Review: Romero Creations’ Tiny Tenor Dreadnought has a Surprisingly Big Sound


When high-end classical guitar luthier Pepe Romero Jr. started making handmade tenor ukuleles in 2011, they were an instant hit. Today there’s a three- to four-year waiting list for one of Romero’s handcrafted ukes. But you don’t have to wait that long to get your hands on a Romero Creations ukulele, the luthier’s more affordable line of production instruments. The first Romero Creations model was the Tiny Tenor, a concert-sized instrument with a teardrop body shape and longer tenor scale. The Tiny Tenor was created for Romero’s design partner, Grammy-winning ukulele artist Daniel Ho, who wanted the convenience of its compact size with the rich warmth of a tenor uke. 

To mark Romero Creations’ ten years in business, Romero and Ho conceived of a handful of limited-edition anniversary ukulele models, one of which is a version of their more traditionally shaped Tiny Tenor Dreadnought. I was intrigued: Could a concert-size instrument have the tonal heft of a true tenor?

Romero Creations Tiny Tenor Dreadnought ukulele

Talkin’ Bout

The Limited Edition Tiny Tenor Dreadnought has an overall length of 24 inches, two inches shy of the typical tenor ukulele, but a bit longer than the average 23-inch concert-size ukulele. Still, the instrument easily fit not only the concert-size padded case it arrived in, but also into my less forgiving hardshell concert ukulele case. The body depth is 2-3/4 inches, and the width is 8-1/2 inches across the lower bout and 6 inches at the waist, creating a fairly capacious sound chamber. Romero says the lower bout area below the soundhole is essential to producing a warm tenor sound, which is why the original teardrop-shaped Tiny Tenor is all lower bout. 

Concert ukes typically have a 15-inch nut-to-bridge scale length, so to accommodate the longer 17-inch tenor scale length, the Tiny Tenor Dreadnought’s ebony bridge and bone saddle are set considerably farther back from the soundhole.

 The soundhole itself is shifted slightly toward the upper bout, just at the end of the 16-fret neck and only an inch from the neck joint, which couples with the body at the 14th fret. That not only leaves considerable real estate for plucking and strumming, but it also positions the soundhole in an overtone sweet spot under the third and fourth harmonics.

A Sound Machine

The solid phoenix wood on the body’s top, back, and sides has a lush, muscular look with an attractive grain pattern of soft, radiating lines. A type of mahogany found in Asia, phoenix is denser than other mahoganies, and visually similar to koa but tonally brighter. An understated yet attractive abalone rosette surrounds the soundhole, while mother of pearl dots mark the fifth, seventh, and tenth playing positions on the dark ebony fingerboard. A special “Limited Edition” marker spans the 12th fret and a striking abalone “D. Ho” inlay is emblazoned on the front of the headstock. Handmade ebony tuning buttons affixed to black matte closed-back tuning machines match the fingerboard and bridge.

The sturdy mahogany neck’s tight grain pattern closely complemented the phoenix body visually, and the hand-shaped neck’s curvature felt comfortably maneuverable throughout its entire length, especially in the open playing position near the 1-7/16-inch bone nut. The fret ends had a smoothly unnoticeable finish along the sides of the fingerboard. Though the body was practically the same size as my concert ukulele, the longer 17-inch scale length meant there was more string tension than on a 15-inch-scale concert tuned to the same pitches.


The fluorocarbon strings in Romero’s UT-2 string set likely add to the firmer feel, but also contribute to the instrument’s responsiveness and lively snap. The wound low G is made by La Bella. When played directly over the soundhole, it gave strummed chords a pleasingly deep foundation and mellow girth.

Romero Creations Tiny Tenor Dreadnought ukulele side profile

Handcrafted Tone

Like all Romero Creations instruments, these Tiny Tenor Dreadnoughts are handcrafted by a small crew in Vietnam, without the use of CNC machines. Overall, the instrument had a handsome, yet modest look that suggested its tonal aesthetic was more important than visual flash. More important, in my hands the Romero felt like an expertly crafted instrument that I never wanted to put down.

Indeed, for several weeks I strummed, fingerpicked, noodled, and canoodled with the Tiny Tenor Dreadnought. Considering its size, it’s almost a constant surprise how full the sound is. Strumming over the end of the neck yields buttery chords that are round and resonant. Each note enunciates confidently yet blends sweetly. The Dreadnought’s top end offers ample clarity, and is neither brittle nor biting. Instead, it projects with a strength and power rooted in the lower frequencies of its blooming tenor tone. Fingerpicking offered some tone flexibility based on the position of my plucking hand, as did strumming and single-note noodling, each passage getting rounder as I moved toward the soundhole sweet spot. 

The more time I spent with the Tiny Tenor Dreadnought, the more attached I grew. It sounds like a golden-hour sunset looks, with a rich midrange voice and a lovely dynamic range that can handle delicate passages or vibrant strumming. If a warm, concert-size tenor with a conventional shape sounds appealing to you, spend some time with the Romero Creations Tiny Tenor Dreadnought.

Romero Creations Tiny Tenor Dreadnought ukulele back

Romero Creations Tiny Tenor Dreadnought Specs

BODY Concert-size with solid phoenix wood top, back, and sides; abalone rosette

NECK Mahogany with 17″ tenor scale and 16-fret ebony fingerboard (14 frets to the body); mother of pearl position dots with “Limited Edition” 12th-fret inlay; 36mm-wide bone nut, bone saddle, and ebony bridge with through-body stringing; 16:1 tuners with hand-made ebony tuner buttons; abalone Daniel Ho headstock logo


OTHER Pepe Romero Strings UT2 Tenor Ukulele Set with wound low G; Romero Creations Deluxe soft-shell padded case made by Access

MADE IN Vietnam

PRICE $949 street