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View Full Version : Martin SO and S1 Ukes Very Disappointing



delray48209
08-06-2011, 11:43 AM
Today I traveled to a local Martin Dealer and played the SO and the new S1 soprano ukuleles. I've got to tell you that I was really disappointed with both of them. The SO was $300 and the S1 was $350. I was hunting for a simple, solid mahogany uke. After playing each, I was not impressed at all. The action on the S1 was horrible and the action on the SO was acceptable. After examining and playing each of them, I came away with the conclusion that the Martin's are just over priced. I can't imagine that the formica OXK is any better for the money. I wish Martin could compete with companies offering equal if not better sounding ukuleles for almost half the cost. i

strumsilly
08-06-2011, 11:46 AM
too bad. their old ones are so sweet.

Marcy325
08-06-2011, 12:50 PM
Thanks for posting such honesty. I posted a similar issue today about Mainlands.

Regster
08-06-2011, 01:37 PM
Today I traveled to a local Martin Dealer and played the SO and the new S1 soprano ukuleles. I've got to tell you that I was really disappointed with both of them. The SO was $300 and the S1 was $350. I was hunting for a simple, solid mahogany uke. After playing each, I was not impressed at all. The action on the S1 was horrible and the action on the SO was acceptable. After examining and playing each of them, I came away with the conclusion that the Martin's are just over priced. I can't imagine that the formica OXK is any better for the money. I wish Martin could compete with companies offering equal if not better sounding ukuleles for almost half the cost. i

Your not the only one, I played an s-1 couple of days ago and it has buzzing issues and it has that squeaky sound but it was loud though.

Chris Tarman
08-06-2011, 05:37 PM
I'm not surprised. I own an S-O, which is ok, but not worth the full retail price by a long shot. I own two vintage Martins which are both AMAZING.

allanr
08-06-2011, 05:51 PM
I own a SO and a 1930s vintage Style 1. Today I tried out a S1 at a local music store.

The vintage Martin sounds awesome, but I thought that the S1 sounded very nice, it is also nicely made with an extended fretboard and solid mahogany body. Nicer than the S0 which it replaces. I think it is a nice uke for the price.

Chris Tarman
08-06-2011, 05:52 PM
I must say, I haven't played an S1 yet, or even seen one in person. I am curious to try one out someday. I think they LOOK nicer than the S-O.

countrybumpkin
08-06-2011, 06:18 PM
I have a vintage Martin S-0, Kamaka standard, Favilla soprano, daughter has a Koaloha soprano. I played the OKX and thought that it was a nice instrument and would be happy playing it. The S-O I felt was not worth the time. Can't comment on the S1.

Nuprin
08-07-2011, 02:40 AM
My store just got in the Martin ukes we ordered in February...a couple of S1's (one for the store, one for me) and an OXK. I like them both. I have never played an SO or a vintage Martin but I thought the S1 and OXK were both made well, and they both sound pretty good. I'm definitely not a soprano guy but I've been finding myself playing the S1 one a decent amount since I got it home.

guitarsnrotts
08-07-2011, 04:27 AM
I bought a new S-O at a discounted price. Not a bad uke, but for the going prices of the now discontinued S-O and even it's replacement, the S-1 there are a lot better ukes for the money. They just don't say Martin on the headstock

delray48209
08-07-2011, 04:51 AM
I guess one of the nice things about the OXK is that you could probably play it in the rain without any harmful effects because it's made out of formica. I started thinking that the OXK might make a "take any where Uke." But for about the same money, the Kiwya S1 I'm told sounds awesome compared to the OXK.

Raygf
08-07-2011, 05:42 AM
I'm always disappointed to hear when someone has a bad experience with these Martins. I guess they are just very hit or miss and I got lucky. I did not play full price for the S-O new. I keep it tuned up to D and it sounds great. It has been in my for sale list, but every time I pick it up and play it I change my mind. I have not tried the S-1 and do wish my S-O had an extended neck.

Huna
08-07-2011, 11:44 AM
I have the OXK and like it very much. I have not tried the Kiwaya. I wouldn't call the OXK a laminate as it is formica so its not really wood although it has a lot of wood bracing in it

fabioponta
08-07-2011, 11:58 AM
One thing has to be considered: the strings.
I have an S-O model and when I put Aquila nylgut High G, it really sings with a great attack for this soprano. Even so, I still prefer the tone of my Black Bear mahogany soprano. It is a little less strident, but it sounds very "woody".
I'll get an S-1 this week and I'll do a review with video comparing the two models, both using Aquila.

delray48209
08-07-2011, 02:09 PM
Please post your review on the S-1. I think it would be greatly anticipated.

guitarsnrotts
08-07-2011, 04:35 PM
Currently have Worth brown mediums on my S-O and found them to a big improvement over the Nylguts I tried. Only had the Nylguts on for about a week and just had to swap them out. Didn't like the brassy tone they produced.

