View Full Version : Oscar Schmidt OU-4 Tenor

03-22-2010, 09:19 PM
So, after being on the site for a while and not finding too much about Oscar Schmidt 'ukuleles, I've decided to write a review about my tenor. I would write one about my soprano, too, but no point--it's 42yrs old and would probably be considered a "cheap" model hahaha. I don't know if there aren't too many OS uke owners on this site or people are just too embarassed by owning them, but hopefully after writing this review, people will start paying more attention to this suprisingly good 'ukulele maker.

Now to get down to business. I bought my OS OU-4 tenor in November 2008. I was in Japan for a little bit and on my way home, my mom-in-law gave me some money for whatever I wanted to use it on. Because I had to get back to work, I came home alone while my wife and kids stayed behind to play for another week. During that week, I was so bored that I pulled out my at the time crappy soprano (since has changed with a new saddle and strings) and started strumming out the 2 songs I still remembered how to play. It was at that point that I knew I wanted to buy a better tenor. Over the week I was alone, I went to many music stores around the area and started looking at ukes that were in a $100-$150 range. After playing every Kala, Ohana, Lanikai, and Oscar Schmidt around, I decided the instrument with everything I wanted at the time was the Oscar Schmidt. With my soprano, I didn't like that I couldn't play loud(er) and if I tried, it sounded gawd-aweful. What I liked most about the OU-4 was that I could play loud and have good tone and then turn around and play quiet and still have good tone.

Now, because one of my bachelor degrees was in music, I can't stand to have a sub-par instrument, even when paying a cheap price. When I bought my bassoon, I played MANY--but that also could be because I was going to be paying $6000 :p. I knew even though I was only going to be buying a $120 uke, I still wanted the best damn OU-4 in Utah County. Every day, I went to all 4 of the one music store chain I decided to buy from and by the day my wife and kids came home, I knew exactly which ukulele I wanted to buy. I just needed to get the boss' ok ;). The day she got back, I bought my baby!!

Now what you all were waiting for

I paid $119 (not including tax) for this tenor. Oscar Schmidt's site says it should be $189.90.
I have no clue what year it was made, but I would assume early 2008. This uke was made in Indonesia.
19 frets (standard tenor)
Select spruce top (laminated)
No electronics
Body and neck is all rosewood (neck is solid)
Glossy finish with abalone rosette and binding
Bridge is string through
Tuners are die-cast Grover geared
GHS strings came standard
No other accessories were included

As for style, I play anything we do in my local 'Ukulele club (we do traditional Hawaiian, modern Hawaiian, pop, religious, etc) and it fits very well. Like I said above, I wanted an instrument that could play soft when I wanted and loud when I wanted.
Because this uke is not fitted with electronics, I don't hook it up to an amp; however, I have found that I have been using the "arm-wah" effect quite a bit lately (thank you hippieguy--live 'ukulele).
The only unwanted noise I get is from the wound C string, but that only happens when I pluck or strum REALLY hard.
Because I spent much time finding the "right" OU-4, I got one with full, very rich sound. A friend with a Kamaka tenor was impressed. He told me that my uke didn't sound like a just over $100 uke. However, the truth is I think no two OU-4s sound exactly the same. I have played several before and after I bought mine that were strung with Aquilas, and I don't think it sounds as full.
This uke does really well all the way up the fretboard. However, as you get towards the high-end, it can sound a little plinky.
With the Grover geared tuners, this instrument really holds it's tuning and all the strings seem to "detune" evenly.
My main like and dislike is the same: the GHS strings. Since I got my soprano fixed, I've noticed that my tenor sounds a little too "guitarish" and not enough like a ukulele. I believe this comes from the wound C string. But I do like being able to play really loud and soft with good tone. Like I said, the GHS strings really work for this instrument.

Action, Finish & Fit:
Because I had never bought a 'ukulele or a guitar, I had no idea that I had to make sure everthing was perfect. I guess because of my strong musical background, I picked a good tenor. I would have known if anything was off with intonation. Now that I know more, this uke was setup quite well. I did play a few when I was deciding which i wanted to buy that had buzzing. If you decide to buy an OU-4, make sure to test them first because they are not all this good. Other than a couple tiny rough spots on the binding, this 'ukulele is almost flawless.

This uke will withstand and has withstood live playing.
The hardware does appear like it will last for a very long time.
I have played hundreds of hours on this and didn't buy a polish cloth for it until recently and you cannot see almost any wear in it at all (I would pull the polish cloth out of my bassoon case and clean it occasionaly). Definitely durable.
I have two children--one who wants to play 'ukulele (4yrs old) and another who just wants to play with it (she'll be 1 this week); and while I don't allow them to touch the tenor (my son plays on my soprano), they have both got their hands on it and has held up.
If I had no backup (which I really don't), I would use this in a gig.

