BY GREG OLWELL | FROM THE WINTER 2023 ISSUE OF UKULELE
There’s a time for subtlety and elegance, and then there’s a time for the ol’ razzle-dazzle. With electric guitar–like body shapes, bold sparkle finishes, and pickups, these new tenor ukuleles from Amahi don’t do incognito—that’s not what they’re here for. They want you to look at them. After spending a few weeks with this audacious duo, I found that they’re capable of Met Gala–level attention-grabbing on a budget while delivering an impressive live sound for both pluckers and strummers.
Amahi is the house ukulele brand of Amati’s Fine Instruments, a wholesale manufacturer of primarily bowed strings instruments based in Cincinnati, Ohio, and they’ve focused on offering affordable ukes ranging from traditional to wild styles since debuting their lineup. Amahi’s new Glitter ukes come in two body shapes, and I received one of each for review. Each profile is available in a single color covering the entire body, neck, and headstock. The champagne gold glitter uke (UK-001TEQTN) takes its body shape from the classic S-style electric guitar, and the turquoise blue uke (UK-001TEQGR) takes inspiration from the iconic offset guitar style. Both ukes have a four-in-a-line headstock reminiscent of a Gibson Firebird guitar. Cream binding along the fingerboard and the body’s top and back looks handsome.
Though it wasn’t noticeable, the scale length on these Amahi tenors falls 1/8-inch shy of the standard scale length of 17 inches. The mahogany necks have full C-shaped profiles and good fretwork that was nice and buzz-free along the flat purpleheart fingerboards. Though both of the prototype ukes we received for review were comfortable to play right out of their gig bags, I felt they could benefit from a good setup. Personally, I’d likely want to lower the string height at the nut and bridge just a little to make them even more playable, and I’d also consider rounding the edges of the nut, as the corners dug into my hand a little when strumming open-position chords.
The through-bridge design makes for a tidy look and, some argue, a superior string-to-body connection. However, it also makes string changes a little more complicated. With this design, strings need to be fed through the bridge into the uke’s interior, with a knot tied at the bridge end before being pulled taut and fed up the neck to the tuners. The matte black knobs look sharp and worked well, though one tuner on each of my test ukes felt a little loose and slightly sticky when tuning. The Glitter ukes also have a string retainer on the headstock, which is standard on solid-body electric guitars but rare on ukuleles. These small metal brackets help hold the top two strings in the nut and give them a greater break angle behind the nut, improving tone and feel.
The Glitter bodies are made from laminated mahogany and are slightly thinner than most standard tenor ukuleles. Each of these ukes is on the hefty side, perhaps due to the laminated woods, extensive finishes, and the pickup, with the turquoise one narrowly edging out Goldie.
Taking It to the Stage
With a restrained sound and modest volume, the acoustic tone of these ukes is a bit muted. However, they really impressed me when I plugged them into an acoustic amp and turned up. The Glitter twins amplify using a contact piezo pickup mounted to the inside of the top. There are no onboard controls or battery-powered preamp here, just a signal that runs straight from the pair of transducers to the output jack. Once I heard the full, round tones from my amp, I realized I would never miss the onboard controls.
The instruments really excelled when amplified. They were responsive to picking/strumming dynamics, with a warm and full sound with excellent depth and clear highs. The pickups also highlighted the sound differences between the two instruments. While they’re mostly in the same ballpark, the turquoise uke had a bit of a darker tone with a slightly hollow midrange compared to the top-end sparkle of the gold uke.
Despite a few setup points that could use some refinement, the Amahi Glitter tenor ukuleles offer dazzling sounds when amplified. While the acoustic tones make the Glitter tenor an unlikely choice for someone’s one-and-only ukulele, the electrified sounds were impressive even for a uke costing several times as much. I could really see it appealing to someone seeking an electric uke for performances. The Amahi Glitter ukuleles will wow the audience when you take the stage, and you might just wow yourself with the tones from these electric-acoustic ukes.