Magic Flea sound

Sporky

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Hi all, I've perused the magic fluke company appreciation thread but I'm still not quite sure. I'd really like to get one - something very portable, resilient, well made, frankly cool design too. But I am very reticent because of the fear of plastic sound. I would like your thoughts on this. I'm in Canada and trying one is not possible.
The one plastic instrument I tried was a Flight travel soprano. It definitely did not sound good to me because of the plastic tone. I also couldn't stand the plastic neck and fret board - to be honest I could hardly believe all the good press it got. Granted they are very differently priced instruments and the fleas have an amazing reputation. I could and would also get the wooden fretboard.
At the same time, doesn't getting the fancier options of wooden fretboard and especially solid top somewhat negate the durability aspect afforded by the ABS body?
Oh yeah, I also wanted to ask if any of you replaced the tuners for rear pointing ones? If I got a Flea I would love to put Gotoh stealth tuners on it.

Thanks for your input!
 
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Dohle

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The tone of a Magic Fluke is somewhat unique, in my opinion. It does sound much more like a wooden uke than any other plastic uke (fully plastic or otherwise) but I don't think they quite have the typical depth and resonance of a fully wooden uke, laminate or solid wood. However, it also doesn't really have that typical echoey tone that many other plastic ukes have. Still, they're fairly expensive so if you're at all worried about the plastic body then I would maybe suggest trying a uke made out of HPL if you're looking for a resilient uke specifically.

If you decide to go for the Magic Fluke, however, then I would definitely consider the hardwood fretboard. The ABS fretboards are quite durable but I have seen several instances of some fairly noticeable wear on them. I had a really basic Flea that I would otherwise miss terribly but the plastic fretboard did put me off somewhat which is why I'm going to insist on a hardwood fretboard the next time I'm going to get another Magic Fluke. The solid wood top is something that I don't really get myself. To me, Magic Fluke ukes are the ultimate beater uke and I don't think solid wood fits that particular bill really. Admittedly, I haven't tried a solid wood top one myself but judging by sound samples they mostly add projection to the tone which is just superfluous in my opinion. The sound of a Magic Fluke is already fairly bright and punchy as it is so I would always just go with the laminate top myself.

Regarding the tuners, I've seen some people putting geared tuners on them so that shouldn't be an issue at all.
 

Pixiegod

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Well, I wouldn't go as far as saying the Magic Fluke Co has been around for a century, but a bit more than 20 years sounds right.

I was lucky to find a used concert Flea with a hardwood fretboard. I am very happy with it, play it every day. It is my only uke with Low-G, and I keep it next to my rotating High-G uke(s) in the living room.

I don't think you will regret getting a Flea or Fluke. I don't think it sounds like plastic at all. I recorded a Fingerpicking piece a year ago, if you want to check it out, look at https://soundcloud.com/user-837891883%2Fvincent-starry-starry-night to get an idea (playing is so so, but good enough to get an idea of the sound).

Let us know what you decided, curious.

Addit: Strings in the Sample are Worth Browns (BM-LG).
 
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mingus

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Fleas and Fluke are great, seriously, no need for hesitation!! I picked up the uke about (17) years ago, and have tried a ton of different sizes and makers. Fleas are among the best bang for the buck!!

I recently picked up a koa top Fluke from Penny Lane Emporium and put Gotoh Stealth tuners on it. The tuners are fantastic and look amazing too!!
 

ghostrdr

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I have a few expensive ukes, but my pineapple flea with wooden fretboard and Martin poly gut strings is my most often played uke! The flat bottom and durability means I can leave it at the office standing up and grab it whenever the mood strikes. It sounds great and is comfy and easy to play. Does it sound as good as a $3,000 Kamaka? No, of course not, but it sounds waaay better than an all plastic waterman, or kala, etc. is the sound comparable to an all laminate wood uke? It’s probably similar if not a touch better, but way easier to just leave out because it can stand on its end. Good luck!
 

acmespaceship

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People forget that Fleas/Flukes are hybrids. The back and sides are indeed plastic, but the soundboard is laminated wood (or solid wood if you choose that option). Fleas sound more like wood ukes because they are (partially) wood ukes. Listening to clips online is not going to tell you exactly how a Flea will sound in your hands, but it's better than nothing.

There are so many options at Magic Fluke, you have to ask yourself why are you buying this uke? For a durable beater, and for people who are cost conscious, a standard no-frills Flea is a great instrument at a great price. I don't mind friction tuners and I'm fine with the plastic fretboard, but some folks won't be happy without upgrading those. A solid-wood top seems like gilding the lily, but I've been tempted. At some point, you've added so many features that you're playing a serious mid-priced uke, which is great if that's what you want to buy.

FWIW, after playing my faithful Fluke for 20 years (bought when there were no options) I got a new Fluke with wood fretboard, side sound port and pickup. A sea turtle on the soundhole because I couldn't help myself. I stuck with friction tuners and opted not to get a solid top. I love it unconditionally. That's just one player's opinion.