Customer Support:
I have not had to deal with Oscar Schmidt directly, but their website and warranty registration is extremely straight forward.
This uke comes with a lifetime warranty. I do, however, understand that warranty is not transferrable if I sell my uke to someone else.

Overall Rating:
I have been playing 'ukulele off and on for almost 12 years and going gung-ho at it for the last year and a half. I have been a musician my entire life--I've played piano, trumpet, bassoon, contrabassoon, oboe, clarinet, drums, etc. When I first jurry-rigging fixed my dad's soprano 12 years ago, I knew I would be playing 'ukulele the rest of my life. It wasn't until I bought this tenor that I knew that this, and the bassoon, would be my main music playing life. When I play my bassoon, I always worry if I'm playing 100% right, but when I'm playing my tenor uke, I can just relax and really enjoy the music I'm playing.
I have really had 3 'ukuleles: Beltone soprano (dad's old), my tenor, and a concert with a pickup. When I was living in Japan my first time, some Hawaiian who had lived in the apartment before me left a "cheapie" concert that had a pickup. I don't even remember if it was a good uke because I had to leave it when I came home. My room mate and I recorded several songs on to mini-disc, tho. I wish I could have brought it back, but I had amassed way too much stuff over 2 years to take home everything and some things had to stay behind :'(.
I do wish I had a little more knowledge about ukes before I bought this, but I think most music knowlege and common sense were mainly needed when buying my uke. I think if I had no music knowledge and no knowledge about ukes or guitars, I probably would have bought a horrible sounding instrument (maybe even a crappy OU-4) and would be kicking myself right now.
If this instrument were stolen or lost, I would definitely buy it again. Although, I might pick up an Oscar Schmidt OU-6CLE.
Most of all, I love the overall sound quality. I can play loud if I want and sound good, but sound just as good playing soft. For the price, you can't beat this sound!!!
The only things I don't like are things that I realized recently that I want and that's a pickup and a cutout body. But that's why people own multiple ukes, right? You have different ukes for different situations :cool:.
I can't think of any specific feature that I like most. I really like this instrument overall, everything comes together well.
I did compare this to every uke in the same price range at all the music stores that had ukes in my area. I probably played more than 40 ukes before I bought mine. I played Ohana, Lanikai, Kala, Makala, Oscar Schmidt, Fender, etc.
I hope you all have been able to see why I bought this through my review, but if not, I bought it because in the price range I was looking at, this was overall the best I played because it had the tone and playability I wanted.
I do wish this had a pickup, but at the time I bought it, I wish it would have come with a case. I waited for a couple months for a Lanikai hard-shell travel case, but the store I bought the uke from couldn't get them in stock (i got a 30% discount on a case because i bought from them). I ended up buying the Oscar Schmidt tenor hard case. Looks like and old-school guitar case and it works really well for protecting my uke.

If I had to give my uke a number rating, I'd give it a 7 out of 10. In the price range, I'd give it a 9.5.

You really can't get much better than this for the money. However, when you go to buy a uke (or any instrument for that matter), I really do recommend (if you can) playing as many as possible before buying. I don't say that to put down any stores that actually check the setup of a uke; I say that because for most people, even $100 is a lot and you should be happy with what you buy. If you buy a uke and don't like the way it sounds, I guess there's always ebay :rofl:.

03-22-2010, 09:20 PM
I know I'm going to play and enjoy this uke for a long time. This will be my go everywhere uke. I do have some D'Addario Pro Artes on the way and I'm debating whether I really want to put them on now or not. I know strings are relatively cheap, but I don't want to change and then have to change back to GHS and work them in. Does anyone think the Pro Artes will work well for my uke?

As for future, I really like the sound of the Oscar Schmidt OU-6CLE and I think that will be my next "investment". The store I bought my OU-4 from has a few OU-6CLEs with Aquila strings for $270 (which the Oscar Schmidt site says it's like $630). They say the original price is in the mid-$300, so I think they have the price wrong which will be a score for me when I can actually afford it hahahaha. I'm sure one day when I'm making a little more money, I'll buy a Kamaka or a Ko'aloha (a "higher" quality uke). Only time will tell, I guess.

Anyway, I hope this review will help anyone who is looking to buy and has not seriously considered Oscar Schmidt. Hey, even that guy from Youtube (musicman2009, i think) even has a video where he recommends several Oscar Schmidt ukes and explains why!!! And if anyone actually reads through my entire review, mahalo!!!

