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View Full Version : Laminate vs. Solid



cosmicatapilla
10-27-2015, 03:24 AM
Just as the title says, could someone compare laminate and solid soundwise and explain how to tell if a uke is solid or laminate?

spookelele
10-27-2015, 04:03 AM
One way to tell is to look at the inside of the uke.
If the wood inside looks different than the wood outside, it's probably laminate.
For the top, you can look at the edge of the sound hole. If it's laminate the hole probably isnt bound and you can see the layers.
Another way, is the wood type. If its a soft wood, like cedar or spruce, it's unlikely to be laminate. I've never seen it at least.
The best way, is to find the model, and go look on the website to see the specs/construction, but sometimes that's not an option.

As far as sound goes, well. that's a sticky thing.
People say laminate sound less good, and solid sound better.
But there are exceptions to both of those. Some laminates sound pretty good and some solids sound lousy.
And then you get some that are solid top, laminate body, like some of the Kala's cedar top's which sound great btw.

So.. there are many rules of thumb, but few certainties.

pbagley
10-27-2015, 05:54 AM
Well said, Mr. spookelele. I will add that some acoustic guitars use a laminate spruce soundboard, so it would not be a surprise to find the same in a ukulele. If you find a spec sheet for an instrument and it says "spruce top" it generally means laminate, while "solid spruce top" means it is a solid piece of wood.

Sound, another perspective: Many laminates do not seem to ring out or resonate as well as the solid wood counterparts. It is not just volume, but also a kind of reverb/chorus/something extra/aliveness to the tone that laminates do not have. That said, my Kala cedar topped concert has a great tone from laminate acacia. Another case where a rule is made to be broken? I've heard some very nice sounding laminates, and some very dead sounding solid wood instruments. Of course you may want a dead sounding uke; who am I to judge?

Value: People place a higher value on solid wood instruments. A laminate (plywood) instrument may have a greater utility value due to being less affected by humidity changes.

Good luck.

cpmusic
10-27-2015, 12:19 PM
If you find a spec sheet for an instrument and it says "spruce top" it generally means laminate, while "solid spruce top" means it is a solid piece of wood.
The same goes for mahogany, rosewood, koa, etc. Some makers use the word "select" to make it sound special, but if it doesn't say "solid," it almost certainly is not solid. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt for honesty, but in low-end guitars "solid" is something to brag about.

Exception: Martin uses the phrase "select hardwood" to describe the necks of some of their lower-cost guitars. What it means in that context is that they either have a few different woods they use for the necks, or the name of the wood they're using doesn't sound as snazzy as "mahogany." Martin also uses a manufactured product they call Stratabond for the necks of their X series guitars, but they're honest about it.

Ukulelerick9255
10-27-2015, 01:12 PM
You get what you pay for in my opinion don't buy laminate pay the difference and buy solid Koa

actadh
10-27-2015, 01:35 PM
As has been mentioned in several other threads, there are two notable exceptions to the notion of laminate being lower end ukes - the Martin OXK (which has that Stratabond neck mentioned upthread) https://www.martinguitar.com/guitars/ukuleles/item/140-0xk-uke.html

and the Kiwaya Eco series http://takumiukulele.com/kiwayaukuleles.html#eco

Both unique and good sounding in their own way.

igorthebarbarian
10-27-2015, 05:03 PM
Agree with both of these recommendations wholeheartedly

Also I would add the Famous line too which is Kiwaya's budget lineup that appears to only be available in Japan -- or amazon


As has been mentioned in several other threads, there are two notable exceptions to the notion of laminate being lower end ukes - the Martin OXK (which has that Stratabond neck mentioned upthread) https://www.martinguitar.com/guitars/ukuleles/item/140-0xk-uke.html

and the Kiwaya Eco series http://takumiukulele.com/kiwayaukuleles.html#eco

Both unique and good sounding in their own way.

