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View Full Version : Islander Laminate Hype?



Paul December
02-16-2012, 05:07 PM
Recently I had the opportunity to play a laminate Islander and was underwhelmed. Not because it was bad, but because IMO it just did not live up to all the positive things posted about it. IMO I'd put it on the same level as a Kala laminate for sound, and below it for fit-n-finish.
Since then I've read posts about these ukes a bit closer and have noticed a lot of the praise is coming from people who have never played one, and are going off it's big brother's reputation. Additionally, I've been picking up on more complaints to do with how they are finished.
Are these ukes just the forum favorite du jour, or will they actually have staying power?

AC Baltimore
02-16-2012, 05:15 PM
most of the praise i have seen has been for the solid islanders

mandrew
02-16-2012, 09:53 PM
I had a Kala instrument, and played others. I now own a concert Islander, MC-4. there is a long list of things I could mention as to why the Islander is better, but here are a few:

The Islander is better designed sound wise. It has a radiused back, which hasa big effet on sound projection, similar to and arched back.
Look in the sound hole, and you will see that the construction is much better in the Islander.
The pin bridge is much more convenient to use.
The nut and bridge material is better than the standard Lanikais, Kalas, etc.
The quality of Rosewood used on my fretboard is of better quality than the others I have seen.
The nut width on the Islander is wider, which makes it much more comfortable to play.
The necks are wider and more comfortable to my thinking.
The strings gradually spread out toward the bridge on the Islander, making it much easier to finger pick.
Better quality of inlayed dots.
Richer, louder sound

that is enough to give a good idea of some differences.

Sporin
02-17-2012, 12:55 AM
I don't think anyone has ever said the Islander Laminates are night and day better then other laminates in their price range. Just that they are one of the best ukes available in the $100-130 price range..

I have both a Kala laminate (concert) and an Islander laminate (tenor) and I do think the Kala's wood body is finished better, the stain is more even, the poly (or whatever clear coat is used) is thicker and smoother. But the Islander has overall, much better construction. If I had to pick a "weak spot" in the Islander it's the rather thin finish. However the neck, frets, fretboard, and such are all noticeably better then the Kala.

I think SOUND comparison is so subjective that I couldn't possibly choose a "winner" either way. Plus my 2 instruments are strung differently and of different sizes.

All just the opinion of a relative newbie.

Hiddencross
02-17-2012, 04:16 AM
I have played the solid and the laminate Islanders at my local music shop. My two cents, the laminate was alright. I'd say roughly equivalent to my Makala tenor (which was set up by MGM). The solid uke, was another story. It sounded much better than any of the "higher end" solid Kalas and Lanikais at the store. Not quite as sweet as my Big Island mahogany tenor, but a great sound at a good price.

PoiDog
02-17-2012, 04:38 AM
Recently I had the opportunity to play a laminate Islander and was underwhelmed. Not because it was bad, but because IMO it just did not live up to all the positive things posted about it. IMO I'd put it on the same level as a Kala laminate for sound, and below it for fit-n-finish.
Since then I've read posts about these ukes a bit closer and have noticed a lot of the praise is coming from people who have never played one, and are going off it's big brother's reputation. Additionally, I've been picking up on more complaints to do with how they are finished.
Are these ukes just the forum favorite du jour, or will they actually have staying power?

Well, I just gotta disagree with you on this.

I got a chance to play the Islander lam right next to several Kalas and Cordobas, and there was simply no comparison at all. In my opinion, the Islander was bounds better in every way - from sound to feel to finish to construction. I even had to ask whether I had picked up the solid mahog instead of the lam.

In terms of sound: the Islander was more clear, louder, and had very good intonation (tested with a tuner), while the Kalas and Cordobas were hit and miss. More than that, the Islander just sounded *better*. I know that's totally subjective, but it was my impression.

In terms of construction and finish, on the surface the Kalas were more slick (super glossy, some with the slotted headstock), but they felt more flimsy. The Islander felt more solid. But more than that, when I tapped the soundboard and back, there was a better resonance and more open sound than the others (not sure how else to compare it, but it sounded more well-made if that makes any sense).

Again, this is just my opinion, but it comes from having been in that music shop for over an hour, strumming and picking several ukes, and my conclusion is that if I needed a $125 uke, I would get the Islander over a Kala, Cordoba, Lanikai, Makala, OS, etc even if you were to offer me two of the others.

Also, most of the people recommending the Islander that I've read here have actually played one.

Drew Bear
02-17-2012, 07:20 AM
Although I did not spend nearly as much time inspecting the other brands, I agree with PoiDog. Aside from the sound, the other difference that immediately struck me was the other brands were much heavier. I suspect this over-built, over-finished aspect contributes to the more muffled and "closed" sound.

I don't have the link, but I think MGM commented not long ago that he felt the Islanders were the new standard for low priced laminate ukes.