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river_driver
11-28-2011, 01:05 PM
Something I've been ruminating on for a week or so (and forgive me if it's already been discussed to death).

Seems like more and more of the entry-level uke companies are offering ukes with solid mahogany tops and laminate mahogany backs/sides.

The virtues of solid wood soundboards are beyond debate. My question is, do the back & sides of a uke really contribute much in the way of tone, or do they just serve as the walls of the resonating chamber? Furthermore, even if the sides & back did have a tonal contribution to the sound of the instrument, wouldn't much of that contribution be muted by the fact that you hold a uke against your body, dampening the vibration?

If the back and sides do significantly contribute to the voice of the instrument, should there be something like this gizmo available for ukes?
http://elderly.com/accessories/items/TGM1.htm

Discuss. I'd appreciate the wisdom of any of the luthiers among us!

Cheers,
r_d

Nickie
11-28-2011, 02:30 PM
Having owned a decent mandolin in the past, I know that they are quieter than the average ukulele. I wouldn't even consider putting that thing on my uke, but mine doesn't need it. If I want to make more noise, I hook up to my amp!
Ibanez swears up and down to me that laminated (sides and back) instruments hold up better. Maybe that's true. And you can do more pretty wood designs cheaper, too. I don't think they sound better with playing like a solid wood uke does though.

BlackBearUkes
11-28-2011, 02:37 PM
An all solid wood uke is always going to out shine the top/laminate ( if the woods are the same, say Mahogany or Koa, etc.) version if it is well constructed and if the luthier knows what they are doing. Anybody who tells you different hasn't done their homework. If your talking strictly factory or import factory instruments, all bets are off, then you have to let your ears decide.

mr moonlight
11-28-2011, 03:01 PM
An all solid wood uke is always going to out shine the top/laminate ( if the woods are the same, say Mahogany or Koa, etc.) version if it is well constructed and if the luthier knows what they are doing. Anybody who tells you different hasn't done their homework. If your talking strictly factory or import factory instruments, all bets are off, then you have to let your ears decide.If you're talking tops yes. For backs and sides it's much more debatable. Like BlackBear said, solid wood is always going to outshine laminate ones when it comes to high quality Ukes, but if it's a high quality uke it will have a solid top anyways.

KamakOzzie
11-28-2011, 03:20 PM
If the back and sides do significantly contribute to the voice of the instrument, should there be something like this gizmo available for ukes?
http://elderly.com/accessories/items/TGM1.htm

Cheers,
r_d


There is.......
http://www.tone-gard.com/Home

30433

Bill

BlackBearUkes
11-28-2011, 03:47 PM
An all solid uke isn't going to have the addition of glue like laminated sides or back, making it a much tighter structure. Once the top is glued to the rest of the structure, the sides, back and neck, an all solid uke is going to be just that, solid. It won't have voids or rely on glue for its strength. If you are happy with a laminated uke and think it will sound as good and actually you can't hear the difference, than go for it. Having built over 400 wooden acoustic instruments and having work on hundreds and hundred of laminated instruments over the years, I am here to tell you laminated instruments don't age as well or sound as good when they get older. Once the laminations start to separate, and we can't always see that, the sound suffers greatly. If the bridge starts to lift from a laminated top, it usually will take the top lamination with it, thus destroying the top plate. Ovation instruments are one of the worse for this problem. If the instrument gets dropped and the laminated side or back is damaged, its an ugly repair, if it can be repaired.

I would encourage anyone who wants a good instrument to stay away from laminated ukes, guitars or whatever. I hate to see good wood like Koa, rosewood, spruce, mahogany, etc. get cut up and made into laminated instruments. I really don't care if they are cheaper or how they look, IMO in the long run its a waste of resources that we should be putting more value on. It is not a finite resource.

philpot
11-28-2011, 04:20 PM
Ovation instruments are one of the worse for this problem. If the instrument gets dropped and the laminated side or back is damaged, its an ugly repair, if it can be repaired.


