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Thread: Differences between "cheap" and "expensive" ukuleles

  1. #11
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    There does exist, I suppose a point of diminishing returns with regards to what your extra cash gets you besides bling and bragging rights about the exorbitant amount you spent on an instrument. It would seem that a lot of what drives up the price of most customs is the eye candy unrelated to sound. People pay for what want.

    There will however be great differences between a $125 Kala and something like a Koaloha or one of the K's (which fall into sort of the middle price range before you start hitting customs.) The quality of the wood and intonation is going to be better. There's going to be a lot more attention to details that will come from being handmade in a smaller shop rather than a large factory type setting. Customer service should also be more personal when dealing with people rather than giant corporation. If you're sure you're going to continue playing for the long haul I think this is a good investment. Besides resale, you're just going to be much more likely to play and enjoy an instrument that plays and sounds good than one of lesser quality. (It's like after I got my first tube amp and realized that the reason my guitar playing had always sounded so truly awful up to that point wasn't totally me. It was mostly Peavey's fault) You'll also keep it longer and take much longer to outgrow what it's capable of offering, if ever.

    With customs you're paying a premium for a) getting one built for you and made to your specs. b) the talent, ability and design know how that comes with experience and physically working with wood that you can't get from reading a book. c) a level of personal connection and collaboration in the process with the artisan that creates it for you. d) an individual and unique work of the luthier's art. One of a kind is not and shouldn't be cheap. The really good individual makers have earned their reputation and price point with skill and sweat.

    Playing an instrument though is such an odd extension of yourself that in a sense a player will bond with their instrument. Some people aren't going to be satisfied until they've got a Pete Howlett or William King, or Chuck Moore work of art specially ordered and for others a Flea will suit their needs for as long as they live.

  2. #12
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    There is a difference in price that reflects quality: the materials used, the workmanship, the design.

    There is a difference in price that reflects region: where the materials come from contra where they were made into a ukulele, where the workmanship resides, and so on.

    There is a difference in price that reflects retail structure: how many middlemen, etc.

    There is a difference in price that reflects the market demand: one ukulele among fifteen buyers will be more valuable than fifteen ukuleles that one person can choose between.

    There is a difference in price that reflects marketing: hiking the price creates an illusion of greater quality.

    Take some, or all of these things together, and you get ukuleles on the market for upwards of £3000.

    I won't be buying one -- I have other priorities in life.
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  3. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by experimentjon View Post
    ... and if you're GX9901, you might be turned on by Gilbert tuners.
    You know me so well Jon! I love me some Gilbert tuners!
    Visit the ukulele ghetto

    Too many ukes!: W. King ls-tenor; W. King ls-concert; Kamaka tenor; Koa Works tenor; KoAloha Pineapple Sunday; Dasilva Santo repro; Aaron Taylor tenor; Kiwaya KTS-7; Kanile'a custom SS; Kepasa Gypsy Rose; Bluegrass cigar box tenor; Collings UC-1; Bushman cedartone baritone; Glyph Mezzo Soprano "Mini-Jake"; Kala acacia pocket; Mya-Moe Concert Tradition; Epiphone Les Paul; Martin C1K

  4. #14
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    By the way, I'm not sure I agree with the expensive ukes having better re-sale value. From what I've seen, it's a lot easier to sell an inexpensive uke (Flukes, Kala, etc) for close to its "new" price than an expensive (Hawaiian K's or above) uke. And customs have terrible re-sale value for the most part.
    Visit the ukulele ghetto

    Too many ukes!: W. King ls-tenor; W. King ls-concert; Kamaka tenor; Koa Works tenor; KoAloha Pineapple Sunday; Dasilva Santo repro; Aaron Taylor tenor; Kiwaya KTS-7; Kanile'a custom SS; Kepasa Gypsy Rose; Bluegrass cigar box tenor; Collings UC-1; Bushman cedartone baritone; Glyph Mezzo Soprano "Mini-Jake"; Kala acacia pocket; Mya-Moe Concert Tradition; Epiphone Les Paul; Martin C1K

  5. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by GX9901 View Post
    By the way, I'm not sure I agree with the expensive ukes having better re-sale value. From what I've seen, it's a lot easier to sell an inexpensive uke (Flukes, Kala, etc) for close to its "new" price than an expensive (Hawaiian K's or above) uke. And customs have terrible re-sale value for the most part.
    I almost bought a used Flea for close to retail price. They seem to hold their value well, among others.

