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Thread: Are expensive "high end" ukuleles really worth it for a non-pro player?

  1. #31
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    Short version: yes, worth it when purchased w/ a real set up.

    TL;DR:
    Watching/Listening a lot of one or two reviewers can be quite limiting. The reviewers I go like are able to showcase the sound without words. Not all popular reviewers have the skill it takes (from finger style to strumming; strumming alone reveals very little). There are some reviewers whom I won't listen to at all as they are, to varying degrees, a waste of my time & brain cells, especially when there are too many words of little value..

    There is much manufacturing in China (not just musical instruments) that's very unsustainable on both environment & people. China has a slave labor problem these days related to their treatment of prisoners (political prisoners, ethnic cleansing) in the western part of the nation. I worry less about production instruments from good makers sourcing labor in Indonesia, Thailand, etc. Japan & to some extent have high costs of living, so ukes made there will not be cheap.

    Listening on mediocre to crappy speakers will also handicap being able to hear various differences, from subtle to big.

    Set up is important, especially for that price range. Part of reuptable sellers' task in the set up process is weeding out the ones from the manufacturer that didn't make the cut. The ukes they send back to certain makers likely end up sold online, as-is.
    keeping an eye out for a very special pre-owned concert....

  2. #32
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    I started out with a Rogue (very, very bad choice), and several 'blem' Lanakai's (generally OK, but... I learned that 'blem' on eBay did not mean blemish. They all ened up having fatal mechanical problems (twisted neck, neck bow, intonation, and tuner problems), but I did use them to learn that I needed proper nut files and how to do 1st fret clearance! I also learned to leave the saddles alone until the nut was right.

    Had a Mitchell baritone, and initially (well, for about 2 years) liked the wide nut and 'baseball bat' neck. But ultimately, it just didn't ring out. It was a bit dull for my taste. Bought a Luna Tattoo and VM. The tattoo sounded like plywood, but I still have the VM. It sounds and plays fine.

    Moving on, I took a chance on Caramel. I won't bleat about why I like them, but cost/quality/features (all have onboard chromatic tuners) certainly is a factor. I went through about 9 of them (a couple of each size) and ended up with 2 baritones (a mahogany, and a spruce), 2 sopranos (mahogany - 1 is a duplicate), and 1 tenor (mahogany). I am happily living with them all. I wasn't comfortable with the concert size, but that's just me. Goodwill got the discards.

    OK, so I love playing B, T, and S. The T is tuned the same as the B, albeit reentrant. I tried a Kala tenor (more money) and it played OK but just couldn't get the string balance right. I ultimately sold it.

    Sure, I lust for an Opio, etc., but they really won't make me a better player. My only 'flings' have been an Ohana VK-70R and a Flight Mango soprano. Most recently, a Kamehameha SP-10 - I am liking it so far.

    -Wiggy
    Last edited by Wiggy; 05-20-2021 at 02:45 PM.

  3. #33
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    May 2017
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    As Bill1 said. "The main thing is enjoying your ukulele life."

    I haven't bought, played, sold a large number of uke's. The 3 that were over your $500 budget I have kept. All good buy's no regrets. Just finished playing the resonator a little while ago. Of the two that I have bought under your budget I have kept one. It was my first a MF Fluke with solid spruce top and the other upgrades. The Fluke started my enjoyment of my uke life. My second uke was/is a "K" brand. I have tried one other K brand in a store it too was nice. Do I need or want another sample or more of a K brand uke/s? I dunno, I'm happy with what I have. The one I sold just didn't do it for me. It was a Gold Tone resonator. I found if flat and dead at times. It was enough for me to let it go and search out a better quality instrument. The cost of the Pohaku was higher but my ukulele life is much happier. Am fortunate to be able to buy own and play some instruments that I think are nice.

    I've handled other ukes of all means and there are many many nice ukes out there. I'm not the type that needs to own one of each. I'm a mediocre player at best, better than I was a year ago....hope to be better still in a years time. While price did play a role in all my purchases I have not let price stop me from purchasing quality instruments. I'm happy when I'm playing the instruments and the music I like best.

