Snail BH-1C Spalted Maple Concert Ukulele
I was a little torn when I first saw the Snail BH-1C concert uke. I’ve always been a sucker for Asian design, and this, with its tear-drop soundhole, side soundport and inlaid lily on the fingerboard was clearly something that appealed to this preference of mine. However, I had also seen and played some Chinese-made ukes that looked fancy but let me down on the playing and sound side. In those cases the decoration was the best feature - but not here. When I picked it up it was a really pleasant surprise, with a clear, unmuddy sound, a nice set-up and a pleasant projection, both to listeners and to the player, via the soundhole positioned on the side.
In hindsight I shouldn’t have been surprised, having had a long association with the Snail factory, who once made own brand models for me while I was at Omega Music. If you search out the Omega Zedro and Omega Klasiko models, you’ll find online reviews that were very favourable.
The ukulele has a laminate body, with spalted maple veneer under a gloss finish appearing on the body, with mahogany binding finishing things off nicely. The headstock has a dark veneer on top which looks handsome, as does the non-standard shaped headstock. I initially thought maybe the shaped end of the fretboard was a touch too far, but then reflected that it sat pretty nicely with the tear-shaped soundhole. The neck is unstained mahogany which looks just right together with spalted maple.
The sound is bold and direct, and without being at all thin, still lets the treble notes shine through when playing a mix of chords and melodies. Personally, I play a lot of tunes where just the top two strings are fretted to make the melodies, with the G and C strings largely idle apart from being played open. The sparkling trebles on this BH-1C concert uke work particularly well when playing this way.
The tuners are effective, open geared affairs which work well, the bone nut is nicely cut, the bone saddle is compensated and the ebony fingerboard is very smooth, and also bound in mahogany which is a nice touch.
The strings are D’addario Titanium and they’re nice and light to touch, making them easy to bend and add a bit of vibrato to. Handily there are position markers down the side too, important as they’re not there on the fretboard to make way for the inlaid lily design.
This is a great example of a really nice sounding laminate uke - that beats some overbuilt, heavy solid-top ukes hands down. I realise I am going on and on about how good it is, but I didn’t find one thing I didn’t like… the (admittedly otherwise flawless) gloss finish was sprayed on without anything covering the soundhole, so you can see a bit of gloss inside the ukulele. Which makes no difference to anything - unless you want to peer inside the body all day! But, at least you know this wasn’t a Snail sponsored description!