View Full Version : NUD: Barron River - Cypress Tenor

07-26-2015, 02:48 AM
Here's an almost proper NUD for my newest baby, the Barron River Cypress Tenor!

It all started when Laura posted a NUD for her Barron River Cocnert. I just loved the body shape, and as she had mentioned the favorable exchange rate, I went to look at Allen's web site. I didn't really (really!) mean to buy anything, just a little window shopping.

But fate decided differently. As it happened, Allen McFarlen of Barron River had a pre-built instrument ready for sale. I had been a fan of flamenco guitars, as well as flamenco in general, so when I saw the cypress tenor, it called out to me. I just had to have it, even though I neither needed another tenor nor did (and do) I feel my current level of skill really does an instrument of this caliber any justice.

I inquired about a few details and a couple days later the tenor was en route from Australia to Germany. It arrived at the airport in about five days, crossing a distance of about 14500 kilometers. Unexpectedly, it would take another full month until it would complete the final 100 kilometers from the airport to me.

That was a really trying time, I'll tell you. The initial reason for the delay was the strike of the German Post (DHL). The claim was that express packages would not be affected, but that was clearly not the case, because this was an express shipment and it got stuck.

For a while, it even seemed to be MIA. When it surfaced, it was in form of the customs office that was extremely difficult to work with; they insisted on even applying customs feet and VAT to the shipping and insurance costs, which led to another delay. Then, because of the strike's aftermath (it had ended now) and the resulting backlog, it took another ten days for the parcel to get to me.

But in spite of the frustration (Laura and Dave kindly let me vent my worries a little), it was totally worth it, because the instrument is nothing short of gorgeous, with a brilliant sound. It's a real treasure, and answered my question what the difference between a $200-300 ukulele and a hand-built one is, at least in this case.

Here are the specs:

Body : Monterey Cypress
Neck: Brazilian Mahogany
Bindings, fret board, bridge, headplate: Indian Rosewood
Tuners: Grover Sta-Tites 14:1 ratio
Nut, Saddle: Bone
Rosette: Spalted Mango
Fret markers: Gold MOP
Finish: Nitro lacquer
Strings: Worth Browns

I unfortunately don't have a good camera, and instead of buying one just for this occasion (I nearly did!), I used my iPad Air 2 to take two quick photos. They aren't good, a little grainy and poor lightning, but they show "it happened". :) They are attached below.

Allen took professional photos of the instrument, so for good quality pictures please see here: http://www.brguitars.com/gallery/tenor/cypress_tenor/

What I don't have are sound samples, because I don't feel confident enough in my playing yet to share any. I do promise that within about a year's time I'll deliver those. :) This instrument has a lovely voice and it deserves to be heard. (I do wish Jon/HD had had a chance to record it while it was still in Australia.)

Impressions? I love it! The high gloss finish gives it a particularly precious look, though it also intimidates me a little! I did spot a tiny dent in the finish on the back (only visible when the light comes from the side), which I'm not sure how it got there, but that is really the only flaw of an instrument that exceeded any expectations I had.

The Worth Browns seem to be a good match and I'll keep those on it for now, though I'll eventually experiment with others. Intonation is perfect up the neck. It's just a very lovely instrument, and leagues ahead of my other tenor (shown in the attachment together with a soprano). It's also louder than the acacia, with a bell-like sound (but not plinck-y at all, it does have amazing lows with great sustain).

Looking at the "group photo", you'll notice that the scale is the same as the acacia tenor (from the same factory that builds KPKs, same as the mahogany soprano in the photo), but that it's 12 frets to the body. This is fairly uncommon, and whether or not I'll miss the cutaway will take some time to find out -- I'm just not at a point where I frequently play so far up the neck. :)

It's also a very light instrument. I didn't weigh it, but it's noticeably lighter than the acacia tenor (which I still love, too!). The neck's a bit thinner also, and the action is comfortably low. It plays like butter. Hard to describe and I only have one other tenor to compare it to, it just plays extremely comfortable. Really a joy to hold, hear, and play. It also came with a good, lockable hard case (and a note from Allen as well as a microfiber cloth! ;)).

Well, that's it! All I can say is that this is a major boost to my motivation to improve, and that it completely satisfies my UAS for tenors.

Allen McFarlen has been great throughout all this, very responsive, very friendly and communicative. I can only recommend him to anyone looking a custom ukulele, especially right now with the Australian dollar being fairly weak vs. both the US dollar and the Euro. Check out his site at http://www.brguitars.com/

Ukulele Eddie
07-26-2015, 03:10 AM
Congrats and what a trying wait that must've been. I have been admiring that Barron River soprano HMS has as I've heard so many positive things about these Ukes.

07-26-2015, 03:32 AM
Awesome uke, looks like you have a little flamenca Blanca on your hands! My custom is also an all cypress tenor built as a true flamenco design, with POC back and sides and incense cedar top. Hope you are enjoying the lightness and responsiveness!

