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View Full Version : Laughlin 3M vs Kiwaya KTS-7 ???



pluck
12-28-2015, 02:55 AM
(or their Koa counterparts?)

I know some of the general differences: The Kiwaya is made in a top notch Japanese factory while the Laughlin is made by an individual craftsman here in the US - and costs quite a bit more. But as for the instruments themselves, how do they stack up?

Django
12-28-2015, 03:47 AM
I have the Laughlin 3k as well as the Martin 3K and the Kiwaya KMS-K, (Kiwaya's version of a 3K). In my opinion, they are all equal, but different. The Laughlin is a more accurate representation on a 1920 Martin 3K than the others. It even has bar fret wires. It is very open without being harsh and has good sustain for a soprano ukulele. If you didn't read the stamps you would probably think that it was a mint, early Martin, but with a cleaner build.

The Kiwaya looks more like a late 1940s Martin with the round fingerboard markers. It does not try to pass itself off for a Martin and has it's own style with the Kiwaya decal and small proportional differences. It is a little louder with a little less sustain than the Laughlin. Mine has a 1 piece top and back but regular production use 2 piece tops and backs.

The Martin 3K does not fit the question, but I am throwing it in anyway. The Martin is visually more bland than the others. The finish is more flat than satin and the rosette has fewer rings. The sound of this particular 3K seems to bridge the other 2. It is louder than the Laughlin and was better sustain than the Kiwaya. Fit and finish are nearly perfect and it is my personal favorite.

All 3 have their own unique voice and they all get played and enjoyed. There are times when I don't know which one I am playing. For me, the Laughlin is the coolest because it was hand made and mine is special with the kite and bow tie. The Kiwaya has beautiful wood and has a great classic look. The Martin has the name, build, history, playability and sound, and despite what I said earlier, looks very nice and is a new take on the early Martin without actually attempting to be a replica.

I highly recommend all 3 as well as the Kiwaya KTS-7, (Mahogany). They all play very well, look great and sound great to my ear. Strings make a big difference and I prefer the medium Worths, (high G), or the Martins. I am mostly a fingerstyle player, but all three play rhythm well too. For me, it is nice to be able to go back and forth between the Koa and Mahogany, (and my Cherry 3 too). My ear seems to get a little too used to one tone, so I have to wake it up I thank Martin for making an instrument that has been so lovingly copied.

I know that there has been some negativity posted regarding the recent Martins, but the ones that I own and love get the most play and are wonderful, (coming from a long guitar background), so please don't write them off. If I were to sell on the my Koa 3K type ukuleles, it would be the Kiwaya, so I guess that is where my opinion shows through. It is not a lesser instrument, it is just that it didn't come from Nazareth and it wasn't hand made in Carlsbad, so like in the past, my Harleys and Beetlecat, it does not invoke that sense of history with me, (it's all in my head of course).

pluck
12-28-2015, 04:29 AM
I have the Laughlin 3k as well as the Martin 3K and the Kiwaya KMS-K ....

Thanks. I appreciate your input, Django. I have been playing a Timms Style 0 for several months now. I like it quite a lot but have decided to start saving for something fancy. I'm sure I will reread your post several times over the next year.

I do have a follow up question: as a fingerstyle player do you set your strings high or make any other accommodations for the extended fingerboards on these ukes?

brimmer
12-28-2015, 11:22 AM
The KTS-7 is one of my favorite ukes, at or near the top of my wish list. I played one and loved it. I've never played a Laughlin...heard great things about them. There's a used one at Elderly right now. I would grab it myself but not a good time for me.

For fingerstyle setup on a soprano, its a very individual thing. I kind of prefer the non-extended fretboard on a soprano because it gives me a bit more room under the strings for picking.

pluck
12-28-2015, 11:34 AM
For fingerstyle setup on a soprano, its a very individual thing. I kind of prefer the non-extended fretboard on a soprano because it gives me a but more room under the strings.

I've got to agree based on my limited experience. I have a Kiwaya KS-7 (laminate) with very low action and an extended fretboard and I can't play fingerstyle on it at all. Right now my savings won't get me anywhere near a Style 3. I'll keep stashing away. Luckily my kids have all had braces and their wisdom teeth removed already.

Django
12-28-2015, 12:54 PM
At first the extended fingerboard got in the way a little, but like with most things, I have adjusted and it is more like a warning track than an obstacle. I play off the pads of my fingers and keep my nails just long enough to catch the strings for brightness, so I don't play deep. I think that if I went deep enough to hit the fingerboard that I would be going too deep anyway and I hardly ever contact the fingerboard anymore. The string height, (below the string), is set at 3/32" at the twelfth fret. If you go lower than that the fingerboard will probably get in the way. The nut is set for the low action without buzzing. I have this setup on all of my ukuleles and the Laughlin came from the previous owner with that setup. This has been a good setup for me, but I agree that it is a matter of preference.

bonesoup
12-29-2015, 03:26 AM
Django if you ever feel up to it and have the means, I'd love to see a comparison video of these ukes plus your 5k!

Django
12-30-2015, 05:49 AM
I've never done any recording, but I might be able to put something together at some time. I have no recording equipment at this time.

One thing that I noticed as I played last evening is that when I pinch, I move my hand back toward the sound hole which gives me more room and adds a little brightness. I tend to strum closer to the neck block. I also use a Uke Leash and I highly recommend it.

