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View Full Version : What do you think of spruce tops for ukes?



clayton56
05-21-2010, 08:53 AM
Those of you with spruce tops on your ukes, how do you like them, and how are they different from mahogany and koa ukes?

harpdog
05-21-2010, 09:40 AM
The best sounding uke I've has was topped with spruce, a Kepasa concert.
As a matter of fact, so was the second best, an Ohana Vita.
Yes, I like spruce.
Mahog sounds more restrained, less expressive, less dynamic.
I also repaired a Kamaka koa. It has a very mellow sound and really pretty treble, but not
as wide a dynamic range as the spruce topped ukes I've played.

casarole45
05-21-2010, 10:56 AM
from my experience, mahog and spruce sound very different.

Mahogany has that mellow tone with... I don't know how to describe it... a bright undertone. Spruce bright and very clean. I've only played/own one Koa uke so I wouldn't like to say from that one uke.

The two I've got at the mo are probably pretty good to compare against (see sig.), same size, very similar builds and features (ignoring the cut-a-way).

My current spruce also projects louder than my mahog. Both lovely ukes but which you'd prefer is totally dependent on the sound you are looking for.

pulelehua
05-21-2010, 11:56 AM
Still waiting for the longneck soprano review........................................... (Not to usurp your thread clayton56)

KevinV
05-21-2010, 12:45 PM
I just received my first spruce top uke today and really like the tone. In my opinion it's more crisp than my mahogany or acacia. It's also fairly loud, especially compared to the acacia.

I really like the tone of the acacia and think it's great as a solo instrument, but I think the tone of the spruce/lacewood tenor that I just got will be a better fit in my band mix with the other instruments.

Pippin
05-21-2010, 12:59 PM
I love spruce-topped ukes.

SailQwest
05-21-2010, 01:39 PM
Spruce is my favorite. Especially when combined with a really hard wood like rosewood or ebony.

cletus
05-21-2010, 02:30 PM
I am amazed by my uke. It has the sound I was looking for. I think the spruce sounds "brighter" than the mahogany ukes that I have played. Koa, well I don't knowa.

AC Baltimore
05-21-2010, 02:43 PM
I love my cheapo Makai spruce top. In fact I just ordered a second from MGM. They are punchy, defined and fantastic for banjo'ish stuff. I have pro arte's on the one I have and the one coming will have aquila's.

Mim
05-21-2010, 03:18 PM
I love my spruce top Kala, it is loud... I am loud... we are a match made in heaven! The beautiful spalted maple doesn't hurt either!

haole
05-21-2010, 04:36 PM
I like the sound, but not the look.

vegasuke
05-21-2010, 04:57 PM
My first two Ukes were all Koa. I am currently using my Ko'olau 100sp. Koa back and sides with a Spruce top. I love the sound. Bright and loud!
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3403/4628407368_1e403c35e3.jpg
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3339/4620366040_17290fa9ed.jpg

uke552
05-21-2010, 05:31 PM
"bright and loud" sums it up! I love my spruce tops.

johnnyuke
05-21-2010, 05:43 PM
I find the spruce sounds more guitarish than koa or mahogany.

maclay
05-21-2010, 06:36 PM
Adirondack Spruce tops are a personal favorite of mine.
loud and clear.

Jake Maclay
http://www.hiveukuleles.com/

DoctorFinlay
05-21-2010, 08:24 PM
I find the spruce sounds more guitarish than koa or mahogany.

I agree- my tenor has a spruce top and it definitely sounds more like a guitar. Not that that is a bad thing, it feels louder than my cedar top and is better for solos.

Skrik
05-22-2010, 01:10 AM
I have two spruce-topped ukuleles, one a figure 8 soprano, and one a Vita. The figure 8 has a thick top (1/8"? 3/16"?) which to my ear swallows a lot of the mid-to-low range frequencies. It records nicely, though -- it almost sounds as if I have scooped the mids ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oC0PmWg4H24 ).

