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View Full Version : Best ukulele for beginners...Wirecutter



Choirguy
06-15-2017, 02:43 PM
What do you think of their choices?

http://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-ukulele-for-beginners/

Futurethink
06-15-2017, 03:24 PM
I hadn't heard of Donner 'ukuleles before. The company is evidently known for pedals. I don't know anything about their pedals either.

The Donner brand instruments look attractive. I like the way the fretboard curves around the sound hole, and included strap pins is a nice feature. Some won't like the slotted bridge, but I wouldn't mind giving it a try.

Still, the proof's in the playing, right? I wonder if anyone here has tried one.

janeray1940
06-15-2017, 04:40 PM
Never heard of Donner, but that Ohana was the uke that got me back into playing as an adult after not picking a uke up in nearly 40 years. I quickly moved on to higher-end ukes and passed it on to a friend in need, and years later she's still playing it.

I actually know one of the testers and he's legit - plays anything and everything with strings and I would tend to trust his judgment.

That being said, I tend to disagree with only presenting under-$100 options as "beginner" models. It would be good to see a mix of price ranges in one of these round-ups sometime.

Choirguy
06-15-2017, 05:27 PM
The only time I have heard of Donner was Barry Maz's (gotaukulele.com) review, which was generally favorable (compared to, for example, the Caramel CC102 that he reviewed). http://www.gotaukulele.com/2017/04/donner-duc-3-concert-ukulele-review.html

igorthebarbarian
06-15-2017, 07:38 PM
I dislike that they link to Amazon for the purchase. If buying and you don't know any better, I'd rather get your first from someone like MIM's Ukes or HMS or Mike/Uke Republic who will inspect it/ do a set up.

PhilUSAFRet
06-16-2017, 03:15 AM
Same uke for $33 with a bag and free shipping. Only problem is that it's a Kaka and Amazon for returns is an advantage, otherwise one has no real advantage over the other. I have two Kaka's I bought as loaners for my uke group and can't fault either for the money. Neither had any setup issues and sound and play well for a sub-$100 uke. Also that Cordoba 15-CM is generally considered to be the best sounding all laminate concert under $100 by many. I'd have to question that "test group". (can get under $100 with patience)

http://www.ebay.com/itm/282505955080?_trksid=p2055119.m1438.l2649&var=581662262372&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT

Rllink
06-16-2017, 03:21 AM
Never heard of Donner, but that Ohana was the uke that got me back into playing as an adult after not picking a uke up in nearly 40 years. I quickly moved on to higher-end ukes and passed it on to a friend in need, and years later she's still playing it.

I actually know one of the testers and he's legit - plays anything and everything with strings and I would tend to trust his judgment.

That being said, I tend to disagree with only presenting under-$100 options as "beginner" models. It would be good to see a mix of price ranges in one of these round-ups sometime.I'm a born skeptic, so I ask myself what the motivation for writing that article was in the first place? They gotta write something I guess. I also wonder how many of those ukuleles that they tested were the same ukulele, from the same ukulele factory in China, just a different tag stuck inside it and a different decal on the headstock? Maybe some cosmetics to define it as one brand of ukulele or another? I also wonder what actually defines a "beginner" ukulele? What even makes a ukulele a beginner's ukulele? I'm thinking price. I think that for most people just getting into something and not being particularly knowledgeable, one does not want to sink a lot of money into it until they know a little more and know if it is really what they want to do. That goes for everything, not just ukes. But I think a beginner ukulele by definition is something that doesn't cost a lot but is still playable. Okay, that is a Mr. Skeptic view of it. Take it for what it is worth, probably not much more than the article itself.

janeray1940
06-16-2017, 04:28 AM
I dislike that they link to Amazon for the purchase. If buying and you don't know any better, I'd rather get your first from someone like MIM's Ukes or HMS or Mike/Uke Republic who will inspect it/ do a set up.


I'm a born skeptic, so I ask myself what the motivation for writing that article was in the first place?

Truth is, the actual motivation for the putting the article out on the interwebs is for the website owner to generate clicks to their Amazon Affiliate links, pure and simple. In other words, money.

And I'm a skeptic too (and not a believer in "beginner" instruments or "beginner" cars or "beginner" camera equipment and such), although I still sense the testers had some legitimacy and probably little or nothing to gain from giving their opinions.

rlbccb
06-16-2017, 04:37 AM
Hello, this my first post and I purchased the Donner DUC1 from amazon. Pretty much what RLLink stated were my reasons. I wanted to try a ukulele but did not want to spend a lot on something that might be a short term adventure. I have had the Donner for about a month and have enjoyed playing it. I am still learning to strum and learn the chords but it has been a good investment at this point.

Rllink
06-16-2017, 07:05 AM
Truth is, the actual motivation for the putting the article out on the interwebs is for the website owner to generate clicks to their Amazon Affiliate links, pure and simple. In other words, money.

And I'm a skeptic too (and not a believer in "beginner" instruments or "beginner" cars or "beginner" camera equipment and such), although I still sense the testers had some legitimacy and probably little or nothing to gain from giving their opinions.I agree that the testers are legitimate. You said that you knew one of them and that is good enough for me. But I got to thinking about it, and if the testers were not beginners, doesn't that sort of form a bias to start out? I can only base my opinion on my experience. So considering that I was a beginner for a short period once in my life, my personal experience in beginner ukuleles is pretty much limited to the ukulele I began with.

janeray1940
06-16-2017, 11:56 AM
I agree that the testers are legitimate. You said that you knew one of them and that is good enough for me. But I got to thinking about it, and if the testers were not beginners, doesn't that sort of form a bias to start out? I can only base my opinion on my experience. So considering that I was a beginner for a short period once in my life, my personal experience in beginner ukuleles is pretty much limited to the ukulele I began with.

