View Full Version : Biggest uke "gamble"?

Jim Hanks
02-02-2019, 05:38 AM
I'm curious to hear any tales of "gambles" y'all have done in the uke world and whether it paid off or not. This could be a "too good to be true" that turned out to be true - or not.

My biggest so far was probably the Lanikai baritone "gamblers special" that Butler Music did a few years ago. That turned out ok. Though that uke has since moved on, it was my first experience with baritone, and I now have 4 bari scale instruments.

I've certainly spent much more on sight-unseen customs, but I don't really consider those gambles due to the reputation of the builders.

Croaky Keith
02-02-2019, 07:12 AM
I guess my only gamble, as such, was on whether a £500 uke was really going to be worth it to me, other people raved about the brand, but I just wasn't sure, but I went & bought it, after quite some time thinking about it - it is a really nice uke, but I'm still not sure that it was really worth that much, but if you want something these days, you just have to pay the price, don't you. ;)

Yes, it was my solid acacia KoAloha long neck concert uke. :)

02-02-2019, 07:30 AM
It was my LFdM, configured in May 2013/received in February 2014, and yes, a thousand times yes, it paid off.

This wouldnít be such a gamble now (for anyone), but it was for me almost six years ago. Luisís instruments came highly recommended, but it was new to me at the time. :)

02-02-2019, 07:45 AM
Biggest gamble was when one of our band members had her uke trodden on the day before a gig. I happened to be the only one able to get to a uke shop that day, so I selected her new uke. I sent a picture from the shop so I knew the look was ok, but I can tell you it was a huge relief to me when she played it and found she liked it. I wouldn't have been able to play it myself as I'm left-handed and it was a right-handed electro-acoustic.

Graham Greenbag
02-02-2019, 07:56 AM
I can’t say that I’ve taken what would be classed as big gambles but two that didn’t work-out for me come to mind, both are well thought of brands and it wouldn’t be fair to name them. The first one I bought mail order and it was so badly set-up that I should have sent it back but instead I sorted all the issues out myself and now play it, that Concert sounds the nicest of all my Ukes but it’s frets aren’t quite tall enough for my style of playing and hence I struggle to play barred chords easily on it. At some point I’ll let it go and loose about £80 ($100) in the process plus all the time I’ve put into it. The other is a very nice Soprano that I bought used and in beautiful condition, it needed setting up and after that it sounded fantastic if too bright for my tastes. It’s frets we’re also too low for me and that Uke was sold on for a loss of say £20 plus my time.

You win some and you loose some, buying unseen and unheard is a gamble but overall mail order has served me as well if not better than any local shop.

I can’t say that I’ve had any major successes because I don’t spend large sums on Ukes. However, whether new or second hand, the Makala’s, Kala’s and Lanikai’s that I’ve purchased have all been great once set-up. There’s been some success on prices for those too, check the market carefully because between suppliers a 25% gap is not at all unusual. In terms of bargains I think my Makala Concert was pretty good, I got it at a good price and once restrung and set-up well it played well. That Makala was sold to make space for something else and at some point I’ll replace it with a Kala KA-C (which is pretty much the same but with some refinements) and then let the Concert mention in the first paragraph go.

02-02-2019, 08:09 AM
A K-P-K longneck soprano pineapple. Absolutely horrid tone no matter what strings I used. Sounded like a banjo half-stuffed with rags. I gave it away far enough that it couldn't be given back.

02-02-2019, 08:26 AM
I will be brutally honest......remember this is personal preference. Biggest gamble I took that didn't work out was my Blackbird Farallon. I listened to every sound sample, talked to Corey and Andrew. Ordered it with ALL the options I like, radius fretboard, side sound port, string through bridge. Liked everything about it, except the sound.

It was GREAT finger picked but strummed it bugged me, was sterile and almost brash sounding. I bought this to take camping, cottage, travel, sit around the campfire strum and sing along machine. I changed string at least 7 times and spent 8 months trying to like it. Brenda (Solorule) bought it and loves it, she plays exclusively fingerstyle and makes it sound wonderful.

Biggest $$$ gamble I took that worked out was my I'iwi redwood/walnut tenor. Sure they are highly regarded ( so was the Farallon) but I bought this on pure impulse. HMS did the video recording, I saw it minutes after it was posted. I immediately called Andrew with my credit card number before he could even list it. It has ticked all the boxes, I LOVE it.

