PDA

View Full Version : Electric uke options



ohmless
12-14-2014, 03:29 PM
Hello, I will be buying my electric uke in a couple weeks and wanted to discuss the options, my use, and the room it will be played in predominantly.

I record using a USB Yeti microphone and don't have an interface yet. The room is real small(8'x10') and the microphone when on lowest gain still is pretty sensitive. I will be replacing this microphone for a higher quality larger condenser microphone next xmas probably in a bundle with a digital interface. My goal is to have capability of doing electric ukulele performances in this room(quietest in the house) and not just acoustic.

The first ukulele is an Ohana 20CE and the other is a Lanikai UkeSB both with a similar price. The Ohana has a solid top but when listening in the store compared to other ukes(not just the Lanikai) it was pretty quiet. Had great feel and finish otherwise. The Lanikai had a really nice feel to it also with much more resonance(but laminate top).

Questions:
1. Will I be better off in the long run given my circumstances/goals with the louder instrument that I can hook up via USB or the quieter solid top and describe why?

2. Is giving an instrument a year long enough for the solid top to open up?

3. If I was to start an ukulele meetup in a year, will either instrument be advantageous if amplified with a Roland Street Cube in regards to feedback?

4. I sing when I play. If recording while playing powered, would I be satisfied with a condenser mic(while the instrument is plugged into the computer) or should I be looking at getting an SM57 and an PG58?

thanks for any insight you all have.

Inksplosive AL
12-14-2014, 03:51 PM
The yeti mic seems like quite a bit of equipment. If you are planning on recording to computer you need to deal with lag. I believe the headphone jack on the yeti solves this. I think the sm57 route is taking a step backwards.

Otherwise when talking electronic and ukulele the only name that comes to my mind is Risa.

I have been readying myself to record even though I have yet to do much of anything. Have you seen this? I went to record at my shop thinking it was quiet, The lights hum the neon buzzes and all the damn clocks tick. lol


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTeUeRxAS7M

Brad Bordessa
12-14-2014, 05:36 PM
1. Will I be better off in the long run given my circumstances/goals with the louder instrument that I can hook up via USB or the quieter solid top and describe why?

I wouldn't worry about finding something with the specific USB plug-in. I haven't tried one, but it seems kind of gimmicky to me. Get something with a pickup if you want to plug in and you'll be ready to go once you get an interface. That way you can plug in on stage too. There isn't a soundman around who's going to be able to plug you in via USB! I really like to record both a mic'ed track and a pickup track. You sort of get the best of both sounds.

Top of the list (IMO) when buying a uke is sound. If you're recording a bad source than there is no magic in the world that will fix it after the fact. But if you have a good sounding uke you'll have a much harder time goofing up the recording.


2. Is giving an instrument a year long enough for the solid top to open up?

Who knows?! :) There are plenty of "opening up" threads if you search. In a nutshell: it depends (on a LOT of things).


3. If I was to start an ukulele meetup in a year, will either instrument be advantageous if amplified with a Roland Street Cube in regards to feedback?

I'm familiar with Hawaiian style jams and usually nobody plugs in. That subliminally makes one person "better" than everyone else. I think it should be more of a King Arthur's Round Table sort of thing. But yes, if you plug in a uke with a pickup you will be more easily heard. Again, no USB input option on a Micro Cube. But if you have a normal 1/4" jack pickup plug in, you shouldn't have a problem with feedback unless you are standing really close to the amp or you're cranking the volume.


4. I sing when I play. If recording while playing powered, would I be satisfied with a condenser mic(while the instrument is plugged into the computer) or should I be looking at getting an SM57 and an PG58?

Depends if you want to have a mic on the uke as well as having it plugged in. If you get a SM57 (my next mic purchase) you'll have much more directional control over the recording source. I'd probably use your Yeti for the uke and a SM57 or 58 for vocals. I don't know what the Yeti is like for vocals, but it can't hurt to try it with the uke plugged in only. Experiment. There won't be too many options to overwhelm you with a DI and a mic or two. See what works. Your setup and desired sound is going to be different than mine. Hard to go wrong with a decent interface and a SM57 though.

