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OldePhart
12-10-2010, 07:14 AM
Re: Youz-guyz-betta-not-be-lyin-! (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?38971-Youz-guyz-betta-not-be-lyin-!)

Mainland mango tenor with Mi-Si got here this morning - pure torture to wait for temperature to stabilize - opened it on my lunch break. My first impression is that I am thoroughly impressed with this thing! It is way, way more than I expected at the price point. Can it touch my KoAloha concert? No, not really, but it is good enough that I don't see myself ever jonesing to replace it with a K-brand (that might be a different story if I expected to be needing a tenor a lot or planned to use it a lot acoustically, though it's certainly no slouch even acoustically).

I will do a real review and video after I've had a couple of days to get over NUOTDG*. :)

John

*New Uke On The Doorstep Glow

mm stan
12-10-2010, 07:18 AM
Aloha John,
Congrats on then new mainland....I know you'll be jamming everyday with it..Have fun and enjoy!! Happy Strummings....and we will be awaiting you review on it!!!! MM Stan...

vacuousnacho
12-10-2010, 08:04 AM
That's awesome man, I'm also getting one. Can't wait to see your video review!

bazmaz
12-10-2010, 08:44 AM
They are stunningly good instruments, and as far as bang for buck goes, I would struggle to find something to beat it.

Go team Mainland!

DAPuke
12-10-2010, 09:12 AM
Hey O.P., congratulations! Awaiting review:)
DAP

ItsMrPitchy
12-10-2010, 09:18 AM
enjoy your new uke and i look forward to the review.

Chris Tarman
12-10-2010, 12:26 PM
Told you so!

Bill Mc
12-10-2010, 12:58 PM
I got my Mainland mango tenor last week and am awed and thoroughly pleased by the instrument. Tell me OldePhart, is the Mainland at least "nipping at the heels" of your Ko Aloha ?

OldePhart
12-10-2010, 03:27 PM
I got my Mainland mango tenor last week and am awed and thoroughly pleased by the instrument. Tell me OldePhart, is the Mainland at least "nipping at the heels" of your Ko Aloha ?

Yeah, I have to admit it is, if not nipping the heels, at least very firmly in the race. I confess I was pretty skeptical about what I saw as "a lot of hype" but I ordered the uke anyway, figuring it would at least be "good enough" for what I needed (I really prefer concert scale instruments and just wanted an A/E tenor for occasional use with the band).

I was going to hold off until I had more time to do this right but...here's the quick run down. Please keep in mind as you read the following that I really did have to screw my "picky cap" down pretty tight and recite my mantra ("nothing is perfect, nothing is perfect") to find fault with the instrument.

Aesthetics

1) Rope binding aside, this thing is really gorgeous (I'm just not a fan of the binding, as others have said it's not as gaudy in person as it is in photos, but it's my least favorite thing about the Mainland ukes and almost put me off buying one). The binding is very good, though, and the only "disjointed" parts are at the sharp corners at the top of the headstock. You have to look really close and be wearing your picky cap to notice that and, honestly, with rope binding there probably isn't a way to avoid that kind of thing.

The grain of the wood is pretty consistent across the top, sides, and back. There is not a great deal of figuring, though there is some pretty subtle curling. I don't know if it would qualify as "curly mango" as I honestly didn't notice the curl until I started examining the uke more thoroughly. There are a handful of small birdseyes on the front - not enough to call it "birdseye mango."

2) I can't find any evidence of glue squeezeout around where the neck meets the body and the fretboard meets the top of the soundboard. (Glue squeeze-out manifests as either a "glob" under the finish or, if the squeezeout was wiped away but the wood was not sanded afterward, as a slightly lighter "streak" in the finish where the finish material didn't penetrate the wood.)

3) There is a tiny, and I mean tiny, bit of puckering of the finish material around where the fretboard meets the top, etc. This is almost inevitable with the fairly thick gloss finishes (I'm pretty sure this is polyurethane, and that always seems to be an issue with that particular material). Still, it's far less than on other ukes I've seen in the same price range or just below it in price range.

4) I ordered the silver tuners with amber knobs. I'd probably describe the knobs as more rose colored than amber, but they are attractive and go well with the slightly orange mango color. I'm just a little disappointed that the heads of the tensioner screws stick out past the knob (i.e. in my opinion it would look a little nicer if the knob was slightly longer and the hole for the tension screw was countersunk so the screw head is flush with the knob). This is purely an aesthetic issue and not a "flaw" by any means - but I do catch myself glancing at the screw heads thinking they've loosened and are about to fall out. I'll probably get used to them and stop doing that after I've had it a while.

Overall, I can't say I found anything that I would consider a "flaw" in the finish department. In fact, from a strictly appearance standpoint, the glossy finish is more mirror-like than that on the KoAloha - of course, that is largely because the thick polyurethane finish fills all the poors in the wood - while probably deadening the top noticeably, while the finish on the KoAloha is glossy but thin, and does not fill the grain. However, with its very clean bindings, high gloss, and well matched woods over the entire body, I must grudgingly give this Mainland a slight knod over my KoAloha in the purely "oooh, that's shiny" department though the highly figured koa on the KoAloha is nothing to sneeze at.

