Get The Facts Before You Buy
Oscar Schmidt (Washburn) has a fantastic reputation in the music industry, and my brother owned a guitar by them so I was pretty excited to start reviewing their ukes. I’ll start with the OU5 model for the first of my Oscar Schmidt ukulele reviews.
The OU5 ukulele has a beautiful Hawaiian Koa top, back and sides with a natural gloss finish. It features a 16-fret rosewood fretboard and Grover chrome tuners. Abalone binding and rosette finish it off for a truly striking instrument.
Better than the appearance, however, is the sound quality. Oscar Schmidt (Washburn) is famous for their quality musical instruments and their uks are no exception. It has great tone and sustain, and even better projection.
Lets take a look at all its features of best ukuleles:
- Concert sized – What is a concert size? The concert is right between the soprano and tenor models, which gives it a bit deeper tone and more volume than a soprano but still that characteristic sweetness of the traditional ukulele sound.
- Select Hawaiian Koa top, back & sides – Hawaiian Koa is one of the premier woods for making ukuleles. It gives a vibrant tone and is similar in quality to mahogany. George Leonard Chaney said in 1879 “The koa is the Hawaiian mahogany. It takes a polish like gold or diamonds. In the hands of foreign workmen, it might be made as ornamental as precious marble.”
- Nyatoh neck – Nyatoh is a tropical hardwood that is similar to Teak with a cherry-ish finish.
- Abalone Binding and Rosette – Real abalone shell accents the binding and the rosette, bring a little bit of sheen to the uke without being too glitzy or distracting from the beautiful finish of the Hawaiian Koa wood.
- 16 Frets – 16 frets gives you a little wider range in sound and ability as opposed to the Soprano ukulele that generally has only 12-14. Most Concert ukuleles have 14-17 frets.
- ABS Nut & Saddle – ABS plastic is a recycled plastic that is sturdy, long-lasting and very hard. It makes for a durable, high quality nut & saddle that won’t crack or fall apart with age. ABS is also BPA-free.
- Natural Gloss Finish – A gloss finish helps protect the wood from moisture as you play, and also makes it easier to play by decreasing friction on shirtsleeves and whatnot. It also helps the appearance and really brings out the grain of the wood.
- Tuners: Grover Chrome – Grover makes some of the most well-made machine heads and have a great reputation for uncompromising quality in their products.
- Lifetime warranty – Washburn warrants against defective materials and workmanship for the lifetime of the uke. Just keep your proof of purchase on hand! This is a great warranty, most ukes are only warranted for about 5 years.
My initial impression of this uke was that it is a nice, good quality basic instrument No, it doesn’t have tons of fancy features (although they did splurge on the Hawaiian koa!) but it is a solidly built uke that has great sound and is perfect for a beginner or intermediate player. Features aside though, all anyone wants is a nice uke that has great sound, right? So let’s check it out!
Here’s a video of the OU5 in action:
Amazon usually has some really great discounts on this uke but they do change daily.
There aren’t many ukuleles are offer a bigger bang for your buck than Washburn. And to top it off, they have a lifetime warranty (which is quite unusual) and checked in the USA by a technician for smooth fret ends, precision low action and resonant sound quality. I’ve gotta say as well… I love the fact that they took one of their more “beginner” model ukes and gussied it up with the Hawaiian Koa wood – Nice move, guys! I’ve read reviews and talked to lots of owners and here’s a summary of what they said about the OU5:
- Frets are well-placed for beginners and/or someone used to playing guitar – you can easily see them which is harder on a smaller uke.
- Prominent sound in the lower sound range, not high pitched or tinny
- Comes with a ukulele-shaped box which can be used as a non-portable ukulele case for home storage
- Holds up well under frequent playing over the longterm
- It plays just like a solid wood instrument
- This one is high enough quality that it works for beginners and professionals, you may never need to upgrade unless you want a different size.
- Really easy to play compared to a guitar
- The sound is worlds better than the cheap toy ukes that most beginners get
- Easy to tune with precision
- Sounds better than many ukes that are more expensive, especially if you upgrade to Aquila strings
- Has a beautiful soft mellow tone, much better than the bright harsh sound of most ukes under $100
- Sound has great projection
- Compared to some of the higher end models, the tone does not have as much sustain or projection
- May need in-person adjusting of the bridge to get to optimum playing quality
- For portability you may want to get an actual case, the ukulele box that it comes with isn’t really for much more than storage
- Needs frequent re-tuning for the first couple weeks to break in the strings – you might want to get a tuner
- Action is a little higher than what some prefer
- Some minor occasional flaws in the finish and inlays have been reported
Here’s some comments by one of the owners:
I was a little nervous ordering the OU5 without being able to play it first, but when it arrived I was very excited. It is a beautiful little uke, the koa wood and “ab” inlays are pretty cool. It plays well, although if you are used to playing a guitar it is a bit of an adjustment cramming your fingers into a smaller space on the fretboard than you are used to.
If you are a beginner, this uke would be a good choice. Even beginners should buy decent instruments, if you mess with a 40 dollar instrument you will just be disappointed. Keep in mind that with nylon strings they do take some time to stretch out a bit but that will give you good time to practice tuning. A decent tuner will help with this, and you will probably want to get a gig bag to protect it. Start up with some simple three chord songs at first and work your way up – look online for lots of free uke related sites to help you learn. For about $200 you can grab this uke, a case and tuner, which will give you plenty of time to jam out on this cool rocker.