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View Full Version : New Uke Day / Buyers remorse



PTOEguy
12-01-2012, 04:06 AM
Just got a brand new Pono MT. It is a gorgeous instrument and the online store I bought from was great to work with. The thing I'm struggling with is that I think I misjudged my purchase.

The tone is beautiful, clear and powerful, but it doesn't have the warmth or depth that I was expecting. How much of this is likely due to the strings that came on the instrument, and how much is me making a mistake on getting the mahogany instrument instead of the acacia version?

ukemunga
12-01-2012, 04:13 AM
Hmmm... probably all in the interpretation but I hear mahogany as warmer and deeper that koa/acacia in general. Strings will make a world of difference. What strings do they ship with? Try some Worth Clears or Living Water.

PTOEguy
12-01-2012, 04:23 AM
I believe it came with Ko'olau strings - I think they are either the alohi or the mahana with the wound third. I've got a set of living waters that I intend to use once the existing strings get some wear.

roxhum
12-01-2012, 04:31 AM
Strings will make a difference. Also if it is brand new it could change/open up after you play it for awhile. It so sucks not being able to try before you buy and then deciding whether to give it a chance or not and loose your ability to return it. Good luck and sorry you are disappointed with your purchase.

PTOEguy
12-01-2012, 04:42 AM
Strings will make a difference. Also if it is brand new it could change/open up after you play it for awhile. It so sucks not being able to try before you buy and then deciding whether to give it a chance or not and loose your ability to return it. Good luck and sorry you are disappointed with your purchase.

Thanks for your kind words - I have wondered if it would open up with time. I think my main problem is that I don't have enough experience on what to expect, and I had a different sound in my head than what I actually hear in person.

Harold O.
12-01-2012, 05:12 AM
There are several online guys who will do you right when buying an instrument. Sometimes that is your best/only option.

I contend that an instrument needs to be held and played a bit in order to make a better decision. You will be holding this thing right up close to your body for hours on end. It's a good idea to test drive it first.

That said, RoxHum has a solid point. A new instrument needs to have a chance to acclimate before it settles in. From experience in my store-next-door, I try to play each of the ukes at least twice a week (we don't carry a lot of ukuleles) to keep them in tune. Even my tin ear can detect them warming up and sounding better.

Also, buyer's remorse is a very real thing. Don't be so hard on yourself. It sounds like you did some research ahead of time, found a reputable dealer, selected a well-reviewed instrument, and made a decision. You should congratulate yourself for getting this far. Give that ukulele a chance to win you over.

OldePhart
12-01-2012, 05:20 AM
I'd say above all just don't be hasty. As you've said, the tone is clear and powerful it's just not what you had in your head. Give your head a few days to adapt to the difference and you may find that you end up really loving it.

I've had ukes that I loved gradually go out of favor and others that I was kind of "meh" about initially become my favorite ukes. What I'm saying is that even buying in person doesn't always guarantee that a uke will be your "final answer." :)

And, as others have mentioned, don't panic until you've tried a number of different strings (and give each set about a week to settle in before you judge them - brand new strings are often not at their best). I've found that intonation up the neck changes significantly (and generally for the better) from when strings are new until they stretch in to the point that they will hold tune for several hours.

The good news in all of this is that the Pono instruments are much more respected then say, a Kala or Lanikai. That means that if you just never warm up to this uke (and that does happen, sometimes) you will probably get most of your investment back when you sell it to buy another.

John

we tigers
12-01-2012, 05:22 AM
Just got a brand new Pono MT. It is a gorgeous instrument and the online store I bought from was great to work with. The thing I'm struggling with is that I think I misjudged my purchase.

The tone is beautiful, clear and powerful, but it doesn't have the warmth or depth that I was expecting. How much of this is likely due to the strings that came on the instrument, and how much is me making a mistake on getting the mahogany instrument instead of the acacia version?

