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Thread: Best Solid-Wood Intermediate-Level Ukulele in $150-300 range?

  1. #1

    Question Best Solid-Wood Intermediate-Level Ukulele in $150-300 range?

    After a $20 luthier fret dressing, "nut and saddle" adjustment , along with re-tightening the A string, I am selling my Kala KA-CG to my friend for $90. With this, I am looking for a new ukulele , without the mistakes of my old Kala and was hoping Ukuleleunderground could point me in the right direction.

    I am currently looking at two brands in particular:

    Pono MC Concert Ukulele
    - Solid Mahogany
    - Satin Finish
    - ~$260

    aaaand...

    Mainland Uke Mahogany Concert w/ Slotted Headstock(Limited Edition)
    - Solid Mahogany
    - Gloss Finish
    - $240

    Mainland Uke Concert Mango/Red Cedar (I can't, choose lol!!) <------ PROBABLY LEANING TOWARDS THE RED CEDAR
    - Solid Mango/Red Cedar
    - Gloss Finish
    - $240

    EDIT 9/11:

    Ohana CK-35G/S
    -Solid Mahogany w/ RosewoodBinding
    -Matte or Gloss finish <------ (WHICH ONE SHOULD I GET? DOES GLOSS AFFECT SOUND SIGNIFICANTLY?)
    - $340 (highest I'll go)


    Any suggestions on what I should lean towards? (personally I'm already leaning towards the Pono, Hawaiian bias lol!!) Any other brands that I'm overlooking? I'd appreciate any/all suggestions! (But I prefer handcrafted Ukes this time!! ie. not Lanikai, Kala, Oscar Schmidts)
    Last edited by Choweet; 09-11-2011 at 10:20 AM.

  2. #2
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    Actually you are not in the "handcrafted" category yet. You would need to get a bit higher in price for that. All the ukes you have mentioned are made in China either assembly completed or set up in the US or hawaii. I don't believe the Pono is built in Hawaii.

    The Pono and Mainland mahagonys would be a toss up. They will likely be very comparable. A lot of satisfied customers for both brands.

    The Red cedar concert is hard to come by.

    The Mango concert is a nice instrument. Plays well, even tone but lower volume compared to mahagony, red cedar or Koa.

    If you want handcrafted, and can settle for a soprano size, Brad Donaldson might be worth checking out for a bit more than you are looking at spending.
    Mainland Mango Concert and Red Cedar Soprano, Kala KA-ASKS Soprano, KoAloha Concert, Boat Paddle Tenor, Moore Bettah Tenor, Boat Paddle Mseries Baritone

  3. #3

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    Ah, I see . Thanks for telling me that . These forums are so helpful !! I would've never known I'm assuming your knowledge is hands-on experience from the fact that you own both Mainland ukuleles, so I'll probably get the Red Cedar Concert when they are in stock. If I'm getting a Concert Size, I might as well get the full volume potential or I'd just get a Super Soprano which is really not what I'm looking for :|

    But man... Mainland Ukes made in China... "NOT ALL GREAT UKES ARE MADE IN HAWAII" ... I guess they're made in China too. Really, thanks for telling me that, from that quote I ASSUMED they were talking about the US.

    P.S. If worse comes to worse and I had to choose either the Pono or Mainland Mahogany Concert ukes, what brand would YOU choose? Just wondering

  4. #4
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    Pono and Mainland are both good brands, unless you're hung up on having a US-built uke. Ponos were until recently made in Indonesia, now I understand they are being made in China. They are imported by Ko'olau, one of the best-respected Hawaiian builders. Mainlands are made in China and are given final setup here in the US by Mainland owner Mike Hater, who is very active on this forum as Hoosierhiver. They are very good ukes (note that I have two!), and they have the additional benefit of having the owner of the company being an active part of our community.

    At the end of the day, I don't think you can go wrong with either brand. In terms of options at your price point, I think Mainland and Pono are two of your best choices.



  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Choweet View Post
    Ah, I see . Thanks for telling me that . These forums are so helpful !! I would've never known I'm assuming your knowledge is hands-on experience from the fact that you own both Mainland ukuleles, so I'll probably get the Red Cedar Concert when they are in stock. If I'm getting a Concert Size, I might as well get the full volume potential or I'd just get a Super Soprano which is really not what I'm looking for :|

    But man... Mainland Ukes made in China... "NOT ALL GREAT UKES ARE MADE IN HAWAII" ... I guess they're made in China too. Really, thanks for telling me that, from that quote I ASSUMED they were talking about the US.

    P.S. If worse comes to worse and I had to choose either the Pono or Mainland Mahogany Concert ukes, what brand would YOU choose? Just wondering
    Pono and Mainland Mahoganys will be very similar. Mike at Mainland is great to deal with. He stands behind his product 100% and is the guy behind the Ukulele World Congress gathering every year for the last 3 years. So I would recommend Mainland, but you would not be unhappy with a Pono either. Just not quite as personal as Mainland.

