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View Full Version : Ambiguous Ukulele Descriptions in Ads etc



buddhuu
10-28-2009, 12:12 AM
This may be just me, but I find it infuriating when manufacturers and resellers make it less than clear whether their instruments are constructed from solid or laminated wood.

Don't get me wrong, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with a laminate instrument. I would buy a good laminate instrument if it suited my needs.

That said, I have seen descriptions claiming "all mahogany" and "all koa" when referring to instruments which are, in fact, laminate. While those descriptions are not technically innacurate, they are, IMHO, misleading.

A question for experienced members - How many times have you read posts here by people who had believed that their koa/mango etc etc ukulele was a solid wood instrument, and who had to endure the embarrassment of having a more experienced player break the news that it was really made of fancy plywood?

The news doesn't make the uke they love sound any less good, but it does show that they didn't get what they thought they were paying for.

In some cases I'm sure there is no intent to deceive. In other cases I am less inclined to afford benefit of the doubt. Not going to point fingers to any specific examples here... at the moment.

I would like to suggest to all manufacturers and resellers that you explicitly state in all descriptions whether your instruments are made from solid or laminated woods, rather than just using phrases like "all mango", "all mahogany".

mokai
10-28-2009, 12:32 AM
I'm with you on that one.

Normally, if it doesn't say solid, I assume it's laminate, but I've seen the ads you speak of where they say "all mahogany". Those are very misleading to me as well.

I think those sellers fear (newer) ukers will not purchase due to the word 'laminate'
I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt, but if they're selling ukuleles, they should already know the importance of specifying whether an ukulele is made from solid wood or not.

ainokeato
10-28-2009, 12:35 AM
I had this problem to while searching for my tenor I looked at literally thirty different ukes trying to find a solid one as I heard it was better than laminate. Until I just broke down and asked for suggestions from other experienced people. Which I do have to say is part of the consumer process, asking around if what you're buying is actually what you want or if they can recommend something.

HoldinCoffee
10-28-2009, 01:29 AM
I was in a guitar shop yesterday and the salesdude was trying to sell me on an overpriced Sierra classical guitar with pickup and cutaway. He said something about SOLID cedar. I knew the back and sides were laminate mahogany but I wanted to see what he'd say so I asked what the back and sides were. He says "That's 'pressed' mahogany'. PRESSED! I'd never heard that term before.

brickerenator
10-28-2009, 01:32 AM
Plywood is a hybrid solid.......


er yah

djny
10-28-2009, 04:59 AM
A favorite codeword for laminate is "select". That's always a giveaway.

bbycrts
10-28-2009, 05:26 AM
Solid wood is a big enough selling point that if the ad doesn't actually have the word SOLID in it, I assume it's laminate. Somebody else also pointed out the use of the word "select" as a code word for laminate too - good catch.

vahn
10-28-2009, 05:43 AM
Solid wood is a big enough selling point that if the ad doesn't actually have the word SOLID in it, I assume it's laminate. Somebody else also pointed out the use of the word "select" as a code word for laminate too - good catch.

+1 its usually easy. If it doesn't specifically say SOLID its safe to assume its not

haole
10-28-2009, 06:06 AM
Agreed that manufacturers/resellers should knock it off with the weasel words.

"Select spruce top" sounds nice to people who are buying their first instrument. "Ooh, the wood was selected! It didn't end up in the factory on its own accord! This must be a good one!" :rolleyes:

It's even worse when manufacturers or resellers flat-out lie. In chain stores it's not uncommon to see a salesman try to pass off a laminate top for a solid. You'd think the price would give it away ($250 is not going to buy you a solid instrument with a crazy quilted maple top like that!), but most folks will believe these hacks. :( Cordoba's ukes are advertised as being made of solid "Portuguese koa." (There's no such thing! It's acacia.) Heck, in the newest Musician's Friend catalogue, it says they're just solid koa! No matter how good they sound or play, I wouldn't buy one because the advertising is deceptive.

If you're buying from a reputable seller, don't be afraid to ask if you're not sure. But usually if it doesn't say "solid," it's not solid. MGM makes it clear which ones are solid.

