In praise of (some) Amazon ukuleles...

Gerry1000

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Let's forget for a moment premium ukuleles, and let's discuss about ukuleles in the $100 or sub range.
I am the proud owner of a beautiful aNueNue tenor ($750), and I spent some time during the past weeks looking for a concert and a soprano uke in the "cheap" category, just to see if I like also these sizes, before committing to invest some serious money on a quality instrument. I have played Luna and Mitchell concert and soprano ukuleles at different Guitar Center stores, and also some low priced Cordobas. I also ordered (and returned) a couple of Kalas (a concert and a soprano) priced under $100. And I have ordered some concert and soprano ukuleles from Amazon. At the end of this interesting search, and quite severe selection, I find myself keeping two ukuleles that, in my humble opinion, are better than the other that I tested. And, surprisingly enough, they are both from Amazon : an Aklot concert uke with solid mahogany top (paid $55) and a Donner soprano laminated mahogany uke (I paid $63 for it). These two ukes cost around half the price of comparable Lunas, Cordobas and Mitchells that I tested extensively at Guitar Center stores, and half the price of the low end Kalas that I mentioned before. And in my humble opinion, they are are better. In sound, set up, quality of build. Of course, we are talking about cheap affordable ukuleles, but my point is: not all "Amazon ukuleles" are trash. Some are quite good, surpringly good considering the price, and often better that some offered by well known names at twice the price.
 
It is true that some are amazingly good instruments for the price, or any price for that matter. I've owned three Aklots.
Yes! I love my concert Aklot. It is true that, on a side by side comparison, my aNueNue sounds better, with more sustain, but....so much better to justify a price that is 15 times higher? No
 
I'd add Kmise to the Donner and Aklot mix as best Amazon "value" brands. I think robotics and possibly now ai are contributing to precise tolerances in mass manufacturing consistencies. All of these ukes likely come from a handful of factories. It's a good time to love ukuleles. My Donner is about 4 years old. Holds its tune for a ridiculously long time. Sounds even better than new.
 
I agree with the 3 brands mentioned. I use them for student ukes when needed. BUT I have found the level of quality to be a crap shoot. Not a problem for me as I can clean up sharp fret ends, sand the saddle down or file the nut. Anything worse than that I'll send back. But a new player can end up with a bad playing uke, and having it setup could cost more than the uke!
 
Though I've never purchased a uke through Amazon, it's great that you and others are having good experiences with some of the ukes purchased there. It's another good alternative for folks wanting to get into the uke or add to their collection. I realize that not everyone wants to use Amazon, but our community is made up of different levels of players with varying financial means and abilities to get to a music store. I do know that some of the NUD's here of Amazon-purchased ukes have been impressive.
 
I agree with the 3 brands mentioned. I use them for student ukes when needed. BUT I have found the level of quality to be a crap shoot. Not a problem for me as I can clean up sharp fret ends, sand the saddle down or file the nut. Anything worse than that I'll send back. But a new player can end up with a bad playing uke, and having it setup could cost more than the uke!
This is true. The advantage with Amazon is that you can send it back until you get the "good" one. And yes I can perform myself basic set up. But my comparison was with the low end of other brands (Kala, Lanikai, Luna etc...) that are sold at Guitar Center or at Musiciansfriend.com, and cost twice as much of some Amazon ukuleles, and have also very often the same set up problems.
 
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My starter was a solid mahogany top Enya concert. From Amazon. For $50. Still keep it strung up with Worth Browns and play it 2-3 times each week. And I can’t lose more than $50 on it. Not many brands you can buy brand new, keep for a year, and only lose $50 on, and doubt I’d lose $50 unless I simply lost it, or left it somewhere.
 
I started with an Aklot Tenor that I bought at Amazon for $60 at the time. I believe they're selling it for $75 now. But I found it to be a great value, and well constructed. It is my only re-entrant tuned uke, and I still play it from time to time.
 
