As you can see from the title, this review is for the Aklot AKC23 Ukulele Package. Click on any picture to see a larger image.
Aklot keeps product stocked in the USA for fast shipment (unlike Caramel, which takes up to a month to arrive), and the order came in a couple of days with Amazon Prime shipping. The ukulele arrives in a nice box (reminiscent of Enya, who makes the EUR-X1 that I recently reviewed, but Aklot is not the same company) along with a few accessories, such as a thin gig bag, tuner, neck strap, cleaning cloth, extra (Aquila Super Nylgut) strings, a felt pick and a nylon pick, and a beginner’s booklet. Without going into unnecessary detail, the included tuner is nice and I have been using it with a number of ukuleles, and the neck strap is excellent–but a mismatch with the instrument (I will come back to this later). The bag is a thin gig bag–not as thin as some bags–and offers basic protection for your protection as you go place to place.
The company is trying to market these ukuleles to beginning and advancing players. The ukulele is a traditionally double bout shaped concert ukulele with a solid mahogany top with laminate mahogany back and sides. It has a rich finish that the company calls “matte.” I wrote this review on Facebook, and someone said that the ukulele I have looks better than the one pictured on Amazon. It IS a pretty ukulele with attractive stripes of dark brown and lighter mahogany colors coming through. Some players may not like the finish on the neck, which shares the same finish–I am okay with it. The neck is made of okoume wood (I’ve never heard of it) with three joints. There are strap buttons on the instrument from the factory. The tuners are open tuners with black plastic buttons that turn nicely–and as with most geared tuners, they work. The company uses copper and stainless steel in the tuners and talks about this as a feature (I’m not sure that is a “feature.”). The headstock approaches but does not replicate a three-point crown, with the Aklot logo, as well as a bird–which is supposedly a pigeon! Note: my review on Facebook led to a discussion of pigeon. Apparently, several languages only have one word for dove and pigeon, which are in the same species. Dove and pigeon have very different connotations in English. So, while Aklot informed me it was a pigeon, and I talk about that in this review and in the video, I’m going to give Aklot the benefit of the doubt and call it a dove in the future.
The saddle and nut are made of bone; the fretboard and bridge are made of rosewood. The bridge may be a point of departure for many buyers as it is a larger bridge in the shape of a bird–again a pigeon. You would probably want to lie to people and tell them it is an eagle. If you bought this ukulele, the bridge would be hidden most of the time as you played it.
There are eighteen nickel silver frets with fourteen to the body…fretboard markers as expected and side markers as well. There is a nice etched rosette on the front of the instrument–a departure from the sun that is used on many different instruments these days. In my opinion, it is a nice touch–understated and elegant. Let me say this again: I really like the rosette. The company stresses that the neck is made with straight grained wood to add strength (Again, I’m not sure about that as a selling point) and that the edges of the soundboard are rolled so as to be more comfortable for the player. They may have a point–someone recently pointed out to me how the sharp edge of the round Enya EUR-X1 can be addressed with some careful sanding.
The fret edges are finished nicely, and the company is stressing good action from the start, insisting that it be no more than .5mm at the first fret, and no more than 3mm at the 12th fret. My ukulele was under 2.75mm at the 12th fret.
A look inside the ukulele shows a clean build, with notched kerfing and typical bracing. It has a 35mm nut (34.86) with 8.67mm spacing between strings at the first fret. The ukulele weighs in at 1 pound 1.6 ounces.
