VTAB is a relative newcomer to the ukulele scene, but their beautiful instruments at incredible prices have been causing a bit of a stir. They’ve moved into the electric ukulele game with the VTAB TSX-CQ15, a concert ukulele with built-in active pickup system. How is it? Well, read on to find out!
The TSX-CQ15 has a fairly standard concert ukulele design. It’s the little touches, though, that make it stand out. The shiny high gloss finish is beautiful, and the spruce top and mahogany back and sides pop immediately. The slotted headstock is also a nice touch. In all, this is a ukulele that looks quite a bit better than most others in its price range. Some traditionalist might not like the pegs on the saddle, preferring the usual tie bar. I personally find tie bars a bit of a hassle, so I welcome the pegs, which make strings easy to change.
One surprising design omission was a lack of strap buttons. They’re not traditional, but most ukuleles, especially ones with pickups, have them. Usually, the jack for the pickup functions as one, and another is installed at the heel of the neck. Instead, on the VTAB uke the jack is offset, with nothing to attach a strap to. Adding buttons is easy enough; they’re cheap to come by and you just need to drill small hole to mount them. Not a huge deal, but since more and more ukulele players like using a strap it’s worth mentioning.
In short, everything about the tone screams “traditional ukulele.” Which is great, especially since its tone matches that of other ukes twice its price or more. It’s also worth noting because the market is starting to see a lot more non-traditional ukuleles. If you’re more into the futuristic looks and sound of the Lava U or Enya Nova, that’s great. For those who want their ukes to look and sound like, well, ukes, VTAB has delivered.
The tone of the VTAB TSX-CQ15 is pretty much exactly what you’d expect from a good ukulele. It’s got great sustain, great body, great “jangle.” Nothing necessarily stands out, it’s not the loudest or the warmest or the punchiest uke out there. Instead, this delivers a nice all-around ukulele sound, nothing more and nothing less. It’s quite lively, and works well both strummed and fingerpicked. It won’t necessarily cut through a big jam, but it won’t get drowned out easily either.
This is a very easy ukulele to play, and well-wuited to both beginners and experts. The setup out of the box is pretty good, which is a relief. Many ukes coming through the mail from overseas have very poor setups that make them hard to play; VTAB doesn’t fall into this trap.
Action is good, frets are well-dressed, and intonation is spot-on. The nut is neither wide nor thin. Someone with very large fingers might find it a little cramped, but it’ll be fine for the vast majority of players. Position dots on both the top and side of the fretboard make it easy to orient yourself while playing. Overall, I’m quite impressed with the playability.
The built-in electronics are pretty standard, but sound quite nice. Controls include sliders for treble and bass and a knob for volume. The tone is strong through an amp, with very little noise. The tone sounds a little “electric,” for lack of a better term, certainly not like an acoustic ukulele exactly, But that’s a common issue with pickup systems, and it sounds natural enough for a gig or open mic. The EQ controls help give a wide range of tonal possibilities, although more picky players may want to use an external DI box like the Behringer ADI21.
There’s also a built-in tuner, which is pretty handy and accurate. It’s easy enough to find an app or cheap external tuner, but having one built-in is really convenient. Plus, it works well even in noisy scenarios, which is very important for gigging or a jam session environment.
The electronics take 2 CR2023 batteries, which are common enough and relatively cheap. I wasn’t able to test out the battery life fully, since they didn’t run down at all in the many hours I tested the ukulele out. Suffice it to say that they’ll probably last a while, although it’s always good to keep a spare pair on hand just in case!
Like many ukuleles nowadays, the VTAB TSX-CQ15 comes with some nice little accessories. Most important is the gig bag, which is fairly thin but seems sturdy. It won’t protect your uke from every bump and scrape, but it’ll keep scratches off the lovely finish. If you’re planning on doing a lot of travel, especially air travel, with the ukulele, I would recommend a hard case. Otherwise, you’ll be fine with the included gig bag.
Also included are a few picks, a polishing cloth, and a set of strings. The picks may or may not be useful depending on your personal preference. I don’t usually use picks on a uke, but I do on guitar, so they’re handy to have! I also don’t really have much use for the polishing cloth, but the finish is so nice I might end up wanting to shine it up a bit.
Most ukuleles in this price range come with a set of strings that range from terrible to “meh.” To be honest, I rarely use the spare set that often come included. However, VTAB has not only put a set of genuine Aquila strings on the ukulele, they’ve included a spare set! These are great strings, and suit the instrument well. It’s nice to actually be able to whole-heartedly recommend keeping the strings it comes with on, and keeping your spare set with you just in case. More makers should follow VTAB’s lead on this.
One thing the package does not come with is a battery for the pickup. A VTAB representative said that this is because batteries can be tough to ship internationally, which is understandable. These are easily bought at a store, so it’s not a huge deal. However, it does mean you’ll either have to be prepared or wait a little bit before fully enjoying your ukulele!
At just over $200, the VTAB TSX-CQ15 is one of the best ukuleles in its price point. The look, tone, and playability all make it stand out from the pack, and the electronics make it a great ukulele for gigs, open mics, or just playing around with amplified music. It’s not necessarily a different ukulele; there’s nothing in its features or design that sets it apart. Instead, it’s simply one of the highest-quality ukuleles you can get at a price anywhere close. For traditionalists, that should be more than enough.
One thing that is a little different from most ukuleles is that it’s not as widely available. You can’t buy one on Amazon, at Guitar Center, or other big online and traditional retailers. The best way to get a hold of one is directly through VTAB, although they also have a handful of dealers and a growing network. Hopefully, they’ll become easier and easier to find in shops, because they’re hard to beat!