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View Full Version : Kala KA-SC Spruce Top



azynman
07-31-2010, 12:32 AM
Anybody familiar with these Uke's? What kind of tones or sound will I get from this Uke? What pros or cons could you say about a spruce top?

Just curious, 'cause I'm finding there prices on the net averaging around $127.00, compared to $189 form previous listings a few weeks ago.....

SweetWaterBlue
07-31-2010, 02:35 AM
All the Kala and Lanikai tenors with spruce tops I have played were loud and bright with good action and intonation. I often find the Lanikai about $50 cheaper than the Kalas (at least for the electric models), but I don't know why since they seem like very similar models to me. At least one member here said he found the Kala tenors had too much resonance (and that wasn't a complement) than the Lanikais, but I really can't speak to that. Spruce is also easier to put dents in that laminates.

About the only downside I can think of to a solid spruce top is that they are softer and more prone to crack than something like my old Kala laminate. In other words, you have to take reasonable care of them. Others say that they don't like the brightness of the spruce, and prefer the mellow tones of mahogany. What people mean by "brightness" is always hard to define, but I define it as having stronger tenor tones than a ukulele that is more balanced across the spectrum. When I recently bought a guitar, I chose a cedar top, because I didn't really like the brightness of spruce, but most people prefer the spruce on a guitar. You have to play and listen to some (or preferably record some) and let your ear tell you what you like. I don't think I would choose spruce, if I was going for some sort of "traditional" Hawaiian sound, where only Koa and Mahogany will do.

With the usual caveats about drawing too strong a sound conclusion from YT videos here are comparisons. Its hard to argue that Dominator and Craig Brandau don't make beautiful music with spruce tops. Of course both have better ukes than Kalas or Lanikais, but you can still hear what spruce at its best sounds like. These are both serious ukers, so their choice of spruce for performance instruments tells you something. However, their style tends more towards contemporary and jazz and classical to my ear.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9Rs1Kv5BTA&feature=related


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3hVkyXzObM


Here is a less expensive thinline travel Kala sprucetop being jammed. The spruce cuts through the bass and the guitar nicely.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1VfaJcYQ70

Here is some koa for comparison.




http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=noxEzxHXaZQ

Finally, here is a well played solid mahogany tenor, although its difficult to know on these samples how different the recording setups were.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sh-kuyhm1qI

I played a spruce top Lanikai baritone yesterday at Sam Ash, and while it sounded great, I was a little disappointed by the sloppy work on the fret board. They had painted the edge where the fretboard meets the neck and they paint edge was no where near straight and even. That said, I had to repair a fret on my Kala TA-TG when I first got it, because it was not properly seated. With any mass produced uke, its often hit or miss on the quality, and important to check out the actual one you are buying if possible. I know that is not possible with mail order, so MGM, UkeRepublic's, and Mainland setups and guarantees become more important.

I'm glad to hear that maybe the price differential between Kalas and Lanikais may be disappearing, although in many stores the Lanikais are already about the same price (the price of the Lanikai rising, rather than Kalas falling). In short, I think they are both nice ukes with great sound. I would just find the one I liked the best in person and buy it.

The current musiciansfreind.com deal for $99 (http://folk-instruments.musiciansfriend.com/product/Lanikai-ST-Solid-Spruce-Series-Tenor-Ukulele?sku=423917) on the solid spruce top Lanikai with gig bag and tuner, is very hard to resist if you don't want or need a setup.

Graymalkin
07-31-2010, 04:07 AM
I've got a Kala KA-FMS soprano, which is a solid spruce top and laminate flame maple back and sides. I have no issues at all with the build quality or finish - it's a very pretty uke indeed.

I did find, however, that there was so much sustain and reverb on the uke that the sound was indistinct and 'muddy'. I changed the Aquilas it came with to Worth Browns and, as if by strings, it sounded fab - still a lot of sustain and body to the sound, but the chords sit on top of it rather than being subsumed in the sonic swirl.

Might give the Aquila bionylons a go on it one day, actually...

SweetWaterBlue
07-31-2010, 04:28 AM
I did find, however, that there was so much sustain and reverb on the uke that the sound was indistinct and 'muddy'. I changed the Aquilas it came with to Worth Browns and, as if by strings, it sounded fab - still a lot of sustain and body to the sound, but the chords sit on top of it rather than being subsumed in the sonic swirl.


I have noticed that same effect on some inexpensive tenors and sometimes on my Flea. I always figure is just the resonance of the body, but some builders seem to be able to control it better than the factories do.

mailman
07-31-2010, 08:37 AM
I love my Kala KA-SC. It was my first uke, and still a favorite. Great tone, great volume....great uke. My only second thought is that the spruce top makes the uke guitarish looking; not a big deal, but in hind sight I would have preferred the look of mahogany....

luvdat
08-01-2010, 01:54 AM
In general I think you get more for your money (at lower price points) with spruce and cedar top ukes whether they have lam sides (maybe preferable at lower price points) or not. I also think these tonewoods allow for more string options for those who think they need to warm things up...while still retaining enough clarity.