    Hawaiian made ukes are great. In concert, KoAloha is amazing, so is Kamaka, Ko'olau, Mele. If you want Hawaiian, get Koa. Yeah I know it is scarce but better a Koa uke than Koa bowls and other knick-Knacks or Koa panels in the hawaiian hotel lobbies.
    Mainland Mango Concert and Red Cedar Soprano, Kala KA-ASKS Soprano, KoAloha Concert, Boat Paddle Tenor, Moore Bettah Tenor, Boat Paddle Mseries Baritone

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by RichM View Post
    At the end of the day, I don't think you can go wrong with either brand. In terms of options at your price point, I think Mainland and Pono are two of your best choices.
    If Pono is made completely in China while Mainlands are still assembled in USA, then wouldn't Mainland be better in terms of craftsmanship? I mean, they can check the frets, string tension, and those other adjustments while the Pono would be what they get is what they send out.

    This is just so frustrating because I heard of HawaiiMusicSupply's setup job where they do all these adjustments that are originally wrong with manufactured ukes and I was hoping that handmade ukuleles (which turns out I can't afford) wouldn't have those problems like my Kala did. HawaiiMusicSupply's stock is too small, and they offer either very cheap concert ukes, or very expensive concert ukes ($500+) but nothing in between but their setup job is apparently very crucial and can make cheap ukes sound like good ukes. If only other retailers did that :|

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by olgoat52 View Post
    Pono and Mainland Mahoganys will be very similar. Mike at Mainland is great to deal with. He stands behind his product 100% and is the guy behind the Ukulele World Congress gathering every year for the last 3 years. So I would recommend Mainland, but you would not be unhappy with a Pono either. Just not quite as personal as Mainland.

    Hawaiian made ukes are great. In concert, KoAloha is amazing, so is Kamaka, Ko'olau, Mele. If you want Hawaiian, get Koa. Yeah I know it is scarce but better a Koa uke than Koa bowls and other knick-Knacks or Koa panels in the hawaiian hotel lobbies.
    Yes, my dream ukulele is either a Kamaka HF-2 , or a Ko'olau Concert C-100. I'll be asking for one if I get accepted to a UC college *crosses fingers*

  8. #8
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    No one said Mainlands are assembled in the US. Setup is not the same as assembly. Mike replaces the tuners and strings and sets up the nut and saddle as well as culls out the ukes that don't make the grade.

    Pono depends on who you buy it from as far as setup goes. Setup is pretty important as all the factories pretty much suck at setup.

    Setup takes time, time = money and most people want it for free. That is a no-win situation.

    Mainland does a great job with setups but they have a limited number of models. If one of them suits you, you will likely be very happy.

    Quote Originally Posted by Choweet View Post
    If Pono is made completely in China while Mainlands are still assembled in USA, then wouldn't Mainland be better in terms of craftsmanship? I mean, they can check the frets, string tension, and those other adjustments while the Pono would be what they get is what they send out.

    This is just so frustrating because I heard of HawaiiMusicSupply's setup job where they do all these adjustments that are originally wrong with manufactured ukes and I was hoping that handmade ukuleles (which turns out I can't afford) wouldn't have those problems like my Kala did. HawaiiMusicSupply's stock is too small, and they offer either very cheap concert ukes, or very expensive concert ukes ($500+) but nothing in between but their setup job is apparently very crucial and can make cheap ukes sound like good ukes. If only other retailers did that :|
    Mainland Mango Concert and Red Cedar Soprano, Kala KA-ASKS Soprano, KoAloha Concert, Boat Paddle Tenor, Moore Bettah Tenor, Boat Paddle Mseries Baritone

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by olgoat52 View Post
    No one said Mainlands are assembled in the US. Setup is not the same as assembly. Mike replaces the tuners and strings and sets up the nut and saddle as well as culls out the ukes that don't make the grade.

    Pono depends on who you buy it from as far as setup goes. Setup is pretty important as all the factories pretty much suck at setup.

    Setup takes time, time = money and most people want it for free. That is a no-win situation.

    Mainland does a great job with setups but they have a limited number of models. If one of them suits you, you will likely be very happy.
    Set-up and assembly are different, got it, thanks. Pardon my ignorance, I'm still a newb at this.

    If HawaiiMusicSupply stocks up on their Ponos (which they haven't because I've been spying on their stock for the longest lol!) I'd gladly snatch up their Pono MC for $320, or a Pono MCD for $391! Watching how they setup each uke they send out really instills faith in the uke that I'm buying from them . Hearing that Mainland does the same thing really is comforting to know thanks!

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by HawaiiMusicSupply
    "The Pono line of ‘ukuleles have set a new benchmark in stringed instrument manufacturing. Throughout the world Pono instruments are known for high quality at an affordable price. Pono instruments are professionally designed and handcrafted. All manufacturing is closely supervised by Ko’olau Guitar & Ukulele Company, with final adjustments and set-up at their factory on the island of Oahu, Hawaii."

    That's odd. They are wrong about this, right?

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