New Uke Day (NUD) NUD: Enya Nova U Soprano 21"

ailevin

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I did a NUD for the Enya concert size a few days back, and I decided to order it's smaller sibling:
EnyaBigSmall252580.jpg
As the picture indicates, the soprano is a scaled down version of the concert. Like the concert with longer than usual 16" scale, this soprano is a tweener at 14" scale. The soprano is made of the same materials, has very similar hardware, is also13 frets to the body and has the same fret markers, side markers, and strap buttons. It comes with the same accessories: strap, spare strings, and capo. Unlike the concert, the soprano does not have a sound port.

With the soprano, everything is less. The price was $39 vs $64 for the concert. The presentation was less impressive presentation--it wasn't boxed as nicely, the case is not as nice, the accessories are in a cellophane bag rather than a cloth pouch. The soprano looks and feels smaller than the difference in scale or pictures would indicate. Perhaps it is because it weighs almost nothing compared to the concert. My wife and I immediately had the same reaction: it's so portable; this is better than the concert as a travel uke; we could put it in a suitcase or carry it that much easier.

First off, a disclaimer: I have spent very little time playing soprano ukuleles. This ukulele is well balanced and feels very light when playing it. The neck is similar to the concert with a smooth full C profile. It has the same comfortable feel for the left hand, and the same narrow fretboard. Once again it in no way feels like a toy, though the lighter weight makes it feel less like a solid body electric. It is well put together, well finished, and seems durable. The lower string tension at this scale is noticeable. The shorter scale takes some adjustment coming from a tenor. I am not crazy about the narrow neck on either model, but perhaps I would used to that; it't too early to tell. I think the soprano is a little more comfortable for me to hold and play than the concert model.

The strings need to settle in a bit, but the sound of the soprano is very similar to the concert, and it shares many of the concert's unique tonal qualities. The soprano has the same bell-like sound and excellent articulation. There is more treble emphasis and a little more attack or edge on most notes. It is similar to the difference between soprano and concert that I have seen in other makers when comparing the same model; the soprano is more trebley and the concert has an advantage in volume/sustain with a fuller midrange. Neither instrument is loud, but I would say that the Enya soprano gives up less in volume and sustain than is typical or perhaps the concert gains less than is typical. The main advantage of the concert beyond the improvement in midrange tone is the improvement in sustain (and finger space) as you play up the fretboard. The harmonics ring out more clearly and are easier to play on the concert. The sound port on the concert might he helpful playing in a group. Like the concert the soprano plays well in tune and as I understand it, that is more of a challenge at shorter scale. The combination of fairly low action and lower string tension make it easier to play closed chords and barres on the soprano and the body shapes gives good access to the whole fretboard.

Overall, we both like the soprano more than the concert. What we gain in portability more than offsets the sound advantages of the concert, and as Baz said in his review the small sound differences are a matter of taste. I also think that playability of the soprano is at least as good as the concert if not better, but again that is a matter of personal preference. What Enya delivers for the price is pretty amazing (soprano: $50 list and $40 on sale, concert: $90 list and $64 on sale).

A different sort of question is what we used to call use case in technogeekland. Just how durable do we need? We don't camp or hang out at the beach or regularly find outselves playing and singing in harsh conditions. We do take uke(s) with us on trips, both airplane and car. Would an all laminate ukulele or one with solid top and laminate back and sides work as well and sound better and/or be more comfortable to play? How about durablility in the face grandchildren? One of the advertisements for Enya shows mom calmly playing one uke while another uke sits on a bed threatened by a nearby set of wooden blocks and young daughter jumping on the bed. Our grandchildren are getting old enough that they can and should learn to treat musical instruments with some care and respect, but I would much rather have them step on the Enya than a laminate uke.
 
... Just how durable do we need? ...
this is a great question... over the years I've learned that I don't need an indestructible uke and that I prefer the sound of wooden instruments, even laminate, over plastic (or HPL). That said, being able to toss an outdoor in a duffle bag as checked luggage is something I would not do with a laminate. plastic also provides some peace of mind when left in the car on hot summer road trips. depending on other preferences (size, spacings and such) it often comes down to (replacement) cost, and there again it is often pretty close.
 
