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View Full Version : Mele / Braddah Tenor: Initial Impressions + Full Review



FromTheWayside
02-10-2010, 03:52 AM
I recently bought this uke off eBay, and I figured I'd jot down my experience with it so far.

Pros:
- Beautiful Uke (even better than in the auction pictures)
- Came with a nice case
- Very big sound (it's a 6 string strung with a low G, so it's "bassy")
- Very resonant.
- The geared tuners are much easier to work with than the peghead tuners found on my fluke.
- Better response up the neck (i.e. at high fret) than my fluke.

Cons:

- More little dings and scratches than I would have liked. I wasn't expecting a perfect uke, but I there are just a few too many for my liking.
- Feels lighter than my fluke; I guess I expected solid wood to weigh more.
- A little bit of the finish has come off on the back of the neck by the 5th fret. This may not sound like a big deal, but it fels noticeably different than the rest of the neck, and it just bugs me.
- Strings need to be changed (I guess that's sort of a given, with a used uke).

General Observations

- Weight distribution is different than my fluke. The fluke is very body-heavy (because it's made of molded plastic), while the Mele is balanced at right around the neck joint.
- It just seems a bit, "small." It's only one step higher in uke size, but I guess I was expecting more. Obviously, the neck is much longer, which I appreciate.
- I like the sound of the doubled strings, but now I want it so they're ALL doubled...I just feel like it would make the sound more consistent when solo'ing (so you don't have to drop from a doubled string to a single string when you go from A to E, for example).

A full review will come later, as will pics. See you then!

FromTheWayside
02-10-2010, 03:53 AM
As promised, here is my full review of the uke. I should probably mention this is only my second uke since my Fluke, so I'm not the most experienced uke buyer. Of course, I'll be doing my best to remain fair and unbiased.

Features: A-

I've posted my "dream uke," omnon the forum before. Features include tenor scale, slotted headstock, cutaway, solid wood construction, some sort of electronics, and geared tuners. This uke basically delivers on all of those things, except a slotted headstock. Granted, that's not much more than an aesthetic difference ... but it was something I really wanted, so I figured I'd mention it here. I wish this uke would have come with a pick-up (I like the MiSi because it is small, easy to charge, and doesn't need a huge pre-amp box like some other pick-ups), but I got it at a decent price...meaning I might just splurge and get one installed after-market. I will update this thread if that happens. Ultimately, I am satisfied with the features of this uke, from the extra strings to the rope inlay.

Minor Aside - This uke uses geared tuners, which are phenomenally better than the friction tuners on my Fluke. They're more accurate, they stay in tune longer, and in my opinion, they look better. I probably wouldn't recommend geared tuners on a soprano because of the weight that they add, but for tenor scale and above, I highly recommend geared tuners. (If someone wants to send me a tenor with friction tuners that rocks my socks and can prove me wrong, just PM me. :P)

Sound: A-

The long and short of it is that this instrument sounds great. Done and done.

You might ask though, "why does it sound good?" Or perhaps, "if it sounds so good, why did it get an A-?" Or even, "what's with all the questions?" Allow me to explain. To answer the first question, I think it sounds good for a few reasons. One is that it's definitely louder than the Fluke. This was made clear to me singing some of my favorite songs...I really had to work to balance my volume level with the uke (something I had not previously experienced). The low, wound G-string also helps. It gives the uke a bigger, fatter, and bassier sound. It makes the uke sound more like a guitar than a standard tenor, but I think this is a feature of the Low-G, rather than a feature of all 6-strings. Lastly, the extra strings really give the uke that, "jangly," bell-like tone you might get from a 12-string acoustic guitar. Of course, the sound is not as big, but I'm sure amplification could "level the playing field." All things considered, this uke got closer than any uke I've played before (and that's a good thing).

