Biggest uke "gamble"?

Jim Hanks

Well-known member
Mar 13, 2013
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JoCo, NC (near Raleigh)
I'm curious to hear any tales of "gambles" y'all have done in the uke world and whether it paid off or not. This could be a "too good to be true" that turned out to be true - or not.

My biggest so far was probably the Lanikai baritone "gamblers special" that Butler Music did a few years ago. That turned out ok. Though that uke has since moved on, it was my first experience with baritone, and I now have 4 bari scale instruments.

I've certainly spent much more on sight-unseen customs, but I don't really consider those gambles due to the reputation of the builders.
I guess my only gamble, as such, was on whether a £500 uke was really going to be worth it to me, other people raved about the brand, but I just wasn't sure, but I went & bought it, after quite some time thinking about it - it is a really nice uke, but I'm still not sure that it was really worth that much, but if you want something these days, you just have to pay the price, don't you. ;)

Yes, it was my solid acacia KoAloha long neck concert uke. :)
It was my LFdM, configured in May 2013/received in February 2014, and yes, a thousand times yes, it paid off.

This wouldn’t be such a gamble now (for anyone), but it was for me almost six years ago. Luis’s instruments came highly recommended, but it was new to me at the time. :)
Biggest gamble was when one of our band members had her uke trodden on the day before a gig. I happened to be the only one able to get to a uke shop that day, so I selected her new uke. I sent a picture from the shop so I knew the look was ok, but I can tell you it was a huge relief to me when she played it and found she liked it. I wouldn't have been able to play it myself as I'm left-handed and it was a right-handed electro-acoustic.
I can’t say that I’ve taken what would be classed as big gambles but two that didn’t work-out for me come to mind, both are well thought of brands and it wouldn’t be fair to name them. The first one I bought mail order and it was so badly set-up that I should have sent it back but instead I sorted all the issues out myself and now play it, that Concert sounds the nicest of all my Ukes but it’s frets aren’t quite tall enough for my style of playing and hence I struggle to play barred chords easily on it. At some point I’ll let it go and loose about £80 ($100) in the process plus all the time I’ve put into it. The other is a very nice Soprano that I bought used and in beautiful condition, it needed setting up and after that it sounded fantastic if too bright for my tastes. It’s frets we’re also too low for me and that Uke was sold on for a loss of say £20 plus my time.

You win some and you loose some, buying unseen and unheard is a gamble but overall mail order has served me as well if not better than any local shop.

I can’t say that I’ve had any major successes because I don’t spend large sums on Ukes. However, whether new or second hand, the Makala’s, Kala’s and Lanikai’s that I’ve purchased have all been great once set-up. There’s been some success on prices for those too, check the market carefully because between suppliers a 25% gap is not at all unusual. In terms of bargains I think my Makala Concert was pretty good, I got it at a good price and once restrung and set-up well it played well. That Makala was sold to make space for something else and at some point I’ll replace it with a Kala KA-C (which is pretty much the same but with some refinements) and then let the Concert mention in the first paragraph go.
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A K-P-K longneck soprano pineapple. Absolutely horrid tone no matter what strings I used. Sounded like a banjo half-stuffed with rags. I gave it away far enough that it couldn't be given back.
I will be brutally honest......remember this is personal preference. Biggest gamble I took that didn't work out was my Blackbird Farallon. I listened to every sound sample, talked to Corey and Andrew. Ordered it with ALL the options I like, radius fretboard, side sound port, string through bridge. Liked everything about it, except the sound.

It was GREAT finger picked but strummed it bugged me, was sterile and almost brash sounding. I bought this to take camping, cottage, travel, sit around the campfire strum and sing along machine. I changed string at least 7 times and spent 8 months trying to like it. Brenda (Solorule) bought it and loves it, she plays exclusively fingerstyle and makes it sound wonderful.

Biggest $$$ gamble I took that worked out was my I'iwi redwood/walnut tenor. Sure they are highly regarded ( so was the Farallon) but I bought this on pure impulse. HMS did the video recording, I saw it minutes after it was posted. I immediately called Andrew with my credit card number before he could even list it. It has ticked all the boxes, I LOVE it.
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It was a gamble for me to buy the Martin OXK from Musician's Friend. That was a lot of money for me and I read so much about needing to get setups, which they don't do. It came basically straight from Martin as they just put their box around it. Was well set up and I instantly loved it.

Because of that, I gambled on the $94 on eBay Kala ASOV that many of us on here bought. Was whelmed when it came in. Put Martin M600 strings on it and now it sounds fantastic.
Every uke I bought on line even my lfdm is a gamble because I don’t have the luxury of trying it first.
Everyone has different preference! Just because someone said it’s good it does not mean it’s good to your ears!
It’s a learning curve. That’s how UAS starts!
Yes it’s a gamble and dern addictive !
We are all gamblers
I tried a bunch of Ukes in the two years I’ve been playing. Only a couple were duds, but some I just didn’t bond with. That was mainly a neck shape/size issue. I suppose my biggest gamble has been my aNueNue Moon Bird. By far the most expensive uke I’ve purchased based solely on the reviews & sound samples of others. Luckily the gamble paid off and I love it. :)
I don't know how well this story fits, but in 2017 I was surfing eBay as I do most every night and saw an auction for an Ovation tenor cutaway sunburst that looked just like my first new guitar I bought in 1975. It had a buy-it-now price of $400 and the bidding was at $200. I decided to put in a max bid of $295. As the three days went by, my bid was always on top, right until the last 10 seconds when a $350 came in and got it. I was so disappointed, saying to myself that I should have just bought it for the $400.

