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snshami
04-11-2019, 08:51 PM
I play guitar and am new to ukulele. In the guitar world there is a belief that solid wood is better than laminate because of how it transforms with age.
No one claims that laminates cannot sound good. In fact there are many laminate guitars that sound awesome.

In the ukulele world, it seems the distinction is far more clearcut. Solid wood is considered better sounding than laminate.


I find this counter intuitive. In a uke the soundboard is so much smaller so to my naive mind it should have a lower contribution to the overall sound. According to my reasoning the distinction between a solid top and laminate should be smaller.

What is the truth. How much of a difference does a solid top really make?

kerneltime
04-11-2019, 09:00 PM
The impact of wood in uke world is different but it exists.. laminate can sound good but the quality of wood or laminate and how the uke is built has an impact else all sopranos would sound the same which is not true.. some sopranos do sound better.
There is one trend from guitar world that I do not see in ukes, it is the choice of using double wood tops.

AQUATOPAZ
04-11-2019, 09:02 PM
I play guitar and am new to ukulele. In the guitar world there is a belief that solid wood is better than laminate because of how it transforms with age.
No one claims that laminates cannot sound good. In fact there are many laminate guitars that sound awesome.

In the ukulele world, it seems the distinction is far more clearcut. Solid wood is considered better sounding than laminate.


I find this counter intuitive. In a uke the soundboard is so much smaller so to my naive mind it should have a lower contribution to the overall sound. According to my reasoning the distinction between a solid top and laminate should be smaller.

What is the truth. How much of a difference does a solid top really make?

Laminates are thin sheets glued together. The glue doesn't vibrate like solid. There will be less sustain and deader sound. The size of the instrument won't change this. If anything it would enhance the difference.

Kimosabe
04-11-2019, 09:38 PM
There are laminates and there are laminates. Some sound very nice. Probably what makes the real difference is a player’s ability to play.

Jeffelele
04-11-2019, 09:58 PM
[QUOT In a uke the soundboard is so much smaller so to my naive mind it should have a lower contribution to the overall sound. According to my reasoning the distinction between a solid top and laminate should be smaller.

What is the truth. How much of a difference does a solid top really make?[/QUOTE]

The line of reasoning in uke construction goes down a different path. Because of the lower surface area of the body and most importantly the top of the body uke construction seeks to maximize the ability of the uke to convert the energy of string vibrations into sound. In a nutshell, that’s the story.

Though there are some great exceptions I’d bet that it would be less than .0001 percent of actual ukes in the world.

Croaky Keith
04-11-2019, 10:02 PM
Yes, there is a slight difference in tone & feel between solid mahogany & laminate mahogany, just one sample, so it does make a difference, but mainly on single notes, I think, strumming loses some of the difference, to my mind. They also resonate for a little longer, in my experience.

Solid tops are probably the most cost effective option, as it is the top that vibrates to give out the sound mainly, with strings obviously counting in the equation too.

snshami
04-11-2019, 10:43 PM
Though there are some great exceptions I’d bet that it would be less than .0001 percent of actual ukes in the world.

So what are the exceptions? I'm looking for a low cost tenor.

DownUpDave
04-12-2019, 12:06 AM
You said there are many laminate guitars that sound "awesome", I have never heard anyone from the guitar world say that. Certainly not guitars with laminate tops. There is a trend for very heavy laminated back and sides with a solid wood top in classical guitars. That kind of back makes a great reflector for a high quality solid wood top, which produces most of the sound

DownUpDave
04-12-2019, 12:08 AM
So what are the exceptions? I'm looking for a low cost tenor.

What is your actual budget??? Low cost can be $50 to one person and $500 to another

Jerryc41
04-12-2019, 12:23 AM
I bet it's 99% myth - based on absolutely no facts whatsoever - just my opinion. :)

Blind listening tests between a Stradivarius and other violins have not shown the Strad to be superior. I bet it would be the same with a solid/laminate comparison. There are so many variables involved in producing a sound from a ukulele, that solid or laminate 3mm wood on the top is not going to be a deciding factor. I'd like to see a test between a solid Tiny Tenor and a laminate (which I have). Maybe someone could distinguish a difference in the sound, but would one be superior? There are two times when solid/laminate makes a difference: buying and selling. : )

Jerryc41
04-12-2019, 12:24 AM
What is your actual budget??? Low cost can be $50 to one person and $500 to another

Right. A fairly new player in our group mentioned someone who bought a ukulele that cost $300! She was amazed. :D

hendulele
04-12-2019, 01:10 AM
The main factors in solid vs laminate are materials, build quality, and setup. The first two are baked in, if you will. The third can be fixed by you (if you know what you’re doing) or the seller. That’s why so many of us buy new from uke specialists like Mim, HMS, or Uke Republic. All three are excellent. Mim has instruments at every price point and makes sure everything she sells is set up properly. Check out her reverb page.

ukantor
04-12-2019, 02:02 AM
There are two questions here:

"Is the advantage of solid wood a myth?" I won't try to answer that, it is too contentious.

"How much of a difference does a solid top really make?" My answer would be - not as much difference as the quality of the materials and the care and skill with which the ukulele was built.

I wish you good fortune with your quest. There are some very decent instruments out there, for not a lot of money. Buy with your ears, if possible. Two consecutive ukuleles from the same production line (or sole craftsman) can have markedly different characters. Not necessarily better, or worse, just different.

John Colter.

kkimura
04-12-2019, 02:10 AM
That there are very few high end laminate ukuleles makes it hard to compare their sound quality with the mostly solid wood high end ukuleles.

rrieth
04-12-2019, 02:26 AM
Search for posts by UU member Bazmaz. He has reviewed many different ukuleles and probably played many more that he didn't review. To paraphrase him, solid vs laminate is not as important as the quality and thickness of the top. If you have time to read through his posts here and on his website you will learn a lot.

