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View Full Version : Spent time playing laminate ukes the other day



cornfedgroove
04-14-2010, 04:42 AM
I havent had much experience with laminate ukes...but thought I'd give it real whirl and see. I had my friend get a Kala flamed maple tenor from MGM, it's a solid top, so a little "up" from full laminate...but I really liked it. I thought I'd spend some time with all laminates and see what I thought.

for a person with alot of experience, I can see where this would be a painful experience, but if the uke plays well, they're so much fun...who cares. Although I'm admittedly a little snooty about laminate, imo an instrument that plays well and is affordable is more important than tone, volume, feel etc. Those are just the finer points of instrument quality, but basic construction and playability are fundamental. Even the best players can have fun on an inexpensive laminate if it plays well. I could now understand having a solid top as a beater...you know, as a compromise to my snootiness.:cool:

kissing
04-14-2010, 06:37 AM
lol, it seems that laminates have a lot more negative bias than they deserve.
I for one started with all-solid.. then went to solid-top.... and now my ideal acoustic uke is an acoustic-electric all-laminate, or an all laminate with plastic back and sides (such as the Flea).
Many people told me that I needed to get an all-solid uke or at least a solid-top to have a good uke. I listened to them at first. But as time went on, I found myself preferring to pick up my cheaper laminates and play them more often.
So in the end, I decided I would just invest in the highest quality laminate (or equivalently durable) ukes. I also like to ensure all my ukes also have an electric pickup for amplification.

The solid and solid-top ukes I played sounded bright and loud. They were a joy to listen to. But I prefer a more durable instrument that I can sling around everywhere and anywhere without worrying whether the environment will do it damage. I like all my ukes to be the beater uke, travel uke and performance uke at the same time.
And a well made laminate fits that role the best for me. Whatever solid ukes have over laminate ukes in terms of sound was not worth it for me ^^

I think if you play good music on it, very few listeners will bother snobbing over its laminate heritage :)

I also think it is debatable whether all-solids sound 'better' than solid-tops. One theory is that solid-tops have better projection due to the stiffer back and sides allowing the sound to push forward, with an added bonus of durability.

Skitzic
04-14-2010, 06:49 AM
I prefer laminates. I'm lazy and try to keep things as simple as possible. That and I prefer the things I own to be zombie proof. My ideal ukulele is something that sounds pretty and can be used as a weapon in the event of a zombie invasion.

Someday I will have a Pineapple Sunday though...someday.

arashi_nero
04-14-2010, 06:50 AM
the first "good" ukes i played before i bought my laminate uke were solid wood and i loved the sound of them. i think it set my standards high when i was looking for a good "cheaper" uke. i have told a few of my friends with solid ukes that mine sounded good, and they said it couldn't be anywhere near as good as a solid wood uke and they would never touch it. they all have since played mine and love playing mine. if you try hard enough, you can find good sounding laminate ukes, imo.

Paul December
04-14-2010, 07:44 AM
I have a Kala novelty painted pineapple soprano that sounds better than most solid sopranos I've played.
A few months ago I got my nephew a Kala KA-Kt Koa laminate and was really surprised by the sound...pretty construction too. It sounded much better than a friend's (thick) solid Pono.

Skrik
04-14-2010, 08:24 AM
Sorry, but there is nothing like the sound and feel of playing an acoustic instrument made of solid wood.

Having said that, decent laminates have their place. I find solid instruments are often too loud to sing over, I don't need to worry about someone else picking up my ukulele (or guitar) and plonking around on it, and I am at ease whilst travelling.

But then I come home to my babies...

kissing
04-14-2010, 09:03 AM
A few months ago I got my nephew a Kala KA-Kt Koa laminate and was really surprised by the sound...pretty construction too. It sounded much better than a friend's (thick) solid Pono.

My friend's KA-Kt laminate Koa tenor sounded better than my KA-ASM-TEC All-solid mahogany tenor too =\

bazmaz
04-14-2010, 12:26 PM
laminates are fine - in fact, some laminates are brilliant. Most flukes and fleas are laminate tops!

what really grates me is people who obviously mis-sell, or shops that dont make the construction clear - I think people need to know what they are buying and why. see my blog post - http://gotaukulele.blogspot.com/2010/04/when-is-solid-you-know-solid.html

cornfedgroove
04-14-2010, 12:36 PM
if you prefer laminates for durability and the feeling of "no big deal" if they get smashed, I can understand that...and when it comes to amp'ing up, the playing field is leveled quite a bit since the electronics take priority. However, if you think that laminates sound as good as solid wood, you be ker-azy! Solid wood being louder is not a theory...there is far more projection, there just is. I could be mistaken, but I've never seen a luthier building custom laminates because of their equal quality. I'm not doggin laminates, to each his own...as long as an uke has good playability, you got hours and hours of good clean fun whether a $35 dolphin or a $2500 custom.