02-02-2019, 09:50 AM
It was a gamble for me to buy the Martin OXK from Musician's Friend. That was a lot of money for me and I read so much about needing to get setups, which they don't do. It came basically straight from Martin as they just put their box around it. Was well set up and I instantly loved it.

Because of that, I gambled on the $94 Overstock.com on eBay Kala ASOV that many of us on here bought. Was whelmed when it came in. Put Martin M600 strings on it and now it sounds fantastic.

02-02-2019, 11:26 AM
Every uke I bought on line even my lfdm is a gamble because I donít have the luxury of trying it first.
Everyone has different preference! Just because someone said itís good it does not mean itís good to your ears!
Itís a learning curve. Thatís how UAS starts!
Yes itís a gamble and dern addictive !
We are all gamblers

02-02-2019, 11:38 AM
I tried a bunch of Ukes in the two years Iíve been playing. Only a couple were duds, but some I just didnít bond with. That was mainly a neck shape/size issue. I suppose my biggest gamble has been my aNueNue Moon Bird. By far the most expensive uke Iíve purchased based solely on the reviews & sound samples of others. Luckily the gamble paid off and I love it. :)

02-02-2019, 01:33 PM
I don't know how well this story fits, but in 2017 I was surfing eBay as I do most every night and saw an auction for an Ovation tenor cutaway sunburst that looked just like my first new guitar I bought in 1975. It had a buy-it-now price of $400 and the bidding was at $200. I decided to put in a max bid of $295. As the three days went by, my bid was always on top, right until the last 10 seconds when a $350 came in and got it. I was so disappointed, saying to myself that I should have just bought it for the $400.

About a week later I was reading the new posts here in UU and saw a Marketplace post for a used Godin Multiuke sunburst. I clicked it and saw that the seller just brought down the price to $400 in excellent condition. I did a quick lookup of the Multiuke and with all the positive feedback, immediately contacted the seller and bought it. I'm so glad I didn't get the Ovation, the Godin is so much better. I did change the low G strings to re-entrant.

http://www.kohanmike.com/uploads/Godin Multiuke sunburst mine 843.jpg

9 tenor cutaway ukes, 5 acoustic bass ukes, 11 solid body bass ukes, 8 mini electric bass guitars (Total: 33)

• Donate to The Ukulele Kids Club, they provide ukuleles to children in hospital music therapy programs. www.theukc.org
• Member The CC Strummers www.youtube.com/user/CCStrummers/video

02-02-2019, 02:17 PM
Three of my ukes (Farallon, Magic Fluke Firefly Tenor, Bentona Resonator) have been so highly regarded in various reviews that I didn't consider their purchases to be any type of gamble. But the Klos was pretty much an unknown. Their carbon fiber travel guitar is spoken of well though, so I decided to risk being an early "subscriber". And even with the setup work I had to do I am still very pleased with the result. (But that will probably change if the darn bridge ever pops off!)

02-02-2019, 08:31 PM
.......It was GREAT finger picked but strummed it bugged me, was sterile and almost brash sounding.....

Yes, that's a gamble every time one gets an instrument sight unseen. I've noticed that too, getting a uke that sounds great fingerpicked, but not as good strummed. If you're mainly a strummer, that's a problem, and the ukes sits until you finally send it off.

I haven't done it yet, but making the first leap from mid range ukes to a $1,000.00+ K-brand would be a big gamble for me. Especially when trying to save a few bucks by buying used.

02-02-2019, 08:58 PM
I really wanted to try the Pono large baritone uke/small tenor guitar in the steel string version and was never gonna find it locally. One came up for sale used on the mandolin cafe and I snatched it up. I’ve had Ponos before from hms and was confident on the build quality but didn’t know if Id like the tone of this model. The gamble factor made me glad I was able to get it used, as I wouldn’t take such a hit if I didn’t like it (I do). I held off selling my Pono pro bari until after it arrived, just in case.

A few years back I took a gamble on an old Harmony tenor guitar online. It was a stinker. I was able to resell it locally on CL. Nowadays, I am very unlikely to purchase without playing first.

