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View Full Version : 2nd Uke Purchase - DIY Kits vs Brand Names - What's the Best Bang for the Buck?



knotscott
01-28-2016, 04:44 PM
Hi all - We bought a Lanukai LU-21C with Aquila strings for our 18 year old daughter's college music class. Our younger 16 year old daughter has starting playing it...often! She's picked it pretty quickly, and is starting to ask about a better quality uke of her own. She's an excellent musician with a great voice, and apparently a very sensitive ear for tone and intonation.

It's likely that she'll have less than $150 dollars available. We've started to look at Concert and Tenor ukes, preferably with at least a solid wood top. Is it better to go with a more modest instrument from good names like Cordoba, Ohana, Kala, Kamoa, Lanukai, etc., that are made in China and have minimal solid woods, or get a kit that features solid Acacia Koa wood throughout, like those from Viet Nam that are sold on Ebay?

I don't play, but have built and setup 3 electric guitars for our sons, so I think I can handle the assembly and finishing myself, and am willing to add real bone nut and saddle to the equation, as well as Aquila nylgut strings. TIA for your insights!

spookelele
01-28-2016, 05:10 PM
people seem to be googlie eyed over in that caramel thread.

The spruce concert is $46 delivered.... seems really hard to beat that if it really is as decent as they're saying.

http://www.amazon.com/Caramel-CC303A-Concert-Acoustic-Ukulele/dp/B01AXPD0IK/

looks like there's a solid mahogany top for the same price and a solid acacia for $65. The MoP rosette on the acacia looks a bit suspect though...but I guess you could get lucky.

knotscott
01-28-2016, 05:22 PM
people seem to be googlie eyed over in that caramel thread.



That's one that hadn't caught my eye yet. Thanks for the link.

vanflynn
01-28-2016, 05:25 PM
IMHO the kits are more for the experience of doing than the saving of money. For the quality of instrument you end up with you don't gain a lot with diy.

Buying from a known uke dealer gives you a resource before you buy and recourse if you have problems. Being a guitar player you know that most times you get what you pay for.

Happy hunting and keep us posted.

Patrick Madsen
01-28-2016, 06:54 PM
Don't forget used ones. Craigslist is a great place to start or here in the Marketplace.

Doug W
01-28-2016, 07:39 PM
It's likely that she'll have less than $150 dollars available. We've started to look at Concert and Tenor ukes, preferably with at least a solid wood top. Is it better to go with a more modest instrument from good names like Cordoba, Ohana, Kala, Kamoa, Lanukai, etc., that are made in China and have minimal solid woods, or get a kit that features solid Acacia Koa wood throughout, like those from Viet Nam that are sold on Ebay?


I have never been to Rochester N.Y. but a city of that size should have a few music stores. Check out some ukes locally and see what you think. If you don't play, ask the sales people to play some ukes for you. Nothing like holding them in your hands.

JackLuis
01-28-2016, 08:45 PM
people seem to be googlie eyed over in that caramel thread.

The spruce concert is $46 delivered.... seems really hard to beat that if it really is as decent as they're saying.

http://www.amazon.com/Caramel-CC303A-Concert-Acoustic-Ukulele/dp/B01AXPD0IK/

looks like there's a solid mahogany top for the same price and a solid acacia for $65. The MoP rosette on the acacia looks a bit suspect though...but I guess you could get lucky.

I've bought a few Caramels and they are good, but I think that Ohana might be better if more expensive. I have an Ohana (~$150) spruce top concert that is much more sensitive than my zebra wood Caramels. Someone who ears haven't been assaulted by loud noises might find the Ohana a little sweeter. A couple of people on the Caramel thread are waiting for Acacia tops to be delivered, you might want to see how those turnout before you jump on one. My neighbor has a couple of their spruce topped Tenors and they a real good players. I just don't care for the high freq response of the spruce tops.

I have a good Uke shop nearby and every time I go in I play one or two of the high end ukes, Pono, Kamaka, Emerald Bay, as well as the nicer Kalas, and I think a couple of my Caramels can give them a pretty close race. The Caramels are very well put together and the only thing 'wrong' with them is the level of the finish which is pretty thin, but if you know how to do the finishing, it doesn't take much to make them look real nice. They would undoubtedly be a better base than a DIY kit.

Mivo
01-28-2016, 09:27 PM
I think taking your younger daughter to the music store and letting her try out ukuleles in the desired price range could be fun, provided she doesn't home in on the instruments that are way above the price point! :) You mentioned that she has an ear for intonation, and music in general, so she might be great help in picking a good instrument.

