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Thread: Solid/Laminate/Vener

  1. #1
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    Default Solid/Laminate/Vener

    I know this has been discussed at great length, but I'm still confused. I own all solid wood ukuleles and agree that they sound better than most laminates. What I want to know is what if you just have a solid top. Does the sides and back have that much influence on sound? How would solid sides and back differ from laminate sides and back or solid sides and back with a cosmetic veneer? Any thoughts or input is welcome, thanks.
    Brian
    Ohana PK25G - Pineapple Soprano with Aquila
    Ohana SK15 - Maroon Soprano with Aquila
    Kala KA-FMSLN - Flame Maple Longneck Soprano with Loprinzi
    Eleuke BC-50E - Prototype Concert with Living Water
    Mainland Classic mahogany Long Neck Concert Pineapple with Freemont Black low g
    Sailor Brand M-EU T6EG - Six string tenor with Southcoast
    Luna TT MAH - Tattoo tenor with Loprinzi
    Koloa KU-650 - Baritone with Alohi low d
    Cordoba - Guitalele
    Eddy Finn EF-BU2F - Deluxe Banjo Uke

  2. #2
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    Default

    You will not get a definitive answer, as you have already discovered. There are some who say that a solid back lends sympathetic vibration to the top. In other words the sound waves that the top creates make the back vibrate and that creates its own sound. There are others who say that its best to just let the back reflect the sound, and don't want it to vibrate and absorb any, since all vibration has some losses. I would say from what I have read that most agree the sides don't contribute much to the sound.

    All that said, I don't think solid backs and sides add much to a ukulele's sound. There are many fine guitars what are purposely built with laminate backs and sides, and makers say they do it for better sound. It is worth noting that the Sailor brand ukuleles have backs and sides made from a sandwich of poplar and cherry, or other woods on the outside, and inside, but they have solid tops. They get good reviews and the two that I have played sounded good to me. I think a lot of what luthiers build they build because that is what people will buy, so there is a lot of tradition that goes into it. Most people (myself included) just will not pay as much for a laminate back and sided uke as we will for an all solid because we know they traditionally cost less. Since most of the cost of a custom ukulele is labor, if I were a luthier, I would probably only make all solid ukes and charge a higher margin on them.

    I own and love an all solid mahogany Ohana soprano, but when I was deciding what tenor to make my main player I played a lot of them, both solid and laminate. In the end, I thought the solid tops with laminate backs and sides sounded as good if not better than any of the all solids I did A-B comparisons on.

    In other words, I think it is mostly the top that makes the difference. How the luthier puts it all together is also important and a good one can even make pallet wood sound great.
    Last edited by SweetWaterBlue; 05-21-2011 at 04:05 AM.

  3. #3
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    Default

    I have an all solid wood Mainland tenor (cedar top/rosewood back,sides), and a solid spruce top laminate mahogany back and sides Kala tenor. To me the Mainland sound better. I don't know if it's the solid wood or the choice of wood or the construction. The Kala sounds great but IMO the Mainland is better.
    Mainland Red Cedar Tenor
    DS Gill Tenor Pineapple spruce/mahogany
    Goldtone Concert Banjo Uke (BUC)
    Blueridge BR-40T Tenor guitar tuned DGBE
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    ********************
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  4. #4
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    I also agree with something that Pete Howlett said that many ukulele players hear with their eyes, and not there ears. I think I would add that we can also hear with our imaginations sometimes - at least I know I do. That is why I love controlled A-B tests so much.

  5. #5
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    I know this is just anecdotal evidence based on fewer ukes than many of the UU'ers have played or heard, but I think that all things being equal, a laminate uke with a solid top tends to sound better as the size of uke the increases. I know this is subjective, but it seems so to my ears. I also understand that better quality laminates with solid tops tend to have better construction methods, bracing, better quality laminates, and better quality solid tops, so that has to be a factor. I guess the operative concept here is that "quality shows." I've noticed a few top uke makers are putting either exotic solid tops on a solid mahogany body, or a good quality top and good quality exotic laminate bodies. Hmmmm, maybe you can have your cake and .......etc
    Last edited by PhilUSAFRet; 05-21-2011 at 04:43 AM.
    Soooooo many ukes, sooooooo little time

    Soprano: Pre-war Martin "O"; 81-82 Kamaka White Label; Grizzly kit;
    Concert: Pono MCD-E; Kala Reso-burst; Rally banjo; Bruce Wei Acacia teardrop; KPK acacia Cutaway; Mele Solid Mahogany 6 string; Ohana CM35-8 Taropatch; Goldtone Metal Resouke;
    Epiphone LP vintage burst; Asmus solid maple/spruce; Alida Jazz electric
    Tenor: Risa semi-hollowbody electric (red one); Mele Koa; Kala solid mahogany A/E cutaway

