PDA

View Full Version : Most expensive Uke you bought, that is unworthy of its price



abhinav
07-01-2018, 07:25 PM
What is the most expensive uke you have purchased so far, that you think is worth way less than you paid for it?

Croaky Keith
07-01-2018, 11:08 PM
None!

My most expensive is what a lot of people term an intermediate - but I think of it as expensive. :)

Every uke I bought was researched, via the internet, & bought when I was satisfied the price was worth it.

When I started out, I wouldn't have considered buying anything over £300 - but with a bit of knowledge, I stretched it up to £500 - but that is where you pay for looks &/or the name - that is where I stop. :D

RafterGirl
07-02-2018, 01:19 AM
I own 4 ukuleles that cost over $300 but less than $1000, and I'm happy with all of them. I did own one in that price range that I didn't bond with because of neck shape, but it was totally worthy of the price. I sold it to someone who was very happy with it.

Mivo
07-02-2018, 01:20 AM
This is very subjective, so I hesitate a bit, but the Blackbird Farallon that I had bought (and then returned within a week) didn't give me the feeling it was worth the price (craftsmanship, feel, sound). It cost as much as the Kanile'a GL6, which was light years ahead in every way. But many people love it, which just shows that these things can't be generalized.

At the bottom end, I'd list the Kala Waterman which was complete garbage. With molded plastic, they could have gotten action and intonation uniformly right, but at least the (early) batch that I got was not even worth the low price. It tainted my view on Kala.

On the positive side, I felt the aNueNue Moonbird concern, the Barron River tenor, Black Bear soprano, and the Pono spruce/rosewood PC baritone were all exceptional and exceeded what I expected relative to the price tags.

Jerryc41
07-02-2018, 01:25 AM
I think this is going to be a tough topic. When someone buys anything that's expensive, he'll do a lot of research beforehand. It's unlikely that he'll be dissatisfied when he gets it. I've never been disappointed by a uke, regardless of price. It will be interesting to see how this goes.

At a uke session recently, a new member was surprised that someone she knew spent $300 for a ukulele. When I first started, I was surprised that someone in our group had a Koaloha Opio that cost almost $500. "Expensive" is a relative term.

Mivo
07-02-2018, 01:39 AM
When someone buys anything that's expensive, he'll do a lot of research beforehand. It's unlikely that he'll be dissatisfied when he gets it.

With luthier-built instruments (often unique models) and expensive ukuleles you're unlikely to have a chance to play them before you get them (sometimes from around the world). There is no good way to predict how they'll feel or sound to you when you play them in your own home, using your own fingers. You can make a guess about size and wood, and some features you might value (radiused fretboard, side soundhole, etc), but sound and feel are hard to evaluate in advance.

joakiml
07-02-2018, 01:42 AM
"Expensive" is a relative term.

Fully agree! Also here we are talking about musical instruments which can last a lifetime or more. I also regards many of them to be a piece of art. Some people buy mobile phones that costs more than many of our instruments and are just expected to last for a few years...

RichM
07-02-2018, 02:06 AM
I feel like the topic is too subjective to be meaningful. Here are my reasons:

1. Many people buy ukes sight-unseen, and develop expectations based on reviews, or appearance, or reputation. Then they expect the uke to be life changing, and are disappointed when it's, you know, just a uke.

2. "Good" isn't a universal measure. The Farallon mentioned above is a great example. My Farallon is a fantastic sounding uke. I first played it at a music store and loved the tone, and then went back and played it for a long time, to make sure it wasn't just infatuation. But up above we have a player who found it disappointing. Which of us is right? We both are. By the same token, I have owned ukes by two incredibly well-regarded makers that many would consider "grail" ukes. Neither of them did a thing for me, and both were sold. In both cases, the new owners were thrilled by their purchases, and one of them has posted frequently here about finding the "one." How could ukes I found disappointing make other people so happy? That's why I don't post the makers; why start a "brand x is disappointing" thread when obviously the "disappointment" is about my preferences, not the instrument itself?

3. I have found that my favorite instruments are ones that I live with, play often, and discover what I need to do as a player to make them sound their best. Often, "disappointing" instruments are quick-lifted at music stores, or purchased online and sent back after a few days. I'm not saying a bad instrument will suddenly sound good, but familiarity can often bring out the best in an instrument. A good example for me was Hofner basses. I never like the look, and felt the violin bass was too closely associated with Paul McCartney to be something I'd want to be seen playing. A lot of the reviews I read of Hofners dismissed them as one-trick ponies. But a couple of years ago I was playing bass in a band and was looking for an extremely lightweight bass that I could play when I started having some back problems. Hofners fit that description, so I gave them a try. At first I was unimpressed, but I gave it some time and found the style and attack that made them sound great. Now my Hofner bass is a go-to instrument, expecially when I want more of a stand-up bass tone.

