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View Full Version : What do you consider to be low, mid and high end ukes?



pakhan
10-12-2013, 01:20 PM
Hi guys,

Recently was chatting with a few folks here and we got to talking about higher end ukes, which most of us consider to be above 1-1.5K, but couldn't quite decide where to place mid range ukes, price wise.

I was wondering what you guys considered to be low, mid and high end ukes?

Terence

trowacat
10-12-2013, 01:47 PM
I would consider Low : 0-300$ Mid: 301-799 High: 800+
it also depends on the size of ukulele you're buying!

NewKid
10-12-2013, 01:59 PM
Price only:
Low: < $100
Mid: $300 - $500
High: $2,000 +

This is a very deceptive criteria because a Ken Timms Style O is in the $500 range but its a hand-made fabulous instrument that I would classify as "high-end" without a doubt.

Maybe the criteria should be how much skill and love go into the making of a ukulele?

Low: Mass produced with token quality control
Mid: Mass produced but checked by ukulele experts for quality control
High: Hand made where you can feel the presence of the maker - lots of love and skill

janeray1940
10-12-2013, 02:03 PM
I don't tend to think of it in terms of actual price so much as accessibility and ease of replacement:

High - exclusive custom-luthier type ukes; the more rare collectible vintage stuff (Poinsettias, 5Ks, etc); custom K-brands and their ilk maybe as well.
Mid - factory models from K-brands, Collings, etc.; custom ukes from less exclusive luthiers; the more readily available vintage stuff (think Style 0 over 5K)
Low - all the other factory stuff

bborzell
10-12-2013, 02:39 PM
The term "High End", in and of itself, carries a common connotation of expensive. Stated simply, it is a lot easier to categorize according to cost because cost is right there, in your face. The actual attributes that lead me to believe that a particular instrument is at the high end of a comparative analysis are materials, build quality and the builder's ability to create a pleasing and well balance tone.

Using these attributes as my framework, I have played high end ukuleles that cost $600 and lower end ukuleles costing three times more. Most of the latter do well in materials and joinery but fall off in pleasing and balanced tone.

connor013
10-12-2013, 03:57 PM
Low end: those I have bought and later sold.

Mid end: those I currently play.

High end: those I do not (yet) have the courage to purchase.

It's all psychological.

mm stan
10-12-2013, 04:39 PM
To me I consider the value of a uke not in terms of cost but of how much I enjoy it most.... price to me is superficial,
there are gems in every level and who knows which ukulele you will treasure most, if we knew ...nobody would be searching
for their holy grail or have UAS if they did.......It's Just a marketing ploy :p Remember every ukulele has their own individual voice,
just like you and me....
To answer your Queation...different budgets mean different price levels to everyone...there is no specific way to guage this...everyone is different...

Bao
10-12-2013, 05:42 PM
I really depends since Australian pricing is much more expensive than American music stores. In terms of america, I would say:
0-200 = beginner
201-600 = intermediate
601-3000 = high end

Dwjkerr
10-12-2013, 07:40 PM
Low end, < $100.00 - those I can afford

Mid end and high end. Beyond what I can afford.

Doc_J
10-13-2013, 12:59 AM
Hi guys,

Recently was chatting with a few folks here and we got to talking about higher end ukes, which most of us consider to be above 1-1.5K, but couldn't quite decide where to place mid range ukes, price wise.

I was wondering what you guys considered to be low, mid and high end ukes?

Terence

It's hard to assign $ values to quality.

Upper end ukes to me are the best materials, highest quality fit, finish, and sound. (E.g.,Most well known custom builders, GString, K-brands, Collings, Mya-Moe, Maui Music,...)

Lower end ukes are the low cost laminates, which can still have good/excellent fit, finish, and sound.

The middle is big place. It has imports and customs, widely varying prices. It's what isn't in the other two categories.

The one thing I would expect in all categories is a quality build. Poor quality is unacceptable at any level to me.

guitharsis
10-13-2013, 01:12 AM
Like your explanation and agree, Doc.

HBolte
10-13-2013, 02:45 AM
Hi guys,

Recently was chatting with a few folks here and we got to talking about higher end ukes, which most of us consider to be above 1-1.5K, but couldn't quite decide where to place mid range ukes, price wise.

I was wondering what you guys considered to be low, mid and high end ukes?

Terence

I think mid range would be $500-1500.

fernandogardinali
10-13-2013, 03:05 AM
I think "high end" involves more than sound and build quality etc. It involves aesthetics, bling, complex inlays.

Five Ways
10-13-2013, 03:31 AM
I agree with mm Stan I value my collection with enjoyment, also I have played very expensive ukes that are not as good as so called mid range.
we are all different and so are ukes ?.

HendrikM
10-13-2013, 04:44 AM
It's all relative to the observer...