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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by SweetWaterBlue View Post
    In other words, I think it is mostly the top that makes the difference. How the luthier puts it all together is also important and a good one can even make pallet wood sound great.
    Thanks, I was also really impressed with the pallet build. I've been thinking of getting a Sailor Brand and I know that they are luthier made in the USA. I think a mahogany tenor Sailor would be pretty sweet, may just have to find out for myself.
    Brian
    Ohana PK25G - Pineapple Soprano with Aquila
    Ohana SK15 - Maroon Soprano with Aquila
    Kala KA-FMSLN - Flame Maple Longneck Soprano with Loprinzi
    Eleuke BC-50E - Prototype Concert with Living Water
    Mainland Classic mahogany Long Neck Concert Pineapple with Freemont Black low g
    Sailor Brand M-EU T6EG - Six string tenor with Southcoast
    Luna TT MAH - Tattoo tenor with Loprinzi
    Koloa KU-650 - Baritone with Alohi low d
    Cordoba - Guitalele
    Eddy Finn EF-BU2F - Deluxe Banjo Uke

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by savagehenry View Post
    Thanks, I was also really impressed with the pallet build. I've been thinking of getting a Sailor Brand and I know that they are luthier made in the USA. I think a mahogany tenor Sailor would be pretty sweet, may just have to find out for myself.
    I was waiting for that note to chime in. As a Sailor owner & one who's gone through a BUNCH of ukes, I have to agree w/SweetWaterBlue & others in regard to the importance of the solid top wood. The Sailor uke is extremely well made; even the "laminate" back & sides are purposefully built to add, not detract from the overall instrument's sound. The spruce top is selected for its resonance & the whole instrument is carefully made to exacting standards. The standards are the same as the other instruments coming from this luthier's shop for many, many years. I really don't think you can go wrong if you get a Sailor; it is simply the best deal for your $$ for an American-manufactured ukulele.
    Soprano: Sailor Brand SPC-S, Donaldson Vintage-S, Gstring Longneck, 1920's Martin 0, Makala Dolphin (YELLOW), Mainland Chili!, Roy Smeck
    Concert: KoAloha Sceptre, KoAloha Super Concert, Kala "Mighty Uke", Kamoa Grand Concert, Martin 2K
    Tenor: LoPrinzi Model A Mohagany
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    Aloha from Charleston, SC!

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gmoney View Post
    I was waiting for that note to chime in. As a Sailor owner & one who's gone through a BUNCH of ukes, I have to agree w/SweetWaterBlue & others in regard to the importance of the solid top wood. The Sailor uke is extremely well made; even the "laminate" back & sides are purposefully built to add, not detract from the overall instrument's sound. The spruce top is selected for its resonance & the whole instrument is carefully made to exacting standards. The standards are the same as the other instruments coming from this luthier's shop for many, many years. I really don't think you can go wrong if you get a Sailor; it is simply the best deal for your $$ for an American-manufactured ukulele.
    Thanks, you've given me a lot of guidance in my short time here at UU and have always been right on the money, no pun intended Gmoney.
    Brian
    Ohana PK25G - Pineapple Soprano with Aquila
    Ohana SK15 - Maroon Soprano with Aquila
    Kala KA-FMSLN - Flame Maple Longneck Soprano with Loprinzi
    Eleuke BC-50E - Prototype Concert with Living Water
    Mainland Classic mahogany Long Neck Concert Pineapple with Freemont Black low g
    Sailor Brand M-EU T6EG - Six string tenor with Southcoast
    Luna TT MAH - Tattoo tenor with Loprinzi
    Koloa KU-650 - Baritone with Alohi low d
    Cordoba - Guitalele
    Eddy Finn EF-BU2F - Deluxe Banjo Uke

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by SweetWaterBlue View Post
    ... There are many fine guitars what are purposely built with laminate backs and sides, and makers say they do it for better sound.... I think a lot of what luthiers build they build because that is what people will buy... Most people (myself included) just will not pay as much for a laminate back and sided uke as we will for an all solid because we know they traditionally cost less.
    Since most of the cost of a custom ukulele is labor, if I were a luthier, I would probably only make all solid ukes and charge a higher margin on them.
    Sad, but true. Small builders have a vested interest in the "solid wood advantage". As SWB says, work less - charge more, and people will hear what they want to hear.

    A lot of the confusion about laminates comes from the fact that a mass produced cheap laminate back really does sound bad. Worse than a good solid without question. Comparing those to a "luthier grade laminate" is like apples to oranges.
    Dirk Wormhoudt



    website: http://www.southcoastukes.com

    email: sales@southcoastukes.com

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by southcoastukes View Post
    A lot of the confusion about laminates comes from the fact that a mass produced cheap laminate back really does sound bad. Worse than a good solid without question. Comparing those to a "luthier grade laminate" is like apples to oranges.
    I guess I've only been at this a short time and it's already been drilled into my head that solid wood is good and laminate is bad.
    Brian
    Ohana PK25G - Pineapple Soprano with Aquila
    Ohana SK15 - Maroon Soprano with Aquila
    Kala KA-FMSLN - Flame Maple Longneck Soprano with Loprinzi
    Eleuke BC-50E - Prototype Concert with Living Water
    Mainland Classic mahogany Long Neck Concert Pineapple with Freemont Black low g
    Sailor Brand M-EU T6EG - Six string tenor with Southcoast
    Luna TT MAH - Tattoo tenor with Loprinzi
    Koloa KU-650 - Baritone with Alohi low d
    Cordoba - Guitalele
    Eddy Finn EF-BU2F - Deluxe Banjo Uke

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