Best of luck with your recording! Post up a sample when you get a chance. I'd love to hear what you come up with.

ohmless
12-15-2014, 05:26 AM
The link at the end of the post has the frequency response curves for the Blue Yeti that I use in cardioid mode. It is pretty flat with a mid-range dip at 2kHz. Without having looked this up until today, I have been adding 3 dB at 2.5kHz in order to make the recording sound more life-like. The problem is that with each little alteration I make to the recording makes it less realistic. If I had a mic with a flatter mids it could make it where I can get a higher fidelity without the processing. Overall I am still very happy with my Blue Yeti so am in no hurry to get the interface. This xmas had some awesome deals on interfaces essentially for free when bought with a microphone. I am hoping for a similar deal next year.

also to clarify about the ukeSB ukes, they also have the 1/4" output. Yeah I can use it plugged into the computer until I buy an interface, but the main reason I was leaning toward this one was that it was a more resonant body than the solid top Ohana.

http://recordinghacks.com/microphones/Blue-Microphones/Yeti

here is a sound sample of me, my current uke, and the yeti using audacity to do equalization and noise removal.

http://youtu.be/y3ATDw0fvEw

ohmless
12-15-2014, 05:34 AM
oh and for the mic noise, I switched from a laptop to a desktop that went under the desk along with buying a mic stand. I found there was still vibrations from the desk from who knows what source when using the desktop stand. Audacity removes this noise but the voice afterwards can get grainy or sound mechanical.

I can't make the rubbermade enclosure work on the mic stand, or I would make one. If you were to make this project, I would recommend putting an Auralex monitor isolation pad under the tub.

Kekani
12-15-2014, 05:48 AM
I didn't look up the Ohana and Lanikai, but I was suprised to hear they make an electric. Then you mentioned the tops, so I'm guessing they're not electric.

That said, you need to look for the best instrument, THEN look at having a good pickup installed if it doesn't have one. Seems you're looking for which instrument already has a pickup in it. Most (if not all) instruments start without pickups - unless I absolutely know the client wants a pickup installed, then I may start drilling holes during the build, maybe.

Don't bank on the ability to adjust with procesing, a great instrument amplified properly is a louder great instrument, a good instrument amplified is a louder good instrument. You can finish the rest.

Hippie guy is correct about kanikapila - not too cool if you're the only one plugged in, unless you're truly electric, like most lap steels, electric bass, EUB, etc., then there'd be only one anyway.

And the PG58, not so good. The SM58 will probably be a better suggestion, but I like AKG's, which some people have a harder time singing into.

kissing
12-15-2014, 11:20 PM
Questions:
1. Will I be better off in the long run given my circumstances/goals with the louder instrument that I can hook up via USB or the quieter solid top and describe why?

2. Is giving an instrument a year long enough for the solid top to open up?

3. If I was to start an ukulele meetup in a year, will either instrument be advantageous if amplified with a Roland Street Cube in regards to feedback?

4. I sing when I play. If recording while playing powered, would I be satisfied with a condenser mic(while the instrument is plugged into the computer) or should I be looking at getting an SM57 and an PG58?

1. I don't really believe in "plugging in to record" ukuleles as several companies seem to promote as a "feature". Unless you are experimenting with electronic sounds or have professional knowledge in making electronic signals sound "natural", it's always better to record an ukulele's natural sound via a microphone. A USB on an ukulele has very limited usefulness in my opinion. I would only use it if the recording environment is terrible (eg: heaps of background noise from people you live with, etc).





2. If you don't like how an ukulele sounds right now, it won't noticeably change after a year. Some debate that ukuleles don't "open up" at all and that it's all a myth. So generally if a uke sounds good *now*, it won't get any worse. Don't wait for a crappy sounding uke to "open up", because it won't.

Solid top doesn't always mean "louder". It depends on so many factors including the construction and thicknesses of the woods, etc. While the reputation of the maker and the solid wood is a good guideline, when picking a uke off a store's wall, I always follow my ears. Some solid top ukuleles are simply quiet sounding than some laminates, by nature. Some solid top ukes simply sound 'dead'. Sounding "quiet" doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad sound though.

