serious instrument. Leaving these off is just rude. The bridge makes no pretences. It is plastic and as it is completely parallel to the nut means that it lends itself well to anyone who wishes to restring it as a left-handed instrument.

So is this piece of shite in any way redeemable? As a piece of firewood its best point is that you don't need to snap it over your knee to get it into your average wood burning stove. It is compact, reasonably okay to look at, and if you hang it on a wall and never touch it, it makes reasonably okay interior decor.

It is also redeemable as an instrument. This is how to adjust the action (the amount you need to depress the strings to make contact with the frets). Take the strings off and bin them. Gently prize the nut off. Then, take a shim of about 1mm off the underside of the nut. Glue it back and then re-string the uke with some decent strings. This will improve the action on the uke, the ex-factory action is far too high. You might then wish to mark the positions of the fret markers in the fifth, seventh, and tenth spaces on the fret board.

This will work. The body of the average soprano uke hardly resonates at all, so the fact that this one is built of industrial strength plywood has little bearing. What matters are the strings and the action, and these steps will remedy both of these issues.

As for the unfettled item, the snag about the high action means that it is not the ideal instrument for the beginner. It is very difficult to get any real clarity holding chords down nearest the nut, F, C, G, D, and A. You will find that either you can't hold the strings down sufficiently to make a good contact with the frets, or the result of bending the strings sufficiently far enough to make contact with the fret is that you can't get the right pitch. Either way it's not good. If you can't make the suggested alterations, then buy a better soprano ukulele. You should be able to get a decent one for less than forty pounds.

I brought this one, so I had something to play in the shower. It's about all it's good for.

Mad About Soprano Ukulele. 17.00 pounds Comes in a wide range of colours.



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