"MiNi" 5-string Ukulele Bass from China came - my impressions

kissing

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I ordered one of these bad boys about a week ago from eBay from a Chinese seller with these generic "MiNi" U-Bass clones.

I have possessed 2 Bass ukuleles in the recent past - a Mahalo Acoustic-Electric one and a Kala SUB UBass (solid body).

I've sold them both, the Kala more recently because I wanted to try a more exotic 5 string bass.

This isn't so much a structured review per se, but more to give a general impression on these unbranded Ukulele Basses from nameless eBay merchants from China.


WHAT I LIKE:

*Came well packaged in styrofoam and cardboard, arrived to me fast (just 1 week from China!) and in perfect condition. No bag included, but it fits snugly in a half-size guitar bag.

*Well setup. Straight out of box, the action and neck are in perfectly playable condition. I've had nothing to adjust for action and neck (and I am normally very fussy about setup). The back of the neck is smooth wood with no finish, making it easy to slide up and down..

This one came with black strings. The brand is not specified, but for this 5-string model it looks like they used Pahoehoe for the 3rd, 2nd, 1st (ADG) and something like Thundergut for the 5th and 4th (BE). It is interesting they mixed two sets together like this. Other models available normally ship with Aquila Thundergut (white coloured).

Saddle and Nut are bone.


*Aesthetically pleasing. What a beautiful instrument! That deep blue stain over pretty wood grain. The gloss finish is pretty much flawless for an instrument mass produced in China.


*Value. It was quite affordable compared to Kala branded line of similar instruments.



WHAT I DID NOT LIKE:

Unfortunately the instrument was not all positive. In fact there were some serious issues with it that made me have mixed feelings.


*Worst tuners. Ever.
At a glance, they look identical to the Hipshot tuners on UBasses, but they are an inferior knock-off. I generally tolerate cheap tuners on instruments, being a buyer of many inexpensive instruments. However, for the first time ever, I am considering buying actual UBass tuners to replace this garbage.

The tuners have been poorly machined and put together. They grind. There's a lot of friction. They squeak (I even sprayed a little silicone lubricant but it didn't help!) and tuning them up really strains the hand and wrists.


*Sharp fret edges! One of the things I noticed immediately was how sharp the ends of the frets were! Placing my fretting hand on the neck like playing against a saw blade!

Fortunately I have a good quality fret file, and I spent about half an hour carefully filing and rounding off the fret ends.


*Pickup system is.. mediocre.
Obviously at this price point, it comes with some kind of generic pickup system, accepting a 9V battery. The amplification is decent, but it is inferior to the pickup system of Kala's UBasses.

I looked under the saddle to see that they used one of those inexpensive black-rubber dipped piezo units that never sound quite balanced across all the strings on any instrument they come on. On mine, the treble side is audibly louder than the bass side.

I have ordered a replacement piezo unit (Artec) that should be able to be plugged in its stead to improve tone and balance.

The electronics also generate a bit of hum, which is a little disappointing for an active system. It's not an unbearable amount of hum, but I wish it could be quieter.


And why are there 4 knobs? What do they all do?
The first knob is volume, obviously, as I can tell from turning it up and down.

The other 3, I would imagine are some kind of tone knobs, maybe treble/mid/bass? It is hard to gauge which is which, because turning them down appears to make the instrument sound quieter, while having all three turned up simply makes it louder overall.

The knobs themselves are good quality. They notch at the middle, making them easy to adjust, and they are identical knobs found on the Kala's solid body UBass.





OVERALL

I am not as pleased with it as I had anticipated.
However, it is going to be a keeper, for now.
I am hoping replacing the piezo unit will improve its amplified sound somewhat.

Finding replacement tuners are going to be a bit of a challenge (can anyone help me find them?). And I hope they won't be too expensive.

I guess it's fair to say, it is playable and will certainly function as an Ukulele Bass straight out of box. Just don't expect all the parts to be smoothly operating and good quality.
 

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ag42

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Wow, two years later and this is the only review on this bass I could find anywhere on the web... And it was enough to base a purchase from (plus the price on Amazon in the UK was good...)

I agree with almost all your points...

- It's solidity made, the body and neck feel great and have a solid feel.
- Fret ends were a little sharp, setup was reasonable but the strings were too high for me. Also, got that same weird B string which was different to the other 4.
- For me, the piezo is almost silent on the G string and good volume on the other strings. Might be the fitment of the piezo.
- The tuners were complete garbage until I took each one completely apart and reassembled them removing any paint that flaked or wore awsy, and they started behaving... I've ordered Hipshots and a nut from Kala anyway.
- I've fitted the Galli 5 string flatwound set which is usually E to C but I've tuned B to G and it seems to be holding ok. They take all the finger noise away and make it faaaaar better to play. Smoother than D'Addario Chromes too.
- When the tuners come, I'm going to take everything apart and refit carefully. The truss rod has no effect as the neck is so stuff but I'll play with it anyway, I'm going to shield the preamp cavity as Bluetooth wireless transmitters buzz like crazy and cables are silent. Weird.
- I LIKE this thing... It's portable, fits a baritone uke bag (is actually shorter than my baritone ukes!), and is going to be great for modding. With very little effort, it'll make a great bass. Even the tuners could be rescued with some gentle sanding and grease.