And finally, sometimes we have to admit that "disappointing" lives in our hands, not the luthier's. I took banjo lessons for a while from Tony Trischka, one of the finest players in the world. At the time, Tony was playing a custom Stelling Sunflower (a *very* pricey banjo) and I was playing an inexpensive import Fender. Tony's banjo sounded fantastic, of course, and mine was sort of plinky-plinky. At one point, Tony wanted to show me something on my banjo, so we swapped for a bit. Shockingly, Tony's bazillion dollar banjo sounded awfully average in my hands, while my cheap import sounded pretty damn impressive in his.

kerneltime
07-02-2018, 02:51 AM
And finally, sometimes we have to admit that "disappointing" lives in our hands, not the luthier's. I took banjo lessons for a while from Tony Trischka, one of the finest players in the world. At the time, Tony was playing a custom Stelling Sunflower (a *very* pricey banjo) and I was playing an inexpensive import Fender. Tony's banjo sounded fantastic, of course, and mine was sort of plinky-plinky. At one point, Tony wanted to show me something on my banjo, so we swapped for a bit. Shockingly, Tony's bazillion dollar banjo sounded awfully average in my hands, while my cheap import sounded pretty damn impressive in his.

This..

Kimo Hussey has said this often that each ukulele has a personality and it is up to the player to play to it. Most expensive ukuleles have good sound and their own personality. The beansprout banjo I got second hand did not wow me for the price I paid but the sound is like any other banjo uke and I have no clue how to use a banjo. Unlike a ukulele banjos are not as forgiving.

I do think in ukulele festivals semi prof players should offer a paid service where they play your uke to let you know the additional mileage in ones instrument that one had not tapped into.

Jerryc41
07-02-2018, 03:57 AM
I do think in ukulele festivals semi prof players should offer a paid service where they play your uke to let you know the additional mileage in ones instrument that one had not tapped into.

Like cars and cameras, an expert can get the best out of any equipment. Having James Hill make one of my ukes sound fantastic would be depressing. :o

DownUpDave
07-02-2018, 05:32 AM
I have bought and sold off many expensive ukes. Mya Moe, Collings, Compass Rose, Koaloha, Blackbird, Howlett, Kinnard etc. etc. None and I mean NONE would I deem unworthy of the price. I sold them off because they just weren't exactly what I was looking for in either tone or playability. Those people that bought them from me might think it was the perfect instrument for them.

It is all personal, those instruments were all worth the price paid, they just weren't right for me.

hollisdwyer
07-02-2018, 05:36 AM
Like Croaky Pete I’d also say none. The only Uke that I was disappointed in was my first and equal cheapest of all the Ukes I have ever purchased. I read somewhere recently some advice that said don’t buy an inexpensive Uke with an inbuilt pickup because your getting a $50 Uke with a $150 pick up. I wish I had heard that advice before I made my first purchase. Every Uke since then just got better and better, even if they were still what many would consider as inexpensive. I have been happy with them all. Ultimately I came to value the craftsmanship and talent of Luthiers enough to commission the instruments you see in my signature field. All of which I treasure every time I play them.

El Viejo
07-02-2018, 06:52 AM
I think when this is most likely to happen is when as others have said, someone buys a higher end instrument without the real chance to try it themselves first. Of course, quality issues can be a factor too, there are two very well known brands that are notorious for factory quality issues according to staff at a couple of retailers I know.

Regarding instruments people don't really get to try first, the Farallon is a great example. Its sound is really unique, at least to my ear. If you're buying it based on review that tells you it sounds a lot like an old vintage wood instrument... It doesn't. It doesn't sound like a wood instrument at all to me in fact. Blackbird's fingerboard is a little different, the playability is great but it feels different, the ekoa material feels different in the hand.

So then if you've bought sight unseen based on sound samples and enthusiastic reviews, I can see why it might not speak to you. I'm fortunate enough to be out near the Bay Area where I've gotten to try it in store at a couple of locations, and I got to shop it against a Clara... I bought the Clara. Others may choose the Farallon or say no thanks to both.

