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Thread: Mr Mai M-M80 Solid Koa Concert - REVIEW

  1. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Pashmeister View Post
    Look at this one for a fraction of the price - same spec - all acacia concert:-
    https://www.4uke.com/products/brightsun-bs20

    I looked at this last year on holiday in China. I'm going back in a few weeks so I might pick this one up.
    The Mr Mai M-M80 is specified as solid koa while the Brightsun BS20 is specified as Asian acacia wood veneer, according to the Google translator. That could account for some of the price difference. It does make you wonder where the Mr Mai's koa came from. The fretboards are also different. But clearly they're from the same factory.

    Update: I just came across your previous comment about the possible translation for "veneer". https://forum.ukuleleunderground.com...ight=brightsun
    So maybe it is solid, not laminate, after all.
    Last edited by Skywalker; 06-28-2019 at 07:15 PM.

  2. #12
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    On 6/28/2019 I wrote that I had just chatted with a MrMai sales rep (MrMai Ukulele-SAFENG Music @MrMaiUKES), who said that while the MrMai MM-80 (reviewed as the M-M80) is advertised as solid koa, it is made of Asian acacia rather than Hawaiian koa. (I would cross this out if I could, but I'm leaving it here for reference.)

    CORRECTION: On 6/29/2019 the MrMai rep got back to me with a correction. The MrMai M-M80 (available from Freebird Music), the MM-80 (a new version), and the MM-C (a solid top version) are all made of Hawaiian koa, not Asian acacia.

    The instrument reviewed on gotaukulele.com will continue to be available from Freebird Music. Hurrah! On the MrMai website itself, however, the M-M80 has been renamed the MM-80 and updated as follows: The body has been enlarged for more resonance. The inlaid wooden rosette has been replaced with an abalone moon rosette. There are now fretboard markers at the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 10th and 15th frets. The cute 'M' logo on the headstock has been replaced with more of a bow-tie shape, matching the fret markers, and the shape of the head slot is slightly different. The wood tone also appears to be lighter than that of the original M-M80.

    The MrMai website also has a solid-top koa model MM-C with a multicolored wooden rosette that matches the rosette of the one reviewed on gotaukulele.com, so don't get confused by it like I did. This one has the new fretboard design and a sort of M-shaped slotted headstock. They say the price for it has dropped from $399 to $299 shipped to the US with a gig bag. You can hear it online here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pcw7kKsw2TQ
    Last edited by Skywalker; 06-29-2019 at 12:57 AM. Reason: Correction

  3. #13
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    Thanks for the update
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  4. #14
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    It seems there is some dissension about whether the MrMai representative was correct that the MM-80 is Asian acacia rather than Hawaiian koa. When I get a definitive answer from MrMai, I'll post it.

    6/29/2019 CORRECTION: They are Hawaiian koa. See the original post above for details.
    Last edited by Skywalker; 06-29-2019 at 12:59 AM.

  5. #15
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    Of course - acacia and Koa are the exact same wood species. Only that grown on Hawaii should really be called Koa though. If the wood was grown elsewhere, it's Acacia.

    Personally don't find much difference between them, and the higher end K brands that use Koa naturally sound 'higher end' because of how they are built and the wood is seasoned.
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  6. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by bazmaz View Post
    Of course - acacia and Koa are the exact same wood species. Only that grown on Hawaii should really be called Koa though. If the wood was grown elsewhere, it's Acacia.

    Personally don't find much difference between them, and the higher end K brands that use Koa naturally sound 'higher end' because of how they are built and the wood is seasoned.
    I agree that koa and other acacias often sound very similar, but there's something about the sound of koa that has a special resonance for me that acacia has just never quite matched. It gets close, though. For example, listen to Mim's recording of the Ohana SK-300G (koa) and Ohana SK-120G (acacia) and listen to the difference between two somewhat similar ukuleles. Start at 2:03. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gg36ljU7Mu0

    Of course people's preferences are as varied as their body shapes. And it wouldn't surprise me if has something to do with that. People also resonate differently.
    Last edited by Skywalker; 06-29-2019 at 10:00 AM.

  7. #17
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    There appear to be other related ukulele models out there as well. Another Bright Sun series (BS-21) shares the same distinctive headstock as the Mr Mais and bears a striking resemblance to the Flight Royal Series Spirit (concert) and Mustang (tenor) models.

