- Mar 30, 2009
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.
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.