How much is too much for a Uke

"How much is too much" depends on the ukulele and circumstance. $1,000 for a laminate soprano on Ebay might be too much. $1,000 for a mint Moore Bettah would be a definite bargain. But, if you already have three (I do not) then do you need a fourth at any price?
Maybe i was just trying to convince myself of a somewhat selfish pre birthday purchase that might comprise my 26 year marriage to the most amazing woman I ever met on this planet. LOL She is VERY tolerant of my musical indulgences and passions, but if all of a sudden a 1000 plus dollar/pound uke shows up , who knows.
My CFO and I have an understanding; purchases over $300 (not including basic living expenses) has to be cleared by the other. Saves a lot of headaches. I also trade or sell other gear, comic books, and toys. That’s how I fund my uke purchases. Only twice have I been allowed to dip into our savings to help fund the purchase of a uke.
...Asking for my
I mean really. Unless it's for status purposes like an expensive car, yet it gets you from point A to B, why would someone spend 1000's on a uke. Asking for me. I'm not talking the about 20 to 300 hundred bean range. I get that. More like 300 up. Does an insanely expensive uke just because it is made in Hawaii or by a renown luthier sound that much better than something more affordable made elsewhere?
I am retired and have the money. I have 3 ukes- one $600, a $7500 Petros, and a $5000 Martin 5k. I just love looking at them and of course playing them. Do the really expensive ones sound better than the cheaper? Undecided w my ears, but they are a delight to play. I will say that the Martin is so much more playable than the Koaloha pikake that I am selling (the Martin was purchased to replace it.) The Koaloha was $1100 and was difficult to play- headstock too heavy and its design made it harder to get my hand in proper position to barre chords next to the nut. My point is- even an $1100 uke might not suit you as well as a lesser one. That said- I adore my expensive beauties. This is my hobby and their beauty enhances my enjoyment!
Similar to other replies, personal economics come to mind. I don't think there is a difference in sound - between a $1500 and a $5k or $10k instrument. For me, passing the $1500 gets to paying for the skill of the designer/builder of the instrument. (For me) ... anything between $800 and $1500 has to have some special features including wood choices, coatings, design applications to justify adding to my collections.

If one were to pose the question, "Given no restrictions afforded to resources (aka money), how much would you/could you spend on a ukulele?" I doubt I could justify spending more than $5,000. Even if it was via a bid in a charity auction... I'd rather give directly to the charity. I'm glad there are others who would do otherwise. Either way, it'll never be a problem for me!!!
Too much is one dollar more than I have to spend.
I completely agree with what Patty says here. I also think it would be quite interesting to know how many people who balk at the idea of spending $1000 plus on a uke are actually carrying phones that cost $1000. Phones which have obsolescence built into them and zero resale value.
I agree. I'd spend 2 grand for an ukulele before I'd spend a grand for a mobile phone. Waaaay more bang for the buck in an ukulele.
Too much is about 50%-100% more than what you think is reasonable to you. In other words ok to spend up if you really want something.

Personally I think the real sweet spot for truly nice new ukes is about $750 - $1500 or so. If you can get a lightly used one from the right person you can save some money.

My first higher dollar uke was a Pono Master Series and I think it was worth every penny. I also bought more than one KoAloha Tenor, as I liked the first one so much, and to me they are probably the best value and one of the easiest ukuleles to play and worth the price. Well built, sound excellent and are of high quality.

Before I bought my first uke that was over 1K I thought around $600 or so was good money to spend on a uke. So I'd say what are you comfortable spending ? , what's your budget and dont be afraid to pay up more to get to the next level. I was happy when I pushed the envelope up a notch.

I would have a tough time spending much more than about $1500 or so now. After that I'd say its diminishing returns.

I'd tell most people who want a really nice instrument to try and/or just go ahead and buy a KoAloha. The KTM-00 is hard to beat.
( perhaps it would be a Kamaka or a Kaniela for others - but KoAloha is my pick of the K brands )

In the end up to the individual what to spend - I guess what I am saying is don't be afraid to push your dollar limit, but no need to go crazy.

I have had a bunch of Ponos on the lower end of my pricing range that were really nice. And at my upper limit, the Master Series Pono and the KoAlohas were all worth the money and quite satisfying purchases.
This is always an interesting discussion that weaves between the subjective nature of finances, the ukulele market in general, and the question of what is gained when you increase the price point. The same question applies to guitars, mandolins, or violins, but the actual prices of those can go much, much higher than ukuleles.

