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View Full Version : Whats wrong with a laminate ukulele



NoahOathKeeper
11-10-2011, 06:11 AM
why are people so down on a laminate ukulele ? my first uke was a laminate Oscar smite soprano , and it still plays great , only reason i ever wanted another one is i want a size or 2 bigger . im looking for more of a explanation , is it purely sound and if so its it a Huge difference ? or is it sturdiness ? etc . all input is VERY welcome.
Thank you

hoosierhiver
11-10-2011, 06:21 AM
There is nothing "wrong" with them, generally speaking solid wood just sounds better.
Laminates do have an advantage of being resistant to cracking.

Lalz
11-10-2011, 06:22 AM
Solid woods usually sound better, but it's not a universal rule. Some laminates sound great, some solids sound dull.
Laminates are sturdier though and suffer less from variations in humidity and temperature.
Plus and cons for both IMO.

Gadzukes!
11-10-2011, 06:32 AM
Laminates are less expensive. For many people, this implies lower quality.

As many people here will tell you, some laminate ukes can sound wonderful, and some solid ukes can sound bad. A company that uses laminates is possibly more likely to be concerned about cost than quality.

The only way you can tell how good a uke will sound is to pick it up and play it!

SailingUke
11-10-2011, 06:33 AM
There is NOTHING wrong with a well made laminate.
Wood as gotten to be expensive, laminates are a way to reduce the cost of the raw material.
Solid wood instruments tend to change tonally with age, most laminates will be the same as they age.

strumsilly
11-10-2011, 06:51 AM
My Kala with a laminate back and sides and a solid spruce top was one of my best sounding ukes. I'm sorry I sold it. All of the ukes I've had with solid tops have sounded better than laminate tops.. I'm not so sure that having a solid back and sides matters as much. but then all laminates are not created equal. I,ve never played one of the Kiwaya lams, but many people like them.

modern day ukuleleist
11-10-2011, 07:00 AM
Solid wood instruments tend to change tonally with age, most laminates will be the same as they age.

Don't folks usually say they sound better with age?

I've never owned a solid wood instrument yet, so I have no personal experience.

Nickie
11-10-2011, 07:07 AM
My daughter's laminate ukulele is the loudest and crispest sounding uke I have ever heard.

SailingUke
11-10-2011, 07:12 AM
Don't folks usually say they sound better with age?

I've never owned a solid wood instrument yet, so I have no personal experience.

"Better" is purely subjective.
Solid wood instruments change and most of us think for the better.

PoiDog
11-10-2011, 07:21 AM
Like everyone else here has said, there is nothing inherently wrong with laminate at all. Many sound fantastic, and they are considerably less expensive than solids.

But, a quality solid will simply sound and age better than a laminate, despite how good that laminate is. There are properties of solid wood in regards to vibration and resonance that laminates simply can't duplicate because laminates don't have uniform grain, structure, etc. Of course, the type of wood and the quality of construction are critical, but all things being equal, solid wood adds texture and character to the sound that laminates (by their nature) are incapable of.

It's like anything else where one can compare. A Honda Civic is a fine car, but it isn't a Lexus iS or an Infinity G35. A DVD is a great way to watch movies, but it isn't as good as a Blu-Ray. The old PS2 is a really cool gaming console, but it isn't as awesome as the PS3.

So, when people go on about solids, it isn't meant to imply that laminates suck, but that solids are (usually) just better.

PoiDog
11-10-2011, 07:40 AM
I'm not so sure that having a solid back and sides matters as much.

This is correct. The top of the instrument is the main source of the sound, since it's what receives the vibrations from the string. The back & sides mainly provide a structure on which the soundboard can vibrate freely, as well as acting as a chamber to re-direct the backwards vibrations out through the puka. Since the back & sides don't directly vibrate from the strings, their purpose is mainly to reflect and support, so the materials from which they are constructed isn't nearly as critical as the top. However, the back and sides will have a sympathetic vibration to the soundboard, so in this sense the principles that make solid wood better than laminate apply. However, since this sympathetic vibration isn't the main source of the sound (they only provide a slightly out-of-sync secondary sound), the difference between laminate and solid isn't nearly as noticeable.

