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Thread: Best Starter Ukulele with the Best Intonation for around $50

  1. #1
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    Default Best Starter Ukulele with the Best Intonation for around $50

    I know there is probably a thread somewhere with a similar topic. But, specifically, I want to know which Ukulele has the best Intonation for this price range as this is the most important aspect for me. I read a lot about intonation being off on Ukes in this price range. Some people, I guess, can live with it if the overall Uke is good, however, I cannot. Personally, I don't care if the whole ukulele is made of multicolored plastic as long as the Intonation is really good. I've done a little research and here are some I have found:
    Makala Pineapple Ukelele-$47 (this is rated highest on Amazon)
    Kala KA-15S Mahogany Soprano Ukulele-$53
    Mahalo U-200 Economy Soprano Ukulele with Gig Bag-$44
    Makala MK-S Soprano Ukulele-$47
    Mahalo U-320C Deluxe Concert Ukulele with Gig Bag-$45
    Lanikai LU-21 Soprano Ukulele-$54
    Stagg Soprano Ukulele - Natural-$50
    Kala Makala MK-SD/MBL Dolphin Bridge Soprano Ukulele, Metallic Blue--$47

    I've heard that the Dolphins are probably the best around this price range, but I have also read, very rarely though, the the intonation is off. Can someone with experience with one of these tell me which of these Ukes have good intonation? If there are any more someone can recommend, I am open to that too. I'm looking for either a Soprano or a Concert Uke since those two types are most portable. Any help will be appreciated!!
    Last edited by ZJE123; 04-09-2012 at 09:45 AM.

  2. #2
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    As far as intonation goes in that price range it's pretty much a crapshoot. All factory made and each can vary from the rest.
    Brand-wise I'd probably stick with Makala or Kala, but there's no guarantee re the intonation and general setup.

    The best thing to do if possible is to buy in person after trying out the possibilities.
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  3. #3
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    Take what's below for what it's worth:

    My opinion is that none of the ukes in your list are significantly better or worse than any other in that list. In fact, you could put them all in a sack and choose one at random and likely end up with something that will suit you just fine.

    That being said, I'd also recommend you not go this way unless you either absolutely have to, or really want to get a completely low-end beater uke.

    Double your budget and you're suddenly looking at ukes that do have some substance to them. For instance, at around $100 you could get an Islander, which has a very surprising sound, solid build, and quality QA behind it and is one of the best per-buck ukes you can find. There are also a slew of Kala, Lanikai, Oscar Schmidt, Cordoba, and aNueNue ukes around there as well.

    At $50 you may well find that uke with great intonation -- but likely not. At least not without a setup that can add 50% - 100% of the cost.

    Again, take the above for what it's worth, which in today's economy probably isn't much
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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by ukemunga View Post
    As far as intonation goes in that price range it's pretty much a crapshoot. All factory made and each can vary from the rest.
    Brand-wise I'd probably stick with Makala or Kala, but there's no guarantee re the intonation and general setup.

    The best thing to do if possible is to buy in person after trying out the possibilities.
    all that + unless it comes with a set up the action at nut is usually high, and that affects intonation quite a bit.

  5. #5
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    I would rate them in this order: Kala, Lanikai, Makala, Stagg, Mahalo
    There is nothing like trying them in one store. Intonation is only part of the equation. If an instrument has a dull soundboard how can it be adjusted?
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  6. #6
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    In that price range of $50...no question, get a Makala. BUT......make sure it is set up right and the strings are aquila!
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by strumsilly View Post
    all that + unless it comes with a set up the action at nut is usually high, and that affects intonation quite a bit.
    Yeah, getting it from someone that does set up will be more important than the final brand. I just ordered 5 Dolphins from Uke Republic and they were all great.

