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andywergedal
01-01-2011, 05:09 PM
What is the best inexpensive/beater uke that plays in tune?

I've played for 9 years and am just about to get a new job that will require me to travel 3 days a week.

I only take one bag when I travel. I want to just throw my uke in a gig bag and wrap it some clothes, stuff it in the carry on bag and not worry about it.

I've bought and worked on mahalos, lanakais, and kalas but they all seem to have intonation problems. Most of those ukes I have given away. I have a tenor fluke, but it will not fit into my carry on bag and my koa soprano's case will not fit either. All my other ukes are either too irreplaceable or valuable to be treated this way.

What is the least expensive uke that plays in tune... ie does not have intonation problems?

Here are my requirements:
soprano uke
gig bag
fit in my carry on (redoxx small aviator bag 22x11x8)
replaceable within a week
less than $100.00 (flexable)

pdxuke
01-01-2011, 05:58 PM
What is the best inexpensive/beater uke that plays in tune?

I've played for 9 years and am just about to get a new job that will require me to travel 3 days a week.

I only take one bag when I travel. I want to just throw my uke in a gig bag and wrap it some clothes, stuff it in the carry on bag and not worry about it.

I've bought and worked on mahalos, lanakais, and kalas but they all seem to have intonation problems. Most of those ukes I have given away. I have a tenor fluke, but it will not fit into my carry on bag and my koa soprano's case will not fit either. All my other ukes are either too irreplaceable or valuable to be treated this way.

What is the least expensive uke that plays in tune... ie does not have intonation problems?

Here are my requirements:
soprano uke
gig bag
fit in my carry on (redoxx small aviator bag 22x11x8)
replaceable within a week
less than $100.00 (flexable)

Well, my Makala Dolphin has no intonation issues. Buy it from Musicguymic to be sure it's set up right, and give it lead time for the strings to settle in. Also, I've played the entry level makalas and they play in tune.

itsme
01-01-2011, 06:57 PM
Have you looked at the Kala thinline travel ukes? My tenor is awesome. :)

Bought it used, you might be able to find a soprano in your range.

mm stan
01-01-2011, 08:18 PM
How about a Koa pili koko....thin bodied and I had two with great intonation...about 140.00 solid body arcacia...

tantalus
01-01-2011, 10:06 PM
My Makala Dolphin is fine all the way up the fretboard. Went in my backpack in the overhead locker from Australia to UK and back with no problem. Brilliant!

Hippie Dribble
01-01-2011, 10:55 PM
What about the Rogue Sopranos's from Musician's Friend. $24.95!!!!!! Recommended by a number of members here. For the money you can't go wrong!

Richie23
01-02-2011, 12:06 AM
I don't own one, but it will be a future purchase for me I'm sure, I would recommend you look at the Bruko Slimline. It was just so perfect for your requirements.

http://www.brueko.de/shop/product_info.php?info=p134_Soprano-Ukulele-Maple-Flat.html&XTCsid=93fc1ab582a8378104dd9311bf4d4d5f

I Ukulista
01-02-2011, 12:14 AM
Makala Dolphin or Makala MK-s inexpensive, well crafted and fun.

harpdog
01-02-2011, 01:16 AM
My best inexpensive uke was an Ohana Vita. Great intonation, robust sound.

strumsilly
01-02-2011, 01:48 AM
ditto on the dolphin, bought a Rogue baritone and I wasn't impressed , bought a rogue soprano for a gift, it should arrive tm, will give a review

heymak
01-02-2011, 03:45 AM
Well, my Makala Dolphin has no intonation issues. Buy it from Musicguymic to be sure it's set up right, and give it lead time for the strings to settle in. Also, I've played the entry level makalas and they play in tune.

Have to agree with this. I bought my first uke from Mike and it was really sweet right out of the box. Bought my Dolphin from Sam Ash and it took me a lot of setup tweeking to get it right. I think it's great now, but you can save a lot of headaches letting MGM set it up.

Also If you go with the Dolphin, Aquila strings have been the best on it for me. I tried the stock black strings, worth clears, and fremont clears and non of them sing like the Aquilas.