Swamp Yankee
04-12-2019, 02:45 AM
Since ukuleles are so much smaller than guitars, if the best tone is important to you, isn't it all the more important that the ukulele you choose would be made lightly with good design, excellent materials, and skill?
Those attributes cost money, regardless of whether soild woods or high quality laminates are used.

snshami
04-12-2019, 02:57 AM
What is your actual budget??? Low cost can be $50 to one person and $500 to another

About US$150 give or take.

snshami
04-12-2019, 03:00 AM
You said there are many laminate guitars that sound "awesome", I have never heard anyone from the guitar world say that. Certainly not guitars with laminate tops. There is a trend for very heavy laminated back and sides with a solid wood top in classical guitars. That kind of back makes a great reflector for a high quality solid wood top, which produces most of the sound

Yamaha make some awesome laminate guitars. Their older FG series that are made in Japan are stunning and all are laminate top.

snshami
04-12-2019, 03:02 AM
Laminates are thin sheets glued together. The glue doesn't vibrate like solid. There will be less sustain and deader sound. The size of the instrument won't change this. If anything it would enhance the difference.

You are correct but wood is not a homogeneous material either. While it may not contain a glue layer it does have a fibrous structure that has damping characteristics. Having said that wood glue does not stay soft like you'd imagine. So in reality it behaves less like glue and more like sap.

snshami
04-12-2019, 03:06 AM
If you had to choose between a Kala KA-STG (solid spruce top) or a Kala KA-ZCT (Ziricote laminate). They are both the same price but one is laminate and the other solid top. Which would you go for?

Croaky Keith
04-12-2019, 03:36 AM
choose between a Kala KA-STG (solid spruce top) or a Kala KA-ZCT (Ziricote laminate).

I'd take the solid top! :)

Likely to have a better tone & looks nicer to me. :D

CPG
04-12-2019, 04:30 AM
If you had to choose between a Kala KA-STG (solid spruce top) or a Kala KA-ZCT (Ziricote laminate). They are both the same price but one is laminate and the other solid top. Which would you go for?

I'd would choose the KA-STG. Not necessarily because it's got a solid top but personally, because I owned a KA-ZCT and didn't like it all that much. It was a nice sounding uke, with a sorta sweet airy sound, and I really liked the neck a lot. I guess I like something with a little more brightness and punch. My favorite uke is a laminate (Kiwaya KS-5), so I definitely don't buy into solid wood automatically being superior (though I think in most cases it is) , I just personally didn't like the sound of the KA-ZCT. That said, it is generally regarded as a nice ukulele for the price.

Internet sound samples are always hard to get a really good read on, but they are better than nothing. Listen to a few and pick the one you like better.

KA-ZCT https://vimeo.com/170772958

KA-STG https://vimeo.com/68261892

Ukecaster
04-12-2019, 05:04 AM
I'd always prefer a solid top. Of those 2 videos, the solid spruce top model sounds much woodier and alive to my ears. YMMV

natchez
04-12-2019, 05:12 AM
Here an older video from HMS on budget tenors: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hwGqey0e6Y

I don't usually play tenors, and my ukuleles are not budget models, so I do not have any specific models to recommend. But, to maximize the bang for your buck- I would recommend buying used through the marketplace here. You may be able to get something a step-up over buying new. Just post a want to buy and see what comes in.

CPG
04-12-2019, 05:24 AM
I'd always prefer a solid top. Of those 2 videos, the solid spruce top model sounds much woodier and alive to my ears. YMMV

I definitely agree, the spruce top sounds markedly better to my ears too.

To the OP, I'll also add that while I think laminate (or other synthetic) CAN sound as good as a solid, in reality the majority of the time solid sounds better. In the Kala world I would choose a solid top over a laminate every time. YMMV

Arcy
04-12-2019, 05:38 AM
If you had to choose between a Kala KA-STG (solid spruce top) or a Kala KA-ZCT (Ziricote laminate). They are both the same price but one is laminate and the other solid top. Which would you go for?The difference here is more the difference in tonewoods than a difference between solid and laminate. Both probably sound pretty good, and which is better will be highly subjective. Personally, I'd pick the spruce because I like spruce and I'm not fond of the ziricote look (I may be the only one ;) ). What's right for me has no bearing on what's right for you.

I play my laminate mahogany Kala tenor more than I play my solid spruce top Ohana concert. The top wood isn't the deciding factor between these

bratsche
04-12-2019, 06:03 AM
Blind listening tests between a Stradivarius and other violins have not shown the Strad to be superior. I bet it would be the same with a solid/laminate comparison.

The blind testing I've seen were between Stradivarius violins and modern violins built with comparable great skill quality, not inexpensive ones. No laminate was involved. :) Personally, I'd take laminate more seriously if it were used in the making of violin family instruments. It isn't, though. Even cheap entry level children's violins are made with all solid woods. Personally, I would only buy all-solid ukuleles. But that's me.

bratsche

rrieth
04-12-2019, 06:15 AM
You are correct but wood is not a homogeneous material either. While it may not contain a glue layer it does have a fibrous structure that has damping characteristics. Having said that wood glue does not stay soft like you'd imagine. So in reality it behaves less like glue and more like sap.

I am not an expert in wood and wood glues, although I have read a fair amount about it. I believe it's better, but perhaps not completely accurate to compare glue to lignin, which is the substance in wood which holds the wood fibers together. A test for a successful glue joint is to force it apart after it is cured. A successful glue joint will break the wood instead of the glue bond when forced apart. On the basis of this I find it difficult to believe that glue has much of an effect at all on the vibrational qualities. I am interested enough in this subject to be open to hear what others have to say.

I hope you find a tenor in your price range to satisfy you. It's difficult to buy online where you can't actually play and listen to the instrument you will buy. There are online videos and online reviews like gotaukulele which might help you.

ghostrdr
04-12-2019, 07:35 AM
I thought Kiwaya ukuleles are laminates and people seem to like those.

Although take the above with a grain of salt as I mostly have all wood ukes (and a two fleas which I think are laminate too).

