PDA

View Full Version : aNueNue Oahu III - an amateur pops off



PoiDog
06-27-2011, 12:56 PM
Alhoa!

My last effort in an 'ukulele review was for Laka, my first girl (the Luna Concert Tattoo (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?49016-Luna-Tattoo-Concert-Size.-A-n00b-s-review.)). Like all first girlfriends, I am still infatuated with Laka (what with her being my first and all). But I'm now developing a bit of a bromance with the aNueNue Oahu III I just picked up used, which I have named Lono, Laka's ball & chain.

The Specs:

$699 retail
Solid Hawaiian Koa body, satin nitro-cellulose lacquer finish, assembled in Taiwan
Mahogany neck & headstock
MOP logo inlay on headstock
Rosewood fretboard & bridge
Buffalo bone nut & saddle
Nut width: 1.5"
Open gear Grover tuners
MOP inlay fretmarkers at 5th, 7th, 10th, & 12th fret
side fretmarkers on 5th, 7th, 10th, and 12th fret
Orcas black fluoro-carbon strings (high G tuning)
26" long, 17" scale, 18 frets
20mm padded Orcas gig bag (branded with aNueNue logo)



The Look:
aNueNue is one of those companies that is making a name for itself by doing things outside the box. Their U900 'ukuleles with the cartoon soundholes are a hit not only among fans of the animated anthropomorphic rabbit & bear 'ukulele team but of fans of Japano-Kitsch design, while their Lani and Papa series feature laser-etched Hawai'ian petroglyphs. And recently they've resurrected the Frankenstein harpulele, or 'ukuharp, or whatever it's called.

So, it seems that when aNueNue was coming up with their Oahu model, they figured the best way to differntiate it from the rest of their line was by basically not adorning the instrument with anything: no cute soundholes, no petroglyph etchings, no purfling, no binding, no extra appendages, no rosettes. Just their aNueNue logo subtly inlayed at the top of their headstock.


http://i54.tinypic.com/2u557dc.jpg

But there isn't anything lost in this choice, because the instrument is still very attractive, thanks to the selection of very nicely grained wood with a glossy (but not overly shiny) lacquer finish. More than satin, but less than polish adds up to one sweet looking uke.


http://i53.tinypic.com/25q3eb9.jpg

The light honey color of the koa body is closely matched by the mahogany neck, making it seem for all intents and purposes that the 'ukulele is made from one single piece of wood. The darkness of the rosewood bridge and fretboard stand in strong contrast to the body.

And it all works. The classic look and spartan design seems to be intentionally done so that the only thing one can notice about the 'ukulele is the sound.

Rating: 9/10

Craftsmanship:
The Oahu is the top of the current aNueNue line (along with their solid mango "Maui" line), with only the custom models at a higher price-point. The only difference being an abalone rosette for the custom. With marquee status, one expects marquee manufacturing. Whereas one would overlook small imperfections (such as slightly off seams, or minor discoloration between heel and neck), no such exceptions exist for instruments that retail in the $700+ range. As others mentioned, that's creeping into the territory of the K's, and it may be that aNueNue is more akin to Pono, Koalana, and other 2nd tier brands. In any case, while I could ignore imprefections, low-end material, and poor construction with Laka, I have to be strict with Lono - even if I did pick him up used and at less than MSRP.

A visual inspection reveals a couple of things worth noting. Mainly some cheapness in the tuning pegheads, and very small finishing imperfections at the base of the fretboard, just above the soundhole. The cheap plastic construction of the tuning pegheads, though, really stands out like a vibrator in a religious supply store against the otherwise high-quality materials used in the uke. Yet, that's pretty adequately compensated for by the obvious care and meticulous detail of the rest of the 'ukulele (and the fact that I didn't pay retail price). Bracings are secure and of minimal size while still providing solid construction. A whiff at the soundhole produced no obvious glue stink - only the scent of real wood. And the edge of the soundhole itself was sanded to a slippery smoothness. The binding is almost invisible (by design). And the split of the wood aligns nearly perfectly on the top, butt, and back.


http://i51.tinypic.com/16gmsys.jpg

Frets were all filed and beveled so that moving along the neck, even at speed, produced no discomfort. And, the top of the frets were rounded so there is no danger of pricking or cutting the strings.