But oh how I love the Ovation sound <3 :P

ukegirl
11-28-2011, 05:00 PM
Have to say that my Kamoa all lam sounds pretty gosh darn good!!

ricdoug
11-28-2011, 05:09 PM
No fruit baskets will be attached to any of my instruments. Ovation/Adamas/Applause/Flukes/Fleas are prime examples that the sides and back do not have as much to do with sound as the tops. Ric

philpot
11-28-2011, 05:21 PM
No fruit baskets will be attached to any of my instruments. Ovation/Adamas/Applause/Flukes/Fleas are prime examples that the sides and back do not have as much to do with sound as the tops. Ric

Maybe not as much to do with it, but definitely something. As an owner of a '79 Ovation custom balladeer, I can say that the tone is completely *different* than any other guitar I have ever played, and I love it to death. That said, that sound doesn't appeal to everyone, and all solid wood instruments definitely have a different sound than solid top/laminate-or-plastic-sides and back.

ukegirl
11-28-2011, 05:24 PM
A guy named Django did Ok with a guitar that had a laminated back and sides....this guy named Mario figured out how to make plastic sound ok too!

joejeweler
11-28-2011, 05:54 PM
A guy named Django did Ok with a guitar that had a laminated back and sides....this guy named Mario figured out how to make plastic sound ok too!

Do you really want an instrument that sounds "OK",....or one that sounds "GREAT" and gets better over time?

Also,.....pride of ownership and knowing the ukulele was made of top tier materials goes a long way to long term satisfaction in owning it. A Rolex watch isn't as accurate in absolute terms as a cheap Timex quartz watch,......but who needs better than 2-5 seconds a day accuracy in the real world?

I will quarantee the Rolex will last longer if properly cared for, maintain it's value over time (especially if bought used but in excellent condition),.....and will put a smile on your face every day you wear it.

A solid wood ukulele that is well built will also maintain it's value, also especially when bought used and built by a well respected builder. And the smile on on your face will be the same. :D

consitter
11-28-2011, 06:22 PM
Do you really want an instrument that sounds "OK",....or one that sounds "GREAT" and gets better over time?

Also,.....pride of ownership and knowing the ukulele was made of top tier materials goes a long way to long term satisfaction in owning it. A Rolex watch isn't as accurate in absolute terms as a cheap Timex quartz watch,......but who needs better than 2-5 seconds a day accuracy in the real world?

I will quarantee the Rolex will last longer if properly cared for, maintain it's value over time (especially if bought used but in excellent condition),.....and will put a smile on your face every day you wear it.

A solid wood ukulele that is well built will also maintain it's value, also especially when bought used and built by a well respected builder. And the smile on on your face will be the same. :D

Couldn't be said better, as I am both an ukulele and a watch junkie.

Scott

coriandre
11-28-2011, 07:01 PM
I have an old Yamaha guitar that I own since the 70's and it is laminated. Beleive me, the sound did not get better, it is much worst over the years. Laminated, is very thin layers glued together. There is no strenght in the wood, it is the glue that holds it together. If you try two equal instruments with the same top and one has solid maple back and sides while the other has rosewood back and sides, you will clearly hear the difference. The wood for back and sides does play a part in the sound.

BlackBearUkes
11-28-2011, 07:30 PM
You can make a string instrument out of anything that will hold the strings and it will make a sound. If you think plastics, cardboard, tin or jello sounds good then you will be easier to please then others. The original question is will laminates make a difference in the sound and the correct answer is yes. Do you think anybody would be collecting and playing old Martin or Kamaka ukes if the backs, sides or tops were made of laminates? The answer is no because they wouldn't be around to play and they would sound like the crap they are made of.

I would think the number one thing that most folks are interested in when purchasing a good instrument is the sound. To get really good sound the instrument has to be made with the best materials by someone who has the ability to build it right. IMO, solid wood is the way to achieve the best sound for now and years down the road.

ukegirl
11-29-2011, 01:55 AM
Django Reinhardt is the Django I was referring to and "ok" was a bit tongue in cheek, and the Mario I referenced is Mario Maccaferri....I've owned a Rolex and sold it as I did not care for it(yes a real one)....the point I was making was that build quality goes a long way and materials just count for so much...I've owned and played both solid and Laminated Martins (guitars) and the DM's I played sounded every bit as good as a D-18 or a D-16 (better than the D-16 quite honestly) But you are right, the DM was a lot less expensive up front, and they do not hold value like a D-18..but still a great sounding guitar that played well. I guess I like workhorse style instruments that I do not have to worry so much about when traveling or playing...I've seen my far share of really expensive instruments get knocked off stands on stage resulting in a lot of heart ache...My whole point just was that a well built and properly braced laminate instrument can sound better than a poorly made solid one..not looking for a fight, just adding my experience to the collective...

