If you want to learn to play the ukulele, but you’re on a tight budget, which brand do you buy? While there are many inexpensive ukes on the market these days, you might spend your money on one, only to find out that it is hard to play or has issues with intonation. Today, I want to tell you about an instrument that has neither one of those problems. It’s the FLEA ukulele from the Magic Fluke Company. Made in the USA and sold through Flea Market Music, the entry level model of this ukulele retails for $169.00. I got mine for a little less through Ukulele4u. Let’s take a closer look…
The basic model of the FLEA is currently available with an Australian Hoop Pine top in your choice of seven colors (Natural, Hibiscus, Mango, Poi-ple, Bubblegum Pink, Lava and Ukelyptus). It has a plastic fretboard, comes with a zippered gig bag and an 11 page “How to Play Ukulele” booklet.
The sides and back are a one piece molded ‘bowl’ made of injection molded ABS plastic that is reinforced with fiber glass. You’ve probably seen Ovation and / or Applause guitars before right? The FLEA uses a similar design.
The neck is made of Maple. In the picture above, you can just make out the fact that the back of the neck has a somewhat flat surface. The sides are rounded, but the back is flat. This shape felt a bit odd to me at first, but I quickly became acclimated to it.
The FLEA has a soprano sized body, but is available with either a soprano neck, or a concert neck. The soprano neck has a 14 inch scale with 14 frets and the concert sized neck has 15 frets and a 15.5 inch scale. I bought a FLEA with the concert sized neck, giving the ukulele a length of 22.25 inches, a width of 7.75 inches and a depth of about 2.25 inches.
The molded shell has a flat bottom that allows you to stand this instrument up on the floor or table. No stand needed 🙂
The bridge is a one piece molded glass filled polycarbonate slot style.
The tuners are Grover non-geared (friction) 2B uke pegs. They use a 1-to-1 ratio like traditional ukulele pegs. That means that the slightest turn of the knob will have an immediate effect on the pitch of the string attached to it. Beginners sometimes have problems getting used to tuning with friction tuners. It does take a little practice, but it isn’t rocket science.
The action on the FLEA that I received is very low, which makes playing quite comfortable. Action / setup on budget priced instruments tends to be spotty at best. I’ve only ever read good things about the FLEA in that regard.
The basic model comes with an injection molded polycarbonate fretboard. That’s right, it has a plastic fretboard with plastic frets. The fret markers are also plastic. They are actually little raised dots painted white. I was very curious what it would feel like to play an instrument with a plastic fret board. It really doesn’t feel much at all different than playing a ukulele with a wooden fretboard. One very noticeable fact is that due to the molded fretboard, intonation up and down the neck is perfect. Not a bad note anywhere to be found.
The overall build quality of the FLEA is very good. I couldn’t find anything to complain about as far as that is concerned. No rough edges, finish problems, etc.
What about its sound? Well, I’m sure you won’t be surprised when I tell you that the FLEA does not sound as wonderful as my other ukes that cost from 2 to 4 times more and are made of solid wood. I will say that the FLEA has a vibrant and fun voice. I also think it has way more volume than my other instruments. So much so that I sometimes wish I had a volume knob for the times I’m playing strumming songs on it 🙂 The plastic shell seems to amplify every sound. Even the sounds of your fingers make moving up and down the strings as you play. This can become a little annoying at times, but I have a feeling I’m being really picky here.
Here are a couple short sound samples to give you an idea of what this instrument sounds like. I’m still a beginner player, so don’t expect too much from these examples:
Bottom line… The entry level FLEA ukulele is a great instrument to consider for the budget minded beginning ukulele player. It is easy to play, has a good sound and will leave some pennies in your piggy bank so that you can buy some song books to go along with it. 🙂
If you’re a FLEA owner, please do share your thoughts and comments about the instrument.