View Full Version : New (Belated) Uke Day!

10-16-2012, 03:59 PM
I feel like this doesn't belong on the same page as a Moore Bettah day, but I've been thrilled nonetheless!

I picked up a Gretsch G9100 soprano about two weeks ago and I didn't post immediately because I didn't want to sound way too enthusiastic about it. Now that I've had some time to spend with it I can honestly say that it is THE killer deal out there for soprano ukuleles.

I've been trying for a while to get a soprano to replace my old KoAloha, which I loved but couldn't justify at the time. I didn't really want to spend $500-$700 on a soprano, even if they are fantastic. Over the past few months I got to play a whole heck of a lot of sopranos: Ohana SK 25, 35, and 38; Martin S1; a couple of used Kamakas; and a bunch of budget Kalas.

Out of everything I tried I liked only two: the Ohana SK38 and the Martin S1. The SK38 was beautiful and feather light, and had fantastic projection. The price is great, too. My problem with the SK38 is the same problem I have with a lot of import instruments...the neck is just a little on the thin side. I don't know if the string spacing is just tighter than I'm used to or what, it just didn't feel quite right playing it. The S1 was pretty dang light as well (though not so light as the SK38) and sounded really fantastic. The only drawback on the S1 is the price. For $380 I really expect a slightly better fit and finish on a soprano, and the projection wasn't quite as punchy as I hoped to get out of a soprano.

And then I found the Gretsch. I remembered when they were introduced at NAMM that they caused quite a stir among those here who went and got to play them, and I remembered Andrew Kitakis and the rest of the HMS guys were big fans as well. My local shop had all three sizes and the clarophone banjo uke, and the fit and finish on them was at least at the level of the Ohana and Martins. No glue spots inside the uke, handcarved bracing, and very very thin laminate woods. I honestly had to do a couple of checks to make sure it wasn't solid wood, it is insanely light.

The most important thing is tone, though, and I knew when I picked it up and felt how light it was that it would be a monster. It is LOUD. My KoAloha was loud and warm, because of the solid Koa, but this is just plain loud and boomy. It sounds exactly like you'd expect an old solid Mahogany soprano would sound. For me, the best sopranos I've ever played have been loud, bright, and punchy, and this one ticks all of those boxes. The neck felt right, too. The strings were far enough apart that it was easy to play, and the action out of the box was great. The bone nut and saddle were well shaped and finished, and the frets were extremely clean and well-polished. I was really surprised to see that they didn't use a decal for the rosette, and instead they actually inlaid it. It is a small detail, but it is a surprising level of detail for a laminate uke.

To think that they sell these things for under $100 is mind boggling. From what I've played and experienced in sopranos, I'd say this sounds better than the Martin S1s, and maybe just under the high bars set by the SK38 and the Kiwaya KTS 4. It is just pure mainland hog soprano tone. It has the dynamics and clarity of solid mahogany. I was very surprised and I'm still leery. This is laminate wood, so it shouldn't sound like a quality soprano, right?

Now to this point my best sounding uke has been my Johnny Marvin Tenor. It is warm, punchy, and has great projection, and to my mind it is the classic vintage ukulele tone. Every Style 0-2 I've played share these characteristics. It isn't an old Martin, it doesn't have quite the tone of an old Martin, but it shares a very similar feeling and dynamic with an old Martin. For $100, I think that's just absurd.

I strung it up with Martin M600's within a couple of days because I like the feel of them a lot more than Aquila's, and it definitely added some bottom end to the uke. With the Aquilas it sounded loud but just a tad thin, and the M600s maintain the volume but adds low end and fullness.

If you have one of these kicking around your local store, you have to play it to believe it. I normally am very skeptical about cheap laminates, and I try to stay away from buying anything but solid wood when it makes sense, but this sounds so similar to solid mahogany. I've wanted a KTS4 for the longest time, and I'll still get one eventually, but as ridiculous as it sounds I wouldn't be upset if I just stuck with the Gretsch.

It sounds incredible, looks incredible, feels incredible, and is incredibly cheap.

And the rosette is real! Inlaid and everything! $100!

In the interest of full disclosure, the tuners are pretty cheap. Not bad, but they definitely need to be tightened up at first, and then they feel a little cheap. I might invest in better Grovers or something along the lines of what Ohana and Kiwaya use, but I'll wait and see. Bring a small screwdriver to the shop and tighten them all up as a service to others! If you get thrown out I didn't say anything.

I'll post a picture of mine soon, but I haven't taken a picture yet, so instead I'll post a different pic! Looks awesome, eh?


10-16-2012, 04:39 PM
Congrats on your new uke. Solid or Laminate doesn't matter to me as long as I like the sound and feel of it.
Good review too, Mahalo.................................BO......... ..................
mm Stan's daily players are a cheapy Rogue and OS OU-2 and in his collection, he has many 4 figure ukes.

10-16-2012, 09:42 PM
congratulations on your new ukulele! It doesn't matter who makes it, asw long as it gets played! Happy strumming!

10-17-2012, 05:45 PM
Congrats on your new uke. Solid or Laminate doesn't matter to me as long as I like the sound and feel of it.
Good review too, Mahalo.................................BO......... ..................
mm Stan's daily players are a cheapy Rogue and OS OU-2 and in his collection, he has many 4 figure ukes.

That's awesome! I have to say, if I owned a Kiwaya KMS-K or something that would be my daily player, but recently I've just been playing my Gretsch and my Johnny Marvin. I'm a huge fan of vintage tone out of a uke, and I've got my Pono for more contemporary sounds.

mm Stan's collection is ridiculous and amazing though....I want!

10-18-2012, 04:50 AM
Looks sweet. As already mentioned - doesn't matter what it is as long as you enjoy it. So enjoy it and have fun.

10-18-2012, 09:35 AM
Congrats! I've played the new Gretsch ukes at a local shop---they sound great to me, too. Glad to hear that your good first impression is lasting and getting better. Enjoy!