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Matt Clara
08-10-2009, 09:28 AM
This both is and isn't a beginner's question. It is in so far that I don't have a clue as to what the real difference is, and it isn't in so far as this isn't a "what ukulele should I buy" thread. I have two, and they're fine. Ultimately, I may be questioning the value of an expensive ukulele when compared to the cheap alternatives. So, what do I mean by "cheap" and "expensive"?

For purposes of this thread, let's say cheap is somewhere between $100 and $400, inclusive. That covers most of the decent to very nice Kala's, Ohana's, and the like ($400's actually a little high). Also for purposes of this thread, let's say expensive is $500 on up. That seems to be where the inexpensive Kamakas, Koaloha, and the like, start (and $500 might be a little low). We all, of course, have our own definitions of cheap and expensive, depending on our personal budgets, but these two groups I've identified have some overlap in terms of what is offered for these amounts of money. For example, $180 will get you an all mahogany Ohana, where $1800 will get you an all mahogany Martin. That's an extreme example, but it illustrates the point.

The question, then, is, what does 10x the cost get me? I am a beginner, so I wouldn't necessarily know the difference, but I've been to Elderly Instruments several times and played around with some Martins (including 80 year old Martins, one of them absolutely beat to hell and back and still costing $500), and while I can hear a difference, I'm not convinced it's a difference worth the money.

Perhaps a little background to this question will help with the cogitation. As a beginner, I bought what I thought was a decent Ukulele at a reasonable price. The more I play it, the more I like it, the better I get, the more I think, someday I'll spring for a really nice one. Which brings me to the thought, what's so great about those really nice ones that I'd want to spend many times more for one?

Rick Turner
08-10-2009, 09:45 AM
You simply should not buy an expensive uke at this point unless you think you'll be playing for the rest of your life, you can afford to spend the money on something both useful and beautiful, and you want that extra refinement of tone that you'll get with a hand made instrument made with really fine woods.

Most people shouldn't buy original art, either, when cheap posters do just as good a job at hiding the cracks in the plaster, and a chair from Ikea will suit your bottom just as well as one from Thomas Moser or a custom furniture builder.

All too often, people get way too practical about this and then try to pit those who choose custom-made products of any kind (jewelry, art, furniture, pottery, fabrics, etc.) against those for whom a more Wall Mart approach to life is fine. There are those who choose to fill their homes with hand-made objects, and they pay what they have to in order to do so. Those hand made products of human labor are much less likely to wind up in land-fill, though, and being precious from the get go, their longevity may just make them the long term bargain.

I'd rather have a $1,000.00 uke for the rest of my life than five $200.00 ukes that don't inspire me and wind up in the rubbish heap.

Written from the perspective of someone who designs and makes high end ukes and guitars...

thejumpingflea
08-10-2009, 10:54 AM
If it is within your budget and you are interested in playing the uke, I would entirely advise you to buy the nicest ukulele you can. This is for multiple reasons.

A) A high quality uke will go as far as you can go. As you learn the uke will sound better and better and there won't be instances where your instrument is holding you back from playing. By starting with a great instrument you can learn much easier and progress more quickly because you won't have to deal with many of the problems that occur with cheaper imports. (I.E. String buzzing, sharp frets, bad intonation, etc)

B) You won't be inclined to continually upgrade. By buying a 25 dollar uke, you will need to upgrade pretty quick. Than you buy a 100 dollar uke. Well, now it is a couple months later and you need yet another upgrade. Eventually you have 5 cheaper ukes that could have bought you 1 nice one.

c) Resale value. Imports don't increase in value. Hawaiian K's do. My Kamaka has gone up over 400 dollars in MSRP since I have bought it. If you decide the uke isn't for you, it is very easy to sell a nice uke for nearly the amount you payed. (Sometimes more!)

clayton56
08-10-2009, 11:02 AM
and it's not just resale value, but resalability period! I had a pretty nice solid top guitar that was 80-90% as good as the Gibson I replaced it with. I didn't even bother to sell it as other ones on Ebay were getting no bids, at a less than $100 price. Unless it's a good name you may not be able to sell it at all.

