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View Full Version : Do you know and love Vita ukes?



garyg
09-20-2012, 01:32 AM
I really enjoy vintage ukes especially pre-32 Martins. About two months ago a knowledgeable and long-standing vintage uke player suggested that I get a Harmony Roy Smeck Vita uke and gave me a pointer to a good buy so I immediately purchased it. I have to say that I love this uke. The tone seems more guitar-like and richer than my Martins, certainly less bell-like with little plink that others love in a uke. I'm curious about what other think of this uke. Are all vintage Roy Smeck models as good or just the Vita? Comments about history, availability or tone. My friend likes Aquila's on his but they're not my favorite string although I'll try them eventually. I put a set of Fremont Blacklines on and they really make this uke sing. I'm really curious about anything owners or knowledgeable folks have to say about this uke. I do understand that like early Martins they are prone to cracking because of the thinness of the wood. TIA, g2

fitncrafty
09-20-2012, 01:39 AM
My friend Kurt won an ohana vita.. He brought over his sceptre and the vita plus some other ukes we ignored.. The sceptre is great but I immediately fell in love with his vita.. It was light and strumming it was amazing.. The feel the vibration the sound everything about it awesome.. I don't buy my own for fear I will never love another one like his.. so I just get occasional visitation... :)
I don't remember what strings he has on his however that thing just sings and feels amazing in m hands. I can't enough good things about that uke..

Skrik
09-20-2012, 01:41 AM
Yes, and yes. (Look at the .sig.)

garyg
09-20-2012, 01:53 AM
Skrik, so how do I sign up? Couldn't really tell.

kissing
09-20-2012, 02:23 AM
One of my most regretful sales was an Ohana Vita uke.
They have a truly beautiful design and a tone to die for.

garyg
09-20-2012, 02:51 AM
Funny, I really was looking for comments on the original Harmony Vita's but it's obvious that the replicas have fans too!

gaspar
09-20-2012, 04:36 AM
Hi Gary!
I had 2 harmony vita ukes. The first one was in really poor condition so I sold it to buy another vita in better condition.
I found one with the original case in better condition and bought it. Its hard to decide but I think I like it more than my martin style 0.
Vita ukes are just great. I love the big sound that comes out of it and I preffer aquilas on it.
I also had 3 roy smeck concert ukes from the same era. They are great ukes but not as good as the vita line.
pic:
http://i194.photobucket.com/albums/z2/rbeetsme/For%20Sale/RoySmeckcomposite.jpg

Another roy smeck model is the one with plastic fingerboard. Those are cheap and great sounding ukes.
Pic:
http://www.retrofret.com/images/4255_ukulele/large/4255_01.jpg

Skrik
09-20-2012, 04:44 AM
Skrik, so how do I sign up? Couldn't really tell.

I sent an invitation.

ChrisRCovington
09-20-2012, 05:19 AM
A ways removed from the Vita or the Concert I do own a plastic fretboard Roy Smeck like gaspar posted and love it. Very thin wood with a large voice. Prone to cracking too though.

strumsilly
09-20-2012, 05:56 AM
I've been looking for one for awhile.missed a few on the bay. they pop up now and then, mostly broken ones. ya gotta like seals though.

here's one, I don't know about the exc. condition though.
http://www.guitarandbanjo.com/details/7327.html

ksiegel
09-20-2012, 01:07 PM
I do indeed have an Ohana Vita Uke, and would love to have opportunity to play one of the original Harmony Vitas. I've only seen one original, at Ukulele Source in San Jose, but didn't ask Smiley if it was playable, or available.

All I can tell you is that it looked wonderful, with that aged mahogany, and I really wanted to hear what it sounded like.

One of these years, if I have the money, and the right one comes along, it will be mine.

(Insert "Bwa-ha-ha-ha!" wherever appropriate.)



