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View Full Version : Solid vs. Laminate- Durability



ukulelearp
06-20-2009, 02:31 PM
Hi,

I've been playing on a Hilo soprano for a few months, and needless to say I'm looking for a better instrument. My local shop has tons of ukuleles, but the ones I'm mostly looking at are the Flea(laminate), Ohana Vita (Solid top), and a Bushman (all solid). They all sound great, but I'm a bit worried about durability. Obviously the Flea is probably the toughest, but I don't know if it's actually an issue. I would probably take my ukulele out now and then, and I don't like keeping it in a case at home. I've read that solids are generally more delicate. Can anyone offer any advice? Aside from that, does anyone have experience with any of these ukuleles to offer an opinion?

Thanks,
Alec

nikolo727
06-20-2009, 03:23 PM
search function.

I like solid wood instruments, but if it has a poly-carbonate back, thats cool too. applause and flea are very good instruments. I would go with the flea or fluke, out of those two, but out of all of them, I would just get a solid wood instrument. I think they sound better, but that is up for debate.

ukulelearp
06-20-2009, 03:28 PM
I searched, but I didn't find anything that answered my question. Thanks for the advice though!

jkevinwolfe
06-20-2009, 03:39 PM
I have a flea that travels quite a bit. It's a workhorse. I can stand the heat and cold of being left in the car. It's also been banged around a bit. Extremely durable.

I also have a custom with a solid, soft cedar soundboard and a very thin TruOil finish. It nicks and scratches easily, but sounds great.

Both have their place. If you need something that's going to get some punishment, the Flea is a good choice. But generally speaking the Bushmans and Ohanas are regarded as fairly sturdy. (I also have a Bushman tenor. It has a very thick coating over solid wood, but it got a small compression crack in the finish after 6 months. That's not to say that's common, just a fact.)

ukulelebadass
06-20-2009, 03:46 PM
People seem to love their fleas and flukes, and from what I've seen and heard they're great instruments. I've been thinking about getting one myself. I have had both solid and laminate instruments and for my money the only major difference is in durability. When it comes to sound quality the variables tend to be more a result of style, and manufacturer than of materials.

There is no doubt, however that when it comes to taking a beating the laminates can't be beat, and to take it a step further you can't go wrong with a natural matte finish. If you're like me and you bring your main players with you everywhere you go you will appreciate such durability after smacking it into a couple of door jambs and kitchen chairs.

haole
06-20-2009, 06:12 PM
Any of those will be a lot better than the Hilo. But if you like to leave your ukulele out of the case, I'd say go for the Flea. You can stand it up on a desk! And on the offchance you knock it over (I do all the time), it'll be fine! You'd have to intentionally beat the crap out of it in order to do any real damage. And even with the laminate top, it's about as loud as most solid ukes in the same price range.

Pippin
06-20-2009, 06:49 PM
If you like the look of a Flea or Fluke, they both sound pretty nice and are durable. There have been issues with bridges popping off in past years, but those issues are behind them these days, so it seems.

Regarding laminated versus solid-wood instruments: Solid-wood ukuleles and guitars, for that matter, are louder than laminated ukes and guitars. Volume is not everything, however, which is why some people really love laminated instruments. Over-all build quality is more of a concern than materials. All of the manufacturers, even at the high-end, have had quality issues from time to time. That is why I recommend buying from a dealer that will help you if there is any issue with your uke.

Ohana has more solid-wood ukes than Kala or Oscar Schmidt. Kala has more variety over all. Oscar Schmidt out-sells all other manufacturers combined, but most people have never seen their "professional series" ukuleles. Their OU2, OU2e, and OU3 have been a "first uke" for more people than any other ukes made. Their OU-5 and OU-6 ukes are very nice. Their OU-7 (mango) is another very nice instrument.

Ohana's Vita uke is one you are considering. It is very durable and projects sound very well. Its geared tuners make it easy to keep in tune while you are playing. It sounds more "woody" than the Flukes and Fleas. It also has a more traditional look. It reminds me of a lute and I have always been a big fan of lutes.

Kala has more ukes with electronics. In those, laminates feedback a lot less and are more dimensionally stable which means they stay in tune better. They handle travel better and high-elevations, too.

That should give you some things to consider. I hope you find a uke that really fits the bill.

ukulelearp
06-20-2009, 08:12 PM
Thanks for the advice. So it looks like I'll stick with a laminate, considering I'm not planning on any actual performances where I'll need the extra volume/projection or anything. So now it's just a choice between the Vita or the Flea. Decisions...

