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At GuitarFella, we’re always on the lookout for an innovative and unique instrument, and Lanikai’s TunaUke SMTU-C looked like it would tick all our boxes. Sitting comfortably in our chart on the top ukuleles in the sub-$500 price range, it features Lanikai’s innovative TunaUke technology, which allows players to instantly tend to the uke’s intonation. Is it just a gimmick or a worthwhile inclusion? Let’s take a look.
The first thing we noticed about the SMTU-C Concert is probably the same as you – the stunning light wood, with its varied and contrasting dark spalted grain. This an all-Hawaiian Mango body, with solid wood used for the top, and a laminate on the back and sides. The body wood has a hand-rubbed oil and wax finish, and features an eye-catching abalone rosette and matching binding.
Joining the ukulele at the 14th fret is a very sleek mahogany neck, sporting a rosewood fretboard and a total of 19 frets. It’s certainly comfortable and easy to play, and feels lovely in the hands with a slick oiled finish. It’s an Indonesian-made model, and shows good craftsmanship – certainly justifying the higher-end price tag.
The design and build of this ukulele is top notch, and thankfully it’s matched by the hardware. Most notably – and what Lanikai prides this ukulele on – is the TunaUke technology. This system involves both a compensated nut and an adjustable saddle, that allows you to easily move individual saddles to adjust the compensation for each of the SMTU-C’s four strings. Lanikai say that this technology ‘improves ukulele intonation by 90%’ and – while we can’t be sure of the exact percentage – we certainly agree with their sentiment, as chords sounded smooth and clear.
Elsewhere the SMTU-C features a set of gold-plated open-geared tuning machines, as well as industry standard Aquila Nylgut strings. It’s worth pointing out that there is no case included – we would have expected something to store the uke in, especially at this price point.
As a result of the TunaUke technology, the SMTU-C truly is an instrument that impresses in the sound department. It retains its clarity and intonation as you chord up the neck, making it a generally more versatile instrument. As for the actual tone, Hawaiian Mango is a hard and dense wood, similar to koa, and offers a bright and crisp sound, with better projection than you may expect from a small concert uke.
The adjustable intonation on the SMTU-C is certainly no gimmick and proves genuinely useful as you play across the fretboard. But it’s not a one trick pony, as the build, feel and look of the Hawaiian Mango really is delightful. While it would probably be wasted on beginners, for more experienced players, music makers and songwriters, the SMTU-C proves a great little uke to have in your collection.