PDA

View Full Version : Found a super cheap $13 ukulele - but does it sound good?



boxmonkey
05-01-2016, 04:14 PM
Hey there! I've always liked cheap ukuleles, because I feel you can get a pretty good sound out of them if you play right.
And that way I can suggest them to friends who don't play yet and get more people playing music ^^

So here I found the cheapest ukulele ever ($13), made sure it didn't have too horrible reviews, and tried it out.
Results are pretty good. Of course, it's made in China (it even has a little tag with a bunch of stuff in Chinese :)
here's my little video review if you want to hear how it sounds:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHZDIVo2D_I

PROS:
-sturdy, with stable knobs which stay in tune
-all made of wood (though plastic back is fine with me!)
-nice finish on the soundboard
-pretty nice mellow tone
-so freakin' cheap you could get one for every member of the family and your neighbors and your dog!

CONS:
-comes with cheap strings. I would start by changing them for Aquila strings or something like that
-it has high action (space between strings and fretboard). I'll fix that by sanding down the bridge a little
-expensive $38 shipping to Europe (but cheap $8 shipping to the U.S)
90776

here's a link to the actual ukulele (http://goo.gl/iKRc5R)
Because of the shipping price, I would say this is a really cool deal if you're living in the U.S., but if you're living in Europe or elsewhere in the world, you can probably find better deals.
Tell me if you've tried out some cheap ukes and if it sounded good or not! (~ ̄▽ ̄)~

Cheers uke people!!

Booli
05-01-2016, 05:24 PM
I'm feeling I need a bit more info from a reviewer, which is really standard from the well known folks here on UU that have a reputation for unbiased reviews...

So how are the fret edges?

Are they razor sharp when you run your fingers along the edge of the fretboard, or are the perfectly smooth?

Are the frets LEVEL and properly crowned?

Also, have you checked the intonation with a tuner?

I hope that these are new ideas to you, especially as a reviewer.

Likely such a cheap uke needs the saddle and nut adjusted for intonation, and the absolute beginner is really not the best person to give such a uke unless a full setup is done before handing it to them.

Were I to be gifting a uke to anyone, I'd get one from Mainland Ukes, HMS, MIM's Ukes, or Uke Republic since they all personally go over every inch of the instrument, inspect and fix or reject ones with any issues, such that out of the box the instrument is playable from day one...

Such as it is, thanks for sharing your review here.

Mivo
05-02-2016, 05:04 AM
I enjoyed watching the video! My latent UAS immediately flared up, with me wondering if I could just buy a cheap uke a month. ;)

What is the name of the other one that you had in the video? The one with the arched plastic back.

boxmonkey
05-02-2016, 10:31 AM
That one is called the Mahilele. I agree it's pretty nice! Costs a little bit more ($50-$80 depending on the soundboard material you choose), but it's one of my favorite ukes!
You can find it in different places. In Europe there's this good italian site which sells them: mercatinodellukulele.it (http://mercatinodellukulele.it/en/ukulele/soprano)

cheers!!
Jonas

boxmonkey
05-02-2016, 10:55 AM
To Booli:
Sorry if it wasn't complete enough for you. I tried to keep it short because people give up quickly with longer videos ^^
But to answer your questions
The fret edges aren't sharp it's ok (in fact they're better rounded off than on my other ukes). But I get what you mean I have a charango that had sharp fret edges and it's true that was super annoying to play.
The frets seem fine to me. All even height.
I did check the intonation on higher frets, and it's fine IF you change the strings. The intonation is a little off in the higher frets (some higher some lower), because the strings don't have a precise enough gauge (not because of the frets).

Like I said the only 2 real cons in the construction, to me, are
-high fretboard-string action
-the cheap strings it comes with. change them.

Of course it's a $13 uke so don't expect super high class finish, but good enough to be nice to play, and for children to learn!
Cheers!

Booli
05-02-2016, 06:06 PM
To Booli:
Sorry if it wasn't complete enough for you. I tried to keep it short because people give up quickly with longer videos ^^
But to answer your questions
The fret edges aren't sharp it's ok (in fact they're better rounded off than on my other ukes). But I get what you mean I have a charango that had sharp fret edges and it's true that was super annoying to play.
The frets seem fine to me. All even height.
I did check the intonation on higher frets, and it's fine IF you change the strings. The intonation is a little off in the higher frets (some higher some lower), because the strings don't have a precise enough gauge (not because of the frets).

Like I said the only 2 real cons in the construction, to me, are
-high fretboard-string action
-the cheap strings it comes with. change them.

Of course it's a $13 uke so don't expect super high class finish, but good enough to be nice to play, and for children to learn!
Cheers!


Sorry if my post came off as too harsh, it was not intended that way. I probably could have said it better, and I thank you for bringing this cheap uke to our attention.

Please accept my apology.

To me, and maybe this is not always understood by others - the more important point about the intonation on cheap ukes, which pertains to the action being too high as you'd said, is actually a more important matter that if the NUT SLOTS are too tall, then it will be IN TUNE with open strings, but when you fret chords in the first position, all the fretted notes will be SHARP by some amount, and thus when playing chords, it WILL BE out of tune.

This is fixed by filing the nut slots DOWN to where the uke is IN TUNE both open, and with chords in first position. It is a tedious and painstaking process, and typically necessary for every uke I have owned that cost me less than $85USD or was not inspected and setup by the vendor in advance.

It takes experience to understand that intonation is an issue not ONLY up the neck near the 12th fret, BUT ALSO down in the first 3-5 frets, and one has to develop the hearing acuity to perceive if the intonation is off - some folks dont care, or never develop their ear, and for them ignorance is bliss - C'est la Vie!

Sanding down a saddle to correct action or string height is actually a much simpler procedure than adjusting the nut slots for action and/or intonation corrections, and all nut slots might NOT even become the same height, because each string has a different diameter, linear density and tension by default.

Also as far as strings on a cheap uke - there's hundreds of threads here on UU on this very topic, and most conclude that either the Martin M600/M620 strings or the Aquila Nylgut strings will both/either DRAMATICALLY IMPROVE the tuning stability, tone and intonation of a cheap uke when compared the the low-grade nylon strings that most cheap ukes have installed from the factory. Case in point is these strings sets mentions sell for ~$5USD, so if the uke itself is $13, and they put the good strings on at the factory - how much are you paying for, and what build quality is the ACTUAL uke itself....

just some food for thought....:)

gitarzan
05-02-2016, 06:28 PM
For $13, you got a uke that you can practice lutherie upon, paint, bedazzle, install lights, add a crank or other gizmo, add a taillight or smash for effect.

I will not do any of that with my first gen Koalana.