Ahnko Honu
10-28-2009, 08:48 AM
I bought a 'ukulele on ebay that was described as "solid wood" but I strongly suspected it was not so asked them directly if it was a laminate and they said they believed it was. It was a great deal and I knew what I was getting with no regrets but even the word "solid" does not guarantee that it is in the definition we are familiar with.

beeejums
10-28-2009, 12:48 PM
That's what happened to me with my first uke. I thought I was getting a solid mahogany uke, told people it WAS a solid mahogany uke, believed it was a solid mahogany uke, and then I looked at the grain inside the uke... and said "oh."

I still love it, though. It's just made me curious about a solid top uke since I've never played one.

existence
10-28-2009, 12:57 PM
I was in a guitar shop yesterday and the salesdude was trying to sell me on an overpriced Sierra classical guitar with pickup and cutaway. He said something about SOLID cedar. I knew the back and sides were laminate mahogany but I wanted to see what he'd say so I asked what the back and sides were. He says "That's 'pressed' mahogany'. PRESSED! I'd never heard that term before.

"What are the sides and back made of?"

"That's pressed mahogany."

"You mean plywood?"

"Right, pressed plywood. There is pressing involved."

"So it's pieces of different wood glued together, right?"

"Lightly glued, yes. Lightly glued with the finest adhesives, then pressed. Mahogany."

"Huh, I didn't realize it was plywood..."

"Pressed...."


Oh, someone mentioned the Musicians Friend catalog...I keep one around at all times for laughs. The sales talk is awesome. I particularly like when they refer to a guitar as a "tone machine".

ukantor
10-28-2009, 01:29 PM
I do have some sympathy for the manufacturers and salespeople. Talk of plywood, and we all think of the bog-standard crude three ply that's used on the inside of cheap furniture. It is truly nasty stuff. Talk of laminates, and it sounds like plastic veneers, as used for kitchen cupboards.

The "pressed wood" (I like that term:D) used for musical instruments is much more sophisticated than the above. It can be a very suitable material, and some of it is more expensive than solid wood.

This does not excuse misleading descriptions, but today's mid-range "pressed wood" instruments deserve a better image than "plywood". Perhaps there should be an industry standard for the different types of laminated wooden materials, then they could proudly announce exactly what it is made of, and we would all know what we are paying for.

Ukantor.

Edited to ad:- I have an Ohana soprano with "pressed mahogany" back and sides, and solid cedar front. It is one of my favourite ukes. The grain pattern on the back and sides would cost a fortune if it were solid wood. I'm happy to have that lovely appearance in a sturdy, great sounding, mid-priced uke.

existence
10-28-2009, 01:44 PM
I do have some sympathy for the manufacturers and salespeople. Talk of plywood, and we all think of the bog-standard crude three ply that's used on the inside of cheap furniture. It is truly nasty stuff. Talk of laminates, and it sounds like plastic veneers, as used for kitchen cupboards.

The "pressed wood" (I like that term:D) used for musical instruments is much more sophisticated than the above. It can be a very suitable material, and some of it is more expensive than solid wood.

This does not excuse misleading descriptions, but today's mid-range "pressed wood" instruments deserve a better image than "plywood". Perhaps there should be an industry standard for the different types of laminated wooden materials, then they could proudly announce exactly what it is made of, and we would all know what we are paying for.

Ukantor.

Edited to ad:- I have an Ohana soprano with "pressed mahogany" back and sides, and solid cedar front. It is one of my favourite ukes. The grain pattern on the back and sides would cost a fortune if it were solid wood. I'm happy to have that lovely appearance in a sturdy, great sounding, mid-priced uke.


Good points....I wish to add that my attempt at humor above was not meant to vilify laminated (pressed?) instruments. As a matter of fact, I own a Kiwaya KS-1 lamin--I mean, pressed mahogany ukulele and it's awesome...sounds better to my ears than many comparably priced solid tops.

buddhuu
10-29-2009, 12:42 AM
[...] I have an Ohana soprano with "pressed mahogany" back and sides, and solid cedar front. It is one of my favourite ukes. The grain pattern on the back and sides would cost a fortune if it were solid wood. I'm happy to have that lovely appearance in a sturdy, great sounding, mid-priced uke.

