What is the point of plastic ukes?

wherahiko

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I ask this question in earnest. I'm quite curious about the Enya Nova. But I can't find any use case, except if one actually expected to get water on the uke. (For example, to play on a kayak, or standing in the sea, or ...?)

Assuming one is not getting the instrument wet, would a Flight TUS(L) not be equally durable, less expensive, and sound better?

UU, I'm keen to hear your thoughts!
 
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ukudancer

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I'm pretty sure is that so it's less susceptible to humidity and temperature changes. That is also in addition to being more weather resistant.
 

Blank Williams

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While I personally don’t see the need for a waterproof ukulele I suppose some might…the flight travel ukes are pretty great. I have both the soprano and concert version and I think they sound really good, especially for being mostly plastic. I’ve never tried the enya nova but people seem to like them. I can’t get past the “les Paul” shape myself.
 

Arcy

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It depends on what you're doing, what you like, and what you're comfortable with.

The selling point for the people I know who've bought the Enya Nova are that they like how it looks, sounds, and feels. I think everybody I know who has one got the fancy electronics. The durability is a bonus.

The Flight looks more traditional, but it still sounds plastically (in a good way, IMHO), and it's not much cheaper assuming you compare similar size & without electronics.

I have a Flight TUS-35 and an Outdoor Tenor since before the Novas were available. I've considered an Enya Nova to match my car (oh the vanity!) but not enough to replace the Outdoor.

Realistically, in my environment and for my uses they're all similarly durable - I leave the Outdoor in the car in the summer and don't worry about it. I probably wouldn't need to worry about the Flight, but I would. The Outdoor hits the sweet spot for me of sturdy enough to be comfortable leaving it in the car, inexpensive enough to be willing to leave it in the car (the real carbon fibre uke? no way), and a pleasure to play if I'm stuck somewhere in the car. And I still may swap it for an Enya if they come out with the Pro Tenor in orange :)

The Flight stays in my office because it's small, cute, and my favorite soprano to play. Durability isn't a consideration for it.

--Rob
 

Sporky

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While I personally don’t see the need for a waterproof ukulele I suppose some might…the flight travel ukes are pretty great. I have both the soprano and concert version and I think they sound really good, especially for being mostly plastic. I’ve never tried the enya nova but people seem to like them. I can’t get past the “les Paul” shape myself.
I can't get past the obviously ripped off Enya logo!
 

rainbow21

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I think the most common reason for an Enya and other plastic ones is to keep in the car and not have to worry about the temperature extremes. People also like them for "rougher" activities like camping, going to the beach, travelling, and not having to worry at all about the environmental conditions (including water).
 

Voran

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I play outside a lot. Be nice to be free to play in volatile weather and not worry about rain.
 

Jim Yates

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Jim & Maccaferri uke.jpg
No one has mentioned the Maccaferri Islander Uke, the original plastic uke, quite popular in the early fifties.
 
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Traveled on a plane with my Enya nova, took it to the Great lakes, love taking it out to the park on nice days, sometimes on my bike. Never too afraid of hurting it or rubbing sunscreen all over it while I'm playing! received_4704651182929578.jpeg
 

richntacoma

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Every day I play by the water of the amazing Puget Sound, give minutes from my house. On days that it drizzles, I play my Outdoor (carbon fiber) uke for at least an hour. it is one of my greatest joys in life. On days when there is no rain, I take another uke, but being outdoors, playing by the water, feeds my soul.

Priceless moments, really.
 

chris667

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There's no point to any uke really.

I don't hold with the idea of "beater" ukes. Just put it in a case when you're not using it, and all will be well.

That doesn't matter though. If you want one, get one.

I like the Clearwater/Vorson/Brunswick concert ukes FWIW. Very inexpensive.
 

Brad Bordessa

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The point is the construction technology. Wood/glue is fragile. A solid piece of plastic is not (speaking for the Outdoor ukes here).

Pros:
  • Resistant to humidity
  • Resistant to heat
  • Resistant to water
  • Resistant to physical abuse
  • Uniform playability
Cons:
  • The sound (street busker, 5-gallon-bucket drum kit meets banjo)
  • Tuning stability once the strings have gone hot, cold, hot, cold a thousand times in a car
  • Plastic-y tactile feel
A plastic uke facilitates music in otherwise questionable environments. If you have to ask "why?", you probably shouldn't buy one. They have a very specific application and outside of it, they kind of suck compared to a "real" uke.
 

Graham Greenbag

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I ask this question in earnest. I'm quite curious about the Enya Nova. But I can't find any use case, except if one actually expected to get water on the uke. (For example, to play on a kayak, or standing in the sea, or ...?)

Assuming one is not getting the instrument wet, would a Flight TUS(L) not be equally durable, less expensive, and sound better?

UU, I'm keen to hear your thoughts!
From time to time this question, or one near enough like it, comes up. As best I can reason it wooden Ukes are, in practical terms, quite durable instruments that - with just modest care - can be taken pretty much anywhere where man will survive. Laminate wood is considered to be more durable than solid wood, and glued joints can be the ‘weakest link’. Sometimes we leave Ukes in places where man wouldn’t survive or simply push the boundary on what a Uke could tolerate.

