Bugsgear eleuke Aqulele plastic Concert scale Ukulele

My production Aqulele
with a painted ƒ hole

eleuke plastic concert ukulele
bugs gear plastic concert scale Ukulele back
bugsgear eleuke f hole concert plastic ukulele
It has Nylgut type strings, (but not actually Aquilas), on and is tuned G~C~E~A with a wound low G

bugsgear eleuke prototype concert aqulele at Lardys Ukulele Database

The prototype Aqulele
with a real ƒ hole

Bugsgear Aqulele

This is Bugsgears new Aqulele Concert. Now I quite liked the Aqulele Soprano, I thought for a modern plastic Ukulele it sounded very good, the build quality was a little suspect but then I did have one of the first ones from the production run; and it was free, because Bugsgear asked me to review it! And that's the big maybe here too because Bugsgear have once again asked me to review this concert one; thanks Bugsgear I would be delighted. Now it's a fairly different design with the slot head and the ƒ hole, (and everyone knows I'm a sucker for ƒ holes). With the little pick guard and the cutaway too; I think it looks, from the pictures I have seen, quite distinctive and given the poor quality of the competition in Concert scale plastic ukuleles I hope they will be on to a winner. I just hope they really do sent me one.

Well it did arrive and its quite colourful but with a painted on ƒ hole, (slightly disappointed as I thought it actually had one and I like ƒ holes but I'm told the top deformed too much with a real ƒ hole in), the pickguard is a "real" pickguard though and a slot head always looks classy. It also came tuned as a low G which surprised me, especially as the G string is wound so was thinner than the C. My first impression is "a lot of sustain" but I will let it settle for a bit (as it is new out of the factory via Normans music again) before doing any proper evaluation. Anyway though thank you Bugsgear (and thank you Normans too)

On to a review then and it has taken me slightly longer than I first thought as I have found it difficult to bracket and though I probably shouldn't, I have done a lot of comparing with both the Soprano Aqulele and a number of the other current and historic plastic Ukuleles that are around (the obvious stand out being Kala's Waterman as I don't have one)

First the stats and what we have here is a Concert scale Ukulele with a scale length of 378mm (15 inches). It is made entirely of plastic apart from the geared machine heads (though the buttons on these are plastic also) The back sides and fretboard are black with the sound board and headstock front being orange. the bridge and the pick guard are also black along with the painted on ƒ hole. Because the ƒ hole is painted (and even if it wasn't it wouldn't be large enough so) there is a sound port on the side. It is 12 frets to the body with 18 frets in total and no zero fret. The string fixings are BugsGears, (excellent), patented "through the body" method though the bridge is a separate piece and in this case so is the saddle; (it was all in one on the Soprano Aqulele). The strings go up past the nut, which is an integral part of the fretboard moulding to a slot head where they wind on to brass coloured tuners with white buttons; all in all from a distance it looks quite professional, the plastic finish is never going to allow it to be to classy but it really doesn't look like a toy. Up close the build quality is a little bit lacking with visible glue marks and areas where the finishing could have been better with the plastic. They are not major flaws but they should be noted for a complete review. Build wise apart from the rough edges it is very solidly and competently made, you would have no worries taking it anywhere including the outdoors, (which is usually used as a key selling point for plastic Ukuleles). The Intonation is very good, its a little out on the top couple of frets due to the nut height so you could possibly improve it with a file but its only 5-10% so maybe not be worth the risk, it also starts to stray a bit after the 15th fret but to be honest at this point the fretting is only really for decoration and not very accessible. The tuners themselves are not great they are smooth enough when turning and hold the strings well once tuned, but there is a fair amount of wooliness while tuning; a lot of turning for no change and then boink and the string has now gone to far the other way. The neck profile is quite a large and chunky D and even with the small cutaway it doesn't really give good access to frets below the 12th. This leads to it being more for the novice/simple player and not really aimed at the serious show off, (which his probably exactly right for what it is).

After the look and feel on to the sound and the first thing to notice if this comes with a low G string rather than a re-entrant high G. Now Bugsgear tell me this is to get a better bass and in this respect it works but it does take it a step away for the traditional Ukulele sound where the re-entrant tuning is to minimise the difference between the up and down strums giving a narrow tone but one you can use to make a wall of harmony to sing along to. As I've mentioned in the playability this is only really an instrument for the basic strummer, not to show off on so what it gains in bass it loses in Ukuleleness. The low G also has a second and probably larger problem, and that is that it is a wound string to keep the thickness down, (often the case with low G) but this gives it a great deal more sustain than the other strings which in turn makes it sound louder and gives a bit of an unbalanced tone. I have tried replacing the wound low G with a high G string and whilst it does solve the unbalanced sustain problem it does bring back the lack of bass, and in tightening up the tone also brings out the fact that there is not a lot of treble ether, so what you end up with is a very mid tone mundane sound. The string notes are distinct, you can hear the difference between a C and an A minor no problem with a C and a C7 too, (and this is not always the case), but its not really a "set your soul alight" sort of tone; not even a"your soul might need to take its jumper off" sort of tone, at best only on a par with a mediocre laminate budget Ukuleles. Another problem with the tone, and this is the case with a high or low G is that there is a hint of bucket in there. Not always and I could never put my finger on what I did wrong to get it? but sometimes you start strumming and think to yourself "this sounds crap... and I must do the washing up" It is possible that better strings might be the answer but I'm not sure what to try? I know that Aquila Nylgut aren't the answer, and I know that BugsGear tried a number of strings before settling on the low G, (and this is probably the best choice for tone from what I have tried too), maybe a set of Laughing Water all nylon low G strings? (but I don't have a set to try at the moment, if I do get a set and try I will update this)

For the final questions.
Will it last? - Yes it feels and looks sturdily made it would last in most circumstances including giving it to young children to play/learn on, but wouldn't you be better off giving them a Soprano or smaller.
If I lost it would I get another one? - No... Unless I was running a proper Ukulele museum and absolutely, positively, had to have a Concert scale plastic Ukulele to make the collection complete(?)

To finally sum up after all of this, and all of my comparing with alternative Ukuleles, this is without doubt the best Concert scale plastic Ukulele on the market! its not that much of an endorsement though as there is only really one other. The question is though, "do you really want/need a Concert scale plastic Ukulele"? If you do, this is the one, but if you want a Concert scale Ukulele as a beater to take anywhere, though wooden, the Aria and the Peavey are much better in tone and playability; and neither of them are very expensive. And if you want a plastic Ukulele that you could get wet and do all of the other things you need a plastic Ukulele for, the Soprano Aqulele has a much better tone and is at least as good in every other way.