I was initially interested because my good friend Expensive Smiff has a beautiful Aria Archtop Guitar and it has always impressed me with its quality, (hence me thinking initially that the Ukulele would cost more new than it did). Then having bid what I had, I thought "well all of the reviews say the GHS strings it comes with aren't much cop, I have a set of low G Worths, I'll string it as my Low G Concert, (forgetting I had already used them on the Les Paul). So I won the auction and got it and have played merry-go-rounds with the strings, (it did come still with the original GHS strings, which I have now put on the Melody Uke because I like GHS for Banjoleles, and I put the Aquila banjolele strings on the Recording King...
Like I say merry-go-round)
The Ukulele itself is a mahogany Concert, made in China for Aria and according to the chap I got it from, about 3 years old. The publicity says it has a solid top, back and sides, and I'll take their word for it as the Ukulele is heavily stained, (presumably to make sure the colour is uniform if , and for the price point I would suspect it is the case, the mahogany used is not that spectacular). The staining on mine is very red for mahogany apart from the headstock which has a much darker, browner, more mahogany looking stain, (and the old style Aria logo that I much prefer to the new one). it is not an unattractive look and does make the Aria look a little different to my other mahogany Ukuleles. It is consistently and evenly applied to a high standard with no runs, extraneous splashes or missed bits and on top of it is a nice matte~satin varnish. On the minus side here there are a couple of very small blisters in the varnish and given that the chap I got it from said he was selling it because he didn't play it much anymore, there is significant wear to the varnish and staining on the back of the neck! (He must have played it an awful lot when he did play it or there is perhaps an issue? But it doesn't affect the sound or playability)) The Fretboard and Bridge are Rosewood, and nicely fitted with no glue or other issues though there are the first signs of wear in the staining on the fretboard, (perhaps this is like those jeans that are suppose to have the distressed vintage look even when they are new?) The frets are excellent, smooth, even and they show no signs of wear. There are plastic fret markers on the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 10th and 12th spots, (reasonably done but not spectacular, there are a couple of tiny chips), but there are no side markers, (so left handers don't feel left out). The rosette and binding are paint or decal not inlay but again are very well done with nothing uneven or extraneous. The tuners on mine are geared and very good, smooth, accurate and hold perfectly, no faults there, and no faults for the nut and saddle either; well done and spot on. All in all I would say it is very well made.
The scale length is 377mm, (14¾in), with the neck joining the body at the 14 fret and the fretboard continuing to 18 frets. the intonation down the fretboard is very, very good being less than a quarter of a tone out at the end. When it comes to tone, again I have to take their word it's solid mahogany because it a bit close to what I expect from a laminate? Slightly lacking in openness, a little muddy with no great width. Ilke laminates it is fine but not outstanding, (and I have some laminates that do sound better) The sustain is good though and it works well with a Feltrum having a nice chime when solidly struck, so maybe I still haven't found the right string for it? (I may come back to this if I include it in the next string merry-go-round, maybe I should try the low G worths?) Volume wise its average again OK but not exceptional
Apart from the finish wear I see no problems with this Ukulele lasting. its solidly made, durable and definitely better than the average beater. Its name, quality and reliability mean it would not be out of place at any event from the local Ukulele club to stadium rock
If I lost it would I get it again? Thats a tricky one, how can I say "if it was a bargain", when it comes in at such a bargain price? But apart from the price there is nothing on it outstanding enough to make me rush out and buy another. I guess the best I can say is I would want something of this quality to muck around on, with strings and things, and if I lost this one I wouldn't be unhappy to get another. I summed it up earlier when I described it as OK but not exceptional. Its a solid 4 stars, (I I were to go by that sort of thing), nothing drags it down, but nothing pushes it up to five.