BugsGear EleUke Ukulele

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.

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On eBay

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On eBay UK

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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.

Pros:

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.

Cons:

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.

14 Comments

  1. Gini May 7th, 2010 4:29 am

    I bought two Eleukes, and I like them both, but have the same problem with both of them. The 9V battery goes dead. There is no off switch. I mentioned this to the first place I bought one from They said to turn the volume all the way down. Well, that doesn’t work. I guess you have to take it out when you are finished playing until next time. Weird!

  2. Eric June 28th, 2010 8:14 pm

    It turns out that most active pick-up instruments have an unadvertised switching mechanism to conserve battery power.

    Unplug the cable/headset when not in use.

    My electric uke is a different brand (and so may not apply) but my battery usage dropped amazingly when I learned this tip.

    Cheers

  3. Javi January 4th, 2011 11:49 pm

    Got the eleuke Koa for christmas and love it so far. Sounds great through my Vox mini3, headphones, or just on its own.

    As far as the batery life, I have played this thing a lot and my battery is still going strong. Like Eric said, just unplug the headphones when not in use or it will drain.

  4. Judd February 1st, 2011 1:17 am

    I love my eleuke so much it goes well also with I Rig to go with my IPad i just wish its easily available in my place so that i dont need to order overseas.

  5. ike March 20th, 2011 7:43 pm

    i have a koa tenor eleuke, and it is awesome. its great for recording directly into a computer and it sounds great with cool effects.

  6. Josh July 20th, 2011 10:12 pm

    Just got a Rosewood Tenor (mp3) for my birthday, and have successfully played through every song I know so it’s time to voice my opinion. It looks freakin fantastic and sounds pretty decent unplugged. When I plugged it into my Roland Microcube, the amp of choice for people too lazy/cheap to buy stompboxes, it sounded amazing. Until I realized the only string I could hear was C. When playing chords, it’s impossible to hear the other three strings. I don’t know if it’s a pickup issue or what, but it’s bugging me. The other strings work fine, they’re just not turned up to 13 like the C string. Any advice?

  7. jack November 3rd, 2011 11:38 pm

    i got a eleuke koa with a flamed finish my only complaint is that it has a lot of fret buzz on the A string

  8. SanteeSmitty January 25th, 2012 3:25 pm

    Wow… that’s about all I can say about this instrument. A few others had a couple of negative comments that I’ll address here:
    1. The battery draining issue: When you plug in with anything, it activates the internal amp. Easy fix… Unplug headphones, cables, etc when not playing.
    2. The thin body issue: Are you really that sensitive to body thickness? I put a “Scratch Pad” on the back (I custom fit it so you would have to as well) and there is little (if any) problem holding on to it as it sticks to cloth very nicely.
    3. Other reviews negativity in comparison to this unit (Read This as the RISA Rules group)Here is my cut: The RISA is way more expensive here in the USA and the body shape, etc is even harder to deal with than the thin body of the Bugs Gear Unit. It to is thin and with the stick like characteristics may cause some issues in playing. IT IS MORE PORTABLE as a plus.

    My likes/Uke:
    I have a Concert size body that incorporates a Headphone Jack (And the volume/tone controls have full impact), A MP3 input (Fun it you want to play along with your favorite tune), and a standard instrument jack. The Carry Bag has two pockets. The top one easily accomodates a 6′ instrument chord, a 3′ 3.5mm stereo chord to connect the MP3 Player and my Lanikai Tuner. The Bottom Pocket carries my spare strings (2 sets), my foldable headphones, a small speaker (iHome iHM60), a 20′ extension chord for the 3.5mm plug, and a 12′ instrument to 3.5mm cable for the speaker in addition to a couple of other small items. Keep the RISA and give one of these instead. Just look at the videos for either being played and ask yourself which would be easier to play.

