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pluck
01-23-2015, 05:49 AM
I applaud Kala for making some domestic ukes but I've got to ask:

Does the world really need another $1200 koa tenor?

I hope dealers will be able to discount for somewhat less than some of the Hawaiian models.

On the other hand, maybe there are a lot of die hard Kala fans just itching to upgrade.

spookelele
01-23-2015, 06:11 AM
Or you could get the $2800 10th anniversary one. ;)

http://www.kalabrand.com/EliteUke.html

I wouldn't mind trying one though.
I kinda wish they'd make the wider nut available on the lower end ones.

RichM
01-23-2015, 06:42 AM
I think Kala will be fighting an uphill battle. These may well be excellent instruments, but Kala has established a very effective brand which says "pretty decent, reasonably-priced ukuleles." I think it will be difficult for people to accept that Kala is now making a premium product-- and be willing to part with the large $$ required to own one. Understand, I'm not doubting the ability of Kala's California-based builders to make a top-quality uke; I do wonder If people will buy a $1200-3000 instrument from Kala.

I hope it does work out for them--as players, it's wonderful to have choices, and the ukes on their website certainly look nice.

katysax
01-23-2015, 06:57 AM
It's a lot easier to bring an "upmarket" product down to a less expensive segment of a market, than it is to bring a "down market" product into the more expensive realm. I agree with Rich; I'm sure they are going to be very nice ukes, but are people going to want a Kala for the price of a Kamaka?

If the uke popularity was still at the peak of the craze phase I'd say they'd have a chance because there was a time when people were snatching up any quality uke. But in this case they are a day late and a dollar short. I suspect we'll see the prices on these come down and the Kala Elite series will fade away. Time will tell.

pluck
01-23-2015, 07:10 AM
Kala seems to be pretty far ahead of the pack in terms of gaining "celebrity" endorsements. If they can stick an Elite model in the hands of all the semi-famous then they might have something.

drmosser
01-23-2015, 07:39 AM
I think that in that price range I would have to decide not to buy a Kanile'a, Kamaka, Ko'Aloha, and several other smaller custom builder's ukuleles before I decided that a Kala Elite was "the one". Unless the Kala Elite has superior sound quality to everything at or under its actual consumer price, there would be little to compel me to choose it over many others that are already available in that price range. Of course, there is also the competition from the used premium ukulele resale market to consider, as well.
Still, I would be interested in playing one to confirm or refute my UAS instincts. ;)

spookelele
01-23-2015, 07:57 AM
I think the problem is price point.

From a distribution standpoint they've got a lock. Every music store in town that has ukes has Kala. A local store can get an "elite" without any hassle through the sources they already use, where as if I go there and ask the local store for one of the other ones that start with K, they're going to have to do work to get those in the door.

I dunno that offering a new premium line is the issue. Toyota up'd to Lexus, Nissan up'd to Infinity, Honda up'd to Acura. You could say it's easier to offer premium if you have a history of good consistency.

So I guess the thing is what is the real price to pay? The kala waterman lists at $57 for the basic model. One of my local stores is preordering for $39, or 68% of list. If the Elite lists for 1200, and you could get it for 800 in a store, would you consider it?

wayfarer75
01-23-2015, 08:19 AM
I think the problem is price point.

From a distribution standpoint they've got a lock. Every music store in town that has ukes has Kala. A local store can get an "elite" without any hassle through the sources they already use, where as if I go there and ask the local store for one of the other ones that start with K, they're going to have to do work to get those in the door.

I dunno that offering a new premium line is the issue. Toyota up'd to Lexus, Nissan up'd to Infinity, Honda up'd to Acura. You could say it's easier to offer premium if you have a history of good consistency.

So I guess the thing is what is the real price to pay? The kala waterman lists at $57 for the basic model. One of my local stores is preordering for $39, or 68% of list. If the Elite lists for 1200, and you could get it for 800 in a store, would you consider it?

If I could hold one in my hands and decide whether I like it or not, that would certainly help me buy one. Am I in the market for one? No, but never say never.

UkerDanno
01-23-2015, 08:31 AM
um, yeah...no.

RichM
01-23-2015, 08:43 AM
If I could hold one in my hands and decide whether I like it or not, that would certainly help me buy one. Am I in the market for one? No, but never say never.

