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Thread: Blackbird Clara re-review... Now I get it

  1. #1
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    Default Blackbird Clara re-review... Now I get it

    After I posted a review (which I thought was very favorable, almost glowing) Blackbird decided to ship the traveling Clara ukulele home for restringing and set-up work. They then sent it back around.

    You can read my original review here: http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/...Concert-Review

    Here are my thoughts upon further review:

    Fit and Finish - 7

    When the Clara arrived the second time, Blackbird had apparently done something with the top, either polished it or added a finish of some kind. So, it was less "dry/sand-papery" feeling. New Fit and Finish rating -7. This is up from 5, but not higher because I know it has the potential to deteriorate.

    Sound -9 (Up from 3.5!)

    Here's where I must rethink the entire instrument. After Blackbird serviced the instrument and strung it with different strings (fluorocarbon according to them) with a wound low G, the instrument was very different. The sudden, initial decay of the sound that I describe in my original review is utterly gone. It SINGS. The banjo-like "boing" is also a thing of the past. With these two, little issues so effectively resolved, the sound is enormously improved. The Clara is a serious musical instrument and the sound is up to the professional level of anything on the market. It does not really sound like your custom, wooden instrument. The discerning listener can tell it's made of alternate materials, but that's not a bad thing. It's just a bit different. Does it sound like a plastic ukulele? Maybe, sort of. But, not like any other. It is a very robust, full sound. No cheap sound here. In fact the Clara is a loud instrument. Usually I don't think of "loud" as a very important characteristic, but this ukulele, being so very well-designed and built, utilizes its volume wonderfully. The player can easily play a very nice pianissimo without losing the really lovely, round sound of the instrument. This makes the dynamic range very wide indeed. And, the fortissimo you can get from the Clara is not only bigger than any ukulele I've played, it's still a nice sound. Beat it all you want and it will not sound harsh. The Clara has most exceptional sound capabilities.
    Add to this the sustain capability of the Clara which, without the initial decay experienced with the D'Addario strings, is as great as my custom instrument. So, at higher volume, the sustain actually seems even longer. (The low G also may give one the false impression of more sustain than is really there, but even taking this into account, the Clara is superior.)

    Overall Rating - 9.1

    This instrument plays as well as any ukulele. With the initial-sound-decay issue resolved, the Blackbird Clara is much more what I had hoped. It is capable of every dynamic an ukulele player can ever expect and then some. It can play the beautiful loud and soft sounds needed for the musician's every possible need, and sound beautiful at both ends of its dynamic range. Strum it, pick it, caress or beat the music, and it's still musical. The legato (which I found impossible the first time around) is as good as I am able to get from any ukulele. It does sound sort of "plastic", but I say that only to point out that it doesn't quite sound like your custom wooden ukulele. It sounds every bit as good as anything I've played. Please, disregard all that business I posted about "value rating". Although I am very happy with the ukuleles I currently own, if I was buying my first performance ukulele, I would have trouble not buying a Clara. Or if I was planning to go to one instrument only, the Clara would be up there with any professional-quality instrument, and above most. (Maybe the top of the heap!) Plus, the Carbon fiber material should last nearly forever with no concern for the constant care necessary with wooden ukuleles. Surely worth every penny. I get it, now.

    Who knows, perhaps one day the tonewoods we now love will be so scarce that we won't be buying wooden ukuleles. This may become the new standard in every way.
    Last edited by stevepetergal; 09-21-2014 at 07:25 AM.
    If everybody wanted peace instead of another TV, then there would be peace.
    -John Lennon-

  2. #2
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    Thanks, Steve, for posting your "re-review". I'm a huge fan of the Clara, so biased of course, but I thought there was a very good chance you'd feel differently once it was re-strung with appropriate strings.

    E
    More an appreciator of the ukulele than a true player. My motto is: "Don't matter how good it ring if it ain't got some bling."

    Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.—Voltaire

    Curious about the relative importance of tonewood vs. the luthier? See Luthiers for a Cause to learn more!

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the re-review Steve. Glad the FC strings made a big difference over the nylon strings. Changing from hi to low G has changed my opinion on more than one instrument, too.
    -Hodge
    Humble strummer of fine ukes.

  4. #4
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    Very decent of you to re-review this instrument and post another honest review. If anybody ever says strings really don't make that big of a difference I'll just point them your way.
    Last edited by DownUpDave; 09-20-2014 at 04:57 PM.
    Ukuleles.............yes please !!!!

