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scullerton
06-03-2016, 08:45 AM
Hi all -

I recently purchased a Kala Waterman. It's been a ton of fun and I've generally been happy with it but for the intonation. When it is in tune on the open strings it is off pitch on 1st and 2nd frets by 15-20%. The same issue persists or gets worse up the fretboard.

I'm trying to have realistic expectations for a $50 uke but the intonation issues in the first position make for some ugly sounding open chords and really impact playability. In reading Waterman reviews I don't see intonation issues frequently mentioned which makes me wonder whether I might just have one that is off.

Any thoughts would be much appreciated.

Thanks,

Scott

spookelele
06-03-2016, 08:51 AM
waterman comes with cheap strings.

Try changing them. Martin's seem to be popular and are both inexpensive and easy to get just about anywhere.

jimavery
06-03-2016, 11:36 AM
Intonation on my Waterman is a bit iffy too. Personally I think the problem is that the zero fret (the one right by the nut) is just too high, so the strings stretch too much when playing frets 1 or 2. Don't get me wrong though - the intonation on the Waterman is a lot better than on my 15 laminate uke even after I (albeit rather crudely) adjusted the nut on it to try and correct the same problem. I still enjoy playing both - but wouldn't use either for a public performance unless the visual impact was more important than the sound.

johnson430
06-03-2016, 02:55 PM
The strings. And don't buy a hard tension set.
I am getting a decent sound up to the fifth using Martin M600 Clear Fluorocarbon Ukulele Strings Sop/Con
My 2 cents.

scullerton
06-03-2016, 06:57 PM
... Off to buy new strings... Many thanks.

bobe
06-03-2016, 09:40 PM
Never thought I'd be picky about soprano intonation however the Waterman never sounded quite right to my ear so I measured the fret locations and compared the measurements against my quality wood ukuleles and found the Waterman frets to be improperly placed. Since you can't easily adjust the fret board geometry, I gifted it to a friend as it bothered me so much. I've got a plastic soprano Aqualele Bugsgear that intonates much better and the new style soprano Outdoor Ukulele I have is much better as well.

Trader Todd
06-04-2016, 03:06 AM
My wife has a Waterman, it has had many a good session at the beach, been left in the car on hot days, beat up and banged up. I like it for what it is, but the intonation is not the greatest, I still need to change the strings, but there are too many other ukes at the front of the line. For and outdoor/beater uke I much prefer my son's Bugsgear Aqulele, I think it has better tone, projection and intonation. Looking forward to hear how the new strings work out and which you choose.

bearbike137
06-04-2016, 06:01 AM
It's difficult to correct 1st and 2nd fret intonation issues. Provided that the nut slots aren't cut too high, the best you can do is try different strings until you find something that mitigates it some. And don't press too hard!

Ukejenny
06-04-2016, 11:45 AM
My Bugsgear concert sounds better in tune than my first generation "clear" Outdoor Ukulele. So, my OU is for autographs, and hangs on my wall, and my Bugsgesar Aqualele lives in my van and gets played.

Mivo
06-04-2016, 03:52 PM
waterman comes with cheap strings.

They come with the pearly Aquila Super Nylgut strings, at least over here.

The intonation with my is pretty bad, too, though "only" starting in the third fret. I wasn't overly impressed with it after the strings had settled, and I'd probably not buy it again. Then again, I'm used to a proper soprano that has perfect intonation down the neck, so I probably had unrealistic expectations also. Overall, though, I was disappointed with the Kala Waterman.

anthonyg
06-04-2016, 06:17 PM
My expectations of an injection moulded, mass produced ukulele is that the intonation should be SPOT ON. No excuses. If this was a cheap hand made instrument where a person had to take time to place things accurately then sure. My expectations aren't as high. It takes time to hand make things accurately and time is money.

Injection moulding is different. Injection mould tools are VERY expensive. You take the time to make them absolutely right in the first place and from then on the machine produces SPOT ON mouldings in the hundreds of thousands for you no trouble at all.

I wouldn't expect the best tone and resonance from a plastic ukulele. I most definitely WOULD expect the intonation of a plastic ukulele to be spot on.
In the world of mass production this is a half arsed effort where they should have rejigged the moulds at their own expense rather than selling a product that wasn't up to standard.

Its just evidence that the worlds largest ukulele company doesn't know what it takes to achieve good intonation and if it was me I wouldn't send the product to market because it would damage my reputation.

Anthony

johnson430
06-05-2016, 11:27 AM
My expectations of an injection moulded, mass produced ukulele is that the intonation should be SPOT ON. No excuses. If this was a cheap hand made instrument where a person had to take time to place things accurately then sure. My expectations aren't as high. It takes time to hand make things accurately and time is money.

