BY GREG OLWELL | FROM THE FALL 2021 ISSUE OF UKULELE
Right from its beginnings in 2005, Luna was different from other stringed-instrument makers. Co-founded by an artist and musician who imprinted a unique stamp on the company’s guitars and ukuleles, Luna’s ukes have an instantly identifiable look, with designs that integrate universal symbols and interesting laser-etched tattoo patterns with player-friendly pricing. You know a Luna when you see one—they all have a vibe.
The Vineyard Koa Bevel concert is one of the company’s newest instruments, and its price ($449 street) is topped among Luna ukes only by its sibling, the Vineyard Koa tenor. The Vineyard on review here is a performance-ready concert ukulele with a pickup and a cutaway that offers several features that used to only be found on more expensive custom instruments, like an integrated arm bevel and elaborate pearl inlays on the fingerboard and rosette.
The body has a solid koa top and uses laminated koa for the back and sides, a choice that gives the Vineyard some extra strength, stability in changing weather conditions, and weight. In contrast, the solid two-piece top with a pair of fan braces provides it with more acoustic response and tone versus a comparable instrument with a laminated top. The koa is mostly straight-grained and medium colored—my favorite type of koa for sound—with a touch of flame figuring that pops out when you move it in the light. The Vineyard is on the heavy side for a concert uke, likely due to its onboard electronics, laminated back and sides, and large open headstock. The fingerboard’s pearl inlay theme extends to the rosette, which has a delicate vine encircling the soundhole’s rosewood band. It’s a lovely touch and might be my favorite part of this uke’s bountiful beauty.
The body’s rosewood binding adds an attractive touch and is sculpted into the beveled armrest. Integrated armrests were created by Canadian guitar maker and inlay visionary William “Grit” Laskin to solve the problem of the sharp edge of a guitar’s lower bass bout digging into a player’s arm, which can become quite uncomfortable. Laskin’s design is an elegant solution that has thankfully filtered down to affordable factory-made instruments like this Luna Vineyard. The Vineyard’s bevel is as handsome as it is practical, and it is an addition that genuinely enhances playing comfort even on this little concert ukulele.
The Vineyard’s bevel is as handsome as it is practical, and it is an addition that genuinely enhances playing comfort even on this little concert ukulele.
The mahogany neck’s C-shape carve has a comfortable fullness without being too bulky or too slender. The rosewood fingerboard has the flat radius found on most ukuleles. Frets were all nicely shaped, and the nut was very well shaped and fitted, helping to make the Vineyard very comfortable and playable. Though I’d personally feel more at home with a slightly lower action, the medium-low setup should work for most. Notes were in-tune all over the neck, even up toward the soundhole where some fear to tread. The open-gear tuners present a fitting look to the lovely open headstock. Still, I found the tuners a little stiff in operation, which made tuning a little more time-consuming.
The Vineyard’s onboard Fishman Kula preamp uses two standard CR2032 coin-size batteries, which should last players 240 hours. The combination battery box and output jack make for a compact footprint and easy battery changes. The Kula has a three-band EQ and a chromatic onboard tuner that mutes the uke’s output when used, so your audience doesn’t have to listen to your tuning. I played the Luna through a few acoustic amps, and it really shines when amplified, producing a crisp and clear tone with a brightness that gave me clarity and presence with zero harshness from the undersaddle piezo pickup.
The onboard controls were handy for dialing in sounds that could help blend with a band or stand out for solo performances, though three bands of EQ might be one more than I’d ever need. I liked the EQ set flat, with the knobs at their center detents, for solo fingerpicking, while a bit of treble reduction really warmed up the sound for strumming. At higher volumes, the bass control was helpful for—and I can’t believe I’m saying this about a ukulele—trimming some of this uke’s low-end heaviness. Dialing the bass back about halfway removed some boominess, adding clarity that helped the Vineyard sit well in a mix with other instruments.
Given Luna’s attentiveness to the Vineyard’s playability and setup, I would have liked to have seen a little more effort given to managing the onboard wiring. The wires connecting the pickup, jack, and preamp would buzz against the top or bracing, seemingly because the cables were too long and not sufficiently secured. This meant that I kept needing to stick a finger inside to adjust the wires. If I were to keep this uke, I’d enlist a professional luthier to make everything snug.
An instrument with a strong visual statement like the Luna Vineyard Koa concert means you’re probably all-in from first sight or its looks are not to your taste. If the styling is your thing and you want an instrument that sounds as good plugged in as it looks, then you should check out the Vineyard. It delivers excellent amplified sounds in a flashy player-friendly package.
BODY Concert cutaway shape with solid koa top and laminated koa back and sides, spruce bracing, rosewood bevel, single-ply rosewood binding, rosewood bridge with bone saddle, rosewood rosette with pearl vine inlay, gloss polyurethane finish
NECK 15″-scale mahogany neck with C-shape carve, open headstock with pearl inlay, 18-fret flat radius rosewood fingerboard with pearl vine inlay, 1-3/8″-wide bone nut, rosewood heel cap, chrome open-gear tuners, gloss polyurethane finis
ELECTRONICS Fishman Kula preamp with Sonicore undersaddle pickup
OTHER Aquila Super Nylgut strings; padded gig bag; right-handed only
PRICE $449 (street)
MADE IN China