    Can't ask for more than that.
    Last edited by mjh42; 05-20-2021 at 01:52 AM.

  4. #34

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    I agree and appreciate so much with what everyone has said so far! While I am on a strict budget I technically "could" purchase that Anuenue I'd love to have but, that would be like buying a formula One car. Sure I can drive but I can't drive *that*! So my plan is to purchase something mid-priced, continue learning on it and really enjoy having something well within my means and of reputable quality that will last a long time, aging with me like a good friend.

    what I'm finding though, is mid-range ukuleles are plentiful but I've yet to find one that enthralls me to the point of purchase. So I'll keep looking at keep waiting- I'll find the right ukulele for me and a great friendship will be born!

  5. #35
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    I came to this thread today intending to add to it, but after reading Bill1s post above, I'm sure to be taking away more than I'm adding.

    Ukulele life is an elegant way to describe personal value and much clearer than responding "it depends" to the original question.

    I enjoy my ukulele life by having an instrument that is better than my ability to play it. I would struggle to justify the price of my instrument in terms of utility. In terms of what it adds to my ukulele life, though, it is easily justifiable. I've been playing ukulele for 15 years, play daily and can afford it, though it took me several years of saving to get there. Even before this custom built instrument, I worked my way through the sizes of a few different K brands, which were all better than my ability to play them. I bought each only after getting to play them in person, which cut down some of the risk of the purchase for me. Looking back, I think the purchase of each of these fit neatly into my own uke life philosophy, though that may not have been obvious at the time.


    It's interesting to read the different approaches on this thread. Thanks for starting the conversation and good luck on your journey!

  6. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eggs_n_Ham View Post
    I agree and appreciate so much with what everyone has said so far! While I am on a strict budget I technically "could" purchase that Anuenue I'd love to have but, that would be like buying a formula One car. Sure I can drive but I can't drive *that*! So my plan is to purchase something mid-priced, continue learning on it and really enjoy having something well within my means and of reputable quality that will last a long time, aging with me like a good friend.

    what I'm finding though, is mid-range ukuleles are plentiful but I've yet to find one that enthralls me to the point of purchase. So I'll keep looking at keep waiting- I'll find the right ukulele for me and a great friendship will be born!
    Remember there are great deals on used ukes. I got one of my ukes for less than half the price. And it is in excellent condition. Reverb, this forum marketplace, ebay, etc.....
    * * * * * * * * *
    Kanile'a Steven Espaniola Signature Koa Custom Tenor
    Pepe Romero/Daniel Ho Solid Mahogany Tiny Tenor (Pepe is adding a side port!)
    Kala Soprano KA-ASOV-S Spruce and Ovangkol
    KLOS Carbon Fiber Tenor Deluxe Acoustic/Electric
    Ohana Mahogany Cynthia Lin Concert Performance uke
    Kanile'a KCS Super Soprano Premium Koa
    Brian Fanner Custom solid body/steel string tenor (Pixelator)

  7. #37
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    Personally, I think you should just buy whatever instruments you want. Don’t hold yourself back just because you think your playing doesn’t warrant a fancy, high-priced uke because if you did get the uke of your dreams, you’d just be stoked to play it more. The more you play, the better you get and the more “worth it,” it is.

    I had a friend say he wanted to buy a really nice guitar, but he just strums chords and wouldn’t be able to play up to the guitar’s potential, but the guitar’s potential was in the player, not the guitar (they’re horrible at playing themselves). And, while I wouldn’t recommend getting an F-1 car to go get groceries, there’s no risk associated with getting a high-priced uke and just enjoying it how you want to enjoy it.

  8. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by LukuleleStrings View Post
    Personally, I think you should just buy whatever instruments you want. Don’t hold yourself back just because you think your playing doesn’t warrant a fancy, high-priced uke because if you did get the uke of your dreams, you’d just be stoked to play it more. The more you play, the better you get and the more “worth it,” it is.