The Vita is a tone monster. It has a thin top, nicely-balanced frequency range, and is louder than any ukulele I have heard ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ngb-kNtDzaA ).

ichadwick
05-22-2010, 11:49 AM
Spruce is the premier choice of tonewood for guitar makers because it has the best combination of elasticity and strength of all the tonewoods. You can get even more refined and define spruce by specific types like Engelmann and Adirondack, which have somewhat different frequency responses. Overall, spruce has great tonal range, sustain and harmonic complexities. Cedar is very similar, but with a narrower tonal range and generally lower sustain. It's a tad "warmer" than spruce which is considered bright because of its rich high-end range.

Most spruce is used "plain" - finished without any stain. But woodworkers know the grain can be emphasized with an application of stain. Spruce grain is generally straight and tight, but it can be made more visually interesting with stain. Not, of course, after it has had a coat of finish. Generally wider and more widely spaced grain is more visually interesting, but there's no reason spruce tops can't be enhanced with some pre-finish effort. I'm sure some luthiers here have done it.

Teek
05-22-2010, 12:53 PM
I don't have the best ears but can hear the differences. I have one spruce top, the Ohana Vita and LOVE that one. My mahogany ukes are old sopranos with wood saddles, they are also loud but not as, and warmer as noted in previous posts. These ukes also have that plunk quality that I think has a lot to do with the wood saddle, because my old Kamaka has it too, plunk and also a woody sound. All have good sustain.

I have an old koa soprano too, not much difference noted between it and the hog, both are loud and warm, both are 1920-30. I have a cedar CBU concert that is very brash and loud but still warm, with great sustain. My Kanile'a koa tenor is low 4th G and sounds more guitarish to me (so does the mahogany bari) because of that, and seems quieter actually with it's bone saddle.

Bradford is working on a custom pineapple for me, go check out the luthier section to see pics of the bear claw spruce top.

I think a well made spruce top would be a welcome addition to any collection.

fumanshu
05-22-2010, 03:21 PM
Spruce top uke is what I like the most. It reacts fast, it's crisp and dynamic when you got a nice piece of spruce combine with a nice resonant wood such as Brazilian, Madagascar Rosewood or Macassar ebony.

Coconut Willie
05-22-2010, 04:22 PM
Sorry all......I am not a fan of the Spruce top!

AC Baltimore
05-22-2010, 04:37 PM
Sorry all......I am not a fan of the Spruce top!

You sir are getting the evil eye lol.

luvdat
05-22-2010, 10:21 PM
You sir are getting the evil eye lol.

Hey, AC, drove down to Baltimore last Thursday for a day trip from Northern NJ, back the same day. Baltimore Museum, Inner Harbor, Rusty Scupper (lunch) and the aquarium...had a great time.

BTW, spruce is a great option esp. on tenors, but go low G...why? Why go spruce for tonal range and then not go for tonal range...simply for loud and punchy?

molokinirum
05-23-2010, 06:09 AM
Hey, AC, drove down to Baltimore last Thursday for a day trip from Northern NJ, back the same day. Baltimore Museum, Inner Harbor, Rusty Scupper (lunch) and the aquarium...had a great time.


Yes I agree...Baltimore is a great visit. I have been there for weekends to watch the Boston Red Sox vs the Orioles. Best place in the world for crab cakes!!!!

SailQwest
05-23-2010, 06:16 AM
Sorry all......I am not a fan of the Spruce top!

I like you anyway. :D

ichadwick
05-23-2010, 06:17 AM
...combine with a nice resonant wood such as Brazilian, Madagascar Rosewood or Macassar ebony.
Salient point. The top wood never acts alone: the sound is a combination of sound created by it and the echoes from the back and sides. These denser woods add a darker, warmer reflection that colours the topwood's sound. They are nice because they bounce back more of the wave than some softer woods like mahogany and mango.

Craig
05-23-2010, 06:26 AM
I love spruce tops because they're clearer and brighter. Also, they open up over time. So do cedar tops, but not as radically. Also, spruce tends to be more unidirectional and cedar, more omnidirectional. My tenor pineapple that's coming will have a Port Orford cedar top. This is truly not a cedar, but its own type of wood. It's to have the qualities of a cross between spruce and cedar. It'll be interesting to hear and develop over time.

