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View Full Version : Just tried out a dozen ukes from $85 to $5000 - the winner is...



LoMa
12-18-2008, 01:44 PM
Yep, there was a clear winner amongst all thses ukes - I played Mahalo electric/acoustic les paul and tele style ukes, a K-wave tele style concert uke, a Hamano mahogany concert, an Ohana spruce and flamed mahog soprano, an Ohana cedar and flamed mahog soprano, an Ohana cedar and rosewood concert, a Kala cedar and rosewood concert, a Makai all solid maple soprano, a new Martin 5K, a Martin model 3, a flea, and a fluke. I also tried out 2 Compass Rose tenors, a Kiwaya tenor, an Ohana tenor, and a Martin tenor guitar tune to dGBE made of formica (they call it HPL plastic - but it looks and feels just like formica), and a no-name baritone uke.
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Didn't like any of the tenors or the bari uke. The formica tenor guitar was almost cool, but not quite cool enough. The Compass Rose's were very disappointing.

And well the Martin's - couldn't really hear why they were priced between $1650 and $5000. They were nice enough, but not that nice.

Didn't dig the Kala - it had playability issues, primarily poor intonation and fretboard roll-off when playing the A string.

The Hamano had no dynamics - there was no change in volume when playing softly or hard. It was quiet and quite dead sounding. No sustain. No punch either.

The Mahalo's were surprisingly good. There were a half dozen at the store and I tried them all. The intonation ranges from excellent to appalling! The action was fine on all of them and they had great playability. Surprisingly full tone and great dynamics when played acoustially. But wow, what a bummer when play electric... Not much sustain.

The K-wave tele was a much better amp'd than the Mahalo's. Inotnation was good. Good dynamics played acoustically. Slightly less full sounding than the Mahalo's played acoustically. But it lacked the sustain I wanted.

The Ohana's all had great playability, good to great dynamics, and good to great sustain. Factory strung with Aquila's. Pretty ringing tone with good overtones. Very resonant and responsive. Good to excellent intonation. Real pretty to look at and very nice workmanship - better than some customs I've seen and played! All in all, I liked the spruce and flamed mahog soprano the best - it had the most sustain, the phattest tone, and spot-on intonation. The tonal palette is somewhat limited, but I like the range I can get out of it. Defintely on the bright end of the tonal spectrum, as were all of the Ohana's I tried. Anyway, I liked it so much I bought it for a great out-the-door price - $200 with a very nice locking hardshell case. It's my new beater for the office...

I know there can be some variability with these cheap Chinese ukes, so it was nice to be able to try out so many of them!!!! All in all, I'd say the Ohana's have pretty good consistency, and the outstanding specimens really are outstanding! I like my little Ohana better than the $5000 Martin for dynamics, rich overtones, and note separation. Weird...

Just a note: Mike DaSilva (ukemaker.com) is the Ohana Distributer for my local music stores - maybe that's why all the Ohana's were awfully good instruments! I don;t know, but maybe he sends back the bummers and doesn't distribute them to the music stores? Or Ohana has surprisingly good quality control? Like I said, I dunno...

salukulady
12-18-2008, 02:01 PM
Good to hear I bought the right uke....I started out on Ohana's and have been very happy with them, but I'm not very picky and am not what you'd call a good musician. I play daily for fun, not perfection. I think Ohana's are often over looked by people chasing tone by spending more money. I also own a Lanikai Baritone, I love, and my daughters both own Kala's, they're happy with. I socially play with over 100 uke players a week and have found a lot of people that have $$$ to burn tend to buy a more expensive uke hoping it will make them play better. They don't get it. It's all about the practicing.

MGM
12-18-2008, 02:17 PM
I have tried nearly 30,000 ukulele in my life from 1.50 to 45,000.00 and the winners are............................................... .(trade secret) sorry i have too many friends to pick just one ....... I like um all

Captain Google
12-18-2008, 02:22 PM
I started with an Ohana, myself, on Alan's (UKISOCIETY's) suggestion. I love my tenor very much. It sounds like heaven in stringed form to me. Two hundred dollars well spent, that's for sure.

I'll be getting a soprano at some point in the next couple of months, so I can compare the sound.:cool:

MisoHappy
12-18-2008, 02:28 PM
Never really got the chance to try out some different ones. I was given a kamaka concert straight up so yah. I tried a martin once and it was pretty good though

Ukuleleblues
12-18-2008, 06:14 PM
It's kind of like saying I just saw the best sunrise......most are very good...just depends on where your head is. Enjoy them all. Bad intonation is kind of like clouds. Just makes U appreciate the good ones.

Pippin
12-18-2008, 09:58 PM
I have tried nearly 30,000 ukulele in my life from 1.50 to 45,000.00 and the winners are............................................... .(trade secret) sorry i have too many friends to pick just one ....... I like um all

You're such a tease. :D

and I understand completely.

SamWise
12-18-2008, 10:58 PM
I must say, I think Martin are able to apply at LEAST a 60% premium just on name. Took my Dad guitar shopping recently, and the 300 or so chinese made solid tops were kicking the arse of the 600-700 Martins.

haole
12-19-2008, 06:54 AM
I must say, I think Martin are able to apply at LEAST a 60% premium just on name. Took my Dad guitar shopping recently, and the 300 or so chinese made solid tops were kicking the arse of the 600-700 Martins.

