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View Full Version : How do cheap ukes compare, sound wise, to quality ukes?



bazmaz
04-28-2010, 02:08 AM
Thought I would do me a sound sample. I think its quite clear- for cheap, you can get cheerful - just not with the Mahalo!!

http://gotaukulele.blogspot.com/2010/04/how-do-cheap-ukes-compare-in-sound.html

ichadwick
04-28-2010, 02:28 AM
Cheap versus quality: a bit like instant coffee compared with freshly-brewed. Or Bud light compared with a small-batch micro-brew beer. Or a microwaved TV dinner compared with a fine restaurant meal.

bazmaz
04-28-2010, 02:33 AM
yep!

surprised how well the Dolphin stands up though

Tudorp
04-28-2010, 02:51 AM
Yep. I agree. You can't really compare Apples to Oranges. That said, you should be asking, what cheap Ukes compare in sound with each other, or quality Ukes sound compared to each other. Buy what you can afford to. If you go cheap, get the best sound for what your budget will allow. But even that said, it depends on the sound you are happy with, and that can even change depending on strings, and other factors. It is very hard to target. Besides that, its hard to tell you a sound, other than "mellow", "Bright" etc. You would have to hear it for yourself. It's like "seeing" a sound I guess. I have a Lanikai LU-21 for a throwdown Uke, and it sounds pretty good for a cheap Uke. But I have different strings on it, than I do my good one, which sound "brighter" too. I then have what I consider a good Uke being an Ohana SK-35. The Ohana might be considered a cheap Uke to some, but I like it, being a solid mohogany, has an awesome mellow sound, but I also have Aquillas on it. Then I got a Harmony Banjo Uke. Not sure if it is considered a cheap one or not. I think it was a beginer Uke in the 1930s, and was probably pretty cheap and cost 5 bucks or so then, even though I have as much in it as I do my Ohana today. It sounds COMPLETELY different than the other two. It has a tinny banjo like sound (go figure, lol)...

Really, I guess what I am saying is that is a very difficult question, especially comparing the taste of an Apple to the taste of Asparagus..

bazmaz
04-28-2010, 03:24 AM
maybe I should change my thread title - still, its aimed at absolute beginners who may be wanting to see the difference between a 20 uke and a 100 uke. True - there is good and bad at every level, and sound is subjective - but these are just the ukes I own.

How good would it be to get sound samples of every uke, strung the same, played the same!

harpdog
04-28-2010, 03:56 AM
I enjoyed that and it is a good demonstration.

luvdat
04-28-2010, 04:04 AM
Paul, I have new found respect for the Kala KA-T on which I slapped some Pro Artes. The Makala tenor is also a great value as evidenced on this vid posted on Ukulele Hunt...

http://ukulelehunt.com/buy-ukulele/models/makala-mk-t-tenor-ukulele/

Check out the dude playing Roy Smeck....

Yesterday I was in NYC and played a $670 Ko‘olau Ukulele soprano...yeah I "get it" but I won't buy one...

I go with Aquilas on my Flea soprano and Dolphin but will be changing the Aquilas on my Kala pineapple and 15-S to something less woofy and harsh... maybe even Hilos (not joking) or Martins...

HaileISela
04-28-2010, 04:06 AM
maybe I should change my thread title

I did so, it kept me confused when ever I read it. I hope I got the sense you wanted it to have...

Sambient
04-28-2010, 04:36 AM
But see to me, even the Mahalo's sound is something special.
Your playing can be largely credited.
The uke itself does have a toyish sound. But it's a happy sound. There can be a time and a place for that sound. It's why sometimes a toy piano or a rudimentary xylophone will be used for a piece of music. Yann Tiersen (composer of the Amelie soundtrack) can do wondrous things with a piano. But he's also happy to pull magic out of a toy piano or two.
Unpolished, unrefined can have their place. It's a child's voice vs. a trained voice. Sure, one can listen to and enjoy a trained voice for much longer than they'd tolerate or be charmed by a child's voice. One can be further transported by music that is rich in tones. But that innoccent sound can definitely have its place. Don't hate on something that never had much of a chance. Though not as effective and efficient, it still fulfills its destiny to make music. "Firewood". Poor unloved unwanted Mahalo. You must've crushed its humble spirit.



I anthropomorphisize too much. I know.

luvdat
04-28-2010, 04:37 AM
I've often thought that the cheap sound of an instrument doesn't get exploited enough in ukeland...