    All of them look very similar, down to the shapes of the scalloped cutaways and the intricately cut side sound ports. They are all solid acacia, with the Flights appearing to be darker in wood tone and possibly fancier in grain. The Flight Spirit has an ebony fretboard. The Flights add a piezo passive pickup as standard equipment. And the Flight logo on the headstock is especially graceful IMHO.

    Bright Sun also brings something extra to the party. Rather than the commonly used abalone ornamentation, Bright Sun inlays turquoise rosettes and fretboard markers on their BS-21C (concert), BS-21CC (concert with cutaway) and BS-21T (tenor with cutaway). While I generally prefer minimal bling, this adds a rich touch that I quite like, at least in the pictures. And prices on the Bright Suns, as The Pashmeister noted, seem to be very low.

    It took me a while to find videos, so here are some links:

    Bright Sun C21: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_c...&v=OJyZxa_nPSg (Note that the wood tone is darker than in the current Bright Sun product images.)

    Bright Sun T21: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E44FlDBXjGc ,
    https://www.bilibili.com/video/av14712446/

    Flight Spirit: https://ukeshopbcn.com/collections/c...rit-concert-eq

    Flight Mustang: https://ukeshopbcn.com/collections/f...stang-tenor-eq, https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_c...&v=u1EeymvwvE0

    Finally, here is the owner of a custom Bright Sun talking about his ukulele and its maker: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqejIwBV-VM

  8. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by bazmaz View Post
    Of course - acacia and Koa are the exact same wood species. Only that grown on Hawaii should really be called Koa though. If the wood was grown elsewhere, it's Acacia.

    Personally don't find much difference between them, and the higher end K brands that use Koa naturally sound 'higher end' because of how they are built and the wood is seasoned.
    I have one "acacia" uke and two koas. I like them all and I'm sure that the explanation that a higher end uke will sound higher end due to its construction is accurate.

    Acacia is a genus of plants, interestingly, in the pea family. There are more than 900 different species within that genus, most of them in Australia. It's not just being from Hawaii that makes koa different, it's a separate species within the acacia genus. I think Australian blackwood (acacia melanoxylon, a sister species of koa, and probably the one from which koa descended) is every bit as striking as acacia koa and I'd like to try it someday.

    But not all acacia makes beautiful or even usable tonewood. With nearly 1000 species, there's enormous variety. Some are shrubs. It would be nice to know which species of acacia has been used when something is said to be made of acacia. So koa and a generic "acacia" may appear and sound similar, and they are of the same genus, but they are not the same species.

    To further geek out on you, acacia koa is a separate species because it has adapted to and requires the unique soil and weather conditions of Hawaii. You could transplant it to another location and it would not live (at least not without extensive life support). It's not its location that makes it koa, it's its species. If you could get it to grow elsewhere, it would still be koa.

  9. #19
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    I agree with most of that but not all. Yes you could grow the Hawaiian Koa variety anywhere, but the name ‘koa’ is a local name they give it. Stands to reason that Koa should be Hawaiian. If it’s grown in the Far East I don’t think that naming works even if it IS the same species. Mainly because I don’t think buyers should be confused. And that’s the key. If you are told you are getting koa, I think most uke buyers assume that to be Hawaiian and expect to get that. In that sense, semantics mean nothing to the person handing over money.

    But for me as a reviewer and not a botanist or luthier.. it’s hard. I have to take brands at their word. I can’t tell without taking an instrument that doesn’t belong to me apart and getting it analysed. Usually it’s an obvious hoodwink and I will say so. In this case though I triple checked if it was Koa from Hawaii. I was told it was.

    If it turns out it isn’t, that’s really poor form, but I’ve only heard hearsay thus far to the contrary. If the record is formally set straight I will amend my review.

    The trials and tribulations of being merely a writer. Don’t shoot the messenger.
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  10. #20
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    Baz, you are no mere writer.
    I wait for your reviews every week.
    I can't say that about anything else I read.
    I'd say you have about the best entertainment/information on ukuleles that exists, luthiery, wood science not withstanding.
    "Those who bring sunshine and laughter to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves".

    Music washes from the soul, the dust of everyday living.

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