And people may wonder too for some high end instruments, "it's great, but it's not $1500 great". In Blackbird's case, you're paying a premium for new materials they invented, a new process they invented, and for having an ukulele that was built in San Francisco, a place with high labor and overhead costs. Being from California I am happy to pay that premium to support a business in my state, but others just may not see it.

Choirguy
07-02-2018, 07:45 AM
I donít think my answer quite fits into the question.

I have only sold one ukulele because I didnít bond with it, even though I was able to buy it at a bargain price (and sold it for less). That was my Pono. It was a beautiful instrument...cedar and rosewood, and all of the appointments. It sounded just fine. For some reason, the sound and ďmore bareĒ look of KoAloha appealed to me, so when a UUer put a KoAloha Opio Concert up for sale, I decided to sell the Pono.

The Pono was worth every penny...gorgeous, great case, good sound.

I later ended up buying a 2004 KoAloha Koa Concert for less than $400 at a second hand music store. I ran out the door with that one. Ultimately: the KoAloha Koa Concert is the most valueable ukulele that I own; the Pono is the instrument that I have paid the most for.

*Incidentally, I dropped the Koa Concert (strap slipped off the strap button) and put a ding into it...and it already had a few other dings. Still...my heart dropped. Seems okay, though, so I am going to leave it as is for now.

bratsche
07-02-2018, 08:33 AM
I haven't sold any yet. I don't think "unworthy of its price" applies in my situation, either. But the fact is that, ironically, the uke I paid the most for, my Pono MTD-CR, is the most difficult one for me to play. And it's the only one that has a radiused fretboard. It sounds lovely, though. This was a surprise to me, as I've had no problems picking on radiused boards on a couple of my mandolas. Nor bowing on my violas and violins, obviously. ;-) But on this uke, I find I am too often playing the inner two strings louder than the outer two strings - and sometimes I miss notes altogether on the first string. But I am working on it. Time will tell if I overcome this obstacle.

bratsche

actadh
07-02-2018, 02:19 PM
My two cents - I bought a new, set up by HMS, KoAloha sapele soprano Opio August 2014 based on the glowing reviews here. It still is the most expensive uke I own. I had been playing for 8 months at the time. I liked it, but did not love it. I bought a Martin OXK w/gig bag & no set up three months later at a Black Friday sale for about half the price of the Opio w/hard case. I loved the OXK right out of the box, played it all winter since I did not need to baby it, and rarely played the Opio. About 15 months later, I picked up the Opio, played it nonstop for a week, and fell in love with it. I think my playing ability caught up to the uke.

lfoo6952
07-02-2018, 02:49 PM
Regarding instruments people don't really get to try first, the Farallon is a great example. Its sound is really unique, at least to my ear. If you're buying it based on review that tells you it sounds a lot like an old vintage wood instrument... It doesn't. It doesn't sound like a wood instrument at all to me in fact. Blackbird's fingerboard is a little different, the playability is great but it feels different, the ekoa material feels different in the hand.


And people may wonder too for some high end instruments, "it's great, but it's not $1500 great". In Blackbird's case, you're paying a premium for new materials they invented, a new process they invented, and for having an ukulele that was built in San Francisco, a place with high labor and overhead costs. Being from California I am happy to pay that premium to support a business in my state, but others just may not see it.

I agree with this. The price premium for the Farallon is due to unique materials and build process. Not a fair comparison to wooden instruments. I gladly "overpaid" for the Farallon because it served a purpose for me. I am not afraid to take outdoors because it is less susceptible to temperature and humidity changes, more resistant to scratches and dings, and has a pretty decent sound although not exactly like a wooden instrument. Therefore it has its place in my stable of instruments.

70sSanO
07-02-2018, 02:50 PM
There is only one ukulele I regret buying and that was a used Clara. The soundboard had been re-braced at Blackbird and unfortunately it didn't hold up. The neck also has a bow. I knew about the soundboard repair and should have checked the neck closer. I don't know the history, but I think the neck was caused by being left in a very hot car based on the temp I was given to possibly straighten it. It still plays and sounds nice tuned to Bb, but any higher tension volume and tone falls off a cliff. The folks at Blackbird have been nice and will give me an estimate if I send it up to them... Maybe I'll drop it off if I'm I the area. It has prompted me to order a KLOS.

