Gear Review: Ovation’s Bowlback Uke Comes Alive When Plugged In


 Ovation U CS10P-KOAE Electro UkuleleOvation has been offering its distinctive bowl-back guitars for more than 50 years. Made of a composite material they call Lyrachord, the round-bodied shape was designed by Charles Kaman—an aeronautical engineer, helicopter innovator, and amateur guitarist—for improved tone balance and greater projection. Continuing the tradition, last summer the company, which is now owned by Drum Workshop, reintroduced roundback soprano ukuleles with electronics.

My test uke had an attractive cocoa-colored koa top with a subdued but unmistakable grain pattern. Thin white binding with fine black purfling defined the smooth edge between the top and the body. An eye-catching iridescent ring of abalone circled the soundhole. The nato neck had a velvety satin finish that felt easy on my fretting-hand thumb. The open-back tuners have black-winged keys that do the job well while being comfortable to touch. The fret marker positioning is a bit odd; while the side dots are all in place, there are double dots at the 7th fret rather than at the 12th-fret octave, where there are no fretboard dots at all.

Strummed acoustically, the Ovation yields a pleasant sound with sweet, honeyed overtones. Notes are well balanced across the strings and throughout the neck. I’ve played louder sopranos, so the Ovation’s projection didn’t quite meet my expectation. When I plugged it in, however, the clarity of its voice really shined through. Strummed chords were prominent and pleasurable, crisply dominating the soprano range when the tone knob was in the upper half of its sweep. Single notes were springy and vibrant. With the tone rolled off, the Ovation sang sweetly with a moderate mellowness. The A string amplified was slightly louder than the rest, though it wasn’t immediately noticeable.


Overall, the Ovation is enjoyable, especially amplified. But if acoustic projection were the primary thing I was looking for, I might reach for a different instrument. 


BODY Solid koa top with abalone rosette; Ovation Lyrachord composite bowlback body;  white plastic binding; rosewood bridge; satin finish
NECK Soprano scale nato neck; 17-fret rosewood fingerboard with pearl dot position inlays;
1.4″-wide plastic nut; open-gear tuners with black plastic buttons; satin finish
ELECTRONICS Ovation undersaddle pickup with volume and tone controls
OTHER Roundback padded gig bag included
PRICE $349 (MSRP); $219 (street)