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Thread: How important is solid wood uke vs solid top w/ laminate back and sides?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2019
    Posts
    13

    Default How important is solid wood uke vs solid top w/ laminate back and sides?

    I'm currently stuck between a

    used Kala KA-FMC (Solid Spruce top, Spalted Flame Maple back and sides) for $150

    Or an Ohana CK-25S (all solid mahogany) from Mims Ukes for $200

    I'd love to go play both somewhere but I'm not close to a location with one so I'll have to just go for it.

    Any thoughts?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2019
    Posts
    13

    Default How important is a solid wood uke vs a solid top w/ laminate back and sides?

    I'm currently stuck between a

    used Kala KA-FMC (Solid Spruce top, Spalted Flame Maple back and sides) for $150

    Or an Ohana CK-25S (all solid mahogany) from Mims Ukes for $200

    I'd love to go play both somewhere but I'm not close to a location with one so I'll have to just go for it.

    Any thoughts?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    Los Angeles, near the Beverly Center.
    Posts
    4,673

    Default

    I can tell you this much, my Kala KAATP-CTG-CE tenor solid cedar top with laminate acacia koa body is one of the best sounding ukes I have (9). I also have all solid and believe it's not really necessary. Having said that, Mim is one of the best people to buy from, full setup and stands behind everything she sells.


    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, 14 mini electric bass guitars (Total: 39)

    • 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

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    Los Angeles, near the Beverly Center.
    Posts
    4,673

    Default

    (Answer I just gave for your other post.) I can tell you this much, my Kala KAATP-CTG-CE tenor solid cedar top with laminate acacia koa body is one of the best sounding ukes I have (9). I also have all solid and believe it's not really necessary. Having said that, Mim is one of the best people to buy from, full setup and stands behind everything she sells.


    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, 14 mini electric bass guitars (Total: 39)

    • 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

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    Location
    Upper Hale, Surrey/Hants border, UK.
    Posts
    6,224

    Default

    Warm mellow tone or a more crisper sound?

    The solid mahogany (Ohana) is a sound that I like, but I also have a solid spruce (Baton Rouge), & those are the difference in sound to my ears.
    Trying to do justice to various musical instruments.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    Location
    Upper Hale, Surrey/Hants border, UK.
    Posts
    6,224

    Default

    Warm mellow tone or a more crisper sound?

    The solid mahogany (Ohana) is a sound that I like, but I also have a solid spruce (Baton Rouge), & those are the difference in sound to my ears.
    Trying to do justice to various musical instruments.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Posts
    887

    Default

    I'm a solid wood fan, but even I have to admit that's probably more of a fetish than anything else. It is the sound board that matters most because it is the soundboard's vibration that contributes to the sound. Solid wood resonates differently from composite wood. Also there is matter of truth in advertising. If, for example, a ukulele has a spruce top, we all know what that means: crisp sound, as Croaky Keith said above. But if the soundboard isn't actually spruce but some composite wood with the look of spruce, then it may not have the spruce sound that we all anticipate and pay for.

    So the soundboards are important. I have never heard anyone dispute that. I have a hunch that the sides and back also play a role, so I prefer them to be solid as well. However other people disagree. In your case, both soundboards are solid, therefore they are out of the equation. What's left is your preference. Do you want a crisp or mellow sound? Do you want plain spruce or rich mahogany. Okay, I was poisoning the well there because I prefer darker woods and sounds...but you get the picture.

  8. #8

    Default

    There's also laminate for high end builds as described in the HMS video
    https://youtu.be/prACYDtxpwc
    David Ingalls website http://onoukes.com/

    Beau Hannam a custom builder also uses laminate woods
    http://www.beauhannamguitars.com/

    So there's laminate and there's laminate.

    As for the Kala, we have solid wood top, laminate body ukuleles from Kala. And we do enjoy the sound and playing of those ukuleles. We also have Ohana solid wood ukuleles and can say the same.
    K
    Sopranos, Concerts, and Tenors including Baritone body at a Tenor Scale - 4 String, 5 String and 8 String :-)
    For Sale: Seagull Nylon String
    For Sale: National Mahogany Resonator
    For Sale: Gold Tone Resonator

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2019
    Location
    Finland
    Posts
    98

    Default

    Personally, at that $200-$300 price range I find that having laminate back and sides or full solid doesn't make that much of a difference. A solid uke is probably slightly louder but doesn't affect the sound that much otherwise. What I would be more concerned with is the material of the soundboard. As others have mentioned, a spruce top will generally sound brighter than a mahogany one. If you like that kind of sound then it might be a fitting choice. The solid spruce top laminate back and sides models from Ohana and Kala and other similar manufacturers are usually good quality for the price imo, provided you like the spruce sound. What I like about these hybrid models personally is that the solid top gives a nice loud and bright sound while the laminate back and sides usually provide really nice looks for the uke depending on the specific model (the flamed maple certainly looks killer, imo). Solid mahogany ukes from these same brands are usually decent as well, and Ohana actually offers some of the most inexpensive solid ukes out there. I would suggest you to find some videos where you can compare the sound of solid spruce and mahogany ukes and make your decision based on that.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2018
    Location
    Sparta, Wisconsin, USA
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    1,733

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    HONOMO: In my opinion, at the price level you are considering, the laminate with the solid spruce top will sound louder and crisper than the solid mahogany. The mahogany will be warmer, softer and have a little more complexity to the sound.

    Is this for strumming or fingerstyle playing? Will you be playing on your own, or will you be in a group such as a ukulele club? Will you be taking it places or will it stay at home? (The laminate will travel somewhat better.)

    Are the necks the same widths? Do both include a setup with purchase? (Very Important.) Do both have strap buttons? (If you play with a strap.) Both come with a case or gig bag? Do you like the looks of both equally? (Yes, it's actually important. We're more likely to pick it up and practice if we dig the way it looks and feels.)

    Plan to get a humidifier, a strap-if you use one, and an extra set of strings in the near future. Different strings can change the way your uke sounds by a lot. Are the strings it comes with genuine Aquilas or look-alike? If it doesn't say, assume they are look-alikes and buy a set of Aquila strings.

    Don't stress too much about it. Both seem like fine ukes and will work well for you.

    Have fun with it.
    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

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