    In the past, I've bought a Lanikai and Mahalo from Amazon. The Lanikai was fine, but the Mahalo was the worst piece of junk I've ever played.
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  8. #8
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    Buy a kala ka-s or ny other cheap uke from HMS because they'll set it up and check intonation for you

  9. #9
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    I love my Makala Dolphin plastic uke. I bought it from UkeRepublic, which is more than $60 including shipping. But it comes with setup. I think it sounds much better than Lanika soprano (around $60) my friend bought over Amazon.

    But please keep in mind that the Dolphin has intonation issue despite the fact that how well the uke is set up. Mine sometime has buzzing issue too. You get what you pay But it's very good for beginners though.
    ...

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by ukuraleigh View Post
    Yeah, getting it from someone that does set up will be more important than the final brand. I just ordered 5 Dolphins from Uke Republic and they were all great.

    In the past, I've bought a Lanikai and Mahalo from Amazon. The Lanikai was fine, but the Mahalo was the worst piece of junk I've ever played.
    Quote Originally Posted by Coconut Willie View Post
    In that price range of $50...no question, get a Makala. BUT......make sure it is set up right and the strings are aquila!
    Quote Originally Posted by BobN View Post
    I would rate them in this order: Kala, Lanikai, Makala, Stagg, Mahalo
    There is nothing like trying them in one store. Intonation is only part of the equation. If an instrument has a dull soundboard how can it be adjusted?
    Quote Originally Posted by PoiDog View Post
    Take what's below for what it's worth:

    My opinion is that none of the ukes in your list are significantly better or worse than any other in that list. In fact, you could put them all in a sack and choose one at random and likely end up with something that will suit you just fine.

    That being said, I'd also recommend you not go this way unless you either absolutely have to, or really want to get a completely low-end beater uke.

    Double your budget and you're suddenly looking at ukes that do have some substance to them. For instance, at around $100 you could get an Islander, which has a very surprising sound, solid build, and quality QA behind it and is one of the best per-buck ukes you can find. There are also a slew of Kala, Lanikai, Oscar Schmidt, Cordoba, and aNueNue ukes around there as well.

    At $50 you may well find that uke with great intonation -- but likely not. At least not without a setup that can add 50% - 100% of the cost.

    Again, take the above for what it's worth, which in today's economy probably isn't much
    Quote Originally Posted by ukemunga View Post
    As far as intonation goes in that price range it's pretty much a crapshoot. All factory made and each can vary from the rest.
    Brand-wise I'd probably stick with Makala or Kala, but there's no guarantee re the intonation and general setup.

    The best thing to do if possible is to buy in person after trying out the possibilities.
    Thank you all for your quick and informational responses, I really appreciate your help! I do understand that if I raise my price range, I would get a much better product. However, I just spent a lot of money on a bass guitar amp and I don't believe it would be wise of me to spend more than $60 on a Uke. Either that, or I could wait until I have more money to spend. I do, however, plan on buying new strings right away (except the Kala KA-15S Mahogany Soprano Ukulele since it comes pre-strung with Aquila strings) since new strings are only $6. So it seems as though any of these would be a good choice. Right now, if I had to choose, I would get the Kala KA-15S Mahogany Soprano Ukulele since Kala is generally a great brand at this price range and it comes pre-strung with good strings and has geared tuners. If I'm not mistaken, Makala and Kala are either the same company, or closely joined together somehow?

    Also, I don't plan on buying a Ukulele to play live shows or anything, just something to play with as a new instrument to learn. If I were serious enough on buying a uke to play live shows on, my price range would be more like $150-$200. But as far as what I play on a day to day basis, I am in no need of one of those for now, maybe in the future. With that said, I still want it to be of good quality even if I'm just playing around on it.

    There are plenty of music stores near where I live so I could probably find one of these to try out before I buy a Uke. You guys are saying that if I buy it from a retailer that sets it up for you, it will sound much better than buying it from a regular retailer such as Amazon? Do any of you have recommendations for online retailers that set it up for you?
    Last edited by ZJE123; 04-09-2012 at 04:00 PM.

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