Rating: 8/10 (those tuning peg heads really blow)

Playability:
The real test. Coming right out of the box, the playability of this 'ukulele was very impressive. The action is right in the fat part of the curve, though for my taste it may be a skosh high for the first fret. The intonation is consistent and clean, down through the 12th fret, and the fretting is forgiving enough so there is no buzzing for imperfectly fretted strings, even for someone with only a couple of months of fretting experience.

Even better is the comfort. The slightly wider nut (1.5"), gives just that little extra space needed so that chords like the D are easier to achieve. And, that extra width means the strings are spaced just a touch wider apart, allowing for more of a fudge factor in fingering, resulting in fewer dead strings because of fretting overlap. The neck is thin enough so that switching chords isn't hindered by having to open your hand to accommodate neck bulge. One thing of note is that the aNueNue has some badonk. The wider butt (coupled with the arched back) may make it a bit uncomfortable - especially for the menehune out there. However, the balance and weight is really good, especially for the larger size.

Perhaps the biggest gripe I have is with the strings. aNueNue come with these thin, black flourocarbon Orcas strings that give a way more tinny, or "plingy" (as my wife says) sound than either the Ko'olaus or Aquilas I've used on Laka (the Luna Tattoo). Certainly way too plingy for my like, anyway. Plus, their narrow profile (particularly for the C string) means the feel of the instrument is different. Needless to say I will be trying out both Aquilas and Ko'olau on this very soon.

The sustain is considerable compared to Laka (solid wood FTW!), and there is a fuller projection. The volume is also very nice. It doesn't boom like a howitzer, but the sound travels.

Rating: 7/10 (assuming that the tinny sound is due to the strings, so take this with a grain of salt)

Overall:
It's always nice when one can play matchmaker, and poor Laka was very lonely and needed a hubby. Happily, Lono arrived.


http://i53.tinypic.com/29bepmt.jpg

The only potential problem may be that I begin neglecting poor Laka in favor of the new guy. I guess I may need to rehearse my, "it's not you, it's me" speech just in case ...

Rating: 8/10 (9/10 if new strings improve the sound, 6/10 if they don't)

Edit (28 July): It seems that my disappointment with the sound of the strings may be a bit premature. After looking about a bit and asking some people who know a lot more than me, I've been told that new solid wood instruments, and in many cases particularly koa wood instruments, will often sound a bit tight, sparkly, and otherwise tinny until they begin to open up to release the more full, deep, rich tones. This process also seems to be facilitated with regular playing. Seeing as this 'ukulele is still fairly new and has barely been played, it may be the fair thing to reserve judgment for a while.

Dan Uke
06-27-2011, 02:23 PM
Good review but would you buy again? You give it several grades depending on what it will sound / new strings? I've played several of the lower models at Mccabes in Santa Monica and I thought they were inferior to the comparable priced Ohanas.

I am a little concerned about the price for a uke made in Taiwan. It seems very expensive for a new company w/o the reputation even though they have sponsered several players. Did you consider new Factory Second or used K Brands for around the same price as a new Anuenue? As long as you liked it, that's the key!!!

Enjoy!!!

mm stan
06-27-2011, 02:46 PM
Aloha Poi dog,
Nice full review... congratulations on your new ukulele...700 is kinda steep for a taiwan uke though.. they sure are out of their price range..but if it sounds good to you, that's the main thing...
have fun and enjoy,...Happy Strummings brah, MM Stan

Dan Uke
06-27-2011, 02:59 PM
Aloha Poi dog,
Nice full review... congratulations on your new ukulele...700 is kinda steep for a taiwan uke though.. they sure are out of their price range..but if it sounds good to you, that's the main thing...
have fun and enjoy,...Happy Strummings brah, MM Stan

Wow...I'm starting to think like Stan the Man...I've progressed a long way!!!

