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robedney
08-19-2017, 05:49 AM
I love wood, and I've worked with a whole lot of it over the years. On the other hand, wood has limitations as a material for instruments. Most of us realize that wooden ukes require greater care than -- for example -- laminates.

One of the things that concerns me (and the reason behind this post) is the sort of generalized thinking that a solid wood instrument will be better than something made out of high pressure laminate, or some other alternative material -- particularly when this thinking is passed along as gospel to beginning players/buyers.

Ukes made from alternative like laminates, plastics, carbon fiber or others should not suffer from being labeled as inferior. Some will tell you -- with great authority -- that wood is the only proper material and that anything else is nothing more than congealed snot.

Wood is -- by its wonderful nature -- a highly variable material. For reasons having to do with species, weather during growth, mineral content of water/soil, how it's cut from the log, how it's seasoned and a host of other factors, any given piece of wood will have its own "fingerprint" when it comes to producing sound.

In the hands of a skilled builder this is all taken into account. The thickness can be varied and even the bracing pattern tweaked to coax the desired sound out of an individual piece.

That's not how most wooden ukes are built. So, here's the thing:

Laminates are relatively consistent when compared to wood. That allows a maker to optimize things like plate thickness, bracing pattern/density/thickness, etc. to work well with the material -- and that result will be repeatable.

In other words, a well made laminate uke well often be cheaper and sound better than a factory made comparable of solid wood. Moreover, particularly for beginners, it will be the sort of instrument that you can leave out on the table, toss into the car and take to the beach.

There are some makers of wooden instruments who have elevated the craft to an art -- and such instruments are well worth owning. However, instruments of that sort deserve thoughtful care. I have yet to meet anyone who could actually play a high-end uke while it resided inside a humidity controlled case.

If playing is your thing, a well made non-wood instrument may well be your best bet. Even if you are bitten by the collecting bug, you will likely find that a non-wood instrument is the one you play the most.

These forum are filled with folks looking to "move-up" to a solid wood instrument -- and that's fine. However, nobody should feel in the least inferior -- or deprived -- for playing a well made alternative. If music on the go is your thing it may well be the superior option!

Tootler
08-19-2017, 07:13 AM
The last three ukes I bought have all been laminates and the all have excellent tone and it's not just my opinion but others have spontaneously commented how good they sound. None have excessive thickness in the top, all have been well set up and are a pleasure to play and none of them are expensive.

I have solid wood instruments as well and I like those too. I choose which to play according to I think will sound right for a particular song and the materials they are made from don't really have any effect. It's what the particular instrument sounds like that matters.

Croaky Keith
08-19-2017, 07:36 AM
I am presently rationalizing my 'collection', those that are going do happen to be laminate, (& one plastic), but that isn't why they are going.

They are my first loved ukes that I don't need any more, & I know some would say that I don't do justice to the ones I'm keeping, but I like them, & that's all that counts as far as I'm concerned. :)

Each of my ukes have cost less than £300, most around the £150 mark, & they are certainly better than I will ever need. ;)

Of those that I'm keeping, 4 are laminate, 2 are solid tops, 4 are solid wood, & the other 3 are basically bits of wood with stings on, (sorry RISA). :smileybounce:

DownUpDave
08-19-2017, 08:12 AM
Intereting post. I have to ask you to clarify laminate, do you mean "wood laminate". If so I am going to play devils advocate and say your statement is contradictory. A wood laminate is subject to all the same "variables" as a solid piece when it comes to sound, wood is wood. So one laminate uke can sound very different from the other even being the same make and model, as can all solid wood ukes. No doubt a laminate can withstand humidity swings better, but they will not have a more consistent sound from one instrument to the other.

Ukes I own are all solid wood, solid top with laminate back and sides, all laminate and a Black bird Farallon made from ekoa, a non-wood material. I dont own any HPL (formica, Wilsonart, etc) ukes but that is about to change. I've been looking at Bonanza and Enya X1. I enjoy them all, they can sound good no matter the material.

robedney
08-19-2017, 11:29 AM
DownUpDave, I tend to say "laminate" in reference to the family of high pressure laminates, which includes Formica, Wilsonart, etc. A maker can use something off the shelf or specify something specific. These materials are remarkably consistent (from an acoustic point of view). As you note, wood laminate (or "plywood") is a different material. It is indeed more consistent than solid wood -- particularly when made for instruments. Traditional violin makers will carve top plates and frequently stop to both tap and flex the plates. This is much less resistance to flexing across the grain as opposed to with it in solid wood. This "flex" is particularly important acoustically. In wood laminates the flex differential is eliminated or moderated by laying up the veneers at right angles to each other -- making something much more stable -- both mechanically and acoustically. In ply, the glue lines also serve to homogenize the acoustical activity of the wood by freezing the fibers in position.

