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

  1. #11
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    Sep 2013
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    Here's my story. I started playing uke in mid-2013 after playing guitar for almost 50 years. I joined a seniors uke group and in the first year I went through 16 ukes that ranged from $60 to $200, then I contacted Mim at mimsukes.com and she suggested I look at the Kala KAATP-CTG-CE, tenor cutaway, solid cedar top, acacia koa body with preamp that sells for $370.

    She didn't do trade-ins, so I went to McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica and tried out the Kala, which sounded and felt very nice. I also tried a couple of the $1000+ K brands and honestly felt that the Kala kept up with them very well, so I traded in three of mine. The Kala has been my go-to uke ever since for gigs, even with the custom ukes I've had made.

    So I say you can find a very good uke in the $300 to $500 range.




    This is Michael Kohan in Los Angeles, Beverly Grove near the Beverly Center
    8 tenor cutaway ukes, 4 acoustic bass ukes, 10 solid body bass ukes, 14 mini electric bass guitars (Total: 36)

    Donate to The Ukulele Kids Club, they provide ukuleles to children in hospital music therapy programs. www.theukc.org
    Member The CC Strummers: www.youtube.com/user/CCStrummers/video, www.facebook.com/TheCCStrummers

  2. #12
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    Jul 2014
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    Briarcliff, TX - Fabulous Hill Country home to Willie Nelson, and me!
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    [QUOTE=man0a;2278584]
    Many Americans seem to enjoy buying a lot of different cheap ukuleles (sometimes called UAS). This makes no sense to me. I'd rather save my money for one decent mid-range instrument.

    Whoa there, Man0a! Not so fast with the UAS slurs. I am American, and proud of it. I presently own over 70 Ukes, with the average cost being over $900. I have lots of Ukes in the over $2K price range, including 10 Kamaka Deluxe models. That being said, most of my Ukes are in the mid price range, being mostly Ohana limited editions, solid wood Kalas, and Mainland Ukes. I'm well aware of my disability, but I will not stand to be disrespected on account of it.
    "The sole cause of all human misery is the inability of people
    to sit quietly in their rooms." - Blaise Pascal, 1670

  3. #13
    Join Date
    Oct 2015
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    Denmark
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    It is worth it if it makes you happier about your playing.
    If you desire the high end uke and can afford it, dont settle for less based on you not thinking you are good enough for it. If, like me, you would feel very worried about damaging a $1500 and feel more comfortable handling a $500 instrument, you can get some very fine ukes near that price range that you can also see pros play online.

    I never played any of the brands you mention.

    Of those brands Pono has the most "street cred" in this forum. When I hear someone play the flight Diana on youtube, in the background, I often feel a need to maximize that window to check what uke it is. I am not hooked on the looks of spruce tops and gloss finishes, but I am very impressed with the sound.

    My favorite uke among my own is my Cocobolo ukulele. Those start at $500 before extras and shipping, so slightly outside the budget.

    Anyway, taste in sound and looks are subjektive and you should go for what you desire in a uke. And spend as much as you are comfortable sending without worrying about whether you can fully appreciate the quality of the uke you desire.
    Last edited by UkingViking; 05-18-2021 at 09:08 AM.
    Playing:
    Anuenue AMM tenor - Magic Fluke Koa Tenor - Cocobolo concert - Kamaka Tiki concert - Cort concert - Ohana LN soprano.

  4. #14
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    Jun 2020
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    Is it really worth it to buy a Porsche sportscar if you're not a racing driver? Some people may say "no" but that doesn't stop thousands of others from putting their money down every year to buy one.

    If anything, the "worth it" argument is probably easier if you're NOT a pro. A pro is someone running a business, by definition. Businesses need to be run with a degree of practicality. Cheaper (mid range) instruments are certainly practical.

    Enthusiasts, on the other hand, are people doing things because it makes them feel good. You play uke because it's fun. Owning a very nice uke is very fun! If you find it more enjoyable to own a very nice uke, then it is, more or less by definition, "worth it" to do so, as an enthusiast. As far as I'm concerned, that should be good enough - we shouldn't put ourselves in the position of trying to somehow justify spending money on something we enjoy in order to make ourselves feel good.

  5. #15
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    Apr 2020
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    Quote Originally Posted by man0a View Post
    I think there is a huge gap in sound quality and playability between a $50 all-laminate ukulele and a mid-range $300-$600 ukulele. The better instrument will be more responsive and thus easier to play as well as sounding noticeably better. If you are proficient with any other musical instrument, I would advise skipping the cheap beginner ukuleles altogether and starting with a mid-range instrument. Mid-range brands that I like are Pono, Opio, Romero Creations, Martin, Kiwaya, and Anuenue. There are lots of others that I don't have direct experience with.

    Many Americans seem to enjoy buying a lot of different cheap ukuleles (sometimes called UAS). This makes no sense to me. I'd rather save my money for one decent mid-range instrument.

    The difference between a good mid-range instrument and a $1000-$3000 instrument is a lot more subtle. Some of that money does go in to better build quality. Some of the money goes into better quality woods. Some of the money goes into better looks. Some of that money goes into living wages for American workers instead of being imported from countries with lower costs of living. Once you are proficient with the mid-range instrument, my advise is to play as many high-end instruments as you can. Maybe one of them will really speak to you. Otherwise, you may be happy playing the mid-range instrument for several more years.
    I totally agree with man0a. Midrange ukes I like, because of playability and sound, are Pono, Romero Creations, aNueNue. For a little more, Rebel is outstanding. I think it's better to buy one of these than 3 or 4 cheap ukes.
    "So many ukes, so little money..."