Yes, I think that's exactly it. For example, I was aware of Compass Rose for years, but never felt particularly inclined to buy one. Then I finally played one out in Santa Cruz, and knew I had to have one (well, I've had two, actually).

Kala has a LOT of bricks-and-mortar dealers, so theoretically, they could get these ukes into a lot of people's hands. That doesn't change the fact that they are a value-price company trying to compete in the premium market; but it does mean that people might actually get to play them and decide for themselves.

moetrout
01-23-2015, 08:46 AM
Is Kala hand building these elites? I could not see paying that much for a factory built uke. I would also have to first consider the other hand built K brands before a Kala elite.

katysax
01-23-2015, 08:55 AM
The one thing that I think Kala has going for it that might make it succeed is its connection to so many brick and mortar stores. If you want to try a uke and you go to Guitar Center, or your local music shop, you are going to have brands like Kala, Ohana, Lanikai and not any premium brands. So, if Kala can get its dealers to stock one of the elite, its likely to be the only premium uke that the potential buyer can sample locally. This is going to be especially true if the music store is somewhere other than a major city or on the coasts. For some people that will be their only exposure to a premium uke. So in that sense - if Kala can actually get the dealers to put at least one in stock - which might be difficult in that market - then they've got a chance of reaching where no one else can.

It's not impossible to go upmarket but very very hard. You'll notice that Honda, Nissan and Toyota created new brands Acura, Infinity and Lexus to reach for a new market segment. They weren't selling the "Honda Elite". They sold them at different dealers. Even then, Lexus is the only one that really firmly caught on. Acura and Infinity have always been problematic for the companies; they've never developed the anticipated market share.

My gut reaction is that a "premium" Kala has no appeal. If it were a company marketed by Kala as something like "Petaluma Premium" (just made up and silly name) and marketed as a specialty boutique uke built for Kala, the same uke might have more appeal. Obviously if they turn out to be really great ukes I might feel differently. I do own a California UBass that is significantly better than the Chinese one that it replaced. No doubt that Kala is capable of building a solid product. But I don't know if they can tap the right emotional chord.

Brian1
01-23-2015, 09:03 AM
I applaud Kala for making some domestic ukes but I've got to ask:

Does the world really need another $1200 koa tenor?

I hope dealers will be able to discount for somewhat less than some of the Hawaiian models.

On the other hand, maybe there are a lot of die hard Kala fans just itching to upgrade.

I was shocked to see a $1,000 Kala "KOA" banjolele at my local music store the other day. I didn't know Kala made anything in 1k range and I don't see the point in making a banjolele out of koa.

It looked like brown wood, played nice though.

spookelele
01-23-2015, 09:12 AM
Is Kala hand building these elites? I could not see paying that much for a factory built uke. I would also have to first consider the other hand built K brands before a Kala elite.

Have you ever seen a machine, where you push a tree in one end, and uke pops out the other?

I know it's the convention to talk about "hand built" vs "factory", but every time I read it, I imagine people imagining buildings with black smoke billowing pollution into the air, and full of people that have accidentally had their hands cut off pushing buttons on giant machines with their arm stubs and somehow it pops out a laminate uke that somehow would have been better if they had all their fingers.

perep
01-23-2015, 09:41 AM
Very PRETTY but like others say, KALA is know for lower price & quality at that price. I too would rather buy a Kanilea top Luke than these high end Kala's. Maybe around 800 or so would get them really moving

RichM
01-23-2015, 09:57 AM
Very PRETTY but like others say, KALA is know for lower price & quality at that price. I too would rather buy a Kanilea top Luke than these high end Kala's. Maybe around 800 or so would get them really moving

Well, the basic one has a list price of $1200... it will probably have a street price of around $800. I still think they will have a tough time going against the established brand at that price point.

Captain America
01-23-2015, 11:08 AM
It will be interesting to see how it goes. To my mind, it's a natural progression if you recall recent business history, with Japanese autos first being inexpensive and then transitioning up. Seiko now has done a good job of selling very expensive watches to a higher end market. I don't think anyone can definitively say what the future holds here: I do know the USA banjo stuff is apparently excellent. I suppose the price could be reduced if they moved out of California, though.

Ukuleleblues
01-23-2015, 11:12 AM
Have you ever seen a machine, where you push a tree in one end, and uke pops out the other?

