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jzzlvr
12-09-2018, 08:50 AM
Good folks of UU - I'm looking for your opinions and advice!

Today I returned to my ukes after a break. Coming back with fresh ears and fingers, I am beginning to evaluate my remaining ukes and question whether they still fit in the roster... or if it is time for a change! Over the years, I have accumulated several (factory) ukes of different sizes and brands. These are the three remaining ukes in the roster:

Uke #1: Pono MC (mahogany concert, satin)
Got this from HMS three years ago. I didn't love it at first - I found it on the quiet side and lacking sustain. When I changed the original strings to fluorocarbon, there was more sustain but I still found it rather quiet. Last year, I changed back to the original strings on a whim and, to my surprise, I rather liked them. The sound with these strings is punchy/percussive, which is particularly good for some songs, and my fingers have gained more strength to be able to work with the thicker nylon strings. Today, I put a wound low G string on this uke, and I really like the combo of percussive treble strings over the ringing sustain from the low G.
Conclusion: this will stay in the roster for a while, as I find the sound rather unique compared to my other ukes, past and present.

Uke #2: Cordoba 30T (mahogany tenor, gloss)
Bought this from HMS at the same time as the Pono :rolleyes:. At the time, this was my favorite out of the two. However, over the years I find I haven't spent too much time on it compared to other ukes. Maybe I'm more of a concert gal, or maybe the sound is too clean and clinical for my ears (currently using Worth brown strings). The sound is perfectly fine - effortlessly ringing, full of sustain - it just doesn't reach me emotionally ..yet.
Conclusion: unknown. Should I give it more play time? Experiment with strings? Or move on?

Uke #3: Kala SLNG (mahogany long-neck soprano, concert scale, gloss)
Got this from Mim just earlier this year. At the time I was travelling quite a bit and wanted a small laminate for convenience and stability. Things change - I don't travel as much with my uke anymore. It's still nice to have this low-maintenance uke lying around the house, especially now that it's winter with heating on, I don't have to worry about this one much. I love the gloss finish, and the sound holds its own surprisingly well against the two all-solids - it is louder than the Pono when I want volume and warmer than the Cordoba to my ears.
Conclusion: unknown. I am pleased with it, but the original use case (travelling) doesn't exist anymore.

New Uke Options
I find that 2-3 is a good number of ukes for me. I do want to try a new/different uke - this would require selling 1-2 of the existing ones.
I would like to experiment with other types of wood: spruce? cedar? koa/acacia? I don't have a good dealer locally with a variety of options to try out in-store, so I will have to purchase based on Internet research.
Brand-wise, I'm also curious about KoAloha Opio and Romero Creations Tiny Tenor/ST Concert.
I still need to figure out whether to go with concert scale entirely, or keep a tenor around in case my preference changes.

I know these are personal decisions, but given that I am so darn confused, your suggestions/opinions are greatly appreciated. Or if you like, please share your own roster review as well!

pix.fairydust
12-09-2018, 10:52 AM
Hi :-)

I'm not the world's most knowledgeable but I thought I'd get the ball rolling.
I had a Ko'aloha opio tenor (spruce top). It was a lovely instrument but just not for me - it was a bit "boisterous"!

I recently cut down to soprano / baritone and concert (mainly concerts) but have just re-added a tenor as it seemed too good to pass up!

I love koa as a wood - the look and the sound. I also really like spruce tops too. I have a take anywhere all acacia snail which has been the biggest surprise (in a good way!)

Not hoping to add anymore ukuleles but do want to add a pick up to my all koa concert.

I've managed to try quite a few by buying used and doing trades. It's a bit of a gamble but I've trusted my senses and everyone I've done I've not regretted! (some I didn't go ahead with - also no regrets!) I've got to know what I like because of it.

Good luck in your search, look forward to seeing what you decide!

jzzlvr
12-09-2018, 11:42 AM
Appreciate the response and sharing your experiences!

Re: the Opio being "boisterous" - I have heard that KoAlohas and Opios are generally loud. I have listened to a longneck concert koa KoAloha in real life - definitely loud but not unpleasant. Do you attribute the boisterousness to the tenor size body + spruce top? Spruce, I assume, would be more in-your-face than other tonewoods? I am considering a spruce-top concert (among many, many other options) - perhaps the spruce top would be a little tamer on a smaller body?


Good luck in your search, look forward to seeing what you decide!

Thank you - it will be a while because the local options are limited. I am planning to get the boyfriend to buy from the States for me when he goes on a maybe-business trip next year. For now I am researching and learning from others' experiences, such as yours :)

pix.fairydust
12-09-2018, 11:48 AM
With the Ko'aloha I think it was a combination of size, spruce top, finish (all satin) and it being a Ko'aloha so known to be louder and bold anyway. I do own a spruce top concert now which has a gloss back and sides and is just the right balance of bold and sweet (describing sounds is soooooo very subjective, sorry, probably not helping you!)