Milla
04-14-2010, 03:17 PM
Both of my ukuleles are laminates. I love them both. I will however be buying a solid something or other in the future.

cornfedgroove
04-14-2010, 05:41 PM
ukes are great instruments...beautiful, unassuming and non-threatening. I'm glad they make so many inexpensive, quality ukes for people to learn and love

molinee
04-14-2010, 06:46 PM
I have had lots of laminates as well as all solid koa, acacia, and mahogs and to be honest a lot of the laminates sounded better than the all solids. I think that this is especially true for good laminates over $200. I don't think that the really inexpensive laminates can compete... jmho

cornfedgroove
04-15-2010, 01:12 AM
I have had lots of laminates as well as all solid koa, acacia, and mahogs and to be honest a lot of the laminates sounded better than the all solids. I think that this is especially true for good laminates over $200. I don't think that the really inexpensive laminates can compete... jmho

aaah, see...I've never seen an expensive laminate. Interesting...name a couple make/models so I can scope em out

molinee
04-16-2010, 08:16 PM
aaah, see...I've never seen an expensive laminate. Interesting...name a couple make/models so I can scope em out

Here are some beaters for you ........

KALA KA-MT CURLY MANGO TENOR UKULELE
LANIKAI CURLY KOA TENOR UKULELE W/PICKUP
KALA HAWAIIAN KOA SERIES KA-KT TENOR UKULELE
OHANA TK-200G TENOR UKULELE

cornfedgroove
04-17-2010, 12:15 AM
yeah, but for just a little more money you can get an all solid like a lanikai ck-teq

bazmaz
04-17-2010, 12:40 AM
remember - flukes and fleas are laminates!

molinee
04-17-2010, 04:57 AM
yeah, but for just a little more money you can get an all solid like a lanikai ck-teq

You need to do your homework friend. The Lanikai CK-T and the Lanikai CK-TEQ are laminated rather than solid curly koa. You better stick with the laminates.

arashi_nero
04-17-2010, 05:28 AM
oscar schmidt also makes semi-expensive/expensive laminates. ou5 and ou6 are laminated koa and the ou7 is spalted mango. i've played both the ou5 and 6 and they're pretty decent. i like the ou6lce.

kissing
04-17-2010, 05:54 AM
yeah, but for just a little more money you can get an all solid like a lanikai ck-teq

Let's assume for a sec that it is an all-solid.
In the realm of cheap solids, is it worth the maintenance that comes with them when you can have a laminate that sounds pretty darn good while being so much more durable :)

I think a laminate can sound VERY good if it was built with great attention to detail and craftsmanship.
Fleas and Flukes are one example.

Expensive doesn't always = better sound.

I'm pretty sure that one of the reasons why solids generally cost more is that solid wood itself is more expensive and more challenging to work with than laminates.
There is also the widespread legend that solids always sound better, which gives companies the extra excuse to price up their solids compared to lams.
In the world of guitars too, the negative stigma on laminates is getting less and less with time.
Because historically, there was a time when laminate guitars were only made by companies that made cheap, crappy guitars. They were bad instruments, not necessarily because they were laminate, but they were poorly constructed with bad parts.

Today, some better craftsmanship is used with laminates, and the sound of laminate instruments are getting better and better as technology catches up.
I won't say that laminates are as good as the top-end solid instruments - can't deny physics that the single wood layer resonates better overall.
At the top end, where you're paying thousands of dollars, I would hope that you are paying that much for a reason. I think when it comes to the "maximum level" of acoustic tone possible, solids definitely have more potential to do well than laminates.

But does everyone need to attain that "best possible freaken acoustic sound ever" to be satisfied with an instrument?
Perhaps in the low to medium budget range, for the lot of us who don't want to spend a fortune, do not need to be so anti-laminate and assume solids always prevail.
I think it would have to be a pretty expensive solid instrument to clearly outperform a well-made laminate.
Generally between laminates and solids that are similarly priced, I have not seen a clear difference in volume, projection and tone.

And I think this topic has definitely shown that the notion solids are always better and always sound better is not unanimous at all.


I'm not saying people should ditch solids and love laminates.
I just want to share my view that perhaps some laminates are better in person than what they're credited for.

nomis
04-17-2010, 07:31 AM
And so the laminate v solid discussion rumbles on. You're never going to persuade a guy who has spent a gizillion dollar/pounds on an Ook made from solid koa by some Hawian guy in a shed that, in fact, a high quality precision factory instrument made from high pressure laminate probably sound every bit as good. So I say let them believe whatever they want.

