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Thread: You Get What You Pay For?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Location
    Kerrville, TX - Heart of the Fabulous Texas Hill Country
    Posts
    970

    Default You Get What You Pay For?

    In Ukes, not always. True, more expensive Ukes seem to made of finer quality woods, and the fit and finish seems more dependably good. But really, that's just "looks." I've never had a Uke just fall apart on me. They all seem to be glued together OK. But, when I think of "good Ukes," I think of voice (tone quality), and playability. "Playability" may just be a question of set up, but I've never experimented with that notion in mind.

    All my Ukes have their own voice. Some sing like Caruso, others like Freddy Fender. They are individuals. And, I'm surprised at how often I pick up one of my $200 instruments instead of one of my $2,000 ones. I like the variety in their voices. Brighter, darker, woody, nassel, mellow, harsh, louder, softer. So much variety! I recently got one of those little pear shaped Ohana VK-70Rs. What a player for a cheapie! And, it even exhibits a "new" quality, one that I haven't noticed in any of my other instruments. It has a decidedly percussive pluck sound when finger picked. A very positive attack on each note. That makes it a lot of fun for picking Bluegrass style tunes.

    Yes, I'm convinced that UAS is a good thing! The more Ukes, the merrier!

    Happy strummin', y'all.
    "The sole cause of all human misery is the inability of people
    to sit quietly in their rooms." - Blaise Pascal, 1670

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
    Posts
    518

    Default

    I absolutely believe that you get what you pay for, and find it annoying when people say their $200 Kala is "just as good" as somebody else's KoAloha. Well it might be great for that person, but the comparison is not appropriate. Ukuleles are like cars in that respect. I drive a 20 year old Corolla, and it is safe, reliable, comfortable, and can get me anywhere I would think I ever want to drive. But should I say that it is "just as good" as a BMW that cost five times as much, but actually does not deliver anything additional in terms of basic automobile functions?

    So yeah, I love the budget ukes and I play my Gretsch (almost) as often as my KoAloha and Kamaka, but there's no point comparing them as they are made to play in different leagues.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Seattle, WA
    Posts
    2,147

    Default

    Sorry to the Luthiers among us.
    Not being financially endowed, I generally gravitate toward the less expensive ukes.
    My grandmother started me out in 6th grade with a $7 Japan-made uke from Long's
    Drug Store in HNL. That uke served me for many years through Intermediate and
    High School! I learned to play chords given out by my teacher Mrs Wong and I
    learned to listen to songs on the radio and figure out some basic chording on my own
    then how to transpose to other keys when the key on the radio was either too high
    or too low for my vocal range

    When I went off to college in Chicago, I went to Harry's Music in Kaimuki and had
    to decide between a Martin and a Kamaka. My budget being what it was (1966) I
    had to take the less expesive Kamaka vs the more costly Martin. Hey, we're talking
    $7 difference. Yup the Martin was $35 and the Kamaka was $28! [if I knew then
    what I know now, I would have bought BOTH and all the stock at Harry's!!]

    OK, that said, I'm planning on taking my Enya 'remodeled' HPL soprano to HNL
    tomorrow (July 18th) for the Ukulele Festival and all ukulele activities through
    August 19th The Enya was purchased from a fellow UUer who had slimmed
    down the neck and cut a personal sound hole (which I use to insert little rubber
    ducks for distribution to unsuspecting toddlers - with their parents' permission,
    of course - after all, the adults will have to deal with the constant squeaking )

    I also keep a couple of CR2032 digital tuner batteries in the body and some of my business
    cards. None of those items seem to affect the sound... too much

    I suppose my most expensive ukes are around $500 and I am looking at the Blackbird
    Clara, but at $1,200+, wow that is pretty far outside my budget comfort zone
    Oh well, ....

    keep uke'in',
    Last edited by Uncle Rod Higuchi; 07-17-2019 at 05:10 AM.
    Uncle Rod Higuchi
    ( rohiguchi@seattleschools.org )

    MP3s: http://www.mediafire.com/?50db7nls4o6m6
    Ukulele Boot Camp, FREE Songbook, Holiday, Hawaiian & More: http://ukulelebootcamp.weebly.com
    Crazy G tutorial on YouTube ( uncle rod crazy g )
    pdf file for Crazy G:
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/0o6id06c06...20TAB.pdf?dl=0

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2019
    Posts
    264

    Default

    The Law of diminishing returns applies to musical instruments.