TobyDog
04-12-2019, 07:54 AM
Someone asked for a recommendation for an inexpensive tenor:

My recommendation is an Islander from a seller who will give you a good setup. Here is one from HMS with a sound sample from Corey Fujimoto (a GREAT player). It's $149.
https://www.theukulelesite.com/shop-by/brand/islander/islander-mahogany-tenor-mt-4-rb.html

Jarmo_S
04-12-2019, 07:57 AM
The stiffness of a laminate is much greater compared to a solid wood with same thickness and that matters I imagine. The way wood grains are pointing is another too in the laminate layers. Which one, solid or laminate is really better is another question too and depends how we use our ukes. Solid tops are of course always more expensive.

kypfer
04-12-2019, 08:10 AM
IMHO the greatest advantage of a solid top is to the manufacturer, who can charge significantly more than for a laminate top, for a very similar labour input, and have the punters queueing up to hand over the cash.

YMMV ;) :music:

BuzzBD
04-12-2019, 08:55 AM
Interesting discussion, let me throw in a few points. As for violins and blind listening tests. Apples and oranges here guys, yes, in many tests the audience could not tell the difference, but the player knows instantly, they are the ones feeding constant energy into the instrument. They have to work much harder with a lesser instrument. Blind listening tests also show that side sound ports donít work!

Generally, laminates are used in less expensive instruments and are mass assembled by semi skilled labor, but some high end luthiers also use laminates, i.e. double top classical guitars and laminated sides in other instruments. It is largely the skill and effort expended during construction that determine the overall quality of the instruments.

One advantage of solid wood is I can graduate the thickness of my tops and back. They are thinner at the edges and thicker in the center. I also string up all my instruments before applying the finish, which allows me to adjust the thickness if necessary.

I do debate sometimes why we luthiers struggle to obtain the best sounding sounding acoustic instruments that we can, when a couple hundred dollars of electronics can give an inexpensive instrument any sound we want.
Brad

Down Up Dick
04-12-2019, 09:07 AM
IMHO the greatest advantage of a solid top is to the manufacturer, who can charge significantly more than for a laminate top, for a very similar labour input, and have the punters queueing up to hand over the cash.

YMMV ;) :music:

I just couldn’t agree more, and I think that laminates have advantages over solids. They, of course, usually have a lower retail price. For another thing, they aren’t affected by humidity nearly as much as solids. Mine are all (except one) laminates, and, even though I don’t use any kind of humidity precautions, none have ever cracked or warped or twisted or nothin’.

I wonder how many of us, lowly, striving amateurs can really tell the difference as to whether a ukulele has a really great sound or a just mediocre one. Does one just give ‘er a strum and listen? “Wow! That really sounds great! It’s almost as good as my favorite Kamaka.” How else can one test the quality of sound?

And . . . If it doesn’t sound as good as Jake’s, one can always change the strings . . . :old:

merlin666
04-12-2019, 09:12 AM
I prefer solid wood, it can be manufactured thinner and therefore has better potential to vibrate and resonate, if built and braced well. Advantage of laminate is that it is less delicate and susceptible to environmental impacts. I think that carbonfibre ukes can also be very resonant and less fragile, so that can also be a great alternative.

The OP also mentioned the effect of aging on wood - ideally the wood should be stored/aged for a long time BEFORE it is used in instrument building. But nowadays unfortunately many of the instrument makers only allow a few months before the wood is built into an instrument in the mass production environments, and as a result many instruments get sold that need some further aging. For solid wood instrument it may make sense to ensure what the wood storage policies of the manufacturer are. If they don't tell it's a good sign that the instrument may take a year or longer to stabilize soundwise. For guitars, there is also a popular torrification process that accelerates this.

Kenn2018
04-12-2019, 12:14 PM
I'd would choose the KA-STG. Not necessarily because it's got a solid top but personally, because I owned a KA-ZCT and didn't like it all that much. It was a nice sounding uke, with a sorta sweet airy sound, and I really liked the neck a lot. I guess I like something with a little more brightness and punch. My favorite uke is a laminate (Kiwaya KS-5), so I definitely don't buy into solid wood automatically being superior (though I think in most cases it is) , I just personally didn't like the sound of the KA-ZCT. That said, it is generally regarded as a nice ukulele for the price.

Internet sound samples are always hard to get a really good read on, but they are better than nothing. Listen to a few and pick the one you like better.

KA-ZCT https://vimeo.com/170772958

KA-STG https://vimeo.com/68261892

If possible, listen using quality earphones or buds in a quiet room.

I think all other factors being equal (which they never are) the solid spruce will have a slightly brighter sound with louder projection than the laminate. But that may not be the sound you are looking for.

Kenn2018
04-12-2019, 12:20 PM
I just couldn’t agree more, and I think that laminates have advantages over solids. They, of course, usually have a lower retail price. For another thing, they aren’t affected by humidity nearly as much as solids. Mine are all (except one) laminates, and, even though I don’t use any kind of humidity precautions, none have ever cracked or warped or twisted or nothin’.

I wonder how many of us, lowly, striving amateurs can really tell the difference as to whether a ukulele has a really great sound or a just mediocre one. Does one just give ‘er a strum and listen? “Wow! That really sounds great! It’s almost as good as my favorite Kamaka.” How else can one test the quality of sound?

And . . . If it doesn’t sound as good as Jake’s, one can always change the strings . . . :old:

I thought my KaAloha tenor sounded pretty good when I strummed it and picked it. Then a very good player asked if she could try it. Holy moly! It NEVER sounded that good before. Wonderful! She normally plays a Kala tenor, I have no idea what model. She makes that sound great as well.

Something to aspire to, though the years are not in my favor...

uke51
04-12-2019, 02:27 PM
IMHO: Laminate instruments can sound very good depending on the quality (& composition) of the laminate. A good example would be Kiwaya ukuleles. I've been impressed with some laminate ukuleles & guitars, however most had a solid top.
Most of the sound quality of an instrument comes from the top. The better the top, the better the sound (which is all in the ear of the listener). I don't believe it's just manufacturers hype. The solid woods used for tops require more climate control & preparation than laminated woods. There is also more spoilage due to cracking and imperfections in the wood that is only evident when the wood is cut. This all adds up to a higher cost.