EDW
01-02-2011, 04:15 AM
I would look at a flea. They are great instruments. They would withstand any travel and possibly a bomb blast. They play great right from the box with terrific intonation, action and response. I now folks who have taken them all over the world.

mendel
01-02-2011, 04:19 AM
Lanikai LU-21 series... Not quite a beater Uke, but entry level.

Pukulele Pete
01-02-2011, 04:23 AM
Buy a Flea. I tried a Dolphin, didn't like the neck. The Flea should have perfect intonation.

pdxuke
01-02-2011, 08:32 AM
Buy a Flea. I tried a Dolphin, didn't like the neck. The Flea should have perfect intonation.

AND there are a couple of slightly used fleas on the marketplace now (my virtually unused one is amongst them... :music:)

Kekani
01-02-2011, 09:30 AM
I've bought and worked on mahalos, lanakais, and kalas but they all seem to have intonation problems. Most of those ukes I have given away. . . .

What is the least expensive uke that plays in tune... ie does not have intonation problems?

At first I was going to say that if you already went through Lanikai's and Kala's and you weren't happy, then just get KoAloha or a Kanilea, even a Kamaka - be sure they're rack instruments to keep the price down.

Then I read this:



Here are my requirements:
soprano uke
gig bag
fit in my carry on (redoxx small aviator bag 22x11x8)
replaceable within a week
less than $100.00 (flexable)

How flexible do you want to be for $100, and what do you expect? The instruments you've gone through, and weren't happy with, are already in that price range. And if you've done a full setup on it, then it basically comes down to two things - either the setup wasn't complete, or your ear is too sensitive which would put your price range at about 1/20th of where it should be.

gioconbrio
01-02-2011, 10:22 AM
Triumph from Empire Music. Indestructible plywood triangle. Sounds eight times better than a Dolphin. 60 bucks.

OldePhart
01-02-2011, 10:38 AM
Lanikai LU-11 or LU21 from MGM - the reason so many inexpensive instruments don't play in tune isn't anything inherently wrong with the instrument, it's just that the final touches like adjusting the neck slots isn't done. You have to do it yourself or have a reputable / knowledgeable dealer who will do it for you.

The humble little soprano LU-11 I bought from MGM for my granddaughter is within a cent or two at the first fret, and no more than about ten cents out at the tweflth (getting tweflth fret intonation correct depends very much on the strings - even sets from the same mfr can be different so unless you have adjustable saddles like an electric guitar you pretty much take what you get).

My LU-21 that I bought from Amazon was way off at the first fret but fortunately I have nut files so I can adjust things like that myself (though it's tedious and I'd still rather let somebody else do it if they're willing).

John

Ukulele Jim
01-02-2011, 10:40 AM
Triumph from Empire Music. Indestructible plywood triangle. Sounds eight times better than a Dolphin. 60 bucks.

Erm... I agree that the Triumph is indestructible. I have one that I keep in my car all the time because I know the heat won't make the bridge pop off (it's screwed on).

But... sounding better than a Makala?? Not a chance. The Triumph sounds rather bleh, especially farthest up the neck, whereas the Makala dolphins sound sweet.

Paul Cote
01-02-2011, 11:47 AM
this is a funny thread because the ukulele playing in tune has more to do imo (maybe I am wrong) with the strings than the ukulele. I so far have had a kohala (cheap lanakai) and a pair of dolphins and a makala tenor and a cordoba. The cordoba came with aquilas. The other instruments all came with those brown nylon strings. The Cordoba is the only of the instruments that REALLY stays in tune all the time. It is also, by looking at it, the one with the most attention to detail and looks the nicest of the bunch.

Well I myself am curious about the Makai and the Riptide. Otherwise, having played guitars and mandolin etc... now the uke, I think the strings stretching is just something you have to deal with. The Aquilas have less of this effect than the nylons or the fluorocarbon.

I sure like the look of that riptide and want to get one. Also would like to check out the makais. That being said, I think cordobas and kalas are wonderful intruments as well. Best thing is to go into a store and play them and then buy a pack of aquilas to take home with it if it doesn't have them already.