Injection moulding is different. Injection mould tools are VERY expensive. You take the time to make them absolutely right in the first place and from then on the machine produces SPOT ON mouldings in the hundreds of thousands for you no trouble at all.

I wouldn't expect the best tone and resonance from a plastic ukulele. I most definitely WOULD expect the intonation of a plastic ukulele to be spot on.
In the world of mass production this is a half arsed effort where they should have rejigged the moulds at their own expense rather than selling a product that wasn't up to standard.

Its just evidence that the worlds largest ukulele company doesn't know what it takes to achieve good intonation and if it was me I wouldn't send the product to market because it would damage my reputation.

Anthony

Excellent point.
My sour Waterman has turned me off the brand, although many love their Kala. I am not interested.

Tootler
06-05-2016, 11:50 AM
My expectations of an injection moulded, mass produced ukulele is that the intonation should be SPOT ON. No excuses. If this was a cheap hand made instrument where a person had to take time to place things accurately then sure. My expectations aren't as high. It takes time to hand make things accurately and time is money.

Injection moulding is different. Injection mould tools are VERY expensive. You take the time to make them absolutely right in the first place and from then on the machine produces SPOT ON mouldings in the hundreds of thousands for you no trouble at all.

I wouldn't expect the best tone and resonance from a plastic ukulele. I most definitely WOULD expect the intonation of a plastic ukulele to be spot on.
In the world of mass production this is a half arsed effort where they should have rejigged the moulds at their own expense rather than selling a product that wasn't up to standard.

Its just evidence that the worlds largest ukulele company doesn't know what it takes to achieve good intonation and if it was me I wouldn't send the product to market because it would damage my reputation.

Anthony

You are absolutely right. I've played plastic recorders over many years and though there's a lot of snobbery round them (less so now), intonation in the reputable brands is spot on and they play well across the whole range which is what makes them such good beginners instruments.

Seems like no one has yet come up with a plastic ukulele that will match, say, a plastic Yamaha alto recorder. I have an Alic which is similar to a Flea but with a more traditional shape and less well finished but tone and intonation are pretty good. My Korala explore plastic concert seems OK too and is cheaper but a good quality competitively priced plastic soprano ukulele is still not yet on the market.

d-mace
06-05-2016, 11:52 AM
Excellent point.
My sour Waterman has turned me off the brand, although many love their Kala. I am not interested.

Ditto...whenever I play mine outside I'm always slightly annoyed. I don't understand why a company would want to sell a flawed product regardless of the price...and I have changed the strings to Martins.

Mivo
06-05-2016, 04:20 PM
Excellent point. My sour Waterman has turned me off the brand, although many love their Kala. I am not interested.

For me, it mostly confirmed my preconceptions. So, ditto.

spookelele
06-06-2016, 03:22 AM
To judge Kala by a single model seems harsh.
They have alot of decent and even some good/great models too.

But I agree that the waterman is a flop. I had alot of hope for it.

Mivo
06-06-2016, 03:32 AM
Yes, it's probably harsh, and in a way unfair also, but there is no shortage of manufacturers of ukuleles, so once you get burnt (or feel as if you did), you're much less likely to give a brand another chance.

UkerDanno
06-06-2016, 08:16 AM
Geez, people, it's a $50 plastic uke! I wonder if a lot of people who fret about intonation would even notice without their electronic tuner!

Twibbly
06-06-2016, 08:25 AM
Geez, people, it's a $50 plastic uke! I wonder if a lot of people who fret about intonation would even notice without their electronic tuner!

Some of us? Yes, on most instruments.

Some instruments? Even my basically tone-deaf husband can tell the difference between the Makala MK-S that is not set up and my Ohana SK-10 that is when playing an F chord.

spookelele
06-06-2016, 08:26 AM
Some of us? Yes, on most instruments.

+1

I can hear it.

johnson430
06-06-2016, 10:39 AM
I wonder if a lot of people who fret about intonation would even notice without their electronic tuner!

Dan, here is the sad thing. You don't even need a tuner to know these are whack.
Honestly, it seems like the longer I keep it, the worse it gets.

Tootler
06-06-2016, 01:05 PM
Geez, people, it's a $50 plastic uke! I wonder if a lot of people who fret about intonation would even notice without their electronic tuner!

The point was well made by anthonyg. There should be no excuse for poor intonation or poor setup on a plastic uke. The whole point is that moulds for injection moulded plastics are very expensive but the difference in cost between getting them accurate and not getting them accurate is negligible. Once you have made the moulds, you can turn out products from them by the thousand, even the hundred thousand and have the resulting instrument spot on. Because of the sheer volume of production, you can sell the individual items cheaply so everyone can have a properly and accurately set up instrument for a very low cost. Having a decently playable instrument at entry level means that those who buy them are more likely to continue to play them and, in time move on to better quality instruments.