I had the same experience when I bought my Pono MT-E. Give it some time to open up. Also I didn't like the original strings and I got rid of them. I put some Worth Clears with a nonwound lowG and the improvement was tremendous. When it'll open up the sound will become much richer!

blue_knight_usa
12-01-2012, 05:38 AM
My first upgraded uke when I started playing was the Pono and it had the Ko'olau strings which were just horrible for me. They were the golds that were like tree trunks and extremely tight tension, I mean really high tension. I pulled them off and put on a nice set of Savarez Tenor strings with a Fremont Low G and the sound difference was amazing. I eventually sold it merely for the $ and got my Kanilia K1 Deluxe which I still have and is an amazing all Koa uke. Try some new strings for sure and give it a few months. The recommendation for Living Water strings I think is a good one as well. I use Ken's strings on several of my ukes and they provide a much more mellow sound (nice tension) but are bright enough to have nice but not extremely loud volume like an Aquila would or the Koolau golds which were way too bright for me. The Worth's are also good strings and I have used them a well. They were not as bright and had a little less tension than I like so experiment with strings. They do make a massive difference in many cases and it's all personal preference.

As to the wood, every wood sounds different and has different characteristics...even two Koa ukes will sound different. Generally speaking both M and K woods are a richer and mellower on the sound spectrum as a general statement, . Both are warmer sounding. Of all my ukes the Koa Tenor I have is the deepest, richest, mellow sound with my Mohagany Tenor right behind that, but again it could be because of the quality of the wood, different manufactures in how they brace the top, etc. Change those strings and you may be pleasantly surprised. It's that dramatic sometimes. Good luck and don't beat yourself up. It's a learning experience.


Just got a brand new Pono MT. It is a gorgeous instrument and the online store I bought from was great to work with. The thing I'm struggling with is that I think I misjudged my purchase.

The tone is beautiful, clear and powerful, but it doesn't have the warmth or depth that I was expecting. How much of this is likely due to the strings that came on the instrument, and how much is me making a mistake on getting the mahogany instrument instead of the acacia version?

kenikas
12-01-2012, 05:39 AM
I have an MTD that I got from HMS a while back and mine has the Mahana strings on it. I pretty sure it's the strings your not liking as they are quite mellow. I've found fluorocarbon strings sound best on my other solid mahogany ukes and would suggest you try Worth Clears or Freemont strings, they're what I plan to try on mine next.

Doc_J
12-01-2012, 05:44 AM
Like everyone said... change the strings.

Yeah, I have had 2 new Pono mahogany ukes.
Fluorocarbon strings (martins in my case) sounded much better on them than the Mahana strings that came on them.

Paul December
12-01-2012, 06:05 AM
:confused: Does anyone like the strings Pono ships with?
I know, I didn't :p

hammer40
12-01-2012, 06:30 AM
:confused: Does anyone like the strings Pono ships with?
I know, I didn't :p

I guess I'm one of the few here that like Ko'olau strings. My Pono AT came with the Mahana strings, which I eventually changed to the golds, which are a little brighter and I think are awesome. I prefer the higher tension strings in general, so that isn't a problem for me.

As everyone said give it time, change the strings and see if that helps for you. It took me about a month before I finally decided I liked my Big Island mango. It really helped when I got rid of the Aquila strings it came with, I didn't care for them at all.

It looks like you have a Pono MB, so your Mahogany tenor is going to sound completely different then that. Could that be why your unhappy with the missing warmth or depth (bass) of a tenor scale now?

Dan Uke
12-01-2012, 06:45 AM
Is there a brand you played and liked? This is important as that sound could be somewhat unique to that brand and not the wood.

mm stan
12-01-2012, 07:54 AM
When buying online, you can always call the dealer and let him/her play it for you on the phone...not the best, but certainly helps....
Yes Change your strings it will make alot of difference...I'm sure you want more brighter tone with punch...good luck and happy strummings

PTOEguy
12-01-2012, 08:03 AM
Just spent an hour playing, and I'm warming up to the ukulele quite a bit. Don't know if it is just in my head, but it seems to sound a little better after playing for a while. I do think strings will make a difference - the ones on it seem to be fairly high tension. Will probably change them out in a bit.