I read a host of posts about Cordoba Quality Control issues but when I look at the instruments in the store it looks like its the other vendors with the issues so I wonder what those posts are about. Quality control on what? that is sort of a goofy blanket statement, a generality... At guitar center, I found the Cordoba 15cm sounded (to me) better than all the lanakais and fenders and the mitchell they had in there. Thats all they had in there. The soprano expensive cordoba sounded totally awesome as well. I might recommend you check them out at guitar center. Mine is staying in tune even though the machine heads are nothing special.

Hey check out those riptides on Amazon but get u a pack of aquilas to go with it.

Paul Cote
01-02-2011, 11:50 AM
You could get a dolphin. They are very nice. I got two at Christmas, a white and a black. One sounded like a 2 or 300 dollar uke, the other like a 40 dollar uke (its a 34 dollar ukulele by the way). So, it seems that some are awesome... others not so... so if you have a store that sells them you can go and take your pick.

pdxuke
01-02-2011, 12:15 PM
You could get a dolphin. They are very nice. I got two at Christmas, a white and a black. One sounded like a 2 or 300 dollar uke, the other like a 40 dollar uke (its a 34 dollar ukulele by the way). So, it seems that some are awesome... others not so... so if you have a store that sells them you can go and take your pick.

Again, this is set-up. If you buy from the Mikes (UkeRepublic or MGM) they will be set up right, and in my experience your instrument will be great. Uke Republic I believe have a few in stock still, in certain colors. MGM has them, but my only wish is I could still get a $50 delivered Dolphin from MGM without the case, tuner, etc. I get why he's bundling this--the set-up takes time and the margin is probably low--but I'm just not wanting to go $89 for a Dolphin with the extras I won't use.

But these two guys will provide you with a dolphin in tune, providing you know how to tune it and you let the strings settle. :-)

Paul Cote
01-02-2011, 12:19 PM
its not setup. Its the actual sound hole... the tone of the uke

Paul Cote
01-02-2011, 12:21 PM
two ukes ... different box

pdxuke
01-02-2011, 12:46 PM
two ukes ... different box

Maybe you got a wood dolphin and a plastic one. Check the inside of them--I'd be interested.

Bosconian91
01-02-2011, 12:49 PM
For up to $100, I recommend the Kala KA series. My first uke was a Kala KA-Tenor and I think I got it for $91. For a beater that's under $50, the Makala Dolphins are hard to beat. My experience on them is mixed but they have a 1 year warranty so you can't really go wrong. I got mine for $28.

My first Dolphin was perfect and sounded really nicely and the frets were dressed from factory. The second one buzzed severely on the first fret and sounded really badly when strummed. I noticed that the frets on this one were not dressed. After I leveled the frets out and lowered the action, it now sounds very good and buzz free. I even kept the original strings - it sounds good enough for me.

Paul Cote
01-02-2011, 01:26 PM
well I had gotten two ... both are composite, but the white one is a dream. The black one just didn't have the resonance the white one had, so I sent it back and should get a replacement shipped soon. Thing is I think maybe the white one was an anomaly. I will find out soon. The white one was soooo sonorous. So resonant. So loud. I thought maybe it had to do with the bridge. The black one's dolphin looked like it had glue dripping on it and it also had paint falling off and a slight buzz on the A string... which was not such a big deal but I got the impression it was defective from the tone difference... sonorousness.. I thought maybe the bridge was not transferring the tone enough or something. I don't think the setup can deal with the acoustic properties of the box and all ukuleles sound a little different, so I am just saying, if you want to be real picky, then it makes sense to hear the instrument in person... even if its a composite box and theres little to change between the units. I guess the wood on the top of it can make a difference?..... My black one was perfectly good enough and I wouldn't have known the difference had I not had the white one to compare it to. I felt bad sending the black one back but now am hoping I can get one as nice as my 12 year old son's!.

Oh and then I found out a local dealer sells them at the same price I was getting them online..!!!!

aido
01-02-2011, 01:29 PM
Is the Kala KA series really that inexpensive? I notice, for example, that the Kala website gives a price of $315 for their KA-KS. Allowing for dealers' discount margins, that still seems quite a lot more than "up to $100".

