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pulelehua
01-11-2010, 03:42 AM
Got my first ukulele on Boxing Day! I've been playing the ones I bought for my school Music Department in October, and borrowing others, but now have one of my own. So, it's my first proper ukulele. So, forgive what will be the fairly amateurish comments to follow.

I've thus far played some Brunswick sopranos, a Lanikai tenor, a Makala Dolphin, and some real duds. So, my basis for all comparisons is limited, though I try to glean what I can playing with others, and listening on YT.

FEATURES

It's a 2009 Kala Solid Acacia Concert all-acoustic (ser.#908), made in China (like the vast majority of the world's manufactured goods). It has 20 frets, with the body join at the 14th. The solid body has a really lovely grain. Very colourful, with a lot of variation. Herringbone purfling. Geared tuners with black buttons. Bought from MGM, it came with a case from Uke Crazy, which fits snug as a bug. Also came with a pitch pipe (ever notice how pitch pipes are never in tune with themselves?).

The sound hole looks small to me. Proportional to its body. The only flaw I've found is that the neck has a bit of unevenness on the A string side at about the 5th fret. Don't know if that's the cause of it, but the frets are cheated EVER so slightly toward the G string, so if I stop the strings sloppily, I sometimes pull the A off the fret. It's not a big problem, and makes me brush up my technique! ;)

Lovely markings on the fretboard, as has been mentioned about these acacia Kalas.

SOUND

Not sure exactly what my style is. I've played guitar for about 20 years (along with other non-stringed instruments), but am new to the ukulele. Eclectic, I suppose. The Coral, Patience & Prudence, Bach, Jake, Iz, whatever I can manage to get my fingers around that day.

The sound is more delicate than I imagined. You can really hear the individual elements of a chord. It's bright, but not brittle. It's nice for finger-picking. Strumming it doesn't QUITE have that traditional ukulele boxiness, but I suppose that's the wood and the extra size. It's still very nice.

I haven't amped it in any way yet. I'm really a stick-it-in-front-of-a-mic kind of guy.

MGM has obviously set it up. It plays great. Intonation seems spot on. Action isn't incredibly low, but I like action a bit higher on guitars, so that suits me. I suppose that's a style consideration. I use lots of rasqueados and rolls, and the few ukulele strokes I can manage (I will master the fan stroke... I WILL). I imagine if the action was too low, I'd get all kinds of noise.

RELIABILITY

It stays in tune pretty nicely, and in its short life has migrated from the mild winter of California to the small snow drifts of Kent. (Not to mention it's time in Hawaii... and China) So, I'm pleased with it's adaptability thus far.

OVERALL

I went into this purchase not knowing too much, and not having played the ukulele too much. As a guitarist, I had an instinct against tenors. I know I know. I just thought, get something different. More different. My experience from playing sopranos was that they were a bit small, and I tended to want more frets. The concert size seems to fit pretty well (I have long fingers - I'm 6'3" tall), and I'm glad to have retained some of that traditional ukulele sound.

Given my budget, I feel pretty happy with it. Had I paid the same for an acoustic guitar, I would have expected more problems, and a sloppier finish. It's a lovely, little ukulele, and has a bright sound with just enough warmth. I can tell already that I'll be able to get a decent range of tones out of it, and some pretty good volume (which matters when you're leading a group of 20+ teenage boys!). As mentioned, it's got a nice sound for fingerpicking, and it's also nice to just grab and strum.

Many thanks to MGM for taking the stress out of sight-unseen purchasing. As everyone knows and most people have said, he's great to deal with. Would definitely do it that way again. In spite of having to go to California to pick the thing up. There are worse things in life than going to California...


Would I buy it again? Yes.

Assuming I stick with the ukulele, I will hopefully someday move up the ladder to the next level of craftsmanship, but I see this ukulele lasting me until that stage. I own 1 Martin D18, and 1 Les Paul Standard, and no other guitars any more. So, I'm hoping UAS will pass me by, and I'll just save up for something nice.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

http://img63.imageshack.us/img63/5889/ukulelebody.th.jpg (http://img63.imageshack.us/i/ukulelebody.jpg/)

http://img709.imageshack.us/img709/9470/ukulelehead.th.jpg (http://img709.imageshack.us/i/ukulelehead.jpg/)

luvdat
01-15-2010, 11:49 PM
Great incredibly honest and accurate review.

