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View Full Version : Kala Resonator -vs- Sound Smith ??



jimmo
06-07-2019, 07:54 AM
Hey folks, I'm Jim from Atlantic Canada.
I'm a newbie to ukes, with just one rather unplayed (as of yet) Lohanu Spruce & Zebrawood concert.

I'm not the best at detecting quality tone instruments, so my choice is really troublesome to me.

I know with resonators, most of the sound is from the cone, which means nothing to my ears (grin.)

I have two options for my income - the Kala Mahogany Resonator (the Brass cover plate model) or the Sound Smith Okoume Resonator.

Both are tenors, though the Kala connects to body at 14th fret, and Smith is at 12.

Sound Smith has nothing but amazing reviews.
Kala has mixed reviews but a trusted name.

Anyone who is familiar with both models, can I get some opinions?

Currently, either model will cost me the same amount.
Kala doesn't come with extras.
Sound Smith comes with a nice firm case and extras (which of course has nothing to do with the tone quality or build quality.).

I love that Sound Smith has personal, hands on quality control in the US before shipping out. And the owner is amazingly easy to contact -- even if the company isn't as known as Kala (which is sometimes a positive.)

My main playing interests involve fingerpicking, sea-shanty, gypsy, irish, mountain - if that makes a difference.

Again - ANY help would be appreciated as I anticipate that owning the Lohanu and one of the Resonators will be the max of my collection - so it's a big choice for me. As a distance only purchase, added pressure.

Thanks again for the amazing forum !

Jimmo

mjh42
06-07-2019, 04:33 PM
I dunno Jimmo,.....I'd really like a National or a Beltona and I'd certainly save for one, but they do cost some pocket change and then some.......a local store does have a few Nationals so I know where to go to try one out.....

Watching the various reviews and listening to different sound samples I like the Sound Smith option......I can't say exactly why.......the sound......the Kala, the Gretch, the GoldTone all have something to the sound that puts me off just enough to pause on whether I would buy one or not...

Hope you find an uke that resonates with you....:cool:

Jan D
06-07-2019, 07:50 PM
Hi Jim,
The Sound Smith brand is not as widely known as Kala, but they do make good quality ukuleles. I've played a few of their regular ukes. Well made, a little bit on the quiet side. But lack of volume is not likely to be an issue if you are considering their resonator model. :-)
Jan D
(a Halifax, N.S. native, now living in Oregon)

jimmo
06-08-2019, 02:47 AM
@ mjh42 -- Hi, I know what you mean, the others had this... not quiet but muted sound, like an instrument too thick or not hollow enough - if that makes sense. I didn't get that from the Sound Smith vids I watched.

@Jan -- Hey! East Coast welcomes you :) But you wouldn't believe... wood stove fires even into June this year.

I didn't read about Sound Smith being quiet, but did hear a muted tone in the other lower priced resonator models. Not sure it quiet and muted are the same thing to others.

I like a "brighter" tone and I don't hear that in a lot of heavier hardwood instruments. I do notice it in the Sound Smith. I thought I heard some in the Kala, but not consistent and not something noticed in reviews.

I'm really liking the feedback from Sound Smith which you don't often get from big companies - I do like to support passionate, smaller businesses.

Cornfield
06-08-2019, 03:02 AM
It looks like a standard Chinese built resonator ukulele. The added quality probably comes from their luthier setup. I'm sure that the Smith ukulele's will sound better than similar ones from Amazon, EBay, Musicians friend etc simply due to the proper setup.
The best resonators have National cones IMHO (Many builders use National cones) and will cost in excess of $1000 if purchased new.

Kenn2018
06-08-2019, 05:08 PM
I have a Sound Smith tenor reso. I bought it in June of 2018 shortly after reading and listening to Baz’ review on gotaukulele.com.

It pretty much sounds as shown and described in the review.

It’s reasonably well made with only a couple of rough spots on the fretboard binding on the end that goes over the body.

The model I have has a body made of a mahogany laminate. It’s not the loudest resonator I heard, nor the quietest. The sound is clear and has a typical metallic reso sound. While the mahogany laminate warms it a bit and prevents it from being tinny or harsh.

The was an issue with the strings and the slots on the resonator plate. The edge of the slot on the A string cut the string twice when I tightened it to tone and overnight, as the temperature dropped, the string broke at the slot. Evidently, when the string contracted the metal edge cut through the string and I found it broken the following morning. I used a small file to round the edge and it’s fine.

SoundSmith’s listing stated it comes with Aquila strings, but they most definitely were not. Very cheap imitations. I mentioned these things to Shannon, the owner. She told me they were supposed to be Aquila strings. She subsequently addressed this and the sharp edge with her supplier and said they would be corrected. She also told me that she really appreciated the feedback.

I have no experience with the Kala resonator, so I have no basis for comparison.

Excellent communication and customer service. (So good, I bought their tenor banjo uke as well.)

AQUATOPAZ
06-08-2019, 07:01 PM
I have a Sound Smith tenor reso. I bought it in June of 2018 shortly after reading and listening to Baz’ review on gotaukulele.com.

It pretty much sounds as shown and described in the review.

It’s reasonably well made with only a couple of rough spots on the fretboard binding on the end that goes over the body.

The model I have has a body made of a mahogany laminate. It’s not the loudest resonator I heard, nor the quietest. The sound is clear and has a typical metallic reso sound. While the mahogany laminate warms it a bit and prevents it from being tinny or harsh.

The was an issue with the strings and the slots on the resonator plate. The edge of the slot on the A string cut the string twice when I tightened it to tone and overnight, as the temperature dropped, the string broke at the slot. Evidently, when the string contracted the metal edge cut through the string and I found it broken the following morning. I used a small file to round the edge and it’s fine.

SoundSmith’s listing stated it comes with Aquila strings, but they most definitely were not. Very cheap imitations. I mentioned these things to Shannon, the owner. She told me they were supposed to be Aquila strings. She subsequently addressed this and the sharp edge with her supplier and said they would be corrected. She also told me that she really appreciated the feedback.

I have no experience with the Kala resonator, so I have no basis for comparison.

Excellent communication and customer service. (So good, I bought their tenor banjo uke as well.)

I have heard that a sharp edge can cause the string to break, however, after I restrung my resonator, the A string kept breaking, and I knew it wasn't a sharp edge because I had it previously strung at USpace and didn't have any problems for months and months. I tried to tie the end differently, and it hit the slot differently and didn't break. Sometimes, the string breaks on these resonators because of the angle the string is passing the edge, and not because the edge is sharp.

keenonuke
06-09-2019, 05:04 AM
I was interested in having a custom resonator built. The Luthier told me I'd have to try a resonator first. I purchased the Sound Smith Okoume model based upon Barry Maz's (Got a ukulele) review. It does come with a very nice case; (but the case is too tight around the headstock. I plan to fix the case.) The C string will on occasion pop out of the nut when tightened. My music teacher suggested using a pencil (for the graphite) to provide lubrication to the nut. I haven't done so as yet. But did give the resonator to my grandson who very much loves the instrument. I haven't tried a Kala resonator. Gretcsh also makes an inexpensive resonator within the same price range. Good Luck

ProfChris
06-09-2019, 10:49 AM
I've not played either, so can't give my experience.

But I have built a couple of resos (one uke, one tenortrope - look it up :) ). Setting up the cone properly is 90% of getting it to sound good, so I'd be more tempted by one which has had that attention.

My biscuit cone lonly took a couple of hours to get right, but the spider cone on the tenortrope needed 4 or 5 to get everything playing and sounding sweetly.