View Full Version : Uke hunting advice needed

04-01-2014, 10:53 AM
So I went out to do some ukulele research yesterday and got to play a few ukes. I'm looking for a tenor uke specifically. The first store I went to had a Gretsch G9120 and a Kala KA-TG. They both come with Aquila strings. Compared to a solid rosewood concert sized Amahi Snail ukulele (a brand I never heard of), the other two sounded a little lifeless. I went to another store and played a few Alvarez ukes, a Cordoba 20TM, a Lanikai TunaUke, a Martin T1K and a few Kamakas. The Martin had the best action by far but it's outside my price range. Also it had thinner, clear strings on it. I had gone out specifically to look at the Kala KA-TG as that was the one I thought about buying but it just didn't "wow" me. Could it be that they just took it straight from the box and hung it on the wall? Also, does anyone know anything about Amahi ukuleles? They looked really nice, made in China and sounded nice. The concert sized rosewood uke was the same price as both the Gretsch and the Kala. If my sausage fingers could navigate the smaller frets better I would have considered that one for sure. I'm really trying to stay around the $125 range thereabouts.

04-01-2014, 11:34 AM
The Snail ukuleles can be found at http://amatis.org/ under intermediate ukuleles

04-01-2014, 11:39 AM
My guess would be that they just took the Kala out of a box and hung it on the wall. That said, while a setup might improve the playability and the intonation at the first position, it's not going to do anything for the volume and tone of the instrument so if it sounded lifeless before a setup it will still be lifeless (though maybe better in-tune and easier to play) after a setup. Years ago I bought a Lanikai 8-string tenor that had the best "out of the factory box" setup I've seen...perfect intonation...acoustically it was like playing a wet dog.

$125 for a tenor is pretty close to the bottom of the heap and you can't realistically expect a lot in terms of performance and consistency. Also, both setup and "liveliness" can vary considerably even across ukes of the same make and model in this price range. If $125 ukes sounded like Martins and Kamakas, nobody would be buying the latter!


04-01-2014, 11:44 AM
I just bought my first uke and I was in about the same price range as you. Coming from acoustic guitar I know the same model can sound quite different from individual to individual. Ukes are the same and both instruments vary even more so in the lower price range. I ended up with the Gretsch G9120 after trying out different ones at different stores, I found one head and shoulders above the rest. I noticed the same with the different Kalas I tried. Short answer to my long commentary is keep trying those same model, you will find a Kaka you like.

PS never play the $700.00 ukes beside the $125.00 ones. Unless you plan to spend $700.00. Good luck on your search

04-01-2014, 11:50 AM
The problem I have is that I don't have regular access to these ukes. I happened to be out of town yesterday where all the big music stores are so I tried to see as many ukes as I could but I live 100 miles away. The only ukuleles they have where I live are Ukadelics and some Makalas.

04-01-2014, 12:22 PM
A lot of UAS suffers out there! :)

Last thing that you want to do is end up with a uke that you're not happy with. For what it's worth, I've started to take a 15 day waiting period approach to buying ukes. Basically, if I'm not still excited about that uke after a couple weeks, I start thinking about other options.

Don't get me wrong...I'm not trying to tell you what to buy or anything, but in your original post it sounds like you might not be totally happy with a cheaper tenor.

Good luck to you! Hope you find one you love!

04-01-2014, 03:09 PM
Like someone said, $125 is going to get you the very bottom of the entry level ukes. Don't get me wrong, those ukes a very playable and reliable, but you seem like you don't like them compared to the more expensive brands. That's totally understandable, but you get what you pay for. You could probably get a nice solid wood tenor for $100 more. I'd suggest you do that, because I can tell you from reading your post that you're not going to be ultimately satisfied with a low end uke which will in the end have you with a $125 uke looking for an upgrade in no time. Do yourself a favor and skip the $125 uke and save up for a better one.

04-01-2014, 06:15 PM
When you don't have access to play many locally, you are in a more difficult position. Waiting and saving a bit for a more mid-range uke might give you a more predictably good uke. Consider checking out the marketplace here at UU for something nice like a Mainland. A used uke can be an excellent value and may allow you to get a far better uke than you can afford new. Lots of folks move up from nice to even better ukes and put their previously loved ukes up for sale here. Good luck with the hunt.

04-01-2014, 06:24 PM
I'm new but I've messed with a lot of sub $200 ukes and was never impressed. The ones over $200, sounded so much better and through to $350 was a much smaller amount of difference vs a $100 to a $200, if that makes sense. I would say save up to $200.