Simply said, you can specify the thickness of the material and design the bracing pattern to account for the baseline acoustical properties of the material on a consistent basis. This works swell in a factory setting -- as opposed to an individual, capable maker who accounts for the individual nature of a piece of wood in the build.

The bottom line -- and my overstated point -- is, to quote you "...they can all sound good no matter the material".

Ukulelerick9255
08-19-2017, 07:26 PM
I don't think more expensive wood vs less expensive alternatives is necessarily a either or proposition. There is room for both in any persons collection. I own a gorgeous custom made Beau Hannam Selmer Macaferri Tenor made of Ziricote and figured redwood and of course I wouldn't take it to a beach. That's why I'm looking at less expensive alternatives for just those kind of situations and locations. When I play a less expensive instrument I don't look at as I'm playing an inferior instrument I look at it like I'm enjoying my surroundings and making music.

Graham Greenbag
08-19-2017, 08:17 PM
The original post was perhaps long and made a number of very valid points that have to some extent been set to one side in some subsequent posts - which is, of course, fine. To me, from an engineering perspective, solid wood isn't an ideal material for mass production and that's because of its variability and imperfections. To a Luthier who builds instruments individually and in a highly skilled way then perhaps solid wood works best - let others argue about that between them. However, for mass production, the great uniformity of the various forms of laminate allows constant manufacture of some (hopefully refined, developed and ideal) design. Martin's HPL instruments have had favourable comments, if I'm correct they are an acoustically optimised design made from a laminate who's qualities are known and do not vary.

Traditionally the best instruments have been made from all solid wood, but with changes in technology and science it seems quite reasonable to me to question the validity of that tradition. I find it logical and not at all hard to believe that, in the OP's own words, " ...... a well made laminate uke well often be cheaper and sound better than a factory made comparable of solid wood ......" . The question(s) is now surely how does the discerning buyer meaningfully differentiate between non solid wood instruments and if hand built instead of mass produced does your Luthier build well from the new materials?

Tof
08-19-2017, 10:24 PM
Interesting post, thanks Robert!

I have 3 ukes, 2 that I play daily: a Moore Bettah that lives in a case when not played, and a Blackbird Farallon made of eKoa that stays on the wall.

I live in Norway, and the Blackbird gets most of the play in the winter for obvious reason. It's a powerful strummer, with a very articulate sound finger picked and its own personality. I like it a lot.
But while Blackbird are boutique instruments, using the same consistent material and "building recipe" to make countless instruments in Asia is probably something technically possible. That would give us excellent instruments for a cheaper price... but...

My Moore Bettah is still by far my favorite uke though, and gets all the "quality time". It sounds more refined, has a ton of character, it plays even better... and on top of that it's much lighter and has a wonderful smell :-)
Is the main reason for this exceptionally sounding uke the fact that it's made of wood? Yes and no in my opinion.
Yes because the natural heterogeneity of wood requires expertise from the luthier to uniquely voice the instrument. It takes decades to become a good luthier, but then I think your ear and sensitivity becomes extremely sharp and comparable to your building skills. And that's how extraordinary instruments are made!
And no, because I'm convinced Chuck could make a good sounding instrument with any material with ok acoustic properties he could bend.

As for other non-solid instruments, my brother has a full laminate Kala made in China that sounds very decent and has excellent intonation. On top of that it looks really good!
I played it side-by-side with my Farallon this summer, and while not as loud and as "balanced" as the Blackbird it's a uke I took pleasure to play. So factory made laminate ukes are real instruments!

The only reason why I don't have any factory-made uke is that I try to favor craftsmen over machines, but it's a different discussion :-)

Booli
08-19-2017, 11:23 PM
Lot's of interesting, important and valid points being made here, however...