ukeeku
11-29-2011, 02:02 AM
I understand the love of solid wood ukes, but..... one of the most lively ukes I have ever played was all laminate. The Kiwaya KS-1 is all laminate and it rocks.
The Review: http://ukeeku.com/2011/01/11/kiwaya-ks-1-full-review/
The reason is that it is a special laminate that was produced for sound and made super thin. One point that I think is being missed is the use of laminates as a way to not have to brace the uke as much. the best built ukes have very little bracing since it can impeed the sound. By using a laminate you can eliminate bracing in a small instrument like a ukulele all together if you wanted to, no one does, but it can be done if the laminate is made for the purpose of making an instrument. The loudedest most booming guitar I own is a Guild D4. it has laminate sides and backs. The amzing thing about it is the fact is has no bracing on the back. they made the back curved like a violin back to help project the sound. If it can be done on a guitar, it can be done on a uke.

I will leave with this, and I expect to be yelled at for this. The materials have very little to do with the sound of an instrument. it is the maker and design that make the biggest difference. We have been brain washed a bit into the idea that specific woods make a difference in the sound. reality is that to work with the different woods pushes people to make decisions on how they have to treat the wood in the proccess of making the ukulele (How thin can they plain it, how does it bend, does it need a thicker finish since it dents, pour filling,...)the skill and process and the hundreds of little things that go into the instrument are what makes it sound the way that it does. Using a laminate can be a choice to use a diffent technology that can help make the sound better. I have found that if the company can not make a good sounding laminate, then they also can't make an all solid one either (Ibanez)

strumsilly
11-29-2011, 02:31 AM
Short answer- It matters , but not that much.just get the best you can afford that sounds and plays good.

longer answer- I own and play all solid [KoAloha;.Gibson.Kiwaya] . solid top only [Lanakai], laminate, part plastic. and all plastic.[Islander, Kala]IMHO the materials do matter, but so does the design and skill of the builder.Sound is subjective.All of my ukes sound different and I like the differences.

roxhum
11-29-2011, 03:36 AM
It seems this conversation is a little off the original question which was for a laminate back and sides with solid wood top, not an all laminate. That said it has been an interesting conversation. I have a luthier made laminate back and sides with solid top and love it. It is well made, a dream to play. I couldn't compare if the sound was comparable as an all solid wood without playing a solid wood made my the same luthier. The sound is sweet, but not my best sounding, or my worse. Well that was a ramble. Sorry, more coffee needed.

southcoastukes
11-29-2011, 07:23 AM
Laminate construction, by it's inherent nature, has a lot more variables than solid. As such, it's really impossible to make the kind of simplistic generalizations found in this thread.

It's also not necessary to characterize others as "easy to satisfy" owners of "jello" & "crap".

BlackBearUkes
11-29-2011, 10:05 AM
Maybe if you had more experience as a repairman for years you might come to realize that fixing formica, plastic lyracord, and plywood instruments is a waste of time and effort. They are what they are and I get to decide what is crap and what is not. You may have a more generous outlook for these when it comes to sound and repair, I don't.

Materials don't have much to do with the sound of an instrument? You are obviously not a luthier and that statement is very naive. Give a good luthier some really bad woods and there is just so far his skills can take him. Give a beginner some really nice tone woods and let them build their first instrument with it. Which do you think will sound better?

ichadwick
11-29-2011, 11:21 AM
An all solid wood uke is always going to out shine the top/laminate ( if the woods are the same, say Mahogany or Koa, etc.) ....
Not necessarily so. Depends on the wood, construction and size of the body, bracing, string type, finish, saddle material, etc.

Basically back and sides are reflective surfaces, not transmission surfaces. Laminates are often very good at reflecting, so they can do a better job. Especially true if the inside plies are a dense wood like rosewood or ebony. Some solid wood backs and sides absorb more of the energy than they reflect.

southcoastukes
11-29-2011, 01:15 PM
Maybe if you had more experience as a repairman for years you might come to realize that fixing formica, plastic lyracord, and plywood instruments is a waste of time and effort. They are what they are and I get to decide what is crap and what is not. You may have a more generous outlook for these when it comes to sound and repair, I don't.

