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View Full Version : NUD - 2013 Blackbird Clara (Concert - eKoa)



cigarfan
01-04-2014, 04:35 AM
There are many occasions I find myself reluctant to carry my high-end ukes with me for a jam or outdoor event. Call me paranoid but I just don't want anything to happen to them especially by someone elses "accident" or environmental changes. As many of you are aware, Blackbird Guitars recently announced a new concert to be released in November 2013 and I saw it as a perfect opportunity to add a go anywhere, sound really good uke to my collection and the rest, as they say, is history.

http://home.comcast.net/~dglair/pwpimages/blackbird-clara-BG-10.jpg

http://home.comcast.net/~dglair/pwpimages/blackbird-clara-BG-08.jpg

Joe Luttwak, CMO at Blackbird says, "We have spent the better part of a decade developing small, travel-friendly, carbon-fiber instruments sporting world class tone. With the Clara, musicians get what was previously unobtainable -- the experience of a vintage old-growth wood instrument in a lightweight, durable, and sustainable package."

Joe Luttwak at the release party - 19 November 2013
http://home.comcast.net/~dglair/pwpimages/blackbird-clara-BG-11.jpg

The Making of the Blackbird Clara (concert) Ukulele
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4MJrqP9fnLQ

I am indeed enjoying this uke. It fits my purposes precisely. With my other hobby (hand rolled cigars) I am banished to the out-of-doors to smoke and I wanted to multi-task the hour spent enjoying a cigar with a little uke practice as well. Now I can without fear of damage to my uke (smoke or temp/humidity). Without the strings I think this thing may be dishwasher safe (just kidding)!

I have a/b'd my Kanile'a concert (only other concert I have) and the Blackbird Clara.

Sound
As expected, the Kanile'a sounds better but surprisingly, the Clara has a nice woody sound, full and rich. Nothing plastic about it. In fact, the hype about vintage tone is true. A nice mature wood sound. Sustain is excellent. I have mine strung with Oasis strings in lowG (wound) and the bass is awesome. Joe, very kindly, included a highG string for me in case I changed my mind which I will try before long. Volume and projection acoustically are very good. Intonation is not quite perfect especially above the 12th fret but, in fairness, the strings are still stretching so the verdict is still out on that but it seems to be getting better with each passing day. And unique to the Clara, the neck is hollow so sound comes out of the headstock (where a TRC would be). Unusual to say the least. good_uke_boy also received his Clara and recorded these two sound clips. Thanks Kevin for saving me from embarrassment.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_2t6ysC9Xc
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hiTrpTxqOEs

Corey Fujimoto of HMS (https://player.vimeo.com/video/82995822)

Playability
Physically, the uke is nicely balanced, light (1.2 lbs) and easy to hold. I like the feel of the C shaped neck but the Richlite fretboard looks to be flat (no radius) and barre chords are a little harder to get smoothly ... just a little. 12 frets to the body make it a little more difficult to get to the 15th fret. I'm not in that territory very often (yet).

Specs
Model: Blackbird Clara
Top: Ekoa natural composite
Neck Material: Ekoa natural composite
Neck Shape: C shape
Neck Reinforcement: Composite assembly
Nut Material: Graphtech Tusq
Headstock: Ekoa natural composite
Fretboard Material: Richlite
Scale Length: 15"
Fretwire: Nickel silver
Number of Frets to the Body: 12
Number of Frets Total: 17
Fretboard Width at Nut: 1.4"
Fretboard Width 12th Fret: 1 3/4"
Fretboard Side Markers: 5, 7, 10, 12
Bridge: Richlite
Bridge String Spacing: 1.6"
Saddle: Graphtech
Tuning Machines: Gotoh
Case: Access soft case
Electronics: Optional Mi-Si Pickup
Finish: Natural matte
Dimensions: 24" x 7.75" x 3"
Weight: 1.2 lbs

cigarfan
01-04-2014, 04:35 AM
My pics

http://home.comcast.net/~dglair/pwpimages/blackbird-clara-01.jpg

http://home.comcast.net/~dglair/pwpimages/blackbird-clara-02.jpg

http://home.comcast.net/~dglair/pwpimages/blackbird-clara-03.jpg

http://home.comcast.net/~dglair/pwpimages/blackbird-clara-04.jpg

cigarfan
01-04-2014, 04:36 AM
http://home.comcast.net/~dglair/pwpimages/blackbird-clara-05.jpg