  9. Andrew July 28th, 2012 5:30 am

    I found a concert scale 100 series eleuke on offer in a guitar shop in Oz while on a business trip and couldn’t resist… Now I have a really portable, sturdy, chuck in a suitcase instrument that I can put through an iRig and Amplitube on the iPhone and be sure of bothering no-one. :-)

    It’s a cute little uke. Nicely finished and pleasant to play. But it did need a fair amount of tweaking before it sounded OK to me. Firstly the grooves in the nut were too shallow for the G and C strings and that was throwing out the intonation in the first few frets, so a little work with a file was needed. Then as Josh noted the only note audible was anything played on the C string — and that was cured by a sliver of paper under the piezo at the E & A end, a low G string, and lots of fiddling to get the paper in just the right spot. Finally the strings that came with it sounded rather muffled so a new set was in order… So I guess getting it right has voided my warranty, but that’s no great loss as I bought it abroad anyway.

    It’s already scored a wall hanger for the living room, so I guess it’s a keeper.

  10. Andrew Starkey January 26th, 2013 5:10 am

    Been using my Eleuke Sl Concert for a few months now, and I’ve got some pretty conflicting emotions. It certainly is one of the most comfortable ukulele’s I’ve ever played (sitting down). It just feels right. The frets are a little tall for my liking, but that’s a personal preference. Standing up, it’s very difficult to play. It’s so thin and slippery that you can’t really get a grip, but it has a peg for a strap so that negates any complaints there.
    The worst thing about this ukulele is the finish. It LOVES to get scratched. There are lines EVERYWHERE that I don’t know how to get rid of. Unnoticeable really, unless your holding it.
    My absolutely favorite thing about it is that with some overdrive, this thing is a BEAST! I use it for a lot of punk rock and metal, something I can’t do with my acoustic uke. The nylon gives it a unique tone.
    As for the clean tone, I haven’t had quite the same experience. I’ve only used it on my little Honeytone practice amp, but it sounds awful. I’ve read that piezo pickups sound better with larger amps, so that might just be my fault, but don’t expect quality out of something small.
    All in all, I love it. It fills it’s niche very well in my opinion. Pick one up if you wanna rock!

  11. The Judge May 25th, 2013 9:55 pm

    Got my Eleuke tenor about 30 days ago. It is a very different experience when compared to my acoustic Lanakai tenor.

    The one problem that it came with – the C on this Eleuke rings like its hanging in Notre Dame’s bellfry!

    I’ve tried changing the original string.
    I read online about a fix placing a small piece of felt under the bridge below the C. It helped some. Also read online that you might need to tie the mesh wire to the other wires at the piezo with a twist tie. I did and it also seemed to help. Have not yet tried to file the nut.

    I play this Eleuke with a Roland 15x cube and sometimes with my Marshall MG15 and get similar results.

    Bought it because I like that I can practice and not disturb anyone. And the better the headset the better the sound.

    I play mostly country and bluegrass/gospel and the Eleuke would be a big hit if I can ever get this problem to settle down!

    But until then it will not get anywhere near a stage.

  12. ukuleleman September 28th, 2013 5:55 pm

    BUGSGEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I bought one 3 years ago and it still works perfectly

  13. peggy c November 13th, 2013 1:08 am

    Sounds different than any other uke I have. REally like the harp/like tone you can get.
    yes, switched to Aquila strings and had to really work on getting a good set-up- mine was way of and looked like a ski-slope when I first bought it.
    Very durable, Have a tenor solid mahogany.
    Never had a battery prob. but I don’t keep it plugged into anything.
    I have found it difficult to get tech support- anyone here know waht the string guage/tensions are on the new steel strings??? Really like to try this out. If anyone has one or has an idea about strings used, appreciate a shout out on that.

  14. steve January 1st, 2014 4:27 pm

    Had an Eleuke peanut for a while now and although it can be difficult to hold this drawback is far outweighed by the sheer fun of playing this miniscule marvel. Small enough to take anywhere and when used without amplification is great to ‘keep your hand in’ while watching tv or even reading. Use with headphones for serious practice, or even mini amp and effects box for HUGE laughs. Highly recommended.

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