Also, as Hammer40 pointed out, I've been playing back to back with a baritone and may be part of the problem - maybe I should play the flea a bunch and then go to the tenor.

Thanks again to everyone for your encouragement.

Pondoro
12-01-2012, 08:04 AM
I love my Pono concert but it does not "bark" like a soprano with a thinner top. It is smoother. So I would call it "smoother" and "deeper" than my sopranos. Since you are coming from a baritone I understand your surprise.

hawaii 50
12-01-2012, 08:08 AM
Just got a brand new Pono MT. It is a gorgeous instrument and the online store I bought from was great to work with. The thing I'm struggling with is that I think I misjudged my purchase.

The tone is beautiful, clear and powerful, but it doesn't have the warmth or depth that I was expecting. How much of this is likely due to the strings that came on the instrument, and how much is me making a mistake on getting the mahogany instrument instead of the acacia version?


I just got a Mya Moe Honduran Mahogany tenor..i took off the Worth clears and put on a set of Savarez 520R classical guitar strings..use the top 4 strings and the D string for your LowG..these sound deeper and more mellow..

you got to give the Mahogany some time..keep playing it..hopefully you get better too..

ramone
12-01-2012, 08:24 AM
I bought a Pono AT a little over a year ago and it shipped with the Mahana strings with a wound C string. I was expecting an all nylon set, so I was somewhat surprised by the C string. I decided to give them a chance, figuring the folks at Pono/Ko'olau knew a bit more about it than I did. once I got used to the sound, I was okay with them although I'm not sure what strings to try next. I'm way overdue for a new set but just haven't ordered any yet (the ukulele string selection available locally is extremely limited). give it a little time and see how you feel in another month.

BassGuyukin'
12-01-2012, 08:28 AM
I have purchased maybe a dozen <$500 ukes online and my two Ponos are by far the best of the bunch. I have sold most of the others. I have also been disappointed with ukulele and bass guitar purchases I've made online before. But as long as the seller ships me the new and as stated item that I purchased, then no way in hell would I ever return it for a refund no matter how much I didn't care for it. Matter of fact, I think online stores are often too generous with their return policy, unless something is wrong with the item purchased. If we buy an item unplayed and that item is good, we just don't "care for it" for whatever reason, then I say that is our problem. I'd then sell it used and no way the seller needs to take the hit for my mistake. That is called personal responsibility.

With that said, I do agree with others that sometimes it takes time to love an instrument. And sometimes an instrument we love at first gets old and unloved down the road.

haole
12-01-2012, 08:28 AM
Don't they ship with Mahanas? They're pretty mellow-sounding and I was never a big fan of them. The Alohis are much better, in my opinion. I'd give those a shot, and try some fluorocarbons too.

estreya
12-01-2012, 08:40 AM
I'll add my name to the growing list of people who advise a simple string change. Hubby had to do that on his new Pono as well, and now, several months later, the sound of it is deeply pleasing.

CTurner
12-01-2012, 09:59 AM
Mahana and Alohi strings have not impressed me with either sound or feel. Some love them. Yes, do try other strings, and don't forget the Southcoast brand and varieties. I have always enjoyed Ponos and Koolaus and unless there is something really structurally-off (not likely given their quality control) then playing and experimenting may well change your mind. Certainly mahogany is renowned for warmth in sound. Good Luck!

000Kanaka000
12-01-2012, 10:19 AM
One way to get it to open up sooner is a tip i heard on my travels here
of late. Turn on your stereo or put on your favorite cd and lean the
uke on the speakers and the vibration will help to open it a bit quicker.
There is a device that David Hurn speaks about building but same thing
the vibration aides in opening the instrument more rapidly. Sometimes
they just take time to season.

hammer40
12-01-2012, 10:32 AM
Just spent an hour playing, and I'm warming up to the ukulele quite a bit. Don't know if it is just in my head, but it seems to sound a little better after playing for a while. I do think strings will make a difference - the ones on it seem to be fairly high tension. Will probably change them out in a bit.