If you can find a used Flea, with or without a wood fretboard, that would be a safe purchase. It should be easy to re-sell if you don't like it.
 

UkingViking

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My Magic Fluke instrument is the souped up Koa tenor with all the upgrades, so I can't really speak for the plastic fretboard models.

I bought for the non-traditional looks and the good reviews.

It is absolutely great soundwise. Part of me like it more than my more expensive aNueNue AMM3 tenor, for the lightness and, the quick response and the kind of timbre in the tone. It doesn't sound plastic, though the plastic back ir probably helping a lot with the projection.

If you are looking for cons for this, it is playbility, not sound. The kind of squared off neck profile, which is nor entirely smooth, kan be tricky. And the rounded plastic back is not ideal for straps nor strapless playing, and you need to come up wth a workaround. I managed to craft a decent pinless strap to solve the holding issue, but the neck still comes as a surprise when I havent played it for a while.
 

Pixiegod

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If you are looking for cons for this, it is playbility, not sound. The kind of squared off neck profile, which is nor entirely smooth, kan be tricky. And the rounded plastic back is not ideal for straps nor strapless playing, and you need to come up wth a workaround. I managed to craft a decent pinless strap to solve the holding issue, but the neck still comes as a surprise when I havent played it for a while.
Just my subjective 2 cents: I find the neck super easy to play -- the nice action helps me fly over the fretboard, and I find other, more pricey ukes harder to play.

As you can see in the picture in my sound bit post above, I have a strap too. It is an official flea strap that you can buy in the Magic Fluke shop, albeit a bit hidden. They even made an installation vid (I believe even at my request, tells you something about the service), because the documentation was a bit spotty on that. You attach a velcro strip to the body, and you can attach a strap on it which also has a velcro part. The other end, you tie to the headstock. It holds very well, never had any complaints with it. The velcro strip can be removed again without any residue.

 
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VegasGeorge

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I don't understand the interest in these Fleas and Flukes. The prices are right up there with nice laminate wood Ukuleles, which I think sound a lot better. At least the good ones do. I think people may be more attracted to the colors and odd shapes than they are to the musical qualities of the instruments. If so, that detracts from the image of the Ukulele as a serious, bona fide musical instrument, and tends to bolster a public perception of the Ukulele as a toy or novelty instrument. If that's the case, I don't like it.
 
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Pixiegod

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@VegasGeorge : I can only speak for myself -- I don't care much about the look and shape of a uke; for me, the playability and sound comes first. If the looks match up, even better.
I consider myself a serious player, and I also own Ko'aloha, Martin, aNueNue, Brüko, to name a few. And still, I like my Flea a lot. It just plays very well and to me, sounds good too. Granted, the Fleas and Flukes are quite pricey, and you might find other ukes for the same price that you might like better. That is for everybody to decide on their own. I don't think it is right to put a Flea on the same level as a , say, Populele. Perhaps you never played a properly set up Flea or Fluke, my suspicion is you would come to a different conclusion.
 

Bill Sheehan

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Hi Sporky, I have owned several Flukes and Fleas in the soprano, concert and tenor scales, and I've always felt that the sweetest sounding of them all were the standard-issue concert-scale Fleas (poly fretboard, standard friction tuners).

I currently have a soprano Flea, but I must say, the extra scale length afforded by the "concert" scale results in just the right amount of string tension for a really nice "feel" and tone (assuming we're tuned in "gCEA").

On my soprano-scale Flea, the gCEA tuning just feels slightly "loose" to me, and the intonation not quite as precise as I'd like it to be, although still acceptable.

To be fair, I have never tried the wooden fretboard or the upgraded tuners. But having said that, a basic "concert-scale Flea" gets my vote! I've had two of them, and passed them on to friends, both of whom commented on what a nice feel and voice they had!
 

tm3

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I am really intrigued by the Magic Fluke and seriously considered buying one as a starter uke. I'll pass along what I came up with from my research.

There are a lot of MF lovers, but there are also some who don't much care for them. I didn't come across any complaints about the tone. The most common criticism I saw was that they are difficult to hold both because of the slick plastic body and because of the odd shape. Next most common was that once the wooden fret board is added and the tuners are upgraded, one has gotten the price into the range of others ukes that are just better instruments.

One reviewer stated that the Flight was similar enough that the MF was not worth the price differential.

I still think that they are very cool instruments and I like the business model so MF is still on my radar, but I would definitely have to try one before buying.
 

hendulele

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My soprano Flea with koa top and wood fretboard lives beside my sofa. it sounds resonant and a bit rounder than my two special sopranos (a Depression-era Gibson and a Ken Timms), but they’re meant to sound like classic sopranos. The Flea is a great player that doesn’t need babying.

My Firefly concert banjolele is a delight as well.