Low End - It's just a scratch, don't worry, I'm not.
Mid Range: Please be careful, I like this one, don't scratch it
High End: I won't touch it for fear of scratching it.

janeray1940
10-13-2013, 07:24 AM
If high end is $2500, the mid point is $1250.
This put brands like Kamaka and Kanilea mid-range for me. It does not matter if they are marketed as "top of the line" their price is in the middle of the available market price range.
A better classification would be:
Made by underpaid workers using hard to trace materials.
Made by fairly paid workers using easy to trace materials.
Made in a small workshop by one or two great craftspeople.

I tend to agree with this. I'm sure there are examples of ukes out there that fit the first category - underpaid, hard to trace - with sizeable price tags on them; there may well also be ukes out there fitting the third category that cost-wise are closer to the mid point.


I think "high end" involves more than sound and build quality etc. It involves aesthetics, bling, complex inlays.

I'm not so sure about the bling and inlays - when I ordered my custom from a luthier whom many would consider high-end, my requirements were simple: perfect intonation up the neck, and ZERO inlays or ornamentation. Even though the appearance was as plain as a Martin 0 - that was the point, actually - the cost was well into the range it seems most people would consider "high end." My take on it is this - it's one of a kind, made by hand, and pretty much irreplaceable, so to my mind it's the only high end uke I own.

All of this to say that the OP is not likely to get one definitive answer to the original question :)

Tootler
10-13-2013, 07:29 AM
It's all relative to the observer...

Low End - It's just a scratch, don't worry, I'm not.
Mid Range: Please be careful, I like this one, don't scratch it
High End: I won't touch it for fear of scratching it.

LOL. I like it.

Price is not the only determinant but is often a useful guide.

Sometimes you get ukes that punch "above their weight". I got a Bruko a while ago. I was so pleased that I've just got another. Their quality of manufacture and finish is much better than their price would suggest. There was general agreement on this among the folk I spoke to at The Grand Northern Uke Fest this weekend.

Shastastan
10-13-2013, 08:10 AM
Well said, Stan, and your comments apply to all instruments--not only ukes. However, I think the "search for the holy grail" is different from UAS. The "grail" search to me means that you keep trying different instruments, tools, etc.. in hopes that the next one will be better than what you already have. I went through this process with trumpet mouthpieces--commonly referred to as the "mouthpiece safari." After about 5 years, I finally settled on a particular mouthpiece that works well for me so the safari ended. The process was a valuable (costly) lesson for me. Before buying ukes, I did research and watched youtubes. I gave a couple of ukes away to family and have only sold one. I'm happy with what I have at my playing level. I also learned that I don't like to have so many instruments that they don't all get played. I've sold some horns so that I play what I own now. Yes, the horn acquisitions were part of an acquisition syndrome. My wife and I share the ukes we have except that she has her own tenor. I have notices that, depending on where you buy, there's a big difference in prices that could affect which value category a particular uke is placed in--say like one uke could have selling prices varying between $300 to $500. Maybe there should be more categories?


To me I consider the value of a uke not in terms of cost but of how much I enjoy it most.... price to me is superficial,
there are gems in every level and who knows which ukulele you will treasure most, if we knew ...nobody would be searching
for their holy grail or have UAS if they did.......It's Just a marketing ploy :p Remember every ukulele has their own individual voice,
just like you and me....
To answer your Queation...different budgets mean different price levels to everyone...there is no specific way to guage this...everyone is different...

Flyinby
10-13-2013, 10:59 AM
Ukes are a fun thing to me, not serious business.

High end = More than I care to pay for a uke because I'd rather spend the money on an extra week in Oahu or a set of kayaks for us all to go exploring.
Middle = A good deal on a uke that lists at $600 but sells for $350 for whatever reason. One I expect to look good, and have good intonation and pleasant sound. Price from $75 to $300, laminate, solid, or combination, (I guess that means $3-400 is my 'upper middle class', meaning I have to really want it)
Low end = $50 or less, ones I'd buy because they look neat or might bring a smile to a kid's face...watermelons, smiley-face, etc. Surprisingly I've gotten a few under $50 that, after some fret, saddle and nut work have spot-on intonation and decent sound.

I know that's pretty low, judging from the first few posts, but the near-$1000 and up ukes just don't do it for me...the thought of paying $1500 for an old Martin or Gibson on ebay makes me cringe, not because I can't afford it, just because I don't think they're worth it, or anywhere near...and the really beautiful high end ones are nice, but then I would have to worry about it. If I played so well that my $200 uke was holding me back, then maybe it would be different, but I don't.

ukemunga
10-13-2013, 11:28 AM
It's all semantics and relativity. Your perceived low end might be high end to my pockets. I consider $250 - $500 a broad mid range. Then you've got high end factory ukes. Then a whole other category, anything custom. And at the very top, true works of art.

