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View Full Version : Is getting a ukulele with a setup worth the extra cost?



k0nny
07-21-2013, 04:38 PM
Hi everyone! I'm new here and new to playing ukulele as well, but I have done alot of research and I do know that a proper set up makes a world of difference in terms of sound quality.

My current situation is that I'm trying to decide between buying a new Lanikai LU-21 soprano from a friend (who just bought it from Guitar Center), or getting a Makala Dolphin from Uke Republic. My friend is selling her uke for $50, while getting a Dolphin from Uke would be the same price, plus an extra $16 for shipping. My budget is about $50 ):

I actually have her Lanikai in my possession right now, and I've been playing around with it for 3 days now. From being out of the box and strung with Aquilas, it seems to play cleanly up/down the fret board, with no buzzing issues except for when I try to play more complicated chords, which I'm hoping is just because of poor technique. I do have to tune it frequently, but I do understand that it's also a new instrument.

Since I'm just a beginning player, would it still be better to go for the Dolphin with a setup, even though the Lanikai seems to sound okay (to my novice ears)? Or should I just go with the Lanikai and wait to upgrade once I get better?

Any input on either ukuleles would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much!

connor013
07-21-2013, 04:47 PM
I have a feeling you're going to get a range of responses on this one, but here's my $.02:

Keep the LU-21 if it's in your budget, and play it until it's dust.

itsme
07-21-2013, 04:50 PM
I actually have her Lanikai in my possession right now, and I've been playing around with it for 3 days now. From being out of the box and strung with Aquilas, it seems to play cleanly up/down the fret board, with no buzzing issues except for when I try to play more complicated chords, which I'm hoping is just because of poor technique. I do have to tune it frequently, but I do understand that it's also a new instrument.
If you like the Lanikai and find it easy enough to play, then I'd probably say stay with it.

Yes, when you're learning, some chords are just harder to get down and the sound won't be pleasing, including buzzing because your fingers aren't exactly where they need to be yet.

New strings always take a while to break in.

cantsing
07-21-2013, 05:02 PM
If you like the Lanikai and find it easy enough to play, then I'd probably say stay with it.

Yes, when you're learning, some chords are just harder to get down and the sound won't be pleasing, including buzzing because your fingers aren't exactly where they need to be yet.

New strings always take a while to break in.

My thoughts also.

Ukeplayer2013
07-22-2013, 05:51 AM
I've only been playing the ukulele for a month and a half. I went and bought the dolphin which I love it. For a beginner uke. But, if my LMS would've had the lanikai. I would have bought it. After the reviews I've seen about it. Good bang for the buck I guess. I'm just a beginner like I said. That's just my thoughts on that. Have fun ukeing. Once you start you can't stop.

molokinirum
07-22-2013, 06:45 AM
Always get a set up with your uke purchase!!!! If it is not included in the price it is worth it. Just buy from uke dealers that include the set up and ....no worries!!!

uke552
07-22-2013, 06:48 AM
Lanikai. I still own my LU21 (lots of other ukes have come and gone) and play her nearly everyday. Like someone said earlier - play it till its dust!

OldePhart
07-22-2013, 07:50 AM
Setup. Absolutely. Worth. The. Money.

The Lanikai LU-11 and LU-21 are better than many inexpensive ukes, but I have purchased somewhere in the neighborhood of a dozen of them (grandkids and whatnot) and, while every single one was "playable" out of the box (not always the case in this price range), every single one also need some adjustments at the nut to play in tune.

A ukulele that plays in tune and that is easy to fret will encourage you to play more and then you really can "play it to dust!" :)

John

Spud1$
07-22-2013, 09:59 AM
Setup. Absolutely. Worth. The. Money.

The Lanikai LU-11 and LU-21 are better than many inexpensive ukes, but I have purchased somewhere in the neighborhood of a dozen of them (grandkids and whatnot) and, while every single one was "playable" out of the box (not always the case in this price range), every single one also need some adjustments at the nut to play in tune.