The neck profile on the MFC instruments is awesome. The zero fret makes intonation spot on. Love what they do!
 

Ed1

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I bought a fluke 16 years ago. It was the only uke I owned for 5 years. After I bought a K-brand uke, the fluke stood next to my desk for the next 10 years for a quick noodle. I donated it last year to a good cause. I would agree with all the positive comments about it's sound, especially Dohle's.
I would add a couple of cons to the list. First, as I aged, the fretboard became more difficult to see in a darker room. Paying for a non-plastic fretboard would be a good idea. Second, and probably peculiar to me, I never was fond of the way the back felt and "fitted" against me. I know that's a weird one, but thought I would mention it. Good luck deciding!
 

merlin666

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It was some time ago but I spotted one in a store and checked it out. Overall I had low expectation but was pleasantly surprised that I really liked the way it played and sounded. The plastic fretboard was not great, and the price too high for me to pick it up though. I have to admit that I love Ovation guitars, so I sure liked the body of the flea or fluke.
 
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mjh42

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The first time I really noodled around with a Flea was on a poorly lit porch on a dark autumn evening......hard to see the dark fretboard......I went with a wood fret board and a solid top with I got my Fluke.....no regrets....
 

M3Ukulele

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A few comments. I like the playing dada. Very nice . I like the sound of that ukulele a lot. I see from edit you are using worth Browns. Very nice. I have a Fluke tenor. It doesn’t sound as nice as yours with any strings. I upgraded to pegheds. That was a good move. Doing it again, I get the wooden fretboard for sure. I still may send mine in for an upgrade. I like the durability but want a better sound out of mine, mahogany laminate/ poly fretboard!

the Poly fretboard is hard to see and frets wear. a fully loaded fluke or flea is expensive but they have a huge following. I never thought about concert, tension and the sweet spot comment before. I play tenor.

I don’t think you can go wrong. I go in and out of playing my Fluke tenor. It’s by my couch. I have six tenor and and a lot more expensive and cheaper.

do you think Flea body shape sounds better than Fluke shape? Just curious.
 

ksiegel

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When Magic Fluke moved to Sheffield, MA, I was one of the first (if not the first) customers in the not completely finished shop. I played every instrument that was for sale, and played two of the Firefly prototypes (The instrument wasn't for sale yet.) I even played a Timber bass prototype.

I ended up buying a Tenor Fluke with Peghed tuners, wooden fretboard, and pickup - it was a 2nd, because the battery had come loose during shipping, fell out of the holder, and broke one of the battery wires. With the Gator hard shell case, I think I paid around $350. Worth very penny.

And I don't have any problem paying it without a strap while standing.

I also ordered a Firefly with Peghed tuners while I was there, because they wouldn't let me buy either of the prototypes.

I'd do it again. I've got ukes that cost more, and ukes that cost less, and love 'em all.


-Kurt
 

UkeStuff

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I do own a Magic Fluke, which I will not be selling as I am currently “thinning the herd” on Facebook Marketplace (I find Facebook‘s fees and shipping to be favorable to any other method).

The Fluke and Flea deserve every bit of praise that they receive, but I do find the neck shape uncomfortable (very square and wide).

I have a Flight TUC model that I bought and will be reviewing soon, and had a person ask for a comparison. These are about as close of instruments as you will find; I think the Magic Fluke has a better sound, and I like the tuners and shape of the neck of the Flight TUC better.

The big question: does the Fluke sound (at least) $215 (in many cases, much more) better than the Flight?

I don’t think so…but then again, Magic Fluke is an American company that sources as much of the ukuleles in the United States as they can and Magic Fluke has a long track record of quality customer service and support of the ukulele community as a whole (not to mention their relationship with Jim Beloff).

If a $275-$450 price tag for a (in part) plastic bodied ukulele causes you to hesitate…get a Flight TUC, TUSL, or TUS. If you think that $275-$450 isn’t that much to pay for a very good instrument AND you like the neck shape…get a Fluke or Flea. Or if you‘re fortunate, you can own both!
 
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badhabits

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I've had both, and currently own neither. The flea had some "shortcomings" as previously mentioned (fretboard, tuners) and sometimes I think about getting another one, with upgrades. But with all the bells and whistles it's hard to stomach spending $400-450+ on a partially plastic uke, esp when a completely "bombproof" alternative is available for much less (outdoor, and yes I also want a concert; btw, I'd say these 2 have fairly similar neck profiles, talking about the 2nd gen outdoor, and that's not a bad thing). The sound of the flea and flight were comparable imo, *maybe* the flea sounded slightly better (strings?) and it was a much better quality instrument overall (yeah, no surprise given the price difference). In comparison the flight felt kinda cheap to me- (too) heavy, short frets, a dot that fell off, a strap button (that would never get used) was installed very crooked- but again, not really a surprise given the price tag. Even with that, I'm not sure I'd ever consider getting another.
 
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