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Thread: Hoping for some expert advice on a purchase please!

  1. #1

    Default Hoping for some expert advice on a purchase please!


    I have recently gotten the bug to start playing the uke (again). Several years ago I got a soprano RIPTIDE (has anyone even heard of this brand?) but shelved it after a few weeks due to personal issues at the time.

    I since have gotten it signed by one of my favourite artists (Glen Hansard) and it has been retired to it's hard case in fear of rubbing off the sig. I had thought about trying to seal it, but I cannot remember the composition of the pen that was used, and the last thing I want to do is spray a sealer on it and watch on in horror as the sig bleeds to death.

    I joined the local uke club (didn't even know it existed!) and went in there on Tuesday to see what it was all about. Talked to a very knowledgeable member who builds his own ukes, and tried some out for size. I'm pretty much set on a tenor.

    My initial research lead me to KMISE base on reviews and feedback on UU - which then lead to the AKLOT bamboo tenor which I think looks reallllllly sweet. These ukes were within my predetermined price range, and seemed to fit the bill of "best value for money" around $100AUD. However the more I read in UU, and external reviews, the more I'm turning away from the idea due to the following:
    * Mass produced product with potentially poor QA
    * Online only with limited opportunity to have it set up properly
    * A number of people stating that after a few months they went looking to upgrade

    This review from Got A Ukulele was pretty much the kicker for me with KMISE and AKLOT:

    So I've decided to check out the local music store which seems to have a decent array of ukes. I'd be looking at doubling my budget to $200, but if that's a better "investment" for a better quality product that I'm not going to want to replace in the short term, then I'm essentially saving money.

    This is what I have learnt about what to look for in a uke so far:
    * Solid mahogany top is great - but probably beyond the price range I'm looking at
    * Mahogany laminate is the next best option
    * Don't overspend on a first uke, but don't underspend on something of inferior quality that will either dissuade me from playing or be looking to replace after only a few months
    * Avoid friction tuners
    * KALA comes up a lot!
    * Clip-on tuner and strap are good investments!

    These are the tenors listed on the local music store's website - though they may stock others as I haven't been in yet:

    Here are the online ukes that I had initially shortlisted:

    Lastly there's the Tanglewood that I found on for no reason other than it looks amazing (and I realise that's not an over-riding factor when deciding on what to buy):

    So I was hoping to get some advice from the community as to which way I should go. I can either:
    * Stick with my original plan and get one of the AKLOT/KMISE online and teach myself some basic setup skills on the nut and saddle heights
    * Go to the local store and double my budget to get something (slightly?) higher quality and properly setup

    I essentially want something with a bit of longevity that can serve me as a beater if I do happen to stick with it and upgrade a year or two from now.

    Thanks heaps in advance!! <3



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
    Canada Prairies, brrr ....


    It's very easy to get hung up on specs and brand names when in reality this means little to nothing for entry level ukes and differences between them are largely cosmetic and in the dimensions of the instrument. I see your local store has five options lower than $200, so I suggest you go there and check these five out. Visually - are they put together well or are parts not aligned, are they clean or are there blobs of paint and glue, are the frets smooth or with sharp ends, is it pretty and pleasing to look at? Feeling - are they well balanced and easy to hold, are the necks comfortable, and is the action low enough to press strings down without effort? Sound - well you figure that out, maybe have someone else play them for you to give you a realistic impression. All online ads are designed to make them look appealing, but once you see them in person you may get another impression.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Portsmouth, Ohio


    Call Hawaii Music Supply and talk with them. They do setups on all instruments they sell. They will fix you up.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2016


    I know setup is an issue. Could you get someone local to set up a uke for you if you bought it online? If so, I would check out Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace, and Cash Converters. I also found Music City Cairns was a good shop that is at least in the same state as you (even if it is a bit further up the coast).

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2018
    Sparta, Wisconsin, USA


    The Tanglewood tenor looks awfully crude to mein the enlarged photos. But that may just be the lighting.

    I don't know how much time you can put into this purchase. Best it to try the ukes in person. As Merlin666 pointed out, the feel is important. Neck, body, nut, frets, tuners. Be aware that the strings will have a big impact on how the uke will sound. Especially fluorocarbon versus Nylon strings. As will string height. Ask the store if a setup is included in the price. Most stores around here will include an adjustment if you buy from the store. (It usually doesn't include dressing the frets.) So ask them if setup is included. Add it to the price if it is not. Also if a case or gig bag is included. Strap pins (buttons) are cheap and easy to install yourself.

    Best of luck.
    There is a subtle yet profound difference between the learning of something and the knowing of that thing.
    You can learn by reading, but you don’t begin to know until you begin to try to do.

