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Thread: Surprised by Laminate

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
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    Default Surprised by Laminate

    I took some time this afternoon to run through the same tune using seven different Concert Ukes. I was trying to judge the sound qualities of the instruments. I was surprised at the results.

    What surprised me was how good the laminates in my collection sounded. I'll say right now that my solid Koa Kamaka sounded the best. But beyond that, it was really close. The Kala with a solid spruce top and laminate body scored high. But, the all laminate Mango Leolani sounded even better. And that shocked me. Its very light weight for a laminate, and the body resonates nicely when thumped. And the tone quality is right up there with the solid Ukes costing two and three times as much. I really wouldn't hesitate to take the Leolani anywhere and perform with it. I just thought I'd share this startling result with 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
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    Jul 2015
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    Canada Prairies, brrr ....
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    Default

    Yeah I picked up a very cheap long neck soprano HanoHano, which is a brand related to Leolani, and it sounds almost as nice as my KoAloha concert that cost ten times as much.

  3. #3

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    I'm not going to say that my laminate concert sounds as good tonally as my all-solid tenor, but it's heaps more fun to play! I travel with it constantly as I'm less worried about it, and it's just got a great jangle to it. I only have the 2 ukes, but if I had to choose only one right now, that would be the one and I'd get rid of the tenor that cost 3-4x as much. (Not that I don't like my tenor. It sounds good, has a fuller tone, and could probably do with a better setup, but that laminate concert is just FUN!)

  4. #4
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    Sep 2019
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    USA
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    I have a laminate Kiwaya and a laminate Martin that sound better than my all-solid Kala. Both of these laminate ukes are lightweight and very resonant.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
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    West Midlands GB
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    I have bought several very inexpensive sopranos and one tenor, with bodies made from High Pressure Laminate - i.e. not traditional three ply wood. They all sounded acceptably decent (and a couple were better than that) and HPL looks very much like the wood it is pretending to be. As knock-about instruments, they can be very good indeed.

    John Colter

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2019
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    Finland
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    I recently got a solid spruce top laminate walnut back and sides Flight Sophia concert and I was really surprised how good it sounded. I've previously had a very similar solid spruce top Kala which sounded extremely one-dimensional and overly bright, but the Flight has much more of a balanced sound and some depth. I'm honestly not sure whether it's the type of laminate wood used or the building quality that makes the difference (probably both) but I'm seriously impressed. I also had a Kiwaya KS-5 all laminate koa soprano and I'm certain I wouldn't have been able to tell it apart from my KTS-7 on a blind test. That thing was seriously well built.

  7. #7
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    Jun 2018
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    Sparta, Wisconsin, USA
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    As Baz has said, a high quality laminate will usually outperform a poor quality solid ukulele.

    Kiwaya brand ukes are frequently used as a prime examples of very high-quality laminates that often out performs similarly priced solids.

    I don't have much experience with laminates other than my 1st ukulele Fender Nohea tenor that sounded rather boxy. It was built like a tank.
    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

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2019
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    Finland
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kenn2018 View Post
    Kiwaya brand ukes are frequently used as a prime examples of very high-quality laminates that often out performs similarly priced solids.
    Yep, Kiwaya is the most common example but Flight recently released the Hawaiian-made laminate sopranos made from koa and mahogany. Those basically rivaled the Kiwaya models at a similar price. I'm guessing that if the uke is made by these revered Hawaiian or Japanese luthiers it will sound good regardless of the materials used. I bet those guys could make a quality uke out of cardboard.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
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    Siesta Key
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    I had to go back and check but David Ingalls of Ono Ukulele talked about laminates quite a bit on The Ukulele Review Podcast last year. The discussion is early on, starting at 4:30 or so:

    Episode 19.48

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
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    USA
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    I sometimes like the sound of laminates better than some solid wood ukes too. It just depends on the particular uke and my mood.

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