A musical beauty with a warm and clear tone 


The Flamed Tiger Maple Concert from Amahi’s Exotic Woods line is an all-maple ukulele with a bound body and neck. The first things that jumped out at me were the instrument’s cat’s eye fret markers, with sunken abalone pupils that create a wild 3-D effect on the fretboard. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an optical illusion like it on an instrument, and it is distinctive.

The top, back, and sides of the ukulele are flamed quartersawn maple. This, again, is something I hadn’t seen before on a uke. When I think tiger stripes, I think of violins, expensive Les Paul guitars, and of course, tigers. But not ukuleles. On this uke, the undulating stripes or quilt running perpendicular to the wood grain creates a second optical illusion. The top looks downright wavy from an effect called “chatoyancy”—an optical phenomenon named for the narrow band or silky sheen of reflected light you see in certain minerals that moves and changes as you move around the object. Think of light reflecting off a pearl.

The deep yellow color and satin finish of the body show off the beauty of the wood. Abalone purfling around the top and rosette, along with darker wood binding and a second inner rosette, further dress up the ukulele. The headstock is not bound, but the dark wood veneer matches the neck binding. And the brand name inset in light colored wood on the headstock is another classy touch. 


Though it’s relatively rare in ukuleles, at least in my experience, maple is considered sonically transparent, and is more commonly used on violins and guitars. Transparency, as a description, also applies to the ukulele. The C-01 has a warm, sweet tone, not overly woody or punchy. I asked my late-teenage child to give it a whirl, and her impression after a few strums was “clear.” And after racking my brain, I gave up trying to find a better word. They say that the maple top of a Gibson Les Paul brightens the sound of the darker mahogany back, but this ukulele isn’t particularly bright. It isn’t particularly anything, but nonetheless it’s musical. So I’ll just stick with what works to describe it: a satisfying clear tone.

The neck of the C-01 is on the thicker and wider side, a great choice for guitar players, someone with bigger hands, or anyone like me who prefers more room to get around a fretboard. The body is also on the thicker side. But back to my teenager, who found the uke comfortable and easy to play, as I did.

The ukulele is finished off with sealed guitar tuners that held tune and a classical guitar-type bridge made of the same black walnut used on the fretboard. The contrast between the dark bridge and fretboard and the bright maple body is, like everything else on this ukulele, quite stunning.

Amahi, based in Cincinnati, has been making entry-level (and other) ukuleles for 25 years. The Exotic Wood line includes 22 different models in various sizes with different woods. That’s a lot of flavors to try. But speaking for this Flamed Maple C-01, I can say this is a good-looking, -playing, and -sounding ukulele. It comes with a soft case that will protect it through your travels, but given its chatoyancy, I expect you’ll want to display it when you’re not playing it. In summary, the C-01 is especially well-suited for someone looking for an instrument to enjoy as they learn the uke or as a step up in quality, playability, sound, and looks.

BODY Concert-size; flamed tiger maple top, back, and sides
NECK 15″ (38.5 cm) mahogany with black walnut fretboard; 18 frets (14 to the body)
OTHER Gold die-cast tuners with black knobs; ablaone purfling, abalone and rosewood rosettes; Aquila strings; padded gig bag
PRICE $199 street