@kissing, did you replace the piezo in the end, and did it make a difference? Which model did you go for? Let me know what else you did to it and if you still have/play it...
 

kissing

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...

@kissing, did you replace the piezo in the end, and did it make a difference? Which model did you go for? Let me know what else you did to it and if you still have/play it...

Hi!
It has been a while since I sold mine off.

But prior to doing so, I managed to upgrade the undersaddle unit.
From doing a search on my email history, it seems I went with the Artec PP517 undersaddle piezo for 5-string acoustic bass.
I can't remember for sure whether I needed to route some of the saddle wood for the pickup to fit... but I certainly remember that the piezo crystals from this pickup did not line up with the Bass Ukulele strings perfectly. However, the string volume balance was improved significantly nonetheless compared to stock.

After a bit of adjusting, I managed to get the instrument to be playable as a practical bass ukulele.

I've always had a good experience with Artec undersaddle pickups - it is common practice for me to replace undersaddle units of cheap pickup systems with them.


In retrospect, I think there are now better quality Bass Ukuleles for around the same money.
I currently own a Mahalo Uke Bass, which had no quality issues straight out of the box.
The piezo pickup is well balanced, there's no hum and the tuners are smooth.

https://mahaloukuleles.com/ukulele-series/bass-series-2/bass-series-solid-body-electric/
 

ag42

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Thanks @kissing, I'll go have a hunt for a PP517... :)
 

BadMonk

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Since Rondo isn't adding solid body bass ukes to their lineup any more, I've been looking at both the Mahalo and the MiNi basses. Not much info about them on the user end, except for this thread. While I like tinkering with things, the MiNi seems like too much time for me at this point. And since Kissing pointed me in the right direction with the Behringer K450FX, I may bite for the Mahalo. Price is good compared to Kala, although the Journeyman is still in the running. Any reasons not to like the Mahalo bass??
 

kissing

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I've been rather pleased with my Mahalo solid body bass.

I did change the strings to RoadToad Pahoehoe, because I dont like how Thunderguts feel. As it turns out, Pahoehoe are a bit thicker than Thunderguts, so I had to use a small round file to widen the string-through hole ever so slightly.

Naturally, I use it thru the Behringer K450FX :D
Here's a somewhat recent recording where I used it

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzbZl1kewLk&t=52
 
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BadMonk

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Thanks for sharing your experience, Kissing88. I'm leaning toward the Mahalo. It sounds great on your talented video. I've not tried Pahoehoe strings yet but comments on these forums make them interesting...esp played through a Behringer K450FX...:shaka:
 

kissing

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Thanks for sharing your experience, Kissing88. I'm leaning toward the Mahalo. It sounds great on your talented video. I've not tried Pahoehoe strings yet but comments on these forums make them interesting...esp played through a Behringer K450FX...:shaka:

Thanks!

The Pahoehoe strings are the original strings of the Ubass I think.
Thundergut is meant to be the newer one that came afterwards, and now they are coming as stock on many Bass Ukes.

The advantage of Thundergut is that they tend to stabilise in tuning faster and are a bit acoustically louder.
The Pahoehoes seem to stretch for longer and aren't as loud acoustically (though they do sound 'smoother' like flatwounds).

However, the huge drawback of Thundergut for me is that their White and Black variants tend to feel quite rubbery and sticky.
The Pahoehoe are slippery and sleek; and I like their smooth sound.

Thunder REDS are ok though, as they are not sticky like the white or black ones.
Perhaps next time I do a string change, it'll be the Reds. They have a pleasant satin-y finish that is non-stick.
 
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BadMonk

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Nice!
Very good to know about the strings. The Thunderguts on my Ohana were slightly sticky at first. Not a bother, really. But with time, they've grown stickier. A little Dr. Duck wax helps. They stay in tune, like you said, surprisingly well. So I'm not ready to change them out anytime soon. I was a serial string changer with the tenors but that became a slippery slope.

