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View Full Version : First ukulele - Lohanu vs Donner vs Kala vs Lanikai



LNW
11-18-2017, 04:06 PM
I’m looking to get my first ukulele. There aren’t any stores near me that sell all of the brands I’m considering. I’ve read lots of reviews, and lots of the reviews say these are each really great ukuleles. But I’m having a hard time discerning what distinguishing characteristics differentiate these and how that might relate to my interests.

Like I’ve heard Donner has a slightly wider fingerboard which would appeal to me. I know these are all great and seem to all have plenty of people who think they sound excellent.

So I’m open to any experience with these, any opinions, any highlighting certain features of some of these versus the others, etc. Thank you!

Edit: Córdoba is the other one I was considering. I have played their mini guitar and enjoyed the sound of that, and I know their Ukes get top reviews.

Choirguy
11-18-2017, 04:31 PM
Can you let us know the size of instrument (soprano, concert, tenor, baritone) you are considering and what price range? Are you looking for a ukulele to see if it is something you want to do, or are you “in it” for the long haul?

Graham Greenbag
11-18-2017, 05:26 PM
Kala and Lanikai are both well respected and long established brands, Ohana is similar but not in your list. You might possibly save a few dollars and buy a slightly better Uke from some other manufacturer but overall it’s just not worth the risk and research. If you want a good starter Uke in Soprano size then Kala’s KA-S is hard to beat, I’ve played a KA-P (similar but pineapple body) for the last couple of years and it does the job nicely. Tastes vary but I changed to Martin M600 Strings and getting a Uke set up properly for you is as important as brand and model - Mim and Uke Republic have good reputations, it’s worth checking them out.

If you give people a bit more information about what you want to achieve then you’ll likely get more help here. An indication of budget would help, but you don’t need to spend a lot to get something that will help you get started and be OK to play for several years.

maki66
11-18-2017, 06:03 PM
We own several Kalas, and one Donner.
I think you'd be happy with either.
My coworker has a Luna tattoo that seems very nice too.
I also enjoy Martin strings more that the usual Nygut, but tastes in this regard vary.

Set is very important and for a first ukulele it pays dividends to get a proper set up by some one who knows what they are doing.

If you are handy and interested you can do a simple set-up on your own.
Google is your friend.

If you like wide nuts, Uke Republic carries the Islander Brand that features a 1.5" nut IIRC.
http://ukerepublic.bigcartel.com/product/islander-ac-4-acacia-concert-ukulele
I looked these over during the last LA Ukulele festival and they were very nice instruments.
Uke Republic does quality set ups.

robinboyd
11-18-2017, 06:09 PM
Never heard of Lohanu or Donner. I've heard good things about the other 2.

Karndog
11-18-2017, 08:06 PM
I’m looking to get my first ukulele. There aren’t any stores near me that sell all of the brands I’m considering. I’ve read lots of reviews, and lots of the reviews say these are each really great ukuleles. But I’m having a hard time discerning what distinguishing characteristics differentiate these and how that might relate to my interests.

Like I’ve heard Donner has a slightly wider fingerboard which would appeal to me. I know these are all great and seem to all have plenty of people who think they sound excellent.

So I’m open to any experience with these, any opinions, any highlighting certain features of some of these versus the others, etc. Thank you!

If you are buying online, I would look at the ukes from Mim’s on eBay. Buying from her, you can rest assured the instrument will have been setup correctly and tested out a bit. She has ukes on there that start at $59.

Croaky Keith
11-18-2017, 11:10 PM
I believe Kala or Ohana are the best ukes to get started with - & a concert scale is a good size to start with. :)

A Kala KA-C, plus a digital tuner, will get you started for not too much money, & is good enough that you may never need another uke - but we all know about UAS.

(Ukulele Aquisition Syndrome, it's very prevelent, & easily caught, beware. ;) )

LNW
11-19-2017, 12:07 AM
Can you let us know the size of instrument (soprano, concert, tenor, baritone) you are considering and what price range? Are you looking for a ukulele to see if it is something you want to do, or are you “in it” for the long haul?

Concert size, and I’m planning to be “in it” for the long haul. Preferred price range of around $100.

DownUpDave
11-19-2017, 12:15 AM
Concert size, and I’m planning to be “in it” for the long haul. Preferred price range of around $100.

