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View Full Version : POLL RESULTS: Can u tell difference, koa v spruce



Kmetzger
09-20-2014, 10:15 AM
Ok, here is the answer: the first ukulele is spruce and the second one is Koa - the opposite of what the majority of people guessed in the poll! Which was that two-thirds of people guessed that the first uke in the recording was Koa, when it was not.

My view on all this? I feel my spruce Moore Bettah is richer, warmer and more resonant than my Koa Moore Bettah. I prefer the sound of my spruce uke. So does that mean spruce wins? That I will only buy spruce ukes from this point forward? No. Why?

Chuck said recently "These days my ukes sound remarkably similar despite the wood used". So I would have to say that my spruce uke sounds richer and more resonant than my Koa *not* because of the different tone wood, but because he built the two of them five years apart with different construction methods.

The lesson for me here is that the commonly stated belief in the ukulele community that Koa is warmer and as a result more desirable than what is characterized as bright and brittle spruce, is perhaps an unfounded prejudice/myth. And thus I should not shop based on the tone wood (unless I want something in particular visually) and instead shop based on playability and sound. (Perhaps it is a different issue when it comes to larger instruments like guitars, but that's a debate for a different forum.)

The original thread/poll and link to the sound file is here: http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?100524-Poll-Can-u-tell-difference-koa-vs-spruce

Thanks to you all for listening and participating in the poll. Was an interesting exercise.

Keith

Doc_J
09-20-2014, 10:45 AM
Very interesting. Thanks Keith.

Can you tell us the age of the two tenors? Would enjoy seeing pictures of them, if possible.

Kmetzger
09-20-2014, 11:02 AM
Very interesting. Thanks Keith.

Can you tell us the age of the two tenors? Would enjoy seeing pictures of them, if possible.

Photos of both can be seen by clicking on the name of each in my signature below.

The Koa I believe was built in 2008. The spruce in April 2013.

Cornfield
09-20-2014, 11:06 AM
The Koa uke is obviously defective. Please send it to me for proper disposal.

hawaii 50
09-20-2014, 11:07 AM
Here are 2 MBUs built at the same time..July 2014
one is all Koa the other Macassar Ebony/Bearclaw Spruce top

to me the Koa one has a warmer richer sound.....as Chuck has said he changed his bracing a few years ago and I think it makes a difference...I have played maybe 8 or 9 all Koa MBs in the last 8 months and they are the best sounding Koa ukes I have heard...

that being said I have a Milo/Spruce MB with a offset soundhole and slotted headstock...and it has a deep rich warm sound like no other uke I own...:) I have many all Koa ukes but have switched to softer wood tops now.....

I think the uke in the video here with the Spruce top has a little clearer/clean sound maybe because of the Ebony back and sides....but could be my imagination...

but anyway you explain it the Moore Bettahs are the best ukes I have seen/heard.....:)

http://theukulelereview.com/2014/07/04/moore-bettah-moore-bettah/

Kmetzger
09-20-2014, 11:38 AM
Here are 2 MBUs built at the same time....maybe 4 months ago

one is all Koa the other Macassar Ebony/Bearclaw Spruce top

to me the Koa one has a warmer richer sound.....as Chuck has said he changed his bracing a few years ago and I think it makes a difference...I have played maybe 8 or 9 all Koa MBs and they are the best sounding Koa ukes I have heard...

that being said I have a Milo/Spruce MB with a offset soundhole and slotted headstock...and it has a deep rich warm sound like no other uke I own...:) I have many all Koa ukes but have switched to softer wood tops now.....

I think the uke in the video here with the Spruce top has a little clearer/clean sound maybe because of the Ebony back and sides....but could be my imagination...

but anyway you explain it the Moore Bettahs are the best ukes I have seen/heard.....:)

http://theukulelereview.com/2014/07/04/moore-bettah-moore-bettah/

I've seen this review before and feel it is unintentionally very deceptive. The mic placement and mic level is not at all the same in each one. One clue to that is listen for the background sounds and noise before he starts to play - you can hear it is much hotter on the video of the spruce uke, making the background sounds sound louder and brighter. So it isn't surprising that the spruce uke also does.

hawaii 50
09-20-2014, 11:42 AM
I've seen this review before and feel it is unintentionally very deceptive. The mic placement and mic level is not at all the same in each one. One clue to that is listen for the background sounds and noise before he starts to play - you can hear it is much hotter on the video of the spruce uke, making the background sounds sound louder and brighter. So it isn't surprising that the spruce uke also does.