I believe Koa is a type of mahogany. The koa produces a traditional Hawaiian strumming sound (IMHO) and the mahogany....kinda the same, but different...words escape me.

fumanshu
05-23-2010, 08:39 AM
Craig wrote
:My tenor pineapple that's coming will have a Port Orford cedar top. This is truly not a cedar, but its own type of wood. It's to have the qualities of a cross between spruce and cedar. It'll be interesting to hear and develop over time.

Hi Craig!!! It's interesting to see that you will have a Port orford cedar top!!! I wanted Mike to build me a Port Orford Cedar top combine with Madagascar Rosewood but because he doesn't have any right now, I went for an Engelmann spruce top instead.

But I really wanted a POC top, because it's a good altenative wood to spruce when you want a percussive sound. In flamenco guitar it's often a nice alternative to spruce....I really like the color too!!! Kind of yellowish tint!!!!

Let me know how you uke will come out!

Thanks

casarole45
05-23-2010, 08:46 AM
Still waiting for the longneck soprano review........................................... (Not to usurp your thread clayton56)

yep, I should get round to that, I'm just letting her settle in a bit since it was only born in March of this year (as the fancy lasered? on date stamp tells me).

On the spruce top thing I'm amazed I think everybody on this thread has said almost exactly the same thing.. in different words.. about spruce top.

... oh, apart from our cocunut willie, bah ;D

kenikas
05-23-2010, 09:05 AM
I don't know about Ukes, but I definetly prefer spruce for building airplanes! I have yet to try a sprucetop, since our local shop hasn't had any in stock when I've been in there, but after this thread I think it will be my next purchase since I love my sprucetop guitar. I've been eyeing the Makai tenor MGM has for a while now, does anyone know how it compares to say Kala, Ohana or Lanikai?

I believe Koa is a type of mahogany. The koa produces a traditional Hawaiian strumming sound (IMHO) and the mahogany....kinda the same, but different...words escape me.
Koa is actually a species of Acacia, but many tropical woods have similar fine grain and densities.

AC Baltimore
05-23-2010, 09:05 AM
Hey, AC, drove down to Baltimore last Thursday for a day trip from Northern NJ, back the same day. Baltimore Museum, Inner Harbor, Rusty Scupper (lunch) and the aquarium...had a great time.

Glad you enjoyed it. We have our moments :)

luvdat
05-23-2010, 09:10 AM
Yes I agree...Baltimore is a great visit. I have been there for weekends to watch the Boston Red Sox vs the Orioles. Best place in the world for crab cakes!!!!

The wife and I indeed ordered the crab cakes...

Spruce: people connect it to solos but also good for chordal rhythm responsiveness...

Craig
05-23-2010, 09:14 AM
Craig wrote

Hi Craig!!! It's interesting to see that you will have a Port orford cedar top!!! I wanted Mike to build me a Port Orford Cedar top combine with Madagascar Rosewood but because he doesn't have any right now, I went for an Engelmann spruce top instead.

But I really wanted a POC top, because it's a good altenative wood to spruce when you want a percussive sound. In flamenco guitar it's often a nice alternative to spruce....I really like the color too!!! Kind of yellowish tint!!!!

Let me know how you uke will come out!

Thanks

Just go to my profile here at UUG and you can see some pics.

rasputinsghost
05-23-2010, 09:32 AM
Sprucetops rule!

cletus
05-23-2010, 05:37 PM
Any opinions about the combination of koa and cedar as used in the Kala KTG-CT? It sounds good on youtube. I'd especially like to hear from folks that have played those or similar ukes.

luvdat
05-26-2010, 09:49 AM
This thread!!!

I just picked up a Lanikai S-T...at East Village Music in NYC....

luvdat
05-27-2010, 01:13 PM
Any opinions about the combination of koa and cedar as used in the Kala KTG-CT? It sounds good on youtube. I'd especially like to hear from folks that have played those or similar ukes.

I've played them and they sound great.

the52blues
05-27-2010, 05:04 PM
I like the sound, but not the look.

My thoughts exactly! I do actualy like the sound. A lot of my guitars are spruce top but they look so boring. I like solid Koa myself - both for looks and sound.

luvdat
05-27-2010, 08:48 PM
Playing my Lanikai S-T last night...I wish I had picked up that Lanikai spruce top even earlier on. In the middle of playing, I thought to myself, "This is what I was looking for." I think the combination of tenor size and spruce can't be beat.