BugsGear are a Japanese ukulele company set up in 2004. They are most famous for their electric EleUkes. These are solid bodied, battery powerd ukuleles and they have a very distinctive look. BugsGear do also make a range of acoustic ukuleles, but you don't see them for sale very often (outside of Japan at least).
The Eleuke is the main ukulele sold by Bugsgear. It is a solid body, electric ukulele. All the EleUkes come with a volume and tone control and under-saddle pickups. I have an EleUke myself (you can read my review of it below). It's a solid, well made ukulele, but I do have a few niggles with it. You can read my review below.
Since I bought my EleUke, BugsGear have begun working with Kala which many say has increased the quality and consistency of the instrument a great deal. As soon as I get the chance to find out, I'll let you know my opinion on that.
On eBay UK
In the UK, EleUkes are also sold under license by Clearwater.
BugsGear EleUke TC100-PHP/R Review
The big advantage of the EleUke for me is that it's silent. Because it has a solid body, when it's not plugged in, it's very quiet. I do a lot of ukeing early in the morning and late at night and the EleUke has meant I don't get any complaints. It's the uke I have laying around ready to pick up for a bit of practice any time I feel like it.
It did take me a little while to get used to handling the EleUke. The body is much thiner than and standard uke and the neck thicker. The holes in the body also meant I had to adjust my natural playing style a little. But once I was used to, it became a pleasure to play: the action is low, the intonation is spot on, the fretboard is smooth; it's comfortable to play up to the fifteenth fret. It's also solid as brick. I'm far from the most careful of ukulele owners and mine has survived drops, scrapes and bangs without any battle scars or electrical breakdowns.
One problem I had was with the string grooves in the nut. They aren't wide enough for the strings to sit in. I had the C string pop out on me a few times before I took a file to it.
This model has a headphone input as well as a standard lead input. The headphones supplied with it (as with the strings) are pretty much junk: I replaced them both after trying them just once. The sound on headphones isn't great, but good enough if you're just practicing.
This EleUke is not the smoothest playing experience I've ever had.
I'm really happy with the way it sounds plugged in. You're never going to get the real ukulele sound with a solid body electric, so you have to treat it as its own instrument. It works well enough with a clean tone, but I can never resist cranking up the distortion and playing blues riffs. Unlike with acoustic ukuleles with a pick up, you can do this without getting an earful of nasty, high pitched feedback.
As well as the EleUke, I have a RISA electric ukulele - which I much prefer. The RISA is more expensive, and harder to find, but I would recommend it over the EleUke.
Review by Woodshed.
BugsGear Eleuke ekg-bl Review
This ukulele, for starters, looks great. usually, this means it's not gunna sound great but it does.
The eleuke has a pre amp with a BugsGear original designed circuit with 9V battery. Of which probibly contributes to the great sound. The one bad point about it is that the pre amp doesn't actually help if you put headphones in because it's no loader.
Here's a demo of it with a Vox DA5.
The uke's main issue, you probably wouldn't be sush a big issue, is that the strap holder thingy is placed, very annoyingly, on the back of the uke. As you should know this means that the uke will tilt if you arn't holding it, which would be very annoying at a gig.
The knobs just do volume and tone (Duh...).And that's about all i have to say about this wonderfuly ultimate ukulele.
Review by Bob of Uke Rock.
BugsGear Eleuke Review
This electric uke from Bug's Gear supposedly sounds like an electric nylon guitar, which makes a lot of sense as that is basically what it is. Powered by a 9v battery (supplied), the bridge peizo pickup outputs to a standard strap pin/jack controlled by tone and volume knobs. With its unique body shape and clear gloss coat (also available in semi-opaque blue), this uke certainly stands out in the crowd.
The body is just over an inch thick, which requires some getting used to if you're coming off an acoustic. A strap is certainly very helpful if you play standing, but hardly necessary. My model is a concert and with a fretboard about a foot long, the action varies from about 1mm at the first fret down to approximately 3 or 4mm at the twentieth.
(Note: Some Bug's Gears have headphone jacks. Mine doesn't. Their website is pretty awful too, so it's an uphill battle trying to work out versions and model numbers. Ask your eBay dealer if you're unsure.)
