Electric only Uke experiences?

engravertom

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Hi,

I’m tempted from time to time to get an electric only solid body Uke, and even a nylon string guitar, for that matter.

My reasoning is for quiet practice and noise free recording.

My times to practice at full volume and record in a quiet environment are pretty limited. I think my technique suffers from practicing quietly with acoustic instruments, and I often put off recording because of the lack of a quiet place to record that I can count on.

I might have the time to practice or record late at night or early in the morning, but then others are sleeping.

I know the sound from a piezo might not be perfect, but it might mean recording more often.

And, on the occasions when I play out it might be easier to get plugged into the sound system.

I would favor the Yamaha nylon silent guitar, but not sure about the Uke option.

What does a higher price get you in a solid body Uke over a more budget version? Sound quality? Playability? Other things?

I would appreciate hearing about your experiences in practicing and recording with such instruments. I do have an interface already.

Or, am I just guilty of CUAJS?

( convoluted ukulele acquisition justification syndrome )

🙂
 
Hello Tom
i have a mango tenor from Pono. Solid body piezo installed. It’s a passive system so the pre amp selection will be part of the equation. I like it in live situations as it’s a breeze to play and the options on effects is virtually limitless
as per recording, it’s much the same. You get most of your tone from your pre amp. I’ve used it and then compared with an acoustic uke via a good condense. It’s really down to preference. But onstage, there’s no comparison to me. Electric is the way to go.
 
Seinfeld? Brilliant!
yeah the Pono is nylon strings. Of which they come with flueros. There is a less expensive Kala now on the market. It looks nice, but I only need one solid electric.
 
Pono, new Kala offering, used Godin, Magic Fluke--Fluke Solid Body.

My Godin Multiuke is one of my most easily playable ukes. If I could have the Godin neck on all my uke's I'd be a happy ukulele player.

A friend has the Fluke Solid Body but I have not seen it in person---he has used it quite a bit--likes it well enough--uses a pre amp box before the amp. He kind of has had the opposite issue than yours. When he plays it unplugged it a little too quiet--he would like a plug in uke that also sounds good unplugged.

The Godin being a chambered bodied uke does have a bit of sound to it when played unplugged but certainly not as much as any of my other more traditional open body ukes. I wouldn't really be able to play in front of a group unplugged and be adequately heard.

Good luck finding an instrument that suits your needs.
 
I have a Makaio solid body nylon (fluoros) tenor (same price as the Kala). It is definitely quieter than a normal acoustic but it is not "silent" by any stretch of the imagination.

I got it specifically for evening practice after the family has gone to bed and my wife told me for the longest time she couldn't hear it when I played downstairs, but one morning let it slip "you sounded really good playing last night" so it's more of a "won't necessarily WAKE anyone level of volume. I keep meaning to get a decibel meter and check the level.
 
I'm giving some thought to this one: Kala KA-SB-ACA-T, Active EQ With Volume & Tone Controls. Waiting to see if there's a Memorial Day sale on the Kala site.
 
Ko’olau channeled electric CE-1 player chiming in.

Assuming your acoustic uke can be used electroacoustically, here is an easy alternative solution: plug your current uke in, turn up the gain and level, and don a pair of headphones. You can then allow the preamp to do the heavy lifting of providing dynamic range while you play very softly and ever-so-slightly vary the pressure upon the strings.

Hope that helps!
 
Excellent choice on the Yamaha silent guitar.
I'd been a very happy owner, though I sold it along due to favoring passive electrics.

Regarding ukulele, the price will determine the quality of the electronics and how well crafted the overall instrument is.

The worst cheapest ones may have electronics that don't work properly (unbalanced, certain strings sound boomy, poor quality pickup and preamp generate unpleasant sound, etc) and usually happen with those generic no-name brands.

The minimum standard for me is Bugsgear Eleuke, which is probably the cheapest of the usable electric ukuleles. The undersaddle pickup is "OK" and the active electronics are decent, with Bluetooth functionality and Li-Ion battery that is recharged via USB like a phone. I've purchased a few of their currently available models and the only setup I've needed to do is sand the saddle down a bit because I prefer a lower 2mm ish action (they come as about 2.5mm from factory).

My personal favourite electric ukulele is the Risa Uke Solid, as someone who prefers passive electrics.
Why Passive? Because you can keep your instrument plugged into an amp and leave it plugged in til eternity without thinking about batteries or recharging. On an active, every second you're plugged in is battery charge trickling away. At least on a psychological level that's something I'd rather do without when I want to play casually whenever or leave it plugged in on stage for gigs. If I need an active preamp, I've got one on my pedal board anyway. A potential downside is that they come with a proprietary saddle made of plastic, so you are limited in your options of doing own setups or using wound strings. However, the action comes perfect from the factory so it's a non-issue for me personally.

I haven't had the opportunity of owning one yet, but the Pono solid body electrics with passive piezo seem really good.
They're just a tad too expensive for me for what they are. If they were around the same price range as the Risa Uke Solid, I'd be keen.

Godin Multi-Uke is also pretty good and I had owned one of those too before.
But not my favourite as it is, well an active system, and it is kinda loud acoustically which doesn't exactly tick the "quiet practice" box.

Mahalo made a really cheap "Surfboard" shaped solid body electric.
Don't get that one; they burn out spontaneously by themselves due to an inherent design problem.
 