First, you have no idea of my experience. Second, it is of an extent that it certainly would not take me years to know that repairing cheap instruments, however they are made, is not worthwhile. Sorry if it took you a long time to figure it out - it appears to have made you quite bitter.

Am also sorry to inform you that you do not get to decide what is "crap" for anyone other than yourself. It would be kind of amusing, however, to hear you tell LaCote, Ramirez or Smallman what you thought of their work, or John Williams, perhaps, what you think of his guitar.




Materials don't have much to do with the sound of an instrument? You are obviously not a luthier and that statement is very naive. Give a good luthier some really bad woods and there is just so far his skills can take him. Give a beginner some really nice tone woods and let them build their first instrument with it. Which do you think will sound better?


And this is the most amazing thing I've ever heard from someone who calls himself a luthier. While this thread has branched off a bit, it is about the relative merit of back and side material. Anyone who has "done his homework" know would know that the most famous illustration of the importance of these materials came from a fellow named Torres (ring a bell?). He had more than a little skill, of course, but I'd put his guitar with backs and sides of papier-mache (talk about your micro-laminates!) up against any first-timer with rosewood. Bad soundboard? - different story.

.............

Finally, please try to show a little more respect for the members of this forum.

Drew Bear
11-29-2011, 02:34 PM
Dirk, here's a quote from your website:


Therefore, by definition, we are building laminated backs. It is a process, however, that is like night and day compared to factory plywood construction. It is like building a series of solid backs, and so is more time consuming and expensive than solid construction. We will refer to this construction as a “luthier grade laminate”.

My assumption has been that this discussion has never referred to “luthier grade laminate”, only the mass-produced variety.

Let's say I was considering an Islander Soprano ukulele from Kanile'a, a well-respected company. The laminate version (MS-4) costs $90 less than the solid mahogany version (MSS-4). Is not that a tacit admission that the solid wood uke is "better"? If you consider the ukulele purchase over a longer time frame (5-10 years), will the solid wood uke not age better and hold its value longer?

pdxuke
11-29-2011, 03:00 PM
There are reasons, I suppose, to own solid tops and laminate sides and back. I can't think of any, however, with all due respect to my friends who disagree.

The Kiwaya KS1 is kick ass, true, but in the end, my all mahogany Ohana SK38 won in the battle for my ears (and of course the Kiwaya is all laminate--albeit high quality superlaminate!)

When a company like Ohana can make a consistently good all mahogany uke for the price it charges, I can't see any reason except personal visual aesthetics to buy a partial laminate.

Personally, I can hear a difference: even my beloved Ohana builds a solid top laminate side and back uke. It sounds good--but no where near as good as the all mahogany version.


Here's a sound check of the all mahogany SK38
http://soundcloud.com/pdxuke/sets/uke-sound-tests-1/

and SK35
http://soundcloud.com/pdxuke/sets/uke-sound-tests-1/

southcoastukes
11-29-2011, 03:16 PM
My assumption has been that this discussion has never referred to “luthier grade laminate”, only the mass-produced variety.

Let's say I was considering an Islander Soprano ukulele from Kanile'a, a well-respected company. The laminate version (MS-4) costs $90 less than the solid mahogany version (MSS-4). Is not that a tacit admission that the solid wood uke is "better"? If you consider the ukulele purchase over a longer time frame (5-10 years), will the solid wood uke not age better and hold its value longer?

An excellent question!

That's why in my first post I said:


Laminate construction, by it's inherent nature, has a lot more variables than solid. As such, it's really impossible to make the kind of simplistic generalizations found in this thread.

I don't know anything about the particulars of the Islander, however I spent a number of years in wood furniture manufacturing. Laminates in a factory setting are indeed different from a luthier built laminate. For a small shop, good laminates are more expensive than solid. For a factory they can be less for a number of reasons.

First, veneer drying on a large scale is much less expensive than drying solid wood. You're talking a few minutes on a conveyor through an oven versus a week or so in a kiln. The next factor is warranty cost. It is always less with a laminate instrument because they are so much less likely to crack.

Then, depending on how the laminate board is built, the material could be cheaper. This depends, however, on the materials in the laminate. With a fancy veneer and high quality core and liners, the laminate board could actually cost more, so it is often the first two considerations which are more important.