Also, as Hammer40 pointed out, I've been playing back to back with a baritone and may be part of the problem - maybe I should play the flea a bunch and then go to the tenor.

Thanks again to everyone for your encouragement.


It's funny because I just recently got a Pono Baritone, my first bari, which sounds incredible by the way and very guitar like. I was noodling around for quite a while on it after I just received it, and then figured I would switch over to the tenor size for a bit. Wow, what a difference. I realize now, if I just go right from baritone to tenor, it's going to take a little time to adjust back to that scales sound. The tenor does have it's advantages over the bari as well, so it goes both ways.

Give those Ko'olau strings some time as well. I think you'll find they really have quite a nice tone, and your fingers will adapt to them.

hawaii 50
12-01-2012, 10:43 AM
Is this really buyers remorse or just waiting/wanting for you ukulele to open up?

i don't think you want to return it right...

Steedy
12-01-2012, 11:27 AM
I'm sure with some different strings and a little playing time, your Pono MT will sound wonderful. I have a Pono Tenor I ordered from HMS, and while I'm not crazy about the strings that came on it, it's made me a huge fan of Pono ukes (and HMS)! :cool:

patfia
12-01-2012, 12:27 PM
PTOE, I'd agree with the string change. I haven't done many but every one I have done from stock strings has been a significant improvement. In my experience with both guitar and uke, good instruments warm up/mellow out with age. My Martin guitar was crisp and precise in 1968, just what I wanted then. Years later it is warm and beautiful, just what I want now. You won't have to wait that many years (40+?) for your Pono to warm up.

Add me to the list of those not thrilled with the stock string set on the Pono MT. Realized, I should have looked at the photo more closely to see the wound C when I ordered. I think that's my primary problem as I seem to like the other strings but the wound just doesn't fit for me either. They're relatively inexpensive but I'm not good with tossing away a set of decent strings just because I'm not fond of one. Keep hoping it will grow on me ... not so much so far.

ukemunga
12-01-2012, 12:47 PM
Heck, if you want to try a new set of strings just pick a brand and go for it. No need to throw out the strings being removed.

I've been know to take a perfectly fine set of strings off a uke just to hear what others sound like. No need to destroy the ones being removed. Just stick them into the envelopes the new ones came in and label them for later use.

PTOEguy
12-01-2012, 01:44 PM
Definitely going to try some different strings - just got to find a few minutes to make it happen, and get over my minor anxiety about changing strings. I'm an engineer, not a luthier...

vanflynn
12-01-2012, 04:41 PM
Heck, if you want to try a new set of strings just pick a brand and go for it. No need to throw out the strings being removed.

I've been know to take a perfectly fine set of strings off a uke just to hear what others sound like. No need to destroy the ones being removed. Just stick them into the envelopes the new ones came in and label them for later use.

Absolutely. Just make sure you mark the envelope/Baggie as to which string it is!

Patrick Madsen
12-01-2012, 07:26 PM
I didn't see anyone else mention making sure the uke is setup properly. For me, strings do make a big difference but having a properly setup, low actioned uke makes a big difference if I'll like it or not.

It takes a while for a uke to open up and sing. Change the strings, check the setup and play it often. If you end up not liking it, the new setup and strings will help sell it faster.

ukemunga
12-02-2012, 02:51 AM
One more suggestion. When you change the strings, don't take all of the old ones off first. Just replace one at a time. Better for the uke and better for you to look at the others for reference as you go. It's really not difficult. Even and engineer can do it! :D

wendellfiddler
12-02-2012, 08:41 AM
I recently gave my MT to my daughter, but for the money, in my opinion it holds up well in terms of tone, volume, playability and finish to anything in its price range and quite a bit beyond. I also disliked the original strings though. I wouldn't wait for them to wear out - try some others. I liked Aquilas on mine, but Worth clears are nice too - albeit higher tension.