Haha..I will let Andrew and Chuck know you did not like the recording......:)

you could be right about the recording as I am not an expert...but I was there when Andrew recorded it...and I did play both ukes....

just my 2 cents

Kmetzger
09-20-2014, 12:00 PM
It was really an unfair test, as we never heard the second uke without everything else playing—it might as well have been an LU-21. When it could be heard clearly, it was because it was playing in a higher register than everything else—and probably having to be played harder to make itself heard. Consequently, it was natural to assume the "brighter" (i.e. higher) sound was from the spruce top. I wrote this up to post several times while the poll was going on, but each time decided to junk the reply before I hit "Post", partly so as not to interfere with the poll. Listening to other, fairer comparison clips on YouTube, the difference in top woods is more readily discernable. All this test really showed is that Chuck Moore makes sweet-sounding ukes.

Without question my recording was not a neutral representation of each uke. If my original intent had been to do a comparison, I guess I would have played the same thing on each uke for a pure A B test. But I had just finished recording that song for pleasure and was amazed at how great the spruce uke sounded - thinking I hadn't really heard any uke sounding better recorded. (Not the performance, which is easily surpassed by many, but the sound the uke made.) And couldn't believe Koa could sound better or that people would think the sound of the spruce was deficient in any way. So I was less interested in a pure test and more interested to see if the spruce could be passed off as Koa, which it was in the minds and ears of 2/3rds of the people.

Regardless, the best indicator is the maker himself - Chuck Moore - saying that there is little if any difference between two similar made ukes of his with the two different tone woods. Which leads me back to my point that the view of Koa as superior/warmer/etc. is largely if not entirely myth.

Which is not to say I don't like it - I do. And I actually prefer the look of Koa. But I no longer believe, all other things being equal, that Koa sounds different or better than spruce. Or probably other descent tone woods.

Kmetzger
09-20-2014, 12:06 PM
Haha..I will let Andrew and Chuck know you did not like the recording......:)

you could be right about the recording as I am not an expert...but I was there when Andrew recorded it...and I did play both ukes....

just my 2 cents

I liked both recordings very much. And meant no offense to anyone involved, which though I think it is an unfair comparison, I made a clear point to say that it was unintentional.

But again, listen to the first few seconds of both video clips before the music starts. The sounds of birds and other ambient stuff. All of that sounds louder and brighter in the video clip with the spruce than it does in the clip with the Koa. So if the mic setup is such that the background sounds sound brighter, anything else (like a spruce top uke) is likely to sound brighter. Which is why I said it was deceptive. (I should have used the words "unfair comparison" because I did not mean to imply there was any intention to deceive.)

Tigeralum2001
09-20-2014, 12:10 PM
Woohoo! I got it right.. I was questioning myself as I was in a small minority. To me, the first uke doesn't have as warm a low-end as the uke later on. Also the upper register did seem brighter.

Kmetzger
09-20-2014, 12:21 PM
Btw...here are the exact results that were in prior to my revealing which was which:

29 people, or 61.7% picked Koa as the first uke.

18 people, or 38.3% picked spruce as the first uke.

AndrewKuker
09-20-2014, 12:35 PM
I've seen this review before and feel it is unintentionally very deceptive. The mic placement and mic level is not at all the same in each one. One clue to that is listen for the background sounds and noise before he starts to play - you can hear it is much hotter on the video of the spruce uke, making the background sounds sound louder and brighter. So it isn't surprising that the spruce uke also does.

I am obviously out of my controlled environment here. I would not have come to this beautiful location if my intent was to A-B different tone woods. Nevertheless I used a Schoeps CMC6 pair and a sound devices field recorder. All known for their true and transparent tone. Mic placement was the same but I saw it clipping at points as I recorded the Spruce and turned down the SD 702 a touch. My intent was to simply show two beautiful ukes. The only true comparisons I do are on the same video back to back. Other wise I just try to show the true and beautiful sound of each instrument as best possible. Totally not offended in the least bit though Keith. Nice recordings too.

AndrewKuker
09-20-2014, 12:55 PM
And just to add to the discussion, the spruce/ macassar in that video sounds different than my spruce/ milo. Partially because of the back and and sides, partially because of the sound hole size and placement, and partially because each instrument is a unique piece. That macassar had an insane amount of note clarity with a full body of sustain behind it. While the koa had a little less at each end of the frequency spectrum but still with that slightly scooped nasal mid range giving that classic beautiful tone Chuck attains with an all koa tenor. The offset sound hole spruce milo is different than either. Of course they all sound like a MB. His ukes are so artistic that I seem to attempt my reviews of them in an artistic way. Versus a more clinical approach.