John

Ukulelerick9255
07-02-2018, 03:58 PM
I don’t see the purpose of bad mouthing a product that wasn’t right for someone in particular but might be right for someone else. If you don’t like a product express it to company that produced it as constructive criticism. Bashing it in public doesn’t downgrade the instrument it downgrades you as a person. Why not ask a positive question about the most expensive uke you bought that was worth every penny, that one I’ll happily answer....my Beau Hannam custom Selmer Mcaferri Tenor

jelow1966
07-02-2018, 05:54 PM
Since no one else will answer, I will. My Graziano concert 'flamenco' uke I had built in 1997 while gorgeous and very well built was set up so poorly that it intoned worse then my $200 Harmony Johnny Marvin that was my most expensive uke at the time. I made a zero fret thing to fix the intonation and once that was done it really was worth the price but I should never have had to do it. I never really bonded with it either but that is more due to the fact I had no idea what it would really sound like before I had it built. I just knew I wanted something bright and liked flamenco so it seemed like a good choice. Live and learn....

John

Sven-Uke
07-02-2018, 09:38 PM
My most expensive uke is a 17 fret Ken Timms style 0.
Unworthy for sure, because it is worth twice what I paid for it :)

DownUpDave
07-03-2018, 05:06 AM
Having re-homed a half-dozen or so higher-end ukes over the years, I'd have to say this is probably the case more often than not. Every uke that I've bought sight unseen has been re-homed - not because it wasn't worthy of the price, necessarily, but because it ended up not meeting my expectations of the brand (or perhaps not living up to my perception of the hype).

Out of 30 ukes I have owned all except one were bought sight unseen and unplayed. We have no selection of higher end ukes up in Canada that I am interested in. So it is buy it try it, sell it or keep it. I own 19 of those 30, these are all keepers. Eleven were rehomed so I am batting about 60 %, which is not bad. Most were bought used so I didnt lose much in resell.

70sSanO
07-03-2018, 10:42 AM
I donít see the purpose of bad mouthing a product that wasnít right for someone in particular but might be right for someone else. If you donít like a product express it to company that produced it as constructive criticism. Bashing it in public doesnít downgrade the instrument it downgrades you as a person. Why not ask a positive question about the most expensive uke you bought that was worth every penny, that one Iíll happily answer....my Beau Hannam custom Selmer Mcaferri Tenor

I wasn't bad mouthing or bashing Blackbird. They make great ukes and are very nice people. My point is that I used to be in the camp that the Clara was impervious to the environment and that is not the case. It can handle changes is climate and humidity without issue, but like most synthetics, high temperature is a problem. At 180 degrees fahrenheit, the material is susceptible to move. I can only conjecture what happened, but when temps get over 100 in the southwestern deserts a car interior can get up to over 180 degrees. Add string tension and you might have a problem.

It is not unlike someone getting a custom longboard and sticking it in a van on a hot day. Chances are the board will twist. No one is going to (shouldn't) run back to the shaper and accuse that the board is defective. In the same way Blackbird isn't responsible for what someone does with one of their ukuleles.

John

greenie44
07-03-2018, 10:57 AM
This..


I do think in ukulele festivals semi prof players should offer a paid service where they play your uke to let you know the additional mileage in ones instrument that one had not tapped into.

It's a good idea, but even that does not always work. When I was going to buy my first 'expensive' uke, I spent some time at HMS and Music Guy Mike (RIP) gave me the 'backwards' test. I picked out a few candidate ukes, turned my back, and he played each of them. One of them stood out, and I ended up buying one used a couple of months later.

But I never really connected with that uke. It played well, it was beautiful, but it did not make my heart sing when I picked it up. I eventually ended up getting another uke that did inspire those feelings.

I was going to sell the previous uke immediately, but, for some reason, I decided to try a different string combination, changing it from re-entrant to linear. ZING! It was a completely different uke.

I eventually ended up selling it because I like my other uke(s) more, but it was a journey. Now I have a few ukes which I am wild about.

- Rick G.

kerneltime
07-03-2018, 11:25 AM
It's a good idea, but even that does not always work. When I was going to buy my first 'expensive' uke, I spent some time at HMS and Music Guy Mike (RIP) gave me the 'backwards' test. I picked out a few candidate ukes, turned my back, and he played each of them. One of them stood out, and I ended up buying one used a couple of months later.

But I never really connected with that uke. It played well, it was beautiful, but it did not make my heart sing when I picked it up. I eventually ended up getting another uke that did inspire those feelings.