TG&Y
10-13-2013, 12:09 PM
Low-end: Ukulele that doesn't necessarily move you, but has its place and you don't regret buying it. Sometimes it shines on certain songs, quite unexpectedly. No matter what it cost.
Mid-range: Ukulele that feels reasonably comfortable and gets the job done. Feels good in your hands. No matter what it cost.
High-end: The one you reach for first. The sweet one. No matter what it cost.

Or in other words...what Stan said.

Sporin
10-14-2013, 06:50 AM
All personal opinion, but I think, for me, it comes down to price, materials, brand.

Low-end: Cheaper, laminate ukes made in southeast asia and available at places like Amazon and Newbury comics as well as better Uke outfits. Tops out around $250 or so.

Mid-range: I think this is a huge selection of ukes, and the most varied. From about $300 up to nearly a grand... you get into more solid woods, more highly respected makers, more domestic production, etc.

High-end: Pretty much anything over a grand, all-solid woods, respected craftsman doing the work in domestic shops... K brands, customs.

Helms
10-14-2013, 07:48 AM
Like everyone else mentions, it is hard to put pricetag to low-high end ukes.
Speaking only about the price it also varies what size you're after and very important (at least for anyone outside of US) where you live.
In Denmark we have to pay 25-35%(!!!) tax for any non-EU purchases (that costs over ~500 USD) - which makes even a mainland exclusive!
When I bought my mainland, in total I payed around 65% of it's price from shipment, tax and mandatory hardcase for overseas purchases.

When considering buying a high-end costum uke (at least in Denmark) it is easily cheaper, to fly to the country and pick it up yourself and fly home and hope you won't be charged tax when arriving.

My point is: high-end ukes really depends on the circumstances. My Kanile'a costed +1800 USD (pickup + premium finish). It might not be considered high-end or at least not to to everyone - but here in Denmark, it could very well be one of the most expensive ukuleles in the country :)

... and finally. Of course price matters - but the real deal is whether or not you enjoy playing your ukulele. Before I had ever tried a better ukulele, I thought that my Lanikai was exceptionally good. Maybe not high-end, but up there.

mm stan
10-14-2013, 08:09 AM
Those are just price marketing terms....no use to me....
Starter ukes
Beginner ukes
Budget Low End Ukes, Laminates
Vintage Budget Ukuleles
Low Mid Range solid wood ukes
Middle Priced Ukes made in other countries and assembled here
Higher End Laminates....
Premimum ukes...such as K brands ..
Vintage Premimum Ukuleles
Custom built hobbist ukuleles
Custom Ukes with inlays and bling
Custom One of a Kinds
Holy Grails....

Tootler
10-14-2013, 08:09 AM
Low end - when you spend an extra 10 and get 20 worth of improvement
High end - when you spend an extra 200 and get 20 worth of improvement
Mid range - everything in between.

Sporin
10-14-2013, 08:26 AM
Those are just price marketing terms....no use to me....
Starter ukes
Beginner ukes
Budget Low End Ukes, Laminates
Vintage Budget Ukuleles
Low Mid Range solid wood ukes
Middle Priced Ukes made in other countries and assembled here
Higher End Laminates....
Premimum ukes...such as K brands ..
Vintage Premimum Ukuleles
Custom built hobbist ukuleles
Custom Ukes with inlays and bling
Custom One of a Kinds
Holy Grails....

Hard to argue with that. :)

bnolsen
10-14-2013, 08:50 AM
Wouldn't a flea or fluke sort of define a minimum "mid range" instrument? If you buy one it consistently comes with good action and intonation and their service is great.

So in my book I guess that means that a "low end" instrument is one that likely requires some work on the action to make it playable (vs fine tuning the action). There is some risk you may end up with a lemon.

I guess I might consider a "high end" to be at least a semi custom luthier. Something that can be built to spec and not just limited to some pre-manufactured subset.

By the above definitions it would seem that no laminate would be considered "high end".

pakhan
10-14-2013, 05:55 PM
Thanks for your insights everyone.

I always found the terms a little bit of a shortcut when folks decide how to classify ukes... kinda like music, like is band xyz roots music or trad or nu metal jazz?

But it's interesting to hear what folks have to say.