A ukulele that plays in tune and that is easy to fret will encourage you to play more and then you really can "play it to dust!" :)

John
I got the LU-21 from Amazon knowing nothing about set up. I took it to the closest luthier before I gave it to her and he set it up and changed the strings. What a difference it made. It was so much fun after that that I got my self one with the set up and I am addicted. I am a slow learner but I know I'm making progress. Before the set up it would not stay tuned and it buzzed a lot so no one wanted to even try to learn. Get the set up, as a novice it made a tremendous difference. I think we all have it backwards, the beginners should have the best Ukes, that way they would practice more. The experts can make anything sound great! Good luck

Pueo
07-22-2013, 10:16 AM
My personal recommendation would be to get the Lanikai and then take it someplace to get it set up when you can.
A Lanikai LU-21T was my first ukulele, and I still have it. It is a much better ukulele than a dolphin.

Ukeplayer2013
07-22-2013, 10:53 AM
It's just to bad that my LMS Didn't carry lanikai k would of bought it. I had a choice between the dolphin or a diamond Head. After all the reviews I watched on the dolphin I went with it. But this post is about the lanikai from what I watched and heard on YouTube. Go for it I know I would've if it would of been there.

RyanMFT
07-22-2013, 11:20 AM
Well, the Lanikai can be had online for less than $50, so your friend is selling it at full retail, if that makes any difference to you...

Ukeplayer2013
07-22-2013, 12:22 PM
Well, the Lanikai can be had online for less than $50, so your friend is selling it at full retail, if that makes any difference to you...

Is this 50$ US Ryan?

RyanMFT
07-22-2013, 01:01 PM
Is this 50$ US Ryan?

Oops, yes, it is $50.00 USD. I sometimes forget that anyone lives outside California!

Flyinby
07-22-2013, 01:30 PM
I agree that getting a uke that's set up is really worth it, although I wouldn't pass up a good deal on one that isn't. You then have the option of taking it in to be set up, which will probably cost you more than it would have if you'd just bought the uke from a shop that sets them up before shipment, or learning to do it yourself. It's really not that difficult, at least for basic saddle/nut modifications if you're inclined toward mechanical work and can be precise, and it brings a bit of satisfaction when you make a cheap uke sound decent.

The LU21 is a good basic uke, and from what it sounds like, I agree with the others, play it and enjoy it. I come from a photography background, and recognize a similar situation with ukes as I saw with photo equipment...that is, lots of folks buy cameras to improve their photography, and when they don't get outstanding photos, look for a better camera. It's a trap, and never works. Save the equipment upgrades for later.

haolejohn
07-22-2013, 01:50 PM
Hi everyone! I'm new here and new to playing ukulele as well, but I have done alot of research and I do know that a proper set up makes a world of difference in terms of sound quality.

My current situation is that I'm trying to decide between buying a new Lanikai LU-21 soprano from a friend (who just bought it from Guitar Center), or getting a Makala Dolphin from Uke Republic. My friend is selling her uke for $50, while getting a Dolphin from Uke would be the same price, plus an extra $16 for shipping. My budget is about $50 ):

I actually have her Lanikai in my possession right now, and I've been playing around with it for 3 days now. From being out of the box and strung with Aquilas, it seems to play cleanly up/down the fret board, with no buzzing issues except for when I try to play more complicated chords, which I'm hoping is just because of poor technique. I do have to tune it frequently, but I do understand that it's also a new instrument.

Since I'm just a beginning player, would it still be better to go for the Dolphin with a setup, even though the Lanikai seems to sound okay (to my novice ears)? Or should I just go with the Lanikai and wait to upgrade once I get better?

Any input on either ukuleles would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much!

I'm friends with UkeRepublic. So I of course say go with him however...if the lanikai plays fine and it is $16 cheaper, then stick with it. Then in a few weeks or,onths when you want to upgrade go with UkeRepublic.

malweth
07-22-2013, 03:00 PM
Oops, yes, it is $50.00 USD. I sometimes forget that anyone lives outside California!

Just because we use Clams in RI doesn't mean the rest of the country doesn't also use USD ;) (Except VT... only VT money is accepted there).