A good instrument with a recognizeable brand name will sell easily.

Ukulele JJ
08-10-2009, 11:10 AM
I'd rather have a $1,000.00 uke for the rest of my life than five $200.00 ukes that don't inspire me and wind up in the rubbish heap.


Same here.

Then again, I'd also rather have a $200 uke for the rest of my life than five $1000 ukes that don't inspire me and wind up in the rub... er, well, on eBay.

It's the "inspire" part that's the key, not the cost. They're not necessarily directly correlated. Speaking just for myself, I find that I can enjoy the heck out of some pretty cheap ukes. :p

JJ

GX9901
08-10-2009, 11:15 AM
I find that with just about everything in life, not just ukuleles, the cost goes up exponentially with quality. Most people seem to expect that the cost goes up proportionally with quality, but that's just not the case with most things. Is the Martin really 10x better than the Ohana? Most likely not. And you can't even quantify that difference anyway. But is the Martin better? By most measures that's probably the case. So you're paying 10x for "better", but not "10x better". Same thing goes for something like cars. Is a BMW 3-series 2-3 times as good as a Honda Civic? I'm not sure how you can quantify that, but by most measures the BMW is definitely "better". I think if we all just want the "best bang for the buck" ukulele, we'd all be playing Kala or Ohana ukes because you can't realistically argue that the more expensive ukes are 2-10 or more times better.

For me, I'm willing to pay the exponential climb in price if I believe I'm getting something of higher quality and it is something that I have a real desire for. So my answer for the OP's question would simply be that for 10x the price, I'm getting something "better". Whether or not you're willing to pay for "better" is entirely up to you.

thejumpingflea
08-10-2009, 11:15 AM
Same here.

Then again, I'd also rather have a $200 uke for the rest of my life than five $1000 ukes that don't inspire me and wind up in the rub... er, well, on eBay.

It's the "inspire" part that's the key, not the cost. They're not necessarily directly correlated. Speaking just for myself, I find that I can enjoy the heck out of some pretty cheap ukes. :p

JJ

Good post. +1 to what he just said. :p

freedive135
08-10-2009, 11:39 AM
I guess this makes my KoAloha Soprano a cheap uke? It was less than 500$.

I think there are 2 ways of looking at this.
The Ukulele as a piece of art/workmanship.
The Ukulele as a way to make music.

Do I have as much fun playing my Cheep Kala Laminate Soprano as I do my Cheap KoAloha ? You bet I do.
Is the KoAloha prettier and does it sound better? Yes by along shot.
Would I carry around my KoAloha in my backpack? Never!!!

experimentjon
08-10-2009, 12:03 PM
There's a gun and knife reviewer on Youtube, Nutnfancy (really good reviewer), who classifies things with the "two types of cool."

The first type of cool is practicality and usefulness. Translating that to ukes, that would be factors like sound, action, build quality, etc. And when you get a lower end uke like say a sub $200 kala with a setup and strung w/Aquilas, you will be getting most of those factors. The offshore ukes are becoming better and better in build quality, and sound wise, Aquilas are basically the great leveler, as demonstrated by MGM's recent blind test contest.

The second type of cool is just how much you dig the gun/knife. As a knife guy, that would mean cool colorations on the handles, carbon fiber scales, high end steels like S30V or D2, cool blade shapes, rarity, etc. And translating that over to ukes, you're looking at solid woods, highly figured woods, rare and exotic woods, cool body shapes, custom one offs, a unique sound, made in Hawaii, slotted headstocks, carbon fiber, and if you're GX9901, you might be turned on by Gilbert tuners. It's just whatever makes you excited about the instrument.

And really, spending more money just gives you more of both types of cool, especially the second type of cool, which, IMO, most cheaper ukes lack.

thegentlesurprise
08-10-2009, 12:05 PM
Actually, I do carry around my KoAloha all the time. It's a beautiful instrument, but that beauty means nothing if it sits unused. I can understand why others would act differently.

