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Doc_J
04-26-2011, 04:28 PM
Review of Black Bear Koa Soprano ukulele

This is one of a batch of 5 handmade koa ukuleles sold in April 2011 from Duane Heilman of Black Bear Guitars and Ukuleles. I absolutely love it, maybe the best sounding soprano I have played!

Features•Finished in April 2011, USA made.
•Solid 40 year old Koa wood for body
(not the prettiest Koa I have seen)
•Macadamia wood neck neck
•Rosewood fingerboard and bridge.
•13 5/8" scale soprano, nice arched back (more arch that a Kamaka).
•White fret markers, with white side dots
•Bone nut and saddle
•Friction Grover tuning pegs
•Lacquer satin finish
•Excellent full rich sound, accurate intonation.
•How many frets? 15 overall 12 to the body
•Bridge style ( String-thru body)
•Extremely light weight
•no accessories

SoundThis is the best playing soprano uke I have ever played or owned. Period.
It may also be the lightest
• Great tone and intonation
• Wonderful for strumming or picking
• Rich/Full sound
• LOUD
• Musically it is perfect.
Here is a sound sample: http://www.box.net/shared/o3ay8xkg2i
Currently strung with Worth Browns


Action, Fit & Finish
•The set-up is great, action is low, but not too low
•Ukulele did contain what I would call some small finish flaws which I believe are more from the wood used than any error of the builder. Small worm hole on back of head stop, small partial tearout near bottom of lower bout where sides come together, slight neck gap at body, small indent on top. The alignment of everything is perfect.

Reliability/Durability•Will this ukulele withstand live playing? Yes
•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? Satin nitro-lacquer finish. Painted Black Bear logo on the head plate. Finish seems a little thin, but what do I know .

Customer Support
•How long is the warranty? Don't know
Duane says complete satisfaction is guaranteed.
•Great price

Overall Rating 9.5/10

•How long have you been playing? 1.5 years
•What other gear do you own? Too many ukes to list.
•Is there something you wish you had asked before buying this ukulele? Not really
•If it were stolen or lost, would you buy it again or get something else? Absolutely, in a heart beat
•What do you love about it? The sound, how light it is.
•What do you hate? Nothing really. It would have been nicer to not have any imperfections in the wood. But what do you want for this price?
•What is your favorite feature? Macadamia nut neck, really cool looking
•Did you compare it to other ukuleles? Which ones? (Kamaka, Pohaku, Timms, Boat Paddle, G-string, Kanilea)
•Why did you choose this one? Always wanted to try a Black Bear.
•Anything you wish it had? Maybe prettier koa.
•Anything else you'd like to share? I now want a Black Bear Concert!

Here are some pics:
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=23074&d=1303786082
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=23073&d=1303786082
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=23072&d=1303786082

Nuprin
04-26-2011, 05:17 PM
Thanks for the review...sounds incredible! I think I might be foreseeing a Black Bear soprano in my future!

Hippie Dribble
04-26-2011, 06:58 PM
awesome Doc. Thanks for the review. Looks beautiful to me and, already owning a couple of Black Bears, I'm not surprised the sound is of the quality you describe. He is a fabulous builder. A concert Black Bear is a very worthwhile investment in my opinion. Cheers mate.