The Enya costs $40 and has decent sound quality and good playability and excellent quality control. Which $40 wooden (laminate or otherwise) ukuleles have as good sound quality and playability and quality control, not even considering durability?
 
The Enya costs $40 on sale...plenty of cheap laminates have decent, good enough sound, etc. You can find "lightly used" kalas from liquidators all day long on the 'bay. I got an essentially new, well set up KA-15 for $24.67 with tax shipped about a year ago. I realize that is an exceptional price, but I also bought some KA-20s for a school a few months back, for $35 each.
 
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this is a great question... over the years I've learned that I don't need an indestructible uke and that I prefer the sound of wooden instruments, even laminate, over plastic (or HPL). That said, being able to toss an outdoor in a duffle bag as checked luggage is something I would not do with a laminate. plastic also provides some peace of mind when left in the car on hot summer road trips. depending on other preferences (size, spacings and such) it often comes down to (replacement) cost, and there again it is often pretty close.
Replacement cost is a moving target too, at least in terms of what I consider expensive. I went through this with binoculars for birding. I like to keep a pair of binoculars in the car for those unexpected birding opportunities, but when my best binoculars cost $175, I would never leave them in the car. I had a cheaper beater pair for that. But as I moved up to better and better binoculars, the level of glass and the cost of what I would leave in the car kept going up too. My Anuenue concert cedar top with laminate sides and back seems much more replaceable since my wife got me that KoAloha tenor.
 
When I first got the soprano Enya, I wondered if the tuners were different because it seemed a bit more difficult to tune. With time I have come to realize that the reason for the bad impression was a faulty C string tuner. It fell like there wasy way too much play when changing directions and when I looked at the tuner mechanism carefully while turning it, I could see that portion of the tuning mechanism connected to the key was moving up and down as I changed direction and required some time to reseat and move the gear. So I am sending it back to Amazon for a replacement. In fact, I am also sending back the concert size Enya to replace it with a soprano so that my wife and I will each have one when we travel.
 
I picked up an Enya Nova U soprano and a Nova Go guitar this last week as well. Both are great for the price. My main complaint with the Nova soprano is that the bridge is about a millimeter too far away from the nut, so tuning goes pretty flat up the neck. I ordered a replacement and it has the same issue. Just from measuring from the nut to the 12th and from the 12th to the bridge, even when compensating for everything, the bridge is just placed incorrectly.

This is bizarre to me considering that this is just a molded piece of plastic and one would assume that this measurement should be pretty consistent. With that being said, this thing absolutely blows the Kala Waterman out of the well, water. . .
 
Two weeks later and the only major news is that we put a low G on one Enya soprano and left the other one with the stock high G. I am still impressed with the sound and playability, and I have even decided that the cheaper seeming case works quite well and has the advantage of a minmal external pocket (strings yes, but I would put tuner and strap inside in a small bag under neck) . Although the case is not very well padded, it is more than sufficient given the durability of the instrument.

As we play them more, the Enyas are really opening up and now rival our best hand made koa ... . No, that's not true. My attitude toward the Enya Nova always seems to have a clause--for the price, or for a plastic ukulele, or ... . We are planning a trip to Toronto at the end of April, and the Enyas are what we will take. They are compact, we are not worried about what could happen to them on the road, this is not a trip that is ukulele centered, we just need something to keep in practice and noodle around, and the sound/playability is more than good enough for those circumstances. My biggest remaining complaint is the rather narrow nut. It is not my first choice in any category but ruggedness, but it gets playing time because it is more likely to be laying about. Also, since we have two of them it can be laying about in two different places at once.
 
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I ordered two low G strings from Enya, so I would have one for each of our sopranos. I have only restrung one of them to low G so now we have two Enya sopranos, one renetrant and one linear. I like the low G for consistency with chord/melody arrangements I am practicing on my tenor.

The low G works surprisingly well for me. It changes the character of the instrument a bit. The sound becomes a bit more like a small guitar than a ukulele. The volume of the low G is decent though it does not have the full range of lower frequencies you would get on a larger instrument. However, I think any instrument with a shorter scale and body is going to be limited in how fat it can sound on a low G. It is fun to have two identical instruments one in high G and one in low G.

