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Thread: Talk me into our out of a Mainland Mahogany Tenor

  1. #1
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    Default Talk me into or out of a Mainland Mahogany Tenor

    First off I would like to introduce myself to the forum. After 20+ years of guitar and due to way to much extra time due to covid quarantine I bought myself an Ohana CK-10 on a whim from Mim. I had no idea what I was missing. I picked up the new tuning pretty fast and due to my experience with music theory and fretted instruments have been accelerating quickly. I started by learning You Belong To Me(not Tonight You Belong To Me, the other one with Pyramids etc) got into some other golden oldies. I have already written a pretty good song of my own and want to add a decent uke with a pickup for when we can start doing gigs and open mics and things when the world starts opening up more.

    For the price the Mainland Mahogany Tenor with pickup seems hard to beat especially after reading all of the great reviews for Ukes in this price range here on this site. Iím definitely wanting a Tenor because I am quite tall and have rather long fingers and think a little longer scale length would go a long way for comfort.

    So a couple questions for you more experienced uke folks. Are there other instruments of similar quality and value in the $300-400 range? Based off my entry level Ohana I would think some of their mid level offerings would be ok?
    Is it worth it to buy a uke with a pickup preinstalled, or better to buy a higher quality uke and maybe put a pickup in after the fact?

    I really had no idea how much fun a ukulele could be, I plan on giving the ck-10 to my daughter as she has been showing interest and actually wants me to teach her to play an instrument for once.

    Looking forward to your opinions.
    Last edited by Rosinante; 05-16-2020 at 05:32 AM.

  2. #2
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    Welcome to UU! Mainland would no doubt be an excellent choice. Aside from Ohana, Kala is another one of those very popular brands around that mid-tier price/quality range, but I often try to encourage people to try to check out some other, more interesting brands. Pono is probably a brand many others will mention. They are one of the best mid-tier options in my opinion, but it's good to know that they don't make the loudest ukes if that matters to you (Mainland don't make either, btw). Flight is another, maybe a bit newer brand which I really like, and they have some interesting designs imo. Islander is the Chinese-made offshoot of Kanile'a, a very revered Hawaiian uke manufacturer, so can't go wrong there. If you're really a fan of more quirky designs then the Magic Fluke ukuleles are fantastic, and US made as well. Kai is not as well-known a brand as the others but really good value for the money and they offer some features that others don't at the mid-tier price point, like a side soundport on all of their models. Do note that some of these suggestions might not be easily available for you depending on where you live.

    Oh, and about your pickup question, I find it's generally better to find an instrument you really like and have a pickup installed rather than limiting yourself only to models with a pickup preinstalled.
    Last edited by Dohle; 05-15-2020 at 11:44 AM.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dohle View Post
    Welcome to UU! Mainland would no doubt be an excellent choice. Aside from Ohana, Kala is another one of those very popular brands around that mid-tier price/quality range, but I often try to encourage people to try to check out some other, more interesting brands. Pono is probably a brand many others will mention. They are one of the best mid-tier options in my opinion, but it's good to know that they don't make the loudest ukes if that matters to you (Mainland don't make either, btw). Flight is another, maybe a bit newer brand which I really like, and they have some interesting designs imo. Islander is the Chinese-made offshoot of Kanile'a, a very revered Hawaiian uke manufacturer, so can't go wrong there. If you're really a fan of more quirky designs then the Magic Fluke ukuleles are fantastic, and US made as well. Kai is not as well-known a brand as the others but really good value for the money and they offer some features that others don't at the mid-tier price point, like a side soundport on all of their models. Do note that some of these suggestions might not be easily available for you depending on where you live.
    I’ve seen the Flight stuff and was impressed by the looks but didn’t see a lot of info and reviews. I’m more impressed with overall tone than overall volume of an instrument. Just something that sounds nice to sing with and if I need volume that’s where a pickup would come in. I’m not expecting miracles at this price point.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rosinante View Post
    Iíve seen the Flight stuff and was impressed by the looks but didnít see a lot of info and reviews. Iím more impressed with overall tone than overall volume of an instrument. Just something that sounds nice to sing with and if I need volume thatís where a pickup would come in. Iím not expecting miracles at this price point.
    I'll agree with Dohle's comments, although if you're sure about the pickup, preinstalled is often cheaper than purchasing and installing a pickup after the fact.

    That said, I would recommend looking at Ponos, which even without a pickup might stretch your budget a bit, but I think have excellent tone if not volume. One thing to consider is how quickly you'll be upgrading. Some people would be happy to stay for a long time with a Mainland, which I think is one of the better offerings at their price range. Others will quickly keep upgrading to better and more expensive ukes. Since you have experience with guitars, you might have a better idea about your own upgrading habits. With that in mind, I think Ponos are not outgrown as quickly.

    Another thing to consider is buying a second hand ukulele, which can put a better uke in your hands for your budget.