For what it's worth, below is a rough tier of price points and experiences of each I've encountered. From this, the question of "How much is too much?" depends on one's wealth and desire to experience the features that come with each tier:

<$125: Toy ukuleles, mostly plastics and laminate. Almost no quality control.

$125-$400: Factory made in Asia with minimal quality control. Mixture of all laminate and solid tops.

$400-$800: Entry level all-solid models. Made in Asia with decent quality control.

$800-$1,200: Premium (yet mid-range on the grand scale) all solid made-in-Asia. Asian-made models from K-Brand companies (Opio, Oha, etc) More QC than previous tier, but not quite the same as the next tier. Introducing: Bling! These can be great value instruments.

$1,200-$2,000: Entry-level (yet premium on the grand scale) all-solid American made. K brand standard models and premium Asian-made (think aNueNue Birds). Not completely mass produced by a machine, but not 100% hand-built, either. Entry level customs from individual luthiers. Great quality control, but there are risks that some instruments are built better than others.

$2,000-$3,500: Premium K-brand models, standard custom models from individual luthiers. I think these should have better tone and intonation up the neck compared to the previous tier. Each instrument at this level and beyond should be individually inspected for the best quality control.

$3,500-$7,000: Top of the line custom-built K-brands. Premium customs from luthiers with a big reputation. World-class instruments.

$7,000+: Top tier of the top tier of the top tiers. Think Moore Bettah and the like. I don't think I've ever played one in this range.
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So dumb and yet many of the quotes in the video could be directly taken from UU posts over the years. Gerald Ross is a very good ukulele and strings player. He has made an excellent piece of satirical content with the video in the link. This is a link to Gerald's website:

On the price of ukuleles. I have to agree with the concept of spending $2k on a nice ukulele ahead of wasting $2k on a piece of electronic junk that will be obsolete in less than 5 years. A ukulele is much more culturally and creatively satisfying, and it will last for your entire life.

I listened to the first couple of minutes of the video and laughed. To me the video seemed to be a bit too near to the truth; sometimes we take things far too seriously, we focus on the smaller stuff, wring every last bit of sound quality out of Ukes and forget the importance of just having fun on a simple instrument.

A $2K Uke could indeed last someone a lifetime, but for many folk a zero - or even two - could be deleted from that price ticket and they’d be happy enough knocking out some tunes on what they had. I note John Colters comments, somewhere above, on his herd of really nice Sopranos and his old painted Mahalo, the sound quality is very different but (on his cheap Uke) the fun and enough utility is still there.

The price of some electronics is, to my judgement, just daft but it’s what the market will support and the price people pay for being able to do something - whether they need to or not. Similar could be said about cars and their prices too; I hate to think about how much money cars have cost me but I’ve needed their utility and always sought practicality over prestige. Yep, some stuff does make $2k spent on a Uke look insignificant - assuming, that is, you have the money to spend.
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I thought it was pretty funny. Not meant to represent a logical conversation, just a pastiche of the kinds of questions/comments/complaints that used to pop up on the old ukulele forum Cosmos. (Note the refrain: “Is the cosmos a theme?”)
Ha, I thought it was a spoof of this place rather than Ukulele Cosmos. I think the question in the video is “do you think the cosmos is obscene?”.
Great thread! I am enjoying it. There are so many dimensions to this question, and it is fun to see all the differences in point of view. One of the great strengths of this community is that we pursue and enjoy playing the ukulele in so many different ways, yet we are still able to support one another.

My interpretation of the question is that we are not talking about current market value or whether you could have gotten a better deal, or even if there is a product that is in every way just as good that you could have substituted. I take it as a question of given the current offerings, where I would draw the line and pay no more, and perhaps what sorts of features or qualities would interest me at higher price points. I am not a professional musician, and though I love music, this is about wants not needs. I never thought my current ukulele was holding me back in any way.

I honestly don't know where the line is for me, but my experience so far says it might be somewhere beyond $5,000. I guess it is possible that I would see a ukulele that was such an incredible work of art visually or in terms of some intricate craftsmanship that I would pay a premium, but I am not an art or artifact collector. My priority has always been sound quality and playability over all else. We have one expensive ukulele, a Kamaka tenor, that I might call a vanity purchase, though I do love playing it too. We had dreamed of owning a Kamaka ukulele since we learned about and met the Kamaka family at a film festival on Oahu ten or fifteen years ago.

Over the past year, we've bought about a dozen ukuleles, mostly new, and ranging in price from from $35 to just less than $2,000. Every time we moved up in price, whether it was $50 to $200 or $200 to $500 or when we finally decide to spend over $1,000, I hesitated and worried: "Is it going to be worth it? Will I really notice the difference?" Yet while we returned a few and gifted a few, we currently own eight. I don't have serious regrets about any of the purchases, given what I knew at the time. Even if I replay the scenario with what I know now, my only regrets would be the less expensive ukuleles we bought early on. So far no buyer's remorse that I spent too much.

