Avoid the Mid-Level ($300-$600) ?

kaimuki

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In a recent video , ukulele artist and teacher Craig Chee says when buying brand new , avoid the mid-level . ($300-$600)
In his view , your paying for the bling and the quality is not necessarily better .
He says there are some really great ukes under $300 .
And at $600 and above there's a huge increase in build quality and craftsmanship ; you can feel and hear the difference .
 
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tm3

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James Hill offers basically the same advice

 

Dohle

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James Hill offers basically the same advice

Indeed he did, and I still disagree with him. And Craig Chee, for that matter. That mid-range contains so many brands with excellent price-quality ratio that, in my opinion, it would be silly to dismiss them just because of some magical (i.e., arbitrary) "gap". In fact, I would say that the quality of that mid-range - particularly with brands like aNueNue, KoAloha Opio, Rebel, Millar - has gone up so drastically that it's actually harder to justify jumping to the high-end at around or beyond a grand, let alone beyond that. I've owned ukes from all three K brands and I sold all of them because I preferred certain Asian-made brands, some of which cost about as much as a K brand and some approximately half of that.

Then again, I'm an amateur and Craig Chee and James Hill are professional musicians, so what the hell do I know...
 

kaimuki

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Indeed he did, and I still disagree with him. And Craig Chee, for that matter. That mid-range contains so many brands with excellent price-quality ratio that, in my opinion, it would be silly to dismiss them just because of some magical (i.e., arbitrary) "gap". In fact, I would say that the quality of that mid-range - particularly with brands like aNueNue, KoAloha Opio, Rebel, Millar - has gone up so drastically that it's actually harder to justify jumping to the high-end at around or beyond a grand, let alone beyond that. I've owned ukes from all three K brands and I sold all of them because I preferred certain Asian-made brands, some of which cost about as much as a K brand and some approximately half of that.

Then again, I'm an amateur and Craig Chee and James Hill are professional musicians, so what the hell do I know...
Mr. Chee's and Mr. Hills's thinking may be outdated .
I'm leaning toward Junie Moon and Dohle .
 

Wukulele

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Then again, I'm an amateur and Craig Chee and James Hill are professional musicians, so what the hell do I know...
I don’t think being a professional/sponsored musician necessarily gives anyone extra special qualifications to avoid a particular price range. In fact in some circumstances, it may cause blind spots or biases.

Price ranges have a bit of arbitrariness built-in. Pricing doesn’t exactly track 1:1 with quality. In fact after a certain level, there’s diminishing improvement with increased price.

IME $2000 Collings is not $1700 better than a $300 Pono (ok, probably $430 in today’s prices) or Anuenue in the same range..
 

hendulele

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For playability, build quality, and sound, it's hard to beat anything by Magic Fluke Company or Kiwaya/Famous (esp. the Japanese-made laminates).

Those instruments are in the $300-$600 range. You can find better instruments for more money (you can spend A LOT on a blingier solid Kiwaya), and sometimes get lucky and find something better for less, but the MFCs and entry-level Kiwayas set the bar for "affordable" high-quality ukes IMO.
 

man0a

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I think statements like that are at best misleading without mentioning specific brands or specific types of players. I think the midrange is a great place to look for starter ukuleles for someone with a musical background and can tell how much better some midrange ukuleles sound than entry-level models. The midrange is also a great place for advanced players with limited budgets who don't expect to ever be able to afford a high-end ukulele. Popular brands like Martin, Pono, Opio, Rebel, and Romero Creations have pricing that starts in the midrange and they probably make most of their sales in the midrange so there is certainly a certainly a demand for this price range.
 

mikelz777

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This definition of mid-level ($300-$600) is my high level and I couldn't/wouldn't pay more. Three of my seven ukes fall into this category and fourth would fall into this category if I had bought it new. They are my best sounding ukes. I can kind of understand what they are saying but I think the statement is pretty broad and more provocative than it is factual hard advice to follow.
 

EDW

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I tend to agree that there are lots of things in that price range that are really nice. If you look at Elderly, Mims, The Ukulele Site and others there are some lovely instruments at that 300-600 range. Many are far better than their price might suggest. It is likely that most people here would find those instruments serve their needs and then some. An artist at the highest level might find the need to go well beyond those. Whether most of us could really benefit from one at that boutique price point is debatable.

It is also the case that times have really changed and over the last 10-20 years there have been huge advances in the uke world. There was a time when it was hard to find anything decent out there especially in the low to medium range. The Magic Fluke instruments were a revelation as they were affordable, quite playable and sounded good. They made it easy to find something that worked. Little by little, the market became pretty flooded with good quality instruments.