02-02-2019, 09:12 PM
My first proper Ukulele was a gamble. I had a very cheap soprano I had just begun on and after trying some concerts and tenors in the local shops decided I did not like tenors and I was definitely going to buy an Ohana laminate concert. Then the solid top tenor from the same brand appeared on our local internet auction site at the equivalent of us$150. On impulse I bought sight unseen online from a music dealer whose retail store has gone out of business and only does a small amount of internet trade.

When I first got it I had buyer's remorse and even posted on facebook to our local ukulele group offering a swap for a similair or cheaper concert. I love that tenor now, to the point my wife has threatened to throw it out the window on numerous occasions. Now I am looking at going up in size instead of down!

02-02-2019, 11:13 PM
Most of my ukuleles have probably been gambles - all those I haven't been able to try in person and even some I have because I've found that I don't really know how much I like it or if it and I gel until I've given it a proper play.
None have been disappointments but several have been rehomed because the fit wasn't right...

Swamp Yankee
02-03-2019, 02:31 AM
Almost all of the ukuleles I have purchased were bought online so, in that respect, they've pretty much all been gambles. For example, of those listed in my signature line, the Cordoba 24T was the only uke I inspected before purchasing.

But, the online purchases were almost all bought second-hand and at reasonable prices as I knew I might want to sell them off after trying them.

The biggest ukulele gamble I've taken so far was committing to a buy it now a few days back on a second hand Kiwaya KS1 from an Ebay seller with no prior sales... We'll see. But even there, worst case is I'm out $150 until Ebay and/ or credit card company resolves the issue.

I've bought literally dozens of instruments online in the past 15 years. I see no reason to stop now. Some transactions make me money, most don't... but even when I lose a few dollars, I consider it tuition spent on learning about these wonderful things.

Swamp Yankee
02-03-2019, 02:55 AM
I tried a bunch of Ukes in the two years Iíve been playing. Only a couple were duds, but some I just didnít bond with. That was mainly a neck shape/size issue.

Neck profile is such an important consideration, in my opinion, that it's surprising to me that so few makers and sellers offer any description, and even many otherwise meticulous reviews offer nothing more than subjective comments.

02-03-2019, 02:57 AM
My biggest instrument gamble was buying one of the first Farallon instruments that Blackbird ever made. I had a couple of (small) issues with it. But Joe and others at Blackbird were great about helping to resolve those. Now, that instrument is one of my favorites, in part because it's worry-free and sits on my desk at arm's reach.

My biggest (most nerve wracking) ukulele gamble, though, was posting my first video here on UU of myself playing and singing. Seems like no one here noticed it. That was okay, though. My son and I did that together, and we've kept at it and had lots of fun in the process.

02-03-2019, 03:10 AM
I spent almost a month researching and looking for a "nice" uke to replace my ukulele that got broken. I finally decided what I wanted, located a reputable dealer, and ordered it. The dealer called me up the next day and said that they could not find the ukulele that I ordered in their warehouse and apologized. The next day after that they called back and offered me a ukulele that was several steps up from the one I had originally ordered and twice the price. They offered to sell it to me at the same price as my original order. I had not even considered that particular ukulele, but in the course of two or three minutes looking at it on the internet while talking to the sales person I bought it. I usually don't buy things without thinking for months about it. The uke showed up and I love it.

02-03-2019, 04:37 AM
I have three ukulele's. All bought after some research online but without seeing playing hearing them in person. So I do think they are all a gamble. The Koaloha tenor was perhaps the biggest question due to cost and wondering if I would like it. I like it! I have kept all three, the Fluke, the Koaloha, and my new Godin. Instruments can be such a personal thing, buying and then trying can be a toss up for many people, sometimes it works out, sometimes it does not.

02-03-2019, 04:37 AM
Wow, great outcome, would love to see a pic

02-03-2019, 06:13 AM
I tried a bunch of Ukes in the two years I’ve been playing. Only a couple were duds, but some I just didn’t bond with. That was mainly a neck shape/size issue.

^^Yes. I wanted to give a baritone a try and grabbed an inexpensive Lanikai from eBay. The neck profile was weird (very thin with the frets spaced far apart), so the reaches were tough for my stubby fingers. It played fine otherwise. I listed it on the Marketplace and ended up swapping it for a mid-level concert (Lanikai, by chance) and it’s a delight. Thin neck again, but the fret spacing is more reasonable on the shorter neck. So it worked out after all.