I was going to sell the previous uke immediately, but, for some reason, I decided to try a different string combination, changing it from re-entrant to linear. ZING! It was a completely different uke.

I eventually ended up selling it because I like my other uke(s) more, but it was a journey. Now I have a few ukes which I am wild about.

- Rick G.

For the uke you eventually bonded with, wouldn’t you be curious to hear what It would sound like when Mike played it?

My suggestion was not for the purchase decision but to see what a uke can do..

An Indian classical mandolin player was fooling around with my fluke.. it blew my mind.. never imagined it to sound as different as it did from what I had heard before from the uke.
He had many slides and used more fleshy parts of his fingers.. I was glad I had the uke with me when we went out on a trip..

SandChannel
07-03-2018, 11:29 AM
I would gather that my Kamaka is more unimpressed with me than I am with it.

Swamp Yankee
07-03-2018, 11:49 AM
coincidence... and I might get flak for this...but I was at a shop today and I got really excited when I saw they had three brand new Kamakas: soprano, concert, and tenor. I took each one down and played them for a bit, gave them each a good tryout.

I have to say I was pretty underwhelmed. The sop and the concert sounded nice, and the tenor sounded very nice, but I thought that the workmanship was kind of shoddy, at least as far as the fit and finish were concerned. The frets were dressed poorly, there were tearouts in the wooden edges of the headstock that were clearly there before the finish was applied... I was fully ready to lobby very hard to buy one, and had I fallen in love, my wife would have let me.... but I didn't see or hear anything all that special about any of them that would come close to justifying their price in my mind.
The Martin SO I played was also a disappointment.
So I bought a glow in the dark Waterman for knocking around the campground or serenading my wife while out in our boat.

janeray1940
07-03-2018, 12:59 PM
coincidence... and I might get flak for this...but I was at a shop today and I got really excited when I saw they had three brand new Kamakas: soprano, concert, and tenor. I took each one down and played them for a bit, gave them each a good tryout.


Did they have the stock black strings? Not flak but just an FYI in case you weren't aware - Kamaka insists on using black nylon strings that (IMO and I know others here will agree) really do not bring out the best in the instrument. Putting on fluorocarbons or even Nylguts will make it sound like an entirely different instrument.

That being said, as I think others have noted, each instrument will have a unique voice. When I've had the opportunity to try two or more Kamakas side by side, there was always one standout and one that, while it wasn't bad per se, just didn't do it for me.

SandChannel
07-03-2018, 03:08 PM
And, there are also cats like me that like the black strings. Different strokes for different folks as they say!

Martinlover
07-03-2018, 03:26 PM
I have 4 Mya Moes, 2 vintage Martins, a Clara, and a Pono ETSHC. Love them all because they sing to me but some don’t get played as much as others. The quality of workmanship is excellent on all.

But this is about the ukuleles I let go. A KoAloha Concert I purchased used on UU arrived pristine and on my first strum I said, “holy cow, this is my favorite ukulele!” However, after about a week I decided to sell it. (Jerry, you know who bought it) The reason I let it go was because it sounded too “perfect” to me. Intonation, spot on, etc. It just didn’t have color for me. And I didn’t sing well with it, which is one of my requirements because my singing needs all the help it can get. And yeah, it’s my playing, too, for sure. If I win the lottery I would buy another one just to have it on hand for the perfect happy times.

The other ukulele I bought, after listening to many sound samples, and sold was a mango Tiny Tenor. I still think mango is the best sounding wood of all the tiny tenors. It sounded great and was absolutely beautiful. And while I have friends who love their TTs, I hated the neck. Never liked playing it and sold it to someone I let try it. She really liked the neck and action. Set up was by HMS so it wasn’t that.

Meanwhile, I do feel the Pono, which is so much fun to play, seems to sound a little dead on the d note. Maybe it needs a new string or this is a pono thing I don’t know.

Nickie
07-03-2018, 03:51 PM
With luthier-built instruments (often unique models) and expensive ukuleles you're unlikely to have a chance to play them before you get them (sometimes from around the world). There is no good way to predict how they'll feel or sound to you when you play them in your own home, using your own fingers. You can make a guess about size and wood, and some features you might value (radiused fretboard, side soundhole, etc), but sound and feel are hard to evaluate in advance.