Lanark
08-10-2009, 12:11 PM
There does exist, I suppose a point of diminishing returns with regards to what your extra cash gets you besides bling and bragging rights about the exorbitant amount you spent on an instrument. It would seem that a lot of what drives up the price of most customs is the eye candy unrelated to sound. People pay for what want.

There will however be great differences between a $125 Kala and something like a Koaloha or one of the K's (which fall into sort of the middle price range before you start hitting customs.) The quality of the wood and intonation is going to be better. There's going to be a lot more attention to details that will come from being handmade in a smaller shop rather than a large factory type setting. Customer service should also be more personal when dealing with people rather than giant corporation. If you're sure you're going to continue playing for the long haul I think this is a good investment. Besides resale, you're just going to be much more likely to play and enjoy an instrument that plays and sounds good than one of lesser quality. (It's like after I got my first tube amp and realized that the reason my guitar playing had always sounded so truly awful up to that point wasn't totally me. It was mostly Peavey's fault) You'll also keep it longer and take much longer to outgrow what it's capable of offering, if ever.

With customs you're paying a premium for a) getting one built for you and made to your specs. b) the talent, ability and design know how that comes with experience and physically working with wood that you can't get from reading a book. c) a level of personal connection and collaboration in the process with the artisan that creates it for you. d) an individual and unique work of the luthier's art. One of a kind is not and shouldn't be cheap. The really good individual makers have earned their reputation and price point with skill and sweat.

Playing an instrument though is such an odd extension of yourself that in a sense a player will bond with their instrument. Some people aren't going to be satisfied until they've got a Pete Howlett or William King, or Chuck Moore work of art specially ordered and for others a Flea will suit their needs for as long as they live.

Skrik
08-10-2009, 12:13 PM
There is a difference in price that reflects quality: the materials used, the workmanship, the design.

There is a difference in price that reflects region: where the materials come from contra where they were made into a ukulele, where the workmanship resides, and so on.

There is a difference in price that reflects retail structure: how many middlemen, etc.

There is a difference in price that reflects the market demand: one ukulele among fifteen buyers will be more valuable than fifteen ukuleles that one person can choose between.

There is a difference in price that reflects marketing: hiking the price creates an illusion of greater quality.

Take some, or all of these things together, and you get ukuleles on the market for upwards of £3000.

I won't be buying one -- I have other priorities in life.

GX9901
08-10-2009, 12:15 PM
... and if you're GX9901, you might be turned on by Gilbert tuners.


You know me so well Jon! :D I love me some Gilbert tuners! :p

GX9901
08-10-2009, 12:26 PM
By the way, I'm not sure I agree with the expensive ukes having better re-sale value. From what I've seen, it's a lot easier to sell an inexpensive uke (Flukes, Kala, etc) for close to its "new" price than an expensive (Hawaiian K's or above) uke. And customs have terrible re-sale value for the most part.

ukulelearp
08-10-2009, 01:25 PM
By the way, I'm not sure I agree with the expensive ukes having better re-sale value. From what I've seen, it's a lot easier to sell an inexpensive uke (Flukes, Kala, etc) for close to its "new" price than an expensive (Hawaiian K's or above) uke. And customs have terrible re-sale value for the most part.

I almost bought a used Flea for close to retail price. They seem to hold their value well, among others.

itsme
08-10-2009, 01:41 PM
I am of the opinion that one's first car should not be a Porsche or Ferrari. You need to learn to drive before you can really appreciate the handling and performance of a luxury automobile and know which one is right for you.

For a beginner, I'd say it's important to have a decent instrument, one that plays well and has good intonation. It doesn't have to have a solid top, and things like gold-plated tuners or fancy abilone inlays are really just eye candy.

Considerations:

Will you stick with it? A lot of people spend more than they need to starting out, don't stick with it, then end up selling it (often at a loss) or it just takes up room in the closet.