-Kurt

garyg
09-20-2012, 02:39 PM
I've been looking for one for awhile.missed a few on the bay. they pop up now and then, mostly broken ones. ya gotta like seals though.

here's one, I don't know about the exc. condition though.
http://www.guitarandbanjo.com/details/7327.html

Yeah, if they call that excellent condition there grading is way different from mine! You might offer them $300 and see what they say if there are no cracks and the sound is good.

garyg
09-20-2012, 02:40 PM
Gaspar amigo, thanks for the information, must be a lot of Harmony ukes down in Argentina! Vaya con dios y su ukulele sagrada hombre! g2

hmgberg
09-20-2012, 02:54 PM
Hola Gary y Gaspar: Well, I love my Vita and agree with Gaspar and Gary's mystery friend about the Aquila strings. I don't like them on vintage Martins, but I think they a very good on "guitar tonewoods" like spruce and cedar - the Vita is spruce. I have a few Harmony ukes, including an early Roy Smeck without the plastic fingerboard. It's a great little uke, very plunky sound, but not in the same league as a Martin, or the Vita for that matter. But, if you want something to bang around on, and can get it for under 100 clams, it's worth it. BTW, I've played a few of the Ohana versions, both Rosewood and Mahogany back and sides. While I do think the Ohana Vita compares favorably to other Ohanas, it doesn't move me nearly in the same way that the Harmony does.

Harmony made more ukes than any other factory during the first two Golden Eras. Many of them are novelty ukes, but a few are really nice instruments, like the Vita.

TheCraftedCow
09-20-2012, 07:44 PM
I have a Ukiyo Smeck Vita copy. It is mahogany with a cedar top and Guadalupe all wound strings. There was a music store in Portland,Oregon with an original Smeck Vita. I was able to play the original and Marc Schoenberger's copy of it. It was not just my opnion that the Ukiyo had a better feel and a better sound.It was a strange feeling to no longer want to buy an original when a much newer copy actually felt and sounded better. It is the only made for Smeck instrument I have ever played. It kinda reminded me of really finding out there was no Santa Claus.

mm stan
09-20-2012, 08:58 PM
Aloha All,
I have a Harmony 20's Roy Smeck Vita Uke that I scored when Humberg and Uncle Rod came in town and we headed up to see MGM Mike up in Haleiwa one day...it had two fixed hairline cracks
but it is in very good conditions...yes the wood is thin, but it has enough volume and not brashy sounding..what a lovely uke...got the original case which is in pretty good condition with
purple lining which is not too faded...woo hooo:) http://i938.photobucket.com/albums/ad222/ukestan/NewArrivals92012008_zps6d0348cd.jpg

coolkayaker1
09-21-2012, 01:27 AM
What a pretty lute, Stan.

Kidding. Lol

garyg
09-21-2012, 02:23 AM
Yes they are amazing ukes and I see my unnamed Aquila lover has posted <g>. The only drag for me is that the fingerboard and shape differ substantially from my vintage Martins so I have to go through an "adjustment" period whenever I pick it up. Tonally, IMO, the Vita seems to combine the best properties of the guitar (heresy I know) of complex and round sound with the volume, projection and ease of play of the uke. I'll have to try one of those Ukiyo copies if they're that good, but I'm wondering if the Cow played a dud original. It would be amazing if new wood could beat the complexity and sweetness of old wood. Thanks for all the info everyone. g2

hmgberg
09-21-2012, 01:36 PM
Marc Schoenberger makes very nice ukuleles. They ain't cheap though. It is also interesting that he has chosen to make interpretations of several Harmony instruments, kind of like a specialty. I remember reading on his website something like "no ukulele makes me smile as much as a Vita." Marc doesn't get talked up that much on the forum, but I have played one of his ukes and it was very nice. It was not a Vita style, though. FWIT, and if your interested in replicas, I think that Tim Laughlin makes the best "Martins." These are not only faithful replicas (he even makes the tuning pegs just like the Grover barrels, for instance) but I am told they sound great. I know several people who have had them.