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Thread: Sub-$500 Tenor/Pickup combo: Pono, Mainland, other?

  1. #1

    Default Sub-$500 Tenor/Pickup combo: Pono, Mainland, other?

    Still feeling things out and not going to buy soon, but would be interested in the responses here. I’m thinking about getting a tenor for gigs. It would be primarily played plugged-in, but not exclusively by any means.

    I’ve looked at Mainland and Pono, among a couple of other brands. Pono seems to be the favorite there, but a Pono plus a high-end pickup like a Misi or Baggs would be beyond my budget. Meanwhile, a Mainland with a Misi installed would be ~$400.

    For plugged-in sound, the pickup is usually more important than the body. So my inclination would be toward the Mainland. Would I regret not spending $200+ more on a Pono and a higher-end pickup? Should I just get an inexpensive uke that plays well (like a Kala) and slap a high-end pickup on that?

    I’m looking specifically at acoustic ukes with internal pickups. Not particularly interested in an external pickup, a mic setup (already have that) or a solid body electric. And I really prefer an active pickup, although if I could figure out a system with the Pono, a JJB/K&K, and a DI box around my budget I'd possibly be interested.
    Last edited by bigsciota; 06-05-2019 at 03:45 AM.

  2. #2
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    Personally, I'd likely go with a Kala cedar top, (I have a bari & it has a great tone as an acoustic), & as you say, when you plug in a pickup, it is more down to the electronics than the uke.
    Trying to do justice to various musical instruments.

  3. #3
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    Yes, the electronics so play an important role in the sound.
    Intonation issues and buzzes are also amplified. You still need a good ukulele to ply in.
    Keep Strummin'

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by SailingUke View Post
    Yes, the electronics so play an important role in the sound.
    Intonation issues and buzzes are also amplified. You still need a good ukulele to ply in.
    Is this an implication that one of the ukuleles mentioned has those intonation/buzzing problems? Or just stating the obvious?

  5. #5
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    Pono has a thicker neck, Mainland a bit thinner. I never liked a thicker neck so the Pono I bought was soon resold. Great sound though. If you want an active pickup, Misi is the least hassle. Baggs are nice but have to change the battery thru the soundhole; no big deal. I suggest getting a volume control wheel also for changing from rhythm to lead riffs. I think the Baggs comes with a VC wheel.

  6. #6
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    I'll second Keith's recommendation of a cedar-topped Kala (like the KA-ATP-CTG-CE for $380 with a great setup from HMS), but I'd also spend $10-$20 on a replacement element like the Artec PP-404U.

    UUer Kissing88 has created a couple of threads about performing this upgrade. A few of us around here have followed suit, and I think we've all been pleased enough with the results.

    The cedar-topped Kalas punch above their price point. I'd just let the vendor know that you need one that intonates well for gigging and doesn't thin out too much as you ascend the neck (those are the only notable issues with some examples of the model). If you can't compare them directly, have the vendor play a few over the phone to help pick the best of the bunch.
    Last edited by bacchettadavid; 06-06-2019 at 06:22 AM.
    "Who hears music, feels his solitude Peopled at once -- for how count heart-beats plain / Unless a company, with hearts which beat, / Come close to the musician, seen or no?" - Robert Browning, "Balaustion's Adventure"

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by bacchettadavid View Post
    I'll second Keith's recommendation of a cedar-topped Kala (like the KA-ATP-CTG-CE for $380 with a great setup from HMS), but I'd also spend $10-$20 on a replacement element like the Artec PP-404U.

    UUer Kissing88 has created a couple of threads about performing this upgrade. A few of us around here have followed suit, and I think we've all been pleased enough with the results.

    The cedar-topped Kalas punch above their price point. I'd just let the vendor know that you need one that intonates well for gigging and doesn't thin out too much as you ascend the neck (those are the only notable issues with some examples of the model). If you can't compare them directly, have the vendor play a few over the phone to help pick the best of the bunch.
    That Kala would be the same price as a Mainland with a Misi, and my experience with internal Kala electronics leads me to believe that the Misi might be better. But the uke itself might be a good one, I've got no qualms about installing a pickup myself.

  8. #8
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    In that case, I’d probably opt for the non-electric version of that model over the Mainland and install a MiSi.

    However, that’s based on the assumption that you both strum and fingerpick. If you mostly strum, you might prefer the Mainland. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed either way as long as you get an uke that intonates well.
    Last edited by bacchettadavid; 06-07-2019 at 04:07 PM.
    "Who hears music, feels his solitude Peopled at once -- for how count heart-beats plain / Unless a company, with hearts which beat, / Come close to the musician, seen or no?" - Robert Browning, "Balaustion's Adventure"

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