You won't know what really suits you until you've got some playing experience under your belt and can try out various instruments for yourself. Soprano, concert or tenor? Mahogany, koa, mango, etc.

Once you are confident enough in your playing ability to be able to make an informed choice, by all means, go for something better if that's what you want and can afford.

There's also a nebulous factor that can't be quantified based solely on price. A lower-priced instrument might just "speak" to you more than a higher-priced one.

I think most of us would agree that having a back-up instrument as a "beater" that you're not afraid to take to a party and let others play is a good thing, so starting with a decent but not overly expensive instrument is what I'd recommend.

Then when the time comes, it feels like a reward and you can more fully appreciate your new instrument.

Lori
08-10-2009, 07:24 PM
Make sure your first ukulele is one that you are attracted to. It could be a beautiful metallic blue Kala Dolphin bridge (around $45) or something more expensive, but the key here is that you need to be excited about having this new thing to play with. Don't just choose one because it's cheap. You will play it more if you like the sound and like how it looks. If you are not motivated to play it, you will never move to the next level.

–Lori

Matt Clara
08-11-2009, 07:45 AM
Does anyone ever wonder if these Chinese made ukes are better than their low prices suggest? I'm reminded of the wine industry, which I've done some work for over the years. I've heard it said by more than one wine expert that pricing has a lot to do with the overall value of a wine. The quote I've heard repeated is (to paraphrase), a wine could be the best in the world, but if it's sold for $10 a bottle, then it will be identified as nothing more than a really good $10 bottle of wine.

Another comparison to the wine industry has to do with what is "best". A double blind wine comparison study reveals that while experts can tell the difference between two similar wines, they can't say which one is the more expensive or "better" wine. Unfortunately, I can't find a link to that study right now.

Yes, I am a trouble maker... :D

GX9901
08-11-2009, 07:57 AM
Does anyone ever wonder if these Chinese made ukes are better than their low prices suggest?

I'd agree with that. Some of the import ukes are really nice and makes me wonder how they do it at such a low price. I mean, I think even some thousand dollar custom ukes are underpriced if you think about what goes into making one, so the nicely finished solid wood imports really are a good value.

CTurner
08-11-2009, 08:15 AM
In looking at computers, there is such a thing as the "sweet spot": a place where the models give you high quality, extra capacity/speed/refinements, at a price that is not the highest but is certainly not at the low end either.

If you put the elements in place from this thread, you will discover that there is a "sweet spot" for you and how much you are willing to pay to get a level service, quality and workmanship.

I don't think you'll regret purchasing and playing a uke that excites you and satisfies your senses. That is worth what you are willing to pay for it.

Best,
Craig

molokinirum
08-11-2009, 08:34 AM
This both is and isn't a beginner's question. It is in so far that I don't have a clue as to what the real difference is, and it isn't in so far as this isn't a "what ukulele should I buy" thread. I have two, and they're fine. Ultimately, I may be questioning the value of an expensive ukulele when compared to the cheap alternatives. So, what do I mean by "cheap" and "expensive"?

For purposes of this thread, let's say cheap is somewhere between $100 and $400, inclusive. That covers most of the decent to very nice Kala's, Ohana's, and the like ($400's actually a little high). Also for purposes of this thread, let's say expensive is $500 on up. That seems to be where the inexpensive Kamakas, Koaloha, and the like, start (and $500 might be a little low). We all, of course, have our own definitions of cheap and expensive, depending on our personal budgets, but these two groups I've identified have some overlap in terms of what is offered for these amounts of money. For example, $180 will get you an all mahogany Ohana, where $1800 will get you an all mahogany Martin. That's an extreme example, but it illustrates the point.

The question, then, is, what does 10x the cost get me? I am a beginner, so I wouldn't necessarily know the difference, but I've been to Elderly Instruments several times and played around with some Martins (including 80 year old Martins, one of them absolutely beat to hell and back and still costing $500), and while I can hear a difference, I'm not convinced it's a difference worth the money.

