The POMAIKAI concert ukulele beginners starter kit in mahogany is promoted as a good bang for your buck ukulele at $60 MSRP. Can it live up to that promise?
I was provided with this ukulele for review by POMAIKAI which as of writing is listed at $61.99 MSRP. A soprano version is also available. This review is based on an “out of the box” ukulele with no tweaks or adjustments of any kind. All pictures are of the actual ukulele that I’ve received. All views and statements are honest and stem from my experience with the ukulele over several weeks. No form of payment was given in exchange for a positive review.
Build quality and looks
I’m not going to beat around the bush, it’s obvious that this is a budget ukulele. While the mahogany laminate looks good, there is for example a chip at the edge on the top of the body where you can see the filler wood. Same at the back of the body where the also finish isn’t done properly.
The bridge appears to be coming loose a bit at the edges with a gap of around 1 mm over a length of at least 1 cm. More to the center it appears to be glued firmly in place since there is quite a lot of glue squeeze out. This will negatively affect the transition of the string vibration to the body.
Going to the top of the ukulele, the neck with black walnut fingerboard is straight. The frets are installed properly into the fretboard with no sharp edges are whatsoever. However, either the cattle bone nut is bowed a bit, or the headstock, since also here there is a small gap between the nut and the wood of the headstock.
This all might seem harsh, but while at $61.99 MSRP it is considered budget, I’d call it on the higher end of budget, especially when there are ukuleles like the DUT-1 by Donner at $65.99 MSRP which exceed this ukulele its build quality on all fronts, let alone all the extras you get with the Donner one.
This ukulele comes with a non padded gig bag that would better fit a tenor ukulele than a concert one. Looks wise it’s a very basic ukulele with a rather nice looking subtle rosetta around the sound hole.
Setup and playability
A common issue with entry-level ukes is that the strings are too high off the neck. This is known as “high action” and is generally a bad thing for a couple reasons:
- Instruments with high action are harder to play
- High action can cause notes to bend out of tune, especially when playing near the nut
Based on my experiences with other inexpensive ukuleles, I honestly wasn’t expecting much from this ukulele and unfortunately, it’s not good. While it is playable out of the box, the action is quite high and far from even. While this makes it easier to produce a ukulele without much buzzing at a low cost, it would’ve been nice to see this a bit lower. Especially on the high notes.
This can be fixed by filing down the slits in the nut and sanding down the saddle in the bridge, but I doubt a beginning ukulele players will undertake this endeavor. This might cause some frustrations due lack of knowledge causing them to stop learning to play the ukulele altogether.
There’s only so much tone quality you can get out of a laminate ukulele unfortunately. It basically comes down to the quality of the filler wood and internal structure. Using a flashlight to check the inside of the body reveals a lot of glue everywhere and low-quality fixation of parts. While it has a decent volume with a nice bass, the tone is very toy-like. Luckily it doesn’t sound weak which might be due to the thin finish.
Tuners and Strings
This ukulele comes with basic open-gear tuners with metal washers (grommets). One of the four tuners was completely loose with a gap of 2 mm and only held into place due to the tension of the string. This might diminish accuracy quite a lot of the tuning machines. This is easily fixed, but this review is for an out of the box experience.
It doesn’t come with quality Aquila Nylgut strings, but rather cheap so called “premium nylon strings”. Replacing these with quality strings will already improve the sound greatly giving it a warm and harp-like sound, instead of the toy-like sound it is stuck with now.
Unfortunately, my review is not very positive for the POMAIKAI concert ukulele in mahogany. For an MSRP of $60+ (with promo $50), I expect more. While Strong Wind ukuleles are not A quality, they are priced similarly or even lower, and are better bang for your buck than this one since they come with tons of accessories. This ukulele came with a very flimsy gig bag which I would never use to properly protect my ukulele. If you’re looking for a ukulele in this price range, do not buy this one but go for example for a Donner one like the DUT-1.
If you still want to buy this ukulele, you can purchase it directly from POMAIKAI right here. Make sure to use the coupon code UKUTABS to make it bit more worth your money.