Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Bugsgear Plastic Ukulele review

Everyone loves a plastic uke, right? This time around we're taking a look at this Bugsgear Aqulele Plastic Ukulele. The name doesn't sound familiar, but you might actually be familiar with the work of this same company. It's the same people that make the quirky looking Peanut Eleuke

This uke is made from ABS. This soprano scale uke is intended for the ukulele player on an adventure. It can be taken along camping, hiking, or just thrown in the back of the car without worrying about it. Think of it as the "Rocky" of the ukulele world. Here's the report card.....

Intonation - B+

Intonation is pretty decent up until the 7th fret. It's a little touch and go past that, which isn't a big deal to me since I rarely play anything past the 7th. The action is nice and low and the strings it came with seem to be Aquila's. Keeping that in mind, the intonation isn't going to get up to that A+ range, but for what this ukulele is intended for (to take with you anywhere you go), it's fine by me!

Tone - A-

When I took this out of the box, tuned it up, and strummed it for the first time I was pretty floored. For a plastic ukulele, it sounds fantastic! It produces a very sweet and surprisingly full tone. It definitely exceeded my expectations. I've read some theory behind offset sound holes and how they provide better acoustic output since they allow for a little more sound board vibration through the middle. This could very well be the case, but I'm not so convinced. I think the offset was probably done more for design than for acoustics. Either way, this plastic ukulele sounds delightful and it will turn some heads among the ukulele crowd.

Finish and Appearance - B+

There are some minor dry glue spots and some very small nicks here and there. I reduced the grade a little due to the fretboard. It sort of looks like it doesn't completely fit on the neck. There's a small gap. It seems to be well in tact, but I just didn't like how it affected the appearance.

I really like the look of the offset sound hole. I think it works really well with the design and compliments the cutaway nicely. I'm not so crazy about the color or any of the available color options (which also includes pink and purple), but color is more of a personal preference.

Materials and Construction - A-

The overall construction feels sturdy and I was glad to see some internal bracing on both the top and bottom inside the body. This is vital if you're going to be taking it with you hiking, backpacking, biking, or who knows what else. Never know when you're going to accidentally step on it in those situations.

I was glad to see some quality geared tuners on the headstock. They aren't the best on the market, but they seem sturdy and fit the general intent of this durable ukulele.

Again, I'll point out that the strings it came with (my best guess is Aquila's) are quality strings.

Innovation and Ingenuity - A-

Not a 100% original idea, but high marks are still deserved here. Plastic ukuleles have been around for a long time (I actually have a couple from the 1950's in my collection), but the new era of plastic ukes are being made more for the ukulele player and less for the kid that wants a cheap uke to learn on. ABS is pretty amazing stuff and I'm glad it's being utilized to make a durable and highly playable instrument than can be taken into the great outdoors without fear of it being damaged by the elements. It could also be left in the trunk of the car without too much worry about whether it will warp in the summer heat. You've just gotta tip your hat to any company that is exploring these possibilities.

The design of the bridge and how the strings "lock" in is another thing that bares mentioning. I've never seen that idea before and it looks cool and works well.

Feel and Playability - A-

The action is nice and low. Again, this greatly exceeded my expectations. It's also heavier than I expected and feels pretty good to hold.

Up and down the neck changing fretting positions and transitioning chords was smooth and easy.

My only complaint in this area (and it's a pretty small complaint) is the lack of side position dots on the neck. Most fretted instruments are being built with these. I guess if it REALLY bugged you (no pun intended), it could be easily remedy with a few very small stickers.

Overall - A-

It met and often exceeded my expectations. A solid plastic ukulele that you can take with you pretty much anywhere you go. It will surprise you with it's tone and probably earn your trust over time with it's durability...and it looks cool too.

It has the characteristics of a good beginner ukulele, with a little extra razzmatazz and wow factor to push it just past a B+ to an A-.

The price ain't bad either. Looks like it's going for around the $100 mark. If you're looking for the perfect camping ukulele, you just found it!


  1. I have two of these.

    The production prototype I have has a serious problems with intonation, there was an assembly error. No hope of ever being playable.

    This new version has that problem fixed and bugsgear now pre slots the nuts. For me, I find the overall action to be high for my tastes. When testing with a tuner the intonation is good all over, including the high frets. However, the high action near the saddle makes it difficult to play those notes in tune.

    Also the string spacing is noticeably less than the other ukuleles I own (that includes a fluke, martin oxk, lanakai lu21p, dolphin). I had an ODU for a short while. I think this does sound better and plays more traditionally than the ODU does. However I do have to say I don't like it as much as any of the above instruments I mentioned. It's probably just the high action part that bothers me most.

    1. Sorry to hear about that experience with the earlier prototype! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      Side note, you mentioned that Martin oxk. I've been pretty curious about those and have heard a lot of mixed feelings. A 50/50 split between people that really like it and people that really don't.

  2. As a Minnesotan, I'm really interested in the concept, since our lifestyle includes pontoon boating, ice fishing, and other hostile-climate pursuits. Thanks for the articles and reviews re: plastic ukes. Please keep them coming!

  3. ADM Soprano Ukulele Start Pack from Bizarkdeal
    Bottom price: $29

    I have a 10 year old son that has an interest in musical instruments. I love that he wants to learn to play different things. He loves the recorder and now he is enjoying his new ukulele. This ukulele is perfect for beginners. It came packaged up nicely is a cardboard box. It included everything that you need to get started. The box included the ukulele, neck strap, 2 picks, tuner, polishing cloth and a bag to carry your ukulele in. It also came with some extra strings. My son was familiar with the ukulele as they learned about it in Music class last year. He has been having a good time with it. He’s even watching YouTube videos to learn how to play. My son prefers to use his fingers to play instead of the included picks. But, we have them in case he changes his mind. He has been enjoying every bit of it. The price is great and this ukulele makes a great gift. It looks very well made and is painted nicely and looks so shiny. It sounds great.