Like (I assume) many other people with electrics, I purchased this so I wouldn't drive people mad with my incessant noodling. While I'm not confident enough to quote exact figures, I'd estimate that it has about 20-40% the volume of my other ukes. It's certainly loud enough for you to hear when others are watching TV, but quiet enough that it won't disturb them. If you really want people in the room to hear what you've been working on, however, this beastie does seem to hold up well to a rigorous thrashing.
One small problem I have noticed is that the strings are thicker than the grooves in the nut. This causes trouble when tuning, as the strings will stick and then slip a lot which can result in tuning too high. Fortunately, my eleuke has required very little tuning after the initial setup so it's a relatively minor concern, as well as an easy fix with a small file.
As an in-home practise/mucking around uke, I'd give this 9 out of 10 – it’s practically perfect except for the nut. As a performance uke however, I can't really rate it, as I've never used the electrics and don't know how they stack up to the competition.
Quiet enough not to annoy, loud enough to hear clearly
Stylish as all hell with its glossy topcoat and shiny frets
You can keep it under your bed instead of a baseball bat - this baby is solid wood.
Holds tuning for a very long time.
Comes in a branded padded bag with a decent sized pocket on it.
Thin body means it can be awkward to get used to
Strap button is on the back of the heel, perpendicular to the strings (a non-issue if you play on your couch like me).
String gaps in the nut may need attention
Review by Sam
Bugsgear Rosewood Tenor EleUke Review
When you've been playing a yellow Mahalo U30 uke for a couple of months and you take those fateful steps into the local music shop just to try out that gorgeous (but grossly overpriced) little uke in the window you very quickly realise why you NEED to get a better uke. With some money set aside from xmas and birthday gifts, I had set my heart set on a Pono PTO ukulele from TheUkuleleShop.com.
The initial emails weren't promising and it looked like it would be months before they would have any in stock so after much trawling of the internet, YouTube and UkeHunt, I plumped for a Bugsgear Rosewood Tenor EleUke as a compromise, I decided I would go for an electric uke instead of an acoustic as it would be a little quieter (there are only so many times you can stumble through the Guns'n'roses "Sweet Child'o'mine" riff before you hear knives being sharpened), so after a couple of phonecalls a Bugsgear Rosewood Eleuke was ordered. The very nice and helpful chap at TheUkuleleShop threw in a set of Worth strings as well.
What a lovely instrument, the first impression when I took her out was *niiice*, she isn't too heavy nor too light and is nice and shiny. The gig bag supplied with her fits like a glove and has enough space to fit a patch cable, spare strings, strap and a chromatic tuner.
From a technical perspective she's got; chrome geared tuners, chrome strap buttons, rosewood finger board with mother of pearl position markers, nickel fret wire, ebony nut, ebony bridge and saddle (with under saddle pickup), a standard headphone jack, a standard guitar jack, volume and tone control knobs and of course the onboard, "patented" bugsgear onboard amplifier,. The body and neck are plywood, veneered with rosewood and laquered, the head has a modest gold motif and is quite plain. On the back of the instrument there is a battery box for the 9 volt battery which powers the amplifier and there is a plastic plate which hides all the amplifier gubbins.
All in all she is a very nicely constructed instrument and feels nice to hold and play, "the real deal" so to speak.
Now, playing her. Well, I'm no musical maestro however I do know what I like and what I don't. The standard black strings which she came with were very harsh and not particularly nice to fret, so they were changed to the Worth strings which were thrown in with her. What a difference, they are much nicer to play and a lot less brash. The action was a little too high at the higher end of the fretboard for my liking as well, some careful application of the saddle to sandpaper and this was soon remedied. Now that I was happy with the strings and the fretting I concentrated on playing.
The sound from her is very clear and bright, even without amplification, the intonation is excellent and I haven't found any problems in that regards. The headphones supplied went straight in the bin, I use a decent set of Sony studio headphones or I play her through a Kustom KAA16 Acoustic amp (only has reverb unfortunately). When she's played through the amp she sounds even better, it's not a typical Ukey sound but then she's not yer typical uke, I wont embarass myself with recording anything but a quick trawl on youtube and you'll get a good idea of what these delightful instruments sound like.
The tenor scale makes the fingers work a little harder but as there is more space on the fretboard this makes some chord shapes easier and some harder.
All in all a lovely instrument in every regard, great value for money, great fun to play, with the added bonus you can plug in the headphones and strum, pluck and pick away for hours and you wont hear anything else and no-one else will hear you OR you can plug her into the amp crank up the volume and do the exact opposite.
Review by Martin.