Excellent point about the testers not being beginners. Also, often the lower cost instruments are not properly setup and lack the playability that a higher-end uke tends to have off the shelf. An experienced player can work with this, but a beginner might find it difficult to play and therefore might not sound so good.

Futurethink
06-16-2017, 12:35 PM
If the testers were beginners, would you trust anything they wrote?

A beginner looks to the voice of experience because he/she doesn't know what to consider.

A beginner doesn't want to spend much money on a hobby they aren't sure they'll stick with.

jollyboy
06-17-2017, 05:12 AM
The site looks legitimate enough - not one of the fake bullshit affiliate cash-in sites that pop up every now and then. Reading the article it sounds like they put together a decent panel of testers - including both experienced players and novices - and took everyone's opinion into account. And they seem to have made some good budget picks, such as the Cordoba and the Ohana. The Donner feels like a bit of a left-field choice - but it's left me more curious than skeptical.

3j0hn
06-17-2017, 08:12 AM
The site looks legitimate enough.

Unlike a lot of unreliable "fake" affiliate link review sites, The Wirecutter has been around for a long time, and in my experience they generally make really solid recommendations. Just recently they were purchased by the New York Times.

sculptor
06-17-2017, 10:32 AM
There are two types of beginners. The first group half heartedly tries something and maybe will continue with it and maybe not. The second type commits themselves to learning something new and sticks with it.

Maybe the ukuleles shown are fine for the first group but for the second they'll be wasting money for a ukulele that sooner or later will be disposed of. They would have been much better off getting a higher quality ukulele which will serve them well for the long term. Such a ukulele will also be easier to learn on since it's been properly setup.

-- Gary

ripock
06-18-2017, 06:12 AM
Maybe the ukuleles shown are fine for the first group but for the second they'll be wasting money for a ukulele that sooner or later will be disposed of. They would have been much better off getting a higher quality ukulele which will serve them well for the long term. Such a ukulele will also be easier to learn on since it's been properly setup.

-- Gary

As a relative beginner, I can attest to that. When I caught the bug, I just saved $20 from every paycheck for a few months and then bought a beginner's ukulele, a $200 Oscar Schmidt. It served me well...and it still does as my dedicated amplifier-uke. However my mind was blown by the difference in quality when I upgraded to a $700 solid wood Cordoba. Everything was easier to play, the action was lower, the fret wires were filed down, the fluoro-carbon strings felt much better than nylon. In a way getting that cheaper uke has been a very integral part of my career. If I had started off with a koolau I wouldn't have the perspective and the memories.

Rllink
06-18-2017, 07:32 AM
In hind sight I would have probably been $65 ahead if I had just bought my Mainland in the first place. But when I first got the itch to learn to play a ukulele, if I had known that a real beginner's ukulele costs $200 plus, I wouldn't even be playing a ukulele right now.

ripock
06-18-2017, 08:02 AM
In hind sight I would have probably been $65 ahead if I had just bought my Mainland in the first place. But when I first got the itch to learn to play a ukulele, if I had known that a real beginner's ukulele costs $200 plus, I wouldn't even be playing a ukulele right now.

what makes this discussion interesting is the fluidity of our criteria for nomenclature such as "beginner." I bought my first instrument while still in high school. I paid $23.89 a month for a flute and I paid on that loan for years. In that context, a $200 ukulele doesn't seem outlandish to me, especially when I consider that I still play it. I could have purchased something cheaper but it would have been more of a toy and it wouldn't have given me a good, representative feel for what I can expect from a ukulele. My Oscar Schmidt is a good, but not great, ukulele and that is what I had in mind for a beginner's ukulele--at least for this beginner.

Nickie
06-18-2017, 08:45 AM
I was a little surprised that Caramel wasn't included. Some of the ukes mentioned, you couldn't give me. I won't pick on them. No pun intended.

Rllink
06-18-2017, 10:23 AM
what makes this discussion interesting is the fluidity of our criteria for nomenclature such as "beginner." I bought my first instrument while still in high school. I paid $23.89 a month for a flute and I paid on that loan for years. In that context, a $200 ukulele doesn't seem outlandish to me, especially when I consider that I still play it. I could have purchased something cheaper but it would have been more of a toy and it wouldn't have given me a good, representative feel for what I can expect from a ukulele. My Oscar Schmidt is a good, but not great, ukulele and that is what I had in mind for a beginner's ukulele--at least for this beginner.Maybe it depends on where you are coming from. You were probably a pretty accomplished musician when you came to the ukulele. You also probably had a track record of success with another instrument and knew that you could make music. I had no idea what I was getting into. I think that someone with your kind of experience might be more inclined to spring for a more expensive instrument right off the bat. If I were to become interested in another instrument at this juncture, my criteria for a beginning instrument would be much different than it was when I bought my first ukulele.

davidvilla
06-19-2017, 01:04 AM
You can buy a ukulele on ebay

Choirguy
06-19-2017, 02:13 AM
You can, but there is a risk in doing so. While some UU members are focused on the quality of the instrument for the beginner (and yes, I have seen the suggestion of a Kamaka as a first instrument), one of the more common bits of advice is to buy a ukulele from a dealer that sets up the instrument for a common string action, rather than getting a ukulele from a big vendor.

Higher action means harder to play. Higher action due to a high nut means that beginner chords on the first fret are harder to play. And theoretically, an instrument that is set up right should play more closely in tune.

So the suggestion to not buy from eBay or Amazon as a first instrument is generally good advice. That said, Mim's store front is via eBay...and she is one of the best out there.

janeray1940
06-19-2017, 04:37 AM
So the suggestion to not buy from eBay or Amazon as a first instrument is generally good advice. That said, Mim's store front is via eBay...and she is one of the best out there.