I spied this video a little while back and invested in Thundergut Reds. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1eunn_7rfc
They're sitting on the sideline until they original strings need to be changed.
 

kohanmike

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For the last seven years I've been using poly strings on my acoustic and solid body bass ukes. The first one had Thundergut, but I immediately didn't like the stickiness and went to Pahoehoe. I also tried Thunder Reds, but after a short time they also got more sticky. I think it's ridiculous to have to compensate for that by putting something on your fingers or strings each time you want to play. But even the Pahoehoe get sticky in humid conditions. I also didn't like how much the poly strings, even Thundergut, stretch and have to be cut and remounted so often.

In the past couple years Galli, an Italian company, came out with steel flatwound nylon core (I never liked round wound, even on my guitars) and I'm now replacing all my poly strings with those. Always smooth no matter the conditions, takes a much shorter time to settle in and much easier to install. They're sold with a Kala label.


This is Michael Kohan in Los Angeles, Beverly Grove near the Beverly Center
8 tenor cutaway ukes, 4 acoustic bass ukes, 10 solid body bass ukes, 14 mini electric bass guitars (Total: 36)

Donate to The Ukulele Kids Club, they provide ukuleles to children in hospital music therapy programs. www.theukc.org
Member The CC Strummers: www.youtube.com/user/CCStrummers/video, www.facebook.com/TheCCStrummers
 

Knows Picker

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Ive got the simpler four string version, its asian hollowbody that I never played much because it came with the thundergut strings.

Probably fine for bluegrass and such, but almost impossible to slide your fingers up and down.

I recently changed out the strings to LaBella Silverbacks from I got from Gold Tone and it made a HUGE difference.

Now it plays like a real bass, only smaller!!
 

BadMonk

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I took the leap and got a Mahalo solid body. DHL delivered it in very good time from Great Britain. The bass is slightly heavier than I expected but it's got a good feel and no neck dive. Three knobs for volume and tone. One could be Gain since it can easily dirty up the sound. But I don't bother with the knobs since it all goes to the Behringer K450FX. Overall, I like the bass a lot. To my ear, it has a "better" bass sound than my hollow body Ohana. There are just two things about the Mahalo. The jack to the amp is in an awkward spot, right at my thigh when sitting down. Maybe a 90* jack connector will help. And, the strings are stickier than the Thunderguts that I've been using (which are a little sticky but don't bug me, unless I'm playing a measures of 1/16th notes.) I may try the Pahoehoe strings or Aquila Reds. The Reds on one of my tenors feel very good to me. Thanks for another great recommendation, Kissing88!
 

kissing

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I took the leap and got a Mahalo solid body. DHL delivered it in very good time from Great Britain. The bass is slightly heavier than I expected but it's got a good feel and no neck dive. Three knobs for volume and tone. One could be Gain since it can easily dirty up the sound. But I don't bother with the knobs since it all goes to the Behringer K450FX. Overall, I like the bass a lot. To my ear, it has a "better" bass sound than my hollow body Ohana. There are just two things about the Mahalo. The jack to the amp is in an awkward spot, right at my thigh when sitting down. Maybe a 90* jack connector will help. And, the strings are stickier than the Thunderguts that I've been using (which are a little sticky but don't bug me, unless I'm playing a measures of 1/16th notes.) I may try the Pahoehoe strings or Aquila Reds. The Reds on one of my tenors feel very good to me. Thanks for another great recommendation, Kissing88!

Glad to hear you like it!
I agree with you regarding that spot for jack in general.. alas many electric instruments seem to have them there :(
Agree with strings... I think Thunderguts tend to get stickier with time too; I've noticed a transition from when they're brand new and been exposed to air longer. Overall, I just stick to Pahoehoe for all U-basses. You may have to some very minor filing of the string-through holes in on the body to get Pahoehoe to fit though. Seems Thunderguts are a bit thinner than Pahoehoe.

I've recently recorded with the Mahalo bass! Sounds very bassy!

https://youtu.be/Jk74-lU7Upk?t=8
 

BadMonk

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Your recording put a smile on my face. Fun melody and the Mahalo sounds great. It sits nicely in the song. Thanks for posting the recording. Being new to the u-bass experience (altho I've tinkered with sax, flute, recorder, keys and bass guitar) I'm still figuring things out even the simplest/obvious things. I see how you rest the u-bass on your leg so the jack isn't a 'thing.' I should have figured that out by now but will give that a try. I ordered Pahoehoe strings too - easier than always adding some agent to the strings so they're more playable. My next adventure will be going into electronic storage with MobileSheets and AirTurn Duo!
 

Nickie

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I've been rather pleased with my Mahalo solid body bass.

I did change the strings to RoadToad Pahoehoe, because I dont like how Thunderguts feel. As it turns out, Pahoehoe are a bit thicker than Thunderguts, so I had to use a small round file to widen the string-through hole ever so slightly.

Naturally, I use it thru the Behringer K450FX :D
Here's a somewhat recent recording where I used it

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzbZl1kewLk&t=52

Thanks for putting this video up for us, excellent job!