If you want to change how a uke sounds, try some different strings!!






3. Feedback hasn't really been an issue on any acoustic-electric ukulele with a decent pickup. Feedback only becomes an issue when you have the gain cranked up really high (which is not practical anyway) or if you have the ukulele itself very close to the speakers (which doesn't really occur either). If you want MAXIMUM feedback protection - something that will not feedback even in the worst of situations, you need to get a fully electric ukulele such as a Pono solid body, Godin Multi-Uke, etc. However you will sacrifice acoustic sound with these options.

(but a fully electric ukulele generally outperforms an acoustic-electric ukulele's sound when plugged in by a mile!! I have a Godin Multi-uke and it is like 10 times better than all acoustic-electrics I've used so far, including expensive ones like Mi-Si and Fishman!)







4. The answer is, all of those mics would do the job as long as you have the mic placed properly and the set at the correct sensitivity/volume.
Condensers in general pick up more sounds and are more sensitive with a wider frequency response (resulting in deeper basses and more crisp trebles), while a Dynamic mic has a narrower frequency response resulting in a more "rounder" sounding recording with the harsh trebles rolled off. HOWEVER - the most important factor for you will be the mic's pickup pattern. You'll need something that will pickup sound from both your uke and your voice; perhaps omnidirectional(?). Cardioid is not designed for recording multiple sound sources - Cardioid is best for picking up sound from ONE sound source.

In my recordings where I have ukulele/guitar AND vocals, I actually record the tracks separately and synchronize them on Audacity. That's because my mic is a Samson C01U cardioid condenser.

If you are stuck with a mic that is only cardioid, you'll just have to place the mic at some distance in front of you with the sensitivity setting moderately high.
But it won't be ideal. Studios would have separate mics for your vocals and instrument running at the same time OR record one track at a time.



Tangent:

Do we bedroom musicians *really* need Studio interfaces and super sensitive studio microphones?
In truth, those things may actually be detrimental to your recording quality. Why? Because such equipment is designed to record in studio environments, where the room is soundproof and the sound doesn't bounce off the walls and surroundings as much. Using studio equipment in a normal room in a house may prove to be a stressful pursuit of too much sensitivity. The best USB microphones such as the Audio Technica AT2020 or this Shure SM58/XU bundle I'm looking at:
http://www.shure.com/americas/products/microphones/sm/sm58-x2u-usb-digital-bundle

may actually be the most suitable for a bedroom setting..

Inksplosive AL
12-15-2014, 11:52 PM
I caught these guys on youtube they sold me on the stick. If I could only play so well.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZaXRjDxdk0

Tootler
12-16-2014, 11:27 AM
How about one of these?

Also by Risa but slightly more conventional. It costs a bit more but I prefer it to my Risa stick.


http://youtu.be/xFtPShMdR_c

kissing
12-16-2014, 05:20 PM
But friction tuners..

ohmless
12-16-2014, 07:17 PM
Would love if a used concert Risa fit under my hard cap of 230 dollars when I get the money available on the first. The downside is that I would be buying blind ear-wise since it would be bought on ebay. I saw nothing on the ads here(I will post closer to purchasing time)on the elderly instruments website or on craigslist. I think a risa would be plenty quiet to the point that it wouldn't be heard much when singing in a condenser mic. Scary part about buying one used is how many people on youtube use them as golf clubs and for playing cricket.

I love that cover of Second That Emotion. That is what I am sound I am looking for.

and got to thinking about using an amp for tones instead of the computer(I am not really impressed with free amp in the Presonus DAW. Why not just put the amp if too loud in the doorway of the room but not in my room? cable is plenty long enough to reach. It is fun planning on happily spending all my spare money this year on gear. I like the clean channel on the Roland mobile cube but also like the sound from the Vox 3w modeling amp(has a clean and line in channels.)

Kekani
12-16-2014, 08:52 PM
Would love if a used concert Risa fit under my hard cap of 230 dollars when I get the money available on the first. . .

It is fun planning on happily spending all my spare money this year on gear.

