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View Full Version : Review: Mango Tenor Fluke w/pickup



Thumper
07-26-2009, 07:27 AM
I bought a Flea in the early summer, and fell in love with it. Soon afterwards, UAS set in, and I found myself wanting to add a Fluke to the family. My significant other offered to get me one for my birthday, and soon I was the lucky recipient of a tenor Fluke, which is reviewed below.


Features: 9

This is a new Fluke with a tenor-scale maple neck and a built-in K&K Piezo soundboard transducer pickup. As with my Flea, I went with the standard plastic fretboard, because I live in South Florida and play outside a lot, and I wanted a ukulele wouldn't be adversely affected by moisture or heat. I knew from owning my Flea that the plastic fretboard feels fine, and the intonation is pristine. But I was surprised by the difference in the maple neck of my Fluke, as opposed to the walnut neck of my Flea. The maple neck is noticeably smoother - I actually prefer it to the walnut neck, although I've noticed that the Magic Fluke Company seems to put walnut necks on their upper-end instruments. Both necks feel good, but I do prefer the smoothness (and the appearance) of the maple.

The Fluke uses friction tuners, which I was already acquainted with from playing my Flea. If you haven't used them before, I bet you'll get used to them quickly - they don't bother me at all, and I also own one gear-tuned uke. My advice is to not sweat the tuner style, but make sure you invest in a clip-on tuner. The body of the Fluke is ABS plastic with fiberglass reinforcement and the soundboard is laminated Australian pine. The Fluke feels very well built and rugged, while still being very light in weight and easy to hold.

The only evidence of the built-in pickup is the 1/4" jack on the underside of the Fluke. I opted for that rather than a more elaborate pickup with preamp and additional knobs, because we own a PA system, and I can control the sound from the mixing board, and wanted to maintain the simplicity of the instrument's look.

The Fluke comes with a nylon drawstring gig bag. This offers moderate protection from the elements, but doesn't have much padding. If you're handling it yourself, the gig bag is fine, but for any traveling that would put the Fluke into somebody else's hands I think you'd want more protection. As with the Flea, the ability of the Fluke to stand on its end is a surprisingly handy and desirable feature. Once you've had a stand-up uke, it's hard to go back, believe me!


Sound: 9

The sound of the Fluke is warm and full. It is not as "toylike" as many smaller wooden ukes, giving it a slightly more "serious" sound, if that makes sense. It's definitely louder than my soprano or concert ukes, which is coming in handy. My significant other is a singer with a BIG voice, and I'm finding the Fluke is a better choice for accompanying her singing.

The Fluke came with black Hilo strings, and I found them quiet and dull. My other two ukes have Aquila strings, and the Hilos didn't come close to them in volume or tone. After a day or so, I replaced them with Worth Clear strings, using a low-G setup. The low-G tuning didn't really suit my playing style, although the low G string really had a nice, full sound on this tenor Fluke. So I swapped out the G string and switched to a high-G tuning. That's when I really fell in love with this Fluke - it really began to "sing" with the crystalline sound of the Worth strings. I'm also going to try Worth Browns and Aquilas on it, but for now it sounds terrific with the Clears.

When we plugged the Fluke into the PA system (one of those standup Bose column thingies), it took some messing around to get a sound that captured the best qualities of the Fluke, but it wasn't difficult. If you don't have your own preamp or mixer, you might want to go with the more expensive pickup options that the Magic Fluke Company offers, but for our needs, the internal piezo is more than adequate.

And we discovered an unexpected plus: through the PA system, you really hear any "thumping" you do on the body of the Fluke. I'm a drummer, so I flipped it over and tried playing rhythms on the back of the Fluke, and it sounded amazing! So it's not an exaggeration to say that you can also use this much like a cajon (a wooden box used for hand drumming). The internal pickup really captures any tapping, thumping or even brushing against the textured back of the instrument.


Action, Fit & Finish: 9 (average of two component scores described below)

The soundboard is finished in the "mango" color, which appears to be a stain over a natural wood. I was surprised by the appearance of the soundboard, which I don't think has been captured well in the photos I've seen marketing this finish. For one thing, it's a deeper, warmer auburn color, not a pale yellowish orange as shown in many photos. In addition, I had expected simply a solid-color coat of paint or some sort of coating, but this appears to be a matte-finish semi-transparent stain that shows some of the wood's natural characteristics and imperfections.

