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View Full Version : Lanikai LU-21P or Kala KA-PSS? Where to buy in NYC?



cunparis
07-10-2013, 08:27 PM
I currently have a baritone uke that i use for strumming at a very beginner level and I'd like to buy a soprano uke, preferably a pineapple. I'm debating between the Lanikai LU-21P and Kala KA-PSS? I'm not sure which is the better one? I'm not as concerned about looks.

I'd also like to know where I could purchase one in NYC? I'll be in the US on a summer vacation, starting in New York City and I'd like to pick up the soprano and have it for our vacation. So far online I've found guitar center and sam ash, both have at least one model. Sam Ash is a bit cheaper. But what I do not see are cases for it. Would a pineapple fit in a soprano gig bag? And is that enough protection? Small & light is key because we'll be traveling a lot.

The other thing I'd like to do is put the Aquila 30U GDAE strings on it. I play violin and I'd like to do this so I can play some violin tunes I like (I'm into Irish music) and also learn some Mandolin chords. I don't see Sam Ash or Guitar Center carrying the GDAE strings. So I'm wondering if it'd be better to go to a luthier? I don't mind paying a bit more so that i can be sure it's set up right and they can show me how to change the strings (I've never done it).

I live in Paris and the ukulele's are a lot more expensive (at least Kala & Lanikai) so that's why I'd like to buy it in NYC.

So looking for a bit of advice here. Thanks.

guitarsnrotts
07-11-2013, 04:55 AM
A soprano gig bag should fit a pineapple with no problems. I had a Lanikai and the intonations on the various 21 models can be suspect. Recently played a Kala and I liked it better than the Lanikai. They seem to be very similar in overall quality. The Lanikai seems to be a little easier to find in the Big Box stores. For your strings, a set of Low-G Aquilas should do what you what you want and should be easy to find. Besides Sam Ash or Guitar Center, if you have the time take the Staten Island Ferry and visit Mandolin Brothers.

cunparis
07-19-2013, 01:52 AM
After some more research, I'm interested in a Flea Soprano. They list a store in NYC that sells them (Rudy's) so I'm going to try to go visit the store. I'm curious how the flea compares to the Lanikai LU-21P. The Flea will be about twice as much. But since this will be used for travel I thought maybe plastic is better? I'm surprised that something plastic can sound so good. I also play violin and I've never heard of a violin made with a plastic back. :)

Can someone explain the difference between plastic & wood fretboards?

Thanks

bnolsen
07-19-2013, 02:26 AM
No question the flea will be better. They are more consistent and durable. My opinion they are overpriced but still very nice. Don't use wound strings (on a soprano why would you?) and flea plastic fretboard should be fine. The rosewood is nicer but that price gets you dramatically better choice in ukukeles.

I have an lu21P which is well set up and i like it very much although I need to change out the strings to some fluorocarbons, its a bit muted with aquilas. The key is "well set up" which any flea will be.

cunparis
07-19-2013, 02:38 AM
If I buy the LU-21P, how will I know if it's well set-up? I guess if the store (Sam Ash) has several I could try a few but I'm not sure I can tell.

I don't mind paying more for the flea if it's better and more durable. I'm going to try to teach my kids to play it too (5 & 7 years old).

PTOEguy
07-19-2013, 03:23 AM
Right now I've got two fleas (both concert necks) and 3 LU-21Ps in my house. The LU-21Ps are gambler's specials from Butler Music, so they came without setup from a batch with high levels of defects. That said, the LU-21P is a fun little uke - they are my favorite of the various LU-21 flavors (I've got all except the tenor), but they are a long way from the flea.

The flea plays incredibly smoothly (superb setup) has a nice tone, great projection and is extremely durable. The LU-21P is nice for what it is - the Flea is nice period. Don't be fooled by the plastic on the instrument - it is a very serious instrument with a lot of design that has gone into making a great instrument. The plastic just makes the manufacturing very repeatable.