Doug

PTOEguy
12-06-2012, 03:36 PM
A couple days ago I switched over to living water strings. This made quite a difference - much more responsive, it is easier to play both loud and soft. Also the more I play it, the better it seems to sound - either I'm getting used to it, getting more out of it, or it is opening up.

I've also got a set of Aquilas that I'll likely try at some point, and a set of these http://www.theukulelesite.com/aaron-strings-tenor.html

roxhum
12-06-2012, 04:44 PM
I am happy to hear you are now happy with your purchase.

vanflynn
12-06-2012, 05:28 PM
either I'm getting used to it, getting more out of it, or it is opening up.


Possibly a bit of both. I had an Ohana that I wasn't thrilled with so ignored it for a bit. When I can back to it I really started to warm up to it.

Glad it's working out for you

coolkayaker1
12-06-2012, 05:54 PM
One more suggestion. When you change the strings, don't take all of the old ones off first. Just replace one at a time. Better for the uke and better for you to look at the others for reference as you go. It's really not difficult. Even and engineer can do it! :D
Agree. I can't tell you how many times I turn the "other tuner" just to see which way I should be turning the tuner for the string I'm changing.

kauaijim
12-06-2012, 06:30 PM
I use Southcoast strings on both my Pono ukes. Highly recommended. Never really liked the Koolau strings.

Nickie
12-07-2012, 05:05 AM
Now I can say CONGRATULATIONS on your new uke!

Garydavkra
12-07-2012, 06:03 AM
I'm also glad that the strings made a difference for you. I have a couple of Pono ukes also and I still have the original strings on them. I had to buy my Ponos on line without being able to try them so, I took a chance. If I were to buy them in a store, I would have a shop person play it while I stand in front of it. It always sounds different than playing it yourself. In my experience, and this includes guitars, they've always sounded better when someone else plays them. :D


A couple days ago I switched over to living water strings. This made quite a difference - much more responsive, it is easier to play both loud and soft. Also the more I play it, the better it seems to sound - either I'm getting used to it, getting more out of it, or it is opening up.

I've also got a set of Aquilas that I'll likely try at some point, and a set of these http://www.theukulelesite.com/aaron-strings-tenor.html

PTOEguy
12-07-2012, 10:24 AM
And the saga continues..

Last night I opened the case to take out my ukulele and found that the A string had come off the bridge. I seem to have this problem with both my tenor and baritone ukuleles where I've installed living water strings and the number 1 string comes loose from the bridge. I'm copying the existing knot, but it appears the small strings are flexible and slick enough that they don't hold - the knot unwinds when I bring it up to tension (either immediately, or up to a couple of days later). On the Baritone I eventually tied a knot on the end of the string and then did the standard knot on the bridge. The knot on the string kept it from pulling through the bridge knot. When I tried this on the tenor (after a couple of attempts to get the bridge knot to stay), the string then broke up at the tuner.

Guess I'll be trying some other strings now.

mm stan
12-07-2012, 10:50 AM
And the saga continues..

Last night I opened the case to take out my ukulele and found that the A string had come off the bridge. I seem to have this problem with both my tenor and baritone ukuleles where I've installed living water strings and the number 1 string comes loose from the bridge. I'm copying the existing knot, but it appears the small strings are flexible and slick enough that they don't hold - the knot unwinds when I bring it up to tension (either immediately, or up to a couple of days later). On the Baritone I eventually tied a knot on the end of the string and then did the standard knot on the bridge. The knot on the string kept it from pulling through the bridge knot. When I tried this on the tenor (after a couple of attempts to get the bridge knot to stay), the string then broke up at the tuner.

Guess I'll be trying some other strings now.

Use a lighter and heat the end of the strings to a ball so the string doesn't slip....easy as that.. if you really want to have a warmer sound drop it a half to full step... and strings
I found Alohis are thicker and softer compound giving them a warmer tone....Good Luck...Happy Strummings...tuning and strings can help to a certain extent...

ukemunga
12-07-2012, 12:27 PM
Ditto the lighter trick. If you do it after the strings are tied on be sure to put something under the string end between it and your soundboard in case something drips. And don't actually get the flame right on the string, all you have to do is get close.