I would advise caution in making overly-generalized statements that lead to sweeping conclusions, for it is both a slippery slope and a fool's mind-trap to get caught up in all of it, especially as some have said if you goal is to make music.

Now, I will slide on the slope, just a little - In my own personal experience, I have not seen a lot of tonality difference in the materials of the instruments that I have owned and played...

Which includes (as well as others not listed here):

Kala KA-T tenor, laminated plywood w/mahogany veneer
Fluke and Flea, both tenor (4) and concert (2), laminated birch or pine top, but 'plastic' body
Fluke tenor, with all-solid koa top, but 'plastic' body
Mainland Slothead tenor, all-solid mahogany
Mainland longneck concert pineapple, all-solid mahogany
Kala KA-sSLNG longneck soprano, solid spruce top, laminated mahogany back and sides
Martin 0XK soprano, HPL formica with photographic print of koa


If you've been reading my 1000+ posts of my string experiments here on UU, with testing more than 100+ different sets of strings, hands-on, across these ukes above, and more than two dozen others, you will know that I have been searching for a specific tone from my instruments, and that strings can serve a function of an audio equalizer to adjust the audio spectrum +/- tonality of a given instrument (within the potential of the instrument itself)...

...and from these tests, I have developed, what I believe to be a discriminating ear (intonation that is more than +/- 4-5 cents off, is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me, and I simply cannot play such instruments) and have observed that STRINGS do more for the sound than ANY tonewood, or composition materials, and that as others have said above, one's PLAYING TECHNIQUE further does EVEN MORE for the sound of an instrument...

Yes, at times, I have taken the SAME instruments listed above (yes ALL of them) and put the SAME set of strings on ALL (appropriately-gaged set, as well as exact same set), and the sound is altered MORE by the strings than by what material the uke is built from...

(yes I have some OCD when it comes to the sound I hear in my head, and getting that sound from each instrument, but each uke now actually has DIFFERENT strings, such that I like to have different SOUNDS from each uke and different tunings on many of them, if the all sounded the same, NOW, even with different strings, then there would be no point in having more than 1-2 ukes for me.)

Now here is my sliding on the slippery slope even further...If you want to opine the benefits of one composition material over another, I will say that you are diving headlong into an abyss, because while everything being discussed here, will 'sound like an ukulele', what YOUR definition of the expectation of THAT sound is going to be different for each player, listener, and collector.

That's NOT to say that when you hear an ukulele, ANY of you, on a tv ad in the music being played, that it's instantly recognizable as an ukulele, and not a guitar or banjo, etc, but each of us may have a different target in mind for the sound that each INDIVIDUAL of us wants to hear when we play for ourselves and for others.

...and, I will also let you in on a little secret...when YOU are playing the uke, what YOU hear with YOUR own ears is NOT the exact same sound as someone sitting 5ft or 10ft away from you in the same room.

It is ALSO not the same sound that is coming out if a PA system or amplifier heard by folks 20-30 ft away from you, similarly with recordings, even using the best and most expensive microphones or pickup systems in an ideally perfect room in a million-dollar recording studio...

...so discussions of tonality vs uke composition are very much FOR THE PLAYER only, due to individually subjective hearing perception, for which there are fields of science called 'psychoacoustics' and 'cognitive perception'...

So, please dont be mad that I may suggest that 'the hunt for the best sounding uke' is a moot point, because that is NOT what I am saying....

What I am saying is that the pursuit of such a thing is so small in it's effect of YOUR playing music as heard by others, that it really ONLY matters to YOU, and nobody else.

The 'audience' only cares if you are making a pleasing sound, or a joyful noise and they are not thinking of how wonderful your solid-cedar top and rosewood back-and-sides uke sounds compared to an HPL or if the Makala Shark sounds 'plinky' or muddy - all they hear is a single, in-the-moment 'sound' of something that we can all agree upon, and this is simple ---

We can all agree, both ukulele player and audience, and both artisan luthier and Asian factory worker:

It sounds like an ukulele.


Having said the above, I've recently played a Martin C1K in a local shop and very much liked the sound, and previously played a Martin 1T IZ tenor and also very much liked the sound, and both had effortless playability and very very good intonation.

But these are all-solid koa and all-solid mahogany respectively. I did not have multiple examples of the same instrument to compare against in each instance.

Another random sample of the same instrument is likely to sound different, within the range of Martin's target sound spectrum and according to the variability of over a dozen other factors, so it's possible that should I play one of these in the future, that...