  5. #5
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    The Mainland mahogany is a nice ukulele. I have it in concert size. No complaints. As far as the pickup, Mike installs the MiSi pickups in those ukes and you are going to be hard pressed to find a better and more versatile pickup. They are really nice and they are not cheap. I like Ohanas and even have one that I think is comparable, but I would say that the Mainland with that MiSi pickup is the best value out there.
    Last edited by Rllink; 05-15-2020 at 12:21 PM.
    I don't want to live in a world that is linear.

    I just want everyone to understand that I am not a ukulele expert, even though it may look at times like I'm pretending to be.

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  6. #6
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    I'd also consider an Ohana TK-35G, nice ukes. I had one, and kinda wish I hadn't sold it. IMO, the Mainland and Ohana tenors are made in the same factory in China, very similar construction. I prefer Ohana, since I'm not a fan of the rope binding. Here's a video of a UU member on his TK-35.

    https://youtu.be/YK5bZ2fFJHs
    Last edited by Ukecaster; 05-15-2020 at 12:24 PM.
    John

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by snowdenn View Post
    I'll agree with Dohle's comments, although if you're sure about the pickup, preinstalled is often cheaper than purchasing and installing a pickup after the fact.

    That said, I would recommend looking at Ponos, which even without a pickup might stretch your budget a bit, but I think have excellent tone if not volume. One thing to consider is how quickly you'll be upgrading. Some people would be happy to stay for a long time with a Mainland, which I think is one of the better offerings at their price range. Others will quickly keep upgrading to better and more expensive ukes. Since you have experience with guitars, you might have a better idea about your own upgrading habits. With that in mind, I think Ponos are not outgrown as quickly.

    Another thing to consider is buying a second hand ukulele, which can put a better uke in your hands for your budget.
    I would say it isn’t unlikely that someday I would have a Kamaka or some such, but that is a long way off, I’m a one instrument person. One acoustic, one electric, and one uke now although I hear UAS is worse than GAS. I prefer having one nice instrument that I know well. I have a custom tele style from a friend that is a luthier and a Gibson J45 worked my way up but really only had one at a time. But for now the uke budget is $400 max for a good performer.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rosinante View Post
    I would say it isn’t unlikely that someday I would have a Kamaka or some such, but that is a long way off, I’m a one instrument person. One acoustic, one electric, and one uke now although I hear UAS is worse than GAS. I prefer having one nice instrument that I know well. I have a custom tele style from a friend that is a luthier and a Gibson J45 worked my way up but really only had one at a time. But for now the uke budget is $400 max for a good performer.
    I am also a monogamous player. Because of that fact I want to warn you of a $400 ukulele. When I upgraded to my $400 ukulele, it gave me a taste of the upper-level instruments. I couldn't just let it go. So eventually I had to get an excellent ukulele for $2200. And since I'm monogamous, I had to get rid of the $400 ukulele. For me, that $400 was a complete waste and I should have just stood pat with my $200 laminate ukulele until I could afford my Kamaka. It would have saved me $400. I just wanted to throw that out there. I know it is completely predicated on one's personality. My personality couldn't abide a middle-of-the-road ukulele whereas other personalities can. I'm just offering data.

  9. #9
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    They have good reputation and at that price range you are probably looking at an all solid wood instrument. Basically in this mid range the ukes are fairly generic and main differences are cosmetic as they are mass produced on similar specs in similar factories. As a rule if there is a lot of decoration and bling on a mid range uke it is a good indicator that it lacks basic musical qualities. So more plain looking ukes may reflect better musical qualities. Also there are some differences in neck sizes and shapes or bridge designs that can have functional meaning for players. If you have preferences in these aspects then it helps to do some research.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rosinante View Post
    I would say it isnít unlikely that someday I would have a Kamaka or some such, but that is a long way off, Iím a one instrument person. One acoustic, one electric, and one uke now although I hear UAS is worse than GAS. I prefer having one nice instrument that I know well. I have a custom tele style from a friend that is a luthier and a Gibson J45 worked my way up but really only had one at a time. But for now the uke budget is $400 max for a good performer.
    I think Ponos start at around $400, which I think fits for your use as a performer and your gradual upgrading. But that's without a pickup. If $400 is your max, I don't think a Mainland with a pickup is a bad way to go. And you can get some of their tenors without the rope binding if you dislike it. As others suggested, Ohanas are decent as well. Kalas are not my favorite brand, but they can make good ukes for the price, and you'd have several options to fit what you're looking for. Flight has been making good impressions with their cheaper ukes and seem to be trying to expand into mid-tier ukes. They have more presence in Europe, but they've got several tenor options with pickups under $400, if you'd like to be a guinea pig. Islanders are supposed to be a good value. Recently, KoAloha reintroduced their own budget line, KoAlana, but they seem difficult to find. If you can find one and have a pickup installed, that would fit your budget. And Breedlove makes a (imported) tenor I like, which comes with a pickup and goes for about $300 before tax.

    If it were me, I would go with a Breedlove or Mainland, although I wouldn't rule out the Flight or KoAlana, mostly because I'm curious.

    I mentioned used as well, I think a second-hand Pono or Mexican Martin fit your budget and might make better performers.

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