I'd qualify that suggestion as "do not buy a ukulele on eBay from someone who does not know ukuleles." I've never bought from Mim, but I'm sure she's great. I did, however, buy two Kamakas from private parties on eBay when I first started playing, and both were a bit disappointing. The combination of an inexperienced player plus an inexperienced seller is pretty likely to have lackluster results.

So I'd go so far as to say that the best ukulele for beginners is one that is in their budget, that feels comfortable to them, and that an experienced ukulele player or dealer has helped them select, either from a trustworthy online retailer like Mim or HMS, or in-person at a local shop that is ukulele-knowledgeable.

hoosierhiver
06-19-2017, 05:09 AM
About half way through, I started to wonder if the article was sponsored by Amazon.

Nickie
06-19-2017, 06:24 AM
Jane,
Kamakas that were Disappointing? Wow....I had no idea that could happen.
It amazes me.

PTOEguy
06-19-2017, 11:48 AM
Jane,
Kamakas that were Disappointing? Wow....I had no idea that could happen.
It amazes me.

It can happen - wood is a variable material. If you ever get a chance to play several of the same mass produced instrument back to back you'd be surprised (I got to do this with three "identical" mandolins - there was a definite hierarchy in sound quality). And part of the problem is that if you haven't played the uke in question, you don't know if you'll bond with it. And just because others like it won't mean you will.

janeray1940
06-19-2017, 04:03 PM
Jane,
Kamakas that were Disappointing? Wow....I had no idea that could happen.
It amazes me.

Kamakas are just another uke manufacturer, subject to all the same manufacturing variations as just about anything else. I like them, but will be the first to admit that no factory uke manufacturer is perfect 100% of the time. I'm only familiar first-hand with Kamaka, Koaloha, and Kiwaya ukes, and I've seen variations in tone and playability across all three.

But I think the problem arises when you have others to compare them to. If one bought a Kamaka on eBay, and lived in an area completely devoid of other ukes and had no way to compare, then one might not have cause for disappointment.

stevepetergal
06-19-2017, 04:25 PM
Best ukulele for beginners:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Extremely-rare-vtg-famous-Ernest-K-Kaai-ukulele-koa-wood-Hawaii-musician-guitar/232154646541

player
06-19-2017, 11:46 PM
Best ukulele for beginners:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Extremely-rare-vtg-famous-Ernest-K-Kaai-ukulele-koa-wood-Hawaii-musician-guitar/232154646541Should be good enough for the serious noob.

sculptor
06-20-2017, 09:15 AM
As a relative beginner, I can attest to that. When I caught the bug, I just saved $20 from every paycheck for a few months and then bought a beginner's ukulele, a $200 Oscar Schmidt. It served me well...and it still does as my dedicated amplifier-uke. However my mind was blown by the difference in quality when I upgraded to a $700 solid wood Cordoba. Everything was easier to play, the action was lower, the fret wires were filed down, the fluoro-carbon strings felt much better than nylon. In a way getting that cheaper uke has been a very integral part of my career. If I had started off with a koolau I wouldn't have the perspective and the memories.

Actually I started with a Pono MT strung low-g and then I got a Cordoba 35T-SE strung high-g. I'm pretty sure it's still just nylon strings (Aguilla) on a Cordoba (I contacted them about this before I bought) although I suppose somebody could put flurocarbons on them but they don't come from Cordoba that way. By the way, I assume you got yours setup because I've heard that Cordoba's often need a nut high adjustment.

-- Gary

bazmaz
06-20-2017, 09:13 PM
Yes i rather liked the Donner I reviewed. Much better than the likes of Caramel.

As for this video - typical of so many new 'review' sites these days - they are nothing more than Amazon affiliate sites. Every click likely to get revenue from an Amazon sale. Plus the web page lost all credibility for me when it says that Luna are 'great'... ugh..

Brent Butterworth
06-22-2017, 05:09 PM
Hi, everybody. I'm the one who wrote the article on Wirecutter. Thanks for your feedback here, it's helpful. To answer a couple of your questions:

1) Yes, Wirecutter gets much of its revenue from Amazon affiliate links. We're very open about that. We couldn't afford to do what we do if our revenue were based solely on networked ads. If you look around on the site, you'll see that we work with other affiliates as well, and we've even recommended products for which we didn't have an affiliate relationship.

2) TMK, none of the ukes we tested were clones. I don't have the samples handy right now, but as I recall, the only ones that looked at all similar were the Oscar Schmidt and Cordoda concerts, and the Oscar Schmidt (at least the sample we got) had inferior tuners. Of course, some of them likely came from the same factory, but that's the way of the world these days.

3) I tested models that either got great reviews somewhere on the web, and in general that I was able to get samples of, although we bought a couple we felt were important to include but weren't able to get a response from. Eventually we will do an update on this article, so if there are any models you think we should test, please let us know in the comments section of that article.

4) We decided to limit the price to $120 because dealers (even McCabe's!) told me $100 is about the max that a beginner would normally spend on a uke.

Thanks for reading the article!

---BB

Rllink
06-23-2017, 06:11 AM
Yes i rather liked the Donner I reviewed. Much better than the likes of Caramel.

As for this video - typical of so many new 'review' sites these days - they are nothing more than Amazon affiliate sites. Every click likely to get revenue from an Amazon sale. Plus the web page lost all credibility for me when it says that Luna are 'great'... ugh..The thing about Amazon reviews, or Best Buy, or any of those type of reviews, is that a lot of people get something, look at it, play with it for a few minutes, then can't wait to write a review of how much they love their brand new purchase. The question, how long do you use something before you can give it a fair review? I don't have the answer to that. But another thing, my wife was the VP of a software company and before that she was a technical writer. I know that she did not do this, but she was always talking about comapnies who had their staff writers who write reviews for their own software. How do you know who is a legit reviewer, and who is just a staff writer promoting a product?

ripock
06-25-2017, 06:23 AM
Actually I started with a Pono MT strung low-g and then I got a Cordoba 35T-SE strung high-g. I'm pretty sure it's still just nylon strings (Aguilla) on a Cordoba (I contacted them about this before I bought) although I suppose somebody could put flurocarbons on them but they don't come from Cordoba that way. By the way, I assume you got yours setup because I've heard that Cordoba's often need a nut high adjustment.

