Ukulele Information You Can Trust

Swiftsailor98

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First, a bit of praise for UU forums... this is about the best source of ukulele information (what to buy, what strings, how to play better, etc.) that I have found in my searches.

Okay, now on to my semi-soapbox. If I was a newbie and just interested in getting into playing the ukulele, I'd start with Google. The other day I looked up "Best Ukulele Brands". Once you got beyond the sponsored ads, you might find several articles from sites like Consordini, acoustic bridge, music critic. Each have articles that extol the "10 Best Ukulele Brands of 2020". I even searched for Best Brands for advanced players--similar results.

As I perused these lists I found about two brands that I might put into a 'Top 10' list---Kala and C.F. Martin. Their lists are filled out with solid mid-grade uke makers, of which I might put Fluke, Lanikai, Oscar Schmidt, Cordoba and Fender (and with varying opinions, maybe Luna) into that category. Then there were some brands I've never heard of...

Nowhere in any of theses lists are what I might call some of the true "Best Ukulele Brands": Kamaka, Kanile'a, KoAloha, Ko'olau, Anuenue, Rebel, Romero Creations.

If you add in the Kala and Martin that's nine! How hard is it to develop a list of 10 Best Brands without leading people astray?

So, other than this site, where do you go for ukulele information you trust?

Why is there so much misinformation out there?
 

Dohle

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I absolutely despise these ridiculous top 10 lists of best ukuleles, or top 10 anything to be fair. Without any qualifiers that would focus more on finding the best specific kind of uke (for example, best soprano, best uke made out of certain woods, best ukes with a pickup, etc. etc.), these lists are next to useless. At best they're lazily put together and at worst they're deceitful. I wouldn't put it past them that some of these sites have been paid off by certain brands in order for them to get on these lists. I mean who in their right mind would otherwise list Luna as one of the best uke brands!? Absolute madness. UU member Choirguy / Chris Russell has actually made a few videos tearing some of these nonsense lists apart. I'd say he's one of the better sources around (although he does focus more on cheaper ukes). Check out his UkeStuff Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWLWFk98kdzumG9Pa2Pj1wQ

Another great source, for which you'll doubtless find lots of other recommendations, is Got a Ukulele (https://www.gotaukulele.com/). I'd hazard a guess it's the most popular review and source site here and in lots of other ukulele circles.

A few of my personal favourites are GirlMeetsUke (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC676skINylbbiIwKsOiXauw) and Alex Beds from the Southern Ukulele Store who recently started his own personal Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/UkesWithAlex/videos

In general, I trust ukulele Youtube channels much more than these nonsense sites making nonsense top 10 lists or whatever. But be warned, lots of youtubers are known for receiving either free instruments or even payments for reviews without disclosure.
 
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man0a

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Most of those "top 10" products lists that you find on the internet that have links to merchants are just scams to collect merchant referral bonuses. Even Amazon (or especially Amazon) pays websites money to send them traffic. Yes, the ukuleles in those lists are real products and perhaps even great instruments, but how many of them have the person writing that list really played? What criteria is the list really based on?

I like the reviews on Got A Ukulele. Chris Russell's reviews are good is you're looking for a real cheap ukulele, but his coverage of better instruments is really sparse. The Ukulele Site videos are fun and interesting, but obviously as a dealer, they cannot say that one ukulele is much worse than another at the same price (or why would they even sell the lousy one)?
 

ripock

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When I blindly entered into this realm, I relied on capitalism. I didn't know anything about ukuleles, but I assumed that those who did would put a monetary value on things that would be commensurate with the instrument's value. Looking back, I think it has been generally true. So I didn't do any googling or looking at lists. I just gathered together a lump of money ($200) and then went to amazon and bought a $200 uke. And I got what I expected: a serviceable, entry level instrument.
 

Kenn2018

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As others have said, there are all sorts of caveats and qualifiers to make any list like this meaningful. And even then, they are full of very subjective opinions and biases.

Ask 50 different players what are their 5 favorite ukulele makers and you will get 100 different answers. (With overlaps.) Are you excluding luthier-made instruments? For a company like Kala, their ukes run the gamut from very cheap, poor sounding ukes to good value entry level; to well made, nice sounding, serviceable ukes, to higher-end, small run, well regarded, US-made instruments. And everything in between. How do you judge them as a "best company"? Certainly one of the most successful. The 4 Hawaiian K-companies are terrific makers. But what about G-String or small Hawaiian makers? Pono? They usually make excellent mid-level tenor ukuleles. Which can be great values. But are they comparable to their parent company Koolau?