That more or less summarizes the good parts of the instrument. I do have a few quibbles, though. First, is that the low notes can be a bit over-powering at times. It might just be my strum, but I think the low-A covers up the high-A a bit too often. If there are any more experienced uke players who'd like to comment on this (or perhaps give me some advice), I'd love to hear it. I want a fairly balanced sound in my playing, and such a bassy uke isn't precisely what I'm looking for. The other quibble I have is directed more at ALL six-string ukes rather than at this one in particular. I like the doubled strings; they lend the uke a very big, powerful sound. It's kind of a shame though, that you only get that on two pairs of strings, instead of all four. I felt it was restricting to my solo playing (however poor), to confine myself to the double strings. Coming off the A to the E just sounds a little weak. This may seem somewhat paradoxical, but I feel 8-string ukes are better for solo work (perhaps only a little bit behind 4-strings), because there is a more consistent sound across all the strings. The 6-string, by contrast, seems better for strumming and rhythm work. In the end, this isn't a huge con; it just helps to know what you're getting into. One last thing...I'm not saying you absolutely cannot use a 6-string for soloing. I'd actually love to see it done. It just doesn't sound quite right to me, when compared to 4 or 8 string solo work.

Action, Fit, and Finish: B/B+

The Mele is a mixed bag, with regards to action, fit, and finish. On one hand, it is a VERY good looking uke. I really like to look of the wood, particularly of the fretboard and the headstock. The rope inlays are also a nice touch. The uke just feels good in my hands (though I would like to get strap buttons installed). It also plays quite well. I am still getting used to playing 6 strings instead of 4, but the action is set reasonably low, and it's easy enough to play. It's harder than a 4-string, but I expected that.

On the other hand, there are a few knicks, dings, and other little scratches that add up to annoy me quite a lot. It's a used instrument, so I wasn't expecting it to be pristine; I just wish there had been more mention of it in the auction. This problem is compounded somewhat by pockets of dust. Something else that bugged me was the fact that there is a slight separation along the midline of the bottom and top of the body of the uke. I dunno if this is common, but I know it would probably be a easier to understand what the heck I'm talking about with pictures. Expect to see them soon. One thing that really bugged me was a little bit of finish missing on the bottom side of the neck below the 5th fret. It seems to have worn down in the week that I've had the uke, but that would have drove me bonkers if it hadn't solved itself. One last minor gripe: I wish the seller had changed the strings before he sent the uke, rather than leaving on older, discolored, and somewhat grimy strings. It's a used instrument, I know, but it would have saved me some time and effort.

Edit - The logo on the headstock isn't as bad as I was worried it would be. It's nothing to write home about, though. It's rather, "meh," actually.

Reliability / Durability: B

I should probably put this as N/A, considering I've had the uke for less than a week. There are a few points I should mention, though. The uke itself is solid wood, but it doesn't seem to have much (if any) gloss / finish. I've heard that too much finish can really muffle the volume of the instrument, so I'm glad it isn't soaked in it. I just worry that the uke will bang up more easily as a result. I'm definitely spoiled because of my Fluke; I've never had to worry about the Fluke's plastic body. I've always been careful, of course, but my reaction is very different when I bump my Fluke and my Mele. It could be the, "new" factor. All that aside, the body is a LOT lighter than the Fluke; it just feels flimsier by comparison. I guess that's what I get for starting on a plastic uke. Ultimately, I'm looking forward to many years of faithful service from this uke; it doesn't hurt that I live in Southern California, a region known for its mild climate.

Customer Support: N/A

I bought this uke from fleaBay, so there is no customer support to speak of. I'm a little disappointed the seller didn't make a bigger mention of the scuffs and scrapes on the instrument. All of them are on the small side, but they add up. I did get a semi-hard case though, so I can't complain all that much.

Overall Rating: B/B+

I think I got a good uke for a good price. I have some complaints. This uke certainly isn't perfect! Considering where I got it from (and the price), though, I'm not complaining. I would recommend a Braddah or a Mele to other uke players. From what I've seen so far, they're well-made ukes. I would recommend a 6-string to other ukers, with the reservations I mentioned above. They're great, but they might end up filling a niche in your uke collection; they don't seem to be a jack-of-all trades.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to comment or message me. I will post picks when I have a chance to take them.