-- Gary

I believe that I got my Cordoba from Elderly instruments...I don't quite remember. However I do remember specifically asking the vendor to put on Worth low-g strings. From the get-go I had intended to make the Cordoba my warm-sounding ukulele. If they adjusted the nut, that's something they did of their own accord. All I know is that it played great right out of the box...except for having to re-tune it every day for a while 'til the strings stretched out. It was probably the second best lump of money I have spent...the first being the $35 I paid for my wife.

Nickie
06-25-2017, 03:19 PM
...the first being the $35 I paid for my wife.

What? Huh?

ripock
06-25-2017, 06:15 PM
What? Huh?

Marriage licenses cost $35 in those days.

buddhuu
06-25-2017, 10:53 PM
We received a report suggesting that Brent's post above is an advertisement.

Having read through the thread, I find that not to be the case. The post was a response to discussion of the article and was formulated in a reasonable, non-spammy way. The merits of the affiliate status of the site where the article was published are not UU's concern, so long as no one posts promotionally here in an attempt to drive traffic to tht affiliate site.

Bear that in mind and the discussion can carry on.

Thanks.

Estudiante
06-28-2017, 03:47 AM
GRETSCH concert. For my son's first ukulele I bought a Gretsch "standard" concert...the model number may be 9110...set up by Elderly Instruments. It has a very tight, bright sound and good intonation. He's been playing it for about a year with the Ukulele In the Classroom curriculum...no issues at all. The body on this model seems a bit smaller than other concerts I've seen. Only $120. I recommend it.

Nickie
06-28-2017, 04:06 PM
Lo and behold, Monday at the beginning of the Kid's Summer Ukulele Classes, in walks a little girl with a Donner. 1st one I've ever seen. Her Mom said it was a gift. I didn't have time to play it, but it looked pretty good. Unfortunately, it is a concert model, too large for her. We loaned her a soprano (Waterman), which, IMHO, isn't half the uke that the Donner is.

Choirguy
06-28-2017, 06:47 PM
Nickie,

Related topic...I'm getting a good amount of those TBUS Beginner Songs into video format. Just added "In The Jailhouse Now." Not all of them are in the same key [most are, by design] but they might be a fun thing to play through on the last day.

I might pick up some Donners for our choir program this year...along with some Outdoor Ukuleles.

Nickie
06-29-2017, 05:39 PM
Well, it certainly has been fun! Today, they actually sounded as though they were playing together. 4 of the gals fingerpicked some tabbed songs with me. Tomorrow they all give us a concert, and then they get their diplomas. We'll have about 20 graduating from the 1st Summer Camp!

bazmaz
07-04-2017, 07:08 AM
Sorry - repeated point..

bazmaz
07-04-2017, 07:11 AM
1) Yes, Wirecutter gets much of its revenue from Amazon affiliate links. We're very open about that. We couldn't afford to do what we do if our revenue were based solely on networked ads. If you look around on the site, you'll see that we work with other affiliates as well, and we've even recommended products for which we didn't have an affiliate relationship.



---BB

When you say 'couldn't afford it' - I've been writing reviews for 9 years and dont get 'paid'. My issue is not with the amazon use (I have used it, and I use Google ads) - its more about the fact that each uke is linked to an amazon page. Many of these are available in real bricks and mortar stores that amazon are putting out of business.

Added to which one of the 'reviews' bases it's justifcation on the amount of stars it has on Amazon. Surely anyone in their right minds knows that Amazon reviews are deeply flawed?

Rllink
07-04-2017, 08:35 AM
When you say 'couldn't afford it' - I've been writing reviews for 9 years and dont get 'paid'. My issue is not with the amazon use (I have used it, and I use Google ads) - its more about the fact that each uke is linked to an amazon page. Many of these are available in real bricks and mortar stores that amazon are putting out of business.

Added to which one of the 'reviews' bases it's justifcation on the amount of stars it has on Amazon. Surely anyone in their right minds knows that Amazon reviews are deeply flawed?
If you are not getting paid to do reviews of all those ukuleles and ukulele related products, why do you do it? I've gone to your site many times and it is impressive to say the least. I'm thinking that it is much more than a hobby to maintain such a site. As far a Wirecutter, which I never heard of before this thread, that's the way they make a living, and I'm okay with that. I take that into account when I read it. I take a little exception to calling it a review of the "best ukuleles for beginners" though. I mean, how can you even determine what is best for someone? Ukulele reviews are a dime a dozen. There are so many people out there reviewing ukuleles that it just gets confusing to even try to get something out of them. I ran into that when I was looking for my first ukulele. Now that I have a bit of experience and actually know what I like, sometimes they are fun to read, but I don't give any of them much weight. As I grow in my ukulele experience I realize that most people reviewing ukuleles are not on the same page of the book that I am anyway. I often times don't buy into their justifications for giving a particular ukulele whatever they give it, be it stars or bars or numbers to rate them. Anyway, neither here nor there. I got no problem with Amazon. The times they are a changing. But I still think that the customer ratings on Amazon are worthless as a guide to buying any product.

Graham Greenbag
07-04-2017, 10:46 AM
Are Amazon customer reviews really worthless?? That's not my experience of them at all but I would agree that their validity should always be questioned and that they are best treated as indicative rather than definative. The 'customer' review system is open to some abuse both to praise someone's product or dam a competing one so 'Caveat Emptor' applies, one has to read the comments too and get a feel for how well placed the reviewer is to usefully judge the particular product. As with all things YMMV.