It depends upon the parameters you are using to define the "10 Best Brands". Kala vs. Ohana? Collings vs. CF Martin? LFdM vs. Ono. Hive vs. Moore Bettah? How do you choose? What constitutes "Best"? At least Consumer Reports has a list of things they are using to rate and rank their car choices.
 

Graham Greenbag

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When I blindly entered into this realm, I relied on capitalism. I didn't know anything about ukuleles, but I assumed that those who did would put a monetary value on things that would be commensurate with the instrument's value. Looking back, I think it has been generally true. So I didn't do any googling or looking at lists. I just gathered together a lump of money ($200) and then went to amazon and bought a $200 uke. And I got what I expected: a serviceable, entry level instrument.

That’s an interesting way of doing things and I’m sure that it can be effective if not necessarily financially efficient. To my mind there are many sellers out there promoting their poor or average products in a way that makes them look and sound to be better than they actually are, marketing makes a difference. As a customer it’s very easy to be taken in by marketing and generally people are to a greater or lesser extent mislead - copying the decisions of the influenced masses is IMHO no guarantee of a happy outcome. So, with that in mind, a $200 dollar Uke might be either worth the money or be no better than a $100 instrument, but I accept that even with heavy marketing it’s unlikely to be worth less than half its street price. Of course list price and street price vary a lot too.

I’d agree that there is a link between price and quality but in my experience the link is too flexible to be relied on as anything more than a very rough guide. You are very unlikely to be able to buy a commercially made item for less than it cost to make, you are normally sold items at between few and very many multiples of what it cost to commercially manufacture. In itself manufacturing cost is but a rough guide to value: some designs are poor, some manufacturers are inefficient and some have higher labour costs.

Who can you trust? Who’s a reliable guide? In absolute terms I’ve not found a perfect guide yet but the ones already mentioned in this thread do a pretty good job. Other than that the best method that I’ve heard of is having a pal that plays really well and going shopping with them. Comparative playing and listening to instruments in a very careful and controlled way does help to identify better value in any particular shop. On-line videos can be helpful too but be aware that some players can make a poor instrument sound pretty good ... and some videos also have their sound ‘manipulated’ too.
 
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DownUpDave

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This is the best place for that information period. This site is the largest of its kind in the world. You have members here that buy ukuleles, play ukuleles, love ukuleles and talk endlessly about everything ukulele. If the information you are seeking is not readily apparent here...........you just ask a question and yee shall find.

Another great source of info is HMS. Most people just look at what they have for sale but they have a huge resource page. They actually have a 10 best tenors under $200 video. The audio recording are the best in the business if you want to know how each ukulele sounds.
 

kkimura

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Another vote for Got a Ukulele (https://www.gotaukulele.com/). In addition to his candid reviews, I like that he plays the same riff on each ukulele reviewed. That helps to compare the sound of the ukuleles.
 

Jerryc41

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You have to be careful of "Best" lists. They are often aimed at beginners and could have some sponsorship. These lists don't mention, KoAloha, Kamaka, etc. The ukes they list might be best for a beginner, but they are not the best ukes you can buy.

It can be difficult to word a Google inquiry correctly to get the information you want. If one search doesn't work, try another. Getting the best information depends on what information you want. I just Googled "top quality ukes," and this is what I got. Ridiculous.

Luna Dolphin Concert Ukulele.
Fender Montecito Tenor Ukulele.
Ibanez UEW15E Concert Ukulele.
Kala KA-PWS Soprano Ukulele.
Fender Grace VanderWaal Signature Ukulele.
Luna Tattoo Tenor Ukulele.
Bondi Ukulele Starter Kit.
Lohanu Bundle Kit.

The way I found out about good ukes was by reading UU.
 

Swiftsailor98

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I figured I wasn't the only one to hold this opinion.

Another great source, for which you'll doubtless find lots of other recommendations, is Got a Ukulele (https://www.gotaukulele.com/). I'd hazard a guess it's the most popular review and source site here and in lots of other ukulele circles.

A few of my personal favourites are GirlMeetsUke (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC676skINylbbiIwKsOiXauw) and Alex Beds from the Southern Ukulele Store who recently started his own personal Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/UkesWithAlex/videos

Can't agree more, I enjoy BazMaz's Got a Ukulele so much, I jumped on his Patreon. I also frequent Alex's posts from the Southern Ukulele Store, and enjoy his upside-down left-handed playing. Both of these Brits are go-to's when I'm looking for a uke review.

Who can you trust? Who’s a reliable guide? In absolute terms I’ve not found a perfect guide yet but the ones already mentioned in this thread do a pretty good job. Other than that the best method that I’ve heard of is having a pal that plays really well and going shopping with them. Comparative playing and listening to instruments in a very careful and controlled way does help to identify better value in any particular shop. On-line videos can be helpful too but be aware that some players can make a poor instrument sound pretty good ... and some videos also have their sound ‘manipulated’ too.

