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View Full Version : Kala KA-T purchase at McCabes vs Island Bazaar - set up, warranty, and trade in



sesame
09-29-2013, 01:26 PM
Hi all,

I'm buying my first ukulele and have decided on a Kala KA-T. I'm located in LA and am debating getting it from McCabe's or Island Bazaar, which have it for a similar price. There are a couple key differences which come down to initial set up, warranty, and trading it in for an upgrade, and I don't feel like I know enough about the uke to weigh these.

My main concern is the set up. Which store would have the better set up and would this set up compare to HMS? Island Bazaar says they set up the action on each instrument in advance but I'm not sure how much effort goes into this. McCabe's has a repair shop and I could possibly request the repair guys to look at the set up, although so far when I asked about set up, someone who said they hadn't played a uke in about 15 years played the Kala out of the box for a minute and said it was fine to take home as is. I called McCabe's a different time to ask about set up, and they said I could bring the uke in after owning it for a bit to have the set up adjusted based on my preferences, but I doubt I'd know if something was off.

Other differences:

McCabe's:
- Gives 70% of the purchased value for trading in and upgrading later.
- Smaller selection with higher prices if I want to upgrade (unsure if they will still negotiate/discount prices if you are upgrading).
- 3 year warranty with repairs done by their repair team.

Island Bazaar:
- Gives 100% of the purchased value for trading in and upgrading later.
- Larger selection with cheaper prices if I want to upgrade in the future.
- No store warranty on the uke (1 year limited from Kala - possibly paying return shipping?), although they said they'd make it right if something happened close to the time of purchase.

Any feedback, particularly on the set up and need for warranty, would be great! Is the KA-T one that I would likely want to upgrade in a couple years if I play regularly? Thanks!

janeray1940
09-29-2013, 02:38 PM
Full disclosure: I've got a long, loooooooong history with McCabe's and I've got only positive things to say about them. My dealings with Island Bazaar have also been positive, but I have much less experience with them.

I've bought ukes off the shelf from both stores, and honestly for the majority of factory ukes, I doubt that either store provides any setup whatsoever before the ukes hit the sales floor. The ukes I've bought at McCabe's have been perfect, and I've never taken one back for adjustment (but they've been of the higher end variety and likely shipped from the factory like that).

On the lower end - I've bought a couple Dolphins at Island Bazaar, and the setup quality varied wildly - one time I think I played 15 different Dolphins before I found one that I considered playable, but this is more a reflection of the nature of that particular uke than of IB in general. I've played higher-end ukes at IB and never noticed this type of inconsistency. I've also tried lower-end ukes at McCabe's and found they vary from surprisingly pleasant to play to absolutely unplayable - again, no reflection of the store, it's just how they came from the factory.

As for the Kala - I'm not familiar with that particular uke so I can't speak to it specifically, but here's the advice I'd give to any first-time buyer:


ALWAYS try before you buy, unless you're buying from HMS or other online retailer with a good reputation and a good return policy.
If the choices are IB or McCabe's - pick the one that is closest to you and develop a relationship with them. You're going to find yourself going back, a lot, whether it's for adjustments, books, lessons, browsing, or buying more ukes.
Don't worry about the trade-in value. Yes, I promise you will want to upgrade, but you might want to keep your first uke as a beater that you don't have to worry about babying. Or you'll get a friend interested in playing and be able to give it to him or her.


Hope that helps!

PhilUSAFRet
09-29-2013, 02:54 PM
Learn how to tell for yourself. Check this out: http://www.theukulelesite.com/ukulele-setup.html

didgeridoo2
09-29-2013, 03:06 PM
I've bought a couple ukes from McCabes and a book from Island Bazaar. McCabes is closer and I've been happy with the service I've gotten there. If you want setup like HMS, why not just purchase from HMS?

Teek
09-29-2013, 03:11 PM
From my experience McCabe's tech guys seem to look at uke players as second class citizens. I did get help awhile back from someone when I was interested in buying a Kamaka 6 string, but I took my Martin in for a quote on a repair and the guy I spoke with was dismissive, so was the other guy who repaired my Kamaka when it popped it's bridge. So I am taking the Martin to someone else. I suppose it may depend on who you talk with there, but I can't believe they would be interested in doing any kind of real set up on a Kala unless they charge you $90-$100 for the work.

Also I would check the fine print with both stores on percentage of purchase price towards a new instrument. I'd expect it would need to be in as new condition to get the quoted amounts.

janeray1940
09-29-2013, 03:21 PM
From my experience McCabe's tech guys seem to look at uke players as second class citizens.

While I wouldn't go so far as to say that applies to all of them, I will say there is at least one tech who can be a bit... dismissive at times. But Matt and Mike tend to be very uke-friendly, at least in my experience. Sorry to hear your experience was not as positive.

Ukejenny
09-29-2013, 03:23 PM
I can't point you toward a particular store, but I can say that the better the set-up, the better playing experience you will have with the ukulele, regardless of price. I have a ukulele right now that is in need of a set-up. I waited to buy when no one had it in stock, so I didn't have a choice of where I got it. Until I make the drive to the guy who can do the work, it just won't be as fun to play as I know it can be. So, if you have the choice, I say go with the best set-up.

Dan Uke
09-29-2013, 03:32 PM
I wouldnt think either store would really do much setup. Secondly, for most tech work at IB, they recommend 13th St Guitar close by. I personally dont trust most of the tech guys at McCabes, YMMV.