Edit: Rllink: "I got no problem with Amazon. The times they are a changing. But I still think that the customer ratings on Amazon are worthless as a guide to buying any product."

Edit: 'one has to read the comments too and get a feel for how well placed the reviewer is to ...... ' to read: 'as well as looking at the star rating one has to look at the comments too and get a feel for how well placed the reviewer is to .... '

Reason for edits: clarification of what I was responding to and of my answering comments.

bazmaz
07-04-2017, 10:46 AM
For fun? For something to do? Because I enjoy it? My day job is a Partner in a property consultancy.

But you missed my point. My concern was NOT about sites trying to make money - I take money it helps pay for hosting and keeping site going (though not as a living, more as self sufficiency). My concern was how all of the 'best' were amazon sourced. Despite me disagreeing with some as I think they are dreadful, my concern is to do with turning people to amazon when I think some great ukulele specialists will serve them better.

I too dont like the 'best' tag. There are many on there that are not featured. It also pays no regard to scale choice and assumes constant quality control across all brands, which is rarely the case.

There ARE a lot of reviewers - i am one of them - been doing it for years. But I dont review to try to cover EVERYTHING. I cant - there isnt the time to make that possible. I review in the hope that people search reviews before buying, find mine and read. They dont have to agree with them, and that's fine too. But I dont review for money.

bazmaz
07-04-2017, 10:50 AM
Are Amazon customer reviews really worthless?? That's not my experience of them at all but I would agree that their validity should always be questioned and that they are best treated as indicative rather than definative. The 'customer' review system is open to some abuse both to praise someone's product or dam a competing one so 'Caveat Emptor' applies, one has to read the comments too and get a feel for how well placed the reviewer is to usefully judge the particular product. As with all things YMMV.

'Worthless' was probably an over reaction - but certainly they need some care taking. They are often the reviews of people who jump quickly to review with short experience of the product I find. I've seen enough truly dreadful instruments with 5 stars saying 'brilliant' to know that they are questionable.

Nickie
07-04-2017, 01:52 PM
For fun? For something to do? Because I enjoy it? My day job is a Partner in a property consultancy.

But you missed my point. My concern was NOT about sites trying to make money - I take money it helps pay for hosting and keeping site going (though not as a living, more as self sufficiency). My concern was how all of the 'best' were amazon sourced. Despite me disagreeing with some as I think they are dreadful, my concern is to do with turning people to amazon when I think some great ukulele specialists will serve them better.

I too dont like the 'best' tag. There are many on there that are not featured. It also pays no regard to scale choice and assumes constant quality control across all brands, which is rarely the case.

There ARE a lot of reviewers - i am one of them - been doing it for years. But I dont review to try to cover EVERYTHING. I cant - there isnt the time to make that possible. I review in the hope that people search reviews before buying, find mine and read. They dont have to agree with them, and that's fine too. But I dont review for money.

The fact that you don't review for money is why I read your reviews. Your views aren't skewed by greed. I DO have a problem with Amazon, I'll go there to save money on a book, or too buy something i can't find here, but I'd NEVER buy an ukulele there.
I constantly try to steer beginner uke players AWAY from Amazon. There are plenty of honest, caring, and decent folks with B&M stores selling ukes at very close to their cost, just barely paying the bills. But, our economy sucks, unless you're a mega-corporation.
And, Barry is right, no uke is best for everyone. As much as I love my uke, not everyone would. (One friend tried twice to trade me a uke worth twice as much for it). I suggested she buy her own, and she did.
I think Barry's hobby is very cool, and very generous. He doesn't ask for anything in return. I think slamming him is in very poor taste and you who do it can just sod off for all I care. He doesn't need to defend himself at all, IMHO.

hoosierhiver
07-04-2017, 03:31 PM
Maybe a better title would be "Best beginner ukuleles sold by Amazon as reviewed by someone who makes money promoting Amazon".

bazmaz
07-04-2017, 07:37 PM
Maybe a better title would be "Best beginner ukuleles sold by Amazon as reviewed by someone who makes money promoting Amazon".

Bang on the nail Mike!

Dooke
07-05-2017, 04:22 AM
This thread is so predictable.

Same bias, same conclusions. Same BS.

Only one opinion matters to the fan base here. It is pathetic and sad. It taints the entire site.

I give honest Amazon reviews. I read enough Amazon reviews to know how to interpret them too. But at the end of the day it doesn't matter because Amazon will give me my money back without a hassle if I am not happy.

The important thing is to get an instrument and start. High action? No worries, you are beginner and it will make you stronger later. Bad intonation? It will teach you how to play in tune when your instrument isn't. Read up on tempered instruments if you have a minute https://www.google.com/search?q=tempered+instruments&oq=tempered+&aqs=chrome.2.0j69i57j35i39j0l3.6226j0j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

My recommendation for a beginner uke? The one that you can afford and appeals to you. I have two Caramels that serve me well.

bazmaz
07-05-2017, 05:05 AM
High action? No worries, you are beginner and it will make you stronger later.

Wow............

Tenor
07-05-2017, 05:10 AM
Excellent link, thanks. It's going to take me, at least, quite a while to absorb it all, but I'm certainly going to try.

Also, I like Southcoast's series of articles on tuning: http://www.southcoastukes.com/019-1.htm,
as well as Paul Guy's "Tuning the Guitar": http://www.guyguitars.com/eng/handbook/Tuning/tuning.html

Dooke
07-05-2017, 05:53 AM
Excellent link, thanks. It's going to take me, at least, quite a while to absorb it all, but I'm certainly going to try.