I've read that a laminate instrument doesn't improve with age, while a solid wood instrument will mature & (hopefully) improve with age.

Chopped Liver
04-12-2019, 03:34 PM
If possible, listen using quality earphones or buds in a quiet room.

I think all other factors being equal (which they never are) the solid spruce will have a slightly brighter sound with louder projection than the laminate. But that may not be the sound you are looking for.

And that is why I would choose the laminate. Brighter and louder are the opposite of what I want. I have a hearing sensitivity and it makes a big difference to me.

Chopped Liver
04-12-2019, 03:38 PM
So much depends on the workmanship of the ukulele.

Also, as someone else eluded to, the player have a lot to do with it, too. Me playing a solid wood ukulele will NOT sound better than Jake on a laminate! :p

kohanmike
04-12-2019, 03:59 PM
I can only give you my experience, in the first year I played ukulele about 6 years ago (after playing guitar for almost 50 years), I went through 16 ukes that cost under $200, only one had a solid top, a Gretsch G9121 A.C.E. Then I felt it was time to step up a notch and bought Kala KAATP-CTG-CE solid cedar top and laminate acacia koa body, cutaway with preamp/pickup for $379 (recommended by Mim). It was very obvious how much more sustain and projection it had compared any of my others, even the Gretsch, it's my go to gig uke. I then culled the collection to 4. I've since bought only solid top or all solid ukes, except for a Fluke, my beater uke.

This is Michael Kohan in Los Angeles, Beverly West near the Beverly Center
9 tenor cutaway ukes, 5 acoustic bass ukes, 11 solid body bass ukes, 9 mini electric bass guitars (Total: 34)

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

mountain goat
04-12-2019, 06:10 PM
it's not a myth.
that said, the right strings on a laminate model
will make it sing very sweetly.

glennerd
04-12-2019, 07:17 PM
I find this counter intuitive. In a uke the soundboard is so much smaller so to my naive mind it should have a lower contribution to the overall sound. According to my reasoning the distinction between a solid top and laminate should be smaller.

What is the truth. How much of a difference does a solid top really make?

It's possible that having a better build might be even more important with a small body as it's got less volume and surface area to work with and needs to take full advantage of it.

Laminates are predominantly at a cheaper price point so by law of averages, the solid body is going to sound better because you're spending more for it. There are some great sounding laminates, but if you go into a purchase without knowing what you're doing, you'll probably do better buying solid wood. Probably, but not guaranteed.

Graham Greenbag
04-12-2019, 10:12 PM
So much depends on the workmanship of the ukulele.

Also, as someone else eluded to, the player have a lot to do with it, too. Me playing a solid wood ukulele will NOT sound better than Jake on a laminate! :p

:agree: , that has always been my philosophy too.

I play laminate Ukes, am happy with them at this point in my journey, and can’t see that changing in the next few years. A while back I had an all solid Uke but the sound of that particular Uke was too bright for my tastes so it went to another home; solid is not automatically better and laminate is not automatically worse, many factors are involved.

There are advantages to using both types of material and the builder works accordingly. The small volume builder might well find better material supply and greater flexibility when working with solid wood, those factors might well allow him (or her) to build a better instrument. Mass production might find the reverse and value the consistency of size and supply of laminate material.

At the end of the day it’s all about the finished product and that is the result of the builders skill - both with his (or her) tools and in selection of suitable designs. A nice demonstration of that is/was the build of Ukes from scrap pallet wood.

Edit. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=_BejsO0i6BI
https://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?46692-Timbucks-Pallet-Tenor
https://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?82620-Salvaged-wood-ukes

Jeffelele
04-12-2019, 11:10 PM
I don’t know if the OP is still following this or has already decided but here is my best suggestion: Go to either Mim’s site or the ukulele site. Mim will probably have more choices in your price range and the ukulele site will have video demos. If nothing stands out to you enough to pick, ask for best bang for buck recommendation. Buy that. Play uke. Be happy.

Chopped Liver
04-13-2019, 02:13 AM
I play laminate Ukes, am happy with them at this point in my journey, and can’t see that changing that in the next few years. A while back I had an all solid Uke but the sound of that particular Uke was too bright for my tastes so it went to another home; solid is not automatically better and laminate is not automatically worse, many factors are involved.

This is me, too. I play laminates. I have a solid Pono that never gets played. I bought it on someone's recommendation. It sounds nice, but I don't want to have to baby my ukes, either. I like being able to leave them out.

Plus, as I've said, louder and brighter hurts my ears. I want mellow and soft.

AustinHing
04-13-2019, 02:50 AM
I’m not a snub of laminated, but it’s easier to find good ukes in all solid compare to a laminated.

I prefer loud than soft, then I have both ways. Strum or pick with the flesh for a softer note.

strumsilly
04-13-2019, 02:59 AM
I thought Kiwaya ukuleles are laminates and people seem to like those.

Although take the above with a grain of salt as I mostly have all wood ukes (and a two fleas which I think are laminate too).Kiwaya makes both solid and laminate ukes. They also make ukes under their Famous brand, which are sold on Amazon. I have had both their solid and laminate ukes, and they are great ukes .

DownUpDave
04-13-2019, 03:10 AM
Here is some food for thought. The OP referenced an all laminate Yamaha guitar as sounding great. If you look at the size of the sound board (top) of a guitar compared to a uke there is a LOT MORE surface area available to vibrate and create sound. Following this logic a uke has a much smaller chance of sounding good if the top doesn't deliver like it is suppose to.

Here it what I know from owning selling and playing many, many ukes. There is no laminate uke that sounds as good as a high quality all solid wood uke. But everything comes down to price, I am not talking about $50 instruments. As Kohanmike stated when you go from a $120 laminate to a $350 solid topped tenor the is a massive jump in tonal quality.