Pushing the boundary we look for the ultimate in durability rather than what’s adequate, and this is where plastic comes in (it survives where a wooden Uke wouldn’t). Plastic is also waterproof (water has zero effect on it) whereas wood is water resistant, if your Uke is likely or certain to get dunked then using wood might be pushing your luck. Wood has been used to build boats for a long time so it is a durable water tolerant material that can last many decades, but moisture isn’t always without some subtle impact.

Personally I’m not a believer in the value of extreme durability and have purchased an inexpensive second-hand laminate Uke for outdoor use. Inexpensive and good enough works just fine for me, I have no desire to participate in extreme activities or play my Uke whilst in the bath, etc. In comparison terms you almost always have to set-up a laminate Uke, which costs your time but in return you can get a lovely sounding Uke, whilst a plastic Uke either arrives ‘right’ enough already or it will (‘cause you can’t work on them) always be ‘wrong’.

Plastic Ukes are dearer than my choice (multiples of their very low price) and some plastic Ukes sound better than others - IMHO some plastic Ukes are a waste ‘cause they don’t sound good enough to be worth playing. However if folk can find simplicity, assurance, value and comfort in getting a super durable plastic Uke then that’s their personal choice. The idea is to play and be happy, and there’s more than one route to that destination.
 
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Voran

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The point is the construction technology. Wood/glue is fragile. A solid piece of plastic is not (speaking for the Outdoor ukes here).

Pros:
  • Resistant to humidity
  • Resistant to heat
  • Resistant to water
  • Resistant to physical abuse
  • Uniform playability
Cons:
  • The sound (street busker, 5-gallon-bucket drum kit meets banjo)
  • Tuning stability once the strings have gone hot, cold, hot, cold a thousand times in a car
  • Plastic-y tactile feel
A plastic uke facilitates music in otherwise questionable environments. If you have to ask "why?", you probably shouldn't buy one. They have a very specific application and outside of it, they kind of suck compared to a "real" uke.
I like the harsh timbre. I like that it kind of sounds insectile. Someone playing one of those was what drew me to buy a uke.
 

wherahiko

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I would call the Flight TUS a plastic uke!
Ah, fair call! I guess I meant ‘fully plastic’ ukes (Enya Nova, Waterman, OU, etc.) as opposed to the Flight/Fluke/Flea semi-plastic ukes. I have a Flight TUSL—which I like a lot—but was curious what an Enya would add beyond the ability to play in the rain or the surf!
 

wherahiko

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I think the most common reason for an Enya and other plastic ones is to keep in the car and not have to worry about the temperature extremes. People also like them for "rougher" activities like camping, going to the beach, travelling, and not having to worry at all about the environmental conditions (including water).
Wouldn’t the heat in the car damage the strings?
For all the other activities (camping, beach) other than getting the uke wet, the Flight—or, indeed, any inexpensive laminate—would be equally hardy?
 

wherahiko

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Traveled on a plane with my Enya nova, took it to the Great lakes, love taking it out to the park on nice days, sometimes on my bike. Never too afraid of hurting it or rubbing sunscreen all over it while I'm playing!
Sunscreen’s an interesting one! I hadn’t thought of that. Wouldn’t want to get sunscreen on the top of my Flight. On the neck or fingerboard wouldn’t matter so much … (Though I guess that’s one reason to favour the plastic Flea fingerboards over the wooden upgrade!). Photo looks idyllic!
 

wherahiko

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Every day I play by the water of the amazing Puget Sound, give minutes from my house. On days that it drizzles, I play my Outdoor (carbon fiber) uke for at least an hour. it is one of my greatest joys in life. On days when there is no rain, I take another uke, but being outdoors, playing by the water, feeds my soul.

Priceless moments, really.
This, too, sounds idyllic. I read your earlier post on friluftsliv and that actually got me thinking about this topic. Must be nice to live and strum by the Puget Sound!
 

wherahiko

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The point is the construction technology. Wood/glue is fragile. A solid piece of plastic is not (speaking for the Outdoor ukes here).

Pros:
  • Resistant to humidity
  • Resistant to heat
  • Resistant to water
  • Resistant to physical abuse
  • Uniform playability
Cons:
  • The sound (street busker, 5-gallon-bucket drum kit meets banjo)
  • Tuning stability once the strings have gone hot, cold, hot, cold a thousand times in a car
  • Plastic-y tactile feel
A plastic uke facilitates music in otherwise questionable environments. If you have to ask "why?", you probably shouldn't buy one. They have a very specific application and outside of it, they kind of suck compared to a "real" uke.
Brad! Great to see your reply. I’m a big fan of your podcast! I know you’ve travelled a lot with your Outdoor. Do you find the extra durability makes it worth having the OU over a laminate (or Flight)? Other than water, the other pros you list above should apply to laminates too? (If not worrying about theft or losing the instrument, I’d take a Kiwaya laminate in such situations!).

Great point about the ‘specific’ application of these ukes. In many situations, I’d take my solid-top Ohana without worrying. Between that and the Flight, I think I don’t need a fully ‘plastic’ uke.