Oh, I'll post pics of my ukes later!!

03-23-2010, 05:01 AM
I was looking at some Oscar Schmidts, but I have heard from multiple sources that you should play them before you buy...which is not possible for me. I'm looking forward to the photos though, a lot of them are very pretty.

03-26-2010, 05:09 PM
I just changed my uke to D'Addario Pro Arte J71 strings. I will never go back to GHS strings!! I picked my tenor uke because it sounded so good. After changing the strings on my soprano, I knew I wasn't 100% satisfied with the strings on my tenor, but it wasn't until after I found UU that I decided to do the Pro Artes. The sound is so much better and I can play just as loud as I could with the GHS strings. I love the sound of the unwound C string too. Seriously, I will never go back!

As for the whole play before you buy thing, I don't really believe that. I think, generally, you're going to get a good playing instrument. Almost every OU4 I played was good, I just liked the sound of mine the best.

Here's the pics:

The Tenor on one of my lavalavas

Head with the Grover geared tuners and reminding you it's all about "Aloha" :shaka:

Select spruce top with abalone inlay binding

03-26-2010, 05:10 PM
more pics:

Rosewood sides, back, and neck

Ablone inlay rosette and closeup of the old GHS strings

Tenor now strung with D'Addario Pro Artes

My two ukes together

03-26-2010, 05:18 PM
Oscar Schmidt certainly makes a good looking uke. I was looking at them and then received a Lanikai S-T for my birthday.

Very nice write up.....BTW, I once date a girl in high school who played the Bassoon....she had great lips!!!!!!

03-29-2010, 06:07 AM
I not only think OS makes good looking ukes, but I think they make good sounding ukes for the price. But for free.99, that's the best price of all. I do like Lanikai and I had a hard time deciding which I liked better the OS or the Lanikai. I ultimately went with the OS because it had more of the sound I wanted and had a more "quality" feel. Maybe as you get into the more expensive Lanikais, that might change.

My wife dated a bassoonist, too, and i'm sure she'd agree with you about the lips :cool:


04-01-2010, 10:10 AM
I've got the Ou-3 concert and I have to agree with you, it's a versatile little ukulele. It does seems a bit too guitar-ish sometimes but I can play up and down the neck, chords and melodies both sound good. All in all, I must agree, OS is not a bad ukulele company.

04-04-2010, 07:33 AM
I have an Oscar Schmidt ou13 (think its ou13...) soprano, and its a beautiful sounding uke. Definitely an underrated brand in my opinion. It sounds great, and for 100 bucks there's not as much fret when it comes to lugging it around and playing around campfires.

05-01-2010, 01:35 PM
I have an Oscar Schmidt OU2 pineapple. It is an inexpensive uke but sounds pretty good for the price ~ $60. I did replace the GHS strings with Martins . I like the size of it, and the mellow sound. It is louder than my KPK with the same strings, but it is more mellow (not nearly as bright). I purchased it as a beater uke, but I find myself playing it more than my others....

For someone wanting to find a usable uke to see if they like it without breaking the bank, I think this an excellent choice. I like the Kamoa better, but it costs twice as much.

05-27-2010, 10:05 PM
Thanks for posting this generous review. The OS's in the tenor size are just fine...as well as the Lanikai's...esp. for anyone looking for a spruce top. OS in particular has really stepped up its QC... while the names of some companies frequently hyped on this forum have seen recent declines in their QC. Ironically these hyped companies (factories) are relative newcomers which frankly deserved rightful praise, but in relatively short time their own QC has suffered as they cranked out the ukes (while raising their prices) to meet demands. This of course happens to all companies, even big ones, unfortunately. But Wasburn and Hohner have been around for a long time...this kind of competition is good for everyone.

Just a month ago I never thought I would have picked up a Lanikai S-T which I did just the other day. I myself was swayed by a lot of hype and less influenced by the experience of my own hands and ears...and yes my own eyes.

mm stan
06-22-2010, 08:50 AM
Aloha Nero,
I bought three own two,all concerts...Between them all the cheapest one prevailed....Ou2 OS concert. I bought the laminated koa first and
wasn't impressed by it so it didn't get played alot. Then I wanted to get a realtive a gift and bought an solid body mahagony concert and tuned
it and fell in love with it... it is now my daily player. A few months later I bought the same one again for a relative, it was good but it did not have the same tone as my first OU2. They all have low action and is well worth the price and more. But I suggest that you try it out first, because they
all are individual in sound. With that all said, I'm a Oscar Schmidt satisfied customer....Ive had ukuleles eight times more expensive and I prefer
to grab this one first. What does that say....HMMM.. Ukuleles are individual as you and me, just my preference. It's okay to listen to advice, but
at the end it's your decision that counts...Keep on strumming them strings....Uke on!!! MM Stan....
Btw- Arashi-Nero, thanks for your in depth opinion..... it's nice to hear there are OS followers here who have the same opinion as mine.