I love looking at prices in Pounds Sterling. They look so cheap!

Trout
07-23-2013, 01:33 AM
I bought my Lanikai from Guitar Center. The deal was $49 which is good, but didn't have the setup work done... fret board and all that. I'm glad I have a decent beginners Uke, but the service at GC for the Uke was horrible. My next purchase... when there is money... will be from a place that ships it with the work done; however, I wouldn't sweat it. Get the Uke play it and when there is a chance, pay to have it straightened out by a pro... watch them do it if you can. Good luck.

Shastastan
07-23-2013, 08:43 AM
Setup. Absolutely. Worth. The. Money.

The Lanikai LU-11 and LU-21 are better than many inexpensive ukes, but I have purchased somewhere in the neighborhood of a dozen of them (grandkids and whatnot) and, while every single one was "playable" out of the box (not always the case in this price range), every single one also need some adjustments at the nut to play in tune.

A ukulele that plays in tune and that is easy to fret will encourage you to play more and then you really can "play it to dust!" :)

John

I absolutely agree. I bought some nice ukes and a couple of them needed a setup for my preferences--even though I bought from excellent dealers.. The string height does make a difference to some of us. I like mine closer to the frets because they are easier to push down. YMMV

k0nny
07-23-2013, 05:27 PM
Thanks for everyone's input so far!


I absolutely agree. I bought some nice ukes and a couple of them needed a setup for my preferences--even though I bought from excellent dealers.. The string height does make a difference to some of us. I like mine closer to the frets because they are easier to push down. YMMV

Since I've just started playing and haven't really developed "preferences," would it still make a big difference to get a uke that's setup while I'm still learning? I honestly have no idea whether the strings on the Lanikai are considered easy or hard to push down haha. Also as a side question: since I don't really have many chances to try out different ukuleles, how would I go about finding out what I like? The last time I went, my local GC had a really small selection of just Lanikais ): Is it just sort of a hit-or-miss when you buy a new uke from a dealer? I know there are youtube vids/demos, but I imagine it's different actually holding and playing the instrument.


Well, the Lanikai can be had online for less than $50, so your friend is selling it at full retail, if that makes any difference to you...

haha oops forgot to mention this is $50 US, and yup that was the price she paid for it, so I feel bad if I bought it from her for any less haha.

Paul December
07-23-2013, 06:57 PM
Unless you are 12 years old with a $5 allowance, spend $100+ on a real instrument already!
Geeze, people spend more on a meal!
Somebody needed to say it, and I did!

haolejohn
07-23-2013, 07:14 PM
Unless you are 12 years old with a $5 allowance, spend $100+ on a real instrument already!
Geeze, people spend more on a meal!
Somebody needed to say it, and I did!

Slow clap...because I agree with you.

MutinousDoug
07-24-2013, 06:29 PM
I would go with the Lanikai you have in your hand rather than a Dolphin online purchase w/setup. I understand that unseen Lanikai's can be iffy but the concert I have (10yr old) came pretty well setup. Better than the Dolphin I got from Uke Republic
The Dolphin required some work with my Swiss pattern files on the nut before it was at all playable. Not a big deal for someone willing to go at a $60 instrument (it was one of the "chocolate" specials) with an understanding of the consequences but not a satisfying experience for a new guy unless he has at least primitive tools and the email address of Stew-Mac or Tusq.

Of course, as with the posters here: YMMV,

Doug

Shastastan
07-25-2013, 07:38 AM
Thanks for everyone's input so far!



