Breedlove has four new Lu’au Concert Series ukuleles debuting in 2019, including the Concert Natural Shadow E on review here. It’s an affordable instrument, built overseas but designed at Breedlove’s headquarters in Bend, Oregon. Master luthier Kim Breedlove (brother of co-founder Larry Breedlove) found motivation for the Lu’au Series by taking walks in Hawaiian koa forests, but he decided to make the back and sides of these ukes out of myrtlewood, a tonewood he discovered many moons ago growing along Oregon’s Pacific Coast. Capped off with a solid Sitka spruce top from nearby Alaska, this new Breedlove uke represents a combination of South Pacific and Pacific Northwest inspirations.
The Lu’au Concert E’s top is finished with an attractive Natural Shadow gloss that gives it an aged vibe, while the reddish hue of the woods matches well with the tortoise-colored bindings, rosette and heel cap. Other cosmetic touches include a stained basswood headstock overlay and open-back tuners with black buttons.
The Lu’au is a concert ukulele, meaning it’s the second biggest of the four main body styles: soprano, concert, tenor and baritone. While the soprano uke is most common for several reasons, including affordability and its kid-friendly size, the concert is a great option for players with average to large hands seeking the trademark brilliance of a uke with a fuller tone and more room on the fretboard.
This instrument certainly packs plenty of power and punch, qualities that Breedlove attributes to myrtlewood, which is the reason it was chosen over traditional koa. I happened to have a koa uke on hand for comparison, and it indeed sounded a bit mellower. Single fretted notes spring forth from the Lu’au with a pleasant “pop” at the front end of each pluck, and they blend nicely when played as double-stops or chords. The top three strings sustain well, offering juicy options to play off of when working on the fourth string utilizing traditional re-entrant tuning (meaning the fourth string is tuned an octave up).
Breedlove’s proprietary UK-T1 pickup system (which includes a built-in tuner with a great little display) delivered a clear, strong tone through a Fishman Mini Charge amp, although this unit had an issue with the first string sounding relatively soft compared to the others. I’ve encountered similar issues several times recently when reviewing different types of instruments with undersaddle piezo pickups. Perhaps there are gaps or spots where the contact isn’t true along the strip.
I found the Lu’au Concert very playable, thanks to its low factory action, cozy string spacing and a neck profile that feels nice and trim, yet isn’t so shallow as to feel unsubstantial or cause cramping. Single-note runs came readily when playing across several strings and felt particularly slick when sliding up and down a single string. The fret edges were smooth and the intonation solid until hitting the higher frets on the top strings.
All in all, the Lu’au Concert Natural Shadow E is an attractive, performance-ready ukulele with vivacious tone and fine playability at a reasonable price. Every guitarist should own a uke for inspiration and just pure fun, and the Lu’au Concert is certainly worthy of an audition.
Lu’au Concert Natural Shadow E
PRICE $249 street
NUT WIDTH 1.375", bone
FRETBOARD Ovangkol, 15" scale
TUNERS Nickel-plated open gear
BODY Myrtlewood back and sides, solid Sitka spruce top
ELECTRONICS Breedlove UK-T1
FACTORY STRINGS Aquila Super Nylgut
WEIGHT 1.4 lbs
KUDOS Classy look. Vivacious tone. Easy to play. Onboard electronics
CONCERNS Faulty pickup connection to first string on this unit. No gig bag