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fromthee2me
10-11-2010, 12:17 AM
Laminate Uke Question.

Are the sound properties of a ukulele build out of a solid wood (Koa, Mahogany), reproduced (detectable in terms of the wood?) when the same sized ukulele is built out of a Koa or Mahogany laminate?

Brewerpaul
10-11-2010, 12:20 AM
People will tell you that this is true, and maybe it is (I haven't experienced it yet). However, don't equate "laminate" with "plywood". Modern instrument laminates are very well made materials. They're thin and resonant and make very nice instruments which sound great and and cost a lot less.

harpdog
10-11-2010, 01:55 AM
In my experience, no.
It always cracked me up when an outer layer was the choice wood and the inner layer was something cheaper, but most use the same wood type for the outer layers now - but then the inside (meat of the sandwich) wood may be something different.

The newer thinner laminates sound good, but to my ear not as good as solids.

Tudorp
10-11-2010, 02:17 AM
In my experiance, solid does have a "fuller" sound. But, that said, doesn't mean laminates are not a good thing. Like also said above, some are very good quality. I am guessing the science of it is how fluid the sound waves can vibrate through any given substrate. A sound waves vibrate differently though a solid, harder sustance than it does a non solid or softer substance. It is also said that on a small instrument like a soprano uke, even a solid wood book matched back can sound different than a solid non book matched back. I guess scientifically it makes sense seeing the sound waves have to flow through two separate pieces of wood, and a layer of glue vs having no obsticles, but I have to admit, my ear would have a hard time distiquishing the difference..

Point is, I think sometimes it is way over anylalized. Unless you are some music, or sound scientists conducting a high end orchestra profesionally or something, but rather somebody that just likes to play, and your uke sounds good to you whether it be plastic, wood, laminates, or wicker, play it and enjoy it.

nickster60
10-11-2010, 02:59 AM
I have played both and I think there is a difference. But I didn't think it was a huge difference. I ended up buying the laminate Uke I just preferred its tone and it projected well. The Uke is also my third instrument behind the Mandolin and Violin.I also wanted a instrument I could play take to the beach or in the camper. So I wanted something that was durable.

roxhum
10-11-2010, 03:24 AM
I agree with all that has been written. I started with a little second hand entry level Lanikai and I just had to get a solid wood uku and when I did I was surprised how well the laminate held up next to the solid wood. The solid wood is nicer, a richer sound, but the difference was surprisingly less than I expected.

bazmaz
10-11-2010, 03:47 AM
Depends on the uke and the price. Flukes and Fleas use thin Australian hoop pine laminated tops. The delectable Kiwaya Japanese ukes have a brilliant thin laminate range - not cheap though

southcoastukes
10-11-2010, 04:20 AM
We are actually doing a couple of test instruments now. Same except one will have a laminate back - the other solid. A lot goes into making a good quality piece of laminate: materials throughout the layers, thickness, lay-up and glue. If it is done right, you can not only get better projection, but even a better tap tone.

We have done this for a couple of folks in the past, but this time we wanted to present "test results", complete with sound files. It has always been a design goal for us to be able to offer an instrument that could be relatively carefree, but without compromise in sound quality.

For a small shop, it is actually much more expensive, but some of the top guitar makers build in this fashion. In a manufacturing situation, aside from warranty savings, top quality lamination is still a somewhat costly process. Therefore, if you are looking for the best possible sound, beware of a laminate instrument that is significantly less money than a solid.

BadLands Bart
10-11-2010, 04:28 AM
To me it all depends on 1) how the uke sounds to you, either a Laminate or a Solid and your preference to the sound emitted and 2) your budget. Laminate ukes cost much less than a solid uke. A very good quality laminate uke will usually fill the bill, unless you really desire a solid uke!

mm stan
10-11-2010, 04:33 AM
Depends on the uke and the price. Flukes and Fleas use thin Australian hoop pine laminated tops. The delectable Kiwaya Japanese ukes have a brilliant thin laminate range - not cheap though

Aloha Paul,
Wasnt aware Kiwaya's are Laminates....is their top of the line laminate too???? MM Stan..

fromthee2me
10-11-2010, 04:41 AM
Thanks everybody for your replies. The general consensus of the people who replied, is that the sound between a laminate and a solidly built uke is detectable.
Pauljmuk you wrote "it depends on the price" What do you mean by that?
I interpreted that you meant that increased cost could be related to improved sound only, or is it improved sound plus better quality of materials and finish ?

Ukeffect
10-11-2010, 07:15 AM
Laminate Uke Question.