You said you were starting in NYC - if you go towards Massachusetts after that, the factory is in Sheffield http://magicfluke.com/ I believe they have a store at the factory where you can buy ukes (including seconds for 20% off - one of my fleas is a second)

Another thing on the flea - it goes up in price when when you start adding the extras - wood fingerboard, geared tuners, cool designs, etc. I haven't found the geared tuners to be necessary, and I like the plastic better than the wood fretboard (I have a wood fretboard on my Firefly).

mikelz777
07-19-2013, 03:53 AM
I got a Lanikai LU-21C which was not set up. It was difficult to play up in the first 4 frets and barre chords were nearly impossible without risking carpal tunnel or unless you had kung fu super grip. It made my finger tips cry. I went to a guitar store to have them lower the action and it only ended up costing me $8.00. They gave me a break on the price because I had to return twice before it was done properly. The first time, they only lowered the saddle when it was the nut end that really needed it. Once the nut end was lowered, it seemed like a breeze playing it compared to what it was before. Intonation is very good as well down to the 12th fret though I never get near it. Just to give you a visual idea of what it was like before and after, I could stick a credit card under the strings at the first fret and it would easily fall out before the action was lowered. Afterwards when I stick the card in there, it is held firmly between the fret and the strings, it won't fall out. It came with Aquila strings which to me, sounded a bit muted. I put some Oasis strings on it (lower gauge than Aquila) and they made it sound like a different uke. I also have some Martins I haven't tried out yet but I'm pretty certain they'll work better than the Aquilas as well. I've never played a Kala but I would recommend a Lanikai as a good starter uke if the action/setup is done properly. I like mine and would plan on keeping it if/when I get another uke. When I was looking around for my uke I looked at the Flea as well. I gave serious thought to getting one but they seemed over-priced. Even with the price of lowering the action/checking the intonation had I been charged the full price, I still would have saved a lot of money over the Flea.

ukuLily Mars
07-19-2013, 04:10 AM
I was in the Sam Ash on 34th Street in Manhattan in February and they had a couple Fleas on sale ($129). It is unlikely they will still have them, and I checked their website when I got him and saw no Fleas or Flukes at all. It was very nice to play one but at that point I wasn't able to buy one (I wish I had!). It sounded great! You could always check, but it's a gamble as I don't think that is regular stock for them.

Sheffield would probably be about a three and a half hour drive from NYC, roughly, but it could be a very nice trip if you're heading up that way. Depending on where you're staying, Staten Island could take almost as long! ;) I've heard great things about Mandolin Brothers, though.

You are correct that you probably won't get a well-set-up 'uke at these stores. Have you looked into having an 'uke shipped to where you are staying, perhaps from Mim or Uke Republic? I'm sure they would work with you. If you have friends there, see if they will accept a package for you. That's how I got my first 'uke! You would have more purchase options, and could make sure you got a gig bag or case that fits.

By the way, I'm a violinist, too! Yes, if they made one out of plastic that sounded as good as the Flea, we'd see a lot more people traveling with violins... although it wouldn't be the same. I wonder what they would make the bow out of!

Enjoy your trip, and good luck with your 'ukulele shopping! I hope you get something you love.

bnolsen
07-19-2013, 04:50 AM
That 129USD price was definitely good. You can order a flea from geartree (via amazon if you like) for 159USD shipped. A shop will want 179USD for one.

My LU21P came from butler music as well. I had to work over the nut myself to get it to play well. In fact all my cheap ukes required work on the nut to play well.

If you can get a hold of a flea and especially you should probably go for it. Until you get past the "playing around" stage and start doing some picking and going up the fretboard you won't know if a ukulele is well set up or not. With your time window and experience I'd say a flea would be a good choice and you won't be unhappy with it. I have a fluke which I play a lot which has no wear signs anywhere on the fretboard.

Thinking about it, if I had just *one* ukuele, I would probably settle on a soprano flea (perhaps with rosewood fretboard but I've never seen one of those in person). I have a schoenhut flake flea copy which I really like playing a lot (but it's already showing signs of fret wear).