At least, that's what I can deduce from both what I can remember from physics, and what I've learned from talking to folks who know the nuts and bolts of instruments way better than I ever will.

If I am wrong about this, please do correct me! I'd hate to pass on the wrong info.

Coconut Willie
11-10-2011, 07:55 AM
There's nothing wrong with a laminate uke.

Gadzukes!
11-10-2011, 08:16 AM
If I am wrong about this, please do correct me! I'd hate to pass on the wrong info.

Info sounds right, but what is a puka? A did a Google search, but I can't imagine it's putting vibrations out through a tree or small shrub. ;)

PoiDog
11-10-2011, 08:23 AM
Info sounds right, but what is a puka? A did a Google search, but I can't imagine it's putting vibrations out through a tree or small shrub. ;)

Puka is the Hawai'ian word for hole, opening, etc. :)

phil hague
11-10-2011, 09:14 AM
The laminate ukes are fine. I,ve got both and I am very happy with my cheap laminate sk10s. My laminate concert Lanikai sounds good inlow g. My equivalent solid wood ukes are a bit louder and perhaps a little more responsive, but they cost a lot more so I am reluctant to take them where they may get damaged. So yes the laminates are good, don,t believe everything that people tell you, try the instruments for yourself and buy what you like. Keep pickin. Phil

NoahOathKeeper
11-10-2011, 09:32 AM
Great responses y'all, thanks bunches . So how do you tell if your top is solid or not ?

OldePhart
11-10-2011, 11:07 AM
Theoretically, it should be possible to make a laminated ukulele that is louder than most solid wood ukes. In practice, laminated materials almost always mean overall cheaper construction because the laminate is used to save cost, not optimize the characteristics of the uke.

That doesn't mean laminated ukes are terrible - if you are in envrionmentally harsh conditions they are far more likely to survive casual treatment. Also, if you are almost always using a pickup then a laminated uke can be fine, or even an advantage at high gains where a really responsive top will feed back all too easily.

Still, in most cases you will be getting a louder, better sounding, and sometimes more playable uke if you get one with at least a solid top. The back and sides are far less critical. Solid wood isn't necessarily "better" - it's certainly possible to build a very dead uke using solid woods - but generally a uke with solid wood will also be a little more carefully designed and built.

John

willisoften
11-10-2011, 01:20 PM
I'd rate my Kiwaya KS1 laminate over most 'solid' wood instruments in the same price range, it isn't a cheap uke either.
I have solid mahogany KTS5 as well but the KS1 still gets a lot of play-time.
Nothing wrong with a well made laminate.

OldePhart
11-11-2011, 11:27 AM
I'd rate my Kiwaya KS1 laminate over most 'solid' wood instruments in the same price range, it isn't a cheap uke either.
I have solid mahogany KTS5 as well but the KS1 still gets a lot of play-time.
Nothing wrong with a well made laminate.

Yeah, my Kiwaya KSL2 is very good - not quite up to my KoAloha but better than some solid-wood ukes. The Kiwaya S series ukes are kind of in a class by themselves, though; I don't know of any other mfr making laminated ukes with either that quality of thin laminate or with the attention to detail.

John

mandrew
11-13-2011, 11:03 AM
I own a new Kanile'a Islander concert, which is laminate. It is however, a very high quality laminate, which is the importanat point. also, workmanship and design can make all of the difference! My instrument hs a slightly arched back, very good and light bracing, very thin but strong laminate, and good strings. It sounds as good as meny moderatly priced solid tops. It sounds as good to me as the solid spruce top Kala travel uke that I had (which is a very good instrument), and actually a little better. Laminate by itself is not the measure of the instrument.