View Full Version : Lanikai LU-8E 8-String Slot-Head Tenor

11-24-2010, 12:36 PM
Lanikai LU-8E Acoustic/Electric 8-String Tenor – Slotted Headstock


I ordered this off eBay a couple of months ago. I used the “make-an-offer” button and if I remember right I got it for $230 including shipping and a “lightweight hard case.” I ordered it from one of those drop-shipping eBay superstore places, not from a pro who would set it up. Generally, I don't recommend that you do that at this price point unless you have the tools, patience, and know how to do a proper setup yourself. I've purchased enough guitars over the years that I finally broke down and bought a set of nut files and a fret-dressing file because even pretty decent factory guitars often need a bit ot touching up to be as good as they can be.

That said, I was rather surprised that this arrived directly from the factory (the carton was still sealed) with the best setup I've seen on a low- to mid-priced instrument. My favorite measure of setup quality is to check the intonation at frets one and twelve (after ensuring that there are no buzzes up and down every string and that the action isn't unreasonably high, of course). Most instruments in this price range have a nut that is very high, making the strings pull quite sharp at the first couple of frets, but this one was very acceptable – so much so that I'm not in a hurry to break out the files. Here is the intonation at fret one and twelve for each string (measured with a Korg CA-30, not a strobe tuner by any means but pretty accurate and reasonably precise and stable). Note that these are rounded to the nearest nickel – the meter actually shows better precision but different finger pressure can easily make two or three cents difference.
G 0, -5
G +5, 0
C 0, 0
C 0, 0
E +5, +5
E +5, +5
A +5, +10
A +5, +5
Of course, just because this sample was very good, that doesn't mean that someone else won't get one that is horrible. Variable setup quality is the rule at this price point!

As a comparison, here's the data on my Lanikai LU-21C (from Amazon.com or Musician's Friend, I think):
G +5, -5
C +15, +15
E +20, +5
A +20, 0
Pretty bad, as you can see, I'm going to have to break out the files on this one!

Likewise the Kala acatia pocket uke I picked up at Sam Ash in Manhattan when I was there last month:
C +15, +15
F +10, +15
A +10, +10
D +10, +5

And, just for giggles, though it's in a class way beyond the above ukes, the KoAloha concert I recently got from MGM:
G 0, +5
C 0, +5
E 0, 0
A 0, 0

The ukulele is attractive and fit and finish are very good. I'm not sure what the faux shell purfling is made of - it might even be nothing more than a decal. I could take it or leave it. I don't feel like it really added much to the “face value” of the instrument. There was a tiny amount of glue “squeeze-out” where the fingerboard meets the top. You have to look close to see it, but it is there – that seems pretty typical of factory instruments. Otherwise I couldn't find any flaws in the assembly and finish.

I think there was a tiny burr on the nut, because the high-C string broke while it was sitting in the case about two weeks after I got it. When I replaced the string the replacement broke in the same place as I was bringing it up to pitch. Both appeared to break right at the nut. I lightly touched up the slot and face of the nut with a bit of 400-grit sandpaper and the current string hasn't given me any problems.

I didn't find any other flaws save the fact that I don't care for the headstock as mentioned below.

Tone and Volume (Unplugged)
The volume is a bit lower than I expected from an eight-string and the acoustic tone is a bit dull even for a laminated instrument. It's not terrible, it just doesn't have quite as much life as my Lanikai LU-21C – another inexpensive laminated uke from the same factory. Again, we're back to that variableness thing.

Tone and Volume (Electric)
Okay, plugged in this thing really shines. I honestly was considering selling it because I just couldn't “connect” with the instrument in spite of the setup being wonderful. Then, just before I decided to list it on eBay, I got a chance to let it rip while the family was out of the house. Very, very nice. The pickup is far better than I expected in such an inexpensive instrument. At lower volumes it has a pretty good acoustic presence. Get it up to stage volume with a little bit of soft compression from a tube preamp and it rocks the house without feeding back the way an instrument that is livelier acoustically would.