Olarte
07-19-2013, 04:59 AM
Out of 20 ukes in my collection including 2 KoAlohas the flea and fluke are the ones I reach for the most. You can't go wrong with a flea.

cunparis
07-19-2013, 05:15 AM
We could stop by Sheffield on the way back to NYC from Vermont. That would add only 1hr to our trip. Only downside is I'd have it at the end of our trip and since our trip is 6 weeks I was hoping to get it at the beginning. Traveling with small kids means lots of downtime relaxing at the house/hotel/apartment. I brought a whistle but those are loud and objectionable. But everyone seems to like a ukulele. :)

It sounds the flea is worth it. I got to play one a few weeks ago but just for a few seconds. When I saw it was plastic I thought that it was a cheap child's toy. I had no idea how good they were or I would have played it more!

I'll visit Sam Ash and see if they have them, if not then Rudy's. If I can get one in NYC that's better. Other idea is to have one shipped to my parents who will meet us in Cape Cod and Portland. But I don't want to bother them with it if I don't need to.

Thanks for the tips.

Olarte
07-19-2013, 05:38 AM
Oh if you have a shipping address, your best bet is to get in touch with fleamarketmusic and see if they have any 2nds you can get a top quality design at 20% off and you can use that for a rosewood fretboard and\or peghed tunners.

I got a surf pattern that had a bit of fading that is fine with the motif, same with a pineapple pattern. They are so sturdy, well built and sounds so good that they are my favorites overall. I don't have to baby them as much when I travel, or sit around the house...

They can build it for you and ship it right to your parents at the cape.

They can tell you what 2nds they have and send you a pic with the blemish etc.. then you can decide... for me and two of my friends this worked really well.

The Ladies at Fleamarketmusic are a pleasure to deal with! And I rather give the profit directly to them than a mega-music store...

Good luck!



Other idea is to have one shipped to my parents who will meet us in Cape Cod and Portland. But I don't want to bother them with it if I don't need to.

Thanks for the tips.

mikelz777
07-19-2013, 05:58 AM
It sounds the flea is worth it. I got to play one a few weeks ago but just for a few seconds. When I saw it was plastic I thought that it was a cheap child's toy. I had no idea how good they were or I would have played it more!



That was my hang-up when I considered the Flea. I didn't want the plastic frets/fret board and the upgrade to the metal frets/wooden fret board put it in a price range (pushing $300 before shipping) I thought to be too expensive for that uke. I didn't want the friction tuners either and changing them out to geared tuners would put the price well north of $300. For that same money I would have spent it on a nice solid wood uke. (I'm looking at an Ohana right now.) A lot of people still seem to dig them though.

bnolsen
07-19-2013, 06:17 AM
That was my hang-up when I considered the Flea. I didn't want the plastic frets/fret board and the upgrade to the metal frets/wooden fret board put it in a price range (pushing $300 before shipping) I thought to be too expensive for that uke. I didn't want the friction tuners either and changing them out to geared tuners would put the price well north of $300. For that same money I would have spent it on a nice solid wood uke. (I'm looking at an Ohana right now.) A lot of people still seem to dig them though.

Just about anyone can replace tuners. Fretboards? Not so much. So the decision to upgrade the fretboard is the one that matters. And of course the neck length, color, etc.

cunparis
07-19-2013, 03:48 PM
By the way, I'm a violinist, too! Yes, if they made one out of plastic that sounded as good as the Flea, we'd see a lot more people traveling with violins... although it wouldn't be the same. I wonder what they would make the bow out of!


Have you ever tried tuning it like a violin GDAE? That's what i initially wanted to do but I also like strumming and singing along (that's what I do with my baritone).

BTW for those who play both baritone and soprano, do you play one like the other or do you memorize the chord names for each instrument? Seems like it'd be confusing. If I play the soprano like a baritone it'd be OK if it's just me, but if I played with anyone else I'd be off by a 4th/5th.

PTOEguy
07-19-2013, 05:22 PM
BTW for those who play both baritone and soprano, do you play one like the other or do you memorize the chord names for each instrument? Seems like it'd be confusing. If I play the soprano like a baritone it'd be OK if it's just me, but if I played with anyone else I'd be off by a 4th/5th.

