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Thread: Romero Creations Tiny Tenor "Affordable" (~$269) Version - Review

  1. #1
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    Thumbs up Romero Creations Tiny Tenor "Affordable" (~$269) Version - Review

    I just bought one of the "affordable" Tiny Tenors (Solid Sitka Spruce top, laminate mahogany sides and back), and I'm very happy with it. These lower-cost versions are made in Vietnam and QCed by Romero Creations. Based on what I've heard (and evidenced by this instrument), Vietnamese factories seem to be matching (or outpacing) the Chinese factories in terms of quality right now—and this factory was supposedly chosen by Romero based on their ability to realize his very specific design requirements. As far as I can tell, this "affordable" version differs from the more expensive $499 Tiny Tenor in the following ways: laminate instead of solid body and sides, slightly deeper body shape that the higher-end models (to compensate for any loss of resonance from the laminate sides and back, I assume); mahogany instead of ebony headstock, and laser-etched instead of abalone inlay DH (Daniel Ho) signature on headstock. Might be some other differences, but these are the obvious ones...

    As several people have observed with Romero Creation ukes, the intonation is spot-on along the length of the fingerboard. Sustain in amazing (although the C string has a bit less sustain at the 5th and 6th frets). These notes seem to be opening up a bit the more I play the instrument, and they're not very noticeable now (although I might also be adapting to the instrument...!). The thing sounds great--very bright, clear, and loud. Mine is strung high-g, but it came from Romero Creations with Pepe Romero low-g (wound) and his own custom-branded fluorocarbons. The thing sounds amazing with Pepe Romero wound low-g, btw-- huge sustain with a great full bass note. [Note: I decided the sound was a bit too bright with the high-g strings, so I went back to the original low-g setup using Pepe Romero strings. I think this spruce-top really benefits from low-g to balance out the brightness. Always sounded good, but with low-g it's something quite special. And if you're a fingerpicker, there's no question--low-g].

    Tuners are matte black and very cool looking and functional (I heard they are Grover, but unbranded). Instrument has a bound fretboard--a fine-grained lighter brown wood, with fret side markers in all the right places. 17" tenor scale, 14 frets to the body (16 total). Through the bridge strings (very clean looking and easy to change). Saddle and nut are real bone, and saddle is compensated. Black binding with thin white line. The only bling is a very very pretty and well-executed abalone rosette outlined in black. Seems to be a slight bit of neck relief near the center of the fretboard (maybe 1/100th). I assume that's intentional, and not a slight bow...

    As for construction, the instrument is feather-weight and lightly built (which probably accounts for the great intonation and resonance). Lovely simple satin finish on the entire body. The internal construction is pretty clean (no glue marks). Pepe uses a 3-fan bracing method on back, and on mine the center back brace seems to run at a slight diagonal down the centerline of the instrument (meaning it doesn't meet the tail block at the center, but to one side). Not sure if this is intentional or not, but it certainly doesn't affect the sound, so I'm not concerned. Other than that, nice build all around. One niggle is the label inside the body—it's a black and white thick gloss paper "Romero Creations Tiny Tenor" label that, to my eyes, looks a bit tacky. The pyroengraved wood label in the ~$500 versions looks much nicer.

    Fit and finish is pretty good. The satin finish looks great, but in oblique light I can see that there is some unevenness—some areas are a bit more satin, while others are a bit glossier. Only visible under very specific lighting conditions. No glue marks inside body. The head block had an ugly number stamped in ink on the out-facing surface—I'd have expected the builder to reverse this so the clean side faced out. A bit of light sanding cleaned it right up, though. Some very minor glue smears on fretboard (only visible under oblique lighting)--cleaned these up with some light razor-blade work, and now it looks pristine. All in all, a few more build-related aesthetic issues than I expected, but all are minor (and most were easily remedied). My Kala ukes seem all looked a bit more "clean" from the factor, but I suppose the issues noted on the Tiny Tenor might be chalked up to first-run issue... As mentioned, none affect playability, intonation, or durability—all of which are excellent.

    When played, the thing feels alive. It pulses, vibrates, and feels like it's living--much more so than any other uke I've played. Jason Arimoto at U-Space played it for me (he's an amazing uke player!) and showed me just what this instrument can do in the right hands, and I was blown away with the clarity and projection of the sound. The large single bout construction produces the purest notes I've heard on a ukulele, with none of the odd harmonic overtones that are sometimes generated by the typical uke shape. This, along with the slightly increased string spacing makes it great for finger picking as well as strumming. Also, the wide-bout body makes it really comfortable to hold and play, and allows for a much more comfortable and natural hand/arm position than most concert scale instruments offer.

