I am usually not a big fan of surprises. No surprise parties, no surprise news. No no just no. But (yes, of course, there is always a but) when it comes to small surprises like getting an instrument that I did not have high expectations about and being blown away by it… sign me up. That is what happened with Caramel CB103, a baritone acoustic-electric ukulele at a price that you cannot really expect anything too good from.
The CB103 is a baritone uke with zebra wood body and beautiful mirror polish. While sopranos are probably the most popular choice for beginners, someone who has previous experience with guitars or has bigger hands might be better off with a baritone uke. Zebra wood is sort of an exotic looking tonewood that stands out even more with this finish. Fortunately, looks are not the biggest advantage of the zebra wood. The tone and volume that it brings to the overall performance is pretty damn good. The neck on this model is very playable and the walnut fingerboard is well polished, with seamless frets and great playability. With a total body length of 76cm overall body length and 8cm in body depth you will be getting sturdy instrument with volume and durability that you could not expect from such a low priced uke.
When it comes to the hardware, the CB103 has a walnut bridge with buffalo bone saddle. The nut is also made of the buffalo bone but the action is a little too high. Along with that, you get truss rod to adjust the neck for your comfort. A truss rod is embedded in the neck for neck adjustment, to make playing even easier and more comfortable. You also get closed geared tuners and Aquila strings. All in all, I don’t really see anything too special about the hardware but that being said, everything is good quality and intuitive.
It is always rather hard to judge a beginner ukulele. First of all, even with the sound, you have to take into account overall playability of the instrument. I mean, as a beginner you probably do not have enough skills (YET) to make even the best instrument sound amazing and masterful. So what you actually need is comfort and this baby has got you covered on that. The neck is smooth, action is excellent and you basically get an instrument that fits so well in your hands you think you have been holding it for years and will never get tired. As already mentioned, this is a baritone uke which translates, in most cases, to amazing volume. The tone is pretty nuances and the finish allows the uke to vibrate. Plugged or not, the CB103 really delivers on the sound.
Caramel equipped the CB103 with active pickup 3 band equalizer control for bass, middle and treble. While this might be basic controls they really do a good job of basically handing you all the tools to control the sound that comes out of this baby. Apart from that, you have a handy chromatic tuner with LCD color display, low battery indicator.
Caramel brings a lot more to the table than what you could expect from an under $100 ukulele. The CB103 is probably one of the most underrated and best baritone ukuleles on market right now. Sound, construction and looks pretty much keep you astounded at why this model is not in a much higher price range.