I find that eventually I needed to learn the chord names for each instrument - although mostly I've memorized the CGEA chords and learned how to work out what a 5th down is. Mostly I learn the basic chords (c=g, etc.) and then work out the rest based on their relationship to the base chord for that key.

cunparis
07-20-2013, 03:16 PM
I made it to Sam Ash today. They had one flea left, it was the demo model, a pineapple with the pineapple design on it. This wasn't my first pick, but if i couldn't get plain I'd probably opt for this one. It was $169. At the flea website it's $218. So that's 23% off. Is that a good deal? If it were new in box I'd have bought it but I am a bit weary of buying a floor model. Who knows how long it's been on display, how many times it has been dropped, etc.

I also looked at the LU-21P. I already have a Lanikai baritone so the appearance was familiar to me. It seemed to be nice quality. The only thing I really noticed between the LU-21P and the Flea is that the flea had much lower action. I'm not a good ukulele player, I've only learned some basic strum patterns, so I'm not sure how much of a difference the action would really make. I do want to put Aquila 30U (GDAE) strings on it eventually and pick it.

Anyway.. I debated heavily.. and decided to think about it. The top of it had some very minor imperfections but that could just be the grain of the wood, I don't know. Other than that I didn't see anything wrong with it.

I was really torn between the two. We can stop by the flea store on the way home, it'd add an extra hour driving but that's ok. and an extra hour in the store. but as I said, I'd get it on the last day of our trip and therefore not be able to use it.

Would you buy the floor model?

Flyinby
07-20-2013, 06:30 PM
I think the two your comparing are too far apart to directly compare. The LU21p is a nice little basic uke, but not remarkable. If it's set up properly the intonation is good, and tone is decent (they may come with action or nut too high, but as long as the frets are straight it's not really too hard to correct the nut and bridge yourself). The Flea, even a basic reduced price one like you found, is going to cost you 3x what you can find a new LU21P for.

However, the Flea has the potential of being a uke you'll want to keep indefinitely. But here's the catch...most likely, ONLY if you get one you like with features you like. A basic flea that you don't really particularly like, and a plastic fretboard and no bag is well over $200, and may end up being something that doesn't satisfy you. Better to get one you really like, or else go for the cheaper LU21p or the Kala you mentioned.

There's no doubt that whatever Flea you got, it would probably be better tone-wise, and be properly set up with very good intonation. But whether you should find a budget Flea that isn't exactly what you want, or hold off on that and get something less costly like the LU21p for now, saving the Flea for when you can get the one you want, is something only you can decide.

A while back I decided on a 'surfboard' Flea concert rosewood neck with the denim bag, but balked at the $350 price tag. I was fortunate to find a 'like new' one of that exact spec on ebay for a lot less, but either way I'm glad I didn't decide to settle for a less pricey plain, plastic-neck one, as I really like this one, and don't expect I'll ever get rid of it. I took it on a 2 week bus trip and it was perfect...small, not necessary to pamper, but plays and sounds excellent.

Fleas are not cheap, so my suggestion is to get one you really like, or else maybe for now go for the Lanikai or Kala you were considering.

cunparis
07-21-2013, 03:23 PM
There's no doubt that whatever Flea you got, it would probably be better tone-wise, and be properly set up with very good intonation. But whether you should find a budget Flea that isn't exactly what you want, or hold off on that and get something less costly like the LU21p for now, saving the Flea for when you can get the one you want, is something only you can decide.


I was leaning towards the LU-21P but I read some bad stories about intonation and since I only know how to do some very basic strumming, I'm not too sure how to check for that. The only tuner I have with me is the one on my iphone. I'm curious enough to go back and check the intonation of the LU-21P and the Flea to see how they compare. I'm afraid of getting a bad Lanikai and then being in the position of having to pay an equivalent amount to get it set up, and end up having paid more than the flea.

My only reservations with the flea is the floor model and i prefer the cheaper natural design but since the pineapple design is at a good discount, I think I wouldn't mind. And the flea is supposed to be durable so even if it's a floor model maybe it's still in good shape? No telling how long it was on display.. could be a few weeks or could be a year. :)

This is really just a travel uke for me, at least that's my plan.. when I'm home I prefer the bariton (also a Lanikai.. I need to check its intonation when I get home, I never thought to do that).