Ask any highly regarded luthier to build the best sounding uke he can. Tell him he can't sell it so as to take price out of the equation. He will pick solid woods all day long, he would never consider a laminate top, it would not make the grade

AQUATOPAZ
04-13-2019, 05:14 AM
So much depends on the workmanship of the ukulele.

Also, as someone else eluded to, the player have a lot to do with it, too. Me playing a solid wood ukulele will NOT sound better than Jake on a laminate! :p

BUT, it will sound better than you on a laminate. Despite my limitations, I do want my playing to sound the best for me. What does it matter to me if someone can make a laminate sound great if I can't. If the solid wood me sounds better, that's what I want. Some laminates do sound good, albeit with considerably less sustain.

AQUATOPAZ
04-13-2019, 05:35 AM
I am not an expert in wood and wood glues, although I have read a fair amount about it. I believe it's better, but perhaps not completely accurate to compare glue to lignin, which is the substance in wood which holds the wood fibers together. A test for a successful glue joint is to force it apart after it is cured. A successful glue joint will break the wood instead of the glue bond when forced apart. On the basis of this I find it difficult to believe that glue has much of an effect at all on the vibrational qualities. I am interested enough in this subject to be open to hear what others have to say.

I hope you find a tenor in your price range to satisfy you. It's difficult to buy online where you can't actually play and listen to the instrument you will buy. There are online videos and online reviews like gotaukulele which might help you.

Unlike with laminates, wood doesn't have a layer of lingin spread across between it's layers of wood. Of course it will make a difference in it's vibrating potential. The physics of the wood have been changed.

AQUATOPAZ
04-13-2019, 05:42 AM
You are correct but wood is not a homogeneous material either. While it may not contain a glue layer it does have a fibrous structure that has damping characteristics. Having said that wood glue does not stay soft like you'd imagine. So in reality it behaves less like glue and more like sap.

Sap isn't laid out in a layer like glue, which affects the physics of its vibration. Laminates have woods' fibrous structure PLUS glue,in a layer, unlike sap.

AQUATOPAZ
04-13-2019, 05:48 AM
So what are the exceptions? I'm looking for a low cost tenor.

Romero Creations Tiny Tenors sound remarkable, even with laminate sides and backs. They aren't as full as the all solid, but they give you the most sound for your buck.

Chopped Liver
04-13-2019, 06:13 AM
BUT, it will sound better than you on a laminate. Despite my limitations, I do want my playing to sound the best for me. What does it matter to me if someone can make a laminate sound great if I can't. If the solid wood me sounds better, that's what I want. Some laminates do sound good, albeit with considerably less sustain.

I understand what you are saying. And I agree that what is important is what sounds good to you.

For me, however, it becomes a challenge. I have a 50% hearing loss and wear hearing aids. I also have a sensitivity to sound. Because of that, my ears actually hurt if I play a ukulele that is loud, bright and has lots of sustain. I bought a laminate maple with a solid spruce top and had to return it due to the pain.

It is very frustrating and I rarely listen to or play music anymore. My audiologist is a guitar player, so I am hoping a visit to him will allow some adjustments to my aids and allow me to enjoy music again.

kkimura
04-13-2019, 06:22 AM
Wouldn't it be interesting if the top ukulele luthiers were to build their interpretation of the ultimate laminate ukulele? I wonder how they would stack up against the best factory built laminates? I bet they would be better than most solid ukes.

Chopped Liver
04-13-2019, 06:29 AM
Wouldn't it be interesting if the top ukulele luthiers were to build their interpretation of the ultimate laminate ukulele? I wonder how they would stack up against the best factory built laminates? I bet they would be better than most solid ukes.

That would be very interesting!

Swamp Yankee
04-13-2019, 06:30 AM
Wouldn't it be interesting if the top ukulele luthiers were to build their interpretation of the ultimate laminate ukulele? I wonder how they would stack up against the best factory built laminates? I bet they would be better than most solid ukes.

My Kiwaya KS-1, made with laminated mahogany top, back and sides, sounds better to my ears than most of the solid wood sopranos I've ever played.

rainbow21
04-13-2019, 06:36 AM
My Kiwaya KS-1, made with laminated mahogany top, back and sides, sounds better to my ears than most of the solid wood sopranos I've ever played.

The Kiwaya laminates appear to be wonderful sounding ukuleles for the price. And yet, there are Kiwaya solid wood models at much higher price points. Which sound "better"?

Swamp Yankee
04-13-2019, 06:45 AM
The KS-1 is louder than either of the other two, solid wood Kiwaya sopranos that I own, but I prefer them both to the laminate. The koa is clear and bright and sweet with nice warmth...and the mahogany is a bit warmer, less bright and more woody. The KS-1... it's hard to define the tone without using the phrase, " a bit one dimensional" which is how others I've read have described it. Even so, I'd sooner play it than any other soprano I've played, except the two solid Kiwayas.

I should point out that I don't have extensive experience with lots of other sopranos... but of those I have tried, Kiwaya wins.

I suspect I might get blown over some day - by a vintage Martin, especially...

kkimura
04-13-2019, 08:08 AM
I dream of possibilities like maybe a double top with laminate back and sides Romero or Moore.

Kenn2018
04-13-2019, 10:47 AM
I think it would greatly depend upon the quality of the laminates they could obtain to use.

I am sure many of the lams used by the top companies are proprietary and made just for them.

However, if you had a supply and gave each luthier the same product to use, the results would indeed be fascinating. Much like the instruments made in the "Luthiers for a Cause" project.

SteveZ
04-14-2019, 05:26 AM
Interesting discussion.

Have a mixed stable of laminates, solids and hybrids. Not a single instrument sounds like the other, and a change of strings (same brand new or differend brand) impacts every one of them to some degree. So, which one "sounds better" depends on the mood, what I'm playing that day, and where I play - changing the room or going outside is another sound factor.

For unscientific and amateur me, sometimes we can get "too technical" about what's an art form requiring a mechanical device. Changing the mechanical device can impact the sound, but it doesn't often change the musician's skill or ability. Now, all that being said, my "go to" uke is a laminate (Lanikai 6 string) and the "go to" tenor guitar is a solid (Martin TEN). No logic involved in these choices, as logic and music doesn't offen go together for me.

