View Full Version : Free set-up or 10% price cut?

11-15-2018, 09:37 AM
I have a tricky decision to make & I only have 30 hours to do it. I need your advice! Details follow.

Via EBAY, I plan to buy THIS (https://www.ebay.com/itm/264000882323?ul_noapp=true) acoustic-electric Kala baritone.

I have 2 sellers to choose between:
1- Sweetwater (266,337 reviews, 100% positive feedback). Their price is $459.99 plus they do a free set-up on instruments costing more than $300. Standard shipping is free.
2- liquid-audio (4,334 reviews, 99.7% positive feedback). I sent them a message asking if they do set-up. Their reply was "No." They included an offer to sell this uke for $413.99 -- a $46 price reduction. Their offer expires in ~30 hours. Their free shipping is "Expedited".


I can NOT do set-ups. Set-ups here on Oahu usually cost $40 to $50 & the guys doing them usually have a backlog of 3 to 4 weeks.
If I choose Sweetwater I get a free & unpersonalized set-up of indeterminate quality.
If I choose liquid-audio, I'm saving $46 by taking the chance that Kala's ukuleles are set-up pretty good at the factory.
Sweetwater is in Indiana so Standard shipping means it will take about 1 month to reach Hawaii. Shipping by liquid-audio *should* be much faster -- HOWEVER, I wonder if liquid-audio has fully researched the cost of expedited shipping from Continental USA to Hawaii.

=>QUESTION #1: Which one should I buy from -- Sweetwater or liquid-audio?

=>QUESTION #2: I'm mainly a strummer. If I go with Sweetwater, I plan to ask them to set at ~0.8mm (fret 1) & ~2.70mm (fret 12). I got these numbers somewhere a long time ago. I forget where. Do they sound OKAY to you?

11-15-2018, 10:17 AM
Give me the set up 10 times out of 10.

Graham Greenbag
11-15-2018, 10:26 AM
IMHO, after having been let down by reputable dealers here in the U.K., set-ups by the supplying dealer are too often not to the expected quality. With that variability in mind I’d take the best financial offer, that’s not to say a dealer won’t do the promised work but rather why risk it. If you have the work done locally you can discuss any concerns with the person doing the work. Also, for the price that you’re paying, I’d have thought that the Uke might well have already been set-up at the factory. Delaying a decision until you have the goods with you means you don’t risk paying for unneeded work.

I set up all my Ukes myself now, it’s not hard but learn on something cheap. I aim for 0.5mm at the first fret but accept up to 0.1 mm higher, I don’t go lower. YMMV but I think the 0.8 mm figure is too high. The suggested height at the 12th fret is the same as what I aim towards.

11-15-2018, 10:50 AM
Blow them both off and go with Mim or Uke Republic.

Jim Hanks
11-15-2018, 10:53 AM
Well, I don't know liquid-audio so I'm not going to slam them. I do know Sweetwater and have always had excellent service from them, though I have never ordered a uke from them, and hence can't speak to their setup process/quality. But I'd say you can't go wrong with Sweetwater.

As far as the setup numbers, ive never specified a first fret action. Anybody that does setups should know how to set the action there. But 12 fret action does vary and does matter. My own preference is closer to 2.5mm or 0.1" but some like it at 3mm or higher. If your preference is 2.7mm that is well within the range of "normal" and should,be a reasonable request

ETA: you can't go wrong with Nickie's suggestion either.

11-15-2018, 11:28 AM
I've dealt with Sweetwater a couple of times and found them to be very reputable.

That said......if I lived in Hawaii I'd buy local!!! (I'm jealous of you)

Joyful Uke
11-15-2018, 12:27 PM
I haven't bought a ukulele from Sweetwater, but have bought other items and found them to be great to work with, and they follow up to make sure you're satisfied.
Friends have bought instruments from Sweetwater, (but not ukuleles), and have had nothing but good things to say about them.

The suggestion of buying from Mim or Uke Republic is a great one, too, of course.

I don't know anything about liquid-audio, but unless I could find people who have purchased from them and were happy, I'd look into my other options. Just my opinion, of course.

11-15-2018, 02:52 PM
My experience with Kala is that the factory set up is adequate to play, but you will want to get a personalized set-up. I am lucky that I have a person who works for a local music store that knows me and my playing style. She has set-up both of my Baritones and they both play well for me. Mom and Uke Republic are both great options. If you want the beat playing uke for you plan on a set-up.