Perhaps a little background to this question will help with the cogitation. As a beginner, I bought what I thought was a decent Ukulele at a reasonable price. The more I play it, the more I like it, the better I get, the more I think, someday I'll spring for a really nice one. Which brings me to the thought, what's so great about those really nice ones that I'd want to spend many times more for one?

I agree, if your budget can afford the more expensive ukes, then I would buy one of those, they will easily hold their value if you should decide to sell:eek: and the nicer the uke the more you will play it and the better you will get!:music:

jzzlvr
05-30-2018, 02:09 AM
There's also the setup factor that will improve on the cheaper factory ukes. Most factory ukes will probably come with high action and intonation issues, but if you buy from Mim or HMS etc., they will fix that for you, so that's added value and makes them comparable to the more expensive ones in terms of playability. The differences that remain are sound, build quality and cosmetics.

Sound is related to tonewood and the build, the more lightly built the more resonant. To me, build is where the cost is most justified - the experience of a great luthier that goes into the design and execution of building an instrument. Then again, Pepe Romero is making sure the factory that produces the Romero Creations can replicate his build exactly, and same for KoAloha and the Opio. So before we even get to K-brands and customs, there are these more premium Asian-made ukes that are very worthy of consideration. In my opinion, these may be the best value for the price, since they are an upgrade in build and cosmetics over the cheaper lines of Asian ukes, have features of their more expensive cousins, but are about 3 times cheaper.

Personally I don't think I want to spend more than $800 on a uke, just because I know I will get obsessive about protecting it from dings and scratches. Yes, an instrument is meant to be played, but I can't get it out of my head that "it is such an expensive instrument! Be careful with it!" (I drool over them, of course - but they're just not practical for me.)

mmn
05-30-2018, 03:10 AM
Although you just revived a thread that is 9 years old, your post is right on point! As a luthier I always advise people to buy the best they can afford. Being a luthier, I promise them I will make it sound and play the best it can be.

jzzlvr
05-30-2018, 03:12 AM
Haha I did? I don't know how I got here... I had it open on my phone this morning and started reading. It was an interesting read. Sorry for the resurrection! :o

mmn
05-30-2018, 03:18 AM
NP, for me. This thread was a good read and still quite relevant. And if not for your post I wouldn't have seen it!

jzzlvr
05-30-2018, 03:23 AM
You're welcome - I should change my name to thread revivor, hah! ;)

dasuol
05-30-2018, 03:39 AM
Although you just revived a thread that is 9 years old
...I just read through this entire thread and didn't even realize it was old until I got to this post. Seemed like a current conversation to me. I guess there are some things that will always make for a relevant discussion.

jzzlvr
05-30-2018, 03:44 AM
...I just read through this entire thread and didn't even realize it was old until I got to this post. Seemed like a current conversation to me. I guess there are some things that will always make for a relevant discussion.

Easy mistake to make. Who has time to look at timestamps :P

70sSanO
05-30-2018, 08:25 AM
For purposes of this thread, let's say cheap is somewhere between $100 and $400, inclusive. That covers most of the decent to very nice Kala's, Ohana's, and the like ($400's actually a little high). Also for purposes of this thread, let's say expensive is $500 on up. That seems to be where the inexpensive Kamakas, Koaloha, and the like, start (and $500 might be a little low). We all, of course, have our own definitions of cheap and expensive, depending on our personal budgets, but these two groups I've identified have some overlap in terms of what is offered for these amounts of money. For example, $180 will get you an all mahogany Ohana, where $1800 will get you an all mahogany Martin. That's an extreme example, but it illustrates the point.



What struck me from this 2009 thread is how the ukulele industry and the instrument appearance has changed. The brands that represent expensive, or should I say the names missing from that expensive bucket that are commonly referred to today. I remember those times. A different era when bling might be curly koa, or a fancy rosette and binding. Mya Moe was just starting out and Kanilea's revolutionary high gloss finish was only a year or so removed.

There was a definite absence of independent/custom luthiers of high end ukuleles; nothing against Martin or K's. It is a bit of time travel for me. I imagine those who have been around a lot longer have seen even more changes.

