Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 20

Thread: Three Weeks In - Oscar Schmidt OUWK100K "Willie K" Five String Tenor Uke

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    DFW, TX, USA
    Posts
    8,342

    Default Three Weeks In - Oscar Schmidt OUWK100K "Willie K" Five String Tenor Uke

    Okay, I promised a full review once I'd had the uke in my hands for a while and if I don't get to it now I might forget and not do it at all.

    There is an 8-minute video to go along with this...I'd intended to make it shorter and mostly playing but I seem to have diarrhea of the mouth tonight...



    For those who want the bottom line I'll start with that. (Would that make it the top line?)

    This is a laminated uke...but it's a very good laminated uke, possibly the best I've played and, yes, I include even my Kiwaya longneck soprano laminated uke when saying that. That said, it's not all roses, and those who know me know that I don't pull punches on reviews. Still...I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this even to a beginner (one interested in a five string and with a couple of other caveats mentioned in the review).


    In the video I mention briefly why I wanted a five string so I won't go into that other than to say a five string seems to be everything I hoped it would.

    Setup and build: The build is as good as any I've seen on a laminated factory uke. Very tight inside, solid joins, no glue slop, etc. Setup was very good - good enough that I haven't yet bothered to take a file to the nut even though I may be the world's pickiest ukulele player when it comes to intonation. I ordered it from Amazon.com on a whim, fully expecting to need to spend some time setting it up. If this is typical of the model I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to beginners interested in 5-strings. Yes, the low-G string goes a fraction sharp at the first fret and I will fix that at the first string change but so far I've been playing the dog out of this thing for somewhere between two and three weeks without feeling like I need to fix it right away. Intonation up the neck is a bit above average - not perfect but better than I've seen on some "better" ukes.

    Playability: Playability and setup often go hand in hand but, because the setup is good as far as intonation is concerned, I'm breaking this out separately. The playability is quite good, especially for a laminated uke, but it could be better. The good news is that I've picked pretty hard on each string all the way up the neck without a hint of tendency to buzz, so when I get around to setting it up I think I'll be able to get the action at the nut very low, improving playability even past the point where first-position intonation is acceptable. So, what I'm saying is that the playability is acceptable but can probably be made superb with careful application of the nut files.

    "Voice" (Tone, Volume, and Sustain): Very good for a laminated uke. It can't hold a candle to a really good solid wood uke but would probably give some low-end solid wood ukes a run for their money. In short, I wouldn't hesitate to play it anywhere and if I hadn't had a lot of exposure to very good ukes I might think this was all I'd ever need.

    Electronics: Good. Not superb, but certainly usable and the bass control does an adequate job of cleaning up the "thudiness" from the UST without totally eviscerating the tone. The tuner is not very precise, having only three LEDs, but is better than nothing in a pinch. I will probably use a Snark or Planet Waves Micro NS tuner, though. The electronics are pretty heavy (I'm used to MiSi pickups which are quite light). The adhesive anchor the wires are tied to inside the uke had pulled free - this is not a surprise as the adhesive on these doesn't adhere well to wood. I haven't bothered to glue it back in place as the harness appears to be short enough to keep the wires from vibrating against anything or clunking around.

    Finish: This is probably the weakest point of the uke and it's not that there are horrible defects. There are some tool marks on the binding in the lower waist and on the back of the neck heel, but they are easily overlooked and don't bother me on a production instrument. The bigger issue for me is that whatever they sprayed on this thing is just very odd. This may be the only instrument I've owned that looks better in a video than it does in person.

    Most of my ukes are matte finished and I love a good matte finish...and I'm not really that visual a person, anyway. This is honestly the first instrument that I've ever looked at and liked but really hated the finish - so much so that I may well take steel wool to it! In person the wood is dyed very dark, much darker than it appears in the video, and the finish is not so much matte as it is light-absorbing. Even the abalone looks dull in person.

    As I mention in the video, I'm really not a visually driven person and I've got some pretty rough looking instruments and I don't even think about the finish on them...this is probably the only finish I've ever taken an active dislike to. I think that if I was a visual person it might well put me off the uke. Fortunately, I'm not a visual person.