I really like the current line-up of Ohana. If I went for an entry/mid-level instrument, I think that's probably the brand I'd go for. If you're fine with potentially needing to adjust or fix up an instrument, something like the Caramels (formerly Rubin) is probably more cost-efficient than getting a kit. No personal experiences with those, though, but as others have said, the linked thread is a good source for impressions.

Strings matter, too!

knotscott
01-29-2016, 12:11 AM
Thanks for all the replies everyone...much appreciated.

I have been watching CL for a good used instrument, but so far nothing.... You'd think with the Eastman School of Music nearby that there'd be a lot of used instruments, but maybe the students snap them up (or frown on such a common instrument! ;-). There are some really good guitar stores around here, and I definitely plan to take my daughter out to play a few and see what she thinks...Stutzman's Guitar Center, The Guitar Center, and others. The Caramels look interesting, so I'll be looking into them more.

DownUpDave
01-29-2016, 12:26 AM
If it was myself buying a uke for my aspiring musicaly talented daughter here is what I would do. Google Uke Republic and look up their Ohana CK22, concert size solid spruce top and laminate mahogany back and sides. It comes with a gig bag and a digital tuner, all in $169.00. Most importantly it has been QCed and set up by Mike who owns the company

This is a real brick and mortar business in Georgia and Mike is a member here. Ukuleles and only ukueles is his one and only business. You will not meet a nicer man that really cares about the instuments and the players that will be receiving them.

PhilUSAFRet
01-29-2016, 12:45 AM
:agree: Between MIMs and Uke Republic, you can't go wrong. I'd avoid the Vietnamese stuff. Let her play some different sizes before buying even if they aren't the ones you are considering. Get her preference on looks, size, weight, neck thickness, tuners, and tone. If she's serious, these things will matter to her.

mm stan
01-29-2016, 02:00 AM
This owner is nice in rodchester http://bernunzio.com/category/instruments/ukuleles/
He has a marketplace too

JackLuis
01-29-2016, 03:48 AM
If it was myself buying a uke for my aspiring musicaly talented daughter here is what I would do. Google Uke Republic and look up their Ohana CK22, concert size solid spruce top and laminate mahogany back and sides. It comes with a gig bag and a digital tuner, all in $169.00. Most importantly it has been QCed and set up by Mike who owns the company

This is a real brick and mortar business in Georgia and Mike is a member here. Ukuleles and only ukueles is his one and only business. You will not meet a nicer man that really cares about the instuments and the players that will be receiving them.

+1 on the Ohana CK-22. That's the one I have. It is very responsive and very light weight. It feels more like a rapier than an ax, if you know what I mean. I have Fremont black lines low G on it and I think it might be better High g. I tried PHD's on it and they were good too. Nice action and plays well with a delicate touch.

haole
01-29-2016, 04:40 AM
Skip the eBay kits. There are a lot of gorgeous instruments on eBay sold by various sellers in Vietnam for good prices, but they're notorious for having poor sound quality, improperly dried woods that crack, and mislabeled woods that aren't really koa. Some folks on here swear by them, but they're a crapshoot. Stewart-Macdonald makes much better kits. If she wants to play as soon as possible, you're better off picking up a uke from a reputable brand (Kala, Ohana, Mainland, Koalana, Islander, etc) from a reputable shop that will make sure it's playable right away.

UkerDanno
01-29-2016, 04:53 AM
+1 on Ohana or Kala and UkeRepublic.com or Mim...search ebay for "mim ohana"

knotscott
01-29-2016, 09:58 AM
You folks have all been great....thanks so much. Now, if we only get some time freed up from her busy practice and performance schedule, we could actually go and look at some ukes!

UkieOkie
01-30-2016, 05:11 AM
Ssomeone mentioned the solid acacia top caramel. I own one in tenor size. It is great. Sounds and plays great.

engravertom
01-30-2016, 06:33 AM
This owner is nice in rodchester http://bernunzio.com/category/instruments/ukuleles/
He has a marketplace too

+1 on Bernunzio uptown music. very supportive of the local Ukulele community. best selection of Ukes in house in the Rochester area I know of. They host a Ukulele support group every 1st Thursday, and a second beginner group one Saturday a month.

PhilUSAFRet
01-30-2016, 06:44 AM
If she wants a tenor size, hard to beat this one in our Marketplace: http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?118262-Islander-Kanilea-AT-4-Acacia-Tenor