BTW, even though the Enyas are secondary instruments, they get a fair amount of playing time because they are often laying about somewhere within reach. If I have an idea or want to try something it is right there. My wooden instrument stay in thier cases or gig bags until I go get them and take them out to practice or play.
 
I felt like going out on my balcony for a coffee at sunset and some air and maybe strum a bit. Temp difference from inside to out was over 20 Celsius. Of course I grabbed the Nova mini.
 
It is strange that the intonation would be off on the Enya. I have the soprano, and also the Nova Go guitar, and have been seriously impressed with the workmanship of both. It's not clear to me if the bridge is molded with the top or if it's glued separately. With the finish, it's impossible to tell. I am somewhat disappointed that the saddle is definitely molded with the bridge. Lowering the action, which I found a very useful adjustment, requires filing carefully so as to not mar the soundboard in the process. And if you remove too much, there's no easy way to replace the saddle. This is probably the biggest downside to the instrument.

A missed opportunity, I think was to not make the body a little deeper in depth, which I think would contribute a fuller tone. It's quite shallow, and compared to another all plastic uke I own, with simpler class of plastic, but deeper body, I have to say I think the deeper body resonance would be preferable.

Interestingly, the shallow/small body aesthetic is also employed in the Nova Go guitar, but the results in that case are paradoxically good compared to my Baby Taylor, a totally differently constructed instrument, though comparable in purpose.
 
Pretty sure it's molded in and some engineering went into it. They should all be good or bad and mine is good. If intonation is off, then i'd suggest changing strings
 
A different sort of question is what we used to call use case in technogeekland. Just how durable do we need? We don't camp or hang out at the beach or regularly find outselves playing and singing in harsh conditions. We do take uke(s) with us on trips, both airplane and car. Would an all laminate ukulele or one with solid top and laminate back and sides work as well and sound better and/or be more comfortable to play? How about durablility in the face grandchildren?
I find this an interesting question. I feel like with 'travel'/'beater'/'stunt' instruments, there are four separate things you're guarding against: theft/loss; extreme changes in humidity/temperature, sticky hands (if friends or children are playing your uke), and physical knocks.

Depending on whether you're hiking/kayaking, backpacking in hostels, or going to a party (of various kinds), one or more of these can be an issue. For going into the outdoors, I'd probably use one of the plastic options (I have a Flight TUSL). For urban travel, a laminate or solid top would be fine. Where possible, I'd still want to take one of my good ukes (a Rebel and a Millar). But I'm also used to taking a cello into fairly intrepid locations!
 
It's now many months since I wrote the original post. Though we had to cancel our April trip to Toronto, we did take both Enya sopranos on a week long trip to Northern VA and DC in June. We put both of them in our packed luggage along with music and a folding music stand and didn't worry about them. We had enough free time on this trip that we were able to keep a somewhat regular practice schedule. The instruments play OK, but my wife and I had the same reaction after the week was done. We really missed our regular instruments. Our travel ukes were just uninspiring and playing them was not nearly as much fun or as satifsying. In fact, our practice really tapered off as the week wore on. I was glad we had them and they served their purpose well, but as soon as I got home I started looking for hard cases for our regular instruments so that we can travel with them and have a little more peace of mind.

The Enyas are still handy for kids or truly rough situations and I generally keep one in the trunk of the car; I wouldn't do that with any other ukulele that I own. While they get played very little these days, that is mostly a comment on having better options and playing at home the vast majority of the time. I still stand by my earlier review. I think the Enyas are very good value for someone who just want to test the water. Also, if you later decide to step up to a better instrument, you still have a playable instrument that you just don't have to worry about in almost any situation.
 
When I first got the soprano Enya, I wondered if the tuners were different because it seemed a bit more difficult to tune. With time I have come to realize that the reason for the bad impression was a faulty C string tuner. It fell like there wasy way too much play when changing directions and when I looked at the tuner mechanism carefully while turning it, I could see that portion of the tuning mechanism connected to the key was moving up and down as I changed direction and required some time to reseat and move the gear. So I am sending it back to Amazon for a replacement. In fact, I am also sending back the concert size Enya to replace it with a soprano so that my wife and I will each have one when we travel.
I had the same issue with my Taimane Moon. I contacted Enya support and they sent me a new set of tuners. I replaced the worst one and that seemed okay, but, overall, I'm unhappy with the default tuners that Enya put on this instrument. I'll probably upgrade them sometime in the next year. I do like the instrument, though.
 
