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View Full Version : Please help me pick my next ukulele ($200-$300)



Sporin
01-14-2012, 06:18 AM
(I had started a thread like this earlier but I've done even more research and focused my desires a bit more so I wanted to start over) (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?57560-Best-Tenor-Uke-for-around-250-%28preferably-with-pickups-%29)

So thanks to a winning fantasy football season and the eventual sale of my Eleuke, i'm going to have a budget of $200-$300 for a new Tenor ukulele (including a good case and shipping)

My daily uke is a Kala KA-C Concert Mahogany. I really enjoy it but I want something a bit nicer and preferably a Tenor with built in pickups (I have an amp). The Kala will become my "knock around uke" for traveling and such with the new uke kept in a humidified hardcase and home and played in safer settings.

I had pretty much decided on the RipTide Mahogany Tenor EUT-5NS with built in PreAmp (http://cargo.ukerepublic.com/product/riptide-mahogany-tenor-w-preamp-tuner). I love the look and I think the top sound hole would be great since one of my "complaints" about the kale is that when I play in a group I have a hard time hearing my own instrument.

But the more I read on UU and the more I lustfully surf the Hawaii Music Supply website the more I wonder if I'd be better off getting non-amp'ed (maybe even a solid body) uke of nicer quality.

I've had Mainland ukes recommended in the other thread.

Basically, I'm torn. I really have the budget for an instrument and want to make my hard earned money count. I'm not expecting a night and day sound difference from the Kala to whatever I buy but I want to make a smart choice. It's also possible I'm overthinking this and should just get the RipTide. :)

I wish I had the option of going to a music shop and trying out a bunch of ukes but that simply doesn't exist up here in Vermont. The place we hold our local Uke Club only carries Lanakai's and the other nearest music store is lucky to have 2 ukuleles in stock. I want to buy from a quality shop that does setup, good strings, etc.

So…. thoughts? Suggestions? I'll have money in hand at the end of the month but I'm completely torn.

Leodhas
01-14-2012, 07:13 AM
I have it from a very good source that the Kala smht or the islander islander mst4 are the best on the market for that price range, nevertheless, it's all personal taste.

Sporin
01-14-2012, 07:31 AM
I have it from a very good source that the Kala smht or the islander islander mst4 are the best on the market for that price range, nevertheless, it's all personal taste.

That Islander is beautiful. :) http://www.theukulelesite.com/ukulelemarket/islander-all-solid-mahogany-tenor-mst-4 :cool:

Drew Bear
01-14-2012, 07:40 AM
You can take it from a couple of different angles. You could first decide whether to go amped or non-amped. How much time do you anticipated playing plugged in? With your budget, you're looking at a laminate uke with amp. If you decide you want a solid wood uke, then I think the amp option is pretty much out unless you can find a great deal on a used uke.

Edit: If you decide to go with the Islander MST-4 solid mahogany tenor, I suspect it will be a night & day difference from your Kala KA-C laminate concert.

Sporin
01-14-2012, 07:52 AM
I actually won't be playing amped much at all, I think that part of me is driven by the fact that I have an amp I no longer have a use for with the Eleuke sale.

Drew Bear
01-14-2012, 08:05 AM
I actually won't be playing amped much at all, I think that part of me is driven by the fact that I have an amp I no longer have a use for with the Eleuke sale.Ah! Well, in that case, definitely the Islander. HMS is out of stock probably until the 2012 versions arrive. It might be available here (http://www.acousticvibesmusic.com/catalog/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=170_173&products_id=1629) for ~$250 shipped. Order this case (http://www.musiciansfriend.com/accessories/musicians-gear-tenor-ukulele-case) while it's still on sale for $30.

kenikas
01-14-2012, 08:29 AM
I agree with what's been said, Mainland or solid Kala or Islander.

mds725
01-14-2012, 08:49 AM
I had the chance to play my first Islander this week. I was very impressed with it -- loud, very playable, and good intonation up the neck.

Sporin
01-14-2012, 10:21 AM
Been reading a bunch of "Tenor or Concert" threads and I think I might go with a Concert size instead. I don't play up the neck very much and since my hands are used to my concert Kala I'll have less issues going back and forth between the 2 (I think). I know I have trouble playing my son's Soprano because my fingers don't naturally hit the right spots on the frets since they are used to a different size.