11-15-2018, 02:59 PM
@ Nickie -- Mim doesn't carry it. Also, they want $60 for shipping. Neither Uke Republic nor Elderly have this uke.
@ Jim -- thanks for the advice on the numbers. I will henceforth use these as my reference settings.
@ Toby Dog -- You got me to thinking so I called Hawaii Music Supply & spoke to Eli in their new store at Kakaako. He is checking to see about ordering this uke for me. Thanks for the suggestion. Their set-ups are PRIMO!
@ Bill1 --- AFAIK, this ukulele comes equipped with D'Addario titaniums. If so, I might actually like them.
@ Osprey -- It's neat that your Mom is a great option. ;) (Just kidding -- I know you meant Mim. Please see my reply to Nickie a few lines up.)

11-15-2018, 02:59 PM
So, travel time of a month or waiting 4 to 6 weeks for a local setup?

Depends upon what you call a setup. It isn't just the string height (I have mine set low because of beginning arthritis in my fingers), it is also making sure the frets are level and the ends are dressed properly. Yes, I have purchased a new, great rep uke, whose frets needed to be leveled. Or, that the fret ends were a little sharp due to some fretboard shrinkage. And HMS & Mim also condition the fretboard, because they are usually pretty dry right out of the box.

You can also get strap pins installed at the same time.

Personally, I'd get the work done locally because you can tell the tech how you like your setup and examine the instrument before you take it home.

I have had setups by Mim, HMS, UkeRepublic & TheUkeShop and they were all excellent.

11-15-2018, 07:03 PM
I bought a Kala baritone (different model) in the spring from a local store. The action at the 12th fret was pretty high, they lowered it for free. If you go with the factory setup, you may end up paying someone to adjust it to your liking.

11-15-2018, 07:48 PM
I too have had only great experiences with Sweetwater, but if you can get it from HMS, go for it.

8 tenor cutaway ukes, 5 acoustic bass ukes, 10 solid body bass ukes, 7 mini electric bass guitars

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11-16-2018, 01:06 AM

Long after you save that $46, you'll wonder how much better it could have been if it were setup properly.

Sweetwater is good.

11-16-2018, 04:39 AM
So... if I read you right, if you get it straight out of a box, it's $46 less than to have it setup.
But to have it setup locally, it's $45.

If it were me, I'd get the un-setup one at the discount.
Play it and see if it's comfortable. If it's not, have it setup locally, and you're at about the same cost if you do need to have it adjusted.

It maybe that the uke comes comfortable from the factory.
If not, then you can pay to have it setup to your spec rather than some random tech doing random things they think it needs.

I've had very good luck with kala's out of the box with decent playability. I've bought almost all my ukes from HMS, which came with a setup, and ended up modifying it myself anyway to get it just like I like, so even if it comes "setup" you might want it different anyway. Or.. maybe you just like it as it comes, which also happens sometimes.

Kalas more expensive ukes do tend to have better quality control from the factory.

So... yeah. If you have the option of trying it before shelling out the $45 difference for a setup, why not try it from the factory and see if you think it needs adjustments and then if so, spend the money to get it setup exactly how you want?

11-28-2018, 04:26 AM
There is a really important thing to bear in mind here... What many people consider to be a 'full setup' never really can be. A full setup requires the dealer knowing exactly how you would like your action in height - and I don't know a single one that offers that level of detail.

As such I find there are many people who feel 'let down' by a setup because the dealer didn't read their mind and give them exactly what they like...

The reality is that a 'setup' is really more a QC check by the dealer to make sure the things that ARE adjustable are adjusted (tuners tight, saddle height within acceptable limits, nut height within acceptable limits, frets level etc). But beyond that you can still adjust further and that is NOT what a store setup will give you. All they aim to give you is a ukulele that works within acceptable limits.

Personally, I don't mind either way as I always do my own setups... but... depends how confident you are in tweaking things yourself.

11-28-2018, 12:54 PM
@ bazmaz -- Excellent comments re set-ups. I did a C&P into my archives. Thanks!

... ... Andrew can probably bring one in for you if he doesn’t have one in stock; that’s well within his wheelhouse I’d imagine.Because you mentioned Andrew, I took a jaunt to HMS (Hawaii Music Supply) in Haleiwa on Black Friday. Andrew wasn't there but a nice lass helped me. I quickly discarded the idea of asking her to order the Kala a/e baritone because I learned that all their Pono's were on a super great sale. I bought an oversized Pono baritone, solid spruce top & solid acacia B&S. It plays like a dream. No electronics -- I may or may not get them added in the future.

The ukuleles from HMS are always nicely set-up before putting them on display. However the action on my new barry is just a sukoshi bit higher than I like. I'm planning to change the strings in a few days & uptune to A tuning. After that is done & settles in, I *may* ask HMS to tweak action a hair lower if it's needed.