View Full Version : Laminates question.

03-04-2009, 08:34 AM
Aloha kakou,

I wasn't sure how to combo the correct words to conduct a proper search, so I figured I might as well start a new topic.

i think there are several givens in terms of sound:
1. solid vs laminate difference
2. sound variation amongst different types of wood
3. all things being equal, just different sounds from different `ukuleles.

i guess my question is:
is there a significant difference between sounds of the laminates of different woods and is that difference comparable to the variantions of sound of differing solid woods?

maybe i'm confusing the definition of "laminates" thinking its just ply wood with a different "wood" laminated on top, so in essence the "wood" is merely decoration.

how you figga?

03-04-2009, 08:54 AM
how I figga?

ainokea I just jam om as long as stay in tune ladat.

but nah I never sample enough ukes to see much difference.

03-04-2009, 01:43 PM
Found these 2 threads but I dunno if it goin help any, try read 'um.

03-04-2009, 03:06 PM
Thanks Kanak!
The first link proved very informative and ichadwick's post confirmed what I believed. I'll bold two interesting points in his post.

Laminates are two or more very thin slices of wood glued with their grains at 90 degrees from the grain of the previous one. Depending on the type of laminate, it may have different woods on the top from what is underneath (i.e. the top plie is often a veneer for aesthetic effect).

Solid woods used for instruments have rather different physics. They expand and compress with play; the wood actually changes its structure over time. Solid woods also transmit sound better because they vibrate more freely. There are several good articles online about the physics of tonewoods.

Laminates are built for strength so they do not vibrate or expand/compress the same way. In fact, the alternating 90-degree grains tends to dampen vibration, so some tonal qualities will be lost.

Although laminates used for instruments may have a nice piece on top, in general wood chosen for plywood is not the prime selection: it's more often the less attractive, or 'seconds' selection because appearance or flaws aren't as important. Your laminate top may hide more than blemishes: it can contain knots or holes you can't see in other plies.

In a solid top, the grain has varying areas of wood density. Each density transmits sound a little differently. Because no two slices of wood are identical, and each of us plays music differently, over time the wood will change to match our style and volume as well as the particular piece of topwood. That gives your instrument a unique voice.

Each solid-topped instrument has a 'break in' period during which it will undergo the most of these changes. Sometimes this is called 'settling in'. if you play it a lot, your instrument will have a different sound in a year from what it had when it was new. The time and the amount of the change will depend on the construction, the wood, your style, your environment (humidity in particular) and the phase of the moon (just kidding - but each instrument ages differently).

Laminates by their nature tend to average out tonal and playing effects, so they will not change as much or as noticeably. This can be a positive if you don't want your sound to change much.

Woods used on sides and backs do not transmit sound as much as the top does - they are predominantly reflectors - so they can be laminates without compromising the overall instrument's sound. There's even an argument that back and sides may be better choices as laminates than some some tonewoods because laminates reflect the sound waves better (less absorption) than some tonewoods.

After all that - what matters most is the sound you like from your instrument. If you like the sound of a laminate-topped uke, get it. If you like a solid-topped, keep in mind that it will eventually alter - perhaps insignificantly and so slowly you won't notice, but it will do so.

PS. Kala also has some reasonably-priced solid-tops, under $300 - and there is a soild-topped Amigo uke that is under $100. Not to mention the many previously-enjoyed bargains up for sale on this and other uke forums.

03-04-2009, 04:16 PM
Not knowing about ukes, but solids get much better with age as well. Tones become more rouned if you will.

03-05-2009, 05:00 AM
Not knowing about ukes, but solids get much better with age as well. Tones become more rouned if you will.
Here's a thread about that topic . . .

03-05-2009, 12:09 PM
I don't know about differences in wood among laminates, but there's a definite difference in a QUALITY laminate versus a bad one.

Some lam's actually sound quite nice. They do. They're just rare. It's a combo of a decent maker and luck, but it's been known to happen. My Kala is like that-- it sounds better than just about any other laminate I've managed to pick up. It just really rings and sounds amazing for what it is...

Oh, and then there's differences in finishes. A bad finish job can mute ANY instrument horribly, so I'd actually figure it's almost more important on laminates not to have a crappy, sound-muting finish.