A super fun uke that's no laughing matter, the Fullerton Jazzmaster is an excellent travel companion with exceptional tone and feel, and electronics that equip it for the stage.
- Stellar aesthetic.
- Good playability and tone.
- Highly inspirational.
- Onboard tuner.
- No gig bag included.
"What’s that?” “That’s cool!” “How much does it cost?” In nearly 20 years of reviewing gear, I’ve never seen another musical product arouse so much interest. What typically follows every such exchange is some version of “I want one.”
I’m not surprised, because I said the very same thing when Fender unveiled its new line of Fullerton ukuleles at the 2020 NAMM Show. When I learned the Fullerton Ukes would hit the street for about 200 bucks, I figured everyone would want one for themselves, for their kids or for a music-loving friend or acquaintance.
I mean, what’s not to like about ukuleles shaped like classic Fender guitars? While these concert-sized Fullertons shaped like Teles, Strats and Jazzmasters are not the first-ever guitar-ukes, Fender deserves kudos for getting a lot of things right. The Fullertons don’t look, sound or feel like toys.
Fender evidently put ample research into the design, which includes a pickup and preamp system made specifically for the line. I was immediately drawn to the shape and Tidepool Blue hue of the Jazzmaster (also available in Olympic White). The glossy finish sparkles in the sun, and the matching headstock with four-in-line tuners gives it an extra-cool factor.
The space-age offset shape not only looks rad – it’s surprisingly comfortable, too, even when played standing up. It actually took a while before I realized that I hadn’t put a strap on it. Like the body’s iconic shape, the neck has a familiarity that will appeal to guitar players, even though the fretboard’s radius is flat.
Maybe it’s my eyes messing with my head as I look down on what appears to be a mini guitar with a bound neck, but the Fullerton feels more like a full-blown guitar neck on a uke than a thin ukulele neck on an instrument shaped like a guitar. What's more, the Jazzmaster cutaway facilitates easy reach into the upper register.
For my first getaway in the year of the coronavirus, I took the Fullerton Jazzmaster Uke to Yosemite. It was a perfect fit for the car, and fabulous for campfire jams. Its tone was warm and on the mellow side, yet packed plenty of nylon-string “pop” when plucked with enthusiasm.
The tone became more vivacious when I plugged it into a JBL Eon One Compact I’d brought along for Fourth of July jams.
Taking full advantage of the Fullerton’s onboard tuner, I altered the tuning without fear of breaking strings, as the Fullerton has a no-tie bridge and I’d tossed a spare set in my backpack, just in case.
The lack of any gig bag whatsoever was a bit of a bummer, but it proved instructive for this review. I put the Fullerton in my backpack and hiked way up a mountain to my favorite “secret” swimming hole.
Almost immediately upon arrival, the backpack came unzipped and the Fullerton fell out – “Bang, bang, bang!” It hit the granite stones, but luckily didn’t slide into the creek. When I picked it up, I noticed it had suffered only a couple of barely noticeable dings. Surprisingly, the action was still on point, and I went about playing the Fullerton.
Pretty soon, a scout leader brought a group of young boys and girls around the corner, and when I was spotted across a small bend in the creek, one of the girls – who so happened to be a mandolin player – shouted, “What’s that?”
The usual exchange followed. She’ll probably have a Fullerton Uke of her own on her next adventure. I’m keeping this one for mine. It’s easy to give Fender’s Fullerton Jazzmaster Uke an Editors’ Pick Award.
- PRICE: $199 street
- NUT WIDTH: 1.38”, synthetic bone
- NECK: Maple
- FRETBOARD: Walnut, 15.04” scale
- FRETS: 19 total, 14 to the body
- TUNERS: Sealed nickel
- BODY: Mahogany back and sides, laminated spruce top
- BRIDGE: Walnut
- FACTORY STRINGS: Fender Aquila Nylgut Concert Set
- WEIGHT: 1.8 lbs
- BUILT: China
- CONTACT: Fender
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