07-26-2015, 04:44 AM
I glad you bought this beautiful uke as I was considering it myself. Now I can focus on commissioning the 8 string tenor that I really want Allen to build for me.
Congratulations on a truely fine instrument.

07-26-2015, 06:18 AM
Congrats on your new uke! It's gorgeous and I am so glad you like it and that it arrived okay. I hope others consider purchasing a Barron River. Allen builds great ukuleles.

07-26-2015, 07:26 AM
Congrats! That's a very cool uke.

Can you comment on the tone? I was thinking with the Monterey Cypress body that it would be brighter sounding?

07-26-2015, 12:16 PM
Wow, you must have sweat bullets! Congratulations, I'm sure the enjoyment you get makes it worth that long wait!

07-26-2015, 01:02 PM
Congratulations Mivo, beautiful!

07-27-2015, 12:50 AM
Have I been spending too much time on Facebook when I'm looking for the "Like" button?

I was just as nervous as Michael when it was taking so long to get through the German Postal System. Very frustrating when there is nothing that you can do. Especially from afar.

Hope that you have many years of enjoyment with it mate.


07-27-2015, 01:20 AM
what a beautiful and special instrument! I'm sorry the post messed you around on that! Must have been awful!!! Glad it arrived with you safely :)

Andy Chen
07-27-2015, 03:14 AM
Nice grains on the top and, yes, a lovely body shape.


Allen: Can't wait for mine from you.

07-27-2015, 05:00 AM
I am so happy that you finally received your Barron River, waiting is the hardest part, your wait was brutal. It is one truely fabulous instrument that will give you many years of satisfaction. Buying a custom that is already built is a great way to go, I did that with my Webber as It was 3/4 done when I said yes. I figure the luthier knows a thing or two and will be using a wood set he is sure will give his great signature sound.

I have a few customs and I do not feel worthy of their greatness either but that is ok. I have golf clubs which are used used by PGA tour pros that can shoot a 63 with them and I am happy with an 83. It is all about having the passion and receiving sooooo much enjoyment from them. I simple strum or a few notes plucked cleanly generate a sound that goes straight into your heart and soul.

This will not be your last custom, you are now doomed to troll all the builders websites and dream of the next one ;)

07-27-2015, 05:51 AM
In my experience, any uke that I posted to Europe took a much longer time to be delivered compared to posting to the USA. I noticed that two thirds if the time was spend holding the uke in European customs.

07-28-2015, 02:50 AM
In my experience, any uke that I posted to Europe took a much longer time to be delivered compared to posting to the USA. I noticed that two thirds if the time was spend holding the uke in European customs.

That's interesting. Mine took about a week; went through Brisbane and New York before it got to me in Ohio. I've had several other things posted to me in plain old snail mail (from places like Prague and Hong Kong) and they took a couple weeks. Barron Rivers go express, of course. I wonder when Mivo would have gotten it if it weren't for the strike and the backlog?

Hippie Dribble
07-28-2015, 03:11 AM
In my experience, any uke that I posted to Europe took a much longer time to be delivered compared to posting to the USA. I noticed that two thirds if the time was spend holding the uke in European customs.
Mine too, Hollis.

Turnover time Aust > US usually around 7 days. Aust > Europe add on a week.

I ogled over that one too, Mivo. Huge congratulations!!!!!!

07-28-2015, 04:44 AM
Barron Rivers go express, of course. I wonder when Mivo would have gotten it if it weren't for the strike and the backlog?

According to the paperwork that was included, customs got the package the day they sent me a letter ("we got a package for you, but can't determine the value"). I got the letter the next day and called them up to discuss the value of the instrument (they never opened the package). They gave it to the post service the next morning after I let them know that I have the cash ready (the only ways to pay for it were to either drive to them or pay at delivery). I think a week is probably the average time that German customs will add to any delivery, whether it's express or regular.

I wasn't very happy with how they handled the whole thing. When I questioned the legitimacy of charging me VAT and import tax for the insurance and shipping fees (which still makes zero sense to me), I was told in a passive-aggressive tone that I can always opt for not accepting the shipment if I have a problem with that. At that point I just wanted to get my instrument and was tired of the bureaucratic nonsense, so I went for the easiest way, which was to pay that extra bit, too.

Totally worth it, though, it's the kind of instrument that ukulele dreams are made of. :) I'd do it all over again.

07-28-2015, 07:30 AM
At least it all turned out okay in the end. It still stinks, though.

07-28-2015, 09:21 AM
A lot of countries add in the shipping (including insurance) to determine the value to be taxed. They do it here in Australia. You were lucky Mivo that it was in customs for only a week. When I sent my Beansprout to the UK it took about 4-5 days to get into the country and then languished in customs for about two weeks. During that time it was off the radar and I was just about to start panicking when the purchaser messaged me that he received a letter from customs. UK Customs were much slower than German Customs. You were lucky to get your beautiful new instrument as quickly as you did. When I buy an instrument from the USA I usually ship it to a relative when I am visiting and hand carry them back with me. Late last year I carried in 3 Ukes (there were 3 of us traveling together). I am very risk adverse.