John

monica.h
05-30-2018, 04:44 PM
I loved my $20 ukulele until the glue holding it together gave out while I was tuning it, and the bridge snapped off the body, hitting me in the face. Now I play guitar.

Jerryc41
06-01-2018, 02:04 AM
If no ukes had brand names or distinguishing features that identify them, I bet prices would be lower. Part of the price is due to the brand name, I'm sure. Material and construction quality account for some of the high prices, but I don't think a high price guarantees high quality sound. Experts cannot distinguish the sound of a million dollar Stradivarius from a good quality violin. There is a healthy profit margin in high end ukes. Joe Suoza began Kanile'a twenty years ago, and he's now a multi-millionaire.

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/02/kanilea-ukulele-makes-millions-selling-ukuleles-from-hawaii.html

plunker
06-01-2018, 03:56 AM
I think kaka on Oscar Schmidt make fine ukes for $200 or so in a variety of woods and finishes. As a beginner they will suit you well for a long time. I love my pond mtd which is a step up, I think. I play because I like to, I like figuring out dongs, I like it when I hear a song an say to myself, that would sound cool on a uke. Do I consider myself a good player, no. I can play a tune (picking) that most propel revognize. I would like to strum and sing, if I could sing. Howver, I don't see any need for anything more than what I have. Unless Jake calls and asks me to open for him, then I might get something"better".
There is an os spalted tenor for sale in the market place. I am sooooo tempted, but I think it would be a good place to start looking.

Pete Howlett
06-11-2018, 01:06 PM
Follow that link to the Souzas success story... it wasn't in high end ukulele they made their money!

70sSanO
06-11-2018, 03:08 PM
The Kanilea story might be more of an exception when it comes to ukulele manufacturers. I don't know much about the early years, but somewhere around 2006 or so, I believe, Joe Souza went to Taylor Guitars and learned how to apply a truly great gloss finish that was not common on ukuleles at the time. But what really helped put Kanilea on the map was the Tru Bracing. Prior to that the ukes were a little bit overbuilt and lacked some projection. The result was a great looking and sounding uke. I also remember MGM was quite a proponent of Kanilea. While Kanilea had established itself as one of the K's, the real money, as already stated, is in the import line.

It is a great story and the Souzas are great people and deserve the rewards.

John

mmfitzsimons
06-12-2018, 12:41 PM
Experts cannot distinguish the sound of a million dollar Stradivarius from a good quality violin.https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/02/kanilea-ukulele-makes-millions-selling-ukuleles-from-hawaii.html

What? Of course they can. The foremost violinists in the world will take jobs just so they can play one. The thing experts can't figure out is why exactly they are so amazing and unique.


I love my Kanilea more than any other uke I have ever touched, including a couple even more expensive ones, including a custom built to my specs. To me the difference between it and the cheap ones I own can be heard, seen, and even felt.

That said, and back to the OP's question way back when, I could have led a very happy and fulfilling life as an uker with my first uke. One beauty of ukulele is even the $20 ones are a joy.

Jerryc41
06-13-2018, 01:09 AM
What? Of course they can. The foremost violinists in the world will take jobs just so they can play one. The thing experts can't figure out is why exactly they are so amazing and unique.


I love my Kanilea more than any other uke I have ever touched, including a couple even more expensive ones, including a custom built to my specs. To me the difference between it and the cheap ones I own can be heard, seen, and even felt.

That said, and back to the OP's question way back when, I could have led a very happy and fulfilling life as an uker with my first uke. One beauty of ukulele is even the $20 ones are a joy.

https://www.thestrad.com/blind-tested-soloists-unable-to-tell-stradivarius-violins-from-modern-instruments/994.article
http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/05/million-dollar-strads-fall-modern-violins-blind-sound-check

But -
https://www.thestrad.com/stradivarius-violin-tops-the-strads-blind-test-of-old-and-modern-instruments/5129.article

Jerryc41
06-13-2018, 01:13 AM
So what is "expensive" and "cheap"? Is a $500 Kala expensive compared to a $50 Makala or Mahalo or used Asian made uke from earlier in the century. If you did a blind test with a $50 Makala Shark and $500 Kala prettywood could you pick the difference? Would you see a $450 (9 times) difference?