Also, I like Southcoast's series of articles on tuning: http://www.southcoastukes.com/019-1.htm,
as well as Paul Guy's "Tuning the Guitar": http://www.guyguitars.com/eng/handbook/Tuning/tuning.html

Thanks, Tenor. Some good info there. I learned to play on horribly set up instruments. Learning to compensate for problems can make you a stronger player but it would be nice if stringed instruments were more like electric pianos. :)

maki66
07-22-2017, 08:21 AM
Hello, this my first post and I purchased the Donner DUC1 from amazon. Pretty much what RLLink stated were my reasons. I wanted to try a ukulele but did not want to spend a lot on something that might be a short term adventure. I have had the Donner for about a month and have enjoyed playing it. I am still learning to strum and learn the chords but it has been a good investment at this point.

I too bought a Donner DCU1 ukulele from Amazon. It was $42 on Prime Day. It came with a case, strap, extra set of strings. and tuner.
Its my second ukulele in two weeks, so my opinion is a n00bs, but I thought is sounds great for the money and way better then my buddies Kala Waterman.
The soprano is quite a bit harder to fret than my tenor but that is to be expected with my big hands.

rlbccb
07-22-2017, 11:01 AM
I too bought a Donner DCU1 ukulele from Amazon. It was $42 on Prime Day. It came with a case, strap, extra set of strings. and tuner.
Its my second ukulele in two weeks, so my opinion is a n00bs, but I thought is sounds great for the money and way better then my buddies Kala Waterman.
The soprano is quite a bit harder to fret than my tenor but that is to be expected with my big hands.

I am still playing the Donner almost daily but have added Martin 600 strings to it(very happy with the sound).I also have Purchased a scale ruler and checked the string height at 1st and 12th frets. The Donner was at the lowest amount as I have read is recommended here on UU. I also added a second Uke, an Ohana concert 70RB (solid spruce top). I am trying GHS strings out on it. Scale ruler showed it slight higher on the saddle side than the Donner but I have not adjusted either one.

maki66
07-22-2017, 12:37 PM
Hey Bazmaz, I know you from you tube. Great stuff on your blog too.

bazmaz
07-22-2017, 09:41 PM
Thanks Maki66 - appreciated.

Newportlocal
07-22-2017, 09:59 PM
Hi, everybody. I'm the one who wrote the article on Wirecutter. Thanks for your feedback here, it's helpful. To answer a couple of your questions:

1) Yes, Wirecutter gets much of its revenue from Amazon affiliate links. We're very open about that. We couldn't afford to do what we do if our revenue were based solely on networked ads. If you look around on the site, you'll see that we work with other affiliates as well, and we've even recommended products for which we didn't have an affiliate relationship.

2) TMK, none of the ukes we tested were clones. I don't have the samples handy right now, but as I recall, the only ones that looked at all similar were the Oscar Schmidt and Cordoda concerts, and the Oscar Schmidt (at least the sample we got) had inferior tuners. Of course, some of them likely came from the same factory, but that's the way of the world these days.

3) I tested models that either got great reviews somewhere on the web, and in general that I was able to get samples of, although we bought a couple we felt were important to include but weren't able to get a response from. Eventually we will do an update on this article, so if there are any models you think we should test, please let us know in the comments section of that article.

4) We decided to limit the price to $120 because dealers (even McCabe's!) told me $100 is about the max that a beginner would normally spend on a uke.

Thanks for reading the article!

---BB

I have read many reviews on different things on wired and enjoy the site. Amazon has flea and fluke ukuleles under $200 that are great ukuleles for a beginner.

bighatbulls
07-23-2017, 03:24 PM
My first ukulele was the Hal Leonard starter pack like this one https://www.amazon.com/Hal-Leonard-650804-Starter-Ukulele/dp/1458491269

It was ok, it has a nice tone. However, I think I would still be playing it if the action hadn't been high, if it didn't have a buzz, if my strumming finger wouldn't get caught up in the strings, and if I could play it longer than 30 minutes at a time.

Yeah it cost 40 bucks, and yes I have considered putting 40 more bucks into it so it plays nicer.

Rllink
07-24-2017, 02:52 AM
I think that is interesting that when I first got interested in ukuleles I never once came across Donner ukuleles in my research. Then for four years I never heard once about a Donner ukulele, until just recently in this article. Now I see Amazon adds for them everywhere. They are really pushing them.

Choirguy
07-24-2017, 03:15 AM
If you are seeing Amazon ads, it is because you looked them up on Amazon and your cookies are resulting in those ads popping up!

Rllink
07-24-2017, 03:32 AM
If you are seeing Amazon ads, it is because you looked them up on Amazon and your cookies are resulting in those ads popping up!
Yep, except I have been looking at a lot of other ukuleles too. A lot more than I have looked at the Donner. I'm getting pop ups of some of those as well, but the Donner is showing up ten times more often than the Kalas and the others that I've been looking at. It is interesting how Amazon reads me and what they put in front of me as a result. They must have a lot of Donners to get rid of.

Booli
07-24-2017, 06:25 AM
... It is interesting how Amazon reads me and what they put in front of me as a result...

Amazon will track and record your searches and what you are interested in, and if you are logged in to your Amazon account, this info is SAVED into your account, and if you are NOT logged in to Amazon, they still track and record your habits, with a combination of browser cookies, HTML Canvas fingerprinting, and/or 'hidden' 1-pixel images, just like 99% of the internet nowadays, of which the most penetrating offenders are also Google, Yahoo, Facebook...

If you wish to avoid being tracked, there are standard countermeasures you can take by installing 3-4 different add-ons into your web browser, but most people do not realize just how all of this works, and thus they are tracked, profiled and their habits are for sale to advertising networks, and other 3rd-parties unknown.

These tracking and profiling functions are all documented either in the 'Terms Of Service' and 'Privacy Policy' documents that are presented when you create an account, but NOBODY ever reads them and just ticks the box 'I Agree' because they just dont know any better...