  6. #16
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    I am of the opinion that one's first car should not be a Porsche or Ferrari. You need to learn to drive before you can really appreciate the handling and performance of a luxury automobile and know which one is right for you.

    For a beginner, I'd say it's important to have a decent instrument, one that plays well and has good intonation. It doesn't have to have a solid top, and things like gold-plated tuners or fancy abilone inlays are really just eye candy.

    Considerations:

    Will you stick with it? A lot of people spend more than they need to starting out, don't stick with it, then end up selling it (often at a loss) or it just takes up room in the closet.

    You won't know what really suits you until you've got some playing experience under your belt and can try out various instruments for yourself. Soprano, concert or tenor? Mahogany, koa, mango, etc.

    Once you are confident enough in your playing ability to be able to make an informed choice, by all means, go for something better if that's what you want and can afford.

    There's also a nebulous factor that can't be quantified based solely on price. A lower-priced instrument might just "speak" to you more than a higher-priced one.

    I think most of us would agree that having a back-up instrument as a "beater" that you're not afraid to take to a party and let others play is a good thing, so starting with a decent but not overly expensive instrument is what I'd recommend.

    Then when the time comes, it feels like a reward and you can more fully appreciate your new instrument.

  7. #17
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    Make sure your first ukulele is one that you are attracted to. It could be a beautiful metallic blue Kala Dolphin bridge (around $45) or something more expensive, but the key here is that you need to be excited about having this new thing to play with. Don't just choose one because it's cheap. You will play it more if you like the sound and like how it looks. If you are not motivated to play it, you will never move to the next level.

    –Lori

  8. #18
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    Talking Thanks for the Replies: + relative value of cheap chinese ukuleles

    Does anyone ever wonder if these Chinese made ukes are better than their low prices suggest? I'm reminded of the wine industry, which I've done some work for over the years. I've heard it said by more than one wine expert that pricing has a lot to do with the overall value of a wine. The quote I've heard repeated is (to paraphrase), a wine could be the best in the world, but if it's sold for $10 a bottle, then it will be identified as nothing more than a really good $10 bottle of wine.

    Another comparison to the wine industry has to do with what is "best". A double blind wine comparison study reveals that while experts can tell the difference between two similar wines, they can't say which one is the more expensive or "better" wine. Unfortunately, I can't find a link to that study right now.

    Yes, I am a trouble maker...

  9. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by mattclara View Post
    Does anyone ever wonder if these Chinese made ukes are better than their low prices suggest?
    I'd agree with that. Some of the import ukes are really nice and makes me wonder how they do it at such a low price. I mean, I think even some thousand dollar custom ukes are underpriced if you think about what goes into making one, so the nicely finished solid wood imports really are a good value.
    Visit the ukulele ghetto

    Too many ukes!: W. King ls-tenor; W. King ls-concert; Kamaka tenor; Koa Works tenor; KoAloha Pineapple Sunday; Dasilva Santo repro; Aaron Taylor tenor; Kiwaya KTS-7; Kanile'a custom SS; Kepasa Gypsy Rose; Bluegrass cigar box tenor; Collings UC-1; Bushman cedartone baritone; Glyph Mezzo Soprano "Mini-Jake"; Kala acacia pocket; Mya-Moe Concert Tradition; Epiphone Les Paul; Martin C1K

  10. #20
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    Default Cheap and expensive

    In looking at computers, there is such a thing as the "sweet spot": a place where the models give you high quality, extra capacity/speed/refinements, at a price that is not the highest but is certainly not at the low end either.

    If you put the elements in place from this thread, you will discover that there is a "sweet spot" for you and how much you are willing to pay to get a level service, quality and workmanship.

    I don't think you'll regret purchasing and playing a uke that excites you and satisfies your senses. That is worth what you are willing to pay for it.

    Best,
    Craig

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