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Thread: Is the advantage of solid wood a myth?

  1. #31
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    The stiffness of a laminate is much greater compared to a solid wood with same thickness and that matters I imagine. The way wood grains are pointing is another too in the laminate layers. Which one, solid or laminate is really better is another question too and depends how we use our ukes. Solid tops are of course always more expensive.

  2. #32
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    IMHO the greatest advantage of a solid top is to the manufacturer, who can charge significantly more than for a laminate top, for a very similar labour input, and have the punters queueing up to hand over the cash.

    YMMV
    There are those who will wax lyrical about the ability to play a double shuffle with a split fan and a tight G-string ...
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  3. #33
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    Interesting discussion, let me throw in a few points. As for violins and blind listening tests. Apples and oranges here guys, yes, in many tests the audience could not tell the difference, but the player knows instantly, they are the ones feeding constant energy into the instrument. They have to work much harder with a lesser instrument. Blind listening tests also show that side sound ports don’t work!

    Generally, laminates are used in less expensive instruments and are mass assembled by semi skilled labor, but some high end luthiers also use laminates, i.e. double top classical guitars and laminated sides in other instruments. It is largely the skill and effort expended during construction that determine the overall quality of the instruments.

    One advantage of solid wood is I can graduate the thickness of my tops and back. They are thinner at the edges and thicker in the center. I also string up all my instruments before applying the finish, which allows me to adjust the thickness if necessary.

    I do debate sometimes why we luthiers struggle to obtain the best sounding sounding acoustic instruments that we can, when a couple hundred dollars of electronics can give an inexpensive instrument any sound we want.
    Brad
    Bradford Donaldson
    Kekaha, HI and Cannon Beach OR
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  4. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by kypfer View Post
    IMHO the greatest advantage of a solid top is to the manufacturer, who can charge significantly more than for a laminate top, for a very similar labour input, and have the punters queueing up to hand over the cash.

    YMMV
    I just couldn’t agree more, and I think that laminates have advantages over solids. They, of course, usually have a lower retail price. For another thing, they aren’t affected by humidity nearly as much as solids. Mine are all (except one) laminates, and, even though I don’t use any kind of humidity precautions, none have ever cracked or warped or twisted or nothin’.

    I wonder how many of us, lowly, striving amateurs can really tell the difference as to whether a ukulele has a really great sound or a just mediocre one. Does one just give ‘er a strum and listen? “Wow! That really sounds great! It’s almost as good as my favorite Kamaka.” How else can one test the quality of sound?

    And . . . If it doesn’t sound as good as Jake’s, one can always change the strings . . .
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  5. #35
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    I prefer solid wood, it can be manufactured thinner and therefore has better potential to vibrate and resonate, if built and braced well. Advantage of laminate is that it is less delicate and susceptible to environmental impacts. I think that carbonfibre ukes can also be very resonant and less fragile, so that can also be a great alternative.

    The OP also mentioned the effect of aging on wood - ideally the wood should be stored/aged for a long time BEFORE it is used in instrument building. But nowadays unfortunately many of the instrument makers only allow a few months before the wood is built into an instrument in the mass production environments, and as a result many instruments get sold that need some further aging. For solid wood instrument it may make sense to ensure what the wood storage policies of the manufacturer are. If they don't tell it's a good sign that the instrument may take a year or longer to stabilize soundwise. For guitars, there is also a popular torrification process that accelerates this.

  6. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by CPG View Post
    I'd would choose the KA-STG. Not necessarily because it's got a solid top but personally, because I owned a KA-ZCT and didn't like it all that much. It was a nice sounding uke, with a sorta sweet airy sound, and I really liked the neck a lot. I guess I like something with a little more brightness and punch. My favorite uke is a laminate (Kiwaya KS-5), so I definitely don't buy into solid wood automatically being superior (though I think in most cases it is) , I just personally didn't like the sound of the KA-ZCT. That said, it is generally regarded as a nice ukulele for the price.

    Internet sound samples are always hard to get a really good read on, but they are better than nothing. Listen to a few and pick the one you like better.

    KA-ZCT https://vimeo.com/170772958

    KA-STG https://vimeo.com/68261892
    If possible, listen using quality earphones or buds in a quiet room.

    I think all other factors being equal (which they never are) the solid spruce will have a slightly brighter sound with louder projection than the laminate. But that may not be the sound you are looking for.

  7. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by Down Up Dick View Post
    I just couldn’t agree more, and I think that laminates have advantages over solids. They, of course, usually have a lower retail price. For another thing, they aren’t affected by humidity nearly as much as solids. Mine are all (except one) laminates, and, even though I don’t use any kind of humidity precautions, none have ever cracked or warped or twisted or nothin’.

    I wonder how many of us, lowly, striving amateurs can really tell the difference as to whether a ukulele has a really great sound or a just mediocre one. Does one just give ‘er a strum and listen? “Wow! That really sounds great! It’s almost as good as my favorite Kamaka.” How else can one test the quality of sound?

    And . . . If it doesn’t sound as good as Jake’s, one can always change the strings . . .
    I thought my KaAloha tenor sounded pretty good when I strummed it and picked it. Then a very good player asked if she could try it. Holy moly! It NEVER sounded that good before. Wonderful! She normally plays a Kala tenor, I have no idea what model. She makes that sound great as well.

    Something to aspire to, though the years are not in my favor...

  8. #38
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    IMHO: Laminate instruments can sound very good depending on the quality (& composition) of the laminate. A good example would be Kiwaya ukuleles. I've been impressed with some laminate ukuleles & guitars, however most had a solid top.
    Most of the sound quality of an instrument comes from the top. The better the top, the better the sound (which is all in the ear of the listener). I don't believe it's just manufacturers hype. The solid woods used for tops require more climate control & preparation than laminated woods. There is also more spoilage due to cracking and imperfections in the wood that is only evident when the wood is cut. This all adds up to a higher cost.

    I've read that a laminate instrument doesn't improve with age, while a solid wood instrument will mature & (hopefully) improve with age.

  9. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kenn2018 View Post
    If possible, listen using quality earphones or buds in a quiet room.

    I think all other factors being equal (which they never are) the solid spruce will have a slightly brighter sound with louder projection than the laminate. But that may not be the sound you are looking for.
    And that is why I would choose the laminate. Brighter and louder are the opposite of what I want. I have a hearing sensitivity and it makes a big difference to me.
    Jan >^..^<
    (AKA Chopped Liver)


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  10. #40
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    So much depends on the workmanship of the ukulele.

    Also, as someone else eluded to, the player have a lot to do with it, too. Me playing a solid wood ukulele will NOT sound better than Jake on a laminate!
    Jan >^..^<
    (AKA Chopped Liver)


    You say 'Crazy Cat Lady' like it's a bad thing!

    "Out of clutter, find simplicity." Albert Einstein

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