Concert saves me some money on an all wood uke as well. For instance, on the Islander that is coming so highly recommended, the $30 savings helps pay for a good case.

Lots to think about, keep the input and suggestions coming, it is all GREATLY appreciated.

Hiddencross
01-14-2012, 10:47 AM
If it were me it would be between the Islander and Pono solid mahogany ukes, maybe the Kala solid mahogany if I was trying to save a few bucks. I don't think you'd go wrong with any of these bought through HMS.
I was in the same situation with the same budget about 6 months ago. I ended up getting a great deal on a Big Island solid mahogany tenor uke (from Mim's Ukes) and I love it, however the model I have has been discontinued and seems hard or impossible to find.

kissing
01-14-2012, 07:58 PM
I've encountered 3 stores in your area that have an OK collection of ukes to try out.

-Eastgate Music (North Balwyn)
-Whitehorse Music (Mont Albert)
-MelMusic (Ormond)

Sporin
01-15-2012, 07:39 AM
I've encountered 3 stores in your area that have an OK collection of ukes to try out.

-Eastgate Music (North Balwyn)
-Whitehorse Music (Mont Albert)
-MelMusic (Ormond)

I'm in Vermont USA. :D

PhilUSAFRet
01-15-2012, 09:43 AM
A wrench. Check out the Kamoa solid maple E3 Concert and Grand concert.

http://kamoaukulelecompany.com/ukuleles.php?id=323

Also, I got my Pono MCD-E with a Ko'olau hard case used for $285 as an example of what you can find.

kissing
01-15-2012, 06:44 PM
I'm in Vermont USA. :D


I failed hard LOL

Nickie
01-15-2012, 06:58 PM
I bought this solid mahogany Concert uke from Mim. It has a preamp and I don't think you could go wrong with it. I love mine. I think it's in your budget.
http://www.kalaukulele.com/detail.asp?PRODUCT_ID=KA-SMH-CE-C

Drew Bear
01-15-2012, 07:03 PM
Mainlands are back in stock. A few concerts to choose from: http://shop.mainlandukuleles.com/category.sc?categoryId=3

Surprisingly few reviews on UU on the Kamoa, but the price is certainly attractive. So is the warranty if you can count on them to honor it. I think Aldrine did a video review of the laminate Kamoa ukes recently and commented that the 2012 versions were significantly better than their first gen ukes. You might want to ask which version the retailer is selling.

Spruce/maple will produce a brighter sound compared to mahogany.
http://macnichol.com/product/kamoa-e3-series-concert

http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?58605-Kamoa-E3-Line&highlight=kamoa

Sporin
01-25-2012, 05:31 AM
So at the moment the 2 leading contenders are...

1. Islander by Kanile’a – MSC-4 with hardcase. http://www.theukulelesite.com/islander-solid-concert-msc-4.html

2. Islander by Kanile’a – MT-4 Mahogany Tenor Ukulele with hardcase and Pickups installed. http://www.theukulelesite.com/islander-by-kanile-a-mt-4-mahogany-tenor-ukulele-250.html

I change my mind between the 2 hourly. :) Going with the laminate saves me a bunch of money, gets me the Tenor size and plugins that I started out wanting.

Going with the solid wood version gets me a nicer uke, but I compromise on size and no pickups due to price.

I'm trying to decide if the difference between the 2 will even be worth it to my relatively newbie skills/ears. I'm basically just a strummer and singer. I've only just started doing any picking and I find it very frustrating.

I also have humidity/temperature concerns. Those both swing wildly here in Vermont. A Lam uke would be much less susceptible to those conditions.

Would a really good quality Lam uke like that really be a noticeable compromise for a guy like me who just wants to jam with friends and maybe start a terrible ukulele band? ;)

PoiDog
01-25-2012, 05:54 AM
My recommendation is that you chuck the Kala on the heap and focus on the Islander. I had the luck of comparing the Islander MT-4 (the lam) against a solid wood Kala, and the Islander blew it away. No comparison at all. So if you're thinking of maybe saving a few bucks, that would be the way to go.