So yes, it might only be a $50 ukulele but if it's someone's first and the intonation is poor, they are likely to be put off ukulele - or even put off learning a musical instrument at all because of that poor first experience.

I've got rid of poor instruments because I couldn't stand the poor intonation any longer and in each case it amounted to money wasted.

Inksplosive AL
06-06-2016, 04:18 PM
People need to speak with their wallets. How many of you sent them back?

Mivo
06-06-2016, 04:47 PM
And as Danno says, many wont even be able to spell "intonation". They will just buy the product and have a lot of fun on the beach or in the rain and the planet will keep spinning.

If we were talking about 5 cents off, I'd agree, but when you get over 20 cents in the third fret, and 50 cents in the 12th, you have to be completely tone deaf to not experience the sound as out of tune. It just sounds bad even to someone who doesn't know what intonation is in the same way that you don't have to be a chef and be able to cook complicated dishes to taste the pound of salt in your soup.

Al's right, I should have sent mine back. The reason I didn't was because I first waited a week to see if the strings would settle (because I was under the mistaken assumption that because of the way it's manufactured, it shouldn't have intonation issues, at least none that are make it a wall hanger out of the box), and then I figured maybe it's the strings and I waited to try new ones -- and by then my two weeks return period had passed.

anthonyg
06-06-2016, 05:11 PM
I did say I expected it to be spot on. OK, Spot on is a stretch simply because it has strings. But still. I do expect it to be VERY GOOD in the intonation department. So good that no one would be complaining. I'd expect that several hand made prototypes were produced so the bugs could be sorted out and by a process of educated trial and error they built the required nut and saddle compensations into the mould.

When I play a wooden Kala ukulele I sometimes notice the poor intonation yet I give Kala the benefit of the doubt and think that Kala specified the instrument correctly but given the nature of mass producing wooden instruments there is a little variation from "Spec".

The Waterman blows this preconception out of the Water (pardon the pun). A moulded instrument is produced EXACTLY as specified. The sad truth is that it was specified incorrectly which is far more damning of Kala than when a wooden ukulele isn't built correctly.

Anthony

flyingace
06-06-2016, 05:25 PM
I, too, was disappointed with my waterman. I kinda knew what I was getting into, being an advanced player used to solid wood tenors that I do all the set up on to make them as musically perfect as I can. But this was a waste of $50 for a playable instrument but it's $50 of cute art that decorates my music room now and it's the Uke I hand to guests that have been drinking or kids that visit! :)

johnson430
06-06-2016, 05:35 PM
People need to speak with their wallets. How many of you sent them back?

That is what I am doing, Kala will not get any more of my money. I would like to try a Bugsgear next, and buy from someone like MIM.

I guess I could write to Kala but I purchased from a 3rd party on Reverb and did 3 string changes which took several weeks so i think I am past the return period. And honestly, taking "Purple" away from my 3 yr. old would not be the right thing to do.

anthonyg
06-13-2016, 06:49 PM
Well I just had my tuner with me at a music store in Canberra so tested the Waterman's here. No surprises, they went quite sharp. I had played them previously and they sounded off but I didn't have a tuner or a desire to grab one. They went about 20cent sharp quite quickly. Action is quite high which can be dealt with if you build with enough saddle compensation.

Anthony

flyingace
06-14-2016, 04:17 AM
Okay, I take part of it back, restrung my waterman with martin strings and installed some friction tuners from an old kamaka I used to have (that I put gotoh planetary tuners on) and it sounds WAAAAY better! It is staying in tune and doesn't sound so out of intonation up the neck. It still has high action and it will never be a Uke that is perfectly set up but now it's able to play your basic chorded strummed songs while in a canoe, so I'll be taking it to Florida and on camping trips for sure!

Rllink
06-14-2016, 05:20 AM
I won a Waterman. I didn't like it at all, and not just because the intonation was way off, I just didn't like it. So I gave it to my sister-in-law. I have a Makala Mahogany Concert. It is a fine instrument. I have no complaints. People think these Watermans, or any of the plastic ukes, are something special when it comes to camping, canoeing, being outdoors. Let's face it, just how mean are you going to be with your ukulele? I guess that some people will take it to extremes to prove their point, but seriously, I don't want to sit on the beach or around the campfire playing a ukulele that isn't in tune as soon as you fret a chord, even if it is a cool plastic ukulele.

Inksplosive AL
06-14-2016, 09:13 AM
I dont think not buying a perfectly good ukulele from Kala in anyway shows them anyone is unhappy with the waterman. I almost bought one and then asked myself why? I have a KA-SEM that I play much more than my KoAloha concert. ;)

Boycotting great ukuleles because one model like some are talking...

