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Sporin
02-09-2013, 06:53 AM
So I've got 3 ukes, a Dolphin (for the beach and my son to noodle around with), a Kala Concert (a gift from my wife that started it all... but is rarely played) and my Islander Tenor Laminate that I got from HMS with a passive pickup installed (this is my "expensive" uke, expensive for me anyway). The Islander is my main uke.

I'd really like to step up to a really nice uke. I play a lot, I have an appreciation for fine instruments, and would like to purchase a true "lifetime" uke.

It would be a tenor, it would have a good pickup installed, it would be solid wood.

The plan had been to save my pennies and eventually order a Mya-Moe. The way I would want it is close to $2k.

The alternative is to save my pennies but be a bit more budget minded and get something very nice in the $400-$800 range.

So what do you all think? If I'm honest, I doubt that anything short of a financial windfall would allow me to spend $2k on a pure luxury item like this. I live in a world of tight budgets, I'm self employed, and frankly, if I had a spare 2 grand I should be putting it towards extra payments on the house or the boy's college savings.

$600 though is something more palatable. I can save that money sooner, and it's more likely to come to me from a client bonus and be more genuinely "extra." And it's not so large that I'd feel guilty spending it on a frivolous pleasure item.

But will the jump in quality be noticeable enough? I love the sound of my Islander but I find the finish to be very thin and cheap feeling. The uke itself is not particularly pretty and while I know some find that a frivolous thing, i enjoy fine craftsmanship and beautiful woods and if I'm dropping big coin on a nice uke I want it to be really pretty as well. I understand that is totally subjective, so bear with me.

I've played some Mainlands and Ponos and would be checking those out more thoroughly in that lower budget. Other suggestions?

Just wanted to discuss and see what you guys thought. Appreciate the input, thanks.

-Dave

PhilUSAFRet
02-09-2013, 06:57 AM
If you love that Islander, a move up to the solid mahogany model may be in order. Can sell the laminate to fund the MiSi pickup and case.......

Sporin
02-09-2013, 07:07 AM
If you love that Islander, a move up to the solid mahogany model may be in order. Can sell the laminate to fund the MiSi pickup and case.......

Appreciate that, but I don't think I love my Islander enough to just byu a solid version of it. I'd like to get something a little more special (subjective, I know).

I would be selling my Islander though as I wouldn't need 2 Tenors.

ScooterD35
02-09-2013, 07:12 AM
I think that if I were in your position I would start saving the money without a "target" Uke in mind. Be creative about stashing money. Look around the house and see what you have lying around that doesn't get used anymore (old stereos, TVs, etc...) that you can sell on Craigslist. Take your lunch to work if you don't already, get a thermos and give up Starbucks or DDs, stuff like that. I think you'd be surprised at how quickly you have a decent chunk of Uke money.

Once you have the dough-re-mi, start thinking about what you want and what's available. Don't be afraid to buy used. It always amazes me, the bargains that become available when someone wants to upgrade from a Koaloha to a Maya-Moe or realizes that they just don't play that Maya-Moe Concert any more and want it to have a good home.

Save the money and then start the hunt, that's my motto!


Scooter

connor013
02-09-2013, 07:14 AM
I like the $600 plan; you have some really interesting tenor options.

Based upon what I've owned/played, I'd throw in a vote for Loprinzi. I've owned a Pono MT -- and currently own a MB -- but to my mind Loprinzi is a step up in craftsmanship.

Based upon UU lurking, I'd get in touch with the brothers Bullinger for a redwood/myrtle Covered Bridge :drool:.

One last idea: if you're willing to buy used, $600 brings some big players into range.

This is an awesome dilemma to have!

OldePhart
02-09-2013, 07:45 AM
In general the difference between your laminate tenor and a solid tenor in the $600-$900 range is going to be far greater than the difference between a solid tenor in the $600-$900 range and that $2k Mya Moe, especially if you consider used tenors in the $600-$900 range. Basically, you run into the law of diminishing returns. Where that law kicks in differs by taste and budget, and how important bling is to you, but most agree it falls in the $900-$1500 range (and by looking at used ukes you can extend that a bit lower to $600 if you are very lucky and find the right used uke).

For myself, I've got a Mya Moe or two in my future plans simply because what I want isn't available from the K-brands (concert resonator and a nice baritone with a radiused fretboard).

Also, you have to look at your financial situation (as you obviously have). I suspect that you'll find far more enjoyment from a "guilt free" $600-$900 uke than you will from the "holy grail" that you spent more on than you feel like you should have spent on a luxury.


John

didgeridoo2
02-09-2013, 07:52 AM
There are some great options at $600. Do you like the wider nut the Islander gives you? That may help you in seeing what's available. What do you mean by special?

