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deejayen
02-16-2015, 10:07 AM
Iím sure these questions must have been asked and pondered a few times before, but Iím trying to decide on a uke, and having to make my choice based on Youtube videos!

I think Iím coming around to the fact that I like the sound of vintage mahogany Martins. Perhaps some of that is due to the players and tunes Iíve heard.

Am I right in thinking that the vintage Martins often have a unique sound?

Assuming my ears arenít imagining things, why donít modern mahogany ukes sound the same? Iíve read that Kiwayas, for example, do a good impersonation, but from what I can tell theyíre quite different. I was able to play a new Style 2, but it didnít strike me as being ultra-special for the money.

Do any uke makers produce ukes which sound indistinguishable from a vintage Martin? A few names Iíve come across include DaSilva, Laughlin and Timms.

Are the Martins better suited to a certain style of music or playing technique Ė or, to put it another way, are there times when they aren't the best choice?

wendellfiddler
02-16-2015, 01:27 PM
I think the mahogany Collings ukes sound a lot like vintage martins of the same size - only they play better, i.e., have better action, frets, and radiused fingerboards.

If they made a baritone I'd be tempted to buy one. I love their tenors.

Indistinguishable? I think you'd have a hard time finding any two instruments that are indistinguishable from one another - by the same or different makers.



Duk

janeray1940
02-16-2015, 01:31 PM
Do any uke makers produce ukes which sound indistinguishable from a vintage Martin? A few names I’ve come across include DaSilva, Laughlin and Timms.


I owned a DaSilva that I requested to be built to sound as vintage-Martin-like as possible. When I got it, I compared it to a couple of friends' vintage Martins and it was right in the ballpark. As wendellfiddler noted, it's pretty impossible to find two instruments that are indistinguishable from each other, but the sound of my DaSilva was, to my ear, as close to a vintage 'hog as can be without actually being vintage.

I've heard good things about Timms and Laughlin as well but have no personal experience.

lakesideglenn
02-16-2015, 03:06 PM
Besides the build quality, it's the wood...you can't buy quality old-growth mahogany anymore!
That and many playing miles and years of vibration are what makes the magic on many old Martins!

NewKid
02-16-2015, 03:13 PM
Not all vintage Martins have the mojo. I've tried about a dozen and only two stood out. I was too inexperienced to jump on the first one, but did not let the second, a 1920's Style 2, get away.

I also had a Ken Timms Style O that I sold and that was a fabulous instrument. I didn't appreciate what I had at the time. UU member Coolkayaker1 has a large vintage Martin collection and recently had everything for sale. He would be a great person to contact.

Pete Howlett in Wales has a curly Koa soprano uke for sale now if you want something top of the line.

Patrick Madsen
02-16-2015, 03:16 PM
I agree with Lakeside; it's the wood. I own a '62 Martin Baritone. The only instrument that came close to it's unique sound was a Favilla I owned. Also, I have yet to find a neck as thin and as fast as my Martin. Like any instrument, they are all different. Just because it has a Martin name on it, doesn't mean it's good. If you are serious about a vintage Martin there's a great book out on them. I can't think of the name of it but I trust others will post what it is.

What size were you thinking of buying?

NewKid
02-16-2015, 03:22 PM
The Martin Ukulele by Tom Walsh is the book Patrick is recommending.

aquadan
02-16-2015, 03:24 PM
I agree with Lakeside; it's the wood. I own a '62 Martin Baritone. The only instrument that came close to it's unique sound was a Favilla I owned. Also, I have yet to find a neck as thin and as fast as my Martin. Like any instrument, they are all different. Just because it has a Martin name on it, doesn't mean it's good. If you are serious about a vintage Martin there's a great book out on them. I can't think of the name of it but I trust others will post what it is.

What size were you thinking of buying?

The book is The Martin Ukulele (http://www.amazon.com/Martin-Ukulele-Little-Instrument-Helped/dp/1476868794/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1424139799&sr=1-1&keywords=martin+ukulele) by Walsh & King


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brimmer
02-16-2015, 04:48 PM
The OP's question - vintage vs new - is source of much debate. No consensus, however. Some of us strongly prefer vintage ukes, some of us favor new ones. Of course, some of us like all ukes, old and new. What's 'best' is really personal preference.