Do you play all the sizes? Any preference on size?

jzzlvr
12-09-2018, 11:56 AM
Nice - I am leaning towards spruce top concert as well (laminate back and sides), though that seems to change from day to day as I look at more ukes haha.

I started on a soprano - the size was ok but I prefer a longer scale for fingerpicking. Haven't gone back to soprano in years. Right now I only have concert and tenor scales, playing concert mostly though I'm not sure if that preference is because of the scale itself, the tenor vs. concert sound difference, or just because I haven't warmed up to this particular tenor yet (the Cordoba 30T). Longer scale isn't a problem physically because I do play guitalele which has a longer scale than tenor.

RafterGirl
12-09-2018, 12:17 PM
Here's my personal ukulele journey......

After some trial and error, I have concluded that concert scale is my happy place. I love the sound and range of the tenor, but my short chubby fingers can't quite handle the tenor scale comfortably. I am fairly comfortable on a wider nut size soprano such as my Islander or a Kanilea. I have bought and sold a number of different sizes, brands, styles, woods, etc. over the year and 8 months that I've been playing. It's hard to resist the urge to buy a lot of different ukuleles, but I've come to realize that I'm most happy with 4 total. I currently have 4 that I'm very pleased with.

Islander Acacia laminate soprano - This is my camping & travel ukulele. My short chubby fingers don't jive all that well with sopranos, but Islander & Kanilea sopranos do work pretty well for me. I owned a beautiful Imua soprano for awhile, but didn't play it enough to justify keeping it.

KoAloha Koa concert - This was my first "good" ukulele. It was a birthday gift from my mom, purchased from a friend in my local ukulele group. I love this uke to pieces. The sound & playability are so special.

Gary Gill concert scale tenor - I made the mistake of browsing Mim's website and saw this uke. Gary retired from ukulele building and Mim had three of his last ones. The unique combo of tenor sound and the concert scale caught my eye. It has a Douglas fir top, and Mahogany body. It has a wonderful mellow tone, and is the uke I reach for first when I want to play chord melody or try some finger style.

aNueNue Moon Bird concert - This is my latest acquisition. I saved up my money to buy this beauty. I play in my church worship band every Sunday, and for the past year I played a custom cedar/rosewood Loprinzi. It had a great sound, but I wasn't comfortable with the thin neck of the Loprinzi. The reviews on the Moon Bird were all very good, and I had never owned a spruce top ukulele. I took the plunge and I'm glad I did. Every ukulele workshop and group jam I go to with it, I get comments on how great it sounds. Plugged in at church it sounds amazing. Loud, full, and well rounded. The lead guitar player at church commented on how well it holds it's own in the mix of electric & acoustic guitars, piano, and vocals.

I still "window shop" the used ukulele marketplaces, HMS, Mim, Uke Republic, Elderly, etc. but I don't have any strong desire for anything else right now. I have the perfect mix of woods, and sounds to suit my needs. I have no desire to replace any of my 4 ukuleles, and no desire to collect more than 4.

Chopped Liver
12-09-2018, 12:21 PM
I tried an Opio soprano at Mim's. Nice sound but too loud for me. (I have a hearing sensitivity.). Bought a Laminate Willow soprano with a solid spruce top. Had to return it because the spruce was too loud. Ended up with a solid Mango Pono that was quieter. However, I can't seem to play it, either because my ears hurt after a few minutes. I'm thinking it's the resonance. (That isn't true of my Lanikai laminate concert, so I am guessing it's the wood vs the size).

jzzlvr
12-09-2018, 12:40 PM
Here's my personal ukulele journey......

Thanks for sharing! So cool that you have found your happy place with ukes - I am working my way towards this goal. Great selections and variety in your arsenal too! This has given me some ideas...


Gary Gill concert scale tenor - I made the mistake of browsing Mim's website and saw this uke.

Ha, my favorite mistake! That sounds like a very precious acquisition given its rarity.

jzzlvr
12-09-2018, 12:43 PM
I tried an Opio soprano at Mim's. Nice sound but too loud for me. (I have a hearing sensitivity.). Bought a Laminate Willow soprano with a solid spruce top. Had to return it because the spruce was too loud. Ended up with a solid Mango Pono that was quieter. However, I can't seem to play it, either because my ears hurt after a few minutes. I'm thinking it's the resonance. (That isn't true of my Lanikai laminate concert, so I am guessing it's the wood vs the size).

That's too bad. Is the Pono also a soprano?