I know it's the convention to talk about "hand built" vs "factory", but every time I read it, I imagine people imagining buildings with black smoke billowing pollution into the air, and full of people that have accidentally had their hands cut off pushing buttons on giant machines with their arm stubs and somehow it pops out a laminate uke that somehow would have been better if they had all their fingers.What a mental image, very dark....with lines of workers carrying bags of finished ukes slung over their sholders to the awaiting ships, marching in lockstep chanting "O E O":)

Nickie
01-23-2015, 11:41 AM
I have two Kalas, as you all probably knew. I'm pretty happy with both of them, for what they are. Kala IS the largest of all the brands. It seems like they have the Midas touch, too. I think they may be responding to the new "custom" high end koa uke that Lanakai just announced, for example. It seems like a VERY competitive race to garner the most customers these days, by appealing to all of us, broke or rich. I think that the mid to high end market will eventually flood itself, and taper down. I'll bet Kala will continue to thrive by selling ukes for kids, and the other budget priced ukes. Look at the Ubass, now all kind of other friggin companies are mimicking it.
I would love to try the new Kala, if it's a concert with a nut that's not too wide for my hand....I remember once last year, that they ONLY soprano I played that I liked was a Kala....and it wasn't exactly cheap....

WCBarnes
01-23-2015, 12:23 PM
I dunno that offering a new premium line is the issue. Toyota up'd to Lexus, Nissan up'd to Infinity, Honda up'd to Acura. You could say it's easier to offer premium if you have a history of good consistency.

Yes, but these companies also created a completely seperate name and image in order for this to be successful. VW tried something similar in the mid-2000s offering an $80,000+ Phaeton. They tried to compete with BMW & Mercedes. By all accounts, it was a solid car. Powerful engine, great interior, standard AWD, but no one wanted to pay that kind of $$ for a VW. It lasted 3 years. Kia is trying it now offering a $60,000 car. I see it ending the same way.

IMHO, the elite line is going to have to be VERY special to pull customers away from a similarly priced K brand. And even then, people will still choose the K brand because of the name, reputation and even re-sale value.

Paul December
01-23-2015, 06:04 PM
I'm open minded about it.
If it sounds/plays great, I'd buy it (if not made with low-wage labor).
...But as Coolkayaker1 will probably point out, they are a few years late to the idea.

bonesigh
01-23-2015, 07:01 PM
I think the problem is price point.

Every music store in town that has ukes has Kala.
I so wish this were true. Kala is a good, sometimes very good uke. The nearest music store that actually carries ukes here in the way northern region of Virginia only carries a cruddy model I can't even remember the name of. I have to drive at least 45 mins from here to get to a fairly decent "with it" store.

Dan Uke
01-23-2015, 08:28 PM
I rather buy a $1200 Kala that I get to try than a $100 Bruce Wei uke

Brian1
01-23-2015, 08:54 PM
I've never bought a ukulele that I was able to try before I bought it. I was playing ukulele for over a year and a half before I every laid a finger on a "K" brand other than Kala. (which I know isn't normally considered one) I have had the chance to try several Kalas, most recently last week I tried more than half a dozen of them all of them had action too low for me. It didn't cause any problems with buzzing or anything but it was just too low to be comfortable.

tangimango
01-24-2015, 01:08 AM
They probably have the funds to build great USA made ukulele, but should have branched off the Kala name to something else. just like Lexus/Toyota Nissan/Infinity. Toyota and Nissans are a good quality company from the get go but Lexus and infinity as we all know are there luxury higher end models. hmm $1000 Kamaka or $1000 Kala ,even if both sounds great you would still buy the kamaka most of the time. I just saw there youtube videos and I hope it sounds better in person then it did on youtube. also there price list is crazy expensive.

dalamaricus
01-24-2015, 02:55 AM
I think it'll depend on how good the ukes are. If they're good then reviews and store recommendations will mean a lot, and many people will prefer to buy in person than sight unseen (assuming Kala pushes these into retail stores). But Kala will have to compete with itself too, so their retail $1200 instruments will have to be worth twice as much to people as their retail $600 instruments. The Kalas do look less expensive than the made-in-Hawaii Lanikais. http://lanikaiukuleles.com/product-category/ukuleles/series/hawaii

Wow, Kala has lots of stuff! I just saw these arm bevel models online-- http://www.kalabrand.com/Models/Kala/ComfortEdge/DetailsPageConfortEdge.html

kkimura
01-24-2015, 03:47 AM
The proof will be, as they say, in the picking. That said, I wish Kala all the luck possible in their bid to join the "K" club.

spookelele
01-24-2015, 03:55 AM
hmm $1000 Kamaka or $1000 Kala ,even if both sounds great you would still buy the kamaka most of the time.