Playability - the important stuff

1) Nut height / intonation at the first fret is spot-on perfect. I don't know if Mike at Mainland read my comments on other ukes and gave this thing extra attention or if they all leave Mainland this well set up but none of the strings pulled measurably (using a good tuner) sharp at the first fret. I only own two other instruments that came to me that way - one is the KoAloha KCM-00 and the other is my custom one-off SG electric guitar. Intonation at the first fret is an important indicator for two reasons. First, it shows that the nut has been cut low enough that the strings aren't pulled sharp by being fretted at the steepest angle - i.e. at the first fret. That's fairly obvious. The less obvious thing is that you simply can't file the nut slots that deep without buzzing unless the frets are pretty close to perfectly level (unless the bridge is outrageously and obviously high).

2) Overall action height - very, very good. Yeah, measurably lower than on the KoAloha at the tweflth fret and above, which I gotta admit surprised the bejabbers out of me. (Hey, does anybody know what bejabbers are?)

3) Intonation at the twelfth fret. Good. The intonation at the tweflth fret is mostly an indication of whether the bridge and saddle are positioned properly for the strings in use. While intonation high up the neck can be pulled sharp by a very high bridge, the main factor controlling it is usually the tension of the strings. When you have an uncompensated bridge, theoretically the intonation of all the strings will be identical if the tension is identical on all the strings. You see this in that many ukes will be a little different on A and G strings than on the C and E strings because most string manufacturers size those to be at a little higher tension at "concert tuning" so the amplitude of the notes on the lighter strings doesn't suffer. In other words, there isn't much you can do to improve the intonation at the tweflth fret during a setup, unless the bridge is just outrageously high.

On the Mainland the C and E strings were somewhere between 2 and 5 cents flat at the tweflth fret and the A and G strings were about ten cents flat. This indicates that overall the bridge saddle could stand to be moved towards the neck just fractionally (for these strings). I actually noticed that the saddle is rounded over the middle, instead of being rounded from the back to break at a clean edge along the front of the saddle as you usually see on guitars. That tiny difference might be enough to bring the C and E strings into perfect intonation. But, honestly, I don't have any beef with 12th fret intonation that is at +/- ten cents (especially not if all the strings are moving the same direction so their relative intonation is closer than ten cents). A different brand of strings can easily move intonation at the tweflth fret by ten or fifteen cents, anyway.

Okay, gotta fess up here, in the overall setup/playability department this Mainland actually beats my KoAloha just slightly. Both are very playable and very well intonated, but the action up the fretboard is a little lower on the Mainland making it easier to get clearly ringing barre chords in spite of the slightly higher tension of the tenor scale.

Sound quality - the really, really important stuff. The Mainland is very good with a pleasingly warm tone that I suspect might be even better with the right fluorocarbon strings instead of the NylGuts. That said, this is the department where the $700 KoAloha concert shows its heels to the $300 Mainland tenor. The Mainland is good enough that when I first played it I thought, "you know, that sounds an awful lot like the KoAloha, I bet with the right strings there wouldn't be that much difference." Then I played them one right after the other, switching back and forth as fast as I could pick them up, and then laid them both on their backs side by side and strummed the open strings. The KoAloha is obviously louder than the Mainland in spite of the KoAloha's smaller size. The KoAloha is also definitely warmer, though there the difference is more subtle and much of the difference might be due to the completely different nature of the strings.

Plugged in I've noticed that the Baggs/MiSi pickup and preamp combo is a little more susceptible to "clunk" than the uke-specific eq preamp that is in my LU-8E. That's not a big deal, you just need to be sure you have the right outboard EQ equipment (in the form of a versatile amp, an eq pedal, or what have you) to EQ away the bottom end where the thunk resides (this is pretty common to all small body instruments with UST pickups - if your amplification chain has too much bass response you'll get a noticeable "thump" as your finger hits each string).

The bottom lines.

1) Would I replace the Mainland if it was stolen? Oh yeah, you better believe it.

2) Do I see myself wanting to upgrade from the Mainland to a k-brand tenor? Not really. I don't use tenor enough to justify almost trebling the cost for an incremental improvement in tone and projection.

3) If my KoAloha concert was stolen would I replace it with another k-brand or a Mainland? Another k-brand. The concert scale is my favorite and there is enough difference in volume and acoustic tone between the KoAloha and the Mainland that, for my main axe, the much higher price tag is still justified.

Honestly, the Mainland is good enough that if I'd had a Mainland before a k-brand, I probably never would have bought a k-brand - at least not until some cruel person came along and let me play their's so I'd know what I was missing! ;)

(I suppose there's a lot to be said for the wisdom of not playing an instrument you can't afford to purchase... LOL )

John

haole
12-10-2010, 04:05 PM
Great review! Glad it met/exceeded your expectations! I'm likely to get a Mainland mango pineapple in 2011.

Jerlial Prophet
12-10-2010, 07:47 PM
Great review! Glad it met/exceeded your expectations! I'm likely to get a Mainland mango pineapple in 2011.

Agreed, great review! Sounds like your observations are very similar to mine regarding the Mainland vs. the KoAloha.

Chris Tarman
12-11-2010, 12:25 PM
I would like to get a Mainland Mango, either regular soprano or pineapple. Actually, I would like BOTH, as well as a Red Cedar regular soprano and a Mahogany Pineapple. Then I'd have all the bases covered. Well, except I would need both gloss and matte versions of all the sopranos that have that option. I need more room!

Thumper
12-11-2010, 12:52 PM
Thanks for such a detailed review!