Pukulele Pete
08-08-2011, 12:08 AM
I don't understand the bad rap that the SO's get. I have one and it's a nice uke. It's not the same as a vintage Martin but it still sounds good. Right now I have Aquila's on it.

delray48209
08-08-2011, 02:09 AM
When I played the SO and the S-1 side by side, I actually like the SO better. I too don't understand why the SO gets a bad rap. The only bad rap is the price point.

dhoenisch
08-08-2011, 03:48 AM
I played a brand new SO uke at Sam Ash Music a few weeks ago, and fell completely in love with it. That little uke would overpower any of the ones I have with the volume and sweet tone it put out. IF I had $289 to play around with, I would have purchased it right then and there, but alas, I'm broke.

Dan

guitarsnrotts
08-08-2011, 03:59 AM
I'm quite happy with my S-O. Reading the reviews, they seem to be a bit hit or miss on overall quality and sound. Perhaps I lucked out. That being said, I still think for the price there are better ukes out there to be had.

fabioponta
08-08-2011, 08:08 AM
When I played the SO and the S-1 side by side, I actually like the SO better. I too don't understand why the SO gets a bad rap. The only bad rap is the price point.

I have the same opinion:
The S-O has a more vintage look with black nut and saddle, and the short fretboard compared with the "modern" bone nut and saddle, and more frets on the top of the S1 model.

delray48209
08-08-2011, 10:14 AM
Anyone know what the black material nut and saddle is on the SO? Is it tusq, plastic, or mammoth ivory?

guitarsnrotts
08-08-2011, 02:28 PM
The spec sheet list it as Black Corian. Translated: Plastic.

From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corian

delray48209
08-08-2011, 05:20 PM
Too funny. Thanks for the research into the nut and saddle material. You would think after paying $300 plus, they would at least make them out of bone.

Uke Whisperer
08-09-2011, 01:09 AM
Ref a previous post..., # of Ukes
I did make the trip to the dealer to check-out the S-1.
I took my SK-38 to compare.
I took money.
I came home with my Sk-38 and money.

delray48209
08-09-2011, 05:28 AM
I wish Chris Martin would read this thread. It might provide his company some meaningful insight from the players of the Uke community, regarding honest feedback concerning their products. Whats really lacking here is value for the money. I certainly would like to support Martin as since it's an American company. However, Martin should realize their competition is offering a product that is just as good, if not better, for substantially less money. Martin simply cannot rest it's laurels on a headstock decal stating "CF Martin & Company."

With this being said, Martin's formica uke, the oxk, should have a realistic street price of $150.00 (USD) and their solid wood uke, the S-1, should have a street price between $250 and $300 (USD).

fabioponta
08-09-2011, 06:22 PM
I received the two models recently, and I think I can give my opinion about both in comparison.

1. As you can see in the pictures, the mahogany tone of both is a little different, and the S-O seems a little darker.
2. The length of the two ukuleles is the same.
3. The feeling of the neck and the width of the fretboard in the neck is the same. The join between neck and body seems the same. The extended fretboard in the S-1 gives the sensation of some diference.
4. The S-1 has thinner frets (plus markers). I must say that the markers on top and beside of the scale really helps a lot.
5. The action of the strings (I put Aquila Nylgut High G on both) is the lowest in the S-O, because the S-1 model has a bone saddle about 1.5 mm higher than the S-O micarta saddle (both setup by the Martin factory).
6. One big difference is the width of the body, as to be 5 mm smaller in the S-1 compared with the S-O. (The biggest difference is the widest part of the body, and in the other part the difference is less than 3mm, as you can see in the pictures)
7. The top of the S-1 is thicker, and with the extra frets on the fretboard glued on it, the S-1 does not vibrate as much with the sound of each chord.
8. Because of what I described above, the S-O volume is significantly higher than the S-1, which, although S-1 has a good tone wood, was a bit dumb with this top thicker and the fretboard under it.

Resume: I frefer the S-O model because it really sings compared with the S-1 model, both with Aquila strings.

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delray48209
08-09-2011, 07:14 PM
Great observations. The pictures really help in viewing the comparison. Thanks for your time in posting this review.