I'd buy the one that sounded better. I don't care about brands honestly. Resale is a thing at this kinda price tag, but I'd rather buy a uke I don't want to sell.


I just saw there youtube videos and I hope it sounds better in person then it did on youtube. also there price list is crazy expensive.

The video was less than impressive, but it could just be the recording. Lots of hissing, and noise probably from a phone.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aO8U9NwlE3s

Also.. a 1200 kamaka is going to retail for 1200. A 1200 kala, will probably sell for 800 in a store, and probably less when it's a deal. My first uke was a kala teme-3. The current model lists for $280, but I got mine on sale for $140. I seriously doubt I'm going to ever find a new $1200 kamaka for $600 on clearance.

SweetWaterBlue
01-24-2015, 04:19 AM
From the Kala page link for this uke, "The fret spacing, nut placement and saddle positioning are all calculated to give the Kala Elite Ukulele the best intonation available on any ukulele on the planet." I know marketers write this crap, but calculating fret spacing and saddle placement isn't exactly rocket science is it? I can't tell from the pictures, but does it even have a compensated saddle? What am I missing here?

tangimango
01-24-2015, 11:33 AM
Lol , yeah pretty much the basics needed to build any ukulele. So that means they didnt calculate on there cheaper models? Lol

From the Kala page link for this uke, "The fret spacing, nut placement and saddle positioning are all calculated to give the Kala Elite Ukulele the best intonation available on any ukulele on the planet." I know marketers write this crap, but calculating fret spacing and saddle placement isn't exactly rocket science is it? I can't tell from the pictures, but does it even have a compensated saddle? What am I missing here?

tangimango
01-24-2015, 11:39 AM
Yeah i hear ya, a very few go for sound as long as they are gonna never sale., but most people go for brand name and resale value, why because throwing down even $2000 for there 3k model is a big investment to most , even $1000 can be as well for most..
I'd buy the one that sounded better. I don't care about brands honestly. Resale is a thing at this kinda price tag, but I'd rather buy a uke I don't want to sell. . Sometimes you can find good k brands in under $500. New or used. Well in hawaii I guess.



The video was less than impressive, but it could just be the recording. Lots of hissing, and noise probably from a phone.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aO8U9NwlE3s

Also.. a 1200 kamaka is going to retail for 1200. A 1200 kala, will probably sell for 800 in a store, and probably less when it's a deal. My first uke was a kala teme-3. The current model lists for $280, but I got mine on sale for $140. I seriously doubt I'm going to ever find a new $1200 kamaka for $600 on clearance.

spookelele
01-24-2015, 01:52 PM
http://vimeo.com/117692783

hmm... Maybe made in USA isn't always better than asia.

spookelele
01-24-2015, 01:53 PM
http://vimeo.com/117694831

PhilUSAFRet
01-24-2015, 02:26 PM
Tough sell. I'd hesitate to buy a uke for that price that says Kala on the headstock for the same reason I wouldn't buy an expensive, fancy looking uke that from across the room, looks like my Oscar Schmidt OU5 (quite a few pricey ones do)

snocrvr
01-11-2017, 06:26 PM
I bought a Kala Elite Style 2 Concert from theukulelesite.com a few months ago. Mostly because of the wider neck, which is absolutely great for my old (70 years) and somewhat arthritic hands. Does it make a difference? Yes, it is much easier to play jazz and swing moveable chords - any and all chords. A tenor was a bit too much of a fretboard stretch, but I loved the width. My Elite concert has the fretboard width for fretting comfort and a shorter concert scale for a bit less reach. I bought mine when the price had dropped to the mid $800's. As usual, theukulelesite.com is an absolute pleasure to deal with. Setup and strap button installation was perfect. My Elite compares very favorably with my Kamaka, KoAloha, Kanile'a, Martin and Mya-Moe ukes as far as workmanship and sound. The fit is excellent, and the finish is superb. Only change I made is Waverly open geared tuners in place of the original Grovers. The Grovers were fine, but I love Waverly tuners! Because of the comfort, I now play this the most of any uke I own. It is my "go to" uke for virtually all playing. My rating is 5 out of 5. I'd buy a Kala Elite again in a second!

sculptor
01-11-2017, 07:01 PM
The proof is in the pudding. HMS seems to be able to sell them and listening to music clips HMS posted they sound reasonable for their price.