I may NOT like the sound of those other, different, examples of these instruments, again proving the point of the sound to THE PLAYER being completely subjective, and generalizations and dogma derived therein are dangerous for one to accept and/or follow.

For those interested in learning more:


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychoacoustics
http://thepowerofsound.net/psychoacoustics-defined/
https://www.getthatprosound.com/hacking-your-listeners-ears-9-psychoacoustic-sound-design-tricks-to-improve-your-music/

Croaky Keith
08-20-2017, 12:00 AM
:biglaugh: I knew it! - My uke sounds better than yours! :p :nana:

:cheers:

ripock
08-20-2017, 12:20 AM
I agree. I have a wonderful plastic soprano (Makala Waterman). Since I have a big-heart, let me tell you what I'll do. I will trade this beauty for anyone's stupid over-rated Martin soprano...no questions asked. Just to sweeten the deal, I will also throw in a plastic cylindrical cap from a bottle of cologne that you could use as a slide.

Booli
08-20-2017, 12:29 AM
:biglaugh: I knew it! - My uke sounds better than yours!


I agree. I have a wonderful plastic soprano (Makala Waterman). Since I have a big-heart, let me tell you what I'll do. I will trade this beauty for anyone's stupid over-rated Martin soprano...no questions asked. Just to sweeten the deal, I will also throw in a plastic cylindrical cap from a bottle of cologne that you could use as a slide.

:smileybounce:

I've said elswhere on the forum many times, it is whatever makes YOU happy, and allows YOU joy.

More power to you, all of you, for your own choices.

If you allow Hive Mind thinking to direct your actions, and follow a herd running towards the end of a cliff, without some critical thinking before taking the first step, and later regret that decision, the blame is not on the herd and it's actions, but on oneself.

Do what makes you happy.

Everything else, including my wall of text above, are just opinions, and are completely irrelevant if you want them to be. I am not one to judge.

Shaka \m/

Graham Greenbag
08-20-2017, 05:04 AM
A couple of great posts Booli, thanks.

I find it interesting to look at what combination of factors make great music and am quite surprised by the number of variables involved, there's just so many. As for material a respected and well known Luthier on this forum has a comparison video on YouTube of otherwise identical Ukes he made in Mahogony and Koa, as I recall he effectively said that he couldn't hear much if any difference between them. I thought the Koa was marginally nicer myself nut the most important feature by far was who built them / the design and how they were built. IMHO fancy woods are the icing in the cake but what's the point of icing if there's not a well made cake under it?

There is surely some hierarchy of importance in Ukulele build, if all the factors could be valued in some way for their contribution to sound quality output then the enhancement gained by using one (good instrument build grade) material over another must surely be small. Design, strings and quality of manufacture are the dominating factors which come together to provide the basis for a good instrument and only when they are optimised is there any value in the enhancement that solid wood might possibly give to sound, appearance is a separate issue IMHO but note the selling power of some fancy laminate finishes over others.

In the past there have been build challenges. Perhaps the Luthiers might like to challenge each other to see how good a build they could achieve using alternatives to solid wood, my guess is that the results could be surprisingly good. Perhaps Luthiers feel the need for solid wood because it enables them to put the icing on the (their) cake and so differentiate themselves from mass produce products; I don't know but that would seem logical to me and, in comparison to their time and overheads, it's hard to believe that the cost of solid wood over laminate material is significant. Personally I'm happy to play well made laminate Ukes - note that not all models and builds are of equal quality - that have been set up well and fitted with decent (to my ears) strings. In the mix of things, after getting some well made laminate sorted out, the player is almost always the limit on what sound is produce rather than the instrument.

robedney
08-20-2017, 06:19 AM
Lots of great points here! All things considered, it may be the uke you play the most that sounds the best. I say this because I've witnessed a phenomenon with violin/fiddle players that I find fascinating. A good player will very rapidly adopt to an instrument and draw the sound out of it that they are looking for. For example, let's say a given fiddle has a weak high end; a good player will almost immediately adjust bowing to increase and balance the high end with mids and lows to their liking. That leads nicely into Graham's point that "the player is almost always the limit on what sound is produced rather than the instrument".