Mivo, that is so true. I bought a custom built uke, before I was ready to do that, from a guy that had everybody jumping on his bandwagon. I paid the most I've ever paid for a uke, I had to make payments during the build.
I was really disappointed at some of the workmanship, so I sent it back for an almost full refund (I had to pay the freight).
I did the same thing again years later, another "half-custom" uke, for less money. I was slightly disappointed in one thing, but I kept that one.
Both of these guys were like 5 days drive away.
If I ever buy another expensive, or high end uke, it will be built by Donna LoPrinzi, because she lives right up the road from us.

Swamp Yankee
07-03-2018, 04:05 PM
Did they have the stock black strings? Not flak but just an FYI in case you weren't aware - Kamaka insists on using black nylon strings that (IMO and I know others here will agree) really do not bring out the best in the instrument. Putting on fluorocarbons or even Nylguts will make it sound like an entirely different instrument.

That being said, as I think others have noted, each instrument will have a unique voice. When I've had the opportunity to try two or more Kamakas side by side, there was always one standout and one that, while it wasn't bad per se, just didn't do it for me.

They were the stock black strings so that may have affected the tone - but to me, the biggest disappointment was the workmanship, not the sound. The tenor sounded great, I can only imagine how much better it would have sounded and played with a bit of work. But, perhaps naively, I expected a much higher level of craftsmanship from a company that has such prestige in the ukulele world.

wayfarer75
07-04-2018, 01:55 AM
Workmanship should not be a problem in a Kamaka. The two I have seen in person (including my own, which is 4 years old) were immaculate. I hope this isn’t the start of a trend.

And yeah, those Kamaka strings lasted a day or two. I think they are so floppy you can’t get a good sound. Maybe a tenor does better, with the higher tension.

Pete Howlett
07-10-2018, 09:45 AM
This is a very unfortunate post. Worthy or unworthy is so very subjective. It's hard to give a balanced view because of this.

DPO
07-10-2018, 11:12 AM
This is a very unfortunate post. Worthy or unworthy is so very subjective. It's hard to give a balanced view because of this.

Well said Pete.

Graham Greenbag
07-10-2018, 12:01 PM
This is a very unfortunate post. Worthy or unworthy is so very subjective. It's hard to give a balanced view because of this.

The OP asked: “What is the most expensive uke you have purchased so far, that you think is worth way less than you paid for it?”

The way I see it is that everyone buys a ‘lemon’ or ‘pup’ from time to time, here we are just too polite to admite to it and say who the supplier was - well that or we don’t want to risk legal costs. For what it’s worth I happen to know someone who bought a Luthier made instrument at a Uke Festival. They thought it was great in the crowded sales hall but once played at home for a couple of weeks they were both disappointed with it and puzzled at how they’d spent so much on that Uke, they later sold the Uke at a loss. Someone else higher up the thread also had a poor experience with a Luthier built instrument - they thought the Uke wasn’t worth what they paid for it.

What something is worth is subjective and an opinion but it is OK to have an opinion, what’s not how it should be is when someone is slammed for making a negative comment that matches their experience and perspective. To my mind it’s far too big an ask to suggest that an expressed opinion should (always) give a balanced view, so long as it’s an honestly believed view that’s well expressed then it’s good enough for here. If a company or Luthier is happy to take the complements then, IMHO, they need to have the mindset that accepts the not so nice stuff too.

Sometimes we buy on reputation and marketing hype. Sometimes a craftsman or shop will do good work for one customer but not be so bothered about another. If you’re unfortunate enough to be mislead by clever marketing or to be ‘an unimportant customer’ then it’s likeley that you end up with less than you feel that you’ve paid for.

Kenn2018
07-10-2018, 02:44 PM
I purchased a new KoAloha Opio, Acacia with Spruce Top Tenor (KYO-10S) for $730 USD after reading several very good reviews about it. It was described as having a very nice light satin finish on it that let the grain show through. When I received it, the finish was applied so thinly on the top that it didn't cover or fill the pores of the spruce wood. It looked pitted. And, the spruce looked like there were some cracks in the wood, but they may have just been the grain not being filled so the shadow of the finish combined with the straight, darker lines of the grain looked like cracks in the wood.

It sounded nice. Very bright. Played easily and the setup was perfect. But I couldn't get over how poor the finish looked. Then, I had a furniture-maker friend tell me that it was not the best finish application. My wife was unimpressed with it and said that it didn't look very nice. It didn't look like how an instrument that cost that much should look.