Martin, Fender, and Gibson probably milk their brand names to justify high prices more than any other guitar makers. Not to say they make bad instruments (some are incredible), but they want you to think that a Martin is a Martin when in reality they vary a LOT even between two of the same model. Vintage vs. vintage reissue vs. current models is similarly silly. There are good and bad examples of every model, and beyond that, it's all a matter of personal preference. There are a few folks out there who honestly believe that their pre-war Martin (whether guitar or ukulele) sounds and plays better than anything else based on real-world comparison, but most "connoisseurs" are just buying into brand hype.

GX9901
12-19-2008, 08:19 AM
Didn't like any of the tenors or the bari uke. The formica tenor guitar was almost cool, but not quite cool enough. The Compass Rose's were very disappointing.


I'm kind of curious about why the Compass Rose is disappointing. I have an all walnut Compass Rose. While the nut width doesn't quite agree with me (too narrow for me), I think it's a great sounding uke. When I got mine, it had pretty high action and I wasn't fond of the nut width, but once I adjusted the action & strung it with some D'Addario J71's, every time I play it I seem to be surprised by how good it sounds. It's certainly one of the better sounding "production" tenors I've played.

Having said that though, I'm probably going to sell it soon since the nut width causes me to not play it much. But as far as sound is concerned, I thought it's a great uke.

LoMa
12-19-2008, 08:35 AM
About the Compass Rose ukes - the sound seemed kind of buried and the instruments just didn't feel responsive to my touch. Probably they would play better with a better player than me! Part of the porblem is that I like a lower string tension. I also didn't like the feel of the necks - too thick a neck profile for my liking - they seems almost semi-circular in profile.

The guy in the store played 'em for me too and I still didn't like 'em. They sounded like they were under water or something. That's the best I can explain it.

He'd had these ukes for a long time - his other Compass Rose's had sold quickly, so maybe these are just duds... or at any rate, I'm not the right person for them!

I have tried one other Compass Rose from MGM which had a lovely, if somewhat subdued tone, but I hated the neck profile! I think they're just not made for me...

LoMa
12-19-2008, 08:56 AM
So I just bought this Ohana, but mind you, I like and own all sorts of ukes, ones with big price tags, moderately priced ones, and cheapos. It really depends on the qualities of the individual uke.

The only generalities I've found is that I really like all Larrivee and LoPrinzi ukes I've ever played, and have loved numerous ones of them...

And those Kiwaya Long Neck Sopranos (the KSL-1 mahogany and the KSL-2 koa ones) - I love these ukes too!!!!

And I have a very fine, and expensive, Stradelele concert uke made by Joel Eckhaus.

So the keepers for me are one Larrivee, one LoPrinzi, two Kiwayas, the Eckhaus Strad, and now this Ohana... and a super cheapo uke I still have that I got when I was a kid in the early 1960's... I also have a Risa steel string tenor electric uke that's a keeper.

I'm selling off or have sold my other ukes, all of which I love, but I've identified the best of the lot for me that I will kepp - they all have different tonal qualities and I love and play these the most.

It's still hard to let go though, because I still love the ones I'm finding new homes for - I've sold and bought back a Larrivee mahogany concert two times, and I recently sold it again for a thrid time... and I want her back again... and then there was the beautiful mahogany LoPrinzi I sold that I've actually been playing in my dreams lately...

And now I'm selling a Loprinzi that I will regret selling, and an extra Kiwaya KSL-2 (my family has three of these and we only need two...).

And I really really want a Bugs Gear concert Eleuke...

Man, I got a problem I guess...

GX9901
12-19-2008, 09:07 AM
...It's still hard to let go though, because I still love the ones I'm finding new homes for...

Tell me about it. I probably should be selling off 6 or 7 of my ukes, but have been totally dragging my feet on it. I've decided to sell the Compass Rose for the past month or so but then I play it and it sounds so nice I decide to hang on to it for a bit longer. I almost wish it sounded crappy so I'd feel no remorse selling it. :p

Captain Google
12-19-2008, 11:55 AM
Tell me about it. I probably should be selling off 6 or 7 of my ukes, but have been totally dragging my feet on it. I've decided to sell the Compass Rose for the past month or so but then I play it and it sounds so nice I decide to hang on to it for a bit longer. I almost wish it sounded crappy so I'd feel no remorse selling it. :p

If I wasn't absolutely morally opposed to it, I would offer to lower its quality for you. ;)

But smashing ukes is completely wrong. :cool:

Rock-A-Hula
12-21-2008, 10:09 PM
I have tried nearly 30,000 ukulele in my life from 1.50 to 45,000.00 and the winners are............................................... .(trade secret) sorry i have too many friends to pick just one ....... I like um all

:D Politician, eh?

Pippin
12-21-2008, 10:17 PM
So I just bought this Ohana

Ohana is a family run company and they place a huge amount of emphasis on the quality of sound each instrument produces. They are also producing solid wood ukuleles at fantastic prices.

Bltprf502
03-23-2009, 01:06 AM
I have 1 uke. Its a Larrivee 01 series all mahogany saprano made in Canada. I fell into it because my local guitar delaer had it. New/old stock with the begining of a micro sized crack in the 1 o'clock position of the sound hole. Great sounding... and rather rare. I got a deal on it. Have had numerous folks try to buy it. Not yet...