If you know what you're getting into, cheap ukes can rock...esp if you can do some set up work and understand that strings need to settle (how many reviews have you seen that go like this: "uke is defective or poor quality, won't stay in tune"?).

Or you can just get lucky and somehow choose one of those brands (Kmise KMU series here) from the git-go. As with most things, it's hard to make a sweeping generalization free of outliers.

You might also want to check out the cheap ukes thread.
 
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Though I've never purchased a uke through Amazon, it's great that you and others are having good experiences with some of the ukes purchased there. It's another good alternative for folks wanting to get into the uke or add to their collection. I realize that not everyone wants to use Amazon, but our community is made up of different levels of players with varying financial means and abilities to get to a music store. I do know that some of the NUD's here of Amazon-purchased ukes have been impressive.
It seems a common theme is for someone to pick up a cheap uke from amazon to see if they, or their offspring, enjoy playing it and would consider sticking with it. The better quality the Amazon products are to begin with, the more likely a person is to continue their musical journey and eventually find a destination toward the higher end instruments after the bug has bitten them. By that logic, Amazon instruments are a wonderful thing for uke folk. It may partially explain the explosion in the popularity of our favored noise making utensil. More people considering the ukulele to be a bonafide musical instrument and not just a "kids toy" is a good thing?
 
I really love my on-sale-for-$83 Mitchell concert with electronics, with a solid red cedar top! It sounds like Hawaii to me. 😊 Very different from my Flight Spirit (which of course cost a whole lot more), but I still love its sound! Technically, the Flight is from Amazon. Lol
 
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Let's forget for a moment premium ukuleles, and let's discuss about ukuleles in the $100 or sub range.
I am the proud owner of a beautiful aNueNue tenor ($750), and I spent some time during the past weeks looking for a concert and a soprano uke in the "cheap" category, just to see if I like also these sizes, before committing to invest some serious money on a quality instrument. I have played Luna and Mitchell concert and soprano ukuleles at different Guitar Center stores, and also some low priced Cordobas. I also ordered (and returned) a couple of Kalas (a concert and a soprano) priced under $100. And I have ordered some concert and soprano ukuleles from Amazon. At the end of this interesting search, and quite severe selection, I find myself keeping two ukuleles that, in my humble opinion, are better than the other that I tested. And, surprisingly enough, they are both from Amazon : an Aklot concert uke with solid mahogany top (paid $55) and a Donner soprano laminated mahogany uke (I paid $63 for it). These two ukes cost around half the price of comparable Lunas, Cordobas and Mitchells that I tested extensively at Guitar Center stores, and half the price of the low end Kalas that I mentioned before. And in my humble opinion, they are are better. In sound, set up, quality of build. Of course, we are talking about cheap affordable ukuleles, but my point is: not all "Amazon ukuleles" are trash. Some are quite good, surpringly good considering the price, and often better that some offered by well known names at twice the price.

I've bought seventeen ukes from Amazon, including Flight, Enya, Snail, and kits. I've turned the kits into Holiday Ukes - with graphics.
 
I have had several Enya ukuleles from Amazon go through my hands. The Novas have all have nice low action and are super playable right out of the box. The cheap laminate mahogany ones have all had very high action at the nut, and nuts firmly attached enough I can’t get them off. I had to file some deeeeeeeep nut slots to get my 25D concert nice to play. The soprano version of that uke is so head heavy it basically tries to dive off your lap or out of your arms at every possible opportunity. That’s for me a common experience with cheap sopranos. Cheap tenors tend to have better balance. So I recommend the Novas to people, because they’re way less of a setup crapshoot and they’re cute and fun to play. As a way to increase the number of folks in my friend group who can play, they’ve done a great job!
 
I bought an Enya carbon fiber soprano (35 bucks) and Lava tenor when they were discounted. (150). Both seem to be good for travel and camping/beach. The Luna is interesting. I haven’t made up my mind if I like it or not. The Enya I’m not using much. I do feel the were good value at the sale prices.
 
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