The bottom line, would I buy another LU-8E if this one was stolen?
No. I should love this thing with its good setup and its great electric tone (I bought it mostly for use with loud bands). However, there are two things that still put me off a little that are not the fault of the uke at all (well, one isn't, anyway). First, I still can't connect with the tone – even the great high-volume plugged-in tone sounds more like a small guitar, not a uke. I have tons of guitars, I don't need a small one with two strings missing! I think I just flat don't like low-G tuning, and a tenor strung in octaves is basically a low-G tuning. Maybe I'll try unison G strings and see if that helps me connect with it.

The second thing that would stop me buying this uke again is the headstock. The slotted stock is quite large, slanted back moderately steeply, and the slant starts pretty close to the nut. I don't know if this headstock is typical of slotted 8-strings – I do know that I'll never buy another slotted 8-string without being able to play it first (I guess it's better to learn that lesson on a $200 uke than a $1k uke). I finger my chords much the way a mandolin player (or violinist) does, with my hand at an angle, as parallel to the fretboard as possible. The headstock on the LU-8E really interferes with my making an open E7 chord, for example. Since this is one of my favorite chords (I like it much better than the bar version) that's a problem for me. Oh, I can make the chord, but the effort is really annoying after a while.

The other bottom line, should you buy an LU-8E?
I would say...maybe. If the wide headstock doesn't bother you and you are intending to use it mostly as an electric it is probably as good a choice as any at the price point, and possibly better than some. I will add this caveat, though; you can't really count on getting one set up as good as mine was from the factory. At this price point I strongly recommend purchasing from a pro who will do a proper set up unless you have the tools and experience to do it yourself. That goes for any brand at this end of the price spectrum.


11-24-2010, 04:35 PM
Nice loooking for sure, thanks for the info & sharing.

11-26-2010, 09:39 AM
Nice review and a nice looking uke. Thanks for sharing!

11-26-2010, 11:15 PM
I got the LU-8 acoustic only version and it was superb from
the start.Set up perfectly,frets finished and level,action at
nut and saddle fine,the only change I made was to lose the
wound string after a couple of days and fit a plain one!
Great ukulele for the price.I know it's not in the 'top range'
but some of us have to live within our means!

11-27-2010, 03:24 PM
...only change I made was to lose the
wound string after a couple of days and fit a plain one!
Great ukulele for the price.I know it's not in the 'top range'
but some of us have to live within our means!

So, did you fit it with a plain high-G or plain low-G? If high-G I'm curious how it worked out 'cause I think that is probably about the only thing that is going to make me really like this uke is having it sound like a uke - i.e. get rid of the low G.

Living within one's means is for wimps... :)


11-27-2010, 10:56 PM
I fitted it with a Low G plain string,which was actually
an Aquila C string from a redundant set I had! It plays
fine,although some folk think that the C string tuned to
the Low G would be 'loose and floppy'.It isn't and it
sounds great!

11-28-2010, 03:57 PM
Thanks for the info. I think sometime this week I'm going to try replacing the wound G with a plain G (high G) and see if that wakes up my interest in this tenor more. Worst case, I've wasted a string.


11-30-2010, 06:04 AM
I bought an O8-E from Mim a month or so ago, and just love it! Absolutely amazing sound, but then I really like low g on tenors. I don't know how much difference the spruce top makes but acoustically I'm very impressed, though I haven't had a chance to try it plugged in yet. As Luthien said, I don't think you could get a better 8 string without spending a lot more.

12-03-2010, 11:43 AM
Heh, heh. It's funny how subjective tone can be. I took this to rehearsal last Wednesday night. Our electric guitarist is a little older than I am and has been playing uke on and off since he was fourteen. He really liked it and remarked how loud it was... LOL (this was unplugged)

I still haven't been able to connect with it though. I think it's just that I don't care for 8 strings in general, and especially not with that low G. So, today I pulled the trigger on a Mainland mango tenor with MiSi. I have a coworker whose son plays uke and has been looking to upgrade from his LU-11 so this might end up finding its way to his house. If he decides he doesn't want it I'll probably put it up for sale here, later, though I'm keeping the case for use with the Mainland in any case (pun intended).


12-05-2010, 04:21 AM
Nice infromitive review. Thanks.