I'm a newbie so I've probably missed something basic here - hoping for enlightenment.

swervy jervy
01-02-2011, 01:33 PM
A dolphin that sounds like a $300 uke? Did that include airfare to pick it up?

Bosconian91
01-02-2011, 01:38 PM
Is the Kala KA series really that inexpensive? I notice, for example, that the Kala website gives a price of $315 for their KA-KS. Allowing for dealers' discount margins, that still seems quite a lot more than "up to $100".

I'm a newbie so I've probably missed something basic here - hoping for enlightenment.

Sorry, I meant the Mahogany Series. The KA-T (tenor) had a list of $150 but my local music store only sells it for $91. The soprano and concert Mahogany would normally be cheaper.

Paul Cote
01-02-2011, 01:46 PM
A dolphin that sounds like a $300 uke? Did that include airfare to pick it up?

hey it might be the bourbon talking but it sounded better than the up to 200 dollar ukes I tried at guitar center.... and yeah I had to pay groundfreight ... I have only tried two dolphins so far so don't know what is the standard for these or if this one was just a freak.

OldePhart
01-02-2011, 02:51 PM
this is a funny thread because the ukulele playing in tune has more to do imo (maybe I am wrong) with the strings than the ukulele. I so far have had a kohala (cheap lanakai) and a pair of dolphins and a makala tenor and a cordoba. The cordoba came with aquilas. The other instruments all came with those brown nylon strings. The Cordoba is the only of the instruments that REALLY stays in tune all the time. It is also, by looking at it, the one with the most attention to detail and looks the nicest of the bunch.

We're talking about playing in tune - up and down the neck - not staying in tune - as in holding a tune. It's called intonation and it's affected by several things. One, of course, is the frets being in the right position but that isn't an issue on modern instruments (though if you want to get really technical you could discuss even vs. "just" tuning for a decade or two).

On most factory-built inexpensive instruments, the slot in the nut is too high. This results in very poor intonation at the first couple of frets. I.e. if the string is in tune at "C" for example, when you finger at the first fret you don't get a C#, you get something higher than a C#. When you press down on the string behind the first fret, it is at a very steep angle from the nut and pulls the string sharp, often by as much as twenty cents or more on inexpensive ukes. Filing the slolts in the nut lower alleviates this problem and restores the intonation at the first fret. However, if your frets are not perfectly level or the neck relief is not right, you can't take the slots low enough to eliminate the strings pulling sharp without introducing a buzz.

Intonation at the twelfth fret is primarily a factor of string tension (unless the bridge is extremely high). Theoretically, if all of the strings were under exactly the same tension the intonation would be identical across all the strings at the twelfth fret. In practice the tension is never exactly equal across all the strings, and in most string sets the manufacturer intentionally chooses gages that will make the lighter strings under more tension for balanced volume. Often on guitars you will see angled bridges to help with intonation - and also often compensated saddles. Because the uke has two small, high tension strings on the outside and two lower tension strings on the inside you can't really achieve much by angling the bridge. Therefore, most ukes will either be a little flat or a little sharp on two of the strings, at the twelfth fret (actually all the way up, but we usually measure at the twelfth fret). The bottom line is that unless the bridge is very high there isn't a lot you can do about twelfth fret intonation except try different strings.

Fortunately, I've found that intonation at the twelfth fret isn't off by more than ten cents absolute, and about five cents string to string, on most of my ukes. That's in the same general ball park with good guitars.

So, for most inexpensive ukes the biggest issue is getting that nut filed down - though if you can't get it low enough you also have to level the frets. It's tedious work and that's why I'm perfectly happy to let somebody like MGM or Mim or whoever do it for me!

Oh, and another thing affecting intonation is fret height and fingering technique. I've got guitars with jumbo frets that I can pull twenty cents sharp just by pinching the string hard right behind those big 'ole frets.

John

beergeek
01-02-2011, 08:18 PM
I'll add the Mainland plastic body ukes to the mix....I have a Reggae Gecko and it sounds sweet!