About a week later I was reading the new posts here in UU and saw a Marketplace post for a used Godin Multiuke sunburst. I clicked it and saw that the seller just brought down the price to $400 in excellent condition. I did a quick lookup of the Multiuke and with all the positive feedback, immediately contacted the seller and bought it. I'm so glad I didn't get the Ovation, the Godin is so much better. I did change the low G strings to re-entrant.

Godin Multiuke sunburst mine 843.jpg

9 tenor cutaway ukes, 5 acoustic bass ukes, 11 solid body bass ukes, 8 mini electric bass guitars (Total: 33)

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• Member The CC Strummers
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Three of my ukes (Farallon, Magic Fluke Firefly Tenor, Bentona Resonator) have been so highly regarded in various reviews that I didn't consider their purchases to be any type of gamble. But the Klos was pretty much an unknown. Their carbon fiber travel guitar is spoken of well though, so I decided to risk being an early "subscriber". And even with the setup work I had to do I am still very pleased with the result. (But that will probably change if the darn bridge ever pops off!)
.......It was GREAT finger picked but strummed it bugged me, was sterile and almost brash sounding.....

Yes, that's a gamble every time one gets an instrument sight unseen. I've noticed that too, getting a uke that sounds great fingerpicked, but not as good strummed. If you're mainly a strummer, that's a problem, and the ukes sits until you finally send it off.

I haven't done it yet, but making the first leap from mid range ukes to a $1,000.00+ K-brand would be a big gamble for me. Especially when trying to save a few bucks by buying used.
I really wanted to try the Pono large baritone uke/small tenor guitar in the steel string version and was never gonna find it locally. One came up for sale used on the mandolin cafe and I snatched it up. I’ve had Ponos before from hms and was confident on the build quality but didn’t know if Id like the tone of this model. The gamble factor made me glad I was able to get it used, as I wouldn’t take such a hit if I didn’t like it (I do). I held off selling my Pono pro bari until after it arrived, just in case.

A few years back I took a gamble on an old Harmony tenor guitar online. It was a stinker. I was able to resell it locally on CL. Nowadays, I am very unlikely to purchase without playing first.
My first proper Ukulele was a gamble. I had a very cheap soprano I had just begun on and after trying some concerts and tenors in the local shops decided I did not like tenors and I was definitely going to buy an Ohana laminate concert. Then the solid top tenor from the same brand appeared on our local internet auction site at the equivalent of us$150. On impulse I bought sight unseen online from a music dealer whose retail store has gone out of business and only does a small amount of internet trade.

When I first got it I had buyer's remorse and even posted on facebook to our local ukulele group offering a swap for a similair or cheaper concert. I love that tenor now, to the point my wife has threatened to throw it out the window on numerous occasions. Now I am looking at going up in size instead of down!
Most of my ukuleles have probably been gambles - all those I haven't been able to try in person and even some I have because I've found that I don't really know how much I like it or if it and I gel until I've given it a proper play.
None have been disappointments but several have been rehomed because the fit wasn't right...
Almost all of the ukuleles I have purchased were bought online so, in that respect, they've pretty much all been gambles. For example, of those listed in my signature line, the Cordoba 24T was the only uke I inspected before purchasing.

But, the online purchases were almost all bought second-hand and at reasonable prices as I knew I might want to sell them off after trying them.

The biggest ukulele gamble I've taken so far was committing to a buy it now a few days back on a second hand Kiwaya KS1 from an Ebay seller with no prior sales... We'll see. But even there, worst case is I'm out $150 until Ebay and/ or credit card company resolves the issue.

I've bought literally dozens of instruments online in the past 15 years. I see no reason to stop now. Some transactions make me money, most don't... but even when I lose a few dollars, I consider it tuition spent on learning about these wonderful things.
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I tried a bunch of Ukes in the two years I’ve been playing. Only a couple were duds, but some I just didn’t bond with. That was mainly a neck shape/size issue.

Neck profile is such an important consideration, in my opinion, that it's surprising to me that so few makers and sellers offer any description, and even many otherwise meticulous reviews offer nothing more than subjective comments.
My biggest instrument gamble was buying one of the first Farallon instruments that Blackbird ever made. I had a couple of (small) issues with it. But Joe and others at Blackbird were great about helping to resolve those. Now, that instrument is one of my favorites, in part because it's worry-free and sits on my desk at arm's reach.

My biggest (most nerve wracking) ukulele gamble, though, was posting my first video here on UU of myself playing and singing. Seems like no one here noticed it. That was okay, though. My son and I did that together, and we've kept at it and had lots of fun in the process.
I spent almost a month researching and looking for a "nice" uke to replace my ukulele that got broken. I finally decided what I wanted, located a reputable dealer, and ordered it. The dealer called me up the next day and said that they could not find the ukulele that I ordered in their warehouse and apologized. The next day after that they called back and offered me a ukulele that was several steps up from the one I had originally ordered and twice the price. They offered to sell it to me at the same price as my original order. I had not even considered that particular ukulele, but in the course of two or three minutes looking at it on the internet while talking to the sales person I bought it. I usually don't buy things without thinking for months about it. The uke showed up and I love it.
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