View Full Version : Using YouTube to judge sound quality of Ukes

02-23-2011, 06:54 AM
Ok all you seasoned ukesters that have played and/or heard many great sounding ukes. The poor videos notwithstanding, and assuming a three speaker sound setup on my computer, and that I can't actually play 99% of them anywhere near where I live, how much can I depend on YouTube to determine how good a given uke sounds? This is also assuming it's a decent recording in the first place. (gee, lots of assumptions...sorry)

Brad Bordessa
02-23-2011, 07:21 AM
If it's a decent recording you might be able to get a ballpark idea. But from what I've seen that's kind of rare. Usually you end up with a clipped sound and a little bit of "YT flange" going on. There are a ton of variables to consider. It would be 110x better to play the 'ukulele yourself (see if you can find the 1% in your area). Plus, every instrument sounds a bit different.

02-23-2011, 07:44 AM
I inquired about a guitar, the dealer played it over the phone.
It sounded so totally awesome I bought it.
When it was delievered a few days later it was even better in person.
I am guessing if a uke sounds good on YT, it will sound good in person.
Some of the comparisons of ukes and/or strings are good on YT. Since they are recorded on the same equipment and quality.
Comparing recording from different sources probably may not be representative.

02-23-2011, 08:20 AM
I usually compare a whole lot of YT videos of the same model uke, and see if I can find it on Vimeo which is usually better. Now with HD available it's a little easier to hear through the compression etc. I also use headphones, so I can hear even better. Of the ones I have heard and bought, I have overall been happy with them, and they have had the same characteristics I heard online in person, only of course better.

If that's the only way you can really experience them, and you can't buy used from private parties via Craigslist or the like where you can try it first, then pick one and consider it more like renting. If you don't like the instrument after a few months, get another and sell the first. You won't lose that much. A shop local to me rents for $50 a month, then if you buy you get the rent paid deducted, if not it's gone. They only rent the uke or guitar for three months, then you have to decide.

02-23-2011, 08:35 AM
It's difficult - I did a video that compared some cheap ukes with better ones, and I think the sound difference is noticeable

Had I tried to do a sound difference between a Mainland and a Bushman, it may well have been too subtle to notice unless I seriously upgraded my recording set up

(vid is here btw - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJ0VmBe0r04 )

02-23-2011, 08:54 AM
It is difficult, but I think its still better than no comparison at all. There is a famous (at least among Martin soprano aficionados) YT comparison that compared several popular models. I thought it was fantastic until I took a look at the wave shape in Audacity. All the waveform tops were clipped off straight across losing much of whatever fidelity was there. This was either cause by the mic, the amplifier in his computer, or having the recording volume turned up too high and over driving the input circuits.

02-23-2011, 09:47 AM
IMO, any decent ukulele, when properly tuned and played well will sound good. I believe that the nuances between different ukuleles are hard to distinguish by watching YT videos without side-by-side comparisons. And even then, such comparisons may not be adequate.

I have been sorely disappointed by ordering ukuleles based on video samples. Not that there was anything wrong with the ukuleles I received, per se, just that "their" sound was not "my" sound.

Maybe if I was more of collector, I would not have been so disappointed, but the only reason I purchase a new ukulele, is in the hopes that it will sound better than my "main" player (which I got in March 2008). So far, that hasn't happened...

02-23-2011, 11:25 AM
Other than verifying the existence of the instrument and that it can be tuned, I don't trust YT vids for anything else regarding the assessment of the instrument. For multi-instrument comparisons, a standardized recording technique and setup would be necessary. Even with this, the player will likely introduce variables.

Example: When I visited Larry's Music in Kapa'a, Sam played several 'ukes with his mic setup. There was so much reverb that they all sounded good, even the (then cheap) Kamoas. I know what a Kamoa pineapple sounds like (I have one), and Sam's YT vids are inaccurate (at least w/this 'uke). It doesn't sound that good.

I get much entertainment from YT vids, but I won't buy an 'ukulele without playing it myself, first. YMMV.

Bill Mc
02-23-2011, 11:27 AM
Good question. For example, if someone is using an electronic sustain effect without disclosing that condition then you could not expect the ukulele without that effect to sound the same were you to buy that exact instrument. Caveat emptor is my motto and I judge only what I hear in person.

02-23-2011, 11:42 AM
Unless your three speaker setup is studio monitors, it doesn't mean much. Do you have a good headphone setup? Something analytical driven by at least a decent little headphone amp and DAC? Unless you upgraded your soundcard, it's going to be world's better than what your computer alone could do. Visit the forum head-fi.org for more info there.

But that's only half the story. How the video was made comes into play. Was it recorded with just a camera mic? And then how was the audio compressed when the video was processed? It's only in the general ballpark if the ballpark is huge. But for all its problems, it's the only thing we have, sadly. :(

Typed with a Total Bithead driving TMA-1 headphones. These wouldn't be good for uke testing, as these cans swallow treble and high mids. For uke listening I'd use my Beyerdynamics dt250s, or maybe Alessandro ms-1i (Grado sr125i). My favorite cans can't be driven by my computer setup. Without an amp/dac I'd plug in the Jays V-Jays or Koss Portapros.

02-23-2011, 11:44 AM
I think if the recordings are good quality, noise free, and no effects are added you can usually get a very rough estimate of how the uke might sound in person - especially if you can find a lot of different videos by different people playing a particular model. For example, I have never heard a clip of a Fluke or Flea where I liked the tone and, since there are a lot of such clips out there and, since many of them are of decent basic quality (not clipped, etc.) and, since I've heard many clips of other ukes where I do like the tone and have had the opportunity to play that model of uke and know that I did indeed like the tone - I just don't have any desire to order a Fluke or a Flea. I'm sure they're great ukes, but the preponderance of the evidence indicates that one probably wouldn't ring any bells for me. If I ever have the opportunity to play one in person and find that I like it, then I might have to change plans. LOL


03-08-2011, 12:48 PM
Wow, some super answers, thanks. I think this is extremely valuable info for beginners and many of us who live nowhere near a decent ukulele except one owned by someone else.