http://home.comcast.net/~dglair/pwpimages/blackbird-clara-12.jpg

http://home.comcast.net/~dglair/pwpimages/blackbird-clara-06.jpg

http://home.comcast.net/~dglair/pwpimages/blackbird-clara-07.jpg

cigarfan
01-04-2014, 04:36 AM
http://home.comcast.net/~dglair/pwpimages/blackbird-clara-08.jpg

http://home.comcast.net/~dglair/pwpimages/blackbird-clara-09.jpg

http://home.comcast.net/~dglair/pwpimages/blackbird-clara-10.jpg

http://home.comcast.net/~dglair/pwpimages/blackbird-clara-11.jpg

ukulelearp
01-04-2014, 09:01 AM
Very cool. Does it feel more like wood or carbon fiber? I know it's a plant-based composite but I'm curious if it has any grain to mimic the koa.

good_uke_boy
01-05-2014, 06:19 AM
Does it feel more like wood or carbon fiber? I know it's a plant-based composite but I'm curious if it has any grain to mimic the koa.

In my opinion, the top feels like a different material when compared with the back, sides, and neck. To me, the top feels very wood-like. In contrast, the back, sides, and neck feel smooth and solid, and perhaps a bit more like carbon fiber. Overall, the instrument feels very solid.

I own a lot of nice instruments. More than I should: Collings, Santa Cruz, Pohaku, KoAloha, Kamaka. I really like this Blackbird!

katysax
01-05-2014, 07:03 AM
In my opinion, the top feels like a different material when compared with the back, sides, and neck. To me, the top feels very wood-like. In contrast, the back, sides, and neck feel smooth and solid, and perhaps a bit more like carbon fiber. Overall, the instrument feels very solid.

I own a lot of nice instruments. More than I should: Collings, Santa Cruz, Pohaku, KoAloha, Kamaka. I really like this Blackbird!

To me the question is: since you have experience with some great ukes - is this Blackbird a great uke "for a travel uke" or is it just a great uke. I've never seen or played one, and I'm curious.

good_uke_boy
01-05-2014, 08:56 AM
To me the question is: since you have experience with some great ukes - is this Blackbird a great uke "for a travel uke" or is it just a great uke. I've never seen or played one, and I'm curious.

Great question. To try to answer it, I just played 5 concerts: Collings Mahogany UC2, Santa Cruz Mahogany 1929, Pohaku cedar/mahogany, KoAloha KCM-00 (koa), and Blackbird Clara. Played them in sequential and then in random order.

The 4 solid wood instruments are all great. The Collings is sweet, punchy, and light as a feather. The Santa Cruz is warm, resonant, and heavier. The Pohaku is bright, whimsical, and fun to play. The KoAloha is loud, light, bright, and has great note separation.

I think the Blackbird Clara is equally great, and not just as a travel player. It's heavier than the Collings, Pohaku, or KoAloha. Feels about the same weight-wise as the Santa Cruz. Clara also feels really solid. Clara is loud like the KoAloha but warm and resonant like the Santa Cruz. Maybe not quite as sweet sounding (to the player) as the Collings or Santa Cruz, but that might be due to Clara's offset sound-hole and wound low-g. (My other ukes are strung with fluorocarbons, the Collings and Pohaku with non-wound low-g.)

Ukulele Eddie
01-05-2014, 09:11 AM
I own a lot of nice instruments. More than I should: Collings, Santa Cruz, Pohaku, KoAloha, Kamaka. I really like this Blackbird!

Did you also spec your low G or is it re-entrant? If the former, do you intend to try it gCEA?

good_uke_boy
01-05-2014, 09:27 AM
Did you also spec your low G or is it re-entrant? If the former, do you intend to try it gCEA?

Actually, I made no requests related to strings. Low G seems to be their default setup. (I ordered directly from Blackbird's web site.) Not sure yet about experimenting with other strings. If I do, I'll probably try a non-wound low G first.

Ipcmlr
01-05-2014, 10:04 AM
Great question. To try to answer it, I just played 5 concerts: Collings Mahogany UC2, Santa Cruz Mahogany 1929, Pohaku cedar/mahogany, KoAloha KCM-00 (koa), and Blackbird Clara. Played them in sequential and then in random order.

The 4 solid wood instruments are all great. The Collings is sweet, punchy, and light as a feather. The Santa Cruz is warm, resonant, and heavier. The Pohaku is bright, whimsical, and fun to play. The KoAloha is loud, light, bright, and has great note separation.

