Mainland Baritone - Impressions

BBegall

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I'm not qualified to do a "review" but I recently bought a Mainland Baritone and thought I'd share some thoughts after a few months of use.

I have the Red Cedar/Rosewood model and (rope decoration aside) I love the looks. The cedar and rosewood are gorgeous and the gloss finish is beautiful if not absolutely perfect. The ukulele arrived beautifully set up and it is just a joy to play.

I also have a Kala baritone, the well reviewed cedar top Acacia laminate model so I can't help compare the two. Both are excellent instruments but I seem drawn to the Mainland a bit more. I know baritones are supposed to have lots of sustain but the Mainland just blows me away. To my ears she has a rich deep tone but great clarity as well.

She came with Guadalupe strings which were interesting but not for me. I'm currently using Oasis strings but I plan to experiment and I'm open to suggestions.

It's said Mainland makes "mid range" priced ukuleles and to me it seems like you get a lot for your money.
 

UkeStuff

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I have Living Water strings on mine—no wound string—and I love them! It’s a fantastic ukulele.
 

GRUker

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I just bought my first Mainland as well. I am not as over-the-moon with it as you are though. Would you mind me asking how the frets were on yours?
I ordered a Red Cedar/Rosewood soprano. Shipped within a day or two and arrived 2-3 days later, so no complaints there. When it arrived though, the frets had only been leveled. There was no re-crowning or polishing done whatsoever. Wondering if my first foray into Mainland was simply an oversight, or if its a common thing.
Happy with the sound (and the frets now that I've crowned and polished them), and also am going to need a concert sized instrument soon to complete my lineup.


PXL_20210621_203905015.jpg
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(top fret in each picture is after crowning and polishing, bottom is untouched right from Mainland)
 

tm3

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Knowing what I know now, I probably would have bought a Mainland as my starter uke.

I was surprised to recently come across a blurb from an owner stating that the Mainland as he received it had the action at 4.5mm at the 12th fret, which from what I understand is way off. So GRUker it sounds like sometimes they make it through without QC.
 

BBegall

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I just took a look at my baritone and the frets are just as i would expect. Hard to tell from a photo but the fingerboard on mine seems in better condition as well. The action is also just as I like it. I understand that Mike, Mainland's owner, is active here. Maybe you should reach out.
 

bazmaz

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Mainland was my first 'more serious' uke about 12 or 13 years ago now. Absolutely love them. Run by an extremely nice chap too.
 

Nickie

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Two of my friends own Mainland ukuleles. Had I known then what I know now, that would have been my 1st ukulele too.
 

Kenn2018

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I bought my first "serious" tenor from a store that carried Kala, Ohana and Mainland. I tried the six tenors they had in stock. Two from each company. I don't remember the models. They were all in the $250 to $350 full MSRP range.

I chose the Ohana TK-50G Cedar/Rosewood over the others. I thought it had much better sound, and it felt really nice to play, even with the neck's gloss finish.
 
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FuzzeeSock

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HI all this is great info. I am in the market for a new solid wood baritone. I just sold my Ohana BK-35CG. It was gorgeous but still a little too quiet for me. Am looking for the lush warm tone with good bass closer to a classical guitar sound in my next bari but also good for jazz and definitely more for fingerstyle note clarity rather than strummed. I have always been a huge fan of Mainland Ukes. I owned a Mainland tenor a few years ago.

so question to you all...and to @BBegall , I am trying to choose between the following:
1. Mainland Red Cedar / Rosewood Baritone
2. Kala Cedar top / acacia Baritone
3. Kala Solid spruce / ebony cutaway
4. Kala solid acacia baritone
5. Ohana 70RB spruce top, round back composite back
5. Bonanza Homestead fuller depth walnut or aspen or mahogany cutaway

I'm leaning towards the Mainland so i'm happy to hear BBegall loves it so far and would welcome more insight, but from online videos, i also hear all these amazing overtones and deep lushness from the Kala Solid Acacia Bari.

and here's the thing, i really want a cutaway, but there aren't many out there, and i thought my Ohana was going to be the end all, but alas, it's too quiet. So on the other hand i'm also leaning towards having Bonanza make me a deeper depth cutaway. pls help!
 

VegasGeorge

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I'm embarrassed to say that I have just about every Ukulele Mainland sells. I suppose I may be missing a few, but not many. As you might expect, I absolutely love them. Every single one is a joy to play. I most recently added the Spruce top Tenor and Concert. They were out of stock for several months, and I was overjoyed to get them. And, may I say, they were well worth the wait.
 