Get a Kala concert in your price range from MIM or Uke Republic and you will never regret it. Kala is the best built uke in the lower price range of any ukulele out there. Buying from MIM or Uke Republic will get you a fully inspected and professionally set up ukulele that will be a joy to own and play. At this price range it is more important where you buy then what you buy.

Edit....Another manufacture really worth looking at from either of them is Ohana

Rakelele
11-19-2017, 12:50 AM
If you're in it for the long haul, my advise would be to get the best you can afford. Out of the brands mentioned, I'd pick Kala and order from Mim's. Personally, I'd invest in at least a solid wood top, not laminate. I know this will be beyond the limit you want to spend, but the brands I'd be looking at are Pono (AC or MC) and KoAloha Opio (KCO-10). These models will cost $375-425 USD, but totally worth it in my opinion, and just as good as anything I have owned and played in much higher price ranges. What helps to sweeten the deal on these is that you'll get free shipping from Mim and Hawaii Music Supply AKA The Ukulele Site (if you're in the US).

EDW
11-19-2017, 01:04 AM
I would suggest Kala or Ohana. Besides the places mentioned, I would also consider checking out Elderly https://www.elderly.com

hendulele
11-19-2017, 01:49 AM
Does Elderly set up instruments? They're really nice folks, and I've seen them at some large festivals, but have never taken the time to ask.

EDW
11-19-2017, 01:55 AM
Looks as if they do https://www.elderly.com/repair/setups.html/

rlbccb
11-19-2017, 01:58 AM
I have a Donner DUC-1 and a Ohana CK-70RB. Both concert size. The Donner neck is slightly wider than my Ohana. I like them both.

LNW
11-19-2017, 01:59 AM
The other brand I’m considering is Córdoba. Any thoughts on it versus Kala, etc? But it looks like the Córdoba CM may not have a solid top.

RafterGirl
11-19-2017, 02:51 AM
Here's a nice solid spruce top/laminate back & sides Kala from Mim. Not much over your price point.
https://www.ebay.com/itm/MIM-Kala-Concert-KA-SCG-Solid-Spruce-Top-Lam-Mahogany-Ukulele-Uke-029-/172959587400

Here's an Acacia laminate Islander from Uke Republic
http://ukerepublic.bigcartel.com/product/islander-ac-4-acacia-concert-ukulele

I recently bought an Islander Acacia laminate soprano from Uke republic. It was set up nicely. This is my second Islander ukulele, and they are a good starter uke with a wider neck if that's what you want.

I started playing 7 months ago on a Teton laminate concert. Very nice starter uke, made even better with some Oasis bright strings. I'm selling it to a friend who wants to start playing. Do you have any ukulele clubs or groups where you live. The groups I play with communicate via Meetup, so maybe look there to see if you can find a group. You could visit a group, maybe play a few ukes to see what fits you best, perhaps find someone who's selling a uke, plus you meet new folks who can help you on your ukulele journey.

Choirguy
11-19-2017, 03:08 AM
Barry Maz (gotaukulele) reviewed the Donner quite positively—the potential issue is set-up (action/string height). I would quickly recommend Mim and Uke Republic which will sell you a nicely set-up ukulele at or under the $100 price point. I would also suggest the Makala C or CE (Kala’s entry level brand) as well as the new Makala Dolphin Concert.

One other idea might be the Enya X-1 Concert, made of HPL laminate, currently around $100 on Amazon.

maki66
11-19-2017, 08:21 AM
Do you have any ukulele clubs or groups where you live. The groups I play with communicate via Meetup, so maybe look there to see if you can find a group. You could visit a group, maybe play a few ukes to see what fits you best, perhaps find someone who's selling a uke, plus you meet new folks who can help you on your ukulele journey.

Good idea!


Barry Maz (gotaukulele) reviewed the Donner quite positively—the potential issue is set-up (action/string height).

My Donner did need the strings lowered some. It wasn't too difficult, but not everyone wants to mess with things.

RafterGirl
11-19-2017, 10:08 AM
Here's a Cordoba concert with a solid mahogany top/laminate mahogany back & sides from HMS. Buying from HMS, Mim, Uke Republic, or Elderly means you get the ukulele properly inspected & set up.
https://www.theukulelesite.com/shop-by/size/concert/cordoba-20cm-mahogany-concert.html

timmit65
11-19-2017, 03:48 PM
Here's a Cordoba concert with a solid mahogany top/laminate mahogany back & sides

My fav uke to play is the Cordoba 20TM-CE. I own and have played much more expensive instruments, but the Cordobas just feel right to me.