07-01-2010, 07:36 PM
Nice to hear from someone else who loves his OS tenor uke!

I traded my 50's Harmony Baritone uke for a OS Tenor OU240SWK plus $50, and I couldn't be happier. It has that rich, tenor sound that I was looking for, and is made of solid mahogany top, back, and sides. The workmanship is very good, and the intonation and action are great. I will admit that I never seriously considered a OS tenor uke with all of the other great makers out there highly recommended. However, after receiving my OS, I must say that I know that OS is a serious uke contender in my mind.

Here is what it looks like:



mm stan
07-01-2010, 08:32 PM
Aloha Jeff,
That's a nice one with the rope binding....
MM Stan..

07-02-2010, 08:17 AM
I have an OU3 (concert), and while I don't really play it too much anymore (the Flea has taken over as my main uke) it's a great instrument! I really like Oscar Schmidt as a brand. It was my first uke after my Mahalo (which I never really liked) and it's quite a pretty ukulele. Right now I have it strung with Aquilas, but maybe I'll try another brand. I do have some GHS that I bought a while back.
I have wondered why a lot of people don't really think of Oscar Schmidt as one of the better brands, but like you I tried all sorts of ukes in the $100-150 range and this one came out on top.
Great review!

10-19-2013, 02:16 PM
Wow. It seems rare to see Oscar Schmidt given much regard on UU, but I'll agree with what seems the majority view in this string: OS is much underrated, underappreciated as to the quality/value equation.

I first bought a Kala "exotic mahogany"-laminate concert w/Aquila strings to see if I could learn to play uke, but I never completely loved the Kala's sound or intonation or too-narrow (for me) neck, and disliked the fit and finish (several blems, including an indelible pencil-scribing mark on the top, alongside the fretboard, and a misaligned, painted-on "binding" strip bisecting the back).

Then bought an Oscar Schmidt OU6 koa-laminate tenor (also Nylgut-strung) and never looked back. Nearly flawless fit and finish and full, round sound, albeit not that loud (possibly restrained a bit by the gloss finish). Recently restrung the OU6 with low-G Worth fluorocarbons and got a much fuller sound with better sustain. Couldn't be more pleased with this ukulele. I've played more expensive Martin, etc., ukes at GC but think my OU6 easily holds its own.

I like to jam along with bands on the great Palladia cable channel (e.g., "Later with Jools Holland," "...Daryll's House") but needed to hear myself better so I bought a cheap Cherub guitar pickup and Vox Rhythm mini-amp (which I run through a spare Altec-Lansing 2.1 computer speaker system to gain some bass end via subwoofer). Works OK but I'm now thinking of buying the OU6LCE with onboard pickup/EQ so I can ditch the clip-on Cherub.

Can anyone compare/contrast the acoustic performance of the OU6LCE versus the OU6? In terms of sound projection, I'm guessing the LCE's satin finish (vs. gloss) might help compensate a bit for the lower resonance of a cutaway body design.

As for similarly priced acoustic-electrics, I've tried the Cordoba 20TM-CE acoustically but thought its sound was a bit delicate/soprano-like (but maybe I've grown accustomed to low-G).

I've searched here for Oscar Schmidt OU6LCE reviews but found very few comments. Anyone? (Especially comparing the LCE's acoustic sound versus a known-to-me benchmark, the OU6's). I can't find any local stores that carry the OU6LCE to enable a first-hand evaluation, and most Youtube clips are sonically iffy.

Also, anyone want to comment on the concept of "psychoacoustics" (e.g., self-fulfilling expectations) and what I've seen described as the "myth of tonewoods," i.e., purportedly, the overall sound quality of any stringed, wooden instrument may be more dependent on design and build precision than on solid wood vs. (quality) laminate?

12-28-2016, 04:45 AM
I've found an OS OU4 for less than half of what the OP paid and it's beautiful. I have an appointment to meet the current owner when he returns to town and I expect that I'll be bringing home this beauty as my first Uke. Waiting...

No longer waiting. I was able to "see" the image that the current owner had posted to Criagslist as part of the for sale advertisement to see damage that had been inflicted on this instrument by his daughter. He didn't attempt to conceal the repair that he had affected but I didn't want to invest in something that was already damaged. I'm passing on this one but have ordered a Kala from Amazon.com as my first ukulele.