Finally, market perception plays into the equation. Don't think that if the perception is that solid is worth more, manufacturers won't take advantage of that.

As to holding value, that's again affected a lot by perception. As to aging - well - here's an 1830 LaCote:



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-xkHcpbNZk

ukegirl
11-29-2011, 03:16 PM
Here's a link to the ultimate in laminated Ukes.....very easy to repair and not made of jello.....:)

http://elderly.com/new_instruments/names/tofukulele-soprano-uke--TSU1-006.htm

ukegirl
11-29-2011, 03:19 PM
And this is sure to ruffle a few feathers....sorry!!! Inspired by the now-infamous guitar the Bob Taylor made in 1995 to prove that it's the design and the builder, and not the wood, that define a great guitar,


http://www.taylorguitars.com/guitars/archive/older/pallet.html

ukegirl
11-29-2011, 03:22 PM
But I'm sure it was made out of a solid pallet!! :o

BlackBearUkes
11-29-2011, 03:39 PM
My all time favorite quote from Bob Taylor was one he voiced at a Guild of America Luthiers convention some years back. In this business there is only thing I care about at the end of the day, the Bank.

ricdoug
11-29-2011, 03:44 PM
Maybe if you had more experience as a repairman for years you might come to realize that fixing formica, plastic lyracord, and plywood instruments is a waste of time and effort. They are what they are and I get to decide what is crap and what is not.

Actually, the customer decides what is crap and what is not. Luthiers and manufacturers have been chasing for consumers for a long time. I love how the Telecaster was referred to as a "a machine" in this movie (one of my favorites and it's FREE to watch):

http://www.snagfilms.com/films/title/solidbodies

ricdoug
11-29-2011, 03:54 PM
Have to say that my Kamoa all lam sounds pretty gosh darn good!!

This is what counts in the end. You're instrument is pleasing to your ears and it puts a smile on your face! Ric

ricdoug
11-29-2011, 03:58 PM
My all time favorite quote from Bob Taylor was one he voiced at a Guild of America Luthiers convention some years back. In this business there is only thing I care about at the end of the day, the Bank.

Taylor makes fine instruments locally. So does Carvin. I was at a jam with the Southern California Slack Key Society and it looked like a commercial for Taylor! Ric

southcoastukes
11-29-2011, 04:10 PM
....the glue is a major factor in how long the instrument will last in both laminated and solid instruments. If there is a problem with the glue, eventually it will affect the life of the instrument, and if is causes separation of laminates or components then the sound of the instrument will change. However, I have seen well made guitars from Japan that are well over 50 years old and made of laminate with amazing tones, which are improving with age.
It is fun to pass the time talking about laminates vs solid, but if you are actually looking to buy a uke, spend more time finding a maker you like and a nice sound than you do worrying about the wood, and you are likely to be a lot happier with the result.

Well said.

Glue is obviously a big, big concern with a laminate. Not only the longevity, but the tone right out of the gate. Without knowing it for a fact, I would venture to say that this is the downfall of many factory made instruments with laminated back and sides.

You can pretty much tell when the glue is not right as soon as the board leaves the clamps. We experimented with more than a few. Some glues just suck up sound. LaCote used hide glue (and he didn't do so bad), but nowadays it turns out there are even better sounding options.

Your final piece of advice is best of all. Just go for a sound that pleases you. I've heard Black Bear, for instance, makes very nice sounding ukuleles, even if they are solid.

Nickie
11-29-2011, 04:44 PM
This thread is hilarious!

BlackBearUkes
11-29-2011, 05:01 PM
Good one Dirk! I think I'll use that. Oh, and by the way, Torres only made one papier-mache guitar. I guess it didn't hold up well, maybe bad glue? I'm thinkin' there could be a market there if the import brands don't steal it first. (Probably already to late)

ricdoug
11-29-2011, 05:10 PM
This thread is hilarious!

:agree:

Ur not one of them there "Luthierans" r ya, Nickie? :D

mr moonlight
11-29-2011, 07:26 PM
This thread has definitely been entertaining.

Really, anyone who thinks that either is better doesn't have a clue. They are simply different methods for putting together the backs and sides of an instrument. It's less expensive to produce instruments with laminate backs and sides and less desirable by consumers. So the end result is that the vast majority of laminate instruments are budget factory ones and we all know that construction quality on those is on the south end of the scale. Taylor makes some pretty nice sounding guitars with laminate backs and sides that put quite a few all solid wood instruments to shame. Sure, their solid wood instruments are better, but they're still putting really good instruments into the hands of players that don't have quite the budget for a higher end one.