Sporin
02-09-2013, 07:53 AM
I appreciate all the great input so far everyone, thank you very much and keep it coming. :D

As you said John, I'll expect I'll enjoy a less-guilty instrument more just because my financial conscience will be cleaner. :)

Another thing to consider is that I've only been playing a couple of years and I'm still mostly a strummer to accompany my own singing. I'm just starting to finger pick, and while my enthusiasm and dedication levels might be worthy of a $2000 uke, my actual playing talent is probably more suited to the $600 range. :) :)

I hadn't even considered Used but that would surely be an avenue for me, and appreciate what you said Scooter about having no target in mind. That makes sense.

PedalFreak
02-09-2013, 07:53 AM
I think that if I were in your position I would start saving the money without a "target" Uke in mind. Be creative about stashing money. Look around the house and see what you have lying around that doesn't get used anymore (old stereos, TVs, etc...) that you can sell on Craigslist. Take your lunch to work if you don't already, get a thermos and give up Starbucks or DDs, stuff like that. I think you'd be surprised at how quickly you have a decent chunk of Uke money.

Once you have the dough-re-mi, start thinking about what you want and what's available. Don't be afraid to buy used. It always amazes me, the bargains that become available when someone wants to upgrade from a Koaloha to a Maya-Moe or realizes that they just don't play that Maya-Moe Concert any more and want it to have a good home.

Save the money and then start the hunt, that's my motto!


Scooter

Scooter's right on the money IMO. And if you get $2k saved and you look at things and say I just cant do it, then look for a used Mya-Moe, Kamaka, Kanilea, or any of the other great brands that you could get for under $1k and use the other grand for the things you said.

Also, in the long run (life long) $2k for an instrument that you are going to get decades of use out of isn't a lot of money. You said you want a lifelong instrument, so if you think about having that $2k uke for 20 years, thats only $100 a year. Then you have a great heirloom for your son someday. He can remember dad playing his favorite uke, and then have that uke.

We as a society don't blink twice a lot of the time when it comes to buying a $1000 TV or Computer or other things like that, then in a few years they don't work and we do it again. Not so with instruments, they're good for life if taken care of properly :) Just some other thoughts.

Sporin
02-09-2013, 07:54 AM
There are some great options at $600. Do you like the wider nut the Islander gives you? That may help you in seeing what's available. What do you mean by special?

I do like the wider nut, yes, but it's not a deal breaker.

"Special" is so subjective, I have a hard time even describing it. I love beautiful wood and details, I like ukes made of 2 contrasting woods, I guess I'll know it when I see it.

nighthunte29
02-09-2013, 08:09 AM
Why not go half way and get something in the $1-1.4k range?

mds725
02-09-2013, 08:19 AM
How about a more "stripped down" Mya-Moe? I'm not sure what configuration you'd want that brings the price up to $2,000, but since most of the sound comes from the design, you could by a Mya-Moe without all the bling and get essentially the same instrument (soundwise) as a $2,000 Mya-Moe, just without the incredibly fancy wood (and other stuff) MM offers.

For what it's worth, I have a Mya-Moe myrtle tenor tradition (the model without binding, rosette, etc.) and I think it sounds as good as any Mya-Moe. I've seem MMs with much more striking wood, but I'm not sure I would have wanted to pay the extra money (bumping up to the classic to get access to master grade woods and then paying an additional premium for the wood itself) just to have a prettier uke.

Doc_J
02-09-2013, 08:50 AM
Based on my experiences, in your price range of $600+ for a new solid tenor, I would consider a custom Covered Bridge. They are an incredible value.

Hippie Dribble
02-09-2013, 08:54 AM
based on my experiences, in your price range of $600+ for a new solid tenor, i would consider a custom covered bridge. The are an incredible value.
yes!!!!!!!

pdxuke
02-09-2013, 08:55 AM
For $700-900 you may very well be able to find a used Kamaka. For $900-1200 you may actually find a vintage Martin (Mine was $900). In my mind, these two choices lead the pack.

haole
02-09-2013, 09:06 AM
The solid wood Islanders aren't significantly better than the laminates, in my opinion. I actually like the laminate mahogany better than the solid mahogany!

Go for a stock K-brand, a LoPrinzi, a Sailor Brand, or a less-fancy Mya-Moe, maybe! For about a thousand bucks you can get something made in the US that will sound great.

NewKid
02-09-2013, 11:24 AM
Very useful advice on this thread. Kiwaya is a very well-crafted instrument in your $600 price range and they just came out with a tenor for the states. If you have a pick-up in your Uke then you'll need to purchase an amp as well. So another added expense. Mya-Moe Tenor Tradition starts at $1,000 and after your $300 deposit you'll have 7-8 months to save the other $700 or $100/month. The Mya-Moe can certainly become a lifetime uke, but I will guess that it won't be the last one you ever get. This Uke thing is overwhelmingly fun. Good luck!

Sporin
02-09-2013, 03:04 PM
Bill,

I do not look at the wall and see 3 ukes that I wasted money on. The Kala was a gift, it was my first uke and I didn't pick it. It would hurt my wife's feelings if I sold it and i have no intention of doing that. The Dolphin was a cheapie i bought for my son to play with me, it is his, it is not for sale.