-- Gary

JackLuis
01-11-2017, 08:43 PM
I played a few of the Eites in my local shop and while they sound pretty good and are beautifully made, I can't say they are "Better" than a lot of other less expensive ukes. I do realize that a lot of people will buy a high priced uke for the prestige of owning one. I'll probably never buy a uke that expensive though, I'm too parsimonious.

Well, unless I hit the Lotto big time!:)

DownUpDave
01-11-2017, 11:26 PM
I bought a Kala Elite Style 2 Concert from theukulelesite.com a few months ago. Mostly because of the wider neck, which is absolutely great for my old (70 years) and somewhat arthritic hands. Does it make a difference? Yes, it is much easier to play jazz and swing moveable chords - any and all chords. A tenor was a bit too much of a fretboard stretch, but I loved the width. My Elite concert has the fretboard width for fretting comfort and a shorter concert scale for a bit less reach. I bought mine when the price had dropped to the mid $800's. As usual, theukulelesite.com is an absolute pleasure to deal with. Setup and strap button installation was perfect. My Elite compares very favorably with my Kamaka, KoAloha, Kanile'a, Martin and Mya-Moe ukes as far as workmanship and sound. The fit is excellent, and the finish is superb. Only change I made is Waverly open geared tuners in place of the original Grovers. The Grovers were fine, but I love Waverly tuners! Because of the comfort, I now play this the most of any uke I own. It is my "go to" uke for virtually all playing. My rating is 5 out of 5. I'd buy a Kala Elite again in a second!


I think the Kala Elite has gained acceptance and proven itself as a high quality instrument. The fact that you rate it right up there with your other high end instruments including Mya Moe says alot. The proof is in the pudding, I value experience over conjecture any day. Thanks for letting us know your experience with it.

OhioBelle
01-14-2017, 01:32 PM
Chiming in the add that after a few months of owning my Kala Elite, it is very much worth the price. When I hold it in my hands, I have no doubt I am holding something special. Although it's not custom luthier-made, it was hand made by a small team in California who obviously take great pride in their work. Those folks added special touches you won't see everywhere - from the lower curve of the bridge which echoes the lower curve of the fretboard - to the almost metallic orange-red purfling accenting the glowing orange-red padauk binding - and finally to the unusual figure of the live oak used as inlay on the back and end graft. It is really spectacular, and perfectly finished in a deep rich gloss.

It would be a shame to have those gorgeous looks without a sound to match, but the sound does not disappoint. It's a dream to fingerpick and hear its resonance filling the air. I bless the day I found my Kala Elite.

snocrvr
08-31-2017, 03:50 PM
Kala Elite Update and Addition

Elite 2 Concert Update - I've had my Elite Concert for almost a year. Update - absolutely worth every penny! It now has Worth browns, and it has been played extensively at home and at jams. I jam and lead jams at least twice a week (www.tcukeclub.com), and it really holds its' own. It remains a pleasure to play from a comfort standpoint. I realize that sound is subjective. Having said that, I feel it sounds great. I love this ukulele!

New Kala Elite Soprano - I was so impressed with my Elite concert that I recently purchased an Elite 3 soprano from theukulelesite.com (HMS). I have not been a big soprano player, but the larger Kala Elite neck intrigued me for the same reasons as with my Elite concert. For older arthritic hands, the extra neck heft makes a big difference. It's not a ton larger, but I can feel a difference from the Kamaka soprano i had and the Martin 3 Cherry soprano i have. Very comfortable for a small ukulele. Kala's USA made Elite workmanship is superb. Fit and finish are as good as any. I had a K&K BI Spot pickup installed. Haven't tried it yet. Of course, dealing with HMS (Andrew and Joel) is a pleasure, and the setup is spot on. Played my Elite soprano and led a workshop playing it at the Silver Creek International Ukulele Carnival right after I received it. Great uke! I'll post an update after I have had it for a while.