Kamanaaloha
10-15-2013, 04:33 PM
4 levels

Uber/Custom: DeVine, MooreBettah, Ko'olau, Collings 3, Kanile'a 2+, Kamaka Specials, KoAloha Red labels, Turner high end, Hives etc. ...Customs >$2K
High: "K Brands", G-String, Pono top end, Islander top end, Pennsylvania Martins, Imua...etc. ... $800 - $2K
Medium: Pono deluxes, Islander deluxes...solids $200 - $800
Low: Laminates, some solids, entry level ukulele... typically foreign produced <$200

Radio Flyer
10-16-2013, 05:20 AM
reading all this brings a question to mind, Martin is hardly mentioned at all and in the list of ukes owned i see few people have Martins. i was looking hard at a Martin 2T but it seems few have made any comment on them. i don't have the money to do a lot of experimenting and would hate to think 'oh, snap, i bought a lemon'. are the other uke companies just that much better that Martin doesn't get mentioned, or does everyone else already know about Martins and i i'm just late for the game?

Sporin
10-16-2013, 05:57 AM
reading all this brings a question to mind, Martin is hardly mentioned at all and in the list of ukes owned i see few people have Martins. i was looking hard at a Martin 2T but it seems few have made any comment on them. i don't have the money to do a lot of experimenting and would hate to think 'oh, snap, i bought a lemon'. are the other uke companies just that much better that Martin doesn't get mentioned, or does everyone else already know about Martins and i i'm just late for the game?

I can only speech for myself but Martins are completely off my radar, no idea why, but I guess there are just too many other upper-end ukuleles that draw my attention more.

I'm relatively new to ukes though (going on 3 years) so I'm sure at least part of it is innocent ignorance.

haolejohn
10-16-2013, 06:47 AM
Lot's of good answers and though many ukes regardless of cost could fall into any category. I...Me personally...look at ukes into the three categories by:

Low end-factory massed produced
Mid range-handmade imports (Mele, Pono, Big Island, etc) and high end factory (think Ohanas and Kalas),
High end: K brands and other small time luthiers, Loprinzi
THen there is the luxury range: MB, Devine, others.

THis is my personal range. I've played some Ohana ukes that blew me away. I've even played some hawaiian ukes that I was like...bleh.
Each uke has its own voice. Each player has their own ear.

haolejohn
10-16-2013, 06:51 AM
reading all this brings a question to mind, Martin is hardly mentioned at all and in the list of ukes owned i see few people have Martins. i was looking hard at a Martin 2T but it seems few have made any comment on them. i don't have the money to do a lot of experimenting and would hate to think 'oh, snap, i bought a lemon'. are the other uke companies just that much better that Martin doesn't get mentioned, or does everyone else already know about Martins and i i'm just late for the game?

First I would like to say i do not own a martin uke. The vintage ukes I have played sounded great, but their newer offerings were overpriced and not impressive at all...I have not played one of Martin's newest offerings so i can not comment on them.

But when it comes to uke buying, I couldn't afford a vintage martin so I went with mid level handmade imports at first. I've purchased my fair share of low end and even high end ukes but my stable includes a little bit of all.

Sporin
10-16-2013, 08:12 AM
I like adding that "Luxury" level above high-end John. I don't think anyone could say a Kamaka isn't high-end, so there needs to be a category above that for the MB's, DeVine's, etc., well said.

Bill Mc
10-16-2013, 09:36 AM
Any uke that is great sounding to your ear and easy to play with good intonation is a top end uke.

Kamanaaloha
10-16-2013, 04:50 PM
I like adding that "Luxury" level above high-end John. I don't think anyone could say a Kamaka isn't high-end, so there needs to be a category above that for the MB's, DeVine's, etc., well said.

i did say Uber/Custom...but maybe it should be more like Custom/Deluxe "K"


4 levels

Uber/Custom: DeVine, MooreBettah, Ko'olau, Collings 3, Kanile'a 2+, Kamaka Specials, KoAloha Red labels, Turner high end, Hives etc. ...Customs >$2K
High: "K Brands", G-String, Pono top end, Islander top end, Pennsylvania Martins, Imua...etc. ... $800 - $2K
Medium: Pono deluxes, Islander deluxes...solids $200 - $800
Low: Laminates, some solids, entry level ukulele... typically foreign produced <$200

janeray1940
10-16-2013, 07:17 PM
reading all this brings a question to mind, Martin is hardly mentioned at all and in the list of ukes owned i see few people have Martins. i was looking hard at a Martin 2T but it seems few have made any comment on them. i don't have the money to do a lot of experimenting and would hate to think 'oh, snap, i bought a lemon'. are the other uke companies just that much better that Martin doesn't get mentioned, or does everyone else already know about Martins and i i'm just late for the game?

I haven't owned one but I've been really... underwhelmed by the new Martins I've encountered. To my ear, the sound is very different from the vintage Martins.

I do love most of the vintage ones I've come across, though, which is why when I had my custom built I requested that that was the sound I wanted (and that's what I got - best of both worlds, a brand new instrument that has a vintage sound!).

Radio Flyer
10-17-2013, 04:59 AM
about the martins..not much love for new martins i guess and i'm not really interested in an old one right now. i'll keep looking. thanks for the responses.