I agree that some vintage Martins play better than others. Perhaps the difference is caused by quality control issues at the time of production. More likely, some instruments have suffered from humidity damage or other forms of abuse over the years, and that's why some sound better than others. The best advice is to play a bunch of old Martin's to find a particularly good one.

I have two vintage Martin sopranos, and a Kiwaya concert that was built to look like a vintage Martin. I like all three of these ukes. Kiwayas have their own distinctive sound - clear, crisp, and sweet sounding. The Martins perhaps have more character (they certainly have more scratches) but I can't say they are superior to the Kiwaya. I also have a Wm King soprano that was designed to resemble a vintage Nunes. I haven't played an old Nunes, but I would not expect the King to sound or play like one. It sounds like a William King...

In response to your question, I would not expect a copy of a vintage instrument to sound identical to the uke it was designed to replicate. However, a well made replica is likely to sound and play great, in its own way. If its a Martin you want, your best bet is to play a bunch of Martins, and pick one you like. Happy hunting!

UkerDanno
02-17-2015, 05:15 PM
there's a Timms for sale on the marketplace in the UK, if I were you I'd check it out! There's also a Martin S1.

HBolte
02-18-2015, 02:19 AM
For the price a 50's Martin Style O can't be beat, they sound great and have character. Try one, if you don't like it you can always sell it for what you paid.

Peterjens
02-18-2015, 02:09 PM
Are the Martins better suited to a certain style of music or playing technique – or, to put it another way, are there times when they aren't the best choice?

It's all personal. My 1925 "0" is my go-to 'uke with my Blackbear Macadamia second. But then again, I like the Maccaferri Islander sound, too.

Tigershark
02-18-2015, 06:11 PM
I think Iím coming around to the fact that I like the sound of vintage mahogany Martins.

I can't think of a finer choice for a soprano sized ukulele, except for the Ditson versions of vintage Martin ukuleles with the dreadnought body shape.

Even more amazing than the beautiful tone and exceptional build quality, is that early Martin ukuleles are still affordable. A Style 1 or Style 0 from the 1920's will give you all the tone of the fancier styles for not much money. Mr. Martin himself preferred the tone of mahogany but I wouldn't want to live without koa too :)

Old Martin ukuleles were built to last, and are consistently the best sounding and playing ukuleles that I have tried. The neck angle, intonation, setup, and action are usually right on almost 100 years later. That's what keeps me playing and enjoying them every day.

I prefer the 1920's era ukuleles. If it's your main instrument you'll find patent pegs make life easier than wooden pegs. I don't think you can go wrong with an old Martin.

Peterjens
02-19-2015, 10:19 AM
Am I right in thinking that the vintage Martins often have a unique sound?

Maybe - especially if it has mojo. Can't imagine how many times "Ain't She Sweet" and "Five Foot Two" have been played on this "0."
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deejayen
02-19-2015, 10:37 AM
Thanks very much for all the helpful responses.

It’s been a busy few days for me, and I’ve been in touch with a couple of great UU members (now friends) who have really helped me. I was able to listen to a blind test of a few different ukes, and picked out a vintage Martin as my favourite. That process gave me more confidence that I would be happy with that style of uke. The Timms came up at the right time, so I’ve bought that. I know it’s not a ‘real’ Martin, but I think it will be great for me. Assuming I take to the uke I can always watch out for a 20’s Martin in the future, but for now I’m looking forward to getting the Timms.

NewKid
02-19-2015, 10:49 AM
Congrats on the Timms! I'm sure you will love it.

spongeuke
02-19-2015, 11:15 AM
While there is some difference between Martin Sopranos. I think I could identify a vintage Martin Soprano with reentrant tuning in a blindfold test. I suspect that the new Martins are constructed with a node towards Guitar with thicker fretboards and such. As far as the Luthier made copies they are wonderful and you compensate the Luthier appropriately. I see 0s and 1s going for less than $500. Look around and be sure there is a return option even if you have played it in a store. The price of vintage ukuleles is as low as I've seen it. Hopefully it will rebound as I have a few but I don't want to let them go for half the price I paid 2 years ago.

Patrick Madsen
02-19-2015, 12:48 PM
Congrats on the Timms. You made a very good choice. If i played soprano, I'd have a Timms in the stable no matter what the cost.