Flyinby
07-21-2013, 06:55 PM
You can check the intonation with a tuner, I suppose the one on the iphone is probably OK though I don't have one so don't know. Basically you just tune the strings exactly (I use a Snark tuner), then work your way up the fretboard checking every other fret or so to see if the corresponding notes are in tune. You have to be a little careful not to push too hard or pull the string when fretting, as it will affect the pitch. The C string is the one to check if you only have time to check one, and check the notes all the way to the twelfth fret, where you should get a C that's not too far off. Most of the time all won't be perfect, but if you compare the Flea and the Lanikai, you'll get an idea of how different they are.

If you don't have a tuner at all, with the uke reasonably tuned you can use the 12th fret harmonic, and compare it to the fretted 12th fret, which should be the same; it isn't too hard to detect a slight bit of off-pitch.

I have an LU21p here, that is fresh, unset-up, and checking the intonation, it's decent to the 5-7 fret, but by the 12th it's a bit higher than is desirable. However, the action is too high (if you measure from the top of the 12th fret to the bottom of the string, it should be 2.5mm or less, this one is 3mm. You can go less if the frets are nice and straight). That part is easy to do, you simply loosen the strings, slide the saddle out of the slot, mark the bottom of the saddle for the amount you want to remove, then sand or file it down to that line. Check the height and do it again if necessary, and if you do go too far and get buzzy fret(s), a thin shim under the saddle will boost it back up. Height at the nut also affects intonation, and 1mm above the 1st fret is pretty normal, but again I like to go down toward .5 mm if I can. I'd leave that alone if it's 1mm, but there can be some benefit to lowering it (I use a gas welding torch tip cleaner, choosing the file that corresponds to the string size, and filing at the headstock angle, not parallel to the fretboard). This is one of the benefits of less-expensive ukes, you can learn by doing and even if you mess up, it's not the end of the world (and when you do the rather simple adjustments and then see all the notes line up right in tune, it's a satisfying feeling).

All that aside, if you do like the Flea that you found, and aren't thinking "if only it had...(this or that), they are really nicely made and fun instruments, and especially good travel ukes.

cunparis
07-23-2013, 12:56 PM
I went back to Sam Ash and checked the intonation on the flea and it was dead on. Amazingly so. Then I checked the LU-21P and in the area where I'd normally play the chords it was fine but farther up the fretboard it was way off. On the 12th fret for example it was off by 1/4 tone or more. I then compared the action, having read about that. The flea had the lowest action. Even the $300 uke's had higher action. Do the makers do that on purpose so people can adjust the action to their liking? It seems like everyone wants the action lowered. I have a guitar that I could never play because the action was so high it was impossible to play it. Some day I'll fork over the money for a luthier to set it up properly. My mom bought it from the home shopping club so go figure!!

Anyway.. I figured the Flea was worth the extra money. To my ears it sounded as good as the top uke's they had for $250-300. I asked if it had the bag that comes with it, the box, etc. It didn't. Just the uke. So I asked for a discount and he said he could do it without tax. So I said OK. They had a Kala gig bag and he got me one but it was obviously a concert bag and not a soprano. I can't believe he tried to sell me this bag. I said it was too big and honestly if they didn't have a bag that fit it that was going to be a dealbreaker since I came to the store on foot. He got a soprano bag from the stock and it fit perfectly. I got to play with a mandolin while waiting for the bag and that was cool because I could actually play something recognizeable since I play violin. The neck of the mandolin is slightly smaller than that of the soprano uke, but I'm still curious to string the uke GDAE and give it a shot. They didn't sell the strings to do this (Aquila 30U) so I'll have to find those some place else.

Overall I like the pineapple design. It's cute. I normally wouldn't pay extra for it but for $169 without tax I thought it was a good discount, more than 20% and buying now means I can play it for the next 5 weeks of our trip and save a few hours on our return to new york by not taking the detour through sheffield. So I'm very happy with my purchase and going to have a lot of fun with it.

Thanks to everyone for the input and advice. I appreciate all the help. If anyone is in NYC I do recommend stopping by Sam Ash. My kids had a lot of fun in there especially with the violins. I hope to have some time to go back to try some flutes. :)

bnolsen
07-23-2013, 06:34 PM
worst case a flea is easier to resell than an lu21p. you will really love being able to stand the flea on end and it should pick fairly well.