    As least it will to all but a few with outstanding hearing.

    There is on this forum on hellofalotof uke snobbery.

    ie If it is not upwards of $1000 its not worth it.

    It is what feels and sounds right for you that matters.

    I have a $2000 Gibson LP but is that significantly better than a $400 Epiphone LP clone, no, it is better but not to the value of $1600. Is mine as good as a custom $5000 model, no but with my hearing I cannot tell much difference in tone.
    Col.
    From the UK with a bad case of MIAS.
    Korg PA700, Korg Kross 2, Gibson LP, Fender Jazz Bass,
    + Amps, PA, Boss GT100, mixer.
    Ukes - Kala KA-TEME and Risa ST electric solid body.
    Uke wish list, a Bass, make and model yet to be determined

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Location
    Kerrville, TX - Heart of the Fabulous Texas Hill Country
    Posts
    970

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by merlin666 View Post
    I absolutely believe that you get what you pay for .... Ukuleles are like cars in that respect. .... I play my Gretsch (almost) as often as my KoAloha and Kamaka, but there's no point comparing them as they are made to play in different leagues.
    Yup, I get that. Playing my Kamaka, Martin, Collings, Ukes are like riding in my Lexus. Whereas, that Ohana or my other less expensive Ukes are like riding in my Honda. But, you know, I really do enjoy driving that little Honda Civic. I'm not really sure what you mean by playing in "different leagues." A good player will sound great on just about any instrument. And, when I've gone to play with groups of good players, we wind up playing simple minded strums that would sound about the same on any Uke. Hardly a "showcase" for a fine instrument.

    I'm not advocating that cheap instruments are "as good as" expensive ones. That's obviously not a true generalization. I'm just extolling the fact that many less expensive instruments have a playability and pleasing tonal character all their own. And, that it's nice to have that kind of variety in one's instruments.
    "The sole cause of all human misery is the inability of people
    to sit quietly in their rooms." - Blaise Pascal, 1670

  6. #6

    Default

    Sometimes you get lucky with an inexpensive instrument.
    I've owned ukuleles ranging from $20 to $2000 over the years.

    My recent purchase is a Martinez "Southern Bell" solid mahogany tenor which was a bit over $100.
    It sold a bit cheaper because some error in the factory omitted the rosette.

    Sounds, feels, finished as good as any $1000 I've owned, and it even comes with a truss rod.

    Setup was decent too, and nut and saddle both made of bone.

    Oh also has active electronics and inbuilt tuner too.

    Hell of a deal.


    But yes, this was lucky.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Southern California, USA
    Posts
    320

    Default

    I thought I saw a graph or read about a principle, that to some extent you do get what you pay for but after a certain point, the advantages of paying more are not directly reflected in the objective quality as it was at the lower price points.

    For example, if you compare a $10 instrument vs. a $50 instrument vs. a $100 instrument vs. a $500 instrument vs. $1000 instrument vs. $5,000 instrument.

    A $10 uke probably is not playable, and you bought it as a novelty wall decoration.
    A $50 uke sounds like a $50 uke, probably laminate, may not be set up correctly, produced poorly, hard to play, etc.
    A $100 uke is probably laminate, but actually sounds like a uke and is playable. It may not sound the best. Perhaps it is over-built, and doesn't project, or the sound is tinny or muted. Maybe the fit and finish are not the best.
    A $500 uke is probably made of solid wood, a little more care and attention to how it is set up and made. It is probably an import.
    A $1000 uke is probably American made, all solid wood - probably a production model, but sounds great and well made.
    A $5,000 uke - well, you're probably talking about a custom uke that you picked out the individual parts and it probably sounds amazing.
    (don't forget you $10,000 Moore Bettah owners - you know who you are)

    Is the $100 uke 10 times better than the $10 instrument? Yes. I think everyone would agree.
    Is the $500 uke 10 times better than $50 instrument? Probably. I think most people would probably agree, though not everyone.
    Is the $5,000 uke 10 times better than the $500 instrument? For some yes. For others no. Most people would acknowledge that there is a difference and it is an improvement, but is the extra $4,500 worth it on an instrument? A lot of people would say no.