Uke Whisperer
08-10-2011, 01:11 AM
I see Martin Co. is between a rock and a hard place (especially when it comes to their ukes), just as the furniture companies (years ago) and all the high tech stuff more recently. I worked with a major USA company in the high tech stuff. Everything was made/built/tested in the USA. However, to keep from going down the "whoopee chute" the company chose to move manufacturing to country that now makes most Ukes. They were able to manufacture some parts in the USA, purchase other materials in the USA, purchase electronic sub-assemblies in the USA, then ship them across the big pond where the final products were assembled (with some parts manufactured there), completely tested and then air shipped back to the it's distribution facility in the USA, ALL AT A COST MUCH LOWER THAN IT COSTS THEM TO DO IT ALL HERE! I would LOVE to buy all Martin UKES, but to get the best quality Martins (and of course the "Made in USA" labels) I would have to pay MUCH MORE MONEY! If I had unlimited funds I'd probably have several custom made Martins on the wall!

(there are a few "relatively" Very small Uke manufactures in the USA that have very low overhead that make quality Ukes as long as they only make "relatively" Very few a year.)

just my 2 cents....

ichadwick
08-10-2011, 02:17 AM
I had a chance to play a brand new Martin and a vintage Martin in the same store (Twelfth Fret, Toronto). The vintage Martin was rich, full-bodied and lovely. To my ears, the new Martin sounded thin and plinky. I am not sure if the vintage has benefitted from age, and the new one will also - after another 35 or 50 years. But based solely on that first impression, my Mainland and Kala ukes sound much better for a fraction of the cost.

Joe H
08-10-2011, 04:04 AM
I played a brand new SO uke at Sam Ash Music a few weeks ago, and fell completely in love with it. That little uke would overpower any of the ones I have with the volume and sweet tone it put out. IF I had $289 to play around with, I would have purchased it right then and there, but alas, I'm broke.

Dan

I also played one at Sam Ash hand have to agree with what dhoenisch said. The only thing that bothered me was the missing fret markers, but that's because I'm used to having them there.

Pukulele Pete
08-10-2011, 04:16 AM
I put Style 1 type markers on my SO and two side markers and it really transformed the uke for me , made it easier for me to play. It really does need them IMHO . I haven't played the S1 , I really dislike the extended fretboard , that's enough to stop me from wanting one.

Raygf
08-10-2011, 04:44 AM
I wish Chris Martin would read this thread. It might provide his company some meaningful insight from the players of the Uke community, regarding honest feedback concerning their products. Whats really lacking here is value for the money. I certainly would like to support Martin as since it's an American company. However, Martin should realize their competition is offering a product that is just as good, if not better, for substantially less money. Martin simply cannot rest it's laurels on a headstock decal stating "CF Martin & Company."
With this being said, Martin's formica uke, the oxk, should have a realistic street price of $150.00 (USD) and their solid wood uke, the S-1, should have a street price between $250 and $300 (USD).

I will start with a "Captain Obvious" comment, ukes made in North America cost more than ukes made elsewhere because workers elsewhere get paid practically nothing in comparison and the general cost of doing business is higher. I know the OXK, S-O and S-1 are made in Martin's Mexican facility. These Martins do have a higher retail price compared to ukes made in China and elsewhere in Asia and I think they might sell better if they cost 20-25% less than actual retail price. I paid less that retail for my S-O new and like it. I guess Martin doesn't need them to sell better. The employees I saw and spoke with at the Martin factory in PA seemed very happy to be working for Martin. The Made in the USA Martin ukes that are being built right now list at the cost of a hand made custom uke, some for the cost of several. The 3 Cherry lists for $1999 and the new 5K lists for $5199?
http://www.martinguitar.com/ukuleles/soprano.html

Ironically, the US made Martins have a market in Japan. That's what helped Chris Martin make his decision to get back into making more uke models at the US factory. He talks about it at the 5:00 mark.

http://youtu.be/zrk_n6Nr5lI

fabioponta
08-10-2011, 06:32 AM
Anyone know what the black material nut and saddle is on the SO? Is it tusq, plastic, or mammoth ivory?

Black Micarta saddle and Black Corian nut: both very hard material, modern, and not at all compared to plastic, is actually harder than bone, and is used in many martin guitars.

So, I'm curious: anyone know what the black material nut and saddle is on the '30 - '50s vintage Martin models? ebony?

Deek
08-10-2011, 07:44 AM
I am not sure if the vintage has benefitted from age, and the new one will also - after another 35 or 50 years.

As an S-O owner (I paid about half the $349 street price), I've wondered the same thing. My S-O is a decent uke; not as sweet sounding as my koa instruments but it plays fine and has good volume. We'll let our grandchildren continue the debate.

Huna
08-10-2011, 10:27 AM
I really like my OXK and hence emailed Martin and told them they should make similar ukes in other sizes.