I admit that I buy based on appearance and reputation. My ukuleles do sound different from each other, but I don't have any that sound bad to me. They range from a $20 uke I bought in an ABC store in HI in 2002 to the K brands. Of course there is a difference in sound, but I still like playing all of them. At this point, I have to say that the Koaloha Scepter has them all beat.

hollisdwyer
06-14-2018, 06:50 AM
In my relatively short history with Ukes, the only ones that I said “Oh my, this sounds really wonderful” when I first played them have been what most people would consider expensive. Sure, the law of diminishing returns definitely applies in this case, I know a $2500 Uke is not 10 times better then a $250 instrument, but for me it’s a question of the value I put on playing a finely crafted musical instrument. The answer to that question can be determined by reading the list of my current instruments in my signature below. Luckily I have been fortunate enough in my life to be able to be indulgent.

Pete Howlett
06-17-2018, 12:15 PM
I broadcast on FaceBook nearly every day - a sort of 'peek through my workshop window'. One of the most common responses is, "Now I can see why you charge what you door your ukulele..." You do get something special and different from a hand made instrument and if I do it right, it is going to take time and I am going to use the best materials available. Fronts are going to be accurately voiced and the playing action over the 12th fret and nut is going to be like butter. I guess that is rally what you pay for - time and effort.

Ziret
06-18-2018, 03:46 AM
I broadcast on FaceBook nearly every day - a sort of 'peek through my workshop window'...Fronts are going to be accurately voiced and the playing action over the 12th fret and nut is going to be like butter. I guess that is rally what you pay for - time and effort.

I've always wondered what that means, or involves, voicing the top. And do all builders do it?

Rllink
06-18-2018, 04:19 AM
I broadcast on FaceBook nearly every day - a sort of 'peek through my workshop window'. One of the most common responses is, "Now I can see why you charge what you door your ukulele..." You do get something special and different from a hand made instrument and if I do it right, it is going to take time and I am going to use the best materials available. Fronts are going to be accurately voiced and the playing action over the 12th fret and nut is going to be like butter. I guess that is rally what you pay for - time and effort.
That is all very valid points, and in your case the buyer also gets a bit of Pete Howlett's heart and soul in every ukulele too. I think that people do not always think about the fact that the builder put so much of themself into a ukulele and that is an inspiration to the people who buy them. It isn't always just the materials and workmanship that makes the ukulele what it is. I've seen plenty of articles and videos that do blind tests of anything from violins to ukuleles and people can't tell which is which, but take off the blindfold and then you will hear which one inspires the player and which one doesn't.

mmn
06-18-2018, 04:33 AM
I've always wondered what that means, or involves, voicing the top. And do all builders do it?

No, but the good ones do...!

Joyful Uke
06-18-2018, 07:01 AM
I think some of whether or not it's worth the extra $ for the more expensive ukuleles depends on your style of playing, what role ukulele plays in your life, and of course, disposable income.

If you're playing in a group, can't be heard too clearly, and/or there is singing as the primary focus, you might be fine with the lower end ukulele that is set up well. It might be hard to hear any upgrade in tone, and if you're playing out and about, you don't want your Moore Bettah getting dinged or otherwise damaged.

If you primarily fingerpick, IMO, you might be more likely to notice the difference in tone. Still, if it's a hobby that you only get to every now and then, a higher end ukulele might be more than you need.

But, if you afford it, and can hear the difference, and like to spend a lot of time playing, then IMO it's worth the $ for a higher end ukulele.

I recall posts in the past where people have mentioned that this is what they spend their money on, and that describes me as well. I don't go on vacations, don't have a smart phone, have an analog TV with a converter box and rabbit ears, have an outdated computer, and so on. But, every day, I get to go on my version of a vacation, and enjoy my ukuleles. To me, it's worth it.