What would you rather play. A 200 series Taylor with laminate backs and sides or a $500 all solid wood Washburn. I wouldn't get so hung up on solid vs. laminates. Just get the best sound/playing instrument you can afford.

Solid tops on the other hand is a different story.

ricdoug
11-29-2011, 07:48 PM
Taylor makes some pretty nice sounding guitars with laminate backs and sides that put quite a few all solid wood instruments to shame. Sure, their solid wood instruments are better, but they're still putting really good instruments into the hands of players that don't have quite the budget for a higher end one.

What would you rather play. A 200 series Taylor with laminate backs and sides or a $500 all solid wood Washburn. I wouldn't get so hung up on solid vs. laminates. Just get the best sound/playing instrument you can afford.

Solid tops on the other hand is a different story.

Is your real name Confucious? :confused: If so, did you move to Florida for the superior weather? :)

bbqribs
11-29-2011, 08:00 PM
I prefer to wear solid tops.

ricdoug
11-29-2011, 08:11 PM
I can clear an entire stadium if I don't wear a solid top! :eek:

Drew Bear
11-29-2011, 09:25 PM
I was searching for something else and stumbled on this 2010 thread:

Solid vs. Laminate - Let the struggle continue (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?39264-Solid-vs.-Laminate-Let-the-struggle-continue)

There are probably more such discussions...past, present & future.

Ken Middleton
11-29-2011, 09:59 PM
Maybe not as much to do with it, but definitely something. As an owner of a '79 Ovation custom balladeer, I can say that the tone is completely *different* than any other guitar I have ever played, and I love it to death. That said, that sound doesn't appeal to everyone, and all solid wood instruments definitely have a different sound than solid top/laminate-or-plastic-sides and back.

I have owned several Ovation guitars and they have all had superb quality spruce tops. They were beautifully made instruments. Even so, they did not really sound like most of the other quality American guitars (Taylor, Martin, Collings, Guild, etc). However it is a pity that Ovation don't make ukes.

mr moonlight
11-29-2011, 10:18 PM
Is your real name Confucious? :confused: If so, did you move to Florida for the superior weather? :)

Ha ha ha ha!!!! This made my day... or I guess it's still night.

Pippin
11-29-2011, 11:09 PM
I have to chime in here. I have read the entire thread. So, I will make a few comments in response to some of these posts...

First off, a laminate is only as good as the bonding agent holding it together. I have never owned an instrument that de-laminated, but, then again, I am NOT klutzy, have never knocked over a guitar, have never left one in severe climate conditions, or abused one. There are old instruments that were built using hide glue (or is that hyde glue - hehe) that I have seen that delaminated, but, most modern bonding agents used on guitars and ukuleles are stronger than the woods being used.

A well-made laminate is stronger than any solid wood, period. It is more dimensionally stable. It has the potential to be crafted into a lightweight, finely-made instrument that will provide a life-time of pleasure. However, most laminated instruments are made with cheaper materials to save money and time. You cannot, to Dirk's point, compare a luthier-built laminated instrument to a factory-built instrument the vast majority of the time. With one or two exceptions, factory-built laminates are at the lower end of the performance scale.

Laminated instruments do not age the same way that solid-wood instruments do. It's that pesky glue, again. A well-made laminated instrument will actually age better in many ways. It will be far less likely to crack due to humidity or lack thereof. It will also be a bit stronger at the seams due to dimensional stability. It is less likely to sustain compression cracks, which is how guitars can be built with shaped backs that don't need bracing, like some Taylor and Guild models.

I have owned six Ovation guitars and played them all over the place, including at high elevations where it is pretty arid. Most of these guitars were laminated topped and I bought them for gigging and playing "plugged" most of the time. They held tune better than any other instruments I ever played because they had laminated tops and lyrachord backs-- shallow bowls, deep bowls, cut-aways, and everything in between. When I sold them, they were not scratched up, beat up, or damaged in any way-- even after years of use.

Laminated back and sides on a well-built uke can make for an instrument that stays in tune better and has less likelihood of cracking with age. If it sounds good to your ears, it probably always will. It should not delaminate if you take good care of it.