It is definitely a great time to play uke
 

kaimuki

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I think statements like that are at best misleading without mentioning specific brands or specific types of players. I think the midrange is a great place to look for starter ukuleles for someone with a musical background and can tell how much better some midrange ukuleles sound than entry-level models. The midrange is also a great place for advanced players with limited budgets who don't expect to ever be able to afford a high-end ukulele. Popular brands like Martin, Pono, Opio, Rebel, and Romero Creations have pricing that starts in the midrange and they probably make most of their sales in the midrange so there is certainly a certainly a demand for this price range.
I'm glad someone mentioned Martin .
 

kaimuki

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This definition of mid-level ($300-$600) is my high level and I couldn't/wouldn't pay more. Three of my seven ukes fall into this category and fourth would fall into this category if I had bought it new. They are my best sounding ukes. I can kind of understand what they are saying but I think the statement is pretty broad and more provocative than it is factual hard advice to follow.
I didn't get the impression Mr. Chee was trying to be provocative .
But instead was giving his sincere advice .
 

Cadia

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I might agree if it wasn't for my AMM3, which was $599, and my Romeros, some of which were under $600. These are really nice ukes, much better than something that goes for $300.
 

Spieler

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Perhaps Mr. Chee's statement makes more sense in context and objective, but for me-- in experience and observation-- in isolation it's rather an odd take.

If one assumes a purchaser will progress through price levels in a linear way, is a professional with specific criteria and/or has intentions of (or at least, no qualms against) embracing a certain higher price range in the due course of things, I can see how this would make sense: skip the middle.

I now have ukuleles across a relative price spectrum (and a great ride it has been, and remains!), and-- as one example-- my Rebels not only hold their sweet spot in that "middle" price range, they are a delight. Not an evaluative, "Wow, this is a great instrument for $_____" determination, but: a smile, every time.

There are many reasons and ways in which great satisfaction and peace-in-the-playing can be enjoyed-- for a lifetime!-- within that $300-$600 range.

~ S.
 

mikelz777

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I didn't get the impression Mr. Chee was trying to be provocative .
But instead was giving his sincere advice .
Intentional or not, it's provocative in the sense that it is such a broad and generalized statement and that anyone who has shopped and/or played ukes that fall into that category know that there are a LOT of excellent ukes to be had in that price range and that they have earned their asking price - it's not necessarily just bells and whistles. I can hear the difference between my ukes in that category and those that are less than $300. It is also provocative in that warning people off of such ukes isn't really doing them a service especially when in a lot of people's budgets, $300 - $600 is a lot of money and a uke falling in that price range would be the best that they could ever afford. Jumping from the $200's to the $600's is quite a leap! (And not necessarily necessary for better quality and sound.)
 
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merlin666

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The appeal of this price range around $600 is that it is the sweet spot for higher end used ukes. While the price of a new K brand uke can be intimidating, there are plenty of used ones in great condition offered for prices of mediocre mass produced stuff. And yeah, another issue with ukes with a regular price of between 500 to 600 is that with a little patience they can often be found on sale or promotion for almost half that. So what's their real "value" anyway.
 

badhabits

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The appeal of this price range around $600 is that it is the sweet spot for higher end used ukes...

Except according to the op he was talking about buying new. I'll agree with others that there are many great ukes in this range. Perhaps some context was lost in translation, otherwise it seems and overly broad generalization.
 

ripock

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I agree with avoiding the mid-range ukes. My reasoning is economic. If you care enough about quality to get a mid-range uke, you are going to get a top shelf uke as well; it is just a matter of time. So instead of buying one or more mid-range ukes to test the water and then buy your Kamaka, just save your money and buy the kamaka. In the long run you will save you about 30-50%. Obviously this methodology is predicated on a certain personality. If it doesn't apply to you, pass it by.
 

WebParrot (s2)

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In a recent video , ukulele artist and teacher Craig Chee says when buying brand new , avoid the mid-level . ($300-$600)
In his view , your paying for the bling and the quality is not necessarily better .
He says there are some really great ukes under $300 .
And at $600 and above there's a huge increase in build quality and craftsmanship ; you can feel and hear the difference .
I'd tend to follow the advice from someone more 'well rounded' like Barry Max (Baz fm Got A Ukulele reviews). Not because he's a better player, but solely because of the number of instruments he's played in ALL $$ ranges. I HIGHLY doubt that Craig has play more than a half dozen in the price range he scorns. He's a great teacher and player, but I also doubt he has the time to play and critically evaluate the tens-of-dozens of current-day available ukes.

The next time he's 'featured' on the HMS podcast we should have Cory or Kalei or Andrew ask him to play a few of their offerings to see how firm he grasps his opinion!
 

kaimuki

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Except according to the op he was talking about buying new. I'll agree with others that there are many great ukes in this range. Perhaps some context was lost in translation, otherwise it seems and overly broad generalization.
The context was what to look for as a beginner and what to look for when upgrading .
In a conversation between Mr. Craig Chee and Mr. Kalei Gamiao .