Jim Hanks
10-27-2015, 05:04 PM
You get what you pay for in my opinion don't buy laminate pay the difference and buy solid Koa
Not sure if that's a troll, but it is certainly a gross over simplification. Laminate has some advantages over solids or folks wouldn't keep making and buying them.

vanflynn
10-27-2015, 05:43 PM
A high quality laminent have some more favorable traits than solid. Notably they can be thinner and be stronger. Cheap laminents can hide knot holes and flawed wood that are acoustically bad. For mid to lower priced ukes you take a more of chance. I have been lucky and had some great laminent ukes. I guess my advice would be to check out the return policy in case you get a dog ( for either laminent or solid)

Happy hunting and keep us posted

cdkrugjr
10-27-2015, 06:14 PM
If your budget is unlimited, you will be buying a high-quality uke with a solid soundboard.

If your budget is NOT unlimited . . . in other words, like most of us . . .

Experience indicates that a lower-cost laminate is USUALLY (not always...) a better buy than the same price solid, because it's just easier to work with.

But any Uke with a good setup will do fine.

BTW, "Select Hardwood" refers to USDA grading. Select runs from "A" (no knots, straight grain) to "D" (tight knots). What they probably mean is, "We might put this together from a few finger-jointed pieces of select-grade wood" which is, again, a more forgiving process than finding a long-enough, straight-enough stick

Uk3player78
10-27-2015, 08:42 PM
Laminates are pleasing instruments, I like them. However, I prefer solid wood. Solid wood has a third dimension to the sound I haven't ever heard from laminate instruments, this being guitars and ukuleles as I am also a guitarist.

I have heard great things about the Martin OXK and Kiwaya's laminate soprano. I have yet to try these. Given they are more expensive than al lot of proven solid wood ukuleles they would really have to knock my socks off.

For those in an ever changing climate, laminates are win win!

Edit, I spent the last year playing one laminate ukulele I bought after a break from the instrument. I didn't get round to looking for/researching what I wanted. I wanted for nothing and enjoyed the playing and the music. I just got round to getting a solid wood uke again recently. :D

Andy Chen
10-27-2015, 09:44 PM
Trust your ears. If it sounds good, it sounds good, never mind the material.

The Clara is one of my best-sounding ukes and it is made of a composite material.

My Outdoor tenor, made entirely of plastic, sounds better than the laminate-top Fluke I used to have.

Rodney.
10-27-2015, 10:52 PM
Wow, that's a statement. The tenor outdoor sounds better than a laminate Fluke?

Andy Chen
10-27-2015, 11:05 PM
Wow, that's a statement. The tenor outdoor sounds better than a laminate Fluke?

To me, it is. The trebles are sweeter and the sustain is better.

I might be the exception.

There is another thread somewhere else on this forum where the overwhelming opinion is that the Fluke is better than the Outdoor, but those opinions seemed to be formed based on the Outdoor soprano, which is a whole different (and HORRIBLE) creature altogether.

anthonyg
10-28-2015, 01:16 AM
The absolutely best instruments are made from solid wood. However I have played inexpensive laminated instruments that sounded better than solid timber instruments twice the price. play a few.

Anthony

kissing
10-28-2015, 03:33 AM
There are good quality and bad quality laminates, and likewise for solids.

chuck in ny
10-28-2015, 05:48 AM
truth be known my taste in ukuleles is very emotionally driven. i am in awe of the japanese engineers and their ability to one-up the rest of the world time after time, most notably in motorcycle design and racing. some of that same keen knowingness has to be present with the kiwaya laminates. then as a woodworker i am deep into the mystique of solid woods, and particular species of woods- yeah, like i'm the only one- so it's more emotional than cerebral. the real way to settle arguments is to measure sound and overtones as if i could care less.
going forward there's a lot of potential in composites and such. it's a recent science so they need time to sort things out. some world class ukuleles and violins have been laid up in carbon fiber.
i'll take solid wood with no complaints.

SteveZ
10-28-2015, 09:02 AM
Trying to get an "absolute" regarding laminate or solid is (for me, anyway), impossible. I've had solid "name" instruments which sounded okay but not memorable, and I've had (and have) laminates which really grab me.

In this buy-by-mail-and-never-touch marketplace, the intention to rate something as a winner and something else as second-place is understandable. However, until unwrapped, climate-adjusted, probably restrung and tuned decently, one never really knows what one has. Even generic sound samples of similar instruments are deceptive, as they all have their own voice.

What is amazing is how different brands and types of strings affect the instrument's voice. I have a couple "other folks' laminate disappointments" which got new lives and sound great once restrung.