Swamp Yankee
04-14-2019, 07:53 AM
...No logic involved in these choices, as logic and music doesn't offen go together for me.

I'd go a step further and say that even "best sounding" does not always equal "favorite ukulele" to me.

70sSanO
04-16-2019, 12:57 AM
I played guitar for years before I picked up the ukulele. I own more acoustic ukuleles than acoustic guitars. But over the years I’ve tried a lot of both instruments. While I have played some nice sounding laminates, I haven’t played one that took my breath away. Doesn’t happen with all solid top guitars, but every now and then the whole universe of consuming sound comes together.

As for the ukulele, there have been a few that I’ve played and couldn’t put down. Typically while on vacation I’ll search out shops and occasionally find a gem. I remember the uke and where I found it, but like the guitars, I just couldn’t pull the trigger. A few wish-I-had, but I’ve been pretty blessed with what I have so no real regrets.

But for all the instruments I’ve owned, or just played, I have yet to play a laminate that was that memorable.

John

tonyturley
04-16-2019, 05:29 AM
I built my first uke last summer from a StewMac Mahogany tenor kit. It has a solid top and laminated back/sides. I added a few embellishments of my own, and I play it a lot. However, there are two things I would change. I would not use Tung Oil for the finish. I think it looks good, but the wood really soaked it up, requiring more coats than I expected. I would also ditch the kit X-bracing and use fan bracing. I'm planning on building another SM kit when my current projects are complete. I plan to go with the all laminate Pacific Walnut kit, and sub some of my own tonewood for the top. I have Bear Claw Sitka and old growth Western Red Cedar. Many of you have said the builder is the biggest difference, and I want to take what I've learned over the past year and see how I can improve upon an inexpensive laminate kit.

kissing
04-21-2019, 03:53 AM
If you had to choose between a Kala KA-STG (solid spruce top) or a Kala KA-ZCT (Ziricote laminate). They are both the same price but one is laminate and the other solid top. Which would you go for?

The answer is simple.
Play both and pick the one that sounds and feels right to you.

I do believe there is some truth to solid topped *very generally* sounding a bit clearer and louder than laminate topped instruments.
However, sometimes a laminate top just has that tone I'm looking for, or just feels right in the hand or fits the budget/has features I need.

Nowadays, I could go either solid or laminate topped.
I certainly do perceive solid top as louder/"better" sounding and associate it with higher end products in general, but they are not the instruments I always choose.

What matters more is how it sounds in my hands, and what I can musically do with it.

captain-janeway
04-21-2019, 04:58 AM
I understand what you are saying. And I agree that what is important is what sounds good to you.

For me, however, it becomes a challenge. I have a 50% hearing loss and wear hearing aids. I also have a sensitivity to sound. Because of that, my ears actually hurt if I play a ukulele that is loud, bright and has lots of sustain. I bought a laminate maple with a solid spruce top and had to return it due to the pain.

It is very frustrating and I rarely listen to or play music anymore. My audiologist is a guitar player, so I am hoping a visit to him will allow some adjustments to my aids and allow me to enjoy music again.

I hope your audiologist can help you out. It would suck to give up music. Maybe post as a separate thread and see if someone else has the same issue who can help you out.

Chopped Liver
04-21-2019, 10:54 AM
I hope your audiologist can help you out. It would suck to give up music. Maybe post as a separate thread and see if someone else has the same issue who can help you out.

Thanks. I'll do that.

BlackBearUkes
04-21-2019, 01:37 PM
In repairing many laminated top guitars over the years, I would never call their sound as stunning or better. I don't know any well known luthier that would purposely build with laminate over a good quality solid wood. How would you regulate the sound? Laminates are already the thickness they need to be and the bracing system can only do so much. As a luthier thicknesses the top plate, they test the stiffness, age , type of wood, grain lines, etc. With a laminate top, you can't do that.

I guess the bottom line for those who can't tell the difference in sound, play what pleases you.

tonyturley
04-21-2019, 01:59 PM
As a matter of curiosity, I did an A/B comparison between my kit built Stew Mac tenor with laminate Mahogany back/sides and solid Mahogany top, and my newly acquired Gretsch all solid Mahogany tenor. The Stew Mac tenor has Oasis brights with a Worth CT low G, and the Gretsch has nylguts with a wound Low G. Granted the string difference probably is a factor, but there is a clear difference between the two when played back to back to back. I've always thought my Stew Mac build has a good tone, but the Gretsch has better clarity and projection. I think the Stew Mac was overbuilt; if I could do it over, I'd go with a different bracing scheme and a much lighter finish. There is a clear difference in weight, with the Gretsch feeling noticeably lighter. According to my scales, the kit tenor weighs 16 ounces more.

Graham Greenbag
04-21-2019, 08:37 PM
In repairing many laminated top guitars over the years, I would never call their sound as stunning or better. I don't know any well known luthier that would purposely build with laminate over a good quality solid wood. How would you regulate the sound? Laminates are already the thickness they need to be and the bracing system can only do so much. As a luthier thicknesses the top plate, they test the stiffness, age , type of wood, grain lines, etc. With a laminate top, you can't do that.

I guess the bottom line for those who can't tell the difference in sound, play what pleases you.

Always helpful to have a Luthier’s view.

I take on board the limitations of laminates in that they stop the Luthier doing some things, but on the other hand not every Luthier builds to the highest standards (some reasons might be that he/she might not have the all the skills and that the customer might not have the funds for the necessary time). You probably only work with the best instruments now, but I wonder whether earlier in your career you found any overlap in sound quality between better built laminate instruments and less well built solid instruments?

hollisdwyer
04-21-2019, 09:16 PM
The variables inherent in large scale production of any item will never result in consistency.

When I worked as a professional photographer and was in the market for a new lens I would test 3-4 of the same lens. I constantly found that one of them was better than the others.

