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View Full Version : Non-familiar/unbranded China-made ukes with solid tops



silveraven
04-30-2013, 06:42 PM
I was wondering if anyone here had seen non-familiar/unbranded China-made ukes with solid tops? Has anyone tried them out? What's your take on these instruments?

Yesterday I was talking to a friend about my first ukulele purchase and my excitement sorta spilled over so she went out to a music store to get one too. Thing is, I couldn't seem to google up any info on the brands that the store carries (e.g. Clevan, Danie). According to the salesperson, these are well-made China ukes and because there's only Smiley Mahalos, Ibanez and Eddy Finns laminates (with no setup) besides the China solid tops, my friend went with a Danie which sounds nicer in comparison to the laminates.

equina
04-30-2013, 07:21 PM
I bought one. It's a concert with solid Engelmann Spruce top with laminated Rosewood b/s, bone nut & saddle, rosewood fretboard & bridge, matte finish. It comes with a low-cost pickup and other free gifts like gig-bag, tuner, extra strings, song book (in Chinese). Costs me only ~USD80 excluding shipping and agent's fee. Without the pickup the cost was only ~USD65 with the free gifts. It's a China brand name called Boyale. I bought it from www.taobao.com, which is a China ebay. Taobao has many Chinese-brand ukuleles, but all of them are either low-end or mid-range ukes.

Quality is unexpectedly good for an entry-level uke, but not as good as my all-solid wood ukes from Hamano and Ohana. 2 other players had given feedback that the uke's tone was considered good.

As taobao is a China website, the texts are all in Chinese. It's best you go through a taobao agent like Taobao Focus (www.taobaofocus.com) for translation services. Also, taobao does not accept paypal or international credit cards, hence you also need the taobao agent to facilitate the payment and delivery for you. The taobao agent will impose a fee, e.g. 10% of your purchases.

bborzell
04-30-2013, 08:40 PM
Ummm... Am I missing something here? Nothing is really known about what one might get, and the low cost is increased by 10% simply for the privilege of paying for the uke? Why would this approach for getting an entry level solid top uke with lam sides and back be seen as desirable?

silveraven
04-30-2013, 09:23 PM
Ummm... Am I missing something here? Nothing is really known about what one might get, and the low cost is increased by 10% simply for the privilege of paying for the uke? Why would this approach for getting an entry level solid top uke with lam sides and back be seen as desirable?

For my friend's case, there wasn't much of a choice and to her, those China ukes sounded better than Smiley Mahalos and the Eddy Finns. I can't vouch for it since I've not personally heard the uke she bought, but she plays the guitar so I think that might carry some weight?

Anyway, I was just asking if anyone's seen or heard of such ukes and what your take on them are. That's all.

equina
05-01-2013, 12:04 AM
Ummm... Am I missing something here? Nothing is really known about what one might get, and the low cost is increased by 10% simply for the privilege of paying for the uke? Why would this approach for getting an entry level solid top uke with lam sides and back be seen as desirable?

This approach of getting an unknown brand entry-level uke is no different from buying any ukes in eBay. In eBay buyers usually have no idea who the seller is, and depend on ratings as an indication to the reliability of the seller. Same way I used to purchase my China-brand uke. Of course there is no 100% guarantee you will end up liking the uke, but that's a risk we take for buying from eBay, or even reputable online stores. I purchased my Hamano and Ohana concerts from online stores, but I knew I was taking a risk that they may not perform up to expectations. The most common reason why I and many people buy from online stores is because the uke is not available in our locality.

A few reasons why a buyer would buy an unknown China (or other Asian brand) uke without testing it:
- The buyer is a noob, or is buying for his young child, and was not sure whether the player would continue with the uke, so a low-cost entry level instrument is not too much of a loss if the player decides that playing the uke is not for him.
- A noob, especially in music, frequently cannot differentiate between good tone and mediocre tone. I attended one beginner uke course, where we were all given laminated mahogany ukes to practise with. On one occasion, I played with a KoAloha that happened to be in the class. Only the instructor and I could hear the difference in the tone. The rest of the class thought the two ukes sounded similar. For a noob who could not tell the difference in tone, does it matter whether he gets a high-quality or mediocre-quality instrument? The lucky thing for him is he needs to spend very little on his uke to be happy and he is not likely to suffer from UAS!
- The noob player has a very tight budget. Many well-known and popular brands carry laminated ukes at much higher prices, minimally to cover their marketing and other costs. Having a brand name does not guarantee absence of poor quality, unlike what our subconscious mind tells us. Hence, the buyer could be better off with an unknown brand with a solid top, as what the OP's friend had encountered. To minimise the risk of getting a poor-quality uke, I simply ensured that the uke has a solid top and is not unreasonably cheap, e.g. $30 for a solid-top uke is unbelievable, even by China's standards. Furthermore, shipping from China to my country is very low, hence buying from China happened to be an affordable option for me.
- Many well-known and popular brands contract out the manufacturing to China and other Asian countries. As a result, technology transfer takes place. The formula for making ukuleles is widely available. You just need practice and experience to better your skills. Hence, unheard-of China-brand ukes does not automatically mean poor quality.

Note that I'm not saying this is a very good way of buying ukes. Nothing beats the experience of trying out a uke before you buy. Just that a person may face certain constraints that makes him buy unknown brands or via online stores.

Harold O.
05-01-2013, 04:52 AM
Ummm... Am I missing something here? Nothing is really known about what one might get, and the low cost is increased by 10% simply for the privilege of paying for the uke? Why would this approach for getting an entry level solid top uke with lam sides and back be seen as desirable?

Also consider that the friend is in Malaysia. Purchasing options vary depending upon where a person lives.