I think the Blackbird Clara is equally great, and not just as a travel player. It's heavier than the Collings, Pohaku, or KoAloha. Feels about the same weight-wise as the Santa Cruz. Clara also feels really solid. Clara is loud like the KoAloha but warm and resonant like the Santa Cruz. Maybe not quite as sweet sounding (to the player) as the Collings or Santa Cruz, but that might be due to Clara's offset sound-hole and wound low-g. (My other ukes are strung with fluorocarbons, the Collings and Pohaku with non-wound low-g.)

That's saying something as those 4 are probably what people on this forum consider as the best concerts money can buy...

good_uke_boy
01-05-2014, 10:48 AM
That's saying something as those 4 are probably what people on this forum consider as the best concerts money can buy...

I agree. But I'm sure my ears are not as educated as those of others on this forum. (I've only been playing for a couple of years.) Please don't spend your $'s based only on my comments. Please do your own research on and test drives of this instrument. Or speak with the fellows at HMS, who seemed to have had one:
http://theukulelereview.com/2013/12/31/blackbird-ukulele-the-clara-concert/

Can't find a Clara available for sale on right now theukulelesite.com. I saw one there the other day.

cigarfan
01-05-2014, 12:41 PM
I really like the sound from this uke on its own merits. I wouldn't say it is my favorite uke but right up there with top end. It will probably be played more than the others in the winter months as I can leave it out on the stand for easy access. And no doubt will be the uke I travel with.

As you could hear on Pat's sound samples the Clara has good volume and projection. It had no trouble competing with the guitar.

There's no doubt this one is a good value. Those of mine that I like better we're considerably more expensive.

ukulelearp
01-05-2014, 01:20 PM
Is it especially loud? I realize there's a big difference between the two, but my koa Fluke is way louder than my other tenors, I imagine because of the polycarbonate back.

Doc_J
01-05-2014, 02:28 PM
Thanks Dennis and Patrick for the pictures and sound samples. The Clara sounds very good, and the rustic/vintage/organic look of eKoa is very appealing.

mm stan
01-05-2014, 05:01 PM
62710 This is a Sweet uke... :)

hawaii 50
01-05-2014, 05:41 PM
62710 This is a Sweet uke... :)

Did you buy it or just look at it...haha?
the Clara one had an unbelievable tone though!!!

cigarfan
01-06-2014, 01:36 AM
Is it especially loud? I realize there's a big difference between the two, but my koa Fluke is way louder than my other tenors, I imagine because of the polycarbonate back.

The Clara has very good volume and projection. It is definitely louder than most I have when played side by side acoustically.

Booli
01-06-2014, 02:29 AM
@cigarfan

Thank you for the review and extended picture set.

I am a fan of Blackbird and I have been watching the news and development on this one for a while.

It looks like yours came with a pickup installed as per the endpin jack, is this true? Does it have the Mi-Si pickup?

I would like to ask if you would be so kind as to make a short sound demo with the pickup, that would be really helpful in judging the amplified tone.

-Booli

cigarfan
01-06-2014, 03:04 AM
@cigarfan

Thank you for the review and extended picture set.

I am a fan of Blackbird and I have been watching the news and development on this one for a while.

It looks like yours came with a pickup installed as per the endpin jack, is this true? Does it have the Mi-Si pickup?

I would like to ask if you would be so kind as to make a short sound demo with the pickup, that would be really helpful in judging the amplified tone.

-Booli

Indeed, my Clara has the MiSi pickup installed. I'll be glad to record a sample using the pickup and my Zoom HN4. I'll make one dry and then enhance the heck out it in another copy just for fun.

Booli
01-06-2014, 03:14 AM
Indeed, my Clara has the MiSi pickup installed. I'll be glad to record a sample using the pickup and my Zoom HN4. I'll make one dry and then enhance the heck out it in another copy just for fun.

That would be great. I am looking forward to it whenever you have time.

Thank You,

-Booli

Skinny Money McGee
01-06-2014, 04:06 AM
Thanks for the review Dennis, excellent photos once again !

blowery
01-06-2014, 10:30 AM
Thanks for the review.

I really want to get a Clara. I really like my Collings but I want the "less worry" with a Clara when I take it out/camping/outdoors. Any takers for a Collings Trade?