If we’re talking about wooden musical instruments that cost <$150 or >$250, I think that the same variations would also apply. What always amazes me though is that many people are surprised when you tell them that you think they should spend more than what 3 to 6 Horner Marine Band harmonicas cost or what some people spend on coffees in 2-4 weeks.

I think that you can get a nice sounding laminate and that you could also end up with a not so nice solid top instrument. The only way to tell is to try before you buy, if you have opportunity or to buy from a reputable dealer who would rarely let a dud slip through.

Jerryc41
04-22-2019, 12:38 AM
As a matter of curiosity, I did an A/B comparison between my kit built Stew Mac tenor with laminate Mahogany back/sides and solid Mahogany top, and my newly acquired Gretsch all solid Mahogany tenor. The Stew Mac tenor has Oasis brights with a Worth CT low G, and the Gretsch has nylguts with a wound Low G. Granted the string difference probably is a factor, but there is a clear difference between the two when played back to back to back. I've always thought my Stew Mac build has a good tone, but the Gretsch has better clarity and projection. I think the Stew Mac was overbuilt; if I could do it over, I'd go with a different bracing scheme and a much lighter finish. There is a clear difference in weight, with the Gretsch feeling noticeably lighter. According to my scales, the kit tenor weighs 16 ounces more.

I think a good test would work like this. Test and record a uke with a laminate top. Remove the top and replace it with solid koa and record that. Then try spruce, mahogany, etc.

'ukin'smilin'
07-24-2019, 02:36 PM
I'm "over the moon" happy with my latest acquisition: an Islander (by Kanile'a) MAPG-4 Maple laminate concert. I was looking for a tougher-than-solid-wood, "canoe paddle" traveling uke that I could leave in a parked car (in small doses, of course) without having to worry too much about it morphing into an unplayable changeling. I wasn't expecting the sound/projection quality of my solid cherry Loprinzi tenor, or even my starter uke - a solid mahogany Alulu tenor, which has an amazingly good sound, by the way, now that I've filed the bridge down to a more playable @2.75mm string height. Some people give Alulus a bad rap, and I heartily disagree. Totally happy with mine anyway, especially for less than $200. But I digress!

Anyway, I wasn't expecting much with my Islander, mainly because of so much mis- and disinformation regarding laminated stringed instruments. However, after the full setup treatment by HMS/Ukulele Site, along with a lot of head-scratching regarding the shipping route taken by FedEx: Hawail-Oakland-Los Angeles-Tokyo (I live in Japan), what I received is an amazingly easy to play, great-sounding uke with perfect action, intonation and plenty of sustain and projection. And even though it was apparently made in China, with only one very minor, but tolerable, glossy finish flaw, it is a total delight to play. I swapped out the stock New Nylgut strings in favor of my preferred Aquila Reds and it really opened up. Prior to purchase, I did a lot of net-searching for consumer reviews/complaints about Islanders, mainly because I was a bit suspicious of the mostly very low prices (too good to be true?). Couldn't find much, but what I did find was all positive. It is part of the Kanile'a company after all.

I highly recommend this particular model at least, if you can find it. Also, I highly recommend ordering from or visiting Hawaii Music Supply/Ukulele Site. I don't think they will sell you a bad product.

Davoravo
07-25-2019, 06:33 PM
The laminates I have played have all had too thick tops, poor resonance and projection. They were toys not instruments. I actually got a very wrong impression of a well known brand from this till I heard their higher quality instruments. To be fair they are probably all below my price point which is around the solid top with laminate back and sides range.

The problem is that manufacturers tend to (not always) manufacture and price laminated ukulele at a lower level than solid top or all solid instruments. I am very curious to try a kiwaya or martin high quality laminate.

Jan, have you tried a totally solid electric ukulele? I wonder if you would have more control of volume if it all came through a speaker. I guess also more risk of feedback

'ukin'smilin'
07-26-2019, 02:44 AM
The top on my new Islander is remarkably thin, but strong, and truly resonates and projects. Definitely not a toy. The sides are also quite thin - so much so that if I hold it up to the sun and look into the sound hole, the sides are lit up. I prefer solid instruments, as well, but am hesitant to travel too much with them out of fear of cracking and warping when left in a hot car. Laminates are a little less likely to suffer such consequences. For $165, I'm happier than expected, especially considering the price paid included a lightweight but sturdy UkeCrazy hard case.

Oldtoolie
07-26-2019, 05:25 AM
When Jake Shimabukuro went in with his brother to produce mid-priced ($300) ukulele, they chose to use laminates. Now you can get plenty of solid tops for that price too. But I doubt Jake would want his name on a strictly average uke. So were I in the market, I would like to try it and compare with the similar solid tops. Jake does make it clear on their website that he normally plays a Kamaka but he endorses the Shima as good for beginners and intermediates. http://shimaukulele.com/

My best sounding ukes are all solid body and top but they cost more than $300.

Rllink
07-26-2019, 08:23 AM
I can't compare laminate ukulele to solid wood ukuleles. I like the sound of all of my ukulele in their own ways. One does not sound better than the others, just different. I love their individuality and character regardless. Two of mine are solid wood. One was broken but it got fixed. It used to be my baby and I was particularly attentive in the care and feeding of it. I bought the other solid wood uke to take the place of the broken one before it was fixed and the new one now gets a lot of attention. The one that got fixed kind of fends for itself these days. I'm curious how the attention, or lack there of, manifests itself in the years to come.

AQUATOPAZ
07-26-2019, 08:33 AM
I can't compare laminate ukulele to solid wood ukuleles. I like the sound of all of my ukulele in their own ways. One does not sound better than the others, just different. I love their individuality and character regardless. Two of mine are solid wood. One was broken but it got fixed. It used to be my baby and I was particularly attentive in the care and feeding of it. I bought the other solid wood uke to take the place of the broken one before it was fixed and the new one now gets a lot of attention. The one that got fixed kind of fends for itself these days. I'm curious how the attention, or lack there of, manifests itself in the years to come.