If someone wants a Laughlin and doesn't want the extended fingerboard, there is one available on the Flea Market site from the same seller that I bought my Laughlin from. It is not a style 3, but it would be like being able to purchase a new 1920s style 2 Martin. Tim doesn't make these any more and they are scarce. Very cool with bar fret wires, gloss finish and Waverly type friction tuners.

pluck
12-30-2015, 05:55 AM
If someone wants a Laughlin and doesn't want the extended fingerboard, there is one available on the Flea Market site from the same seller that I bought my Laughlin from. It is not a style 3, but it would be like being able to purchase a new 1920s style 2 Martin. Tim doesn't make these any more and they are scarce. Very cool with bar fret wires and Waverly friction tuners.

I actually checked with the seller about the 2M. He said it is no longer available though he hasn't updated the listing. It looks like a beautiful instrument to me. If Mr. Laughlin takes special orders maybe he will be making another one of these some day. I want to try fingerpicking on a few more extended fretboards before I rule it out. I think my extended fretboard Kiwaya has strings set low to the extreme. Thanks for the input.

Django
01-09-2016, 07:20 AM
I thought that I had made a mistake when I bought my second Laughlin, (the recent Mahogany Style 3 at Elderly). It came with strings that I could not identify. It sounded OK,, (not great), but the strings were like spaghetti, so I changed to a set of Worth Medium Clear, High G. The result was great volume, but a droning sound that was not in harmony with music. I let the strings settle in, but they did not improve much. I replaced the strings with a set of Worth Medium Brown, High G. The projection and volume are still very good, but the instrument is more balanced and the droning is gone. The tone is great, as is the build and playability.

The Laughlin 3 Mahogany is now very expressive and has a wonderful, complex and balanced tone. The notes are clear and the sustain is very good. I had planned to sell my Kiwaya KTS-7 because I thought that these Mahogany ukuleles would be too similar, but I was wrong about that too. They are very different and I like them both very much. The Kiwaya is warmer and more tame and will be my choice for more gentle playing while the Laughlin is a bit less forgiving, but rewards you when you get it right.

I will be putting my Kiwaya KMS-K up for sale because I have a Martin 3K, Laughlin 3K and a Martin 5K. It is closest to the Laughlin and I can't have everything, so that is the one that will go. It is not the standard Kiwaya in that it has a one piece top and one piece back like the Martin and Laughlin. It is very nice and I hate to sell it, but the Laughlin is nearly irreplaceable and the Martin has a special place for me. The Kiwaya, like the Laughlin 3K has a very vintage sound and is a real nice and easy player. The build and wood choices live up the to Kiwaya reputation.

I don't think that you could go wrong with the Laughlin or Kiwaya. If you want a classic, Martin style instrument without the expense of a vintage one, these are probably the best options. Personally, I do like the new Martin style 3 and 5 ukuleles too. They are a bit more harp-like, but still expressive and I like the tone and playability. As with any art form, beauty is in the eye or ear of the beholder.

Delmo
10-20-2017, 09:24 PM
Hi. Sorry to reopen a thread so old. During the next year I will buy my second ukulele, style 3 (Martin or Replica). Kiwaya KTS 7 the cheapest and with good ratings, but I have a KTS4 and I fear it is very similar. What do you think of: Kiwaya KMS-K, LAUGHLIN 3M, MARTIN CHERRY STYLE 3. Cherry as compared to the others? I,m from Spain and my English is not very good and unfortunately it is impossible to try ukuleles here before. Thank you very much.

Ukulele Eddie
10-21-2017, 03:58 AM
Hi. Sorry to reopen a thread so old. During the next year I will buy my second ukulele, style 3 (Martin or Replica). Kiwaya KTS 7 the cheapest and with good ratings, but I have a KTS4 and I fear it is very similar. What do you think of: Kiwaya KMS-K, LAUGHLIN 3M, MARTIN CHERRY STYLE 3. Cherry as compared to the others? I,m from Spain and my English is not very good and unfortunately it is impossible to try ukuleles here before. Thank you very much.

I have owned a KTS-7, a Cherry Style 3 and a Laughlin 2K (not a 3M). Each was a fantastic uke and quite comparable. The Laughlin is probably a little more "true" to a vintage Martin than the other two, but that is not to say it is better. There is probably as much variation within samples of each of those as there is between the three, if that makes any sense. You really can't go wrong with any of these. I have not owned a KMS-K, but love the looks of them.

By the way, Martin is no longer making the Cherry Style 3. Laughlin's are hard to come by, the only retailer I believe where you can buy new is called Elderly.

Django
10-22-2017, 12:55 AM
You may have difficulty importing anything that contains rosewood. The cherry Martin is one of my favorites and can be shipped anywhere. The difficulty may be finding one. Either Kiwaya is a great choice if you can get it. The Laughlins are very true renditions of vintage Martins, but more perfectly built and without the issues of older instruments. They are also very difficult to find and contain rosewood. I don't think that you could go wrong with any of these. If you plan to travel with it, the cherry Martin would provide the least trouble.

Django
10-22-2017, 01:16 AM
One more to consider is a Martin 3K. No rosewood and very nice.

Delmo
10-22-2017, 05:46 AM
Thank you very much for your contributions. I see that Django, you have or you had a Martin Cherry, what would you say about its sound? It is very nice and with Martin logo, but I do not know if can compete in sound with the others. Thank you.

Ukulele Eddie
10-22-2017, 09:33 AM
Thank you very much for your contributions. I see that Django, you have or you had a Martin Cherry, what would you say about its sound? It is very nice and with Martin logo, but I do not know if can compete in sound with the others. Thank you.

@Django is a more dedicated soprano player, but as I noted in my post, my Cherry 3 was as good as any soprano I've played. And I strongly preferred it to any vintage Martin I've played.