OldePhart
12-07-2012, 12:33 PM
Those pesky A strings! :) I never have other's slip because I don't tension one up until the next string over is looped around the "tail" and snugged up some - I then bring them up to full tension at the same time. Darned A string doesn't have anything to hold the "tail" though.

Usually doing a triple crossover instead of just a double on the A string works but I'll confess I've resorted to a tiny dab of superglue on the "knot" of the A string a couple of times (you want to be very careful because obviously you don't want the string stuck to the bridge).

John

kaizersoza
12-07-2012, 12:35 PM
what i normally find with new ukes that i am not to sure of is that the sound either grows on you as you become accustomed to it or you end up dumping the strings, my recently purchased Honu Mango came with the obligatory Aquila strings on it and I was expecting it to be quite bright sounding but it is really warm compared to a lot of my other ukes, having said that I can live with the sound and cannot wait to sling a set of Living Waters on it

Closet Uker
12-13-2012, 02:49 PM
Hello. Similar situation - New Uke day, buyer's remorse - but turned out wonderful with some tweaking.

I too just got my Pono last week. I went with the MT-SH slothead tenor.

It came with wound C and G Ko'olau strings, which to my ear, sounded awful. I didn't like the scratching/squeaking sounds of the wound strings and immediately took them off. I tried Worth clears (low g) first, which was a significant improvement for fingerpicking and strumming, but it seemed subdued and didn't have the sustain or warmth I wanted. The low G kind of thudded and lacked the vibrance that I wanted.

I then tried a low G set of Ken Middleton's Living water strings and I absolutely loved the sound on the higher 3 strings. It really made the Pono shine. Still had the thudding/low volume of the low G though.

I finally found the right combination today. I got a few Red Aquila Corde Low G tenor strings from Elderly and tried one out today.

Wow, PERFECT! What a sound. I am mesmerized by this Pono. The Living Waters strings along with the Red Aquila low G is an ideal match for this ukulele.

I am now ecstatic with my purchase. Got it from HMS.

I actually have the same strings on my Ohana TK-35CG as well. Love them!

Hope this helps. Everyone's ear is different though.

PTOEguy
12-18-2012, 04:46 AM
Thanks for all the good advice about how to secure an A string - however before I got a chance to put them into action the A string broke at the tuner. So I wound up putting on a set of Aquilas. They are thicker/stiffer than the Living Water strings, so a standard knot is holding.

I know that Aquilas have a reputation for being great on lower end laminate ukes, but for some reason I'm really loving them on the solid wood Pono. The living waters were a cleaner, clearer tone, but I felt like I had to play them very carefully to get the most out of them. The Aquilas just seem a lot more forgiving to me - particularly when I'm playing for singing and need a bit more volume. While they don't ring as much, they seem to have a thicker sound with more body.

After all this messing around - I'm really happy with the Pono MT. It has opened up, and getting strings on it that suit my playing also helped.

RichM
12-18-2012, 04:54 AM
Thanks for all the good advice about how to secure an A string - however before I got a chance to put them into action the A string broke at the tuner. So I wound up putting on a set of Aquilas. They are thicker/stiffer than the Living Water strings, so a standard knot is holding.

I know that Aquilas have a reputation for being great on lower end laminate ukes, but for some reason I'm really loving them on the solid wood Pono. The living waters were a cleaner, clearer tone, but I felt like I had to play them very carefully to get the most out of them. The Aquilas just seem a lot more forgiving to me - particularly when I'm playing for singing and need a bit more volume. While they don't ring as much, they seem to have a thicker sound with more body.

After all this messing around - I'm really happy with the Pono MT. It has opened up, and getting strings on it that suit my playing also helped.

I've never understood where this "Aquila strings sound good on lower-end ukes" myth came from. Aquilas are great strings. While string tone and feel will always be a matter of preference, I have found they sound good on a wide variety of instruments--depending, of course, on the tonal preference of the player. I'm glad they worked for you.