AndrewKuker
09-20-2014, 02:45 PM
Ya, totally. I have likened it before to the builder having the voice and woods just coloring that voice like different good microphones would for a singer. The voice is there either way.

Ukulele Eddie
09-20-2014, 03:43 PM
Fun thread and fun learning. I'm really not that surprised. People always think they discern better than they do.

strumsilly
09-20-2014, 03:49 PM
I'm confused

Dan Uke
09-20-2014, 04:14 PM
I missed it and I have both!

AndrewKuker
09-20-2014, 04:26 PM
I'm confused

Given the number of spruce top and koa top MB's that will ever be available, deciphering the subtle differences is not quite crucial.

Larry D.
09-20-2014, 04:31 PM
I did not even wish to make a bet on your poll. They both sounded amazing to me.
Proves that often we hear with our brains (and maybe our eyes) when we think we are hearing with our ears.
I sure thought the connoisseur of ukes would have guessed a little moore bettah though;)

wayward
09-20-2014, 10:55 PM
I was one of the people who got this wrong - so I can see (or rather, hear) why you asked the question. As I have made all recent decisions about uke purchases (and my tone wood preference) by listening to sound samples etc online, I wondered whether or not I'd been fooling myself & buying one uke when I would have enjoyed the sound of a cheaper wood just as much - but, yesterday, I tried a Pono Mango Baritone, and it sounded exactly as it was in HMS's sound clip (apart from the fact that it was me playing it :eek: :) ) & when I tried the (cheaper) Mahogany the different (not better or worse, just not what I was looking for at this point) tone was really obvious to me and other customers in the shop, who commented. Both of your ukuleles sounded beautiful in your recording, so the only conclusions I'm left with are: MB ukuleles sound great; I shouldn't rule out spruce entirely in the future; and it is, of course, always better to try a ukulele before you buy it if you can - because the sound might surprise you. Thanks for the poll.

coolkayaker1
09-20-2014, 11:37 PM
I missed it. But then again I'm one who believes ukes sound the same. Only one who is feeble-minded would take a bet on telling apart different ukes, or which one "opened up" versus which one is new, or perceived differences in string sounds; all the past demonstrations have shown the human ear and mind fall short in detecting these differences. Now Keith's shows it yet again. :p

Brother Andrew, from HMS, did the landmark contest, circa 2011/2012, of Corey playing completely different ukuleles on a video, the ukes blurred out, the recordings pure--ukes with different strings, different brands, different woods, etc.--giving the listener every distinction to try to tell them apart. Nope, no one could consistently tell which uke is which with any statistical, reproducible, beyond-chance accuracy. It was groundbreaking.

The absolute quintessential test would be to take, say, five tenors, five different brands and woods (hell, make two of the five laminates) and various strings, play them each and tell the listener which is which; then mix them up and ask the listener to name them. We would all not sleep the night the results were released, realizing only then that we are so easily duped by perceptions over reality. :o. All that thinking our cedar solid-top was so different than our Koa-veneered laminate goes the way of the Easter bunny and the Tooth Faery.

wayward
09-20-2014, 11:58 PM
Only one who is feeble-minded would take a bet on telling apart different ukes :o Haha Or perhaps a bunch of masochists, since so many of us took on the challenge with the belief that we would be proved to fail the test :rolleyes: :D So, if "ukes is ukes", should we all be playing £20 plastic ukes and saving our cash...? (I heard a great sounding holographic plastic uke yesterday)

AndrewKuker
09-21-2014, 12:18 AM
Brother Andrew, from HMS, did the landmark contest, circa 2011/2012, of Corey playing completely different ukuleles on a video, the ukes blurred out, the recordings pure--ukes with different strings, different brands, different woods, etc.--giving the listener every distinction to try to tell them apart. Nope, no one could consistently tell which uke is which with any statistical, reproducible, beyond-chance accuracy. It was groundbreaking.

No, it really wasn't. Shortly after I started using mics and AD converters with much less compression. There are differences in sound. But turning sounds into ones and zeros is essentially what digital recording is and it cost a lot to get close to reality within those parameters. The videos that are most "true" and "pure" in comparison are these- http://player.vimeo.com/hubnut/album/2488939


But the videos you may have formed opinions on might not be qualified for that. Even if you get beyond the player and the music and are strictly listening to the tone on a true playback source. Only in the past few years have I learned to give it for those that can hear it.