These are some great points. Knowing how bad the google search shopping can be, I've grabbed two friends separately when they've shown interest. The first one was not nearby so I sent her to Mim at mimsukes.com and told her to search to her hearts delight---she wouldn't get a poor uke. The second one was local at the time and I laid out my collection on the table for a show, tell, feel and listen session. Based on that he was able to narrow down what he wanted and then I helped him find a few he could choose from. I can't imagine what brand of uke either one of these friends would've done without some guidance.

This is the best place for that information period. This site is the largest of its kind in the world. You have members here that buy ukuleles, play ukuleles, love ukuleles and talk endlessly about everything ukulele. If the information you are seeking is not readily apparent here...........you just ask a question and yee shall find.

Another great source of info is HMS. Most people just look at what they have for sale but they have a huge resource page. They actually have a 10 best tenors under $200 video. The audio recording are the best in the business if you want to know how each ukulele sounds.

Dave, you're right. UU has been the most expansive (breadth of knowledge) and extensive (depth of knowledge) website/forum I've found. I'll confess I used HMS's page as I was coming up with my 'top nine' in the original post.

The way I found out about good ukes was by reading UU.
. Amen!

So, how do we get this information out to people who are Google searching and don't know they're sifting through mostly chaff to find the few grains of wheat?
 

Hochapeafarm

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Great topic for a thread! I’d offer, also, that Uke Hunt is an awesome resource for ukulele reviews and other uke-related information. Additionally, magazines such at ‘Uke Magazine’ and ‘Ukulele Magazine’ are wonderful resources for information, tho I’m not certain that they provide reviews of ukes. Another excellent resource is reaching out to one’s local ukulele group(s) - or even to uke groups not in your area - for help, advice, etc. regarding ukulele-related info as well member insights into what ukes folks are playing.
 

Jerryc41

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Great topic for a thread! I’d offer, also, that Uke Hunt is an awesome resource for ukulele reviews and other uke-related information. Additionally, magazines such at ‘Uke Magazine’ and ‘Ukulele Magazine’ are wonderful resources for information, tho I’m not certain that they provide reviews of ukes. Another excellent resource is reaching out to one’s local ukulele group(s) - or even to uke groups not in your area - for help, advice, etc. regarding ukulele-related info as well member insights into what ukes folks are playing.

How about ukulele manufacturers? They could probably tell us if we should buy their products or not. :D
 

Brad Bordessa

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So, how do we get this information out to people who are Google searching and don't know they're sifting through mostly chaff to find the few grains of wheat?

I think you legitimize good websites like you're doing and shut the door on crappy ones.

A little industry insight:

The only reason those junk websites exist is because people visit them. Web traffic = money. It's profitable to create crappy review content like this right now because Google is facilitating it. They've been doing a terrible job ranking review sites. Personally, I want first-hand experience like The Wirecutter, but the majority of top hits right now are just thin posts that scrape the gist from Amazon reviews ("users say...") with a nice pros and cons list with a HUGE affiliate link button.

As long as these bad sites are getting you to Amazon (and you're buying within a week or two), they're making money. They don't care about recommending the best uke as long as you're buying SOMETHING through their link. (Another reason their uke selections are so bad is because they're limited to Amazon inventory. Other affiliate programs like Guitar Center, etc... don't pay or convert nearly as well.)

You can thank Jeff Bezos for this cut-throat, capitalistic mentality. Don't like it? Vote with your money. Give your business to a mom and pop shop and don't even LOOK at the prices on Amazon. Of course they're cheaper. Read this: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/10/21/is-amazon-unstoppable.

I have a feeling this ship will sink sometime soon and Google will start to take these sites off the front page of the SERPs, but in the meantime, keep supporting good content. In the age of using Facebook and Google to find ANYTHING, we forget how useful and impactful it is to personally mention the sites we like.
 

clear

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...
If you add in the Kala and Martin that's nine! How hard is it to develop a list of 10 Best Brands without leading people astray?

So, other than this site, where do you go for ukulele information you trust?

Why is there so much misinformation out there?

I think it is very hard to develop a "10 best brands" list because things are too subjective once you get past the initial quality threshold. For a beginner, the "10 best brands" must also consider the price (it is no use recommending ukuleles outside of the budget), which eliminates many high-end brands from consideration immediately. Can such a list be "best"?

