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View Full Version : Does it Matter what a Laminate Uke is Made Of?



Paul December
01-28-2010, 04:16 PM
Does the outer veneer influence the sound quality of a laminate uke?
If two ukes are manufactured the same way, would I hear much difference between a fancy Koa laminate version from a Mahogany laminate version? Is it purely cosmetics?
...not that I'm putting down cosmetic attributes... I love a pretty looking uke :)

itsme
01-28-2010, 04:33 PM
I'm not a luthier, hopefully some will chime in here, but I'd say laminate is basically laminate.

The wood the top is laminated onto is what provides the sound, a veneer on top of it doesn't significantly affect the sound like it does with a solid top.

experimentjon
01-28-2010, 05:29 PM
I'm no expert either, but I don't think all laminates are created equal. I don't know what Martin uses in their HPL for their guitars, but that is one of the best sounding laminates that I have ever heard. I was very impressed by the tone of the Little Martin (Koa Laminate) that I just bought. As an aside, if you're looking to move from ukulele to guitar, I highly reccomend the Little Martin, the scale feels just right. The guitarlele was too small for me and didn't come in steel string, the 1/2 scale guitar I had was just too small, and a full size guitar takes a bit of stretching. But the Little Martin is perfect. So comfortable to play! And the sound is good too! I think part of it may be due to their HPL (High Pressure Laminate) wood, which is better than I had expected. I'm not sure what they do differently (probably just higher pressure lamination as the name suggests), but the sound is better than other laminate guitars and ukuleles that I've played. It feels more resonant and responsive. The Little Martin also comes in 3 different finishes, which are all laminate, and I suspect they all sound the same. Since they all cost the same, I went with Koa b/c I'm an ukulele player after all. And yes, the Little Martin feels invincible. Even the neck is a laminate for more resistance to warping. But enough about the Martin...

Overall I do think the laminate methods make the sound different, but the surface wood is probably purely cosmetic.

samtay6
01-28-2010, 08:47 PM
I don't know what Martin uses in their HPL for their guitars.

To clarify, HPL is essentially Formica counter tops (http://www.pbmdf.com/Index.asp?bid=1134), with wood grain stickers thrown over it to simulate real wood construction. On paper it looks like it should sound terrible but I agree that it really works.

experimentjon
01-28-2010, 09:53 PM
To clarify, HPL is essentially Formica counter tops (http://www.pbmdf.com/Index.asp?bid=1134), with wood grain stickers thrown over it to simulate real wood construction. On paper it looks like it should sound terrible but I agree that it really works.

Plastic, eh? Looks like HPL is the best sounding plastic on the market.

samtay6
01-28-2010, 09:57 PM
I completely agree. For being made from what they are, I was very fooled by a martin x series I played recently. It gives me hope that stringed instruments will survive when all the good tonewoods are gone.

SweetWaterBlue
01-29-2010, 01:40 AM
Hmmm. I was joking around at the last SEUkers meeting about building a ukulele, and said maybe I would make one out of Formica. Maybe it wasn't as ridiculous as it sounds. I wonder what interesting patterns Home Depot has in stock today? I think I even have a 2'x3' piece of the stuff in black out in the garage that I bought several years ago to top a router table. I guess I could call it "Lava," do a flat bottom, and go with the Martin Soprano plan (http://www.grellier.fr/news/ukulele_plan.jpg) at www.grellier.fr (http://www.grellier.fr/news.php?page=&lang=en)

harpdog
01-29-2010, 08:37 AM
I'm sure that the quality and thickness of the laminate make a difference, the amount and type of glue, the direction of woods in the layers...and if the layers are all wood.
Other than that, my guess is that equal quality laminates, say mahogany and koa, from the same source, are not going to sound too different.

Pippin
01-29-2010, 01:12 PM
To clarify, HPL is essentially Formica counter tops (http://www.pbmdf.com/Index.asp?bid=1134), with wood grain stickers thrown over it to simulate real wood construction. On paper it looks like it should sound terrible but I agree that it really works.

Further clarification... HPL is a masonite product with a hot-glued finish, much like the counter-top mentioned here. Formica is very similar. The acoustic properties are great because the material is very hard. Try driving a nail into it. The people that bash it are mostly hardcore solid-wood advocates. I do hear a big difference in the HPL back/sides with solid top models... much better than the all-HPL bodies.

In laminated woods, yes there is a big difference in tone and volume, depending on the number of layers and the woods used. I have a few beautiful laminated ukes, much nicer than laminated guitars. I do have a couple solid wood guitars and a lot of solid wood ukes. I have one guitar, also, with a fibre-glass-like back.

bongofury
01-29-2010, 01:31 PM
I have one of those Martin X series guitars with HPL sides and back (solid spruce top). When I was comparing with other high-profile solid body models such as Gibson's Hummingbird I still found the Martin to sound better.

So I think the laminate did make a difference in this case. But from the short amount of ukes I've had experience playing, I haven't been able to tell the difference between laminated koa and laminated mahogany.

MartinLil
01-29-2010, 02:36 PM
Martin has just released an HPL uke as well http://theunofficialmartinguitarforum.yuku.com/topic/95435 or http://mguitar.com/guitars/choosing/guitars.php?p=z&g=r&m=0XK Uke