    I had a friend say he wanted to buy a really nice guitar, but he just strums chords and wouldn’t be able to play up to the guitar’s potential, but the guitar’s potential was in the player, not the guitar (they’re horrible at playing themselves). And, while I wouldn’t recommend getting an F-1 car to go get groceries, there’s no risk associated with getting a high-priced uke and just enjoying it how you want to enjoy it.
    Ditto. This all day.
    Brad Donaldson mahogany Martin 0 style soprano
    Pohaku Concert 10 (small concert), Bearclaw spruce top/maple body and neck
    Weymann 1920 Model 10 soprano
    Japanese no name soprano, 1950s mahogany
    Anuenue Flame Maple Soprano 2012

  9. #39
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    oh, and for the record, elite instruments aren't necessary for 95% of pro players. If you're a 15 year old boy you are probably thinking that you simply must have dimarzio pickups or a certain pedal, but the most significant thing that affects the tone of the gigging musician is the intercom system whose button has been duck-taped down in the little venue that is hosting the music. So, as many have already said, necessity doesn't really apply here. Whether you're a pro or a schmo, it is more about what makes you happy.

  10. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by LukuleleStrings View Post
    Personally, I think you should just buy whatever instruments you want. Don’t hold yourself back just because you think your playing doesn’t warrant a fancy, high-priced uke because if you did get the uke of your dreams, you’d just be stoked to play it more. The more you play, the better you get and the more “worth it,” it is.

    I had a friend say he wanted to buy a really nice guitar, but he just strums chords and wouldn’t be able to play up to the guitar’s potential, but the guitar’s potential was in the player, not the guitar (they’re horrible at playing themselves). And, while I wouldn’t recommend getting an F-1 car to go get groceries, there’s no risk associated with getting a high-priced uke and just enjoying it how you want to enjoy it.
    If not quite in-line with my own thoughts that’s still an interesting take on things and thank you for posting it.

    Many, many years ago I asked a successful old man (who was probably only in his late fifties) for some advice on buying things. He said: “always buy the best that you can afford”, I found the the advice to be good if slightly flawed. I always used to have to mind what I spent - still do to an extent - so making my money stretch to cover all of my needs required cost conscious and careful purchasing. What you spend on one item you don’t have left to spend on another - overbuying wasn’t an option.

    “He who buys cheap buys twice” is often true but by no means always so. Cheap can give sterling service, but you really have to understand what you’re getting for your money - sometimes I didn’t and wasting money when you haven’t much is very painful. I’ve bought a few expensive items too that whilst they’ve typically worked OK have never given me value for money. There are always exceptions but these three coarse ‘rules of thumb’ work for me:
    # the more you spend the better the item.
    # scrimping is a false economy.
    # understand how good an item you actually need and them buy a bit better than that.

    Yep, the limit on your playing should normally be you and not the instrument so getting a really good one does have some merit, well provided that you can comfortably afford to do so. Of course if you’re not sure what you want of an instrument (its features, appearance and sounds) then you might make many purchases and waste money along the way, the acceptability of that is a personal judgement.

    Personally I’ve been most pleased with Ukes that were both relatively inexpensive and particularly well set-up. Good practice, education and putting the hours in is what makes an instrument play well and sound good, or sound its best. As they say: “a pro’ will sound better on a student instrument than a student will sound on a pro’ instrument”. They ain’t wrong, it’s the player that matters most, but it’s also broadly true that you’re rarely disadvantaged by having a better instrument so if you can easily afford to overspend then that’s your choice to make.

    Edit. Clarification, sometimes a word can have more than one meaning. In this context by ‘overspend’ I mean: to spend noticeably over what is needed to meet your actual needs. So if I bought a Timms or a Martin then that, for me, would be overspending (against my actual needs) if within what I can afford. In a different context ‘overspending’ might well mean someone spending over what they can afford to. So if your regular monthly income is 2000 dollars and your regular monthly expenditure is 3000 then you’re overspending - which eventually tends to lead to lots of problems.
    Last edited by Graham Greenbag; 05-22-2021 at 08:06 AM.

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