No matter what instrument you are looking at you have to consider it in its price range. That is why if you are looking a budget-friendly ukulele but judging it based on expectations you have for a much pricier instrument, you will always be disappointed. So every time I go into reviewing more entry-level and budget-friendly instruments, I usually try to warn the readers to have “appropriate” expectations. With that in mind, let’s talk about Caramel CT102A Zebra Wood Tenor Acoustic Ukulele, an instrument that might not find liking among professional players who are willing to pay hundreds but that will be a heartthrob among beginners.
First things first, as most people already know there is no way around the tonewood. The material that the manufacturer decides to use can make or break the overall performance of an instrument. With the CT102A, you get zebra wood which is a beautiful material with boldly colored grains. Soundwise, zebra wood is similar to mahogany but it has a brighter tone. Zebra wood is great not just because of its more exotic looks but also because it adds a volume and darker overtones. It is also very durable so if you are traveling around, ukulele made of zebrawood is the way to go. Although, this is a laminated wood so it will lose some of its best properties. Nevertheless, the durability and sound are still pretty amazing even with the laminated version of zebrawood. There is an issue with the fretboard which is not that well polished. Some of the frets are a bit too harsh. Although it does not affect playability that much, it still is not a great thing.
Let’s move on to the hardware. While there is nothing to stop and marvel over, the overall quality of the hardware is pretty good. You get a Caramel logo laser etched on the headstock and a laser etched rosette pattern that looks nice. Unfortunately, the plastic tuners are not the best and most durable. As for the nut and saddle, they are made from buffalo bone. The truss rod for the adjustment of the neck is a really big advantage and will make your experience that much better. The CT102A also ships with Aquila strings. These strings are good in quality and add a bit more clarity to the sound.
All in all, Caramel CT102A brings together good tonewood and hardware for its price range. Zebra wood produces a bright and balanced tone. The overall volume is pretty good and the Aquila strings that come with this instrument are also helpful. This would be the amazing starting point for a beginner who is looking for functionality and decent sound. If you are in it for some sort of a perfection, you should probably look somewhere else.
If you are looking for your first tenor ukulele, something that will be functional, easy to use, have a nice sound but still be in a good price range Caramel CT102A Zebra Wood Tenor Acoustic Ukulele might be the one for you. There are small issues like lack of sustain and sharp frets but nothing that makes this ukulele unlikeable.