Words and pictures by Lamb Chop
One of the greatest things about living near Elderly Instruments, the Lansing, Michigan destination for new and vintage (elderly) stringed instruments, is that I get to sample from among one of the largest and finest collections of ukuleles this side of Hawaii. I always have fun when I go there, but sometimes I fall in love. That’s what happened when I found the Boulder Creek Riptide spruce top tenor.
I don’t know why this configuration works, but it does; I have never experienced a louder, crisper tone, even among other spruce top ukuleles. There is something magical about the Riptide by Boulder Creek.
It was love at first strum!
UT-2N, is one of 19 models in Boulder Creek’s Riptide line of Standard Mahogany, Deluxe Mahogany (which upgrades to a solid top), and the Spruce & Rosewood series, which features a solid spruce top and laminated sides. Series sizes range from soprano to baritone, with some models getting a Boulder Creek UK-300T preamp and pickup system (an undersaddle model, which seems to be the best way to amplify a ukulele) with built-in tuner. Each features a unique cut-out Boulder Creek headstock and are all beautifully finished.
The UT-2N, a non-amplified model, is equipped with sealed diecast tuners that hold tune well with none of the slop found on the kind of tuners usually used at this price point. Scale length is 26.25” with a rosewood board of 18 frets, the fit and finish of which are excellent. Rosewood bridge, and, if I am not mistaken, it comes strung with Aquila Nylguts, which are fast becoming my favorite string, especially for spruce tops.
Looks are one thing, but it’s playability that counts. While the action is not as low as that of a similarly priced Lanikai S-T or S-TEQ spruce top tenor, the Riptide has a low-to-medium setting that is incredibly fast, fluid and playable. No buzzes or rattles, either; set-up was perfect right out of the box.
GHS-A37 unidirectional internal microphone. As you can tell by my photo, I routed the mic, which is primarily designed to sit under the soundboard of a full size guitar, out of the Riptide’s side soundhole and up towards the top. Surprising, this gives me a really nice amplified tone with virtually no feedback, provided all the adjustments on my amp are right. If I had it to do over, I’d most likely just go with the UT-2N A/E version with onboard electronics, but there were none in stock at the time. I dreaded drilling into that beautiful wood, but I did so without harming the finish and am happy with the result.