Tor
01-03-2011, 01:55 AM
My Lanikai tenor (nato plywood model) doesn't have particularly good intonation. Nut grooves seem to be fine out of the box, I won't file them any deeper (unlike with my el-cheapo first soprano which I had to file down). Action at the bridge of my Lanikai doesn't seem too bad, I may try to file it a tiny bit down though. Original strings are aquila. So what I suspect (I will do some measurements to be sure) is that the bridge is actually positioned a little bit too close to the neck, so that strings go sharp when pressed. I've seen this with guitars all the time, the price level makes very little difference - cheap or expensive, the variation seems to be there anyway. So when I buy I try several of the same type until I find the one with good intonation. Everything else seems to be equal so it's really only the bridge position that can vary. I didn't have the luxury to try several when buying my Lanikai though.

If my measurements confirm my suspicion I will remove the saddle and file the saddle slot a little bit wider (at the far end from the neck) and shim the saddle at the front. The slot is pretty deep so I think it should be safe to do. I haven't tried this before so any luthier may well tell me I'm nuts.. but that's the plan anyway! :)

molokinirum
01-03-2011, 05:54 AM
I've got a Makala Concert that came from MGM. Aquila strings, set up just right and stays in tune and fun to play and take anywhere!! ($60)

strumsilly
01-12-2011, 10:14 AM
You could get a dolphin. They are very nice. I got two at Christmas, a white and a black. One sounded like a 2 or 300 dollar uke, the other like a 40 dollar uke (its a 34 dollar ukulele by the way). So, it seems that some are awesome... others not so... so if you have a store that sells them you can go and take your pick.

I've experienced a similar thing. I've bought 3 dolphins, the blue is awsome [kept that one] , the yellow was good , and the black was fair-poor. Maybe it's the color. I read in a poodle book that the different coat colors had different attribute ratings , and the Black standard rated the highest. could this be the same in ukes, only in reverse!!!!!

Lori
01-12-2011, 10:41 AM
I've experienced a similar thing. I've bought 3 dolphins, the blue is awsome [kept that one] , the yellow was good , and the black was fair-poor. Maybe it's the color. I read in a poodle book that the different coat colors had different attribute ratings , and the Black standard rated the highest. could this be the same in ukes, only in reverse!!!!!
I don't know about color being a factor. I had 10 dolphins that I re-strung before giving them away, and the metallic black one was pretty good. I had an assortment of colors too, and two each of the pink burst, purple burst, and three metallic blue. One each of green, metallic black, and lt blue burst. The one that was the most "off" was one of the pink ones. I think it depends more on who was doing the final set-up work at the factory that day. That is going to be pretty variable.
–Lori

70sSanO
01-12-2011, 10:45 AM
Here is what you do...

Take the advice of potential ukuleles given here, but...

...buy a digital tuner, then go find a ukulele in person from the suggestions that meet your intonation requirements. If you really want to do a bang up job, buy an automotive feeler gauge with various blade thicknesses and you can measure first string height, 12th fret height, you can even measure how much neck relief (not that you can do anything on that one).

John

Paul Cote
01-12-2011, 01:11 PM
yesterday I dissected a dolphin (cut personal soundholes ) and it is all plastic so practically indestructable. My sons sounds totally awesome so some of them are totally awesome... I have a mediocre one myself.. I bought two (online) and he lucked out. Hey they cost 32 bucks. His sounds like over a hundred.... forget about paying extra for the setup unless you feel incompetent to do it yourself. Otherwise, I roger the idea on the travel ukes.

Paul Cote
01-12-2011, 01:14 PM
ok out of a white and a black dolphins I bought for christmas, the white is the awesome one. I doubt if it is color related but my son's white one is totally THE soprano dolphin... loud, sonorous, ringing etc.

Wagster
01-12-2011, 02:41 PM
One of the first Ukes that I bought was a Kala KA-15S from MGM. They are around $50 and once the Aquila strings settled in it was a great sounding uke. You couldn't beat it for the price. I'd give this model a hard look-see....

pdxuke
01-12-2011, 05:25 PM
I've experienced a similar thing. I've bought 3 dolphins, the blue is awsome [kept that one] , the yellow was good , and the black was fair-poor. Maybe it's the color. I read in a poodle book that the different coat colors had different attribute ratings , and the Black standard rated the highest. could this be the same in ukes, only in reverse!!!!!