@Dirk... man, that parlor guitar was SWEET!

Gadzukes!
11-30-2011, 06:46 AM
The problem here is that what you're comparing is completely subjective.

My dad was considered by some to be the founder of high-end audio. As a kid, I was lucky enough to get to sit in on listening tests of some of the best equipment you could get, surrounded by some of the best ears in the business. There was rarely consensus on what sounded best. That's because "best" is a subjective term, and it means different things to different people (for my father it was all about the accuracy of reproduced sound vs live, but he was a purist).

The best sounding ukulele is the one you like, whether it's made out of solid wood, laminate, or cardboard. There may be advantages of one over the other in terms of instrument durability, but as has been pointed out, even that depends on a lot of variables.

I have three ukes, two of which are solid and one is laminate. When I play them for my friends, a number of them have said they prefer the sound of the laminate.

Anyone who claims they know what sounds "best" deserves a raised eyebrow and a dose of skepticism.

coolkayaker1
11-30-2011, 07:34 AM
However it is a pity that Ovation don't make ukes.

Isn't the Applause uke a division of Ovation? I don't know the answer.

For what it's worth, here's fodder for the design and construction over solid versus laminate camp: my Silver Creek all-solid mahogany (same company as Koalau U-600) is absolutely, hands-down the poorest sounding, cheapest piece of crap I have ever strummed.

Okay, now the Silver Creek fan club can pounce on me.

P.S. I tend to agree with Gadzukes below. My laminates may sound less loud and more mellow than my all solid koa ukes, but is that worse? It is different, but I think in many ways it's better. Just ask my wife who is trying to sleep in the next room if she'd rather have me strum a thick as nails Ibanez uke, or the bright punch of the KoAloha. LOL

PPS I also agree with Pippin and Ukeeku, for those playing the home version of "Greatest Uke Debates Ever"

PPPS My new (used) Kiwaya Ks-0 high end laminate should come in the mail today!

Ken Middleton
11-30-2011, 07:39 AM
Isn't the Applause uke a division of Ovation? I don't know the answer.



I think the Applause brand is still owned by Ovation, but they are two different companies. I feel that if Ovation produced a US made uke it would be in a completely different league from the Applause. There is a similar situation with Pono and Koolau. Pono are a different brand and are not the same instruments as those made in the US.

hmgberg
11-30-2011, 10:38 AM
I prefer to wear solid tops.

I appreciate your humor, bbqribs.

ricdoug
11-30-2011, 10:54 AM
Isn't the Applause uke a division of Ovation?

http://www.ovationguitars.com/applause/P10

Both of mine are solid spruce tops:

http://www.ovationguitars.com/applause/product/Ukelele_uae20

Notice the spelling "Ukelele", which is one of the proper ways to spell "Ukulele":

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ukulele

river_driver
11-30-2011, 01:32 PM
Whoa, that was a hell of a can of worms I opened!

I guess I can add this to the list of things, like politics and religion, that you shouldn't bring up in polite company! ;)

In light of the discussion, as I elaborate my thinking about this...

If I understand the consensus ( I think there may be one here!) solid tops are optimal because the continuous grain of the wood sustains the vibration imparted from the strings to the top at the bridge. The crossed grain and glue of a laminate (and to some extent the bracing pattern?) impede this vibration. Real-world experience may vary due to quality, well-designed laminates (not likely to be found in entry level production line imported instruments) or low quality solid woods (not to be found in quality, custom, luthier built instruments; but maybe showing up in some production line imports?).

The back and sides serve first and foremost as reflective surfaces for the sonic vibrations generated off the soundboard/top. However, they also sustain some vibration, evidenced by the fact that you can deaden the sound, even in a laminate-backed instrument, by pressing it against your body. so a solid back is going to be best, just as a solid top is going to be best, because the uninterrupted grain of the solid wood is best suited for sustaining that vibration.

So my remaining question then is, how is the sonic vibration transfered to the back, since there is no direct contact point with the strings (unlike the top where you have the bridge). Is it transmitted through the sides? if so don't those two 90 degree bends impede the vibration? or is it transferred through the air in the body cavity? I'm a little dubious there due to the lack of "bottom end" low frequency tones characteristic of ukes.

