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Sometimes you come across a bit of a wildcard and, in our chart of the best ukuleles under $300, this FLEA concert ukulele – from The Magic Fluke Company – is that very card. It certainly looks a little different, but is a very popular American-made model that impresses players with its quality. The company also donate ukuleles to Children’s Hospital Music Therapy, so win some plaudits from us straightaway. Let’s check out the uke.
The FLEA moves away from the traditional ukulele blueprint, with an almond-shaped body and a flat bottom (meaning no need for a stand!), that’s actually pretty cool. It also marries traditional and modern in the body construction, using an injection-molded thermoplastic for the back and sides, with a laminated birch top. This top comes in a range of colors, including translucent red or blue, as well as a natural finish – all of which show off the grain of the birch nicely.
With a concert scale, the uke features a hard maple neck that’s fixed to the body at the 13th fret, with 15 frets in total. It’s no ordinary neck arrangement – there’s a polycarbonate fretboard with the non-metal frets molded into the board for added durability. On that note, it is an all-round hardwearing instrument, and would be perfect for travel. It’s light, durable, humidity resistant, and feels fun to play. It’s also made in America, so you can guarantee a certain quality that’s sometimes missing from Asian-made models in this price range.
The FLEA we are reviewing is an acoustic model, so there is no pickup, although some variations with electronics are available. This model features a set of Grover tuners with black plastic tuning keys, that are sturdy and hold your tuning surprisingly well. It also comes strung with a set of good-quality Nyltech strings as standard, and a compact padded gig bag for convenient storage and transportation.
We were unsure how this ukulele would sound, but the tone is actually pretty great! It’s bright, happy and crisp, but not overly trebly, and projects very well indeed when both strummed and fingerpicked. Naturally, it can’t offer the complexities that a wooden-bodied uke can, but for plastic – which we usually avoid – this FLEA has a good sound, matching the feel and build quality.
For the price, the FLEA is one fine ukulele. While it may not entice everyone, the slick setup and playability will definitely appeal to both beginners and experienced players alike. It’s also great for travel as it’s so durable, while the thermoplastic body won’t be affected by humidity issues. For a wildcard, perhaps it’s not so wild after all!