On another point, Booli is (as usual) very right about what you hear as opposed to what your audience hears. Thus the often repeated wisdom of playing into the corner of a room with hard walls, thus reflecting the "out-front" sound back toward yourself, as opposed to pretty much exclusively the "under the ear" sound you usually hear.

This raises a point I wasn't entirely clear on in my original "wall of text" (love that description, Booli):

Their tends to be a notion that as one becomes more "serious" as a ukulele participant, one requires more "serious" instruments (thus the term "upgrade"). Notice that I said "ukulele participant" as opposed to "player". For most of us our uke obsession is about more than just playing -- it includes participating in a community, here on UU, in our meet-ups/clubs, festivals, workshops, etc. Also, inside our own heads :) It also includes the collecting bug.

The point is, then, to take into account what makes you happy, not so much what other people think should make you happy. If you're making music with a well made laminate uke, that may be all you ever need. On the other hand, the urge to collect various ukes is entirely understandable, perhaps unavoidable and maybe inevitable!

Booli
08-20-2017, 06:59 AM
Graham and Robert - very well said in both posts.

Despite each of us having our own way of seeing this group of topics, I think that we have more in common than what we dont, and that is something I both like to see, and like to acknowledge...so...

Thank you both and the others as well like Bill, for a very thoughtful and stimulating conversation here...

I am glad we can have such a civilized discussion on topics like this, in a good place like UU.

:)

DownUpDave
08-20-2017, 07:37 AM
Lots of great points here! All things considered, it may be the uke you play the most that sounds the best. I say this because I've witnessed a phenomenon with violin/fiddle players that I find fascinating. A good player will very rapidly adopt to an instrument and draw the sound out of it that they are looking for. For example, let's say a given fiddle has a weak high end; a good player will almost immediately adjust bowing to increase and balance the high end with mids and lows to their liking. That leads nicely into Graham's point that "the player is almost always the limit on what sound is produced rather than the instrument".

On another point, Booli is (as usual) very right about what you hear as opposed to what your audience hears. Thus the often repeated wisdom of playing into the corner of a room with hard walls, thus reflecting the "out-front" sound back toward yourself, as opposed to pretty much exclusively the "under the ear" sound you usually hear.

This raises a point I wasn't entirely clear on in my original "wall of text" (love that description, Booli):

Their tends to be a notion that as one becomes more "serious" as a ukulele participant, one requires more "serious" instruments (thus the term "upgrade"). Notice that I said "ukulele participant" as opposed to "player". For most of us our uke obsession is about more than just playing -- it includes participating in a community, here on UU, in our meet-ups/clubs, festivals, workshops, etc. Also, inside our own heads :) It also includes the collecting bug.

The point is, then, to take into account what makes you happy, not so much what other people think should make you happy. If you're making music with a well made laminate uke, that may be all you ever need. On the other hand, the urge to collect various ukes is entirely understandable, perhaps unavoidable and maybe inevitable!

Robert this is one of the best posts I have read here on UU regarding ukulele particpation and ownership.. It touches on all the important points. Players with high skill levels, average players and those that enjoy the aspect of collecting. The joy of music comes in many forms, the playing, listening, visual and the physical connection we have with our instruments.

Thanks for starting this thread. I respect your point of view and your broad knowledge base as an instrument builder. It adds credence to everything you say.

Were you not at one time experimenting with building a ukulele from non-wood material? I would be very interested in learning more about it and your progress with it.

robedney
08-22-2017, 04:29 AM
Thanks Booli and Dave! As a matter of fact I recently returned to the uke prototyping process. The carbon fiber ukes proved to be pretty darned good and there are a few in circulation that I gave to players. The problem, as I see it, is the price. They'd have to sell for close to $1000, and in my book that's a lot to pay (yes, I'm aware of Blackbird's very fine instruments). My recent efforts have been in finding a way to get the price down. Here's the current iteration:

Hand-laid, vacuum cured carbon fiber top plate of graduated thickness.
Vacuum formed ABS body and neck (astonishingly quick to make).
Wood for the fingerboard, bridge and headstock cover.

I call it the "hybrid". Most luthiers will tell you that much of the voicing of an instrument happens in the top plate, and that's true. The initial ABS bodies, however, didn't give me the main body resonance I wanted so I've been messing around with bracing to modify that. My latest mod is coming together right now and ought to be playable tomorrow or the next day and I'll post the results here.

