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Thread: Gloss vs Satin sound difference in comparable ukes?

  1. #1
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    Default Gloss vs Satin sound difference in comparable ukes?

    I was wondering if anyone noticed a big difference in sound when comparing the same basic uke with a satin or a gloss finish? For example I was listening to two Acacia Snail ukes and there seemed to be a difference in sound. The gloss seemed more melodic and louder and the satin had less presence.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by CYN View Post
    I was wondering if anyone noticed a big difference in sound when comparing the same basic uke with a satin or a gloss finish? For example I was listening to two Acacia Snail ukes and there seemed to be a difference in sound. The gloss seemed more melodic and louder and the satin had less presence.
    As with other differences, I think you would need good quality electronic sound equipment to tell the difference between finishes on ukes. I've painted a couple of Magic fluke instruments, and I don't notice a difference. Even comparing painted vs unpainted, I bet other conditions would account for differences in the sound. I've considered printing a graphic on a piece of sticky vinyl and using that to "decorate" a Fluke. I like to experiment.
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  3. #3
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    If you take two identical ukuleles, from the same production line, with the same type of finish, and compare how they sound, they are most likely to have noticeably different voices. I would not expect satin-v-gloss, alone, to make any significant difference.

    John Colter

  4. #4
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    The guys from The Ukulele Site have repeatedly stated that with ukes from the same maker and the same type of wood (e.g. Kanilea SF vs Kanilea UV Gloss, Pono AT vs Pono ATD), they felt that the one with a Satin finish had a more open sound whereas the Gloss version had more focus and compression to the tone. Of course, this will depend largely on the type, technique and thickness of the finish that is being used. And as others have mentioned, there are other things coming into play when comparing two ukes of the very same model, like age or density of the specific board of wood, micro adjustments in sanding or bracing, etc.
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  5. #5
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    I do a lot of recording and can say satin bodies tend to be noisy, emitting a "sanding" like sound with even the slightest movement against a shirt. Glossy is a lot quieter against the shirt but prone to "thumb fart" sounds on the neck. Satin is quieter for necks. My preference would be glossy body with satin/matte neck.

    As for the tone of the instrument, I don't think there is enough difference to fairly judge because, as others have indicated, differences in individual pieces of wood and slight variations in build trump minor finish differences. Now if you were asking about French polish vs. a think coat of polyurethane, that would have an easier answer.

    Finally it's pretty easy to change glossy to matte and vice versa. To change matte to glossy, you polish it. All my matte necks became glossy due to playing! I've made glossy necks matte with 30 minutes of rubbing a few grades of micro mesh.
    Last edited by gochugogi; 01-14-2020 at 08:40 AM.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by gochugogi View Post
    Now if you were asking about French polish vs. a think coat of polyurethane, that would have an easier answer.
    Do you have an opinion about French polish compared to the glossy finish on intermediate ukes?

  7. #7
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    Depends on the brand and model. Some gloss finishes are much thicker than others.

  8. #8
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    I have been told by two different luthiers that they think that the satin finish, which is usually thinner, sounds slightly more open than the same model instrument in a high gloss UV cured poly finish.

    I can only defer to their judgement gained from building many instruments using both finishes.

    I do have to say the satin finished Pono tenor mango pineapple sounded more open and vibrant than my friend's gloss finished mango pineapple. But who knows. It could be the bracing was a little different. Or the wood grain a little different.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by man0a View Post
    Depends on the brand and model. Some gloss finishes are much thicker than others.
    I suspect that the benefit of a French Polish was due to impurities in ancient formulas .

    I’d be willing to bet there are better ways to apply shellac with modern versions
    Concert: Lanikai LU-21C (Southcoast MU)
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  10. #10

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    I agree with Rakelele and gochugogi. I love the Blackbird company and have owned 4 Farallons and 1 Clara. I never could get used to the sound of the basic Farallon model. I thought it was harsh to my ears, but I loved the playability and the no need to humidify. I liked the Clara sound better but still a tad harsh. I know people can experiment with strings but blackbird come with oasis warm. They are pretty warm. I saw a video from uke site with Corey playing all the Blackbird models. I was amazed at how different the gloss Farallon sounded. As Rakelele said “ more focus and compression”. I bought one

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