    Value: This is going to be a hard thing to rate. The main problem is that this uke is a laminated uke selling at a price point higher than many decent solid-wood instruments. Add the rather peculiar finish and it seems that they would have been better served to have omitted the abalone purfling and rosette, and the gold tuners, and priced it about $60 to $80 lower. As it is it seems like it will be a hard sell to anyone who is not specifically looking for a cutaway and a pickup. Someone who is not going to use the pickup often and who doesn't play high up the fretboard would probably be better served with an Ohana 5-string with its solid top at about $60 to $80 less than the Willie K.

    Would I replace it? Yes, but only because of my peculiar requirements. If I did not own a motorcycle and intend to make long trips on it I would probably not replace the Willie K. As long as I have a motorcycle then the Willie-K will have a place because it is an easily replaceable, rugged, decent-playing, 5-string tenor with a cutaway and pickup.

    John
    Last edited by OldePhart; 03-29-2014 at 04:09 PM.
    I'm not entirely convinced that it is possible to polish a turd. However, if one were to accomplish that feat one would still have a turd, and one all the more noticeable for being shiny.

    Check out my ukulele-themed "stuff" at http://www.cafepress.com/fivebyfiveukulele - proceeds go to a good cause...UAS treatment!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    DFW, TX, USA
    Posts
    8,342

    Default

    Last night I switched to heavy clear fluorocarbon strings and Thomastik-Infeld chrome flat wound strings on the low-G and the C. Jury still out on whether I will stay with the fluorocarbon strings. There are some things I like better about the fluorocarbon but the brashness of the stock Aquila strings kind of fit this uke, too.

    I also took steel wool to the front and back, and am now wishing I'd done the sides (of course, I can do that any time). The sides didn't look bad compared to the front and back...I'm assuming because the steam and pressure of bending them compressed the surface. However, once I got most of that ugly dull gunk off the front and back the sides now look bad in comparison.

    On the plus side, the front and back look much better after some elbow grease with fine steel wool and Renaissance Wax. The wood is still very dark but at least now it has a little glow to it. Also, the abalone stands out much better now. I'll never understand the point of putting abalone on something if you are then going to spray it with an extraordinarily dull finish...

    Oh...I also stuck the cable anchor back to the side and glued it with a bit of gel super-glue.

    I'll try to shoot another video when I get a chance but the difference may be too subtle to show on the video...especially since the uke looked better on the video than it did in person to begin with.

    John
    Last edited by OldePhart; 04-01-2014 at 07:58 AM.
    I'm not entirely convinced that it is possible to polish a turd. However, if one were to accomplish that feat one would still have a turd, and one all the more noticeable for being shiny.

    Check out my ukulele-themed "stuff" at http://www.cafepress.com/fivebyfiveukulele - proceeds go to a good cause...UAS treatment!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Location
    New York's beautiful Hudson Valley
    Posts
    212

    Default

    Wonderfully thorough review. Thank you!

    Jamie

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    Oak Park, Illinois
    Posts
    2,927

    Default

    Thanks for the review, John. I like Oscar Schmidt ukuleles very much. I own one (a laminate) that cost about a hundred bucks and plays very well, great intonation, Maybe not a beautiful but a very good sound.
    If everybody wanted peace instead of another TV, then there would be peace.
    -John Lennon-

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    DFW, TX, USA
    Posts
    8,342

    Default

    Thanks Jamie. I have to say I was impressed with this one, Steve.

    BTW, I just watched the video again and realized that there is a little distortion...that's not the uke buzzing...I forgot to lock the mic gain on the web camera and the AGC is too slow to cut the gain back when I strum even moderately hard so it clipped the audio a little.

    John
    I'm not entirely convinced that it is possible to polish a turd. However, if one were to accomplish that feat one would still have a turd, and one all the more noticeable for being shiny.

    Check out my ukulele-themed "stuff" at http://www.cafepress.com/fivebyfiveukulele - proceeds go to a good cause...UAS treatment!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Posts
    6,488

    Default

    Hi John!

