I was delighted when this one arrived as I am a big fan of this ukulele manufacturer. Be prepared for a uke with a difference. The Brüko No.9 Tenor Ukulele
Readers may have noticed that I have reviewed a couple of Brüko ukes over the years, including the No.6 Soprano. Those reviews will show you that Brüko kind of do things their own way, and I actually like them for that. Like them a lot!
These ukes are hand made in a small factory in Germany with a history of making ukes for over 100 years. They have also sometimes been hard to get hold of, but this has been loaned to me by Omega Music who are now dealing for Brüko which was great news to hear.
The No.9 is one of their standard models and is billed as a Tenor scale uke. But, not to my eyes it isn’t. Not only is the body shallower and shorter in length, so is the neck. To me it is more of a jumbo concert, and in fact almost fits in a concert pod case. Why do they call it a tenor then? I have no idea – that is Brüko for you!
The body is made from all solid mahogany and is finished absolutely flawlessly in a satin coat. The woods are not that much to look at grain wise, but I think it is quite lovely in its simplicity. The small body size means the top and back can be made from single pieces of wood, as are the sides, with no joint at the base. Adornment is limited to a simple sound hole rosette. The build is impeccable, and almost looks like a dummy uke or a model. I don’t say that to criticise by the way, it just feels almost too perfect!
The bridge mounting looks like rosewood and is a slotted style, with a drop in white plastic saddle. This is pleasing to see as the soprano I own (the No.6) doesn’t use a separate saddle, and the whole thing is made from one piece of wood – a pain if you want to take the action down. I believe though that this is an option so be sure you know what you are ordering!
A look inside and everything is fairly neat and tidy, one or two glue drops but nothing serious. And of course, like all Brüko ukes, they don’t employ a makers label, rather they brand the name on the wood with a hot iron. Very cool!
So we move on from a very plain body to an absolutely gorgeous neck. It’s made of three pieces, one stacking the heel of the neck, and then the rest of the neck is made from two thin pieces of wood that run the whole length, sandwiching a long length of shimmery pale maple that runs up and through the headstock. I think it is stunning and definitely a real talking point.
The neck is capped with a rosewood fingerboard which is finished flawlessly. The edges of the fretboard are rolled and softened meaning no sharp edges and you cannot feel any hint of fret edges at all. Position markers are provided on the fingerboard itself, but sadly nothing on the side for the player.
But then comes a gripe. Considering this is billed as a tenor uke, it only uses 12 frets in total. Yes, they could have lengthened the fingerboard onto the body to add more in, but this only has 12 to the top of the body. That is pretty much what you will find on a basic soprano, and most tenors I have seen have around 14 frets to the body, and perhaps up to 20 in total. I like more frets, particularly on a tenor, but there is no getting away from the fact that this has a VERY short neck. Again, I have no idea why, it is just the Brüko way. Is it a gripe? Yes I suppose so, but looking at it another way, if you know what you are getting, perhaps it is just another Brüko idiosyncrasy. It certainly doesn’t make the uke unplayable thats for sure, but 12 frets ARE a little limiting.
The nut is made of wood (another Brüko feature) which can be fiddly for taking the action down, but thankfully this (like every Bruko I have seen) is setup perfectly.
The headstock is a typical Martin style three pointed crown, but boosted by that lovely stripe of maple and no need for a makers logo. Brüko don’t need one as people in the know will know what it is!
Tuners are friction pegs. Not the worlds best, but good enough and the same as you will find on a Fluke or a Flea and work well. Whether you like friction pegs or not is up to you, but I think the look they give the instrument is superb. No pegs sticking out of the sides. I love them.
The package is finished off with Pyramid Flourocarbon strings, of which I am not a fan. They have certainly improved over the Pyramids I have used on the No6 Soprano, but I still find them hard on the fingers, and kind of sharp in feel and sound. More on that below. Finally, these are available for £249 which I think for a hand made, solid wood tenor that isn’t made in a Chinese factory is a bit of a bargain.
To play, its a joy. The uke is light and balanced, and the small body and depth make it really easy to hold without a strap. The fingerboard finishing is wonderful in the hand and is as smooth as butter. I don’t think I have sat and noodled as much with a new uke arrival as I did with this one – it just begs to be played.
Sound wise it is bright. Very bright indeed, as are all Brükos I have played. I guess you will love it or hate it, but I am in the former camp. It doesnt really sound like a tenor to my ears, or a concert. It sounds like a Brüko! Intonation accuracy is spot on all over the neck and the action is just perfect for my tastes. The smooth neck makes quick playing up the neck nice and fast, although I do miss those extra frets if I am honest. Sustain is also on the short side for a tenor, and it kind of chirps rather than chimes.
And those comments seem to suggest bad things…. I knew this would be a tough one to review, because there are issues. But you know what? I pretty much don’t care as I think it is wonderful for just being what it is. Your mileage may vary of course, but I think everyone should own a Brüko uke. I guess the way it should be approached is like this: Do not think of this as buying a tenor ukulele that sounds like brand X, Y, or Z. Just think “I am buying a Brüko musical instrument”……. And Brüko do things their way.
I would recommend it in a flash, but know full well that this could divide opinions.
|Size comparison with the standard tenor sized Pono Tenor
Gorgeous build quality
Sublime neck feel
Stunning neck detail
Rear facing tuners
Low volume and short sustain
Short neck and lack of frets
Looks – 9 out of 10
Fit and finish – 8 out of 10
Sound – 7.5 out of 10
Value For Money – 9.5 out of 10
OVERALL – 8.5 out of 10