    Came with a nice Romero Creations-branded nylon/polyfoam case that is perfectly fitted to the instrument's paddle shape, and offers a lot of protection. Will also fit in most standard concert size gig bags (but not hard cases). I bought a Road Runner gig bag from Guitar Center and it fits like a glove. As I said, I'm very impressed with the quality and sound of this instrument, especially at this price point (~$269 case included). When you consider that you would pay ~$80 - $100 for a decent hard case, it become apparent that you can get a nice Romero Creations Tiny Tenor for basically the same cost as a cheap Cordoba or Lanikai plus an add-on hard case. Pretty amazing deal, imo!

    These can be a bit hard to find right now, but U-Space in Little Tokyo (Los Angeles) carries them. I think they're also in-stock and available from Uke Republic and The Ukulele Site (great price there, btw). I highly recommend this instrument--I'm sure it will be very popular, assuming people can get over the unusual shape!

    RATINGS:

    Features: 10/10
    Nice overall package, with some innovative features such as body size and shape, through the bridge strings, nice tuners, understated finish, and included polyfoam case.

    Sound: 9/10
    Great sound! Loud, perfect intonation, 2 notes with small lack of sustain. Not really noticeable, and the two "low sustain" notes seem to be opening up a bit with playing

    Action:9/10
    Very good out of the box-- had the a string lowered a bit at the nut. I can fret even tough chords on this, without much effort.

    Fit & Finish: 8/10
    Satin finish seems delicate and came somewhat uneven -- some areas on the soundboard are a bit more satiny than others in oblique light. As for construction, tne back brace seems to run at a slight angle--not sure if this is typical of Romero fan bracing or not... Also, the head block had a stamped number facing out--might be an inventory number, but seems to be a part identifier code. Should have been glued in so that the number was hidden on the back of the block. Sanded it off, and it looks great. Very minor glue smear on fretboard, easily removed by scraping *very* gently with razor blade--looks perfect now. Body is very light and resonant--perhaps a benefit of the seemingly thin but very hard satin coat. All these flaws are acceptable for a production instrument, I suppose... (that said, my Kalas seem to require *no* cleanup work...)

    Reliability/Durability: 9/10
    Well-built, should last forever. Finish seems delicate, but this is the nature of the beast with a light and resonant satin spruce top...

    Customer Support: X/10
    No experience with this

    Overall Rating: 9/10
    Great deal for the money! The only reason I don't rate it a 10 are the small imperfections in the finish and the aforementioned angled back brace. No impact on sound (and only noticeable if you're really scrutinizing the instrument). Really pleased with this instrument. Sounds and plays like a much more expensive instrument, but affordable enough to be a "beater" you can travel with... So far, this uke has proven to be my favorite--really, the best all-around instrument I've played.

    _____________________________________________

    Current Uke Stable:

    Soprano:
    Kala travel uke (spruce & mahogany) (KA-SSTU)
    Concert:
    Kala Pacific Walnut (KA-PWC)
    Tenor:
    Romero Creations Tiny Tenor (Spruce & Mahogany)
    Kala Spruce-Ovangkol (KA-ASOV-T)

    Beginning uke player with early onset UAS. Just getting started...!
    Last edited by neo1022; 08-12-2017 at 08:18 PM.

  2. #2
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    Great review thank you for posting. I'm considering one as we speak. Curious about comment about e string having less sustain at the 3rd and 4th frets. Is it a thud or more dead sounding note? Did you get a chance to play a few examples of this model? If so did any of them have the slightly less sustain in the same are?

    I really like spruce top and looks and sounds like a real value. Any chance of posting a sound sample?

    The size and whole concept is great. Trying to decide if all solid wood or solid top/laminate fits my needs

  3. #3
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    Hi M3ukulele -- The slight lack of sustain sounds like a *very* slightly dead note (intonation perfect, but somewhat shorter sustain than E1,2 and 5+), but only when thumbing it downward as a single note. When played finger style (with nail and smooth release, down or up) or in chords, it's not noticeable at all. And when playing at normal speed, it's undetectable. I tried one other TT, and it had the same characteristics.

    Crucial for me was that the instrument has none of the E string "thuddiness" you often hear on spruce (especially with Aquila string--this has Romero's branded strings, which are La Bella Pros--quite nice on this body). To my ear, the brightness of the spruce when strung high-g makes this sound much more like a nice concert--all the shimmery brightness is preserved. With low-g, it's something else altogether--deep, resonant base notes, with shimmery highs, but all very well balanced.