Since I've just started playing and haven't really developed "preferences," would it still make a big difference to get a uke that's setup while I'm still learning? I honestly have no idea whether the strings on the Lanikai are considered easy or hard to push down haha. Also as a side question: since I don't really have many chances to try out different ukuleles, how would I go about finding out what I like? The last time I went, my local GC had a really small selection of just Lanikais ): Is it just sort of a hit-or-miss when you buy a new uke from a dealer? I know there are youtube vids/demos, but I imagine it's different actually holding and playing the instrument.



snip


As a total beginner to a stringed instrument and living in a town where there is very little selection in the local stores. I decided to do some research starting on Google. All I knew is that I wanted a tenor. From other experience, I knew that I didn't want to get the cheapest one that I could fine either. I had previously bought one on ebay for $30 to give to my grandson to play with and the poor quality was apparent. I bought a Lanikai with a solid spruce top on amazon. Looks and sounds fine. Took it to a local shop for a setup which cost $10. I realized that I would not have the chance to try a bunch before buying. I read customer reviews, etc. and figured that I couldn't go far wrong with my choice. Maybe, an experience player could have done better finding a used one for the price that I paid before I had even heard of this forum. Coming on here introduced me to Mainlands and, for the $, they are perfect for me. YMMV

Kayouker
01-16-2014, 01:30 AM
I would go with the Lanikai you have in your hand rather than a Dolphin online purchase w/setup. I understand that unseen Lanikai's can be iffy but the concert I have (10yr old) came pretty well setup. Better than the Dolphin I got from Uke Republic.

The Dolphin required some work with my Swiss pattern files on the nut before it was at all playable. Not a big deal for someone willing to go at a $60 instrument (it was one of the "chocolate" specials) with an understanding of the consequences but not a satisfying experience for a new guy unless he has at least primitive tools and the email address of Stew-Mac or Tusq.
Doug

Doug has raised an interesting point. There are set-ups and there are set-ups. You will see many favorable references to for example the "set-up's" done at Hawaiian Music Supply...

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=set+up+ukulele&sm=3

However the truth is this is really a quick and dirty set-up, which includes a quick leveling, saddle adjust and nut filing - but - which does not really do a real recrowning and final polishing. No blueprinting is done. Intonation may be improved, but is not really addressed. It just can't be done. Note that Dave's "set-up"by the favored Ukerepublic did not turn out so well.

It is fair to say that no retailer can afford to put a lot of time into a low-priced ukulele like the Dolphin which sells elsewhere for $40, but is sold to you with installed Aquilas ($12) for $60 including a "$30 setup"! Not a whole lot of margin there, ergo the set-up must necessarily be rather quick and far less thorough than would be performed on a $300+ instrument.

To be fair even these Q&D set-ups are better than nothing, and your Dolphin will usually be delivered in playable condition. It is also fair to say that this level of setup is not beyond the abilities of anyone who is reasonably handy in a DIY sense, which unfortunately does not seem to be your case.

Still even these Q&D setups are a great improvement over no setup at all, particularly if the retailer guarantees playability and will pay for a return and exchange if you're unhappy.

Bottom line: On the Lanakai, check out each fret for each string individually, and all should play clearly without a buzz (unless of course you pluck HARD) at all frets. You should be able to slip no more than one credit card under the strings at the first fret, and no more than two or three credit cards at the 12th fret. You can then check intonation by comparing each string: played open, played at the 12th fret and playing the harmonic at the 12th:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNMVCdmpqGo

The intonation doesn't need to be perfect, but the comparison should sound good to you. If all these factors are positive - strings at about the right height at the first and 12th, and decent intonation, you're a go with the Lanakai.

Hope that helps.

DaleR
01-16-2014, 02:26 AM
Play it until you out grow it. You will know. Pass it on to another friend then. Share the love of the uke! Yes, the proper setup is very important.

teruterubouzu
01-16-2014, 02:57 AM
Unless you are 12 years old with a $5 allowance, spend $100+ on a real instrument already!
Geeze, people spend more on a meal!
Somebody needed to say it, and I did!

Why? They are just starting. Might be a whim that they set aside after a month. If not, and they love it, that extra $50 they didn't spend yet could be saved toward buying something even nicer in a few months.

And to the OP, have fun with your new ukulele. It's better to get one that comes set up, but you already have it. After you play for a bit you will realize the things that bother you and can get it set up then. Cheers!

Pukulele Pete
01-16-2014, 03:07 AM
I would suggest doing the set up yourself . Do a search here for set up or go to Frets.com and learn to do it yourself. Most good ukuleles should be playable right from the box.