Luna has built a reputation in the ukulele world for their high-quality instruments and creative designs. The Tattoo Tenor ukulele is no exception. This instrument’s laser-etched traditional Hawaiian tattoo design stands out in a crowd, and its sun-soaked tones ensure players will continue to love it long after first sight. Let’s take a closer look, and check out what makes this ukulele one of the best ukuleles available under $200.
As the name might imply, the Tattoo Tenor’s main feature is the large, laser-etched ‘tattoo’ design across the select mahogany top. Designed by Luna’s ‘artist in residence’ Alex Morgan, the pattern echoes traditional Hawaiian tattoo designs and incorporates waves, leaf shapes and sharks’ teeth among other features.
The mahogany top matches the mahogany back, sides, and neck for a classic and smooth appearance. A sleek satin finish highlights the design and preserves the natural color and feel of the wood.
The 19-fret fingerboard is made of walnut and topped with shark tooth inlays to further emphasize the Hawaiian feel. The 19” tenor scale and 1⅜” nut width are a little roomier than a soprano or concert – the larger size is great for bigger players looking for classic ukulele tones just without the cramped feel.
Beyond looking good, the Tattoo Tenor also offers solid hardware. The bridge, like the fretboard, is made of walnut. Across the neck, the headstock features a graphite nut and chrome pearloid open-gear tuners. Intonation and action are generally fine across the board – the strings aren’t incredibly low from the factory, but the action is perfectly playable without any additional calibration.
The Aquila Super NylGut strings certainly help in that department – they’re long-lasting and provide great tone, while remaining easy on the fingers. However, tuning isn’t very stable. The tuners have too much play to make minor adjustments, and the strings tend to fall out of the proper tuning relatively quickly.
Some other reviews even mentioned encountering stripped tuners out of the box. If problems persist beyond a typical break-in period (a few days to stretch the strings out), a new set of tuners would make a great upgrade for this instrument.
The Tattoo Tenor offers incredibly melodic tones straight from the box. It offers the high, chiming trebles you need in any uke, along with clear and distinct mids. While this mode understandably doesn’t offer a lot of deep, booming bass, the lower end of the register is focused and smooth.
The tenor size offers more depth and body to the sound than a smaller soprano or concert uke might have – while the high end is clear, it is smooth and glassy rather than thin or piercing. The Tattoo Tenor also has incredible sustain; notes retain their tone and character for much longer than many other models in this price range. The articulation and sustain make this model great for both faster fingerpicking and simpler strumming.
Beginners and more advanced players alike will be able to take full advantage of the tones here.
Luna’s Tattoo Tenor ukulele offers standout tones with a comfortable size at a modest price. The Hawaiian design is certainly the most memorable thing about this model, but the clear articulation and dynamic range show that there’s more than meets the eye. While it’s not perfect – the tuners are particularly in need of an upgrade – this uke is great for both entry-level and more advanced players, and merits consideration from anyone looking for a tenor at this price.