I bought a few ukes from McCabes because the recipients lived in L.A. vs O.C. but for any nicer uke, I would buy from HMS.

sesame
09-29-2013, 05:42 PM
Wow, first off, thanks for all the very helpful replies! I'm excited to be joining this community!

Based on the comments below, I'm leaning towards McCabe's (or HMS) vs IB. I live close to McCabe's and have been in there 3x. The reason I was considering IB is that my experience at McCabe's has been mixed. They have been helpful, but this is my first musical instrument ever, so I think I got a slight amount of that 2nd class citizen feeling - that said, I might feel that way in most good quality music stores for now. I think the biggest put-off and why I was considering making the trek to IB was that the 3 different people I spoke to all mentioned that this is the first time they had played a uke in several years, so I wasn't sure whether to really trust their opinions. I don't know enough about music to know whether their knowledge of their instruments translates 100% to the uke. I'm glad to hear people have had good experiences with McCabe's with regard to the uke.

Didgeridoo2, as for why HMS wasn't my top contender... IB and McCabe's pricing is about $30 less than HMS when shipping is added in. Also while I'd like an HMS set up, there isn't support after I get it like McCabe's 3 year warranty - not sure how likely it is that I'd need to use it though - or the trade in advantage. Likewise, for a nicer uke that I may upgrade to in the future, I would think the warranty would be even more valuable.

I was hoping to hear that McCabe's or IB did a similar set up to HMS. Most music stores say they set up the uke for you but it's hard to know in advance what that really means for them, especially with a lower end one like mine. I also don't really know what the sound advantage of a set up as thorough as HMS would be. Would an instrument like the Kala KA-T really benefit from a set up of the level of HMS, or do they tend to be pretty good from the factory with minimal work?

Captain Simian, I agree about paying a bit more for a good quality uke that's set up right. My initial price range was about $100 which pretty much only included the Makala MK-T for a decent tenor, but I've bumped that up to a max of about $160-170, which I know probably still sounds low. I can find the Ohana TK-20 with solid top in that range but for some reason the Kala KA-T sounded a bit better to me (and to the McCabe guys whose ability to judge an instrument is far better than mine).

janeray1940
09-29-2013, 06:00 PM
I think the biggest put-off and why I was considering making the trek to IB was that the 3 different people I spoke to all mentioned that this is the first time they had played a uke in several years, so I wasn't sure whether to really trust their opinions. I don't know enough about music to know whether their knowledge of their instruments translates 100% to the uke. I'm glad to hear people have had good experiences with McCabe's with regard to the uke.


While I'd estimate that most of the staff there are guitarists first and foremost, there are quite a few multi-instrumentalists there as well. If you go and get the "I haven't played a uke in 15 years" brushoff, then I'd recommend asking if they can point you toward an employee who *has* played a uke a bit more recently than that - I know there are quite a few who have :)

As for whether guitar knowledge translates to uke - I find that there's a lot of crossover between ukes and guitars. A LOT. I've played uke a long time but nothing else; a couple weeks ago, I picked up a guitar for the first time since I was a little kid. And guess what? I could play it. Nothing fancy, but I could strum a basic I-IV-V progression in a couple of keys. I would think just about anybody on the sales floor should be able to do the same going from guitar to uke.

didgeridoo2
09-29-2013, 07:09 PM
My opinion is that in your price range you will benefit more from an HMS setup. Warranty is nice to have, sure, but HMS does a great job and they are present here and provide great service.

sesame
09-29-2013, 10:32 PM
Thanks for the opinions so far. In other news, I got to looking at the HMS site again and got distracted by this pretty, newly designed Kala KA-STG... I'm now thinking of getting this instead of the Kala KA-T :) Too bad none of my local stores carry it, even the older version. This one may definitely be worth having HMS set up for me.
http://www.theukulelesite.com/kala-ka-st-solid-spruce-top-satin-finish-1041.html

flailingfingers
09-30-2013, 04:28 AM
Learn how to tell for yourself. Check this out: http://www.theukulelesite.com/ukulele-setup.html
This site is definitely worth a visit. I thought I knew what a setup involved...then I watched this. Enlightening.

mm stan
09-30-2013, 04:50 AM
My opinion is that in your price range you will benefit more from an HMS setup. Warranty is nice to have, sure, but HMS does a great job and they are present here and provide great service.

+1
I would gladly pay the extra dollars to get a uke that sounds and plays better the first time....why spend more and need to get another uke...does not make sense.. HMS stands behind
their ukes....sometimes being budget concious you pay more in the end....Good Luck

Lori
09-30-2013, 05:53 AM
I have several Kalas, all bought from different stores (some from the internet). My experience has been that they have been pretty good coming out of the factory and into the store. My only issue is was with Makala Dolphins, which can have intonation issues. They are really inexpensive ukes, and you can't expect the same consistency at that price point. If you can play it in the store comfortably and you like the sound, then it should be fine. I don't think McCabe's does pre-set-up (at least 4 years ago they had many ukes with very high action). When I complained about the playability, they didn't say "Oh, we do set-up based on the customer's playing style". I was a newbie, and had no idea that a process like that even existed. I passed up a whole group of nice ukes because of that!

–Lori

Hawkshaw
09-30-2013, 06:17 AM
It's my understanding that IB does not do setups. I don't know about McCabes. I would have no hesitation buying online from Mims, HMS, or Uke Republic. They all do great setups. I recommended my friend to Mim and she did a great job setting up a tenor ukulele for him. He was very satisified with the uke and the set up she did on it. Good luck and let us know the outcome.