Thinking about what I really want

They sold these in Lihue K-mart in the souvenir section for tourists, and I think Hawaiian Sears stores carried them too. There are some favourable reports from people who were able to pick one up in store, but also issues reported from people who bought online. Unfortunately the language of their site is a bit more on the suggestive than factual side.
What I seem to remember is an online site with kind of an a-la-carte situation where you could buy just the basic/plain uke, add a few more bucks for added binding or add a few more dollars to that for abalone rosette/trim. I also seem to remember there being some issues with the owners or something and that the site closed down followed by talk of their operations being taken over by someone else and starting up selling again. I think koa was in the name but it wasn't Koa Kalane. The headstock shape looks to be the same or very close. 🤔
 
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They sold these in Lihue K-mart in the souvenir section for tourists, and I think Hawaiian Sears stores carried them too. There are some favourable reports from people who were able to pick one up in store, but also issues reported from people who bought online. Unfortunately the language of their site is a bit more on the suggestive than factual side.
Hmm hard to know then. Anyone here have one or have had the chance to play one at least once? If so, does it hold up to the claims of being handmade by a luthier and being all solid?

They say not mass produced, but if they're they're sold at Kmart and Sears, that makes me doubt that claim a lot. It is a Hawaiian brand though, so maybe it's not too hard to believe that they sold some in larger local stores.
 
BiosphereDecay,
You already know more about ukuleles than I did after 3 years of playing! What I do know is, there is no perfect ukulele. There are, however, some that come darn close to that.
Redwood also makes a fine tonewood, but I think it would cost more than $300 to get one with a top like that.
You've been given some very good advice here.
Here's my .03 (inflation) worth: Save, save, save up your nickels and go to a good luthier, design what you want. Then wait for a year maybe, while it's built. Hone your skills on the ones you now own.....
Tie bar stringing isn't that difficult, but it's not my favorite. Last time I did it, a string came loose. I hate that.
I like through the body stringing, because the strings force the bridge down on the top, instead of pulling it up.
 
BiosphereDecay,
You already know more about ukuleles than I did after 3 years of playing! What I do know is, there is no perfect ukulele. There are, however, some that come darn close to that.
Redwood also makes a fine tonewood, but I think it would cost more than $300 to get one with a top like that.
You've been given some very good advice here.
Here's my .03 (inflation) worth: Save, save, save up your nickels and go to a good luthier, design what you want. Then wait for a year maybe, while it's built. Hone your skills on the ones you now own.....
Tie bar stringing isn't that difficult, but it's not my favorite. Last time I did it, a string came loose. I hate that.
I like through the body stringing, because the strings force the bridge down on the top, instead of pulling it up.
Yeah you're not the first to say that. I kind of just feel like what I already have is junk though. I mean sure they're playable and I'm using them to learn, but I mean the primary concert I play was $76. Functional yes, good no.

Oh yeah someone recommended a cheaper luthier, and I'm not sure what thread that was in. Time to go searching for it.
 
It looks like kamaka has some lovely ukuleles, but they are very very expensive. I think the top of my budget is probably $300.
You want to look for a Kiwaya student model, it’s going to be absolute best you can get for your $300.

Example:

 
Yes, binding. I love light binding, especially if it's maple. Especially if it's figured maple.
Agreed. Light soundboard, medium to dark side and back, and light binding. The perfect recipe for me.


I think this one is especially attractive.
 
I think this one is especially attractive.
I agree! If I'm honest, the looks of a uke are important to me. Kind of like color of a car. But I've never been able to choose the color of the car I drive--I just enjoy everyone else's color as I drive mine. I approach ukes about the same way. I don't have a uke with figured maple binding, but I like the way mine sounds. It's not the best sounding uke I've ever heard, either, but I do like it and that's good enough!
 
I agree! If I'm honest, the looks of a uke are important to me. Kind of like color of a car. But I've never been able to choose the color of the car I drive--I just enjoy everyone else's color as I drive mine. I approach ukes about the same way. I don't have a uke with figured maple binding, but I like the way mine sounds. It's not the best sounding uke I've ever heard, either, but I do like it and that's good enough!
Yeah, I think this one will stay on my radar until... well, probably until I buy it haha.
 