Bradford
11-30-2011, 02:08 PM
The back is excited by air pressure changes in the interior of the uke caused by the top rocking back and forth and up and down when the strings are plucked. As you can see, there is no consensus among luthiers as to how much the sides and back contribute to the sound.

Brad

river_driver
11-30-2011, 02:42 PM
The back is excited by air pressure changes in the interior of the uke caused by the top rocking back and forth and up and down when the strings are plucked.

Ah yes, that makes sense!



As you can see, there is no consensus among luthiers as to how much the sides and back contribute to the sound.

Brad

So I noticed. But each luthier's interpretation of the interplay of all the factors, and his/her ability to combine them and create a tonally balanced instrument - therein lies the artistry of the luthier!

ricdoug
11-30-2011, 03:59 PM
Taylor makes fine instruments locally. So does Carvin. I was at a jam with the Southern California Slack Key Society and it looked like a commercial for Taylor! Ric

Aha, I found a photo of that evening. The house P.A. was having issues, so I brought in one of my http://www.musiciansfriend.com/pro-audio/roland-ba-330-stereo-portable-pa-system . Bill's playing slack key on a Taylor and singing, both through the BA-330 running on 8 AA NiMH batteries. The audience was amazed at the superior sound quality through the Roland BA-330:

http://www.hunt101.com/data/500/kaisens4.JPG

BlackBearUkes
11-30-2011, 04:08 PM
I think the Applause brand is still owned by Ovation, but they are two different companies. I feel that if Ovation produced a US made uke it would be in a completely different league from the Applause. There is a similar situation with Pono and Koolau. Pono are a different brand and are not the same instruments as those made in the US.

I believe Ovation, Tacoma and Guild are all owned by Fender now. I think that is right, but things change so fast these days I may be mistaken.

Nickie
11-30-2011, 04:13 PM
Nah, ricdoug, I'm just a lesbian...

ricdoug
11-30-2011, 04:20 PM
Rock on, Nickie! Ric (Lutheran and hobby luthier)

joejeweler
11-30-2011, 04:28 PM
Nah, ricdoug, I'm just a lesbian...

I'm just a lesbian trapped in a man's body. :D

vanflynn
11-30-2011, 04:37 PM
Hi river_driver,

If anyone cares about getting back to the original question, no empirical proof but I would bet that the absorption / reflection of acoustic pressure waves for different frequencies on various types of solid woods and their (usually) denser laminate counterparts is the main point. Crisper, brighter, mellowed, louder, .... all about what frequencies are being sucked up by the wood. If the vibration of the body was truly a factor, one fundamental resonant frequency (and harmonics) would dominate and certain notes would chime louder than the rest (undesirable) so I believe the vibrations of the back and sides would be a distant second factor. Besides, with back sitting on my chubby belly, it ain't vibrating much.

If no one cares any more - rock on dude!

ricdoug
11-30-2011, 04:45 PM
Besides, with back sitting on my chubby belly, it ain't vibrating much.

We have acoustically silmilar bellies, vanflynn. Ain't no sound escaping out the back of any of my stringed instruments! :D

coolkayaker1
11-30-2011, 05:51 PM
Thanks for the replies on the Ovation/Applause/Fender question.

I ask for all to consider, as I do not know the answer: isn't the ultimate thin soundboard--and one that takes the back out of the equation altogether--a banjo uke?

Pippin
11-30-2011, 09:19 PM
Thanks for the replies on the Ovation/Applause/Fender question.

I ask for all to consider, as I do not know the answer: isn't the ultimate thin soundboard--and one that takes the back out of the equation altogether--a banjo uke?

A lot of banjo ukes have backs, too.

hmgberg
12-02-2011, 02:02 AM
Hi river_driver,

If anyone cares about getting back to the original question, no empirical proof but I would bet that the absorption / reflection of acoustic pressure waves for different frequencies on various types of solid woods and their (usually) denser laminate counterparts is the main point. Crisper, brighter, mellowed, louder, .... all about what frequencies are being sucked up by the wood. If the vibration of the body was truly a factor, one fundamental resonant frequency (and harmonics) would dominate and certain notes would chime louder than the rest (undesirable) so I believe the vibrations of the back and sides would be a distant second factor. Besides, with back sitting on my chubby belly, it ain't vibrating much.

If no one cares any more - rock on dude!

Chubby bellies vibrate...I know this to be true.