The highest end ukulele I've played is a Kinnard, and there is a difference in sound, intonation, attention to detail, and beauty that can't be expected from an inexpensive ukulele. Is the difference in price worth it? Only you can decide that for yourself.

It's great that we have options, and that the ukulele world can accommodate different budgets and different personal preferences. It's all good.

70sSanO
06-18-2018, 04:14 PM
Cheap, or inexpensive, vs expensive depends on what you play to some extent, but also your musical background. For someone who has never played a stringed instrument, buying a decent inexpensive ukulele is probably a good way to go. 6 months down the road, that uke may just be sitting. For someone that has a guitar background and plays good guitars, a Martin D-18 for example, will be able to really test out different ukuleles and may want to start off with a more expensive uke. Any guitar player can take a uke and play chords and some riffs.

Just like a guitar, fingerstyle will need more nuances and that might drive someone to a better ukulele. I know my first ukulele was a KoAloha soprano. I knew that it could handle anything I wanted to do, at least for a soprano, and sound really good. I ended up selling it a few years later for close to what I paid as I had moved onto tenors. But I had years of playing guitar and knew the value of a good instrument. I also ended up playing instrumentals.

John

Mivo
06-19-2018, 10:21 PM
The ukueles I have experienced first hand ranged from €150 to around €2000. I feel that the price tag doesn't necessarily reflect the quality or sound of the instrument, and never seems to determine whether or not I like the instrument. I do believe that there is a "sweet spot" after which you increasingly pay for the name, prestige, materials, and place of manufacture. For example, I had a Chinese made instrument (hand made) that was clearly superior in every way to a Hawaiian made instrument that cost around the same, right down to the finish.

More expensive instruments tend to be crafted with more attention to detail and usually come set up, though I am not sure that they generally also sound better. I have heard expensive custom ukuleles that I didn't think sounded or even looked spectacular, and there is one premium brand whose instruments sound very average to me. Some of the blind tests done here on the forum over the years demonstrated that a good many people can't tell the difference between a mid-range and a top-end instrument (or a brand of strings), but when they know the maker they can hear the sound difference. But sound is a very subjective thing anyway, so it's hard to quantify. Much depends on the skill level of the person playing also. Even the cheapest ukes sound great in HMS videos because the performers are excellent.

I also believe that there is a minimum price for a decent sounding ukulele that doesn't get in the way of learning. I wouldn't get something for significantly under €150 (with set-up), though there are also folks who are perfectly happy with their €50 ukuleles from eBay, showing just how relative all of this is.

I used to have the view that an expensive (what exactly that means is probably also subjective) would motivate me to play more, but this wasn't my experience. My most expensive ukuleles (all sold eventually) intimidated me and I felt I had to baby them. They felt more like a material investment than a tool for making music to me. It made me uneasy and removed a good chunk of the uncomplicated fun that I was after when I took up the hobby. Right now I'd say that I'm happiest with an instrument in the €250-1000 range, which is what I feel is the "mid range" (mileage may vary), with something around €400-500 being the sweet spot, ideally used. That's still a lot of money for many of us, but it's not a price range where it would seem like the end of the world if I dropped the instrument. It would still upset me, but I could reasonably and relatively soon replace it. And if I'm not afraid of taking it out of its case and don't feel compelled to first drag wet towels into the room on a cold winter day before I dare to use it, I'll also play it more.

But as others have said, the best ukulele is the one you make music with and that gives you joy, regardless of whether it was inexpensive or cost a fortune.

Ziret
06-20-2018, 05:38 AM
One of my friends asked me how much my all solid Tiny Tenor cost. I said I think they are about $500 new. He said he was going to start recommending it to people as a starter uke. I wonder what my face looked like. I said it was more of a finisher for me. (Besides price, it would also be hard to beat in terms of sound or playability, so I'm not sure where someone would go up from there.) So cheap, along with everything else, is relative.