    Kanile'a KSR-T premium koa tenor
    KoAloha KTM-00 tenor
    Rebel Double Cheese spruce/mahogany tenor, my BFF.
    aNueNue AMM3 mahogany tenor
    Romero Creations Tiny Tenor spalted mango
    Romero Creations SK koa soprano
    Pono ATC-PC acacia cutaway tenor
    Kala KA-ASFM-T-C flame maple tenor
    Pono MT-SP tenor
    Cocobolo 5 string tenor #28
    Cocobolo concert #467
    Pono ASD acacia soprano deluxe
    Pono MGS mango soprano
    Brad Donaldson cedar/rosewood custom tenor


  6. #16
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    Sep 2018
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    NorCal
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    When I started to look at ukes less than three years ago, the first impression I had was that ukes are very very cheap. Where else can you start an equipment based hobby for less than $100 (or even $500)? Heck, I paid $1200 for my son's trumpet when he was in middle school. My bicycle cost over $2k and camera gear more than that. Try golfing with a hefty green fee each time you go out.

    So I bought the "top priced beginner: uke for $100 (a Cordoba). Go online and then a group meetup and find out there are a lot more choices. So within six weeks, I started looking for an upgrade. I tried many at a local store in the $200 - 500 range. Then I was handed a KoAloha Pikake concert (about $1k) and noticed differences in looks, feel, and sound. Stopped looking for a cheaper one but did due diligence and went to another shop and was able to compare Kanilea, Kamaka, and KoAloha side by side. I bought a KoAloha with zero regrets, even though I was a beginner.

    But as a chord/melody player (not a sing/strum guy), I feel every note I play and hear every note I play. And better is better no matter what level you are at. I don't play publicly and don't perform. And I figure I get more value per dollar with my uke than anything else except my eyeglasses.

    Since then, I have a Kinnard and a Blackbird Clara, both of which I love. I finally sold the KoAloha because I bought one of their 25th anniversary Red Label models. During these past two years, I have also bought many midpriced ones that were very nice... but not as enjoyable as the three I named. So I sold those and only have UAS for something really nice, like a Moore Bettah or Petros or...

    So get what you want based on your own preferences and finances. It will be money well spent for you to enjoy.

    BTW, if you buy a nice one used, like in this forum, you can usually resell for about the same price if you decide not to keep it.

  7. #17
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    Jul 2019
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    Two thoughts:
    As you can see, players have many different ideas about what to do. That's because ukuleles do sound different from one another. Sometimes, two that are the same from the same builder will sound different. So, part of the learning curve for many is hearing those differences. It's not necessary to own only one, cheap or expensive, unless you're sure you "love the one you're with."

    My two cents for answering what you wrote in you post is to go with Pono AND get a great setup. It will make all the difference to your future love of uke. If you're thinking of buying new then HMS (ukulele site) with their setup is the way to go. If you find a good used one and want it to be more comfortable, be willing to pay the extra to a person who will set it up for you the way you want.

  8. #18
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    Feb 2017
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    short answer: of course they're worth it.

    If you agree and you want to get a high-end uke, then just do it. It will be cheaper to buy an expensive ukulele than to buy several cheap, mid-range, and then finally a high-end uke you wanted to get in the first place.

  9. #19
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    I forgot to mention: A high end Uke will not make you a better player. But, a really cheap Uke can discourage your playing, and hold you back.
    "The sole cause of all human misery is the inability of people
    to sit quietly in their rooms." - Blaise Pascal, 1670

  10. #20
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    May 2020
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eggs_n_Ham View Post
    Hello:

    I'm new to ukulele and trying to "self-learn". I purchased a concert Aklot ukulele from amazon and by all accounts ( as I learn to differentiate sounds and parts of a ukulele), it's a fine little ukulele. The only thing I did to it was change the strings to Martin 600's as the stock Aquilas really hurt my fingers.

    So I was looking at the "next level" ukuleles last night. I watch a lot of "gotaukulele" reviews as well as many others. Amongst the ukuleles I could afford vs what I want (koaloha, kamaka, romero creations), I really like Duke, Ortega, Snail, Flight and Pono. I went back and listened to reviews on youtube about these ukuleles and am wondering: are these ukuleles *really any different, really any better* than a well made inexpensive ukulele?
    At what point do you really hear the difference between a good ukulele and a really fine ukulele? If you had a budget limit of under $500 u.s.d, would you consider any of the ukuleles I've named and if not, what do you recommend?

    I think it depends on your background. For example, if you play another instrument already, then you'll know quality sound when you hear it; or at least know something that doesn't sound good. But if you don't already play, then I'd say ignorance is bliss in this case (i.e. if you like your Aklot, then stay with it).

    As for strings hurting your fingers, are you pressing the strings too hard? Also, your finger tips may need a bit of time to toughen up, even with nylons.

    As for $500 ukes, I hope it isn't going to be your final high-end uke because , esp. if you buy it now, you may want something else very soon. But that's ok, we've all been thru that phase where we buy and sell many $500-range ukes.

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