I'm trying to get the price in at around $400 to $500 for a bench made instrument (we're a tiny shop, not a factory). This is a very durable instrument. When folks try it out and hand it back to me, I slap it down on a table or chair back pretty hard and it's always good for making folks jump. It's also essentially water proof for short periods of immersion (the wood bits are finished in tung oil but could be epoxy resin suitable for longer dipping, in which case you could play underwater).

My main instrument is one of these and I've grown to love it. It's very resonant and on the loud side, so you've got to train yourself to hold back a little in groups. It's never, ever been in a case or gig back. My set-up for heading out to our uke group is to either sling it over my back or drop it into an orange Home Depot bucket along with my music books, stand, tuner, Ipad and spare strings. I also often walk the dogs with it -- and so far they haven't complained.

DownUpDave
08-22-2017, 05:04 AM
Robert I applaud you for your efforts to get the price in the $500.00 range. This next statement may get me flamed but I don't think you have to go that low. A factory made Pono pro classic model starts at arond $700 and a Blackbird Farallon that is hand made so to speak starts at $1400. Most people realize small output numbers of handmade instruments will be more expense than factory made instruments. A price of $700 - $1000 would seem reasonable. If you can achieve the sound quality, looks and build quality you are after and sell them around $500.00 that would be fantastic. Best of luck and please offer a radius fret board as an option......I'd buy one.

robedney
08-22-2017, 05:26 AM
Hey Dave,

A few years back I built a CNC machine to carve our violin necks/fingerboards. So, you can have whatever radius you like :)

Rllink
08-22-2017, 07:31 AM
I'll address two things here. First of all tone, or sound, or whatever, most of us agree it is subjective. But taking that a little farther, the ukulele to me is nothing more than accompaniment. I have a Makala and a Mainland, and they both do the job. The Mainland is prettier and easier to play. They sound different. I do not particularly like the sound of one over the other. I am partial to the Mainland, for reasons that honestly I can not articulate. So I guess my point is, as I said, they both get the job done for me, and that is all I ask of a ukulele.

Second comment, I am a bit of traditionalist in both style and material. I like the hourglass shape and I like the looks of wood. To my eyes, my gloss mahogany Mainland with the rope perfil trim is beautiful. The so called mahogany Makala is plain. But I wonder what the Makala is made of because it is nearly indestructible? Despite years of going to the beach, and generally not being taken care of, there is hardly a scratch in it. That is not what one would expect from mahogany. My Mainland is more scratched up than my Makala, and I actually make an effort to care for it. So I ask myself all the time what the Makala is really made of?

Booli
08-22-2017, 08:23 AM
...So I ask myself all the time what the Makala is really made of?

Taking the role of "Mr. Literal" I quote Kala themselves:

Makala Concert MK-C $ 99.99 MSRP


The Makala Classic line is simply the best entry-level ukulele on the market. Sound and playability usually suffer when offered at these affordable prices, but not with the Makala. With a fantastic sound and vintage look, the Makala Classic line won’t break the bank.

SPECS


Size: Concert
Top: Mahogany
Back & Sides: Mahogany
Binding: NA
Finish: Satin
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Rosewood* OR Walnut (https://kalabrand.com/collections/makala-classic/products/mk-c#cites-div)
Nut & Saddle: Plastic
Headstock: Standard
Strings: Aquila Super Nylgut®
Electronics: NA

MEASUREMENTS

Scale Length: 14.875 inches, Overall Instrument Length: 24.125 inches, Body Length: 11.125 inches, Number of frets: 18, Width at upper bout: 6 inches, Width at lower bout: 8.25 inches, Width at waist: 4.875 inches, Body Depth: 2.75 inches, Fingerboard width at nut: 1.38 inches, Fingerboard width at neck/body joint: 1.73 inches

more info: https://kalabrand.com/collections/makala-classic/products/mk-c

Rllink
08-22-2017, 08:35 AM
Taking the role of "Mr. Literal" I quote Kala themselves:

Makala Concert MK-C $ 99.99 MSRP


The Makala Classic line is simply the best entry-level ukulele on the market. Sound and playability usually suffer when offered at these affordable prices, but not with the Makala. With a fantastic sound and vintage look, the Makala Classic line won’t break the bank.

