Review: Tanglewood TU-1CE, TU-3, TU-3E & TU-5

Tanglewood TU-3E – headstock VID

The humble ukulele’s popularity has been on the rise over the last few years, not least because these instruments are easy to carry around and plenty of fun to play.

This fact hasn’t gone unnoticed by British brand Tanglewood, who have recently broadened their range of ukes.

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Tanglewood ukuleles – teaser

The quartet of ukes we’ve received for testing – the TU-1CE, the TU-3, the TU-3E and the TU-5 – are all part of Tanglewood’s mahogany-bodied Union-series.

Tanglewood TU-1CE – headstock

All Union-series ukuleles have mahogany necks with glued-on neck heels and headstocks.

The fingerboards have been crafted from rosewood.

Tanglewood – uke tuners VID

Tanglewood’s geared, open tuners work very well.

Tanglewood TU-3 – bridge

Ukuleles come with one of several different bridge designs, depending on the manufacturer.

Tanglewood has chosen the most practical ukulele bridge, which anchors the knotted string ends in little slots cut into the top of the bridge.

Tanglewood TU-3 – body beauty 2

All Union-series ukuleles have a sound box made from laminated mahogany.

The instruments have received a clear satin finish.

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Tanglewood TU-1CE – beauty shot

Tanglewood’s TU-1CE (current price in Finland 116 €) is a soprano ukulele with a deep cutaway. It comes with a pickup and preamp installed.

The soprano is the smallest of the common four ukulele sizes. The TU-1CE has a scale of only 34.5 cm.

Tanglewood TU-1CE – cutaway

The workmanship on this Tanglewood (built in the Far East) is very good in relation to its low price. Look at that clean neck joint!

Tanglewood TU-1CE – frets

The TU-1CE sports 16 small frets, as well as dot position markers.

Tanglewood TU-1CE – back beauty 2

This soprano comes factory-equipped with top quality Aquila Nylgut strings.

Tanglewood TU-1CE – preamp + tuner

The Tanglewood’s preamplifier is powered by a button cell and offers controls for volume and tone, as well as a chromatic tuner.

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Tanglewood TU-3 – case

The Tanglewood TU-3 (119 €) is a concert-sized uke. A stylish hardcase is included in the price.

Tanglewood TU-3 – soundhole

A Concert-ukulele is the next bigger size to a soprano.

This model has a 37.5 cm scale.

Tanglewood TU-3 – beauty shot

This TU-3 has an exceptionally nicely grained body…

Tanglewood TU-3 – back beauty

…with a highly figured back.

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Tanglewood TU-3E – preamp

The TU-3’s electroacoustic version – the Tanglewood TU-3E (129 €) – comes equipped with the same preamp model we’ve already seen on the TU-1CE.

Tanglewood TU-3E – body angle VID

The TU-3E’s fingerboard offers you 18 small frets.

Tanglewood TU-3E – rosette VID

The simple rosette found on all Union-series ukuleles complements the organic, woody look of the instruments very well.

Tanglewood TU-3E – body back angle VID

The output jack is situated on the lower rim.

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Tanglewood TU-5 – case vs2

Just like the two Union concert-ukuleles, Tanglewood’s baritone uke, the TU-5-ukulelessa (149 €), also comes in its sturdy case.

Tanglewood TU-5 – beauty 2 VID

The baritone is the largest traditional ukulele size, with the TU-5’s scale length measuring 51.2 cm.

Tanglewood TU-5 – bridge + rosette VID

The TU-5is equipped with 20 small frets. Our test sample came with a set of black nylon strings tuned to High-g-tuning (d4-g3-h3-e4), meaning that the fourth string is one octave above a regular guitar string.

Tanglewood TU-5 – back beauty 2 VID

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Tanglewood TU-1CE – full front

This is what the TU-1CE sounds like when recorded with a condenser microphone:

The built-in piezo system results in a very decent direct sound:

This clips mixes the microphone with the piezo output:

Tanglewood TU-1CE – full back

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Tanglewood TU-3 – full front

I recorded the concert-sized Tanglewoodin TU-3 with an AKG C3000 and a Shure SM57:

Tanglewood TU-3 – full back

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Tanglewood TU-3E – full front

Acoustically, the piezo-equipped TU-3E sounds virtually indentical to the all-acoustic TU-3:

Sadly, our test sample displayed some sort of trouble with its under-saddle transducer (probably an uneven bridge slot), which rendered the pickup sound rather useless, because the middle pair of strings was much louder than the two outermost strings:

Here’s a mix of the TU-3E’s electric and acoustic signals:

Tanglewood TU-3E – full back

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Tanglewood TU-5 – full front

I recorded Tanglewood’s TU-5 baritone uke using an AKG C3000 condenser microphone and Shure’s dynamic model SM57:

Tanglewood TU-5 – full back

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Tanglewood TU-1CE – beauty shot 2

Tanglewood’s Union-series ukes are well-made, lightweight instruments with a very down-to-earth charm.

Regardless of their low price tags these ukes are decent musical instruments, not toys!

I must say I enjoyed Tanglewood’s fat neck profiles a lot. These are neck a grown-up man can hold on to!

Judging by the fine performance of the TU-1CE’s pickup system, I’m willing to believe that the TU-3E’s underwhelming pickup sound is just a one-off oversight in quality control.

Still, the whole picture is really very positive, both in terms of workmanship and sound. The inclusion on classy-looking hard cases in the price of the three ”bigger” models on test makes these Tanglewoods even more enticing. In my view, Tanglewood’s Union-series ukuleles are a great, and affordable, way to get to know the Hawaiian cousin of the guitar.

Tanglewood TU-5 – beauty shot VID

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Tanglewood Union-sarja ukuleles

Finnish distributor: Musamaailma

TU-1CE – 116 €

TU-3 – 119 €

TU-3E – 129 €

TU-5 – 149 €

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Pros (all models):

+ workmanship

+ satin finish

+ fretwork

+ Aquila-strings (except for TU-5)

+ case included (not with TU-1CE)

+ TU-1CE: good-sounding piezo system

Cons:

– TU-3E: piezo system’s performance in review sample

– TU-5: spongy feel of factory-installed strings

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Tanglewood TU-3 – body back angle

One Comment to “Review: Tanglewood TU-1CE, TU-3, TU-3E & TU-5”

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