    —Lou Churchill, Plane & Pilot Magazine

  6. #6


    Quote Originally Posted by merlin666 View Post
    It's very easy to get hung up on specs and brand names when in reality this means little to nothing for entry level ukes....
    Thanks for the reply! I was leaning to the KMISE based on what I'd read in the UU forums - but it seems on further searching that comments on the brand, while positive, are few and far between & the brand doesn't have the same reputation here as others. I'm trying to absorb the advice from others in here more so than getting stuck on a brand name.

    Quote Originally Posted by WhenDogsSing View Post
    Call Hawaii Music Supply and talk with them.
    Thanks but their shipping alone is beyond me entire budget.

    Quote Originally Posted by robinboyd View Post
    I know setup is an issue. Could you get someone local to set up a uke for you if you bought it online?
    Possibly - I'll ask when I go into the shop. I didn't want to bother them as my budget is low and I'd intended to buy online. But if that's going to result in a short term upgrade or potentially dodgy purchase I'd be better off spending a bit more to go to the store I think.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kenn2018 View Post
    The Tanglewood tenor looks awfully crude to mein the enlarged photos. But that may just be the lighting....
    What do I know? I just thought it looked nice =D

    I've got all the time in the world. I didn't want to "waste" the time of the guys in the shop if I was going to buy online (budget constraints). But it's becoming more apparent that I'd be better served to spend the extra $$$ to buy locally so I know what I'm getting. I'm pretty certain they'll do setup on something I bought online, but it would seem counter-intuitive to me to buy something online to save some $$$ then pay extra to have them set it up - when they will set up what they sell for no extra cost.

    Then I saw this........

    <3 <3 <3

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    Upper Hale, Surrey/Hants border, UK.


    I still have my Kala KA-T, it's a good uke for its price, you wouldn't go wrong if you got one.

    It'll see you alright until you have progressed, & decide to spend some money on your next uke, which would most likely be a solid wood uke.
    Trying to do justice to various musical instruments.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Pickering, ON, Canada


    Bill1 has some great ideas, especially about using the local knowledge base of the uke group. I started up from zero ukulele experience in a uke group. I bought an all laminate $120.00 Gretsch tenor and just started playing with no awareness of “SETUP”. One of the members was a luthier, just like your situation. After a few months I found about about set ups and had him do one for me.

    Get involved in the uke group, maybe they have loaner ukes, we do. Form some relationships, get some first hand knowledge, buy another uke and pay that luthier to do a set up if necessary. In this day and age of internet access to information it is easy to overthink these things.
    Last edited by DownUpDave; 09-05-2019 at 11:23 PM.
    Currently enjoying these ukuleles : *LdfM tenor, *LfdM 19" super tenor. *LfdM baritone, *I'iwi tenor , *Koolau tenor, *Webber tenor, *Kimo tenor, *Kimo super concert, *Mya Moe baritone, *Kamaka baritone, *Gianinni baritone, *Fred Shields walnut pineapple super soprano, *Kala super soprano, *Loprinzi super soprano, *Black bear ULO concert , *Enya X1 concert, *Enya X1 pineapple soprano, *Enya Nova *Gretsch tenor, *Korala plastic concert

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
    Catskill Mountains, NY


    It's tough telling someone what uke to buy. Since you're shopping in the $100 range, you'll have to expect some compromises. I would recommend looking for a Kala, even a used one, and maybe stretch your budget to a bit over $100. As for setup, it's not rocket science. There are lots of good articles and videos online. I would hesitate to bring an online uke to a local store and expect them to do a setup. I don't know what your expectations are for playing the ukulele, but any decent instrument will let you play, enjoy it, and learn.

    You will definitely get more for your money with a used uke.
    Too many ukes, but I can't stop buying!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Raleigh, NC


    Take the ukes at the local shop for a test spin. If you fall in love with one within your budget, buy it. Go slightly outside your budget if you don’t. Make mental or physical notes of what appealed to you about any of them.

    See if there’s a uke by one of the more costly brands on the UU Marketplace. I’ve been very happy with my experience here as a buyer and seller. As Jerry said, you may find a used uke in your budget from a buyer you can trust that you love.
    SOPRANOS: • 1920s Gibson UKE-1 • 1930s Martin 2M • Ohana SK-28 ‘Nunes’ • Flea koa • Ohana SK-35G solid mahogany • Famous FS-1
    CONCERTS: • Martin C1K • Enya Nova U (blue) • Ohana CK-50WG (solid cedar top) • Firefly maple banjolele • Makala MK-CE
    OBJETS D'ART: • Vintage 'Mauna Loa' c. 1925 soprano • Kahuna "Felix the Cat" soprano • Woodrow "Steelers" soprano

    Raleigh Uke Jam:

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