My daughter has a Luna laminate. I was surprised by how good it sounded for the split second it resonated. That, to me, is a big problem with laminates - no sustain, though I do prefer a solid sound. When the bridge popped off I considered getting her a solid but she really just wanted her Luna. My son bought himself a Black Friday Mitchell soprano, despite my hints that I would be willing to buy him a better one. For over a year he barely, if ever, played that thing and always said he had no time. I purchased him a solid Bruce Wei for Christmas and he plays it all the time and is getting quite good. When we were at guitar center he looked at the Mitchells and made some derogatory remark.

Nickie
07-26-2019, 12:41 PM
I'd would choose the KA-STG. Not necessarily because it's got a solid top but personally, because I owned a KA-ZCT and didn't like it all that much. It was a nice sounding uke, with a sorta sweet airy sound, and I really liked the neck a lot. I guess I like something with a little more brightness and punch. My favorite uke is a laminate (Kiwaya KS-5), so I definitely don't buy into solid wood automatically being superior (though I think in most cases it is) , I just personally didn't like the sound of the KA-ZCT. That said, it is generally regarded as a nice ukulele for the price.

Internet sound samples are always hard to get a really good read on, but they are better than nothing. Listen to a few and pick the one you like better.

KA-ZCT https://vimeo.com/170772958

KA-STG https://vimeo.com/68261892

I thought they both sounded a bit one dimensional. I don't go for gloss finishes on most ukes, I think it can actually be detrimental.

Nickie
07-26-2019, 01:52 PM
My daughter has a Luna laminate. I was surprised by how good it sounded for the split second it resonated. That, to me, is a big problem with laminates - no sustain, though I do prefer a solid sound. When the bridge popped off I considered getting her a solid but she really just wanted her Luna. My son bought himself a Black Friday Mitchell soprano, despite my hints that I would be willing to buy him a better one. For over a year he barely, if ever, played that thing and always said he had no time. I purchased him a solid Bruce Wei for Christmas and he plays it all the time and is getting quite good. When we were at guitar center he looked at the Mitchells and made some derogatory remark.

I'm always amused by the number of newbies around here who opt for a Guitar Center Mitchell or Sam Ash Music Luna. People soooo much buy on looks, and don't consider that something that looks a little plainer could sound better, or be easier to play.
My 3 go to ukes are solid wood. I have a laminate with a solid top, that I loved the tone in, but the neck warped so I don't play it.

AQUATOPAZ
07-26-2019, 02:03 PM
I'm always amused by the number of newbies around here who opt for a Guitar Center Mitchell or Sam Ash Music Luna. People soooo much buy on looks, and don't consider that something that looks a little plainer could sound better, or be easier to play.
My 3 go to ukes are solid wood. I have a laminate with a solid top, that I loved the tone in, but the neck warped so I don't play it.

Well, the Mitchell was purchased not on looks, but on cheapness. I honestly don't know how anyone could expect something that cheap to have have enough careful labor attached to it. It would have to be a rush job. But my son was a poor college student and I give him kudos for trying to be self sufficient. I got Luna to send a return label to fix my daughter's ukulele as she really didn't want a better one.

Nickie
07-26-2019, 02:23 PM
Well, the Mitchell was purchased not on looks, but on cheapness. I honestly don't know how anyone could expect something that cheap to have have enough careful labor attached to it. It would have to be a rush job. But my son was a poor college student and I give him kudos for trying to be self sufficient. I got Luna to send a return label to fix my daughter's ukulele as she really didn't want a better one.

I see....and I don't disagree.
ignorance, I think, at least on my part, rules a lot of purchases. I was a half witted beginner when I bought my daughter a Luna "Peace" uke, because it was cheap (I didn't know if she'd enjoy learning ukulele) and I knew she'd love the Peace sign soundhole. I Don't even know if she still has the doggone thing.

igorthebarbarian
07-26-2019, 06:21 PM
The top on my new Islander is remarkably thin, but strong, and truly resonates and projects. Definitely not a toy. The sides are also quite thin - so much so that if I hold it up to the sun and look into the sound hole, the sides are lit up. I prefer solid instruments, as well, but am hesitant to travel too much with them out of fear of cracking and warping when left in a hot car. Laminates are a little less likely to suffer such consequences. For $165, I'm happier than expected, especially considering the price paid included a lightweight but sturdy UkeCrazy hard case.

I've gone through a ton of Ukuleles, and some of my favorites are laminates, and I choose laminates because of the lower maintenance of them. The Blackbird's sound amazing and feel ridiculously high-tek cutting edge, but there are great lower priced laminates out there too!

Islanders are nice and agree with the "better than the price" - maybe the best value prop bet around, when set up by HMS. I didn't like the too-thick too-wide neck though; I have smaller hands though.
My favorites were the laminate Kiwaya/Famous brands, which are great in their price range. I also like the Martin OX laminate bamboo. That one has a nice soprano bark to it.
All of these are ones I would buy again if/when UAS strikes.

'ukin'smilin'
07-27-2019, 01:13 AM
Islanders are nice and agree with the "better than the price" - maybe the best value prop bet around, when set up by HMS. I didn't like the too-thick too-wide neck though; I have smaller hands though.
My favorites were the laminate Kiwaya/Famous brands, which are great in their price range. I also like the Martin OX laminate bamboo. That one has a nice soprano bark to it.
All of these are ones I would buy again if/when UAS strikes.

I looked at Kiwaya and Famous ukes here in Japan, but even the lower end models would've been @twice the price I paid for the Islander MAPG-4, which was marked down from $300 plus - just for the uke - and the free case sure helped make it an easy decision. I believe the maple laminate Islanders have been discontinued, since they don't appear on their website. Nevertheless, even though I have a fantastic-sounding LoPrinzi (which has a very thin neck), I'm enjoying getting acquainted with the smaller concert size (I've only played tenors, so far) , and the wider neck doesn't pose a problem for me. I consider myself lucky, in that now I've got three sweet-sounding, very playable, distinctly different-voiced ukuleles - two completely solid wood and one completely laminated. All of the notes are there, and there's always a new horizon to explore.


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