Are the sound properties of a ukulele build out of a solid wood (Koa, Mahogany), reproduced (detectable in terms of the wood?) when the same sized ukulele is built out of a Koa or Mahogany laminate?
To answer your first question, yes, but you have to listen very hard. There are pros and cons to all ukulele construction. The modern laminates used by most reputable companies are more forgiving of bad handling as the laminates are more stable, but the sound you get is all there is...the sound won't mature or open up with age. A well made solid wood ukulele...if given proper care will sound better and better as the wood ages. The down side is you have to be more careful in the handling and storage of solid wood ukes. Personally, I think the extra care is more than offset by the nuanced sound you get. All things being equal, price/quality of workmanship/ergonomics etc., a nice solid uke is hard to beat! :cool:

Pippin
10-11-2010, 08:55 AM
Aloha Paul,
Wasnt aware Kiwaya's are Laminates....is their top of the line laminate too???? MM Stan..

I believe at the high-end they have some solid wood instruments. Don't see many of them, though.

SailingUke
10-11-2010, 09:58 AM
I believe todays technology is pretty awesome and the glue and construction of a laminate instrument are excellent.
How a solid vs. laminate instrument will change over time is something that only time will tell.
I would guess a solid wood instrument would age, open up and mellow more than a laminate.

Pukulele Pete
10-11-2010, 10:36 AM
I believe at the high-end they have some solid wood instruments. Don't see many of them, though.
I'm pretty sure most of Kiwaya's ukuleles are solid wood. Only the low end ones are laminated and they only came out recently. The model is KS-1 and if I remember correctly ( I'm old so this doesn't happen often ) there is a KC-1 , soprano and concert. I'm too lazy to check the website. Great ukuleles.

Pukulele Pete
10-11-2010, 10:45 AM
I'm pretty sure most of Kiwaya's ukuleles are solid wood. Only the low end ones are laminated and they only came out recently. The model is KS-1 and if I remember correctly ( I'm old so this doesn't happen often ) there is a KC-1 , soprano and concert. I'm too lazy to check the website. Great ukuleles.
I was right, I didnt remember correctly. Kiwaya has the KS models which are soprano laminates in different configurations.
The rest of their ukes are solid.

lambchop
10-11-2010, 11:20 AM
And don't crack as easy with weather changes!

southcoastukes
10-11-2010, 06:58 PM
... laminates are more stable, but the sound you get is all there is...the sound won't mature or open up with age. A well made solid wood ukulele...if given proper care will sound better and better as the wood ages. :

The effect of back & sides "opening up" is almost nil. The soundboard is by far the dominant element, and if you have a solid soundboard, especially softwood, it will "mature" etc. regardless of the rest of the materials.

The sides and back need to be sound reflectors. This is where typical "plywood" construction falls short. Poor wood selection, poor construction, sound absorbing glue, etc. all contribute to dampening the sound of a good topwood. Even with a poor start from bad ply construction, however, a decent solid soundboard will improve with time.

thejumpingflea
10-11-2010, 07:15 PM
More has to do with the builder than the supplies.

fromthee2me
10-12-2010, 01:05 AM
On the second batch of comments, the point of "opening up" was raised, and a bit further on, I read that Japanese clients are of the opinion that the laminate opens up after a very long period of time. Maybe the wood's properties do come to the fore? The advantages are more stability and ruggedness in terms of atmospheric conditions changing, and laminates have increased strength for less bracing. And Music Guy Mic has proved (beyond doubt) with a "blind" (as in tasting) soundclip quiz, that there are not many people able to tell the difference between an instrument made from laminate or from solid wood. Could the increased strength of a laminate mean that they can be produced quicker, and could the curing time of the final finish also be shortened? Where is the cost saving(s) achieved? When the laminate (for music instruments) is constructed, are natural materials used? I am trying to also find out if laminate has a limited lifespan and can perish over a long period of time? Maybe the glues break down (over time) between the thin wood slithers?

bazmaz
10-12-2010, 01:17 AM
Sorry, been away

Firstly, yes - entry level Kiwaya ukes are laminate.

My comment re "depends on the price" referred mainly to Kiwaya and Fluke.

There will be a huge difference between the quality of the laminate in say a $30 Mahalo and a $600 Kiwaya

The laminates in a pricey uke will be top notch bits of woodwork, and, coupled with other nicely made elements in the uke, can make a very very nice instrument.

My cheapest Mahalo is nothing more than plywood.

Where it gets tricky is when you move to the low end ukes, but with slightly higher prices. I have played Makalas, and Lanikais with laminate woods that sound great, but not that great (if you see what I mean)

southcoastukes
10-12-2010, 01:27 AM
...I read that Japanese clients are of the opinion that the laminate opens up after a very long period of time... Could the increased strength of a laminate mean that they can be produced quicker, and could the curing time of the final finish also be shortened? Where is the cost saving(s) achieved? When the laminate (for music instruments) is constructed, are natural materials used? I am trying to also find out if laminate has a limited lifespan and can perish over a long period of time? Maybe the glues break down (over time) between the thin wood slithers?