SPECS


Size: Concert
Top: Mahogany
Back & Sides: Mahogany
Binding: NA
Finish: Satin
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Rosewood* OR Walnut (https://kalabrand.com/collections/makala-classic/products/mk-c#cites-div)
Nut & Saddle: Plastic
Headstock: Standard
Strings: Aquila Super Nylgut®
Electronics: NA

MEASUREMENTS

Scale Length: 14.875 inches, Overall Instrument Length: 24.125 inches, Body Length: 11.125 inches, Number of frets: 18, Width at upper bout: 6 inches, Width at lower bout: 8.25 inches, Width at waist: 4.875 inches, Body Depth: 2.75 inches, Fingerboard width at nut: 1.38 inches, Fingerboard width at neck/body joint: 1.73 inches

more info: https://kalabrand.com/collections/makala-classic/products/mk-c
Yes, those are the specs, and it says mahogany. I wonder if the mahogany veneer is so thin that they put some sort of indestructible finish over it to protect it?

Graham Greenbag
08-22-2017, 08:39 AM
To my eyes the Satin finish on the Makala doesn't shown up marks whereas a gloss finish does.

I had a Makala SN which worked nicely for me - I wish I'd spent just a little more on got a KA-15S instead but that's another issue - it's hard to fault them at the price and a decent set-up plus some Martin strings transformed mine for the better.

Booli
08-22-2017, 10:28 AM
Yes, those are the specs, and it says mahogany. I wonder if the mahogany veneer is so thin that they put some sort of indestructible finish over it to protect it?

Shhhh, dont tell anyone, but I heard that the magical elves in the forests where the wood is harvested have imbued Makala and Kala instruments with such a resistance to harm as you've described...i.e., they have 'ahem' blessed it with a magic spell...

But you did not hear this from me......:)

UkingViking
08-22-2017, 08:12 PM
Intereting post. I have to ask you to clarify laminate, do you mean "wood laminate". If so I am going to play devils advocate and say your statement is contradictory. A wood laminate is subject to all the same "variables" as a solid piece when it comes to sound, wood is wood. So one laminate uke can sound very different from the other even being the same make and model, as can all solid wood ukes. No doubt a laminate can withstand humidity swings better, but they will not have a more consistent sound from one instrument to the other.

Ukes I own are all solid wood, solid top with laminate back and sides, all laminate and a Black bird Farallon made from ekoa, a non-wood material. I dont own any HPL (formica, Wilsonart, etc) ukes but that is about to change. I've been looking at Bonanza and Enya X1. I enjoy them all, they can sound good no matter the material.

I am not a luthier, so I cannot say anything specifically about the sound.
But from a structural engineers viewpoint, plywood does in general have more consistent properties than solid wood.
I assume that a "laminate" has plies of some kind.
The naturally occurring weak points along some grains in the wood has a lot of influence on its behavior. When glueing together a few plies of wood, the weak spots are not likely to be directly above each other through the plies. This makes the weak spot of combined plywood stronger than that of a solid piece of wood.

How that affects sound I am not sure, but strength and stiffness and density are related for wood. And the distribution of stiffness and density over the plate must definitely have an impact on the sound.

DownUpDave
08-23-2017, 12:15 AM
I am not a luthier, so I cannot say anything specifically about the sound.
But from a structural engineers viewpoint, plywood does in general have more consistent properties than solid wood.
I assume that a "laminate" has plies of some kind.
The naturally occurring weak points along some grains in the wood has a lot of influence on its behavior. When glueing together a few plies of wood, the weak spots are not likely to be directly above each other through the plies. This makes the weak spot of combined plywood stronger than that of a solid piece of wood.

How that affects sound I am not sure, but strength and stiffness and density are related for wood. And the distribution of stiffness and density over the plate must definitely have an impact on the sound.

I come from a woodworking background, so I do enjoy wood but I am open minded to synthetics. The commonly voiced opinion that each piece of wood is different from one to the next is as true for a solid one piece top as a multiple layered plywood top. So if spruce top A sounds different than spruce top B image taking three pieces of wood and gluing them up. Statically you have much more variables from one plywood top to the next when it comes to tone. I have played 3 idential laminate Kala sopranos in a music store and they all varied in sound, just as a solid wood top can. That was the only point I was making. I agree Laminate or plywood is stronger and more stable, Kiwaya uses it and their instruments sound great