I have in my hands a new Tiny Tenor uke from Romero Creations. This uke was the brainchild of both, Daniel Ho and Pepe Romero Jr. and it is essentially a tenor scale length on a concert size body. Pepe Romero no longer needs any introduction in the ukulele world (hopefully!), his guitars and ukes have been very well received and are highly regarded for tone and playability. Pepe was kind enough to send me one of these new Tiny Tenors to review so the following is my impression of the instrument.
I mainly play high-end ukes and haven't spent a lot of time with offshore produced instruments but I am very familiar with Collings, Martin, all K brands, and various single makers. Please keep in mind that I have only seen and played this one example and I have no idea of the consistency or quality but I have a feeling it's pretty good. I spent a lot of time playing this uke and mainly because I just really enjoyed it. Also, The Tiny Tenor comes strung with La Bella Pro strings and a low-G but I swapped to a high G La Bella Pro string since that's what I normally play. Here we go....
- Hand made in Vietnam
- All solid woods, either spruce/mahogany or all Hawaiian koa
- 17" tenor scale in a concert uke length
- Bone nut and Saddle
- 16:1 tuners with hand made ebony buttons
- Genuine abalone rosette/fret markers
- High gloss polyester finish
- Pepe's Reverse fan bracing on the top
- La Bella Pro strings
-MSRP: $499 (the all koa version is $599)
Fit and Finish: 9
For an instrument that was designed in the USA and manufactured in Vietnam, I was pleasantly surprised by the overall quality. It's nice to see that the idea was carried through and implemented well, and done with all solid woods. I have high standards when it comes to quality and I couldn't find much in the way of flaws, not even glue squeeze-out inside the box or sloppy finish anywhere. This is a very clean piece and at the price-point, it's way better than I would have expected. The only odd things I found were the string holes in the bridge that looked like they were drilled absent mindedly and one of the tuners was a little tight and it could be the post hole wasn't drilled as well as the others. The spruce top on this uke is a very nice piece of wood and it has very consistent silking, it was definitely cut well. The neck joint is perfect, no gaps between body and neck and no sloppy finish at all. The bridge looks just as clean, it was mated well to the spruce top and aside from the misaligned holes it shows solid workmanship. The frets were also very well dressed and leveled. I never would have guessed that this was a hand made uke if someone handed it to me, it's super clean inside and out and doesn't show any tool marks.
This is a well built uke and I think it will last a lifetime if properly cared for. My only concern would be the neck joint at the body. I confirmed with Pepe that the neck does not have a reinforcement rod and I would be worried about the possibility of the neck bowing in the future. This may be a non-issue and I don't know enough about building ukes to pass judgement so I'll leave it as a worry on my part and trust that Pepe knows what he's doing. The polyester finish reminds me of a Kanilea and seems to be tough as nails. I don't get the feeling that this is a fragile uke either which is good since it is marketed as "portable."
This uke is loud! It's louder than quite a few of the "regular" bodied tenor ukes I've owned or played. The spruce top makes it punchy and clear and the body vibrates actively when all four strings are moving. Intonation is spot on and playability is excellent all the way up the fretboard. The highs were a nice surprise on this particular uke, they were clear and sweet and just fun to play and listen to. When playing up and down the neck it doesn't get pinched or weak sounding on any part of the fretboard either. It feels best suited for finger picking although it does handle strumming, just to a lesser degree. A different brand of strings would probably change that and I look forward to trying some flourocarbons to see how it changes the tone and feel. The all koa version may be the better strummer out of the lineup as well. I had a smile on my face after playing for about a minute and the first comment I heard from my significant other was "that's loud." She doesn't normally comment on my playing much so I took that as a telling sign
I can't really rate this specific topic. If we are talking about a custom Pepe Romero uke then I can tell you that Pepe is amazing to deal with. He will take care of any issues/concerns with one of his instruments. He's very down to earth and fun to talk to as well. As for Romero Creations, I'm not sure about their customer service yet but I think Pepe would take care of or at least help with any problems should they arise.
Overall Rating: 9
After factoring in the features, build quality, sound, and price I think this uke earned a high score. In my opinion I don't think it can be beat for the money and if you're willing to go with something a little non-traditional then this is definitely a rewarding choice. It was a little humbling to find the Tiny Tenor to be so adequate after playing and owning many high end ukes.......but also satisfying and I have a lot of respect for what these Vietnamese builders have produced. I'll certainly still covet some high end ukes as they do offer a different depth of tone and character but the Tiny Tenor sure gives them a run for the money!
I really could have written quite a bit about this uke and I tried condensing everything as much as possible. I may not have hit on everything either so if anyone has any questions feel free to PM me, thanks!