Just a comment/observation:
Its so often that there are threads about people acquiring mid to high end instruments, then cheaping out on things like pickups, cables, amps and cabs/combo's, pa speakers, etc.
It seems you're taking the opposite direction by looking for a low end `ukulele, and investing in the back end.

Interesting approach. Not one I'd take personally, but I'm biased, of course.
Then again, I do invest in the back end as well, so I'm not completely detached from the process.

Inksplosive AL
12-17-2014, 03:18 PM
Having bought two used Risa sticks now my current suggestion would be to only buy one brand new or used only if you can visually inspect it before purchase. Both the used models I have look like they have had someone with limited understanding and zero skill with their hands try to level the frets. I will be starting another thread asking for Risa stick owners to come forward and answer a few questions about their sticks. Also to detail the differences between the two generations of stick, there are differences between the older style and newer style models.

~AL~

pritch
12-17-2014, 03:40 PM
I caught these guys on youtube they sold me on the stick. If I could only play so well.



Thanks. I really enjoyed that.

kissing
12-19-2014, 01:01 AM
I have owned too many Risa sticks in my history...

-The original Soprano stick with friction tuners
-Concert stick with geared
-Soprano stick with geared
-Tenor stick with geared

(I have also owned every steel string electric model from Risa - Les Paul tenor, Les Paul Soprano, Single-coils tenor, Single coils soprano).

I did thoroughly enjoy all the Risa sticks. They are a wickedly compact and versatile instrument.

However, they did have some cons. The main thing I didn't like about them was despite their "rugged" appearance, the wood that is used is deceptively soft.
A tiny bump on a hard surface that would leave most ukuleles unblemished would cause the soft wood to dent in. If you don't care about appearances it shouldn't be a problem, but if you carry it around a lot knocking it around, you will accumulate dents rather quickly.

Secondly, I did not like how the strings are attached at the "head" (or lack thereof) of the instrument. You have to tie a knot and the string stays in place by the knot plugging a pinhole. I feel like each time I change strings, I am damaging the wood there little by little. Furthermore, there have been the dreaded times where the knot would become stuck in that hole and there is no easy way to remove it. This could be an hour of stressful torture trying to get the stuck string out of that hole - sometimes you can end up scuffing the instrument more if you try to free the stuck string using thin metal objects like paperclips and pins.

Thirdly, the tuning system could improve..
The strings get "stuck" between the tuners and the saddle due to the angle/friction, and can cause the tuners to be unresponsive at times and then slip. This makes tuning a bit less convenient. The geared tuners are DEFINITELY an improvement upon the friction tuners though, that's for sure. Tuning with a friction tuner WITH the handicap of the before-mentioned tuning issues was a nightmare.

You are also limited in options of setups, as the saddle is a one-size plastic unit.
That being said, the default setup is quite comfortable to play. However, it is not easy to get a practical low-G tuning as wound strings are a huge no-no for the Risa.
Wound strings will erode away the soft plastic saddle very quickly (i know from experience! had to email Risa for a replacement saddle!!). You have to use an unwound low-G string - and so far ALL brands of unwound low-G strings have been (let's admit it) a disappointment. They're fat, floppy things that twang like a rubber band, and it sounds worse through a primarily electric instrument! I would admit that Aquila's unwound red low-G is arguably one of the 'better' ones, but they don't work well on a Risa because they nearly always snap on the sharp corners! (Risa themselves have recommended me against using Aquila's red strings on their stick!)

The strings that come as stock with the Risa electrics are Risa's own fluorocarbon strings. To be honest, I greatly dislike these strings. They have (in my opinion) a ridiculously high tension. I switch them out nearly immediately, my choice of strings for Risa sticks being D'addario Pro-Arte Concert or Tenor strings (really brings out the clarity of the tone).



What I can commend about the Risa is that despite being a passive electric ukulele, the power and tone is excellent and comparable to the other top electric ukuleles on the market (such as Pono). Being a passive does mean it would benefit from a powered pre-amp though.

It's just a shame that this excellent electric ukulele does not come with all its benefits in a more durable and practical package.
The Uke-ellie only "sort of" improves upon the stick's shortcomings, but the fact that there is no option for it to have geared tuners (or at least Peg-heads as standard) deter me from it.

