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View Full Version : String comparison w/audio Mainland Mango Concert - Aquila Nylgut / Ko'Olau Gold



Warbulele
02-14-2014, 08:02 PM
Prompted by a "blindfold" string comparison video (by Aaron of HMS), I tried the Ko'Olau Golds on a Mainland Mango Concert, and compared them to the Aquila Nylguts which came with the Uke.
I think now that the reason the Golds sounded better in the video, is that it was on a Tenor Uke, made of dampening wood, probably Koa or Mahogany, where they were just the thing to perk it up. Not so much on the concert.
I made recordings*, so you can make up your own mind:

Ko'Olau Gold (http://flickr.com/gp/83808061@N04/556855) (note: the strings are actually yellow, the photo is from google images)

Aquila Nylgut (http://flickr.com/gp/83808061@N04/46h7x6)

To my ears, the Golds sound harsher and dryer, but more articulate and percussive with plenty of attack. Good for outdoors in the wind, or cutting through a band, but not so good for playing in a small room, or mellow fireside vibe. Less sustain, reverb, harmony, emotion. They make it sound a bit more banjo/guitar-ish. A little dull and spacey for my taste, although they are intellectually stimulating, good for picking. Not as emotionally appealing to me. The strings are almost dissonant to each other, even when in tune. I'm sure they'd sound better in a month, but they don't seem like what I'm looking for, so I don't feel like giving it the time to find out.

The Nylguts work together in harmony, sound fuller, with more sustain and emotion. Someone mentioned overtones, which is probably right. They make the Uke reverberate, not exactly louder, but I feel it physically, more full bodied and rich.
I think these strings go really well with this Uke, probably due to resonant frequencies. I think it's more than just the old "slap aquilas on a bad uke fix". I think there are a lot of expensive/fancy Ukes out there which would not sound as good (to me) as this Uke does if they were fitted with these strings. IMO It's a good match. (btw the recording doesn't do them justice, the power of the strum really doesn't come through any where near what it sounds like live)

*: On the recordings:
Yes I started playing last week, so bare with me.
Yes the mic was in the same place/setting for both recordings.
Yes they both get a little out of tune by the end of the clips.
Yes the recordings are different, I didn't have a song to play, so I improv'd, but there's picking and strumming in both, just in different places.
Also, I think the recordings make the strings sound more alike than they do live, so don't assume I'm just imagining the difference, the differences are more exaggerated live.

Doc_J
02-15-2014, 02:02 AM
Nice comparison Warbulele. I agree with you. Between the Golds and the Aquila strings, I liked the Aquila strings on your concert. You might want to try some fluorocarbon strings, Worths, Oasis, Savarez, Fremont, or SouthCoast strings.

BTW you play much better than I did after 1 week or even 1 month. Keep up the good work!

Kayak Jim
02-15-2014, 02:03 AM
Thanks for the comparison. I have the Golds on my Mainland Concert (Mahogany) and they take a LONG time to settle in- several weeks. When I first put them on I didn't care for them but they've definitely mellowed out to the point that I'm satisfied with the sound. I still don't like that they are so temperature sensitive and so I wouldn't use them again. Worth or Southcoast will be their eventual replacement.

But it's a personal taste thing so go with whatever works for you.

Warbulele
02-15-2014, 12:19 PM
Thanks Doc and Jim, I have considered flouros, but I have two reasons I don't want to use them. One is the environmental and health impact of producing flourocarbons, which is huge because they persist in the body for 14 years - flourocarbon chemical factory workers have deformed babies etc. Flouros are up there with PCBs in terms of environmental persistence.

The other is sound, in recordings I've listened to, they just sound dryer on bright ukes to my ears. Great on tenors and woods like koa and mahogany but on the brighter ukes... I'm not sure how else to describe it, maybe less full, with scratchier tonal edges or something. It's subtle.
They're more articulate for sure, but to me the tonal quality of the Aquilas (on a bright uke) is more pleasing, relaxing, like it comes together as a complete sound. Not that I want easy listening, but I want a sound that is beautiful to my ears.

Thanks Doc_J, I have had a guitar to mess around on for a while, though still haven't learned chords on the guitar. The Uke is easier to learn chords for, so I'm going to learn it for a while before trying the guitar. Plus it's so light, I can't help but pick it up!

Kayak Jim
02-15-2014, 12:56 PM
I want a sound that is beautiful to my ears.


That, at the end of the day, is all that matters.

actadh
02-15-2014, 02:53 PM
Thanks for the comparison. You have a beautiful ukulele.

I agree that the Nylgut sounds better with more resonance and sustain. I have them on my Luna solid spruce top concert. I did not like the Nylgut at first. The texture of the strings seemed odd and the sound seemed harsh. Now that I have been playing with Nylgut for two weeks, I really like the tension aspect and the beautiful sound. I will replace with Nylgut down the road.

Warbulele
02-15-2014, 04:45 PM
Thanks Actadh.
I just wanted to add, that I may have misjudged the Aquila Bionylons,[I made a comment earlier, which I have editted/removed now] at first I rejected them because they don't have as much sustain or volume as the Nylguts, but I'm starting to realize what they do have is they are softer sounding, not just because they're quieter, it's as if they're a little less brittle, they ring less sharply, further in the wood direction, buy they still have nice tone.
The Nylguts are amazing on this Uke, but practicing in a small room I'm starting to wonder if I might want softness over amazing. I'll think about it.
I'm actually going to experiment with making my own strings (all natural), but I'll post a thread about that another time, and have no assumptions that anything will come of it.