This rather unusual looking ukulele is the Ashbury Lonely Player Travel Ukulele. I bought it for £45 around a month or so back and have been playing it quite a lot ever since, here’s my thoughts…
Before I bought this I’d wanted to get my hands on a ukulele that I could play quietly for quite a while. I live in a pretty open plan house and play ukulele a lot at night. If I can not wake everyone up when I’m playing then that’s a good thing. As I mention on my about page – one day I’ll get myself a Risa Stick, but right now it’s a little bit too expensive for me.
I first saw the Ashbury in a video review by Barry Maz from Got A Ukulele (check out that review here). It wasn’t an overly favourable review with Baz scoring it quite low on sound. I wasn’t to be deterred though and I went out to Hobgoblin Music and picked one up for myself. My thinking was that as long as it sounds ok, the intonation is fine and it feels good then it will be good enough for practising with.
What Is It?
This is a soprano scale ukulele with 12 frets. It’s strung backwards with the tuners at the bottom. It’s slightly shorter than a regular soprano and generally more compact due to it’s rectangular body. Surprisingly it has a solid spruce top with sapele back and sides. It comes strung with D’Addario Nyltech strings.
Look and Feel
The lonely player is pretty well constructed. For a £45 ukulele it feels well put together. It kind of looks and feels a bit like it’s a one-off ukulele, like someone has made it in a workshop for themselves. Obviously the fact there’s no headstock takes a little bit of getting used to but for the most part I like the look and find it pretty comfortable to play.
Down below the bridge we have the tuners. Admittedly it’s kind of awkward to tune. You can’t really play a string with one hand and tune it with another like a standard ukulele. You either have to do things backwards – pluck with your fretting hand and tune with your strumming hand or just do it in separate stages. It’s not too big of a deal though as how much time do you usually spend tuning a ukulele?
Right at the bottom of the ukulele it’s been designed with a rounded tailpiece to stop your arm clashing with the tuners. This design largely works (at least for me it does) but there is one slight exception: the ends of the strings. They really stick into my arm as I’m strumming. I really need to cut the strings back a little further but I don’t want to make them too short.
On to the sound which Baz from Got A Ukulele described as a rubber bands on a margarine tub. I think that’s a little bit harsh but I understand the sentiment. It doesn’t compare with a standard shaped soprano ukulele. The odd placing of the sound holes and the size of the body are major contributors to that.
On the subject of sound holes there are actually 7. Sort of. The first one you will notice is on the top side of the ukulele at the top. I actually tried plugging this sound hole to see if it made a difference. It was negligible. This led me to discover the other 6 sound holes at the bottom of the ukulele. They’re next to the tuners and a lot less accessible.
I always find it hard to describe sound in words so without doubt the best thing you can do is watch the video above. It’s quiet and it’s quite tinny. It definitely takes a little bit of adjusting to. My son who also plays a little ukulele doesn’t like it at all. I’m a lot more forgiving because I know why I bought it and I went in knowing what to expect.
The Lonely Player Verdict
The Asbury Lonely Player Travel Ukulele is an interesting one. You can get a better sounding soprano for two thirds of the price if you know what you’re looking for. This ukulele offers something different though. The name alone tells you why Ashbury have put this one together. It’s about taking it with you. It’s cheap, compact and it plays ok. As a practice ukulele I find it really useful.