BBegall

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I'm leaning towards the Mainland so i'm happy to hear BBegall loves it so far and would welcome more insight, but from online videos, i also hear all these amazing overtones and deep lushness from the Kala Solid Acacia Bari.

and here's the thing, i really want a cutaway, but there aren't many out there, and i thought my Ohana was going to be the end all, but alas, it's too quiet. So on the other hand i'm also leaning towards having Bonanza make me a deeper depth cutaway. pls help!
The only comment I can add is that I owned a Kala Cedar top along with the Mainland Cedar/Rosewood and played them side be side. Both are excellent ukuleles but I made the choice to sell the Kala. The Kala includes a truss rod which Mainland does not so I may regret that decision one day but I love the looks of Rosewood and felt the tone of the Mainland was more to my liking.
 

tm3

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The Bonanzas sure are gorgeous and unique to my eye, I've heard a number of favorable comments, and I personally would love supporting a USA luthier.

However, I've never heard a discussion of how they directly compare sound-wise to Ohana, Mainland, Kala, etc.
 

Griole

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Hey, FuzzeeSock -
For what it's worth, I have had most of the ukes you listed as "possibles", and I like the Kala KA SSEby (spruce/ebony cutaway). Of course, that's just my subjective take. Good luck in your search.

Jerry
 

FuzzeeSock

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thank you all for responses! I actually did end up ordering the Mainland Red Cedar baritone and overall, it's fantastic. I love the look of the deeper red cedar, the rope binding, overall just love the darker wood combination, and it's also hard to find another all solid cedar / rosewood combo at this price point. I even had the tuners changed to the Graphtec tuners for that old vintage look without "ears". Living Water strings on it sounds a bit muffled for my tastes, so i switched to the warm Oasis all carbon strings and WOW...even better clarity and lushness.

Unfortunately i have to send it back. The uke came with way too many scuff marks on the head stock and scratches on the body, stains inside the sound hole, but worst of all...the intonation was way way off. After a few days of letting it get accustomed to the weather and temps, still had the same problem. Intonation kept going flatter and flatter from 5th fret all the way up. I play some classical and fingerstyle pieces that requires intonation to be spot on at the 12th and 14th fret, where the neck joins the body on this Mainland and it was way flat. Too much for comfort, like negative 5-6 nits on several tuners i had compared to....i was also using good quality Korg tuners. Just can't live with that.

The neck had probably bowed up during shipment. So after much pain, i have to send this back. However, now that i know what it sounds like and how it looks in person, i will probably buy it again at a future date and hope there will be no neck issues....as i just love the looks and the sound of this bari. Definitely more lush, more sustain, and projects better than my old Ohana BK-35CG.

In the end, i'm exchanging it for the newer updated, kala cedar top / acacia model, the one with the graphtec tuners. That should come later next week. I have a feeling i will end up with a few baritones just to have different models, just like i did with all my tenors.

so yes, lesson learned is that if Mainland is listening, and start adding a truss rod in their baritones, this will help alleviate future issues. Because i definitely want to buy this again....but without the worry of neck issues.
 

wherahiko

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the intonation was way way off. After a few days of letting it get accustomed to the weather and temps, still had the same problem. Intonation kept going flatter and flatter from 5th fret all the way up.
I had exactly this problem on my Mainland Red Cedar bari. Other than the intonation, it’s a lovely instrument. Mine is being looked at by a luthier at the moment. I hope it can be fixed easily.
 

JackR

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Fuzzeesock,

Looking forward to your thoughts on the Kala. Thanks.
 

wherahiko

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I had exactly this problem on my Mainland Red Cedar bari. Other than the intonation, it’s a lovely instrument. Mine is being looked at by a luthier at the moment. I hope it can be fixed easily.
worst of all...the intonation was way way off. After a few days of letting it get accustomed to the weather and temps, still had the same problem. Intonation kept going flatter and flatter from 5th fret all the way up. I play some classical and fingerstyle pieces that requires intonation to be spot on at the 12th and 14th fret, where the neck joins the body on this Mainland and it was way flat. Too much for comfort, like negative 5-6 nits on several tuners i had compared to....i was also using good quality Korg tuners. Just can't live with that. [...]

The neck had probably bowed up during shipment. So after much pain, i have to send this back. [...] if Mainland is listening, and start adding a truss rod in their baritones, this will help alleviate future issues. Because i definitely want to buy this again....but without the worry of neck issues.
I've just heard back from the luthier now—for my Mainland bari that has the same problem. Apparently the bridge is in the wrong place and needs to be moved. The luthier says this is a surprisingly common problem (not with this brand in particular). It will cost about $300NZD to fix and will leave a mark on the front of the instrument. I'm surprised it made it through QC like this. Given the cost of international shipping, sending it back to IN is probably not an option.

So, it may be that the bridge is the issue for you and not the neck?
 

tm3

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Poor fretwork, high action, bad intonation, scuffs/scratches/stains, and a misplaced bridge.

How are so many Mainlands going out the door with such problems?