Welcome to INTERNET 2017, where INTERNET watches you! :)

"If the service is FREE, then YOU are the product being sold!" - which applies to all Google services, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc...

Rllink
07-24-2017, 07:46 AM
Amazon will track and record your searches and what you are interested in, and if you are logged in to your Amazon account, this info is SAVED into your account, and if you are NOT logged in to Amazon, they still track and record your habits, with a combination of browser cookies, HTML Canvas fingerprinting, and/or 'hidden' 1-pixel images, just like 99% of the internet nowadays, of which the most penetrating offenders are also Google, Yahoo, Facebook...

If you wish to avoid being tracked, there are standard countermeasures you can take by installing 3-4 different add-ons into your web browser, but most people do not realize just how all of this works, and thus they are tracked, profiled and their habits are for sale to advertising networks, and other 3rd-parties unknown.

These tracking and profiling functions are all documented either in the 'Terms Of Service' and 'Privacy Policy' documents that are presented when you create an account, but NOBODY ever reads them and just ticks the box 'I Agree' because they just dont know any better...

Welcome to INTERNET 2017, where INTERNET watches you! :)

"If the service is FREE, then YOU are the product being sold!" - which applies to all Google services, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc...

I have an account, but I don't log into it to look at things. I don't buy hardly anything from them, and I don't care if they are tracking me when I look at things on their site. I'm not a private person. But what I'm saying is that I've looked at twenty or thirty different ukuleles on Amazon the last month or so. They can't put them all up there, so their algorithm has to pick what I have the highest probability of buying. I think that it is interesting that I'm getting mostly Donner popups, and not very many of the other brands, particularly Kala. I am looking at Kalas a lot more than Donners. In fact, I think that I only went to their site to look at a Donner when I read that article and not since. So evidently they aren't interested in what I'm looking at the most. Anyway, it is just conversation, because it does not annoy me. It makes me curious, how they pick what they think they can entice me to buy. It certainly is not a Donner Ukulele. So that is why I think that they are pushing them, and their algorithm is programed to push them. If they were pushing what I'm looking at the most, they would be putting a Kala KA-SEM in their popups that they send me.

Benjolele
07-26-2017, 03:10 PM
Regardless of the testers or the choice of instruments, I feel like the credibility of the whole thing is reduced simply by the fact that it seems to be an advertisement for amazon.

JackLuis
07-28-2017, 03:37 AM
I consider the article to be valid as far as it goes, but there are a lot of Uke makers and woods and strings and other variables, plus each Uke is bound to be a little different. For them to pick three Ukes and say "Best" is a little silly.

I read Barry's review of the Caramel CC-102 and found it fair, but he shouldn't judge Caramel as a whole brand on one example of the cheapest uke's they make. I mean, what can you expect for $40? That's like complaining that all Chevys are trash because the Vega you bought fell apart six months after the warranty ran out.

I have a Caramel CC-100 ($55) with the older 'tribal flames' rosette and would like to replace it with another that has the newer leaf and vine rosette, but after a local shop $15 setup and some EJ99's it sounds so good I'm afraid that a new one might not sound as good. I have a CT-100 (Tenor $65) and a CB-103 (Bari $75) that came nicely set up and almost perfectly intoned. (I'm a sucker for Zebrawood.) I had to file the fret ends a bit and change strings, but for under $100 I don't consider that a deal breaker.

Last January I bought a "good" Ohana Cedar and solid Rosewood TK-50G from Mim. Is it better than my Caramels, yes, prettier and easy to play, but is it worth 5x the cost of my CT-100? No. Am I concerned, not even a little. The Caramels got me playing and I learned to appreciate my TK-50G. I just need to learn how to make it sound as good as possible, and finger pick, and read music, and ....

The best Uke is the one you can afford and make music with. :music:

Prattism@gmail.com
07-28-2017, 10:10 AM
From someone who is still somewhat of a beginner on a ukulele, with 40 years of guitar background, I've owned the first two ukuleles listed, the Donner and the Cordoba. The Cordoba was one of my earliest purchases after playing it. The Donner was bought on a whim after hearing about it.

I own a lot of ukuleles, some great, some good, some not-so-good. Some expensive, some cheap. Waterman, Kala, Lanikai, Caramel, Mitchell, Pono, Bruce Wei, Cordoba, Kanilea, Kamaka, Mya-Moe - you get the idea.

I found both the Donner and the Cordoba 15CM to be very playable, stay in tune, reasonable action, and nice tone. They were both good enough to get a lot of early playing time and to get passed on to my daughter and my niece, who were very appreciative. The Cordobas (my 15CM and 35TS-CE) both had high nuts which needed some light work. I'm not an expert but some inexpensive files from Harbor Freight, a little time watching youtube videos, and a nervous 20 minutes of work had both Cordobas playing much easier.

As far as other inexpensive beginner instruments go, I think the Kala KA-S and the Caramel CT400 were more than decent instruments. The Soprano is smaller than I prefer to play, and the Caramel was surprisingly nice to play, but not as good as my Lanikai Monkey-Pod (a gift). Those both got relegated to the wall once I settled in on playing Tenors and picked up some good ones.

As for getting a sub-$100 setup uke at a brick and mortar store, I don't know any around here that will do that, nor do the better online stores sell ukuleles for under a hundred bucks with free setup.

Admittedly, once I purchased my Pono (nevermind the Kanile'a or Mya-Moe) my 'beginner' ukuleles got zero playing time. I was happy to pass them on, and if the girls get the bug, I will be happy to pass on even better ones (since I rarely play anything other than my top half-dozen). I'll probably give them the Fluke and the Pono - very good ukuleles I picked up for very reasonable $$. (Alright, the Pono was not inexpensive, but as good as it is, it deserves more playing time)

That said, the Donner and the Cordoba were a great start for me, and were inexpensive enough to take the original dive and decide if I was going to stick with it. My daughter and niece play the heck out of theirs. Are there better ones? Perhaps, depending on the individual. Are they good beginner ukuleles, inexpensive, easy to access no matter where you live, and likely to be playable, hold a tune, and have reasonable action? I'd have to say so, from my experience. Plus, you don't have to worry about pampering them.