    Thanks for the great review and video.

    Now I think I have to try one of these too - ha ha!

    So having a 5-string, with the 2 courses of G-g, will this be the end-all solution for the debate of high-G vs. low-g?

    or is this something different all-together?

    Maybe some uke maker will create an instrument that has both the high and low G/g, each on a retractable spindle, and you can pull out and tune up the one you want, and then when you want to change it, just detune the string, press the 'button' on the spindle and the string spools itself up, and then you can pull out and tune up the other G (or g) string...
    Guinea proverb: "A cow that has no tail should not try to chase away flies."

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    DFW, TX, USA
    Posts
    8,342

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Booli View Post
    Hi John!

    Thanks for the great review and video.

    Now I think I have to try one of these too - ha ha!

    So having a 5-string, with the 2 courses of G-g, will this be the end-all solution for the debate of high-G vs. low-g?

    or is this something different all-together?

    Maybe some uke maker will create an instrument that has both the high and low G/g, each on a retractable spindle, and you can pull out and tune up the one you want, and then when you want to change it, just detune the string, press the 'button' on the spindle and the string spools itself up, and then you can pull out and tune up the other G (or g) string...
    BWAAA-HAAA - man, you are really into overcomplicating things sometimes, eh?

    Seriously, I've only begun my five string journey and I am already getting to where I can pick the high-g, low-g, or both at will so I don't think I'll need any spindles...

    For me, I think five string is the ultimate tenor and I really will probably sell my other tenors after my Boat Paddle arrives. That doesn't mean it's for everybody though. I suspect I'm also going to be ordering a Boat Paddle 5-string baritone and converting my Pono MBD to 5-strings in the not too distant future...

    John
    I'm not entirely convinced that it is possible to polish a turd. However, if one were to accomplish that feat one would still have a turd, and one all the more noticeable for being shiny.

    Check out my ukulele-themed "stuff" at http://www.cafepress.com/fivebyfiveukulele - proceeds go to a good cause...UAS treatment!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    Oak Park, Illinois
    Posts
    2,927

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Booli View Post
    Maybe some uke maker will create an instrument that has both the high and low G/g, each on a retractable spindle, and you can pull out and tune up the one you want, and then when you want to change it, just detune the string, press the 'button' on the spindle and the string spools itself up, and then you can pull out and tune up the other G (or g) string...
    No need for a spindle!
    aNN-HarpUke1.jpg
    If everybody wanted peace instead of another TV, then there would be peace.
    -John Lennon-

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    California
    Posts
    639

    Default

    GREAT review. The Ohana CK-35G-5 is all solid mahagony. Willie K told me himself the reason why with his Signature Oscar Schmidt, they're the only company that approached him on an endorsement and he says he loves it.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Tri-Valley (East SF Bay Area) / Lahaina, HI
    Posts
    99

    Default

    Awesome & extremely thorough review, John. Came close to buying a WK some time ago myself, after seeing the prototype that was actually designed by Ken Potts & Avi Ronen (who's name the Washburn web goofs misspelled on their site - Avi's 'Lahaina Custom Guitars' shop is conveniently located just a few blocks from Ken's Magic Castle on Front Street..)

    The final product, as you inferred, apparently took a rather bizarre turn immediately prior to the production run -- which isn't altogether uncommon I suppose, I'd simply hoped for something aesthetically close. Ken is a virtual wizard when it comes to building, but the name has kicked his customs pricing up into the stratosphere - at least from my perspective. Still an incredible talent, & he recently completed a custom slot-head cut-away 5-stringer for a guy up north - link*. Willie does actually play a commoner model that came off the line, so no big-time cheating here (a few minor tweaks notwithstanding).

    I returned the Godawful 6-string I recently ordered (I really wanted/still want a 5..) And after seeing that slot-head, perhaps when my (now grown..) kid's Disney stock splits again, daddy-o may just have'ta convert those cute little character-embossed, stock certificates into a playable "investment"!
    Last edited by NoKaOi; 04-07-2014 at 03:26 AM.

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •