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While Fender is a mammoth name in the world of electric, bass and acoustic guitars, the brand also produces a small line of quality ukuleles. This includes one of their newest releases, the Montecito Tenor, which Fender say is ‘inspired by the California home of many celebrities’ – so we’re expecting something premium even in this sub-$300 price range. Let’s see how it stacks up…
There’s no doubting that the Montecito is a product of Fender – just take a look at the distinctive Telecaster headstock shape. However, the playability of this excellent model is also typically Fender, with a fast and comfortable glossy nato neck that sports a rosewood fretboard and a total of 19 frets (joined at the 14th fret).
With a traditional tenor size and non-cutaway shape, the entire body is made from koa, which offers that classic Hawaiian feel and an eye-catching rustic grain. The top features solid koa, while the back and sides are made with laminate. The acrylic abalone rosette and body binding adds an elegant touch. Being a Fender ukulele in the under $300 price range, you can also expect good quality in the set-up and very solid craftsmanship.
Unlike some of its electric guitar siblings, the Montecito doesn’t feature any electronics. However, the hardware on offer adds to the appeal of this cool uke. On the Tele headstock you’ll find a 4-in-line set of sealed nickel die-cast tuners that are reliable in their tuning stability. Interestingly, the Montecito is fitted with a ‘no-tie’ sonokeling bridge, meaning string changes are quick and easy, with no need for fiddly fastening. Throw in a bone nut and saddle, and you have a pretty good selection of hardware on this uke.
The all-koa construction ensures the Montecito is light and bright, but balanced in tone, with good depth. For a tenor-sized model we expected a little more volume, but it’s still bigger in projection than a smaller uke, relatively versatile, and should grow in both warmth and output as the solid wood opens a little with age.
If you’re looking for an easy-playing tenor uke with a premium feel, the Montecito from Fender is well-worth considering. The attractive design and quality build ensure it plays and sounds great, while the new additions of a solid wood top and the handy no-tie bridge just adds to the overall value.