I'd have no problem recommending a Kala KA-S Soprano (~$70), Donner DUC-1 Concert (~$65), or Caramel CT400 Tenor (~$60) to a beginner with a small budget. As long as they don't mind waiting weeks for the Caramel. Throw in a Snark Tuner and you're off to a great start.

bazmaz
07-31-2017, 02:30 AM
I read Barry's review of the Caramel CC-102 and found it fair, but he shouldn't judge Caramel as a whole brand on one example of the cheapest uke's they make.

No - I don't judge the whole brand - there is an intro / explanation on my blog about what my reviews mean - they are ONLY my views on the one in front of me. It's the same reason I get frustrated when people pick them apart - almost like they want me to ignore the issues I am seeing before me and either lie or... I dunno...

All they ever can be is one persons opinion of one particular example.

bazmaz
07-31-2017, 02:31 AM
Regardless of the testers or the choice of instruments, I feel like the credibility of the whole thing is reduced simply by the fact that it seems to be an advertisement for amazon.


That's the way I see it too. THere are some brands that you dont see on Amazon and for that reason they dont make the list for testing. Perhaps the article would be better titled "Best Ukuleles You Can Buy On Amazon"...

Joe King
08-01-2017, 02:46 AM
I'd never seen many of these brand
names before.

Article looks like Amazon spam to me.

I do not trust it.

Nickie
08-01-2017, 04:13 PM
I have, nor have I ever had, any desire whatever to buy a uke off Amazon. However, I feel like I need to walk into these discussions because many times I am asked by beginners "Will you sell me a uke/Where can I get a uke?"
I would never tell a beginner to buy a uke off Amazon.
See, what it boils down to, to me, is that a beginner doesn't know that her uke needs to be set up, let alone be able to do it herself. I've been playing for several years, and I still don't own a fret file.
I see so many poorly set up ukes, that I'm considering buying some files and learning to do setups from You Tube, or my luthier, who is weary of doing them, keeps him away from building.

Choirguy
08-01-2017, 06:12 PM
I will be able to comment more tomorrow after 10 more of the Enya ukuleles arrive, but perhaps we have a first vendor that can be trusted to have every ukulele set up correctly from Amazon? If memory serves, The Ukulele Site was once on Amazon.

I also wanted to say that I never intended for this thread to have such a long life (I would rather keep reading new entries on the "How did the ukulele find you" thread). It was an article that surfaced somewhere, and in particular I found it amazing that Donner was listed just after hearing about it for the first time from Got a Ukulele. I never meant for this to be an anti (or pro) Amazon thread, and honestly, didn't even pay attention to that aspect when I posted the original post!

Nickie
08-07-2017, 09:13 AM
Sorry 'bout that Choirguy....some of us can't help but hijack a thread now and then.

joshsimpson79
08-08-2017, 04:48 AM
You can, but there is a risk in doing so. While some UU members are focused on the quality of the instrument for the beginner (and yes, I have seen the suggestion of a Kamaka as a first instrument), one of the more common bits of advice is to buy a ukulele from a dealer that sets up the instrument for a common string action, rather than getting a ukulele from a big vendor.

Higher action means harder to play. Higher action due to a high nut means that beginner chords on the first fret are harder to play. And theoretically, an instrument that is set up right should play more closely in tune.

So the suggestion to not buy from eBay or Amazon as a first instrument is generally good advice. That said, Mim's store front is via eBay...and she is one of the best out there.

Just be sure to call her. Should would rather avoid ebay fees, and she might throw in a case or something and it's a win win for both.

jisa
08-08-2017, 07:57 AM
I haven't heard of the brands, but it's not Amazon spam--the Wirecutter is well regarded. This might not be their area of expertise, they might be wrong, but they aren't scammers.

Patrick Madsen
08-08-2017, 08:04 AM
A buddy came over yesterday with two uke he bought. One was 27.00 the other 31.00. I'm used to hi end uke but these were wonderful, spot on action and intonation.https://m.banggood.com/Deviser-Ukulele-UK-LA5-26-Inch-Four-string-Guitar-Spruce-Panel-p-985538.html?rmmds=search.
https://m.banggood.com/TUT-200-Tom-26-Inch-Uke-Ukulele-Mahogany-Rose-Wood-With-Gig-Bag-p-1042012.
htmlrmmds=searchhttps://m.banggood.com/search/ukuleles.html

Rllink
08-08-2017, 09:08 AM
A buddy came over yesterday with two uke he bought. One was 27.00 the other 31.00. I'm used to hi end uke but these were wonderful, spot on action and intonation.https://m.banggood.com/Deviser-Ukulele-UK-LA5-26-Inch-Four-string-Guitar-Spruce-Panel-p-985538.html?rmmds=search.
https://m.banggood.com/TUT-200-Tom-26-Inch-Uke-Ukulele-Mahogany-Rose-Wood-With-Gig-Bag-p-1042012.
htmlrmmds=searchhttps://m.banggood.com/search/ukuleles.html

I see that they are selling Kakas too. I think that someone was talking about them a while ago.
https://m.banggood.com/Kaka-21-23-26-Inch-Koa-Panel-Ukulele-with-Gig-Bag-KUSPCT-70-p-1035586.html?rmmds=detail-bottom-alsolike

Choirguy
08-08-2017, 12:48 PM
Kaka is the same company as Enya. Not sure what to make of the Deviser...the audio sample wouldn't make me want to buy one. They are saying it is solid spruce and rosewood. That's can't be at $34.