Think of them Stella guitars and the Blues...

bazmaz
04-28-2010, 04:44 AM
Yep, I put aquilas originally on my Mainland and wasn't happy with it. Switched to Martin Flouros which I must say, are brilliant on it. I did try ko'aloha golds on it but I just didn't get on with them at all.

SweetWaterBlue
04-28-2010, 05:04 AM
Amazing how much better the Makala sounds than the Mahalo. Great comparison for someone looking to start off with a cheap uke that also sounds good. Love the Flea, but I think yours sounds better than mine - maybe its the player [g].

bazmaz
04-28-2010, 05:27 AM
worth browns on the flea actually - went through a lot of types till i got ones i was happy with. aquilas were just too,... erm,... much! (you know?)

luvdat
04-28-2010, 05:34 AM
worth browns on the flea actually - went through a lot of types till i got ones i was happy with. aquilas were just too,... erm,... much! (you know?)

Yeah I myself was thinking of opting out of Aquilas even on the Flea since frankly I really don't like the way it sounds when strummed...kind of a default string at the moment. Great thread BTW. I think Martins and Hilos get an unfair bashing.

SweetWaterBlue
04-28-2010, 05:38 AM
worth browns on the flea actually - went through a lot of types till i got ones i was happy with. aquilas were just too,... erm,... much! (you know?)

Maybe I should try them next time I change strings on the Flea. The Aquilas can be a bit "strident" as Ken Middleton described them on one of the Ohanas. Yours sounds very mellow, but still retains nice volume. I think volume is the main reason most go to the Aquilas, although I like the floating string look they give on my lava Flea.

bazmaz
04-28-2010, 05:38 AM
incidentally, the mahalo problem is down to some of the frets actually being set on a slight angle. I took bridge and nut down too (so you can only imagine how crappy it was before that - impossible to play).

This is as good as I could get it without reseating frets or changing the neck! - hardly worth it.

It really is a junker - my fave feature is the fingerboard - supposed to look like ebony - actually black paint that comes off on your fingers.....


BTW - you are all being terribly flattering about my playing - it was all over the shop - just wanted to strum some jangly chops to show comparison - no idea what I am playing though - seem to be switching between three songs!

Plus - -I think the Makala is v slightly out of tune too - new strings still settling in a bit

Vindelanda
04-28-2010, 08:28 AM
Great sound test! I can't believe the difference between the Mahalo and the Makala. I also have a Mahalo (though I never play it) and I didn't realize quite how awful they could sound. And the Makala sounds nearly as good as the Mainland! (At least to my untrained ears.)

bazmaz
04-28-2010, 09:04 AM
The Makala is much much warmer and fuller in sound. The Mahalo, as I say, has had a lot of tweaking to the set up - but honestly, it is always gonna sound plunky cos the top is half a cm thick plywood!!

The sound recording on my cam probably doesnt pick up subtle tones - the flea is clearly louder and fuller but in the flesh, the Mainland has a lovely chiming yet warm sound that just thrills me.

I agree with poster above - bang for buck on sound alone, and I suppose you gotta say Makala on this test. The Mainland though really is a beautifully made and finished instrument with a real quality tone.

Beginners though - and that is who I am aiming my blog at - you really should consider the Dolphin!

byjimini
04-28-2010, 09:46 AM
The Mahalo instruments are awful, but Al over at UkeHunt reviewed their LP-style in a positive light, and I've heard others say the same. It's been two years since I sold my original uke, which got me into playing it, and going back to Maholo certainly was eye-opening. But I kinda like it, even though I really want to run out to the garden with some petrol and matches.

uke5417
04-28-2010, 10:55 AM
I am quite comfortable comparing the sound of a Dolphin with something costing 20 times as much. I did just that in a store a couple months back. I was amazed at how well the Dolphin compared to a couple of old Martin sops. And the fit and finish on the Dolphin was amazing. Then I picked up another Dolphin from the shelf. It had several finish flaws, some roughly placed frets and didn't play nearly as well. Still great for the price, but... So there you have it. There are some killer ukes in that line, just look 'em over first.

luvdat
04-28-2010, 11:06 AM
I am quite comfortable comparing the sound of a Dolphin with something costing 20 times as much. I did just that in a store a couple months back. I was amazed at how well the Dolphin compared to a couple of old Martin sops. And the fit and finish on the Dolphin was amazing. Then I picked up another Dolphin from the shelf. It had several finish flaws, some roughly placed frets and didn't play nearly as well. Still great for the price, but... So there you have it. There are some killer ukes in that line, just look 'em over first.

When you find a really good one the Dolphin does indeed hold up and more. I put some Martin strings on my Kala pineapple...sounds even better.