Of course, there are a lot of other ukes out there at your price. Others brought up the Pono and Mainland (I've not tried either, but their rep is solid), but you could also consider the KPK. I finally strummed one and was really pleasantly surprised! Very nice uke and very affordable, too.

With all the really great mid-range instruments around (Sailor, Mainland, Pono, KPK, Kelii, Islander, aNueNue, Big Island, etc) I have a hard time understanding why there are so many who just refuse to look past Kala.

Bob Bledsoe
01-25-2012, 06:02 AM
I was just in a store yesterday playing around with the Islander MT-4 - which sounds soooo good btw... The store owner told me that he doesn't even order the solid wood Islanders anymore because the difference in sound between the laminate and solid doesn't justify the price bump. He wasn't saying anything against the solid wood - just that the lam sounds so good that there's not a big difference between the two.
Hope that helps.

Shazzbot
01-25-2012, 06:04 AM
I want to throw a stick in the wicket.
Tenor Fluke

PoiDog
01-25-2012, 06:37 AM
I was just in a store yesterday playing around with the Islander MT-4 - which sounds soooo good btw... The store owner told me that he doesn't even order the solid wood Islanders anymore because the difference in sound between the laminate and solid doesn't justify the price bump. He wasn't saying anything against the solid wood - just that the lam sounds so good that there's not a big difference between the two.
Hope that helps.

I bet you were in Kaye's Music Scene, right? George told me the same thing :)

Bob Bledsoe
01-25-2012, 06:52 AM
Yup! George is a good guy. He's always got a lot to say... I'll be getting one of those Islanders but I want to wait to check out their new acacia tenor first.

PoiDog
01-25-2012, 07:04 AM
Yup! George is a good guy. He's always got a lot to say...

Absolutely. His shop may not be the most trendy or well-stocked in SoCal, but I like the fact I don't have to endure the hipster attitude and snobolicious disdain that sometimes comes from places like McCabe's.

Oh, and if you find yourself over on the Westside often, I'd also recommend you check out Boulevard Music in Culver City. Bigger shop the Kaye's (not as many ukes, though), but a laid-back staff and a store dog. That alone makes the place cool.

Sporin
01-25-2012, 09:54 AM
Budget and all the good reviews has me leaning towards the Islander Tenor Lam at this point. It hits all the points I started out wanting to hit including being able to plug in.

I love my Kala. I know it's not "cool" by UU Forum Member standards but it sounds great to me and has a lot of sentimental value as it was a 40th birthday gift from my wife that started this whole obsession for me. It will be my traveling uke once I have a second, better quality (most likely Islander) uke as well.

:cool:

Bob Bledsoe
01-25-2012, 10:04 AM
Good choice. I think you'll be really happy with that Islander.

franck3d
01-26-2012, 04:24 AM
So at the moment the 2 leading contenders are...

1. Islander by Kanile’a – MSC-4 with hardcase. http://www.theukulelesite.com/islander-solid-concert-msc-4.html

2. Islander by Kanile’a – MT-4 Mahogany Tenor Ukulele with hardcase and Pickups installed. http://www.theukulelesite.com/islander-by-kanile-a-mt-4-mahogany-tenor-ukulele-250.html

I change my mind between the 2 hourly. :) Going with the laminate saves me a bunch of money, gets me the Tenor size and plugins that I started out wanting.

Going with the solid wood version gets me a nicer uke, but I compromise on size and no pickups due to price.



I have been having the exact same internal debate!
I keep hearing that the laminate Islanders sound so great, but the solids are so much nicer looking, not that it matters... much.
And then I'm wondering if going from a concert, which I now play, to a tenor will be that much of an improvement in tone to justify the cost.
Decisions, decisions.
Can't wait to see which direction you go, and hear a review.

falty
01-26-2012, 04:43 AM
After going back and forth on several ukes, like you are, I ordered the Islander MT-4 yesterday. Very happy with the decision and that I made a decision at all, and I'm sure I won't be disappointed. Just got to wait now...:drool:

Sporin
01-26-2012, 04:55 AM
After going back and forth on several ukes, like you are, I ordered the Islander MT-4 yesterday. Very happy with the decision and that I made a decision at all, and I'm sure I won't be disappointed. Just got to wait now...:drool:

Where did you order from?