As a footnote, it seems to me that the use of koa as a material was more a matter of availability rather than acoustic properties, indeed i believe it was also used by native Hawaiians to make dugout canoes. Anyone from Stradivarius to a good acoustic guitar luthier will probably tell you that Spruce is the wood of choice.

arashi_nero
04-17-2010, 08:20 AM
@nomis

i do believe that people who are diehard solid fans will believe that nothing less than solid will sound good. i have a few friends who were that way and when they played my laminate, they were shocked and have a little more respect for them now.

however, i do think koa was because of availibility, but differents woods will have different sound qualities. that's why ukes are made from other woods now. what wood you use to make your uke really depends on the sound you want. if you want a good comparison of how bright/warm a specific wood is, look up the mya-moe website they have a list of all the woods they use and what level on a scale of warm/bright they are. here's the link to the standard woods (http://www.myamoeukuleles.com/standard%20wood.html). and here is the link to the upgraded woods (http://www.myamoeukuleles.com/upgraded%20wood.html).

i know some people have what they prefer for wood in making instruments, and lots of that is tradition. i have a black maple bassoon. maple is traditionally the wood for bassoons. different maple will give you different sounds and is why my bassoon is only $6000 and my teacher's tiger maple is $16000. his does sound better and plays quite a bit easier (easier to hit notes) and projects quite a bit more. are all bassoonss made from maple, tho? no. does a good sounding uke have to be made from koa? no. does it have to be solid? no. anyway, read up about the different woods, i think you'll be surprised.

nomis
04-17-2010, 08:41 AM
Cheers arashi - very interesting stuff.

I can't help thinking that the most consistent and variable material for tone would be a synthetic one - maybe some kind of graphite / carbon fibre. But even as I type that I can visualize all those beardy old strummers spinning in their rocking chairs lol.

http://images.google.co.uk/imgres?imgurl=http://www.blackbirdguitars.com/images/Uke/Blackbird_Ukulele_web1.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.blackbirdguitars.com/pressreleases/blackbird_ukulele.html&usg=__8oHbw-HiN2k8spw-i7C9aIy2ffw=&h=636&w=272&sz=88&hl=en&start=3&sig2=WxdAhx8BbgSp73ycVFuU5w&um=1&itbs=1&tbnid=DKLe8uCqscWCPM:&tbnh=137&tbnw=59&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dcarbon%2Bukulele%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%2 6safe%3Doff%26client%3Dfirefox-a%26sa%3DG%26rls%3Dorg.mozilla:en-US:official%26tbs%3Disch:1&ei=DQDKS9LhCNKW-gbkw9DoDQ

arashi_nero
04-17-2010, 09:11 AM
wow. that's quite the uke. and carbon fiber, too :drool: (i'm a car enthusiast and cf is just sexy in most cars). i bet that uke doesn't way half of what wood ukes weigh. forget fleas and flukes for what you can use for the zombie apocalypse, this sucker you really could beat a zombie and play the victory song afterwards (cf is stronger than steel lol). i'm surprised it's only $1000.

edit: here's a better link to the carbon fiber blackbird ukulele (http://www.blackbirdguitars.com/pressreleases/blackbird_ukulele.html) so you don't have to worry about fighting through the google image stuff.

nomis
04-17-2010, 09:26 AM
If they could just incorporate some kind of blade or edged weapon into it, it would definitely be my Ook of choice when playing Halo lol.

http://img641.imageshack.us/img641/3039/coolgenesimmonsaxeguita.jpg (http://img641.imageshack.us/i/coolgenesimmonsaxeguita.jpg/)

cornfedgroove
04-17-2010, 12:38 PM
dang I guess I never paid strict attention to the lack of "solid" in the description of a few ukes...
anyway, I never said they sounded bad...you guys make it sound like I crapped on laminates.

synthetic would produce consistent tone, but only cuz its man-made/ unnatural...part of the joy of an instrument is having its own voice due to the unique qualities of the wood. Like playing a Remo djembe with the synthetic body...consistent, but unnatural. I think they suck cuz they got that artificial "pang". Not enough can be said about sounding natural...but to each his own. I need to play more ukes, but I could see a good laminate sounding as good as an average solid wood build, but I dont see them sounding like a koaloah. Like Martin's fancy laminate guitars sound fine compared to Ibanez acoustics, probably even better...but poorly compared to solid martins.

nomis
04-17-2010, 01:32 PM
In the end it all comes down to numbers (just like modern digital recording) Everything about the way a string oscillates or a piece of vegetable matter resonates comes down to physics - just numbers. I'm sure replicating your natural imperfections (if they really exist) using a synthetic material would be possible. I have software on my Mac that replicates guitar amps and cabs (using physical modeling ie. numbers) and does it very well. In the end all sound/music is just maths. We like to wrap it in a blanket of mystque, but I could take your vintage martin, record a note (at a much much higher resolution than can be heard by the human ear) I could then bring the sound wave up on my screen and literally edit it (with a pen) one sample at a time (that's very very small). I could really make it sound any way i wanted. I could then load it all into my sampler (including string release noises), I could then create a quantize pattern based on your individual playing / phrasing, and do the same based on your dynamics and BANG no more human needed. And I bet you wouldn't even be able to tell that it wasn't you playing lol.