I haven't played a "50 year old laminate", so I couldn't say for sure, but would be surprised if a laminate "opens up" with time. That term is acually describing the wood gaining some flexibility as vibrations start to move it on a regular basis. In the case of a good laminate, that would mean that a de-lamination is occuring. One of the differences between a good glue for laminate and one for joints is a brittle quality that does not allow flexibility.

Again, with the top quality laminate back, you are looking for a hard, stable sound reflector. As mentioned earlier, however, building one of these that also produces a good tap is somewhat expensive, even in a factory situation. Without giving away all the construction details, one element is that all layers need to have good sound quality for the finished piece to produce the same. Beware the "cheap laminate" - you can tell a difference there.

As for durability, should not be a problem, as most delamination is caused by exposure to elements. As the back is "sealed" so to speak, from air exposure (and hopefully from water soaking as well), you can (and should) use glues that you wouldn't use for joints.

fromthee2me
10-12-2010, 06:58 AM
I googled it, and the first two hits refer to patents. If you read through the patent description you’ll notice that many companies are researching this. It could be that the cost of using natural wood is too costly, in terms of the amount of work that has to go into making an instrument. I made this comment as the article below refers to creating a nett shape which I assume is in a mold, and once it comes out, the bulk of the work is done…. There are added strengths listed in that it is strong, resistant to splitting and checking…. It is becoming like for example the motor car industry. It is not about fixing the car anymore, but more like a part exchange???

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fromthee2me
10-12-2010, 07:07 AM
This is an article from the Luthery Information Website

Plywood: Some Observations and a Report on the Use of Laminated Wood in Lutherie
[Originally published in American Lutherie #73, Spring 2003]
R.M. Mottola
Copyright (c) 2002 by R.M. Mottola

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fromthee2me
10-12-2010, 07:12 AM
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fromthee2me
10-12-2010, 07:13 AM
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Tudorp
10-12-2010, 07:43 AM
whoh... Thats information overload..

Info is always appreciated, but that is just way TMI.. lol..

All that is great, but again, unless you are a music scientist, or even a Luthier I just go by the way a Uke sounds to me. I think my Ohana solid mahogany does sound nice, and even more so now that I have had it for about a year playing on it nearly daily. I also have the LU-21 with is a lower end, but decent beginers Uke and a laminate. It sounds just fine, but again, not nearly as full of a sound as either of my two solid Mahogs.

I believe in the KISS system. "Keep It Simple Stupid", so if it sounds good to you, play the heck out of it.. <grin>

Pukulele Pete
10-12-2010, 07:56 AM
All this info is giving me a headache. The way I see it a good laminate uke will sound better than a cheap solid. Then you will find good laminates and bad laminates.
The uke I play most is a laminate Hawaii souvenir uke. It sounds real good. I'm going to go take an aspirin.

southcoastukes
10-12-2010, 09:29 AM
If you get nothing else from those articles, you at least can take away the knowledge that laminating wood for any purpose, let alone for sound quality, is a very involved process.

Certain things that were mentioned, rotary veneers, as an example, would be a "no-no" in our "boutique laminate" fabrication. We, like most guitar makers who use laminates, fashion our own, and as such have our own "secret process" for getting the best sound. In our case, it even varies depending on the instrument. How you match the result with bracing is a whole other subject.

I have run production for furniture grade plywood and have a fair amount of background in this, and as long as those articles may seem, they don't even scratch the surface.

As I mentioned before, however, take my word that even in a manufacturing environment, a laminate capable of producing top sound quality is not a big money saver, and for a small shop, it is actually a good bit more expensive. Thus again, "beware the cheap laminate".

fromthee2me
10-12-2010, 10:02 AM
Thank You southcoastukes. It was actually funny,in that after I had asked the question on laminates on this BB, I got hold of some patent sites, where I read that it is not only the ukes and the guitar builders that are looking into this alternative, which I am sure will become or is another trade / profession. Some sort of laminate standard will have to enter into the picture, to inform prospective instrument buyers, of the kind of quality laminate that is used. Perhaps some sort of grading as used in sound woods? At this stage, you and a few others know what to look out for, but the majority of us are very unsure about its qualities, particularly in musical instruments.

bazmaz
10-12-2010, 11:08 AM
Going for a lie down.

sunstrummer
02-25-2012, 10:50 AM
Laminates sound great, as do solid instruments. It's a different sound. One isn't better than the other, just different.