Manufacturer sites are good for basic research on ukulele material, warranty, and to ask technical questions. For example, some brands' warranty (e.g. Kamaka, KoAloha, Kanile'a) only covers the original purchaser; KoAloha's wood warranty is only valid if you buy an in-case humidifier at purchase time. This type of info is best taken from the manufacturers.

I don't think the "so much misinformation out there" is done on purpose (at least the vast majority). Like the "10 best" list, a lot of things are subjective. I'd recommend any new player to go to Guitar Center and try a bunch with a sales guy and buy the favorite; they have a good selection and an excellent return policy. I'm sure there are others who would disagree with my recommendation (e.g. many here recommend Mims and HMS), so would my recommendation be misinformation?
 

clear

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This is the best place for that information period. This site is the largest of its kind in the world. You have members here that buy ukuleles, play ukuleles, love ukuleles and talk endlessly about everything ukulele. If the information you are seeking is not readily apparent here...........you just ask a question and yee shall find.

Another great source of info is HMS. Most people just look at what they have for sale but they have a huge resource page. They actually have a 10 best tenors under $200 video. The audio recording are the best in the business if you want to know how each ukulele sounds.

I agree that a forum like UU is a good source of information because lets many people voice their opinions, but it probably shouldn't be considered "best, period". Although UU members give honest opinions, opinions differ. Everybody must still form their own opinion based on all the collected information.
 

Hochapeafarm

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I think it is very hard to develop a "10 best brands" list because things are too subjective once you get past the initial quality threshold. For a beginner, the "10 best brands" must also consider the price (it is no use recommending ukuleles outside of the budget), which eliminates many high-end brands from consideration immediately. Can such a list be "best"?

Manufacturer sites are good for basic research on ukulele material, warranty, and to ask technical questions. For example, some brands' warranty (e.g. Kamaka, KoAloha, Kanile'a) only covers the original purchaser; KoAloha's wood warranty is only valid if you buy an in-case humidifier at purchase time. This type of info is best taken from the manufacturers.

I don't think the "so much misinformation out there" is done on purpose (at least the vast majority). Like the "10 best" list, a lot of things are subjective. I'd recommend any new player to go to Guitar Center and try a bunch with a sales guy and buy the favorite; they have a good selection and an excellent return policy. I'm sure there are others who would disagree with my recommendation (e.g. many here recommend Mims and HMS), so would my recommendation be misinformation?

Thanks for mentioning the impact of subjectivity re: all of this, clear — I wholeheartedly agree and thought of raising that point as well.

I think the other item worthy of mentioning - which also meanders its way back to the point of subjectivity - is good ol’ fashioned ‘trial and error,‘ which is, of course, achieved over time, gained through experience by players. This process may likely be, IMHO, what will help people find what is their own personal ‘best fit’ for a ukulele.

I still keep my very first ukulele from ten years ago when I started to play; I bought this uke from chain music store in the PNW, with the help of a salesman at the store. They carried several brands of ukuleles, most of which were very budget-friendly. With time, with experience, and the ‘trial and error’ of trying different ukuleles (ok, yes, in part largely fueled by my UAS, I admit), I came to learn that my first ukulele wasn’t the best fit for me, but this ukulele had given me a wonderful starting point - and, looking back, I do feel it was the best for me at that particular snapshot in time.

I still keep my first uke for sentimental reasons, and also in case someone in my ukulele group doesn’t have a uke and needs one to borrow. But, yeah, absolutely, trial and error, I feel, from one’s own personal experiences is going to help a player find what works best for that particular player. I imagine, of course, that there are folks out there who are lucky enough to get their first uke and are happy playing it, and as such, keep on playing it. That’s cool to have that happen, but this didn’t happen for me, personally.

It’s fantastic to have others’ opinions for us to read, e.g., here on the UU, or via other information online (and or otherwise), to research and consider, but ultimately, it really is such a personal decision to each person/player as to what ‘best’ really is. What is best to one person may be entirely the opposite for another.

Again, we all have to start somewhere in the process, the journey, tho, and I am just grateful for places like this, here on UU, to come together to be able to learn from one another and share our stories.
 

EDW

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I think you legitimize good websites like you're doing and shut the door on crappy ones.

A little industry insight:

The only reason those junk websites exist is because people visit them. Web traffic = money. It's profitable to create crappy review content like this right now because Google is facilitating it. They've been doing a terrible job ranking review sites. Personally, I want first-hand experience like The Wirecutter, but the majority of top hits right now are just thin posts that scrape the gist from Amazon reviews ("users say...") with a nice pros and cons list with a HUGE affiliate link button.........

Recent post from the Wirecutter with suggestions. I can't say I am really familiar with these. although in general, many of their equipment reviews are decent

https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-ukulele-for-beginners/