Currently the Godin Multi-Uke is my favourite electric ukulele. This thing is durable, has excellent electronics (arguably the best) and it also gives decent acoustic volume unplugged!
Furthermore, it comes with a dual action adjustable truss rod and a slightly radiused fretboard.
In my opinion, it has all the advantages of a solid-body electric instrument, while still being an OK acoustic instrument. The pickup, electronics and playability (after a bit of setup) are outstanding.

If you prefer something that is fully solid body, Pono have done it right!
Pono's solid body electrics have the advantage of a great pickup system like the Risa, but in a package that is actually durable with real tuners at the head and is (subjectively) aesthetically pleasing.



Me using a Risa Tenor stick:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNIimZxy3iw
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNIimZxy3iw

Tootler
12-19-2014, 05:44 AM
But friction tuners..



The Uke-ellie only "sort of" improves upon the stick's shortcomings, but the fact that there is no option for it to have geared tuners (or at least Peg-heads as standard) deter me from it.


You clearly don't like friction tuners whereas they don't bother me particularly. Most of my ukes have friction tuners and it's a matter of learning to make small adjustments - not a major problem as far as I'm concerned. I do agree with you, though about not offering geared tuners - planetary or otherwise. At the price I think they could have fitted planetary tuners as standard and, of course, good quality "bunny ear" geared tuners cost no more than good quality friction tuners. However that's a minor issue for a uke that otherwise overcomes the shortcomings of the Risa stick.

I had a quick look for the Pono and it looks a good alternative and has a more conventional look. There's also the Fluke SB which has the option of Pegheds and fitted with Pegheds would be a similar price to the Pono. I considered the Fluke SB but went for the Risa as non of the UK retailers seemed to stock the Fluke SB whereas I could get the Risa from a UK retailer for the same price as from Germany so I went for the Risa. Importing from Germany to the UK is no hassle, anyway and I have done that on several occasions. I'm not sure if the Pono was available at the time but I wasn't aware of it.

I have no regrets buying the Uke'Ellie. It's a great instrument, well made, nicely balanced with a good quality pickup. It does benefit from having a preamp and I had one anyway which can be used with the Risa stick or the pickups I use on my acoustic ukuleles as well.

For all that I usually play it through an effects pedal which acts as a preamp at the same time.

kissing
12-19-2014, 10:58 PM
I have no regrets buying the Uke'Ellie. It's a great instrument, well made, nicely balanced with a good quality pickup.

Cannot fault Risa's electronics in any way. They are amongst the best!

Olarte
12-20-2014, 01:39 AM
Hey Kissing nice wrietup! If you ever want to sell you godin, be sure to let me know ;)

ohmless
12-20-2014, 01:15 PM
http://www.ebay.com/itm/271712018064 It wasn't an impulse buy, bid a couple days ago and won(Just had to stay quiet til now). Looks like geared tuners to me and they report that it is in barely used condition, only my second choice of scale(soprano). I will be changing the strings to a re-entrant tuning and applying Nut Sauce right off to prevent the tuning issue popping strings.

Looks like with the money I save I can get the amp a month sooner. Still leaning toward the VOX 3 watt modeling amp. I have no idea about cables so will research that this weekend also.

kissing
12-20-2014, 06:31 PM
http://www.ebay.com/itm/271712018064 It wasn't an impulse buy, bid a couple days ago and won(Just had to stay quiet til now). Looks like geared tuners to me and they report that it is in barely used condition, only my second choice of scale(soprano). I will be changing the strings to a re-entrant tuning and applying Nut Sauce right off to prevent the tuning issue popping strings.

Looks like with the money I save I can get the amp a month sooner. Still leaning toward the VOX 3 watt modeling amp. I have no idea about cables so will research that this weekend also.

Nylon strings/piezo pickups.... always work best with an Acoustic amp.
I would only get the Vox if you want to experiment with distortion. But you will be giving up the tone with which an electric ukulele works best - a clean, acoustic tone.

Nylon string electric, even though they are "electric" don't sound very good through electric guitar amps.