Sadly for our bank account, we usually liked the more expensive ukuleles better, and as we stepped up to what we believed were better ukuleles, we were inspired to play and practice more. My wife got off the UAS racetrack as soon as we hit the K-brands (last December/January). She was and is a devoted low G tenor player.

I continued exploring different scales moving up in quality, and this led me to my first custom ukulele. I can't deny that I enjoy the hunt, but it can also be distracting. My exploring/comparing is a quest to figure out what works best for me, depending on what I am playing. As my playing improved, I was able to understand and appreciate the qualities of, and the differences between the better instruments even more. I am currently playing one ukulele 85% of the time, and I believe I have more time and energy for practice, arranging, and playing since I have been more focused on a single ukulele.
I've been able to reach an acceptable level of sound and playability on several ukuleles (well, 10 that are actively played) that changed for the better over a year or two's time. This caused me to zero in on different strings after they stabilized. Overall, I was able to noticeably improve them in both tone and playability. They do, in effect, become "new to me."

One is still in its infancy (aNueNue C-4) but as it settles I'm confident it also will become a desirable regular. Each has its own personality. The range of these were $200-350. The others are 4 Ohana, 4 Lanikai, 1 Flight (all-weather), and 1 Caramel.

My personal limit is $500. Unfortunately, that range ($300-500) is where producers (so it seems) just add "bling" to existing designs to get the price up rather than creating a better instrument. Oddly, they tend to put peg/or 4:1 tuners on higher-priced sopranos. Snob factor? Purist? I don't know. I'd rather they offered them both ways. I like gears.

<edit> I'm always searching, but have an aversion to gloss finish so that, and the desire for gears, narrows it down.
That Ohana Tenor TK-39 on Mim's sure does look nice!

Those that couldn't be improved after a year or two of ownership have been moved on or will spend their life in a vehicle (like a spare tire) for emergency use only.
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I have bought and sold perhaps 20 ukes in the 500-800 dollar range, USED price. All were solid for more or less what I paid, give or take 100 bucks one way or another. I try to buy between 60 and 70 percent of the cost of the new uke--this has served me well and allowed me to try many ukes. It is far harder to do this with a uke under 500 dollars, and most certainly with a much cheaper uke. As such, cheaper ukes can often be more expensive in terms of sunk cost.
Too much is one dollar more than I have to spend.

Well, technically you dont have to buy an ukulele.
Or you could say not a dollar more than you need to spend to get a Petros 🙂.

Some say you get what you pay for, but you pay for different things when you buy a uke. Sound, playability, looks, and the story that goes with the history of the manufacturer.

So someone who lives in a country with high production cost, and doesnt want to pay for a local build high quality uke when you can buy an eastern build high quality uke for half the price or less, can use the argument of "why pay more than I have to?". I find that quite relatable, though I also like to have western build ukes to feel that I am part om something that way.
Objections will come that the K brand ukes and luthier build ukes will always be better, also sonically. There are people in this forum who has played far more high end ukes than I, who might know more than me. But someone who is about to order online and dont allready have a K brand or whatever will expect a lot of the savings are from labour costs in production.

The important thing, as I see it, is to remember that ones limit is personal.

It might be too much for you to pay for a local build in an expensive country, but if it was objectively too expensive to do so, then ukulele playing in your country should not exist without cheaper imports. Well, I do suspect that ukulele playing would be far less common in my country, if there were no cheap imports, but playing them would still be justified.

On the other hand, it is not reasonable to expect that all "serious" ukulele players are prepared to pay for an ukulele build in the countries where the most expensive ukes are build. There are serious ukulele players all over the world, and the expensive builds are not local to everyone.
So if a player living in a rich country uses the opportunity to get a nice imported uke, that uke is still as nice as if someone from the country is was made in played it. And you wouldnt consider the ukulele non-serious in the latter case.
From my perspective, the mirage of possibly affordable higher-quality instruments is quickly fading. I've had thoughts that perhaps a $1K investment would someday be possible, but I'll not likely ever catch that rabbit.

I did spend the last 3 days studying and practicing all the "challenge*" chords I'll likely encounter. This involved changing the chord shapes for how I want them to sound. Depending on the melody line, some chords required 2 or 3 different shapes. That has been very successful. Not once did I feel held back by the instruments I was playing.


Is there a "Special K" in my future? Probably not.
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