I actually emailed Hawaii Music Supply (I really want to buy from them) to ask them when they'd get stock back in and to ask questions about the pickups they install.

So that's me (I think) making my decision. :D

Sporin
01-26-2012, 04:58 AM
I take it back, looks like it's back in stock this morning. Looks like I'm calling hawaii today. :)

falty
01-26-2012, 05:01 AM
Got it at HMS. They had it two days ago, then yesterday morning - no stock. I emailed them and they said they had just got more in and he was putting them in stock. By late afternoon they had them in stock on the website. Wasn't gonna wait for them to run out again. We'll have to compare notes when we got ours and try'em out.

tnfishdaddy
01-26-2012, 05:08 AM
If its busy when you call, I am on the phone with them ordering one also.:)


I take it back, looks like it's back in stock this morning. Looks like I'm calling hawaii today. :)

Sporin
01-26-2012, 05:23 AM
just realized Hawaii is 5 hours behind Vermont. Guess I'll call later. :)

itsscottwilder
01-26-2012, 05:25 AM
just realized Hawaii is 5 hours behind Vermont. Guess I'll call later. :)

Let us know what pickup option you go with. The website shows a passive pickup installed for $100. I'm thinking of getting one as well with a pickup installed. Not really a passive fan. I don't trust sound guys to get my sound 100% right.

Sporin
01-26-2012, 05:52 AM
Any suggested pickup? I'll just be plugging into my own amp simply to amplify for gig playing, no effects for anything. I don't know what the choices are at HMS.

-D

itsscottwilder
01-26-2012, 06:54 AM
Any suggested pickup? I'll just be plugging into my own amp simply to amplify for gig playing, no effects for anything. I don't know what the choices are at HMS.

-D

I would like to see pricing for the Belcat UK-2000 but they look a bit hard to come by.

itsscottwilder
01-26-2012, 07:02 AM
I would like to see pricing for the Belcat UK-2000 but they look a bit hard to come by.

Or any of belcat's products. Do they sell OEM to uke makers only?

ukebuilder
01-26-2012, 07:27 AM
You can get a custom made uke from Bradford Donaldson for 300.00 I would go with him. His start at 300.00 he is here on UU and many pics of his work.

Drew Bear
01-26-2012, 09:03 AM
You can get a custom made uke from Bradford Donaldson for 300.00 I would go with him. His start at 300.00 he is here on UU and many pics of his work.That's the starting price for a Soprano uke. The OP is looking at Tenors. I'm sure Brad's prices for Tenors are still very reasonable, but let's make sure he at least covers his cost for materials and electricity. :)

itsscottwilder
01-26-2012, 09:19 AM
That's the starting price for a Soprano uke. The OP is looking at Tenors. I'm sure Brad's prices for Tenors are still very reasonable, but let's make sure he at least covers his cost for materials and electricity. :)

You people are going to cause me to go broke :)

ukulelepuapua
01-26-2012, 10:18 AM
Step up to hawaiian made dude!

itsscottwilder
01-26-2012, 10:19 AM
Step up to hawaiian made dude!

I'm saving the hawaiian made until I can get the wife to agree to a hawaiian vacation!!!

guitarsnrotts
01-26-2012, 10:24 AM
I recently bought a KPK and am very happy with it. Solid acacia, nice build and great sound. www.pilikoko.com

Sporin
01-26-2012, 10:59 AM
I have decided on the Islander by Kanile’a – MT-4 Mahogany Tenor Ukulele (http://www.theukulelesite.com/islander-by-kanile-a-mt-4-mahogany-tenor-ukulele-250.html) most likely with a pickup added depending on what comes from my conversation with HMS.

Thanks everyone for all the great input and suggestions!!!

32830

tnfishdaddy
01-26-2012, 11:41 AM
Just got off the phone with MGM at HMS. Mine is ordered. Now go call and get one also.:)

Sporin
01-27-2012, 12:01 PM
Just got off the phone with Eli in Oahu! My Islander MT-4, strung low-G, with Pono Passive Pickup and hard case is ordered!

It should leave Hawaii Monday or Tuesday and I could have it by the weekend. Final price came in about $20 below my budget ceiling. Can't wait!