My Fluke has numerous small knots in the wood - at first I was put off by this, but within seconds I fell in love with the look, which seems very "organic." The wood doesn't have a very noticeable grain to it, but it has a lot of these little knots, and the result is very warm and natural looking.

http://www.whatilikeaboutuke.com/fluke_closeup.jpg

Over time, I've found that the finish is becoming shiny in areas where it receives a lot of finger or thumb contact. I tend to "thump" the soundboard when I am "chunking," and this has caused a shiny spot in the finish to develop in my main thumping zone. Overall, I think it looks great, with the warm, organic look of the soundboard making the instrument seem more natural and less "plastic." But I do think they should do a better job of showing/describing this finish, because I think somebody who is less attracted to the raw/organic look could possibly be disappointed by the up-close appearance of this type of finish. So I'll give this an 8 for fit and finish.

EDIT - Please disregard the paragraph in red. I misdiagnosed the problem, and a couple of great UU members solved the issue I was having, as you'll see later in this thread!

I am sorry to report that I'm encountering a slight problem with the plastic fretboard. On the C string, I started noticing a high-pitched "ping" when I played some more difficult chords. I finally determined that at the "zero" fret just before the headstock, if I pushed the string to one side or the other, it created a high ping that indicates there must be a slight notch in that fret. I've only been playing this for a month, so it seems unlikely that I caused any fret wear that quickly, so it may be a flaw that was missed by the factory. It's not a major problem, but it is a bit unnerving to encounter this on a new instrument. I plan to try some new strings soon, so when I do, I'll take a closer look, and if it's a bad notch I'll send it back to the Magic Fluke Company for a replacement. They have a rock-solid reputation for standing behind their products, so I'm not too concerned. But between that issue and the unexpected (although attractive) appearance of the mango finish, I'm knocking this component of the score down to 6 for fit and finish.

The action is low and easy, and the intonation is fabulous. That is a key strength of Fleas and Flukes, and is one of the reasons I chose the plastic neck. I really like having a uke that is so in tune with itself. Many of the wood ukes I've played or listened to are not nearly as accurate with their intonation. The sound of the strings is extremely consistent from fret to fret, with no dead spots or honking strings. I give it a 10 for action and intonation.


Reliability/Durability: 10

These are rugged instruments, and well suited to travel and outdoor use. I'm always going in and out of my house with mine, which subjects it to instant 20-degree temperature changes, and it still holds its tuning like a champ!


Customer Support: 9

This Fluke was purchased on Ebay from Manahawkin Music, also known as musicpicinic. In their Ebay listings they do a good job of showing you the exact instrument you're buying, and they offer you choices in colors of gig bags, based on availability. They shipped the item very quickly, although they weren't all that great about responding to emails. Overall, I'd feel perfectly fine ordering from them again.

Although I didn't deal directly with the Magic Fluke Company on this purchase, in the past they have been terrific, and I'll keep people posted if I end up having to get my fretboard replaced.


Overall Rating: 9.2 (average of the above five scores)

I'm really happy with this instrument, which has a delightful sound combined with the playful ruggedness that is built into Flukes and Fleas. I would highly recommend a Fluke to anybody - it's got a seriously good sound and marvelous intonation, but is still an instrument you can treat casually. Again, if you like the toylike, brighter sound of wood sopranos, this isn't the instrument for you. But if you're looking to add a bit more tone and volume into your sonic arsenal, check out a Fluke!

RevWill
07-26-2009, 08:13 AM
Try a small piece of paper or cardstock in the nut groove. Since the Fluke has a zero fret the paper shouldn't mute the string at all and it should stop the "ping."

Thumper
07-26-2009, 08:36 AM
Try a small piece of paper or cardstock in the nut groove. Since the Fluke has a zero fret the paper shouldn't mute the string at all and it should stop the "ping."

Thanks - I'll give that a shot. I'm not yet sure if the notch is in the nut or in the zero fret. I'm also wondering if a thicker C string like an Aquila might defeat the problem. I'll post an update if/when I make any new revelations...

AnnaUK
07-26-2009, 11:43 AM
I had exactly that C string problem on my Flea when I put thinner strings on. I wedged a tiny piece of paper in and it completely cured the problem.

Just use black paper and no-one will even be able to see it :)

Thumper
07-26-2009, 01:29 PM
Thank you, RevWill and AnnaUK !!!!!!! Your advice solved my problem!

The fret does NOT have a notch in it - the string was just moving around in the nut. A small piece of paper cured the problem, and I doubt I'll have any problems if I go to thicker strings like Aquilas.


UU totally rocks!!!! :D

Now I need to revise my review. Thanks again.

gabzuke
07-27-2009, 11:53 PM
thats pretty cool
hope we see more photos :D