I HAD that same uke and returned it after an all-nighter comparing it to a soprano (different model, cheaper). Conclusion about myself: I love sopranos and even a high-end concert would be somewhat wasted on me.

I could (temporarily) learn to love a concert with that uke...

I too share your view of that soundhole (akin to a birdhouse designed for wrens). I don't get it. The top/soundboard DOES resonate...but strummed chords especially can't get out too well...

It is, from the best view, "mellow" and in the middle of the night I learned to use (exploit) the drop off between chords and melodic play, opting mostly for a partial chord (strummed partially) approach...combined with fingertstyle melodic. A kind of 2 ukes in 1 approach.

Frankly, what frustrated me about that uke was that there WAS a fairly good level of craftsmanship at the service of certain design features that need to be revisited: soundhole and ebony nut and bridge (mine didn't wobble). The uke top is simply too heavy, too thick to go with ebony which almost mandates a thinner top. In short, the subtleties get almost lost...or do appear depending on frequencies of tone and then...

puelehua, with respect to concerts, I think they range from having a when strummed quality that is close (but no cigar) to soprano all they way to a somewhat submerged strummed quality. With respect to that acacia, it seemed to include that range (go lightly to get a mellow soprano strum)...but ultimately tend (like most concerts IMO to more of a submerged quality). This submerged effect (which can be packaged as mellow) is evident mostly with harder strums. Don't get me wrong: you can make that thing sound pretty with a fairly defined sense of application. But frankly I think that's what concerts are about. I no longer subscribe to the "best of both world's" designation of concert ukeleles. They are really the best in one world.

pulelehua
01-16-2010, 04:47 AM
I think someday when I have enough money for my step-up uke, and when I have a better ukulele ear, and when I know more generally about the little things, I will go for some sort of soprano with a few more frets, or even super-soprano type solution. Pineapples intrigue me greatly.

Incidentally, since writing this review, I've been to our local monthly ukulele gathering. There I played a few different ukes, a Kala travel (soprano? methinks - AnnaUK can correct me), a Riptide, a Kala mahogany soprano, and a little unknown make banjulele. I came out still pleased with my purchase. All the other ukes had nice points, but also some bones of contention for me. The Riptide (is it a Riptide Boulder Creek, or a Boulder Creek Riptide?) was my favourite of those I played. VERY solid feel to it, wonderful intonation. But quite quiet. Subdued. Still, a nice little uke. The long and the short of it is, I probably tripled the variety of ukuleles I have now played.

After all that, I would still have bought my Concert Acacia. I have classical guitar fingernails, and I think they help a lot in bringing out some of the tone I want, a bit of that bright punch. And I seem to have subconsciously overcome the issue of the slightly out of line nut/frets/A-string. No fingers falling off the board.

But I think I tend to agree, a Concert is a Concert. It's not a sort-of-Soprano, sort-of-Tenor. The string tension really lets me know I'm not playing a soprano. Tenors still feel weird to me, though as I've mentioned elsewhere, they're not nearly so big as I had imagined. I think I may emerge from this an absolute Concert devotee, though. Unless I find a soprano that has more room, a bit more delicacy. Dunno. Mike Da Silva's 1890 reproduction looks and sounds awfully nice. But I'm still years from thinking "ukulele" and "four-figure-sum" in the same breath.

We shall see... If I had a chance to play one uke, I think it would be a pineapple. Of course, two of the people at our ukulele gathering play Makapili's, so maybe in a few weeks, I'll ask to have a strum.

luvdat
01-16-2010, 09:30 PM
I'm glad that's working out for you. I'm also glad about the agreement point on a concert ukulele being a "concert." My own background includes over 35 years of fingerstyle guitar (not classical) minus the nails for now, and I can see how that would make a difference. While concerts get lumped with sopranos as "small ukes," I think they are truly a different animal.