Any signs of fret wear? I bought my wife the concert size and when we received it I played it exclusively for a month or so, probably 4-6 times a week. I'm already noticing fret wear and seriously wonder about the longevity of these things if they are played regularly. My wife barely ever plays it and I play my other ukes so it's probably not going to be a big problem for us but I'd play it more often if I thought the fret wear wasn't an issue.
 
Any signs of fret wear? I bought my wife the concert size and when we received it I played it exclusively for a month or so, probably 4-6 times a week. I'm already noticing fret wear and seriously wonder about the longevity of these things if they are played regularly. My wife barely ever plays it and I play my other ukes so it's probably not going to be a big problem for us but I'd play it more often if I thought the fret wear wasn't an issue.
Are you using the stock strings? I know that Enya explicitly warns against using metal-wound or metal-composite strings on their plastic ukuleles. Composite strings include Aquila Red and the like.
 
Are you using the stock strings? I know that Enya explicitly warns against using metal-wound or metal-composite strings on their plastic ukuleles. Composite strings include Aquila Red and the like.
Are the stock strings fluorocarbon? Most new ukes seem to come with Aquilas which I change out immediately. When I played the uke brand new I thought the stock strings were just fine so I left them on. I don't think I own any metal-composite strings. I have Martin and Oasis fluorocarbons.
 
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Any signs of fret wear? I bought my wife the concert size and when we received it I played it exclusively for a month or so, probably 4-6 times a week. I'm already noticing fret wear and seriously wonder about the longevity of these things if they are played regularly. My wife barely ever plays it and I play my other ukes so it's probably not going to be a big problem for us but I'd play it more often if I thought the fret wear wasn't an issue.
I bought the Enya concert around October 2019 and played it quite frequently, but by January 2020 I began to notice fret wear.
I made inquiries here and on other sites, but it seemed at the time I was the only person on the planet with such a problem.
In the following four years I have probably played it less frequently than when first received, but the wear has not become worse.
I now think it may be paint wear rather than fret wear.
Vintage
 
It's now many months since I wrote the original post. Though we had to cancel our April trip to Toronto, we did take both Enya sopranos on a week long trip to Northern VA and DC in June. We put both of them in our packed luggage along with music and a folding music stand and didn't worry about them. We had enough free time on this trip that we were able to keep a somewhat regular practice schedule. The instruments play OK, but my wife and I had the same reaction after the week was done. We really missed our regular instruments. Our travel ukes were just uninspiring and playing them was not nearly as much fun or as satifsying. In fact, our practice really tapered off as the week wore on. I was glad we had them and they served their purpose well, but as soon as I got home I started looking for hard cases for our regular instruments so that we can travel with them and have a little more peace of mind.

The Enyas are still handy for kids or truly rough situations and I generally keep one in the trunk of the car; I wouldn't do that with any other ukulele that I own. While they get played very little these days, that is mostly a comment on having better options and playing at home the vast majority of the time. I still stand by my earlier review. I think the Enyas are very good value for someone who just want to test the water. Also, if you later decide to step up to a better instrument, you still have a playable instrument that you just don't have to worry about in almost any situation.

Yep, it’s the old issue - though I’m only recently awakening to it. Thanks for sharing your journey with us.

A travel Uke might need to be robust - or at least be seen to be so - but it’s also got to be good enough to satisfy. Over the years I’ve had many beaters, stuff you could take anywhere without much concern. The cheaper beaters have been given away ‘cause playing them eventually became less of a quality experience than I’m looking for - I’m neither hard to please or picky. What is nice enough for me to enjoy ain’t that much more expensive (than those beaters), isn’t unaffordable, and can be adequately protected; most of us manage the risks and can financially stand the loss of a more valuable instrument.

My reasoning has changed over the years; now it’s increasingly a case of why waste time, opportunity and even money on ‘bargains’ and / or cheap beaters? They might satisfy the mantras of (high) durability and ’value for money’ but too often fall short on giving joy in use (which purpose we should focus on and regard as a red-line).
 
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