Manuel Rodrigeuz Signature  Koa Soprano Ukulele

My Koa MR

manuel rodriguez acacia soprano ukulele
Rodriguez Guitars Ukulele
It has Aquila Nylguts on, tied off more neatly than I have ever seen before!

and its tuned g~C~E~A



Manuel Rodriguez Signature

Manuel Rodriguez III is a real person and he comes from a long line of luthiers but these days he manages a firm that is one on the larger guitar makers in Spain and they make good Guitars too so when they started making Ukuleles last year this was interesting to hear. (And when they started making Ukuleles they claimed to be Spain's biggest Ukulele manufacturer as no one else was making them?) I had a look at the range and though the Signature model looked very nice, largely hand built, quality acacia koa and an interesting signature sound hole too (I'm a sucker for a novelty). When the opportunity came for me to buy one direct from the factory I jumped at it and I'm not sure if it was built specially for me or was a stock one? Mine took a month to arrive and doesn't have the headstock logo, the publicity photos show. It also doesn't have, and this surprised me given the size of the sound hole, a side sound port.

Now its here the first this that strikes me about it is it is a lovely piece of wood! The acacia koa is beautifully but subtly grained and the colour changes as it hits the light varying from a light coffee brown to a vivid golden almost orange. It has a lovely forest smell too, kind of sitting on the porch of a log cabin in the woods; all in all quality. The quality wood doesn't end with the koa though, the fret board is African blackwood and I'm guessing the bridge is too, though not as spectacular it still has its charm and is a very hard deep black wood, darker, harder and better for fret boards than ebony or rosewood. The neck is mahogany, again not as spectacular but very tactile, very well finished and perfect for its job. All of this wood is finished off in a very light open pour satin finish that shows the wood to great effect. The fret board itself is flat, 16 frets long with 12 to the body, and the arc of the neck behind it is quite thin but its all beautifully smooth with well dressed frets and fret markers on the side as well as along the middle of the fret board. The nut and saddle are bone but the nut sits quite high (with quite deep grooves cut in) so can catch you if you are not careful. the machine heads are open geared with a golden finish that very much suits the overall look; they do their job reasonably, (they are not the most accurate I have used), and hold fast. The buttons on the machine heads are plastic with a translucent pearl finish.

So its quality material and the fit and finish too is quality, though, and I find it hard to put my finger on exactly why I think this, I feel it could have been done better. Make no mistake this Ukulele was put together by a master craftsman, but it feels somehow that he was going through the motions and some of the love is missing?? The neck is fitted perfectly solidly and well, but could have been done a little neater, (and no Spanish Heel, on a Spanish Ukulele!?). the bookmarking too, though good, I think could have been done more thoughtfully; niggling little things true but I am trying to be full and frank here. One thing that really is perfect though is the bridge. Beautifully made and with a very neat through the body stringing arrangement that I have not seen before but works really well and leads on to a very good factory set up and incredibly accurate intonation right the way to the 16th fret All my misgivings aside though, its quality knocks spots of anything else being made in the Iberian peninsula at the moment never mind just Spain

On to the sound, and the first thing that has to be said is its a little quiet. A very small sound hole and no side port mean not a lot of projection in any direction. This I don't think is going to change but everything else is still improving and settling down as the newly made Ukulele settles so I may have to revise this in 6 months? Along with the quietness the sound is a little dull. I've tried it with a C tuning and a D tuning and that didn't resolve the dullness, (funnily enough though I also had a go at C# and that was definitely the best?) Its a good even tone with plenty of bass for a Soprano and has reasonable to good sustain, but it lacks a bit of punch I don't know maybe not enough on the top and maybe the quietness again but too much string sound too, (I may change the strings in the future but I'll let it settle a lot more first).

Having had it for a while now I must say its sound has opened up beautifully both in volume and tone - I not going to re write history but this has a really nice even tone now with a reasonable amount of volume

Playability? Well its not the most forgiving of Ukuleles. There are no rattles or sour noises if you do any duff chording, it just seems to make it sound duller and highlights the string sound like its saying to you "if that's the best you can do I'm not going to try either" But everything is beautifully smooth and set up and spot on in the build so I have no excuses for duff chords only my lack of talent.

For live work it would be the quietness that was the problem not any issues with sturdiness or build quality letting you down. It probably would work well with a pickup but that not an option in the standard catalogue. If you did have a pickup fitted I would think it would be a great gigging Ukulele, the beautiful koa would really come alive under lights. I think this would also be an heirloom ukulele, one that is built so well that it will last to pass on to your children and probably grandchildren

If I lost it would I get another one? This is a difficult question and again time might change the answer, however the answer for now is, and I'm still hedging a bit – I certainly wouldn't get one unseen on mail order again I would want to see, feel and hear it first . If something happened and I was replacing the collection I would certainly be looking to get a modern Soprano of this quality back into the new collection but I think I would probably look at something else first? Possibly just the novelty of the new and I would always be happy to have one in the collection, it is good, but it hasn't (yet) grabbed me enough that it’s a must have With time I'll kind of stick to what I said before but if I was going for a large collection again I would want a Manuel Rodriguez in it at some point. so I suppose yes but it wouldn't be the first one I'd look to replace