I have the Pono in Electric Blue. (Looks greener to me) I l haven't recorded with it. Is fairly quiet when not plugged in. It's a great change of pace from my acoustic instruments and I usually play it about twice a month. Just love playing with amps, pedals and effects.

 
Pono, new Kala offering, used Godin, Magic Fluke--Fluke Solid Body.

My Godin Multiuke is one of my most easily playable ukes. If I could have the Godin neck on all my uke's I'd be a happy ukulele player.

A friend has the Fluke Solid Body but I have not seen it in person---he has used it quite a bit--likes it well enough--uses a pre amp box before the amp. He kind of has had the opposite issue than yours. When he plays it unplugged it a little too quiet--he would like a plug in uke that also sounds good unplugged.

The Godin being a chambered bodied uke does have a bit of sound to it when played unplugged but certainly not as much as any of my other more traditional open body ukes. I wouldn't really be able to play in front of a group unplugged and be adequately heard.

Good luck finding an instrument that suits your needs.
I was fortunate to pick up a Godin Multiuke last year. It's a great instrument and as mjh42 points out, it's a dream to play. Mine is currently fitted with Romero Baby Baritone strings (tuned DGBE) and sounds awesome. The unplugged sound is good, not great, but still loud enough that you can hear yourself clearly while practicing.
 
Even with a solid body, you will be heard nearby if you are strumming hard. It won't be loud for others, but it will still be perceptible.
 
Why Passive? Because you can keep your instrument plugged into an amp and leave it plugged in til eternity without thinking about batteries or recharging. On an active, every second you're plugged in is battery charge trickling away. At least on a psychological level that's something I'd rather do without when I want to play casually whenever or leave it plugged in on stage for gigs.

The advantage of the Mi-Si system is it's active but battery-free. Plugging into an AC outlet for one minute provides enough charge to last for twenty hours of playing time, so unless you're playing a really long gig, there's no reason to worry about losing output. I've used a variety of ukulele and guitar pickup systems over the years, but the Mi-Si is by far my favourite. As I said earlier, I have no experience with the Fluke SB or any other solid body electric, but if I were inn the market, I'd certainly want to have a look at any instrument that came equipped with a Mi-Si.
 
The advantage of the Mi-Si system is it's active but battery-free. Plugging into an AC outlet for one minute provides enough charge to last for twenty hours of playing time, so unless you're playing a really long gig, there's no reason to worry about losing output. I've used a variety of ukulele and guitar pickup systems over the years, but the Mi-Si is by far my favourite. As I said earlier, I have no experience with the Fluke SB or any other solid body electric, but if I were inn the market, I'd certainly want to have a look at any instrument that came equipped with a Mi-Si.
I too have used (and tinkered with) many ukulele and guitar pickup systems over the years too but have simply come to a different conclusion & preference.

I've owned Mi-Si a few times too.
Things I don't like about the Mi-Si:

-Recharging it isn't all that convenient - have to use the proprietary wall-charger they provide.
Yes I'm aware of the unconventional way of hooking up a 9v battery to an instrument cable; but even that's also quite inconvenient from user perspective compared to not having to recharge at all.
-It's still active, meaning that the charge it holds is finite and will deplete before needing to be recharged.
-No way to gauge how much charge you have left. This would cause me to recharge more frequently than necessary because I would hate for the signal to cut-out mid-performance, especially if I'm recording or performing. I find this mentally draining vs not having to think about it at all.
-Let's say your charge does go out mid-performance. At least on a regular battery-powered pickup you can switch the battery out in seconds. With Mi-Si you'll have to pause your performance to plug in and charge. Also many battery powered actives have a low battery warning feature telling you in advance to change the battery before you lose signal.

All of the above issues aren't applicable to a good passive pickup system.
Passive pickups usually sound fine directly plugged into an instrument amplifier that has onboard tone and volume controls.
If you need to plug it into a PA, you can use an external DI/Preamp that's plugged into mains power so you'll never worry about losing signal mid-performance (unless you have a power outage, in which case the only viable performance is all-acoustic). Worst case scenario, you can use a DI/Preamp running on a battery; and then you're no worse off than using an active system except external preamps are usually much better than the tiny preamps cramped into small ukulele bodies.

If you consider busking, or playing while traveling or camping; the convenience of not having to worry about your instrument's power can be greater than you think. One less battery source/recharging you need to worry about means less to go wrong.

Also, active systems are inherently more complex than passive - though uncommon they are more susceptible to some kind of malfunction (electric circuits burning out, solder joints going bad, etc).
 
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If the Mi-Si held a charge for a shorter time I might feel differently, but with twenty hours per charge I'm not the least concerned about losing signal mid-performance. As for the possibility of malfunction, there's arguably greater potential for a screw-up at just about any other point of the audio chain -- amp, DI/preamp, PA, or even cable -- than with the single capacitor Mi-Si system. I've been using Mi-Si's for several years now without incident and anecdotally have heard nothing but good from other owners. The bottom line, however, is the sound. For clarity, balance and harmonic range the Mi-Si is far and away the best system I've tried. I have Mi-Si's in four instruments now, including two that originally had passive systems. My Mya-Moe tenor came with a factory-installed K&K Aloha Twin, a system I've had some success with in the past. Even with a quality DI it sounded muffled and bass-heavy. I had a Mi-Si installed and now it literally sounds like a different instrument -- bright and airy with a note separation and beautifully defined bass that were lacking with the K&K. For me, the potential shortcomings of an active system are nothing compared to the tonal quality and convenience that the Mi-Si delivers.
 
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