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by DownUpDave View Post
    Very decent of you to re-review this instrument and post another honest review. If anybody ever says strings really don't make that big of a difference I'll just point them your way.
    I suppose I now believe strings can make a real difference. On the previous review thread for the Clara, I expressed doubt strings would really improve this instrument. I have to say that doubt was/is based on lots of experience. I still think changing strings makes small changes in sound, at least in most cases. On this instrument, the difference happened to be the very thing the ukulele needed. Big Change? I don't know. But just the right change in this case.
    If everybody wanted peace instead of another TV, then there would be peace.
    -John Lennon-

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by stevepetergal View Post
    I suppose I now believe strings can make a real difference. On the previous review thread for the Clara, I expressed doubt strings would really improve this instrument. I have to say that doubt was/is based on lots of experience. I still think changing strings makes small changes in sound, at least in most cases. On this instrument, the difference happened to be the very thing the ukulele needed. Big Change? I don't know. But just the right change in this case.
    Your rating when from 3.5 to 9.1, so I'd say the result is a big change.

    In my growing but still limited experience (10-12 ukes over the last 13 months, most with multiple string changes), I would agree that often strings don't matter much but I have experienced a number of times where they've made very significant changes. But in most cases for me this has been shifting from a fluorocarbon string to Aquila Red but I've a few times experienced big changes in tone or volume with two different fluorocarbons where those strings differed, ahem, materially (e.g., like thickness or hardness).
    More an appreciator of the ukulele than a true player. My motto is: "Don't matter how good it ring if it ain't got some bling."

    Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.—Voltaire

    Curious about the relative importance of tonewood vs. the luthier? See Luthiers for a Cause to learn more!

  7. #7

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    I have had my Clara a few weeks now and it's my main uke of choice even over my Koaloha tenor ,,,what it has is fun playability it's very comfortable to hold etc and it gets a lot of positive comments when I take it along to the uke club the sound yes is not quite of wood but definitely not at all like plastic , all in all I think Blackbird have succeeded in all their aims with the Clara and will definitely be taking over to the UK in the new year to play at a few clubs around the London area ,,,,and hopefully at Aaron Keims workshops that he is doing in the London area ,,,can't get better than that

  8. #8
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    I prefer the Clara over my Mya-Moe and maybe even over the Collings (which is unbeatable for looks, of course) - and I normally prefer tenor!

    I don't know if my observations of its sound are shared here, but I find that the Clara has the punchiness of a shorter scale and the depth of a longer scale. Best of both worlds, really.
    Last edited by Andy Chen; 09-26-2014 at 01:59 AM.
    In order of purchase:

    Blackbird Tenor
    Blackbird Clara
    Boat Paddle A-style tenor (spruce/walnut)
    Pono TE Mango Deluxe
    Koaloha KTM-00-R
    Kinnard Series 2 tenor (cedar/Honduran rosewood)
    Barron River custom tenor (Huon pine/Aussie Blackwood)
    Outdoor tenor in Bottle Brown
    Outdoor tenor in Camouflage

  9. #9

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    Yes well put Andy I actually sold my mya moe and prefer the Koaloha it has a much better clearer sound straight out of the box,,,as for the Clara that's for keeps

  10. #10

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    Thanks for giving Clara another whirl Steve and I am super pleased above all that you 'get it' now! Thanks too for all the other great comments above! A few clarifications: we did add an impervious sealing coat to the top which is now standard and we've been upgrading the models made pre-July. This very thin UV-cure Urethane coating ensures it will never degrade regardless of how profuse the sweating is... Also, while strings certainly make a huge difference, this was also a question of set-up. Our uni-body and CNC machined tolerances are so tight, we are able to set action lower than most (5/64th" or 2mm) which works great with higher tension and narrow diameter flourocarbon strings. Switching to nylon strings, which exhibit less tension and are larger in diameter, simply requires a slightly higher string height (set-up). Finally, Clara is made mostly of Ekoa- a linen fiber bioresin composite we developed which is like carbon fiber, only natural. Anyway, looking forward to any further thoughts!
    Last edited by jluttwak; 09-26-2014 at 03:30 PM.
    Joe Luttwak | Chief Musical Officer
    Blackbird Ukuleles and Guitars | blackbirdguitar.com

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