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Thread: Laminate vs Solid Mahogany: A Question of Mellowness

  1. #11
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    If you picked one up blind folded and without knowing which one it was — what then?
    I think I probably could, Dick, there's a sort of roundness to the tone of my solid hogs that is missing from the lams - still - any uke is better than no uke......
    Trying to do justice to various musical instruments.

  2. #12
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    Gibson ES 335 is laminate too. Laminate is not bad at all.

    Kamaka HF-1 100

  3. #13
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    I have played solid wood ukes that sound dead and laminates [Kiwaya, Islander] that sound lively, so my impression is that the sound has as much to do with the build as the material.
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  4. #14
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    I guess a question to those that have a number of ukuleles with a laminate top, does it make any or much difference between laminate koa, mahogany, mango, spruce, etc.? This isn’t a “better than” question, just a basic question that if the builds are equal is it more aesthetics or are there real tonal differences between laminate tops?

    John

  5. #15
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    Not a large sample size, but I've owned both Kiwaya KS-1 (mahogany laminate) and KS-5 (koa laminate, owned 2 of those) and both koa ukes were indeed a bit brighter/chirpier, with more ring/overtones than the mahogany, which was mellower. That matches what I'd expect from solid ukes, when comparing those tonewoods, YMMV.

    Of course, Kiwaya is known for using some of the best laminate material available, supposedly proprietary, so not sure if my observation would apply across other brands.
    Last edited by Ukecaster; 01-10-2019 at 07:14 AM.
    John

  6. #16
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    Default to try to answer original question

    To try to answer the OP's question, I think that laminate mahogany *might* be more mellow, but in a very specific way.

    Laminate mahogany is probably going to be quieter, and i think that a lot of what the ear perceives as mellow is actually just volume, rather than low-end frequencies.
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  7. #17
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    My take on this is 'it might do' - but it will be subjective. And there are far more variables which will affect tone before you worry about how they are going to change such as general build quality, bracing, thickness of the tone woods etc. You will get some laminates that are FAR nicer sounding, louder and clearer than some poorly made solid wood equivalents. A high quality solid wood, sure, that will come out on top for my money, but then you are comparing apples with oranges.

    As I always say - i'd take a well made laminate over a poorly made solid uke, that has been made from solid wood 'for the sake of it' (ie to get sales based on the myth that solid is 'better') any day of the week.
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  8. #18
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    Another question we could raise in this context is whether it matters at all for sound what the top veneer of a laminate is mahogany, koa, or any other exotic wood. I think for many laminate instruments a variety of woods can be mixed, but only the highest layer veneer is typically named as it provides the "look" of the instrument. One very popular choice for laminate cores is poplar, which is known to provide a very sweet sound. Surprisingly this is never used as a tone wood in its own right.

    So should we just distinguish the ukes by the solid wood they are made off, and lump all laminates together regardless of their specific composition?

  9. #19
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    The quality of the materials and the quality of construction is far more important than whether the instrument is solid top or laminate. Most of my ukuleles are laminates and I'm quite happy with them.
    Geoff Walker

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  10. #20
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    Brian Griffin of Griffin Ukes, just made up 12 shakers with different woods as an experiment in sound differences. There is a vast difference in sound.http://www.griffinukuleles.com/blog. Towards the bottom.

    I think once a person has played a vintage Favilla or vintage Martin Mahogany, they'll understand the difference in richness of a solid top vs. laminate. Build structure makes a big difference of course.

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