HoldinCoffee
06-20-2009, 10:40 PM
Thanks for the advice. So it looks like I'll stick with a laminate, considering I'm not planning on any actual performances where I'll need the extra volume/projection or anything. So now it's just a choice between the Vita or the Flea. Decisions...

Get the Flea.

Next question:
Rosewood fretboard or plastic?

Witters
06-20-2009, 10:44 PM
A Flea vote all the way from me either with or without the upgrades.

jkevinwolfe
06-21-2009, 01:28 AM
Have to disagree about solids being louder. The flea has a very thin and free-moving hoop pine laminate soundboard that's shaped for max vibration. For sustain and volume very few ukes can beat it.

I should point out that the flea's unique design adds some coloration to the sound. It has a nice rich tone, but certain frequencies stick out. (Play the C string open and you'll notice how loud it sounds.) By contrast my custom Boat Paddle, which is designed on similar principles, has a full rich tone, but a noticeably smoother spectrum. I really don't consider this a flaw in the flea. It's more of a characteristic.

Witters
06-21-2009, 01:43 AM
Have to disagree about solids being louder. The flea has a very thin and free-moving hoop pine laminate soundboard that's shaped for max vibration. For sustain and volume very few ukes can beat it.

I should point out that the flea's unique design adds some coloration to the sound. It has a nice rich tone, but certain frequencies stick out. (Play the C string open and you'll notice how loud it sounds.) By contrast my custom Boat Paddle, which is designed on similar principles, has a full rich tone, but a noticeably smoother spectrum. I really don't consider this a flaw in the flea. It's more of a characteristic.

Yes I agree with you there about the C string on the Flea.
Its something I rely on now though and would miss it if it sounded different.

Pippin
06-21-2009, 02:38 AM
Have to disagree about solids being louder.

Actually, we both have made a "qualified" statement here. Two-ply laminates are really nice and typically pretty loud. There are very few laminated instruments with the volume of Flukes and Fleas. Take Ovation/Applause ukes, for example, they are very quiet. The Lanikai koas are also very quiet (tenors are a little louder due to higher string tension). There are a couple of very thin laminated ukes that sound fantastic.

Most of the laminates out there.... Lanikai, Kala, Oscar Schmidt, Mitchell, Bennett (Samick) are pretty quiet.

You are absolutely right about Fleas and Flukes, there is no doubt and the plastic back has a lot to do with it.

Witters
06-21-2009, 02:56 AM
Apart from a solid body, Kiwaya also make a very thin laminate Uke which is just about as good as you can get. These are superb and it would take a very well trained ear to notice that it was laminate.

Lanark
06-21-2009, 06:21 AM
I do have to say though, that with reasonable care and precaution and not doing stuff like leaving it in your car window in August parked in the sun or forgetting it in the trunk of your car for a week in sub-zero temps in the middle of winter, a solid wood ukulele isn't exactly like carrying around eggshells. Keep it humidified when it's dry, put it back in the case when you're done and don't do anything dumb with it (beyond what you might possibly play on it. :p) and it shouldn't be an issue.

I mean, Fleas certainly do have their charm and function, but a decent solid wood uke is generally going to sound a bit better and age better over the long haul. (and that's without going into the general aesthetics of the plastic back. None for me, thank you.)

(It's just one of those things like when folks have a dreaded fear of tube amplifiers as if they're the most fragile persnickety things likely to burst into flames at a moment's notice if you look at it wrong...)

ukulelearp
06-21-2009, 04:52 PM
Well I'll admit that alot of my decision is based on aesthetics. I like the flea's more quirky look and I'm not a huge fan of the more serious looking Vita. However, If the sound is decent enough it could change my mind.

ukulelearp
06-25-2009, 06:04 AM
The fleas looks nice, but I recently came across the mainland sopranos. They're a little more expensive, but seem to be higher quality. What do you think?

Dirka
06-25-2009, 06:16 AM
I'd say it comes down to what you want. The Flea is quirky and virtually indestructible, whereas the mainland is solid and more traditional in both sound and looks.

jkevinwolfe
06-25-2009, 01:52 PM
The Mainland is a decent uke for the money.

shores&hammocks
07-02-2009, 02:25 PM
how would you tell if it's laminate or all solid? do you just ask the person?

normantxt
07-02-2009, 03:47 PM
so do laminate or glossed finish wood protect against bad humidity/dry conditions?