View Full Version : Ibanez UEW30RWE Concert Acoustic Electric seen at Sam Ash in Hollywood

Deli Korkmaz
01-08-2011, 04:18 AM
There are scarcely any reviews for this model, or the two similar lower end models, the UEW10RWE and the UEW20RWE, so I felt compelled to share my findings.

The caveat is that I am not an experienced ukulele player. Furthermore, I do not own this, I tried it out at Sam Ash, so I am limited in the technical details that I can provide.

Backstory: I am looking for my first ukulele, and I am willing to spend in the mid $200s. I have always found myself gravitating to Ibanez products. My first guitar ever was an Ibanez, and I currently own a very nice Ibanez electric bass, so the Ibanez UEW30RWE, usually priced at around $220, seemed to fit the bill. However, no (or very few) stores carry Ibanez ukes in the store. As I refuse to buy an acoustic instrument without trying it first, I asked the Sam Ash in Hollywood, which did carry a lower end Ibanez (the UEW20RWE), to order it for me. For a $60 deposit but no commitment they had one shipped from a store in Florida, and I waited impatiently for the better part of a week. Yesterday it arrived in the store, so I went with some musician friends in tow to check it out.

Features ****
What year was it made? 2010
Where was is made? Japan
How many frets? 19
Solid-Top? Laminated top? Laminated
Any pickups or electronics? UK300T preamp with 2-Band EQ and onboard tuner
Body and neck woods? Mahogany neck, rosewood bridge and fingerboard, rosewood laminate body
Finish: glossy transparent
Body style: Concert, cutaway
Bridge style: string-through body (not sure of my terminology here...you make a knot and string it through, as opposed to tying them as on a classical guitar)
Tuners: Grover, gold color, open gear
Neck/Scale: mahogany neck, rosewood fingerboard
Any included accessories? gig bag, cable. Notably, Ibanez did have the decency and sense to string with model with Aquila strings from the factory, unlike their lower end models, which come with these black strings which, when I tried the UEW20RWE, sounded so ugly I wanted to throw up in my mouth a little.

Sound *
How does it suit your music style (and what is that style)? To the extent I have a style, it is largely rhythm, based on vihuela style, mixed in with some fingerpicking. I was not fond of the sound, but it's not terrible. Now, with my level of experience, I'm not so sure what the "ideal" ukulele sound is. I know what I like when I hear it, but I am not a ukulele player per se.
What amps and effects are you using it with? I would normally be playing it acoustically, though I might have used it with a Boss BR-6 micro recorder or a Line 6 amp, which is why it would have been nice to have the electronics.
Is it noisy? On what settings? I didn't try it with an amp.
Rich/Full sound? Bright sound? I found the sound a little dull and unsatisfying, neither especially rich and full, nor bright.
What kind of sounds can the guitar make? How much variety? Not sure, as I didn't try it out with an amp, and I guess I don't have the level of expertise to make different sounds acoustically.
Likes and dislikes? I didn't love the sound, but it was ok. The big news here is that there are problems with the intonation, starting at about the 4th or 5th fret: it goes sharp. I was very careful about this, measuring this effect with a tuner, verifying that each string replicated this result, and that this was *not* happening with other models of ukulele in the store. I knew that of course the new strings would be going flat, so I kept tuning them up. Whenever a string was going flat, then the notes from the 5th fret up would be in tune--until I tuned the string, at which point they would go sharp again. I verified the result with my clever violinist friend, who heard the problematic pitches quite clearly. I am very grateful for MM Stan's excellent advice that I check the intonation with a tuner before I walk out of the store.

Action, Fit & Finish *****
How well was the ukulele set-up at the factory? (How was the action?) Nice, neither too high nor too low
Properly bookmatched top? Yes
Properly routed bridge? Yes
Did the ukulele contain any flaws? Not that I noticed. I personally found it attractive.