I have to say though, I've come to conclude that I prefer the Dolphin!!!

SweetWaterBlue
04-28-2010, 12:02 PM
When you find a really good one the Dolphin does indeed hold up and more. I put some Martin strings on my Kala pineapple...sounds even better.

I have to say though, I've come to conclude that I prefer the Dolphin!!!

Like the Fleas and Flukes, I think the plastic Dolphins pretty much sound the same. The main thing for newbies to check is to make sure there is no buzzing or bad intonation on the one they get.

KevinV
04-28-2010, 02:43 PM
Good video post and interesting thread. I've found in my years of playing guitar that there are many lower priced instruments out there that are far beyond their price tag. And I can get just as big a kick out of a $300 Yamaha as I do a $3k Taylor. I'm new to ukulele but am having a blast with my budget Makala MK-S.

luvdat
04-28-2010, 04:26 PM
Good video post and interesting thread. I've found in my years of playing guitar that there are many lower priced instruments out there that are far beyond their price tag. And I can get just as big a kick out of a $300 Yamaha as I do a $3k Taylor. I'm new to ukulele but am having a blast with my budget Makala MK-S.

Awesome! Enjoy the uke ride now!

bazmaz
04-28-2010, 10:25 PM
Good video post and interesting thread. I've found in my years of playing guitar that there are many lower priced instruments out there that are far beyond their price tag. And I can get just as big a kick out of a $300 Yamaha as I do a $3k Taylor. I'm new to ukulele but am having a blast with my budget Makala MK-S.

Absolutely dude - alongside my 600 solid acoustic guitar, last year I bought myself a Vintage V300 for only 100. This thing won the Guitar mag best acoustic under 1000, and is really flawless. Changed the saddle to bone, and put some Thomastik Infeld Vienna strings on it - it is a peach of an instrument and now my go to guitar. If I am gigging I take this because 100 is more easily replaced than 600!

Really enjoyed bashing away on the Dolphin yesterday, but I must say, I still really really love my Mainland - very very sweet uke.

luvdat
04-28-2010, 11:24 PM
Still, even with the Mainland and a solid wood here, no need to go really high-end to get the job done...esp. when it's gigging. Another suggested subtitle for this thread: Thinking Like Someone Who Plays Out...

clayton56
04-28-2010, 11:55 PM
I think lushness is the difference, and maybe a connected legato that improves the musicality. That said, I think usually the player is the only one who can tell. The really nice instrument for yourself because everyone else is sitting too far away to pick up the subtleties.

casarole45
04-29-2010, 01:45 AM
I think what most people have said prooves this, but mid price instruments like Mainland, Ohana compared to high priced instruments like Martins. Sound wise, setup/intonation wise and playablility wise I've found them to be just as good. You just tend to pay that bit more to get that something extra special... say a hand crafted instrument. Saying that I think theres nothing wrong with paying a bit more to own something you find a bit special.

I've found the same in the guitar world, my 360 pound Yamaha accoustic sounded better/or as good to me than the 1000+ accoustics. The intonation and quality was also faultless. I guess thats strangely the beauty of factory made. Factory machinery can be insanely accurate (far more than human) even on high speed production lines.

... oh, and I was quite inpressed with the Makala Dolphin, I've always hated ply instruments (partly because I love the use of solid woods in anything, from an artistic woodwork point of view)... but dam you =D I can't help but think, hey that looks and actually sounds pretty cool... I think I may be buying some friends one for coming up birthdays as an entry drug into the uke world =D

kissing
04-29-2010, 01:48 AM
The Mahalo didn't sound 'rotten' to me. It certainly was a different kind of sound, which made it a bit tinny and toylike.

But it's other things that make me not like Mahalo. Things like intonation problems and uncomfortably high actions.

bazmaz
04-29-2010, 01:57 AM
But it's other things that make me not like Mahalo. Things like intonation problems and uncomfortably high actions.

And this one certainly has those issues in spades - its almost funny the way it is bodged together

SweetWaterBlue
04-29-2010, 02:19 AM
The whole issue of "hand crafted" sometimes makes me laugh a bit. I think it was MGM that once said here that all ukuleles are hand crafted. Its more a matter of whose hands "hand crafted" it than how many machines made it. If Ken Timms keeps making templates and machines to cut the dovetail on his Martin clones, will we have to put his instruments in with the Makalas - I think not. Perhaps we need a new category called "sloppily hand made from cheesy materials by workers who don't care," and one called "lovingly hand made from the finest materials by workers who care."