BY EDDIE SCHER | FROM THE SPRING 2020 ISSUE OF UKULELE
Orangewood guitars and ukes are designed in Los Angeles, built in Asia, and then set up by the company in California before shipment to customers. And the company’s approach seems to be working, because the Juno tenor ukulele I recently auditioned felt good in my hands and sounded good both acoustically and plugged in.
Orangewood was launched in 2017 by two brothers from Orange, California. Their idea is to collaborate with builders in Asia and then reach customers directly online. This eCommerce model relies on people’s trust in reviews and comfort ordering with a click. It’s a great way to keep costs down. But it got me thinking about how much pressure it puts on me as the reviewer, since potential customers probably won’t get to pick one up before hitting that final click. So, let’s get to it.
First things first, the Juno Tenor is a good-looking instrument. The top and back of the body are bound in white with a thin strip of black purfling. There’s an attractive abalone rosette around the soundhole with more black purfling. The neck is also bound in white, a nice touch.
The top, back, and sides are built from layered acacia, a wood that grows like a shrub in temperate climates and as a large tree in tropical locales like Hawaii and Australia. Layered is a more elegant way of saying laminated, or very thin layers of wood glued together with the grain at 90-
degree angles to form a board much stronger than any thin slice of the wood alone. Another name for this is plywood.
But let’s not get judge-y; many of the world’s most iconic archtop electric guitars, like the Gibson’s ES-175, are made of laminated woods because they’re less prone to feedback than solid tonewoods—and they sound quite good. Layered woods also resist bangs and bumps better than their solid counterparts.
The neck is okoume, an African hardwood substitute for mahogany, and the fretboard and bridge are laurel, a very dark grainy wood from India that resembles the rosewood and ebony that are more traditionally used for these components.
The satin finish won’t protect the ukulele the way a shiny lacquer might, but neither will it squash the tone. A matte finish saves a lot of time and money when you’re building and then selling an instrument, and some of us actually prefer it on a new instrument, where it feels similar to lacquer worn from wear. And again, all the wood and finish on this ukulele look great.
The Juno comes loaded with an active pickup. I thought it did a fine job amplifying the uke, whether through my ZT Lunchbox guitar amp or directly into a PA system. And for an instrument that costs less than a good preamp, that seems like a pretty strong selling point—especially if you plan on doing open mics or small gigs. The unit is mounted on the top of the lower bout along with onboard sliders that control bass, treble, and volume. Plus, there’s a light to warn you when the 9-volt battery, which slides into the unit, is getting tired.
The price includes shipping and a padded gig bag that is more than adequate for protecting the uke. It’s not going to be easy to put your hands on an Orangewood before taking the jump (click?) and ordering it. But I think it’s a safe bet that anyone looking for a quality, affordable ukulele is going to be happy with the Juno tenor.
Juno Tenor Details:
BODY Tenor cutaway; 26-1/8″ overall length; layered acacia top, back, and sides; abalone rosette; natural satin finish
NECK 17″-scale okoume neck, 1-1/2″ nut; 19 frets (14 to the body); natural satin finish
OTHER Laurel bridge; chrome open-gear tuners, active pickup system; Aquila strings; gig bag; accessory kit
PRICE $175 direct
MADE IN China