Reliability/Durability *****
Will this ukulele withstand live playing? Not sure, presumably
Does the hardware seem like it will last? Yes
Is the finish good enough to last, or does it seem thin and easy to wear off with lots of playing? Seems fine to me
Can you depend on it? Not sure, I only tried it in the store, no reason not to think so
Would you use it on a gig without a backup? Sure

Customer Support *****
I'm rating Sam Ash, 7630 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles (Hollywood)
If you've dealt with the company, how helpful/friendly were they?
I dealt mostly with Adam, who couldn't have been more accomodating, but everybody, including the guard at the door, were very friendly, courteous, helpful, and positive. This instrument was only available from one of their stores in Florida, so they ordered it to be sent to their branch under the premise that if I didn't like it, I didn't have to buy it. I made it clear to them that I couldn't buy something acoustic without playing it first, and they were fine with that. Adam had promised that it would arrive by Thursday or Friday (yesterday, relative to the timestamp on this post), which indeed is what happened. He was prompt and reliable about either updating me or returning my phone calls. I paid a $60 cash deposit, which they cheerfully and immediately refunded without question after I said I didn't want the instrument after all. I highly recommend this store based on their customer service. Their only flaw is that, like the Guitar Center, they play background music for some odd reason.
Ever try and get it repaired? They offered to try to work on the intonation, see if the setup was the problem, but I declined.
Was it under warranty? It's still in store, so the warranty period hasn't started yet.
How long is the warranty? 1 year

Overall Rating ***, but I'm going to go all Consumer Reports and say Not Recommended.
How long have you been playing? Ukulele: beginner. Guitar and electic bass: years, off and on. Vihuela: 3 1/2 years. Turkish ud, ney, baglama: several years.
What other gear do you own? Vihuela by Ruben Morales, Guitarrón by ?? (probably a Paracho), 2 electric basses, 3 electric guitars, 2 acoustic guitars, one steel string, one classical; uds, neys, tanbur, baglamas, and, oh yeah, one tourist ukulele my husband had gotten for my son when he was 4.
Is there something you wish you had asked before buying this ukulele? No, I'm glad I came in with the skepticism that I did (props to MM Stan for your wise advice, thank you!!!)
If it were stolen or lost, would you buy it again or get something else? I didn't buy it, but I am getting something else.
What do you love about it? The looks, its having electronics at an affordable price, the geared tuners
What do you hate? The intonation problem was the deal killer. If the intonation was good, then I would have felt a dilemma, because the sound still wasn't as nice as the Ohana, though the features were better.
What is your favorite feature? The generous number of frets plus the cutaway; the geared tuners.
Did you compare it to other ukuleles? Which ones? Other contenders for the position of My First Serious Ukulele included the Lanakai CK-C, the Luna 1803 blue dolphin, and the Ohana CK-100G
Why did you choose this one? Ibanez name: I usually love their products; also the features.
Anything you wish it had? Decent intonation!
Anything else you'd like to share?
It's really a pity that Ibanez is shooting themselves in the foot with their ukulele line. First of all, they don't stock them in stores; you usually have to order them online sight unseen, which I refuse to do. Then they string their lower end models with those terrible strings. Finally, the intonation problem. There's no excuse for that! What a disappointment, Ibanez! Get your act together! Reigner ou abdicer!

Uncle Leroy
01-08-2011, 12:50 PM
That was a very informative review. I was surprised to learn that it was made in Japan. Ibanez has, like most other manufacturers, moved all of it's production with the exception of high end, and custom shop models to China. Well done.

Deli Korkmaz
01-08-2011, 01:36 PM
You know, upon reflection, I could easily be wrong about that particular detail. The thing is, I don't have it in my possession, so I can't double check. I just attempted several Google searches, so I can't even work out how I came to that conclusion. Sorry!

FWIW, here is a website (http://www.ibanezrules.com/catalogs/reference/dating.htm) which claims to identify the country of origin of an Ibanez based on its serial number.

01-08-2011, 04:31 PM
My boss got a couple of these for stock at our store. They look pretty but sound dull. That being said, the non-uke playing employees (of which there are many) at my store want it as they love the looks. The only other ukes we have are Lanikai's LU series, Fender and Oscar Schmidt so, even though I think the Lanikai and Oscar Schmidts sound better, there isn't a huge night and day difference so I can't really blame them. The on board tuner is a nice touch though.