back of the EleukeTento Bugsgear Eleuke, frontEleuke and gig bagEleuke body

Bugsgear Eleuke

I purchased this solid-body electric tenor ukulele for my wife, Susan. Not for her to play, mind you, rather so I could practice quietly at night without disturbing her. This model has a built-in pre-amp that includes a headphone jack (plus headphones) so I can practice late at night. Plus I figured it would let me wail through my amp.

First thing I noticed is that the Eleuke does not sound like a ukulele. It sounds like a nylon-string guitar, capoed up high and amplified. That's not bad, but it came as a bit of a surprise, although when you think about it, it makes sense. The sound we expect from a uke comes from the body - the wood, the soundboard, and the empty space (including sound hole). An electric instrument does not have the hollow body in which sound can bounce around. Nor does it have the sustain of an electric guitar or the grunt and flexibility of steel strings.

The Eleuke has a single piezo pickup, and a tone and volume button, with both headphone and 1/4" output jack. The tone control helps because the uke tends to be 'boomy' and adding a treble end make it sound more uke-like. Of course, you can get better effects from most amps, but this helps when you're using headphones. It does sound good through my Roland Cube 30X amp, with a little EQ to balance the sound.

The Eleuke's pre-amp is powered by a 9-volt battery, held in the back. It's easy to replace. It also powers the headphones (included with the uke, but not shown here.) I seriously considered adding some homebrew effects circuits to the pre-amp, until a forum poster pointed out I could buy a small, portable electronic device like a Line 6 Pod that gave me a ton of effects, built in, for not a lot of money. (instead, I recently got the Boss eBand JS-8 which does all of that and is an amp too!).

The only complaint I have is that the highest string (A) is located very, very close to the edge of the fretboard. This means that aggressive pull-offs or down-strumming can push (or pull) the string off the fretboard. It requires a bit of conservative action to keep from doing that. Possibly thicker strings might help prevent it. But the action is otherwise quite good and it's easy to reach far up the neck to playable notes.

The padded gig bag (or soft case) was also included. It's a trifle snug; not to the point of being awkward to put the uke in or remove it, but it won't carry a lot other than a uke and a set of extra strings. It does have an external pouch, but it's not very large. At least it zips shut.

The design is a little odd, but the holes make the uke much lighter than you expect, and are an easy way to carry it around, and even hold it up when playing. The neck appeared to me to be dry, so I immediately applied some Dunlop fretboard oil/cleaner. The fretboard is not rough to the touch, however.

Tuners are sealed, geared. That might suggest to you to replace the nylon strings with steel, but the neck isn't designed for the stress, and the piezo pickups won't do as much with steel as they do with nylon.

Price ranges about $250-$350 depending on woods, inlay and size. Some Eleuke clones are showing up on eBay at a lower price, but caveat emptor.

There is a second strap button on the back where the neck joins the body. This is certainly convenient, but because the uke body is so small, a wide guitar strap feels tight and uncomfortable at that location. I prefer to tie a strap to the head, but it's a matter of personal taste. Look for something thinner if you want a strap. Or make your own (see straps).

I've never compared the Eleuke to other solid-body electric ukuleles on the market (like the Risa, which I just received), but from comments online, they all sound similar: the differences are mostly in style and design. The advantage of this model is the headphone capability. If you're looking for something that combines acoustic and electric capability, this isn't the appropriate instrument.

After a few months, I decided I preferred acoustic ukes, and since I wasn't performing, I offered this one for sale of trade online on the various ukulele forums. I traded it for the Applause tenor, reviewed on another page. Later, I started to play more amplified music, and regretted that.

See my review of the Risa for another electric ukulele. Eleuke has announced a steel-stringed, solid-body uke due for release in late 2010. Flea Market Music has also announced a solid-body, nylon stringed uke for release later in 2010.

Would I purchase another Eleuke? I'm considering one now, the jazz model.
Would I recommend them to others?
Yes, with caveats about the expected sound and the A string.
Rating (0-5)
: *** 1/2
Status: Sold, but in the market for another.

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