That reinforced my thought of, what's the point of a clear finish if it doesn't protect the wood? I sent an email to the store asking how it passed inspection & setup with such a poor finish. The owner replied that the finish was supposed to be that way. That's how Opio did it to keep the top resonant and produce the clearest sound possible.

So. I sent it back. Paid the restocking fee and bought a Pono.

Later, I apologized to the tech for questioning the thoroughness of his inspection. He said it was no problem, and admitted to me that they had several returned for exactly that reason: the poor coverage of the satin finish.

El Viejo
07-10-2018, 06:01 PM
So, I'm going to freely admit that I'm a Koaloha fan here. I have three Koalohas, and my latest just showed up last week.

Their finish jobs have never been the best, in my opinion, going back a while. They had a reputation for spraying "orange peel" finishes back in the day. The satin finish on my brand new instrument also isn't the finest I've ever seen, I will probably be taking it to my local shop to see if they can buff it up a little bit. For a $900 new instrument bought from a retailer, the spray job is pretty spotty on the sides.

That said part of challenge here is I think that you didn't see it in person before buying. Koaloha on their Hawai'i and Opio models don't really aim to perfectly pore fill in their gloss finishes. You get a lot of texture in the gloss finish. Their satin finish is actually more pore filled than their gloss, in my experience. Their style these days really is to go really light with the finish for purposes of the sound, I don't think the owner was just trying to pull the wool over your eyes with that.

I hope that next time you will be able to buy in person so you can get a look at the instrument before you have to go through all that trouble! By no means am I saying you are wrong to have your opinion, it's just a bummer you had to go through the disappointment and time and restocking fee cost.

I for one have never been the biggest fan of the look of Koaloha instruments. I greatly prefer Kanile'a in that regard, not even close... but the reason I have 3 of one and only 1 of the other is all about the sound I like. But... the looks of an instrument are important too, especially when you're spending good money for it!

SandChannel
07-11-2018, 03:13 AM
If you buy a high end instrument and expect it to sound amazing, it has more to do with the player than the build.

BuzzBD
07-12-2018, 10:20 AM
I have enjoyed following this thread and appreciate the thoughtful comments. As a luthier coming up on 40 years of building, most match my experience. Here are a couple of stories from the other side of the fence. Managing expectations is part of our job. For me, I take the easy way out and simply state to my customers, if at any time they are not fully satisfied, simply return the instrument for a full refund. If it is returned within a reasonable time, I also refund all shipping costs. I had one instrument returned after 18 months, in that case, the customer paid for the shipping. Once after driving for an hour and a half to deliver a custom long neck soprano, the customer presented me with $40 in cash and wanted to know if they could pay the balance at $20 per month. I reluctantly agreed and received one $20 payment a month later. I did send a couple of emails requesting further pay with no results. About a year later the customer contacted me wanting to know if they could return the uke for a refund, and I promptly replied that I would be delighted to refund their $60 for the return on the instrument. A week later I got an email saying they had decided to keep it and sent me the balance owed, go figure! Another time, I shipped a highly customized uke to Europe. After receiving the instrument, I got an email saying it was a lovely uke followed by a list of minor cosmetic flaws they had noted. Not quite sure about the mixed message I replied that as the builder, I was aware of said flaws, and thanked them for their observations. Some days later I received another message, detailing some other more minor defects, and I promptly replied that if they were not satisfied to please send it back for a full refund including the return shipping costs. The message back said, oh no, they were delighted with it and would not dream of returning it, in their opinion it looked, played and sounded better than the instruments in their local stores costing three times what they paid for mine. All right then!
Brad

Rllink
07-13-2018, 03:51 AM
A lot of times when people get something special and they have to wait a long time to get it, they think about it so much that their expectations start to soar unrealistically. Then they get it and they are disappointed that it doesn't meet their unrealistic expectations. That has happened to me before and in retrospect I think that I ruined the experience for myself by letting myself get so obsessed.

Croaky Keith
07-13-2018, 08:42 AM
I agree, a lot of people are expecting magic when they buy a custom uke. :)

But it is just another uke, built with more care than factory built ukes, & maybe with some of your specs rolled in, that's all it is.

Kenn2018
07-15-2018, 01:19 PM
My KoAloha Tenor gloss is about as good as a build can get. Quite nice except for a somewhat loose tuner. Plays great & sounds great.

The sound of the Opio was very good. Bright, open and crisp. But I didn't like the finish. I'm sure it was fine for someone else.