02-03-2019, 07:11 AM
I bought a ukulele from eBay. When it arrived it had a rattle and the nut was broken. I wrote the company that sells the ukulele and they sent me a new nut, free. Probably didn’t hurt that I was a previous buyer. The rattle was resolved a bit of glue. No problems after that.

02-03-2019, 08:54 AM
Maybe it is just me but with so many on line purchases I'll just state my philosophy of UAS purchases and out comes. First caught in 1989 with a plastic Maccferri. After a few purchases I had to limit myself to a specific category and price. I decided to search for the somewhat mythical noname player. Found one, since passed onward, but had the non qualifiers as well sold in bulk or donated. Next category was the unusual like a Trehollipee, a non restorable 8 string with a built in GCEA pitch pipe, I still have most of these gathering dust either as wall hangers or tucked way. I've gambled on quality ukuleles which is similar to gambling on love that results from spectacular to being let go. As many of you know, my final burst was abused vintage Martins some 8 years ago. I have since been passing them on to give them a new life as they come out of the rescue room.
I have to say my gambling has been money looser, as most gambling is, but is has brought Joy and satisfaction beyond price.

02-03-2019, 09:14 AM
If buying an instrument without playing it first is a definition of gambling, then I'm a very good gambler, if I do say so myself. :eek:

I've had very few cases of buyers' remorse, and almost all the stringed instruments of various sorts that I currently own were purchased online and pre-owned, starting with the viola I've played professionally for 20 years. That was my first-ever eBay purchase, back when eBay was still mostly unknown, and my colleagues all thought I was nuts sending money to a stranger - a Texas guitar dealer, no less - who had gotten it on a trade. But that viola and I turned out to be a match made in heaven, as it far surpassed one that had cost me five times more a decade and a half earlier (which I had played prior to buying, but in a time where there were few choices to be had).

On the topic of ukes, though, I'm quite happy with all of the four I've gotten, one on eBay and three in the Marketplace.


02-03-2019, 09:57 AM
There is risk/uncertainty in almost any uke bought without playing it first. Not sure gamble is the right word for me. No uke Iíve bought was a gamble, some purchases were made on less hard data than others. Iíve bought/ordered some ukes just on builder reputation and videos of previous builds.... and been exceedingly pleased. Yes there was risk and uncertainty like most things in life. Wouldnít have said I was gambling. :)

02-03-2019, 10:12 AM
My first non-plastic uke purchase was a cracked Kamaka soprano white label. I knew it had a crack when I hit the "Buy It Now" button. Took it straight for repair, change of tuners, strap button. No regrets, though I learned about intonation higher up the fretboard & sopranos the hard way.

02-03-2019, 12:09 PM
Wow, where do I start... If I haven't heard of it, I'll probably be tempted to roll the dice. Bought a couple ukuleles from MGM, an early Kanilea with a bridge that was a little off that I sent back. Then there was a DeCava (jazz luthier) 5K replica off Reverb (had a sunken soundboard that made it unplayable and I sent it back), and recently a KLOS. But most likely the biggest gamble was an ASD tenor ukulele I bought in 2007. I doubt if few people have heard of ASD or the luthier Keith Ogata. I believe "deach" had one, but that is a member from years gone by.

At any rate, Keith made a design of ukulele that only had a side port, that was round, and no sound hole on the soundboard. For 2007 that was quite an oddity. Besides, the ukulele was offered on eBay with a few cosmetic blemishes, I was on a business trip, and had my son had to place the bid. What could go wrong? I did check out the ASD website and sent off some questions prior to making the decision. A week and $525 (which was not that cheap) later I had this really cool ukulele with some issues. High action, the bridge was off by about 1/8" that caused me to make a custom upside-down "L" saddle to get the intonation correct. Then I discovered the 6th fret was off slightly, but I was able to file an offset crown on the fret to fix the intonation it. With an 18" scale it was always tough to get the tone dialed in as it always was a little too bright for me. I have tried all sorts of strings and tunings and have settled, for now, on Bb. The long scale with lower tuning and heavier strings just sings.

But I have played the heck out of that ukulele. I just love it. There are divots all over the fingerboard and I have dragged that uke along on so many trips on the mainland and to Hawaii where it originally came from. If I had to play one ukulele like my life depended on it, that would be the one.