The Islander was my choice of a nicer uke after I'd been playing a while and decided I wanted to move up to a Tenor size. I'd sold my truck and had a few hundred bucks of mad money. It is the only one I could even sell and I'll have no trouble selling it locally for enough to make it worth selling. It owes me nothing. I didn't feel I was ready for a more expensive, solid uke at that time and bought an excellent laminate which has served me well.

I already have an amp. I want a pickup because it is easiest at open mic night to plug into the host's mixer.

None of it is particularly relevant to my next purchase actually. I don't have crazy UAS. If i did id have a few more cheap ukes by now.

Much like when I stepped up from my gifted Kala to the Islander, I now want to step up to a nice solid wood uke.

I've spent too much time online drooling over increasingly more expensive custom ukes and really got my dreams way above my pay grade.

I've pretty much talked myself out of the $2k uke no matter how good it is. It's just not money I can spend no matter how long I take to save it.

Most likely I'll be spending 400-600 which will get me a really nice solid wood uke that I can enjoy for years to come.

I appreciate everyone's input and discussion, thanks!

Freeda
02-09-2013, 03:14 PM
In general the difference between your laminate tenor and a solid tenor in the $600-$900 range is going to be far greater than the difference between a solid tenor in the $600-$900 range and that $2k Mya Moe, especially if you consider used tenors in the $600-$900 range. Basically, you run into the law of diminishing returns. Where that law kicks in differs by taste and budget, and how important bling is to you, but most agree it falls in the $900-$1500 range (and by looking at used ukes you can extend that a bit lower to $600 if you are very lucky and find the right used uke).

For myself, I've got a Mya Moe or two in my future plans simply because what I want isn't available from the K-brands (concert resonator and a nice baritone with a radiused fretboard).

Also, you have to look at your financial situation (as you obviously have). I suspect that you'll find far more enjoyment from a "guilt free" $600-$900 uke than you will from the "holy grail" that you spent more on than you feel like you should have spent on a luxury.


John

This in spades. Good luck!

Pondoro
02-09-2013, 03:18 PM
Like you I could pop a lot of money for a $1000+ uke but I have decided I have other important uses for my money. I stopped at a $400 Pono and a $200 Ohana. I like them. I can hear the difference in a Kamaka or other K-Brand, but I have not raided my retirement fund to buy one. I was allowed to play a $1300 and a $5000 (yes, that is the right number of zeros!) at a uke event, they were lovely. But I don't need one.

I'd recommend going to a well-stocked store or a large uke event and playing a $400, $600, $900 uke. See where you want to stop.

Patrick Madsen
02-09-2013, 03:22 PM
I'd look a good used ones. So many come around that are like new. I'd be partial to look at a good vintage Martin for that slim, low actioned fast neck a vintage Martin has.

Dan Uke
02-09-2013, 03:24 PM
I would save and go for the big one and buy it used....If you ever change your mind, you can sell it and not feel as guilty as you wouldn't lose that much money or none at all compared to buying new. No matter what brand, maybe with the exception of MBU, you will lose money buying new and selling it.

mds725
02-09-2013, 03:30 PM
I agree with John that if you spend a lot more on an ukulele than you're comfortable with, you may not enjoy it as much as one you can better afford, and that at some point the incremental increase in quality is a smaller than the corresponding increase in price. I also think it's good advice to consider a used instrument. In 2011, I was able to buy a pristine, almost-never-been-played 2005 Kamaka tenor at Gryphon Stringed Instruments for $795, a savings of a few hundred dollars over the new Kamaka tenor I'd just bought a few months earlier in Kauai. Quality used ukuleles do occasionally become available at relatively bargain prices.

Kamanaaloha
02-09-2013, 06:05 PM
Try a Kanilea K1...Then try a Kamaka HF-3...then try a KoAloha KTM-00...then try a Pono MTSH Pro or ATSH Pro...Then a Collings...a Rick Turner...and a Mya Moe...then decide...I am also not sure about the weather, but you really might consider the Blackbird as it usually comes with a pick up and it is really tough and very rich sounding: http://www.theukulelesite.com/blackbird-all-carbon-fiber-tenor-ukulele.html

All the "K" are very different even within the same brand so play as many as you can and the right one even if not a "K" will talk to you and you will know!

I say HF-3L but I am biased, and I would not put a pick up in it...but that is me...

This next uke might be right up your alley...but I am not sure how much you play without it plugged...KoAloha thin body electric tenor.

http://www.theukulelesite.com/koaloha-koa-tenor-thinbody-electric.html

Kamanaaloha
02-09-2013, 06:15 PM
BTW...if you do not mind buying used...that is another very good option for you. Also the Lo Prinzi recommendation is really good too...but I have never heard one in person...so I would definitely not buy anything that I had not tried in person first, imho.

bazmaz
02-09-2013, 11:09 PM
If you like the islander - why not get a full on Kanile'a - trust me, you will be blown away