Edgeguy
01-06-2014, 02:12 PM
Thanks for the review and photos. I have always been interested in Blackbird guitars. The one carbon fiber guitar I played was very bright and "tinny" sounding. I know the Clara is not carbon fiber but is its sound similar to a wood uke or more like a plastic uke?

cigarfan
01-06-2014, 02:43 PM
Thanks for the review and photos. I have always been interested in Blackbird guitars. The one carbon fiber guitar I played was very bright and "tinny" sounding. I know the Clara is not carbon fiber but is its sound similar to a wood uke or more like a plastic uke?

It has a nice woody sound. A mature woody sound and hence the claim of vintage tone. I really like the tone. The only thing that bothers me is the slick rounded back. Holding it is a little tricky.

cigarfan
01-12-2014, 05:25 AM
@cigarfan

Thank you for the review and extended picture set.

I am a fan of Blackbird and I have been watching the news and development on this one for a while.

It looks like yours came with a pickup installed as per the endpin jack, is this true? Does it have the Mi-Si pickup?

I would like to ask if you would be so kind as to make a short sound demo with the pickup, that would be really helpful in judging the amplified tone.

-Booli

Here you go ... first recording is dry thru a Zoom HN4 (http://home.comcast.net/~dglair/pwpimages/Clara-MiSi-ZoomHN4-dry.mp3) ... second is the same recording but I enhanced a bit just for fun. (http://home.comcast.net/~dglair/pwpimages/Clara-MiSi-ZoomHN4-enhanced.mp3)

Enjoy!

therinkydinktink
01-12-2014, 06:02 AM
Sounds really nice to me.:drool::drool:

Booli
01-12-2014, 06:31 AM
Here you go ... first recording is dry thru a Zoom HN4 (http://home.comcast.net/~dglair/pwpimages/Clara-MiSi-ZoomHN4-dry.mp3) ... second is the same recording but I enhanced a bit just for fun. (http://home.comcast.net/~dglair/pwpimages/Clara-MiSi-ZoomHN4-enhanced.mp3)

Enjoy!

Thanks for posting these. That sounds very nice and definitely better than I had hoped being that the whole uke is made from this new eKoa material.

It has a very balanced sound. What strings do you have on there?

-Booli

cigarfan
01-12-2014, 06:54 AM
Thanks for posting these. That sounds very nice and definitely better than I had hoped being that the whole uke is made from this new eKoa material.

It has a very balanced sound. What strings do you have on there?

-Booli

It is currently strung LowG with Oasis strings (exactly as it was shipped from Blackbird). I have a high G string to put on but I kinda like it the way it is.

KentSantaBarbara
01-12-2014, 05:48 PM
Awwwww, Thank you for the sound recordings. I've been anxiously waiting. I'm in the que to get a Clara. I do a lot of traveling to a variety of climates and I've been wondering which Blackbird to buy, tenor or Clara. I'm partial to concert size. I've played the tenor and was very impressed. And I was hoping the Clara sound quality was as good.

If anyone has experience with both the tenor and the Clara, I would love to know how they compare.

hawaii 50
01-12-2014, 06:48 PM
Awwwww, Thank you for the sound recordings. I've been anxiously waiting. I'm in the que to get a Clara. I do a lot of traveling to a variety of climates and I've been wondering which Blackbird to buy, tenor or Clara. I'm partial to concert size. I've played the tenor and was very impressed. And I was hoping the Clara sound quality was as good.

If anyone has experience with both the tenor and the Clara, I would love to know how they compare.



I played both New Blackbirds and the New Clara that Andrew had at HMS....
the Clara sounded really warm and had a deep tone...sounded like a real nice broken in uke....

the Blackbirds were not as warm...but was still nice.....
the Clara was sold the day he put them on his website..and the 2 Blackbirds might be sold already...have not seen them around...

good_uke_boy
01-16-2014, 05:16 AM
Clara and Martin S-O played back to back by someone from L.A. Guitar Sales:
http://youtu.be/iVI1E931hSA

good_uke_boy
02-24-2014, 02:45 AM
I bought that one :)

How do you like it?

PTOEguy
01-18-2015, 03:38 AM
Is it especially loud? I realize there's a big difference between the two, but my koa Fluke is way louder than my other tenors, I imagine because of the polycarbonate back.

Yes it is loud - I played one back to back with my Flea - and it was notably louder. However, it doesn't sound like it is working hard for that volume. It was both louder and mellower than the Flea. A Fluke is marginally louder/richer sounding than a Flea (my son has a fluke), and the Clara was much louder.

The dealer I was looking at says that Blackbird considers it one of their loudest, if not the loudest instrument they make, guitars included.