That's the only one that I was underwhelmed by. And a couple I was pleasantly surprised by how good they were.

The thing that I love is that every single uke I have owned (around 15, all but one, tenors) has had a distinct sound and feel to it. Some suited me better than others. Some I outgrew. Others I'm growing into. Their capabilities being greater than mine.

(This is a further explanation of my earlier post.)

Kenn2018
07-15-2018, 01:31 PM
My KoAloha Tenor gloss is about as good as a build can get. Quite nice except for a somewhat loose tuner. Plays great & sounds great.

The sound of the Opio was very good. Bright, open and crisp. But I didn't like the finish. I'm sure it was fine for someone else.

That's the only one that I was underwhelmed by. And a couple I was pleasantly surprised by how good they were.

The thing that I love is that every single uke I have owned (around 15, all but one, tenors) has had a distinct sound and feel to it. Some suited me better than others. Some I outgrew. Others I'm growing into. Their capabilities being greater than mine.

derbyhat
07-15-2018, 01:31 PM
I would gather that my Kamaka is more unimpressed with me than I am with it.

SandChannel has just won the thread. Well done!

kissing
07-16-2018, 04:14 AM
Not that it was a bad instrument or anything.. but I had a Pono Nui which wasn't as BIG on sound as I expected.
Sorta like a dull baritone/unimpressive guitar.

Definitely not a bad sounding instrument... just a bit underwhelming than I expected.
So I ended up letting it go by selling it.

Given the choice now, I'd definitely pick a good quality Baritone (eg: Pono) or an actual Classical guitar instead.

bonesigh
07-16-2018, 04:52 PM
I didn’t buy this Uke, but, just today as I was looking at many Ukuleles at a music store. I played a $650 Kamoa uke with one of their pickups. I would have bought the Kala Kiwi at, at 145, they had instead!

willisoften
07-21-2018, 08:39 AM
Love my Kamaka but if I didn't already own it I would have a hard time justifying the UK price which includes VAT (sales tax of 20%). I have a love / hate relationship with a Kanilea Concert sounds amazing but I don't find it easy to play easy to play (internet buyer). I'm reluctant to part with it - but it really doesn't suit me. So not a good buy. On the other hand I don't think it cost too much, my responsibilities are met to pets family tax national insurance. My indulgence is my own at any price!

aremick
07-28-2018, 07:31 AM
I have a late 40ish Martin Style 3 that I'm not all that fond of - it is my most expensive uke...

JoeJazz2000
08-08-2018, 07:01 AM
I'm answering the question literally; I'm lucky that the most expensive ukulele that was unworthy of its price wasn't all that expensive. During one of its periodic channel-clearing exercises, Lanakai put a now-obsolete model, a solid mahogany tenor the LM-T on sale. I ordered it and found that even with an attractive appearance: gold tuners, figured top and back, wood binding and rosette, its playability issues and tone were unacceptable even at the reduced price of (about) $145. The nut was not properly trimmed and interfered with the left hand's playing. The action was high. The U.S. distributor wouldn't repair it and sent it back untouched. A local guitar shop fixed it. I then went on a string quest and ended up with a SouthCoast low tension linear set with a plain fourth string. I now have a it in playable condition, getting a good tone. I use it exclusively for jazz and bossa arrangements (Glenn Rose, etc.) and I like it for that. Still overall, for the trouble I'd like to have paid less. I remain a Lanakai fan and have a lam mahogany tenor, tuned re-entrant that I like better.

Anthroterra
08-12-2018, 03:07 AM
I have three high-end ukes.
I paid close to $1000 for a koa tenor G-String the day I got home from Iraq as my first uke. I didnt even know how to play yet. But I loved the sweetness of the sound. I liked it so much that I bought a second directly from the maker that was much nicer for the same price. (he had made it for a professional player but kept it due to a tiny flaw). I had nothing to compare them to at first, but now that I own several more and have played dozens that I have restrung for friends, I a can truly appreciate that these instruments were worth every cent. The finishes have not held up well over the past 11 years, so I will say that that aspect was sub-par. I've discovered that it's the same with a lot of G-Strings. The instruments have otherwise aged wonderfully and the koa has opened up into a sound that is sweeter than any honey.
My other high-end uke is my Mya Moe reso which I got here second hand. The craftsmanship on this thing is AMAZING. It is just so tight and fine! I definitely see the worth in the price and can't believe it had two owners before me. I love it so much I now have an order in at beansprout for an alto :)