Ive heard the Edsel was a flop but my 95 Mustang GT is a hell of a beast.

~AL~

mm stan
06-14-2016, 05:53 PM
I tried a bugs gear soprano, it sounded pretty good the a person I met had. I want one ;)
As for the waterman, it's a 50 dollar uke that needs a setup.. anything less and it's a beautiful wall hanger.

NOTLguy
06-19-2016, 07:49 AM
Before my retirement, I owned a plastic injection moulding business and made automotive parts for the North American market. We used polycarbonate for many applications.

In designing the moulds, and considering that the polycarbonate is unfilled, containing no fillers like glass fibres which the Makala ukulele is made of, you must allow for 0.015" - 0.018" inches per inch of length for shrinkage of the plastic after ejection from the mould. As the plastic cools it shrinks to a final length.

Therefore the cutting of the fret positions in the mould that makes the neck must add this allowance to the dimensions so that it will shrink back to what you want when it cools.

That said, if the tooling engineers got it right in the mould every neck would be identical and correct if recommended processing conditions for the polycarbonate resin were met while manufacturing the neck.

Added to that, the height of the zero fret can affect intonation on the neck as mentioned as well as the bridge and saddle height.

Now consider that if the ukulele was manufactured in China and given their reputation for taking short cuts, all bets are off.

I know this does not help those with intonation issues but it may explain why it is happening. The only way to see if the frets are correctly spaced is to measure the individual fret to fret dimensions as compared to what they should be. If all is well it is the nut and bridge/ saddle. If not, it is a poorly designed and manufactured neck.

Regards,
Bill

edhaponik
07-01-2016, 05:41 PM
Wow. I'm pretty surprised to read through this thread. I just picked up a Waterman for US$40 and I'm pretty stoked on it. I would prob never grab for it ahead of my Kamaka or Martins, but its intonation is nowhere near "unplayable". One thing I've noticed is that the 1st few frets feel "deep" compared with my other ukes, and I can bend notes considerably just with pressure. But playing normally, it sounds nice and at least as in-tune as my cheaper ukes (and considerably better than my 1st run Outdoor soprano). No idea whether my expectations were lower, my ear less refined, or if I somehow got an "anomaly", but regardless it's super fun to play.

scullerton
07-05-2016, 10:28 AM
I wanted to report back that I switched out the stock strings for Martin M600s (flourocarbon) on the recommendation of several folks here as well as Mike from Uke Republic where I purchased my Waterman. I've played with the new strings for a couple weeks now and, while by no means perfect, I'm happy to report that the new strings have had a real positive impact. I was surprised to see that strings could have an effect on intonation. I would have thought intonation was strictly a function of the physics of the fretboard, nut and bridge. Perhaps it's a placebo, but I'm certainly much happier.

Thanks for all the thoughts.

anthonyg
07-05-2016, 02:09 PM
My best guess is that the moulds for the Waterman were made without allowing any saddle compensation. A Rookie mistake and unfortunately common. The result of this is that the intonation goes sharp which is what people are experiencing.

I acknowledge NOTLguy's expertise, I just want to say that if the fret intervals had shrunk then the resultant error would lead to FLAT intonation. In the case of a lack of saddle compensation this would be GOOD and the two errors would likely cancel each other to a significant degree. Unfortunately this didn't happen and the intonation is still WAY sharp. Maybe they allowed for more shrinkage than they got.

Changing strings CAN help to a degree. If you had theoretically perfect strings then you would not need saddle compensation. Saddle compensation is there to correct for the stiffness of strings which don't vibrate as theory would predict. Fitting thinner, more flexible strings to an instrument without the necessary saddle compensation WILL help as people have found, but its not a perfect solution.

The error is in the saddles placement in relation to the frets.

Anthony

bobe
07-05-2016, 07:33 PM
On the one I had, the frets were physically located incorrectly on the fret board. On most of the frets I measured around a 1/16" to 1/8" variation from correct fret placement for the soprano scale. Perhaps the QC on the plastic molding process varies from batch to batch?
I really liked the clear one I had however I got tired of everyone asking me to tune it.
My playing may not be the best but folks don't ask me to check the tuning on my other sopranos.:rolleyes::p

Rllink
07-06-2016, 03:16 AM
I don't buy the argument that it is a $50 ukulele, what do you expect. I've played around with a number of cheap ukes that had very good intonation up the neck. My $65 Makala concert is one of them. I've played several Dolphins that were pretty darn good. Those are both cheap ukes from the same company that has given us the Waterman.

GeckoS
08-31-2018, 10:05 AM
I contacted Kala and was told the strings are Aquilas.