PoiDog
06-27-2011, 03:02 PM
Good review but would you buy again? You give it several grades depending on what it will sound / new strings? I've played several of the lower models at Mccabes in Santa Monica and I thought they were inferior to the comparable priced Ohanas.

I am a little concerned about the price for a uke made in Taiwan. It seems very expensive for a new company w/o the reputation even though they have sponsered several players. Did you consider new Factory Second or used K Brands for around the same price as a new Anuenue? As long as you liked it, that's the key!!!

Enjoy!!!


Aloha Poi dog,
Nice full review... congratulations on your new ukulele...700 is kinda steep for a taiwan uke though.. they sure are out of their price range..but if it sounds good to you, that's the main thing...
have fun and enjoy,...Happy Strummings brah, MM Stan

I didn't get this aNueNue new-e new-e. I picked it up used for considerably less than retail, so it wasn't nearly as much a risk for me (I suppose I should have mentioned that, huh?). Ultimately, I am looking to move into one of the K's - though I have to be somewhat patient.

In any case, if this doesn't end up feeling right for me I'll likely try to sell it, and put that cash toward my K fund.

Dan Uke
06-27-2011, 03:14 PM
Yeah...the distributor is in Ventura and I was trying to get a factory second just to try it out but didn't have any. They offered a new one at discounted price but it was still more than other brands so I passed. I have placed an order on another Koaloha instead.

Ataraxia
06-29-2011, 11:24 AM
Anuenue is not made in Taiwan, to the best of my knowledge, they're manufactured in mainland China. I have seen it stated in several threads that they're produced here, so I can understand the confusion. Also, they happen to have headquarters here because they're a Taiwan "based" company. I've met the president, he's a nice guy. I've owned several ukuleles from them because they're cheaper to purchase here than in the U.S., the model you picked up is available for 500$ locally. Decent ukes for the price, but I definitely prefer Ohanas for the same price-range as their laminate sopranos.

Ataraxia
06-29-2011, 11:25 AM
I believe that some of their higher-end models may come from Japan, since the company was established as a joint venture between the two countries. Just speculation though, perhaps not.

SailingUke
06-29-2011, 12:32 PM
I have played many of the aNueNue's, been impressed with all of them.
They may be a bit more than some of the other brands, but are definitely well made.
They come with a very nice gig bag as well.
Several of my students are playing aNueNue ukuleles

PoiDog
06-30-2011, 04:42 AM
Atraxia & SailingUke -

Mahalo nui loa for the extra information about the aNueNue. I've been playing the Oahu now for about a week and a half, and I'm finding that the feel and sound is really growing on me. My initial reaction to the plingy sound may have been partially in response to my being accustomed to hearing Laka (my Luna), which, in comparison, sounds somewhat duller.

In any case, the more I play Lono (the aNueNue) the more I like it. Particularly given the fact that I got very, very lucky on the price and paid less than 1/3 of the retail cost. There's no way I would have ever found a solid koa uke at that cost.

Again, thanks for the extra info!

Dan Uke
06-30-2011, 07:14 AM
Atraxia & SailingUke -

Mahalo nui loa for the extra information about the aNueNue. I've been playing the Oahu now for about a week and a half, and I'm finding that the feel and sound is really growing on me. My initial reaction to the plingy sound may have been partially in response to my being accustomed to hearing Laka (my Luna), which, in comparison, sounds somewhat duller.

In any case, the more I play Lono (the aNueNue) the more I like it. Particularly given the fact that I got very, very lucky on the price and paid less than 1/3 of the retail cost. There's no way I would have ever found a solid koa uke at that cost.

Again, thanks for the extra info!

Less than a 1/3rd!!!! IT'S A KEEPER...WHAT A GREAT FIND!!!! Everything is a function of playability + price.

Ataraxia
06-30-2011, 10:43 AM
No worries! I'm happy you've been enjoying your new ukulele. It's always great to add another instrument to your collection. I want a wall full of ukuleles and guitars someday :D. I love stringed instruments.