All good points, John.

The "pressed" description is, sadly, not a suitable solution. Many of the better low-priced archtop mandolins have solid spruce tops, but the arched top is pressed to shape rather than carved. With mandos there are two issues - is it solid wood? and is it carved or pressed?

It is possible to have "pressed" tops/sides/backs that are still solid woods.

I'd just like to emphasise that I'm not dissing laminate instruments, just wishing that it could be made clear what one was buying.


[...] Don't get me wrong, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with a laminate instrument. I would buy a good laminate instrument if it suited my needs. [...]

ukantor
10-29-2009, 01:17 AM
Dead right Buddhuu, we need a way to distinguish clearly between high quality "laminate" ukes and the much cheaper "plywood" types. Something like the British Standard system of classifying articles and materials would do it, but it would have to be an International Standard System.

If salesmen could point to a label stating "made from (Whatever)", and that label had the backing of an Industry Association, or some official body, we could all sleep soundly.

Perhaps the suppliers of these super-duper laminated woods should use a registered name for them - the way many outdoor clothes declare that they are made using "Gortex".

Ukantor.

haole
10-29-2009, 07:03 AM
Martin's cheaper guitars use something called HPL (high pressure laminate), which has a fancy-sounding name but the guitars themselves usually sound like butt.

RevWill
10-29-2009, 07:47 AM
Don't get me wrong, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with a laminate instrument. I would buy a good laminate instrument if it suited my needs.



Agreed on all counts Buddhuu.

I own two laminates that thrill me to the core: a Flea and a Fluke. Every time I pick them up I cannot believe how wonderful laminate wood and plastic can sound with the right engineering and craftsmanship.

My son has an Art & Lutherie dreadnought with laminate cherry back and sides, and a solid cedar top. It cost us $250 off the rack brand new. Its tone rivals and exceeds plenty of more expensive solid-wood instruments.

By all accounts the super-thin laminates used by Kamoa sound absolutely dynamite.

And I join the chorus of "If it don't say Solid, it ain't."

drtortoise
10-29-2009, 08:29 AM
My ukulele description said "Solid Mahogany Top, Back & Sides". So I'm guessing some parts of it is not solid? Not that it matters, I think it sounds lovely.

This is it: http://www.dukeofuke.co.uk/stagg-us80se-soprano-ukulele-p-243.html

Ahnko Honu
10-29-2009, 08:39 AM
Kiwaya also has it's proprietary super thin laminate which makes them sound as good or even better than allot of solid top 'ukuleles. Laminates when done right can sound great and can take beating humidity wise.
The Kiwaya laminate pineapple is on my 'ukulele bucket list. :D

StevieC
10-29-2009, 01:09 PM
My ukulele description said "Solid Mahogany Top, Back & Sides". So I'm guessing some parts of it is not solid? Not that it matters, I think it sounds lovely.

This is it: http://www.dukeofuke.co.uk/stagg-us80se-soprano-ukulele-p-243.html

This seems to be a bit of a habit with 'Duke of Uke'. My first uke, a Kala mango soprano was clearly labelled 'solid mango', a description more than a bit misleading, especially as several other instruments in the shop were described as 'laminate'.

ukantor
10-29-2009, 02:17 PM
I bought a Stagg soprano about four/five years ago. That one WAS solid mahogany. It was a very nice instrument. Chances are that yours is solid wood.

Ukantor.

bnicholas26
10-29-2009, 03:52 PM
TOTALLY!! I almost pulled the trigger on a kala "koa" tenor for 330$, yea right! Instead I got my SOLID OHAI pono tenor which I love. bought in july and was turned off by the soft sound. that all changed last week when she opened up, now she has a beautiful voice which a laminate could never match.

haolejohn
10-29-2009, 03:58 PM
I almost bought a laminate koa uke back a few years ago when the uke was just starting to get popular again. I already owned an Oschar Schmidt. I wanted a Mele but didn't want to pay the price. I almost bought either a lani kai or a Kala koa uke. I thought the price was cheap but I figured it was on ebay and everything is cheap on ebay. After talking to Cheryl at Mele I learned that it needed to say solid koa. I retracted my bid and went with a solid mahghany uke instead.