July 2018 Update - Elite concert 2 and soprano 3 are still going strong. Every time I play them I am again impressed. I was tempted by a Kala Elite 3 tenor at the fall 2017 Port Townsend Ukulele Festival, and I gave in to temptation. Magnificent instrument from appearance, build quality and sound standpoints. (Photo of my Elite 3 tenor is currently on the masthead of www.tcukeclub.com.) Kala Elites built in Petaluma, CA are among the finest ukuleles I have played! I own ukes from Kamaka, KoAloha, Kanile'a, Martin, Collings and Mya-Moe. The Kala Elites are easily equal to any of them. I recently went to Steve Kaufman's Acoustic Kamp in Knoxville, TN and attended the ukulele classes there. I brought my Kala Elite concert because it is so comfortable (wide neck) and sounds great. i just have to again say that if you have an opportunity to purchase a Kala Elite ukulele and it feels good to you, buy it! I strongly believe you will not regret it.

M3Ukulele
09-01-2017, 06:15 PM
I'm glad this thread is still going. I think in two tears Kala Elite has come a long way and proven themselves in quality and sound I've only heard them on HMS videos but would but one for sure. I keep watching for a spruce top. Can't wait to find a store in my travels to play one if I haven't already bought one. Oh ya, and Corey is a Kala artist. He has his own model. Buff said. I don't worry about resale. I like what they are doing. Keep it up Kala with you Elite.

DanY
09-04-2017, 08:16 PM
I'd buy a Kala Elite if they made them with a slotted headstock. I tried a few at my local store and thought they were great. They have cheaper Kalas with slotted headstocks, but why not elites?

Pleasure Paul
09-05-2017, 06:42 AM
I was watching some eBay pics of a basic Kala Elite soprano, and it reminded me of my white label Kamaka, all koa, plain, 12 fret board, just a basic tone machine, but more perfectly made. I own (among others) a Kala travel soprano, which is my workhorse and serves me well. When I would run into a great sounding Kala Elite I wouldn't mind upgrading while keeping with the brand. BTW, saw some cheapos on eBay lately. Also saw some less than ideal video's. Still have no clue how good they really are.

actadh
09-05-2017, 08:01 AM
I was one of the ones on here that got the Kala ASOV soprano (normally $200-$300) at a bargain price from Overstock.com's eBay site. I have to admit that Kala was not on my radar until I played this one and liked it so well.

So, if it was in the $800 - $1,000 range I would definitely consider it with comparably priced K brands.

ukeinfused
09-06-2017, 01:20 PM
Dang. My plan to snatch one of these with a last minute bid on Ebay was foiled by my crazy work day.
Did anyone here get one of the three sold by Riff Music today (new instruments, shopworn and listed as "used")?
The 2Koa sop with fancy appointments was especially appealing with a sell price at $400+, but also for the price, also the 1Koa concert ($400+) and soprano ($300+).
I actually was prepared to go up another hundred from there for those sopranos (great case too).

My interest also was piqued by the little Kala KA-ASOV-S purchased on close-out, whose sound continues to knock my socks off...

Pleasure Paul
09-06-2017, 02:36 PM
Dang. My plan to snatch one of these with a last minute bid on Ebay was foiled by my crazy work day.
Did anyone here get one of the three sold by Riff Music today (new instruments, shopworn and listed as "used")?
The 2Koa sop with fancy appointments was especially appealing with a sell price at $400+, but also for the price, also the 1Koa concert ($400+) and soprano ($300+).
I actually was prepared to go up another hundred from there for those sopranos (great case too).

My interest also was piqued by the little Kala KA-ASOV-S purchased on close-out, whose sound continues to knock my socks off...

This is kind of tragi-comical, as I had a similar experience. I was ready for a last minute bid when my computer froze! The clock merrily ticked away while I was performing a hard shutdown and a startup. All was lost when I had to log in to eBay again. I was after the plain soprano. It went for just $304 or so... Lucky winner. I blew my cool, my daughter getting angry at me.. These Kalas have my interest, especially the plain ones, they remind me of white label Kamaka simplicity. Let's trust that there are some good ones out there waiting for us...