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View Full Version : Comparing laminate Tenors



maikii
12-10-2010, 11:21 PM
For a good entry-level tenor, would folks recommend the

Makala Tenor (agathis laminate) MK-T

Kala Laminate Mahogany Tenor KA-T

Lanikai Laminate NATO Tenor LU21T


(added later) Kala Laminate Flaming Mahogany (or Figured Mahogany) Tenor KA-TEM

(added still later) Makai TK-55


or others?

Of the three mentioned, the Makala costs considerably less. In what ways is its quality less than the KA-T, by the same manufacturer? I see that it comes with GHS rather than the Aquila strings of the KA-T, but a set of Aquila strings costs less than $10, far less than the price difference of the ukes. Perhaps it doesn't look as good either. Is there a difference in sound? What about playability, action, etc.? Has anyone here tried both, and could compare?

How does the mentioned Lanikai model compare?

Others?

cb56
12-11-2010, 04:25 AM
What's your budget? How serious are you about wanting to play? Do you know you are going to want to play uke and continue on, or are you wanting to "check it out and see if I like it".
My opinion differs from some folks here. If you are wanting to check out uke and see if you like it, you should go with the makala since it is less expensive. Just make sure whoever you buy it from sets it up for good playability.

If you know that you are going to stick with uke playing or already are a player, I would suggest getting the best uke that you can afford. For me it was a laminate mahogany sided solid spruce topped Kala. In the upcoming years I will probably get an all solid wood Uke maybe mahogany or koa. But for now my Kala suits me just fine.
Kala and Lanakai are considered pretty much equal by most folks here

knadles
12-11-2010, 05:37 AM
I agree with cb56.

TCK
12-11-2010, 09:47 AM
I have a Makala and it is great-super good tone with the Aquilas on it too, and I keep it in my classroom, so handing it to a kid feels a little better than handing my others over.
Played the laminate Mahogany Kala and it did not do it for me, but most of my ukes have spruce tops- I love the Mahogany side spruce top Bari I have (also Kala) and would assume the tenor is just as good.

maikii
12-11-2010, 05:40 PM
I have a Makala and it is great-super good tone with the Aquilas on it too, and I keep it in my classroom, so handing it to a kid feels a little better than handing my others over.
Played the laminate Mahogany Kala and it did not do it for me, but most of my ukes have spruce tops- I love the Mahogany side spruce top Bari I have (also Kala) and would assume the tenor is just as good.

Hi TCK. Since you like your Makala tenor a lot, and the laminate mahogany Kala did not do it for you, are you saying that you did not think that the kala laminate mahogany tenor sounds as good as your Makala tenor? Or--that it wasn't worth the price differential?

That is what I am most interested in hearing--direct comparisons from people who have tried both models, rather than generalizations like "get the best uke you can afford", or "most think that Kala and Lanikai are equal". I would like to hear direct comparisons of specific models, if anyone here has tired more than one.

I see another one that looks interesting now. For not much more than the Kala laminate mahogany (KA-T), there is the KA-TEM, which is more of an exotic mahogany, with an unusual grain.

I would guess though (please correct me if I'm wrong) that most of the material in the KA-T and the KA-TEM are exactly the same, that only the top layer of the laminate is different in the TEM model.

Has anyone here heard both the KA-T and the KA-TEM? Do you hear any difference? Does that different top layer make a difference in sound, or is the difference only cosmetic?

Price difference not great. I see the KA-T selling for $101 and frree shipping, and the KA-TEM for !20 and free shipping. $19 difference. If there is no difference in sound, I guess it is a matter of whether the cosmetic difference is worth $19 more. (Although, from the photos, KA-T looks nice too.)

Major price difference though, wth the Makala MK-T, for $60 something. If indeed that sounds as good (after a string change), and is just as playable, good action, etc., as the KA-T and KA-TEM, it is kind of hard to justify paying a lot more, if that doesn't get you something more. (Therefore, to the poster who wrote "get the best uke you can afford", that implies that spending more necessarily gets you something better, in other words, "you get what you pay for". That is often true, but not always. In this case, though, if the Makala sounds and plays just as good as the KA-T and KA-TEM, is it worth it to pay almost twice as much, if not getting anything for the increased expenditure? (I am not saying that the KAs are not better than the MKs, I just don't know. Therefore, interested in hearing from people who have tried both.)

maikii
12-12-2010, 05:30 AM
I just became aware of another one, that would be interesting to compare, the Makai TK-55. Bone nut and saddle, retails (Elderly) for $85, costs considerably less than Kala or Lanikai, but more than Makala. How does it compare in sound, intonation, playability, etc.?

TCK
12-12-2010, 10:01 AM
Too my ear, the difference did not justify the price differential (I got a steal on the Makala), but I played them both setup with GHS strings and regretfully at different junctures in my personal UAS. I am fairly certain that with better strings the Kala laminate mahogany would have sounded much better than it did, but I can't say for sure it would top the Makala. I do know this- it is a heck of a lot prettier.
I also played the Mahogany right before playing a KA-FMT...which is hanging in my hallway as we speak. Got a great deal on that one too (payed $20 more than the Kala Mahogany) so I could not pass it up.
In the end, they all needed set-up and tweaking to get them just right. While the Makala is a nice Uke for the price (I figure bang for the buck differential is really high on it), since I did not play them with identical set-ups at the same time, I can't really answer the specific questions here,
Knowing what I know now, I probably would have simply spent more money to go better than the Makala as a first Uke (I have played 4 months, and have ten Ukuleles). I love it and can't beat it for the classroom (in fact, it goes home with one of my students on the weekends), but I do play my spruce top more (and prefer the tone on it). I prefer the Makala for other reasons (like it is bullet-proof and I don't have to worry about it), but when they say buy up, they are right- you will want more out of it in the future. When I was first shopping, spending $170 on a Uke seemed ridiculous, and today, I would go straight for the KA-ST in a second, and probably not need another for a while (maybe). Better tuners, better sound, good looks, still not breaking the bank.