You're right on the poodle theory! We had two standards--the black was a GREAT dog and agility champ, bombproof (we recently lost her :-( and the BROWN we love but is a total nut-job poodle! Recessive-recessive. Maybe the Dolphins are the same?

andywergedal
01-12-2011, 07:46 PM
Thanks for all the feedback.

I'm considering upping my price, or buying a few beaters and trying to luck out and get a great one. I once had a green mahalo that was great. I gave it away, thinking that I would find another one. Have not yet.

Here are my latest thoughts...

cheap way (less than $100)
rogue soprano or makala soprano, a little work and some worth strings (I like them better than aquila's)

medium way (less than $200)
flea with worth strings
tallgrass bamboo with the sound hole

Not sure I like the rope binding on the mainland ukes or I would consider one of them.

Tor
01-12-2011, 11:50 PM
Here is what you do...

Take the advice of potential ukuleles given here, but...

...buy a digital tuner, then go find a ukulele in person from the suggestions that meet your intonation requirements. If you really want to do a bang up job, buy an automotive feeler gauge with various blade thicknesses and you can measure first string height, 12th fret height, you can even measure how much neck relief (not that you can do anything on that one).

John
I second the above. Carefully check out the intonation, don't play down any problems you observe in the shop. Intonation problems will just sound more and more annoying as the days, weeks and months go by. On the other hand - if the intonation is perfect you may actually love the sound of the instrument more and more as you learn how to make its particular sound shape work for you. But you'll never get used to bad intonation -- that works the opposite way because you'll get better and better at noticing it.

I've bought a number of stringed instruments and the above is the most important advice I can think of. As an example, I bought a very cheap Ibanez small thinbody acoustic guitar for my niece. When I tried them in the shop the sound was a bit thin and boxy. But I managed to find one example with perfect intonation. Bought it. At home I replaced the factory strings with Elixir nano-webs (they gave me a set in the shop) and the sound lost its boxy, cheap quality. Because of the thinbody its sound is very different from my own guitars, and it's a very nice instrument to play - my niece moved elsewhere so now I'm actually looking for one of these cheapies for myself, the problem is to find one.. I obviously can't buy them online because then I would be unable to check the intonation.

In short: I would prefer _any_ cheap, laminated plywood instrument with perfect intonation over any ultra-expensive, super-sounding solid wood instrument with intonation problems. The latter will get more and more on your nerves while with the former you will find how to use it to its best.

strumsilly
01-13-2011, 03:02 AM
I don't know about color being a factor. I had 10 dolphins that I re-strung before giving them away, and the metallic black one was pretty good. I had an assortment of colors too, and two each of the pink burst, purple burst, and three metallic blue. One each of green, metallic black, and lt blue burst. The one that was the most "off" was one of the pink ones. I think it depends more on who was doing the final set-up work at the factory that day. That is going to be pretty variable.
–Lori

I was being facitious about the ukes, but not about the poodles, I have one, and the black ones are really smart, but SNEAKY.

OldePhart
01-13-2011, 01:45 PM
Not sure I like the rope binding on the mainland ukes or I would consider one of them.

Don't let the binding stop you. I'm one of those who, with great trepidation, bought a Mainland in spite of the fact that I really dislike the rope binding. I'm very glad I didn't let the binding stop me. The uke is good enough that I would replace it in a heartbeat if something happened to it. I can't say the rope binding has grown on me, but I will echo what others have said by saying it's not as gaudy in person as it looks in pictures. In any case, I play that uke than more than any of my others - even my KoAloha.

Having a uke with great action and intonation, good projection, and very good tone is far more important to me than having one that is my visual ideal!

John

PS - remember, when you're playing, you don't have to look at the purfling! LOL

andywergedal
01-23-2011, 05:14 PM
I ended up buying a Makala MK-C Concert. It was on sale as a return at the local guitar center. $39.99.

It plays in tune up the whole neck.

I also bought a luna tatoo concert for $89 but I'm going to return it because the makala sounds better.

I can't wait to put on some worth strings.

Thanks for all your advice and helpful tips.

-- Andy