RafterGirl
12-09-2018, 12:46 PM
I was expecting the Moon Bird with the spruce top to be as bright as, if not more so, than my KoAloha. I was pleasantly surprised by how well rounded it is. It can be played soft & mellow, or I can dig in and play it loud & proud. Someone above mentioned a gloss body as perhaps toning down a bright spruce top???? The Moon Bird is my first gloss finish body ukulele. I normally prefer satin, but the Moon Bird has a satin neck, which is really the part I care about. I don't know if the gloss has an impact or not. I think the design and bigger lower bout on the Moon Bird has more to do with it

Kenn2018
12-09-2018, 12:49 PM
I tried an Opio soprano at Mim's. Nice sound but too loud for me. (I have a hearing sensitivity.). Bought a Laminate Willow soprano with a solid spruce top. Had to return it because the spruce was too loud. Ended up with a solid Mango Pono that was quieter. However, I can't seem to play it, either because my ears hurt after a few minutes. I'm thinking it's the resonance. (That isn't true of my Lanikai laminate concert, so I am guessing it's the wood vs the size).

Have you tried ear plugs, like shooters' plugs to lessen the stronger pulses?

Noise cancelling ear buds might also help. They were originally created to help protect symphony orchestra members' hearing. Especially the players who had to sit close to the percussion sections. I have a pair of Audio-Technica ones that I wear while cutting the grass. And on airplanes they are wonderful for lessening the drone of the engines and the sounds of crying babies. You can still hear what's going on around you if you want, whilst taking away some of the louder noises. When I bought them the AT ones were about $50 on Amazon. But there are several brands available.

Bose makes several models as well. And it might be worth a call to them to ask if they have any suggestions to help your situation. I believe they were the ones who originally made them for the orchestras, but I'm not positive about that.

Best of luck.

jzzlvr
12-09-2018, 01:03 PM
I was expecting the Moon Bird with the spruce top to be as bright as, if not more so, than my KoAloha. I was pleasantly surprised by how well rounded it is. It can be played soft & mellow, or I can dig in and play it loud & proud. Someone above mentioned a gloss body as perhaps toning down a bright spruce top???? The Moon Bird is my first gloss finish body ukulele. I normally prefer satin, but the Moon Bird has a satin neck, which is really the part I care about. I don't know if the gloss has an impact or not. I think the design and bigger lower bout on the Moon Bird has more to do with it

A well-rounded uke sounds like a dream. When I was reading to decide between gloss and satin on a previous purchase, I read that the finish, depending on how it was applied, could have an effect on tone (the top might not be vibrating as much compared to a lighter finish). In my personal experience, this is true on the Kala SLNG, as it sounds warmer/less bright than the satin concert and soprano of the same brand that I have tried (granted these are level-entry factory ukes). This seems to work out well for your case / on spruce top.

RafterGirl
12-09-2018, 01:30 PM
You mentioned being torn about keeping a tenor vs liking concert scale better. Mim has two Mike Pererria tenor pineapple body/concert scale ukes on her website. People seem to like MP ukes and Mim does great set-ups.

Sorry to be an enabler :)

jzzlvr
12-09-2018, 01:54 PM
Sorry to be an enabler :)

LOL, no problem, I am an enabler to my uke friends as well. I was also planning to buy from Mim again - had a great experience buying from her last time.


"Short scale tenor" - interesting. I think I prefer 14 frets to the body (the one you mentioned has 12 frets, like my Cordoba tenor). I'm not really sure whether I don't like tenor scale, tension or just this particular tenor - I need to spend some more time on it and figure out what isn't working before looking for a replacement. In any case, I don't plan to pull the trigger on anything until my boyfriend goes to the States next year, since I prefer to hand-carry across the border than to take a chance with customs.

Chopped Liver
12-09-2018, 02:15 PM
That's too bad. Is the Pono also a soprano?

Yes, it is a soprano.

Chopped Liver
12-09-2018, 02:18 PM
Have you tried ear plugs, like shooters' plugs to lessen the stronger pulses?

Noise cancelling ear buds might also help. They were originally created to help protect symphony orchestra members' hearing. Especially the players who had to sit close to the percussion sections. I have a pair of Audio-Technica ones that I wear while cutting the grass. And on airplanes they are wonderful for lessening the drone of the engines and the sounds of crying babies. You can still hear what's going on around you if you want, whilst taking away some of the louder noises. When I bought them the AT ones were about $50 on Amazon. But there are several brands available.

Bose makes several models as well. And it might be worth a call to them to ask if they have any suggestions to help your situation. I believe they were the ones who originally made them for the orchestras, but I'm not positive about that.

Best of luck.

No, I haven't tried those. Would I still be able to hear the richness of the music?

I need to ask my audiologist about these. Thanks!

jzzlvr
12-09-2018, 03:05 PM
No, I haven't tried those. Would I still be able to hear the richness of the music?

I need to ask my audiologist about these. Thanks!

Another option to consider: what about an electric uke, that way you can control the volume? Like this: https://www.theukulelesite.com/pono-te-d-tenor-electric-acacia-gloss-w-case.html