    This is probably an over-simplification. My feeling is, if you can afford it, and it brings you joy, buy the best uke for you. Maybe that means best sounding that you don't "baby" and worry about it - or maybe it means that super high-end custom bling job. I tend to fall in the life is too short to play crappy instruments category as stated by someone else in another thread.

    Cheers!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Southern California, USA
    Posts
    320

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Col50 View Post
    The Law of diminishing returns applies to musical instruments.
    while I was typing my reply, you posted yours. Yes, this is what I was referring to. Thanks! Good job.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2016
    Location
    PNW
    Posts
    1,165

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Uncle Rod Higuchi View Post
    Sorry to the Luthiers among us.
    Not being financially endowed, I generally gravitate toward the less expensive ukes.
    My grandmother started me out in 6th grade with a $7 Japan-made uke from Long's
    Drug Store in HNL. That uke served me for many years through Intermediate and
    High School! I learned to play chords given out by my teacher Mrs Wong and I
    learned to listen to songs on the radio and figure out some basic chording on my own
    then how to transpose to other keys when the key on the radio was either too high
    or too low for my vocal range

    When I went off to college in Chicago, I went to Harry's Music in Kaimuki and had
    to decide between a Martin and a Kamaka. My budget being what it was (1966) I
    had to take the less expesive Kamaka vs the more costly Martin. Hey, we're talking
    $7 difference. Yup the Martin was $35 and the Kamaka was $28! [if I knew then
    what I know now, I would have bought BOTH and all the stock at Harry's!!]

    OK, that said, I'm planning on taking my Enya 'remodeled' HPL soprano to HNL
    tomorrow (July 18th) for the Ukulele Festival and all ukulele activities through
    August 19th The Enya was purchased from a fellow UUer who had slimmed
    down the neck and cut a personal sound hole (which I use to insert little rubber
    ducks for distribution to unsuspecting toddlers - with their parents' permission,
    of course - after all, the adults will have to deal with the constant squeaking )

    I also keep a couple of CR2032 digital tuner batteries in the body and some of my business
    cards. None of those items seem to affect the sound... too much

    I suppose my most expensive ukes are around $500 and I am looking at the Blackbird
    Clara, but at $1,200+, wow that is pretty far outside my budget comfort zone
    Oh well, ....

    keep uke'in',
    I was wondering if you're still using that uke. I have another candidate for neck surgery and I'm trying to get up the nerve to do it again.

    Great story about the ukes at Longs and Harry's and your learning to play.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    Los Angeles, near the Beverly Center.
    Posts
    4,413

    Default

    I'm with Uncle Rod and ghostrdr. The first year I played, I said to myself I'll only buy $150 to $200 ukes, then I got better and learned which played better of the 16 I had. I contacted Mim and she recommended a $370 Kala solid cedar top. I bought it and was very impressed with the feel and sound. Shortly after I was in a store that had one and also a few of the K brands. After playing them for a short while, my thought was, the K brands are not 3 times better then the Kala, maybe 20% at best. I then culled down the 16 to 4 that played and sounded best.


    This is Michael Kohan in Los Angeles, Beverly West near the Beverly Center
    9 tenor cutaway ukes, 5 acoustic bass ukes, 11 solid body bass ukes, 9 mini electric bass guitars (Total: 34)

    • Donate to The Ukulele Kids Club, they provide ukuleles to children in hospital music therapy programs. www.theukc.org
    • Member The CC Strummers: YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/CCStrummers/video, Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheCCStrummers

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