That being said, I do have a Vox Mini3 G2 modelling amp. I use it with my electric guitars and steel string electric ukuleles.
For my nylon string ukuleles, I find myself using my acoustic amps much much more.

If you want effects, many acoustic amps have effects built in. I'm pretty sure Vox and Roland have some models. My Fender Acoustasonic has a Chorus effect built in, which is handy. Or you can get an inexpensive effects pedal such as a Mooer Pogo and use it with the acoustic amp.

ohmless
12-23-2014, 07:54 AM
Here are my current choices for cables.

The DiMarzio one is 6 foot long but double straight connectors. The Live Wire Elite is ten foot but has the right angle connector. Both rate highly so I have no preference. I read the double straight connectors of the DiMarzio could be uncomfortable(I plan on playing seated with a strap.) I read that ten foot is as long as you want to go without a preamp(which isn't in the budget any time soon) so am concerned of marginal performance on the Live Wire Elite due to its length.

http://www.musiciansfriend.com/accessories/dimarzio-instrument-cable
http://www.musiciansfriend.com/accessories/live-wire-elite-angle-straight-instrument-cable

As for the amp, I want one that is versatile for my first. I can try both somewhat locally but at different stores. I am in no rush as I can't afford the amp right away either way. I do want to play with distortion but don't see myself metal shredding in reality. I play plenty of music from the 50's and 60's for the most part so interested in the Vox tweed, AC15 and AC30 channels as well as the clean and line in channels. With the Roland, the downside is that I would need an additional distortion pedal, but know that I will be happy with the one clean channel.

There is also the third option of not getting a distortion pedal and just buy both amps since the cost is marginally more if not comparable than that of a pedal.

I will have fun checking these out when I get my instrument in the mail. The USPS says it will arrive some time around the 29th.

Tootler
12-23-2014, 02:04 PM
Nylon strings/piezo pickups.... always work best with an Acoustic amp.
I would only get the Vox if you want to experiment with distortion. But you will be giving up the tone with which an electric ukulele works best - a clean, acoustic tone.

Nylon string electric, even though they are "electric" don't sound very good through electric guitar amps.


What you are saying there is your personal opinion but you are dressing it up as if it were fact. I agree that a nylon string/piezo pickup uke sounds very good through an acoustic amp but I would not describe the sound as acoustic. It's a clean electric tone and if that's the sound you're after, then that's the way to go. The music you play works superbly well with a clean electric tone, so playing through an acoustic amp is the right way to go for you.

I like to play mine through a guitar amp and make use of the effects available to get different tones. I like to play 50s Rock n Roll and for that you need to use effects for best results. The little Vox amps are good for that and have decent selection of effects. I have a Mini5 (slightly larger than the Mini3) and it's a great little amp with a good range of effects and it gives me a range of sounds that I like. The clean setting's not bad either.

If the electric sound is what you're after then the little Vox amps are a good choice. Of course, a nylon strung uke won't sound like an electric guitar but played through a guitar amp it has its own character and I like the results I get.

Ohmless, I recommend you use a cable with a right angle plug with a Risa stick, especially if you are going to play seated. The socket for the cable is somewhat inconveniently located under the body. A straight plug tends to get in the way. Maybe you should consider getting a shorter cable with a right angle plug.

Brad Bordessa
12-23-2014, 05:07 PM
Buy the best cable you can afford. Good cables last. I forked out for a Mogami Gold 10' right after I started college and it has lasted flawlessly through 100+ gigs. Best $50 I've ever spent on gear. On the other hand, I've had some cheap cables that never made it out of the house that are crackly after a year. I'd lean towards the Livewire if I were you. The tweed cables don't seem to hold up as well.

As far as length goes... If you've got a passive pickup (assuming the stick does) shorter is better. If you've got an active pickup, the length won't be as much of a problem. I run an 18' to my pedals, no problem with a Baggs Five-O (active).

Another thought if you're only looking at amps for the sounds is a plugin or app in your computer or iPad/iPhone. If you can get your 'ukulele into the computer/iPad via an interface or iRig you can alter the sound of your uke however you can imagine - no pedal required.