Do you know that we even have software now that allows us to take a polyphonic recording (like a full orchestra as opposed to a single violin) and then transpose it. Early technology would have simply relied on shortening the sound wave (speeding up the sample) but because we can now adjust the pitch independently of the formant the result is perfectly natural.

Like I said, it's all just numbers.

http://img697.imageshack.us/img697/3229/gggl.png (http://img697.imageshack.us/i/gggl.png/)

AC Baltimore
04-17-2010, 01:38 PM
Oy... this is like the fights us Telecaster players have over Ash or Alder lol. Play what you like and can afford... that is the best Uke for you, The End.

AC Baltimore
04-17-2010, 01:42 PM
...and another thing, solid can't touch this tone.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aCFfqMyI-M

cornfedgroove
04-17-2010, 02:15 PM
In the end it all comes down to numbers (just like modern digital recording) Everything about the way a string oscillates or a piece of vegetable matter resonates comes down to physics - just numbers. I'm sure replicating your natural imperfections (if they really exist) using a synthetic material would be possible. I have software on my Mac that replicates guitar amps and cabs (using physical modeling ie. numbers) and does it very well. In the end all sound/music is just maths. We like to wrap it in a blanket of mystque, but I could take your vintage martin, record a note (at a much much higher resolution than can be heard by the human ear) I could then bring the sound wave up on my screen and literally edit it (with a pen) one sample at a time (that's very very small). I could really make it sound any way i wanted. I could then load it all into my sampler (including string release noises), I could then create a quantize pattern based on your individual playing / phrasing, and do the same based on your dynamics and BANG no more human needed. And I bet you wouldn't even be able to tell that it wasn't you playing lol.

Do you know that we even have software now that allows us to take a polyphonic recording (like a full orchestra as opposed to a single violin) and then transpose it. Early technology would have simply relied on shortening the sound wave (speeding up the sample) but because we can now adjust the pitch independently of the formant the result is perfectly natural.

Like I said, it's all just numbers.

http://img697.imageshack.us/img697/3229/gggl.png (http://img697.imageshack.us/i/gggl.png/)

thats all fine and dandy...but then it ceases to become art. I dont care what people can do with computers or some synthetic goo...it can never truly replace wood, whether laminate or solid.

arashi_nero
04-17-2010, 05:51 PM
i don't know, i think that carbon fiber uke is a work of art. i wouldn't pay a grand for it without trying it first, but it looks really good!

cornfedgroove
04-17-2010, 06:16 PM
i don't know, i think that carbon fiber uke is a work of art. i wouldn't pay a grand for it without trying it first, but it looks really good!

nah I wasnt talking about the uke...I'm sure it sounds nice, although I think the shape is horrendous. I'm talking about all the tech jargon and all the computerizing of music.

nomis
04-18-2010, 02:14 AM
It's worth considering the fact that virtually all the music we hear is recorded on computer, and a good deal is probably downloaded and played on computer too.

luvdat
04-18-2010, 03:06 AM
It's worth considering the fact that virtually all the music we hear is recorded on computer, and a good deal is probably downloaded and played on computer too.

Music has always been recorded on some form of a "computer." It is arguable that listening itself depends on a "computer": the brain. This is not an argument against the dimensions of humanity (or against solid wood instruments, LOL) but simply an attempt to bring things down to earth.

cornfedgroove
04-18-2010, 03:22 AM
I was just griping about it being created and manufactured on a computer...its kinda like having all your books on a kindle or having actual books that you can feel the heft, feel the pages, and smell the "old" on it.

even though its all recorded, at least someone is still actually playing it...if not in the studio, they at least usually pay people for the concerts.

nomis
04-18-2010, 04:46 AM
To be honest cornfed I agree with you really but it's also worth considering that even an uke is a man-made object (a kind of machine really). I mean, I've never seen one growing in the wild.

Now, a Uke Tree - that might be fun....

cornfedgroove
04-18-2010, 09:56 AM
right, but it's art...not science.

I'm an objective guy but I prefer the flexibility and artistry inherent with the subjective. It allows for personal interpretation and expression...in the creation of the instrument and the music it produces. Science and computers are pretty rigid as your forced to play inside the parameters, unless you can write your own software. I guess I could make an AR argument that even uke is science and music is inside the box due to the limitations of the individual instrument...but I think that's beyond a "reasonable understanding". haaha

an uke tree...dang, if I could only find one of those. I'd camp under it with a shotty waiting for spring buds