As for sound, I have access to 4 other concert ukuleles…a Makala CE (the C model is in the same price range), a Lanikai LU-21/BKCE, a Bruce Wei Concert Ukulele, and one of our school’s Mainland Mahogany ukuleles. In my video, I comparing the Aklot with these other ukuleles. The sound of the Aklot is surprisingly good (to me–I’m sure it isn’t a surprise to Aklot as they made it that way) with a full, rich sound with good punch and sustain, as well as a bit of depth due to the deep body (2.83″). In my opinion, many laminate ukuleles tend to have depth without brightness, and the Aklot actually gets the best of both worlds with its construction of part wood, part wood laminate. A tap on the soundboard shows that it is really quite resonant, as you would hope for a solid wood soundboard. To be honest, after comparing the instruments, the Mainland has it beat in sound…but this ukulele is 1/4 of the cost of a Mainland. It seems to me that this would be a perfect first or second instrument…allowing you to play a very nice instrument until you saved for the semi-pro level (e.g. Mainland, Pono, KoAloha Opio) or pro level (Kala Elite, Kamaka, KoAloha, Ko’olau, Kaniela). For causal players, who do not suffer from Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome, this could be an instrument that lasts a lifetime. So think of the Aklot as a great first instrument, a great primary instrument, or a great transition instrument. You really can’t go wrong with it.
I only have three minor concerns about the ukulele: first, it comes with a neck strap–a very nice one–that doesn’t utilize the strap buttons installed on the ukulele. It should come with a shoulder strap.
Second, the strings do not have a bead tied on them…something that I do with my pull-through ukuleles, so I used some extra beads that I had (a container of hundred of beads was $1.63 at Wal-Mart). Don’t be afraid of a ukulele with pull-through strings. I’m not sure that it helps the ukulele settle down in tuning–but it is another accepted way to string ukulele. Just remove the old strings from the tuning pegs (I just cut them near the headstock), feed the old strings through the bridge, and fish them out of the ukulele. Then feed new strings into the ukulele, fishing them out from the inside while they still stick out on the outside. I tie a small bead on the end, and then connect the string to the tuning pegs. It is easy…but a little more involved than a tie bridge or a slotted bridge.
Finally, and most importantly, this is a solid top ukulele that should require extra care when humidity falls outside of the 40%-60% window. If you choose to buy this ukulele, you will need a plan to humidify if you live anywhere that falls out of that humidity range. The gig bag that it comes with will not trap humidity, so another solution will need to be found (different case, Rubbermaid container, etc.). I also thought the fretboard looked a little dry, so when I changed the strings to Martin M600 strings, I applied some Lemon Oil from StewMac–something that is good to do with any ukulele with a wood fretboard. Just remember…a drop of Lemon Oil is probably all that you need!
There are other $55 to $60 ukulele packages out there (See Donner and Enya as reliable brands)…but this is the only solid top ukulele package that I know of.
The Aklot AKC23 is currently on Amazon (the only place to buy it) for $55, and I fully recommend the Aklot AKC23 Concert Ukulele with one final reminder that it does have a solid top and should require some humidity maintenance in many places in the world.
Pros: Solid mahogany top ukulele with laminate mahogany sides, excellent action (set-up) straight from the factory, smooth fret edges, warm and bright sound, included strap buttons, beautiful colors, tasteful etched rosette, it comes with a light case and other accessories including a tuner that works very well, and of course, it has a great price. The company desires happy customers. Buy, unpack, tune, and play (note: like all ukuleles, strings stretch a lot when new. Just keep tuning it up, and playing it as you do so. It will eventually settle down).
Cons: Truly, nothing to avoid. The main thing is that you likely don’t know the name Aklot. The company is trying to change that. The included strap is for your neck and not your shoulder–and the instrument comes with strap buttons! Don’t get me wrong…it is a high quality neck strap, but I would like to see a shoulder strap included instead, like this one. The large bird on the bridge is the only thing on the instrument that sticks out–and you may not like that. The neck also shares the matte finish of the ukulele, and some players do not like a tactile finish on the neck. I personally like fluorocarbon strings, so I swapped the strings out with Martin M600 strings. The most important thing: this is a solid top ukulele and you should address humidity when the humidity in your house (or wherever you play it) is out of the 40%-60% range.
Note: the links on this page are referral links. If you buy an Aklot AKC 23 Ukulele or Martin M600 strings from this page, a small percentage of Amazon’s profit comes my way, which helps pay for my ukulele addiction. Thanks in advance if you buy through a referral link!