    Not setup for a sound sample (and you really don't want to hear me play!). I'm sure some sound clips will be appearing (have you checked Ukulele Site? They usually post sound clips, and they have this one in at the best price I've seen...).

    Personally, I'd go for the laminate sides/body. The cost of the laminate body is half of the all-solid body (and since the sound top is solid, the impact on sound is probably negligible). I'd say this one—at $255-$270 with case—is the sweet spot for if value for money is important to you. Once you level up to the $500+ ukes, you're at a level with lots of other nice instruments. And the $500 version is still a "production" instrument. Custom will cost $2000+ I think.

    I heard that the early "affordable" production models were set up by Pepe himself here in California, but I can't verify that. In any case, the action was perfect out of the box, and it's the easiest-playing tenor I've seen. I did have the a string lowered at the nut just a tad to make Bb and a few other chords a bit easier...

  4. #4
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    I got one of these from The Ukulele Site based on this review. I have some nice ukes including KoAloha and a Mya Moe tenors to compare with and I agree, it's a great instrument. Very easy to play and extraordinarily resonate.

  5. #5
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    tiny tenor front.jpg
    This is "our" Tiny Tenor, my spouse bought it used from a friend. It's the $500 one, we got it for $350 because of two small nicks in the finish we saw her put in it with her car keys.
    Your review is right on. This is one of the nicest sounding ukes I've ever played, and the only tenor I enjoy playing. The A string broke while I was picking it one day, so we replaced it with an Aquila that was lying around. It's all gloss, even the back of the neck, but the gloss doesn't slow my hand down.
    I love it, and would never want to sell it.
    "Those who bring sunshine and laughter to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves".

    Music washes from the soul, the dust of everyday living.

  6. #6
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    Enjoyed the informative review, @neo1022. I saw these at NAMM and was quite impressed. So glad to read your comments which are based on actually having one to spend time with.

    P.S. Noticed you spend some time in LA. I'm in Santa Monica.
    More an appreciator of the ukulele than a true player. My motto is: "Don't matter how good it ring if it ain't got some bling."

    Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.—Voltaire

    Curious about the relative importance of tonewood vs. the luthier? See Luthiers for a Cause to learn more!

  7. #7
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    Just got my Tiny Tenor Mahogany Uke! 20170726_154811.jpg

    Wow. I am so impressed with it. Worth every penny.

    BTW, I'm in WLA

  8. #8
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    Hey Eddie, I split time between Sydney (Australia) and Playa del Rey... So I'm around. I plan to make it to the Torrance Uke Festival in September...
    _____________________________________________

    Current Stable:

    Soprano:
    Kala travel uke (spruce & mahogany) (KA-SSTU)
    Concert:
    Romero Creations ST Concert (Spruce & Mahogany)
    Gold Tone Banjo Ukulele (BU-1) - Open Back
    Tenor:
    Romero Creations Tiny Tenor (Spruce & Mahogany)
    Kala Spruce-Ovangkol (KA-ASOV-T)
    Blackbird Farallon (Tobacco Sunburst)

    Banjos:
    Pisgah Dobson Rambler 12" pot

    PM me if you'd like to be in touch...

  9. #9
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    Sep 2016
    Location
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    Fantastic! Yours is the higher-end production model, right? Not so easy to find--where did you get it?
    _____________________________________________

    Current Stable:

    Soprano:
    Kala travel uke (spruce & mahogany) (KA-SSTU)
    Concert:
    Romero Creations ST Concert (Spruce & Mahogany)
    Gold Tone Banjo Ukulele (BU-1) - Open Back
    Tenor:
    Romero Creations Tiny Tenor (Spruce & Mahogany)
    Kala Spruce-Ovangkol (KA-ASOV-T)
    Blackbird Farallon (Tobacco Sunburst)

    Banjos:
    Pisgah Dobson Rambler 12" pot

    PM me if you'd like to be in touch...

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
    Location
    Sydney, Australia and Los Angeles, CA
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    Nice! They certainly are fun to play, and for fingerpicking, they can't be beat...!
    _____________________________________________

    Current Stable:

    Soprano:
    Kala travel uke (spruce & mahogany) (KA-SSTU)
    Concert:
    Romero Creations ST Concert (Spruce & Mahogany)
    Gold Tone Banjo Ukulele (BU-1) - Open Back
    Tenor:
    Romero Creations Tiny Tenor (Spruce & Mahogany)
    Kala Spruce-Ovangkol (KA-ASOV-T)
    Blackbird Farallon (Tobacco Sunburst)

    Banjos:
    Pisgah Dobson Rambler 12" pot

    PM me if you'd like to be in touch...

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