Since beginner instruments, be it guitars or ukuleles, have become pretty much synonymous with cheap instruments, it is hard to look at a ukulele over $100 price range and say that it is affordable. That being said, Alvarez RU22B is still an affordable ukulele but in a different way. The $50 range ukes are sort of tryout instruments that you get to see whether you want to continue pursuing this interest. The RU22B is more for beginners and students who want to dedicate time and a bit more money to a quality, consistent instrument that does not scream “affordable” and “cool looking”.
While the RU22B does not offer anything special when it comes to the aesthetics and looks of the instrument, it delivers quality, durable performance through good construction. The laminated mahogany top along with mahogany back and sides is well polished and put together. The mahogany neck with rosewood fingerboard adds to the overall playability and quality of the sound. The standard dovetail neck joint makes the construction more sturdy so you when you hold it you will not have the feeling like you are holding a toy that is about to fall apart. The satin finish is just the right thickness to allow nice resonance. As I have said, there is nothing that catches the eye on this uke but if you actually hold it and play the RU22B you realize that Alvarez concentrated their efforts on delivering the sound and playability while allowing the looks to stay as simple as possible.
When it comes to hardware Alvarez chose quality details that really take this uke from average, beginner instrument to something that will be enjoyed by more experienced players as well. There is a standard rosewood bridge with nut saddle that adds to the projection and overall sound. The chrome tuners hold the tune pretty well. As a beginner, it will be really easy to change the strings, although I don’t think that will be a big issue in the beginning as the ones that ship with the RU22B don’t create any problems. Now, the choice of the real bone for nut and saddle was pretty surprising for me. Not because it is a bad material. On the contrary, the real bone is probably one of the best and the most beloved materials that does not get used that often, even with the more expensive pro-level instruments as it costs a lot.
As this is a baritone ukulele you can expect bigger sound. While sopranos are a great option for beginners, if you are looking for something with more volume and deeper tone- than baritone is the way to go. This uke, specifically, has great projection due to quality bridge and saddle, balanced tone and great intonation. The RU22B combines the mellow sound that everyone loves about ukuleles, while also leaving space for darker, richer tones.
Maybe the RU22B is not a looker. Maybe it is not the most advanced uke with intricate Hawaiian ornamentation, but it sure as hell is a great, well-rounded and nicely crafted instrument. While an inexperienced player might find the price a bit too high considering that the beginner ukes nowadays go for under $50, if you are looking for a consistent sound, amazing playability, and good construction, the RU22B is one of the best options.
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