I agree with the suggestions to save up and then watch the marketplace here and see what comes along. If you want to buy new, you could consider a Mainland. I've never owned one, but folks here who do generally seem to like them.
 
You want to look for a Kiwaya student model, it’s going to be absolute best you can get for your $300.

Example:

The Famous (Kiwaya domestic brand) ukes are less expensive and better quality. I bought the soprano Koa laminate new through Amazon $208 and the concert Koa laminate new via Amazon for about $330. (Price varies with exchange rate.) They took a few weeks to come (shipped from Japan), but were in perfect condition when they arrived.
 
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The Famous (Kiwaya domestic brand) ukes are less expensive and better quality. I bought the soprano Koa laminate new through Amazon $208 and the concert Koa laminate new via Amazon for about $330. (Price varies with exchange rate.) They took a few weeks to come (shipped from Japan), but were in perfect condition when they arrived.
I agree. As a beginner on a budget looking for the greatest bang for your buck, you truly are going to have a difficult time finding better than Kiwaya/Famous, depending on where you live.

I’m in no way an expert on this stuff but I went through 3 cordobas, a Kala, a Lanikai, a couple enyas, some cheapo Amazon no-names, and I can tell you that my Kiwaya KSU1L was the absolute best ukulele I played at that range (and I found something to like about each of the ukuleles listed) from a weight, playability, and sound perspective.

 
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Two thoughts about what you could do that doesn't involve guessing what you want:

1. Find a local ukulele club and go along. These (in the UK at least) are more social gatherings than musical events - they spend lots of their time playing, but usually the aim is the social fun of a group of people doing the same thing, rather than aiming at musical excellence. Nothing wrong with that. And it makes them very friendly, so they'll often let you try their ukes. If you're at all social, you might try a dozen different instruments over a couple of sessions. That will help you decide what you can manage to play, and what you like.

2. Maximise the instruments you already have. They're not expensive, so very probably their nuts are too high and their saddles are too high. Checking these is just a matter of simple measurement, which will tell you if improvement is possible. Friends whose ukes I've set up are amazed at the improvement, and I'm just an amateur builder. You might find you can do the work yourself (lots of threads in the building luthier's forum), in which case it's a cheap way to get much better instruments.
 
Two thoughts about what you could do that doesn't involve guessing what you want:

1. Find a local ukulele club and go along. These (in the UK at least) are more social gatherings than musical events - they spend lots of their time playing, but usually the aim is the social fun of a group of people doing the same thing, rather than aiming at musical excellence. Nothing wrong with that. And it makes them very friendly, so they'll often let you try their ukes. If you're at all social, you might try a dozen different instruments over a couple of sessions. That will help you decide what you can manage to play, and what you like.

2. Maximise the instruments you already have. They're not expensive, so very probably their nuts are too high and their saddles are too high. Checking these is just a matter of simple measurement, which will tell you if improvement is possible. Friends whose ukes I've set up are amazed at the improvement, and I'm just an amateur builder. You might find you can do the work yourself (lots of threads in the building luthier's forum), in which case it's a cheap way to get much better instruments.
There is a local one that I've been curious about. Seems like it's also primarily a social gathering. I think the average age is about double mine though, but I have had a hard time making friends since I moved from Oregon to Washington (it's been like 3 years and I've made 3 friends, none of which are particularly close to me). So... Yeah I'll definitely think about giving them a shot.

The Enya MS actually has pretty good default action at the saddle. A little on the high side at the nut. I was all ready to lower both, but ended up leaving the saddle alone.
 
I'd like to take a step back and think about what I really want in my next ukulele. I want a concert, and want a softwood top. Acacia is too hard. Mahogany is pretty good, but I already have two of those so I really would like to try a different wood. Very open to suggestions on this.
I found that I like a very deep sound box. I've been told a thinner soundboard is better. A medium lights color that's not glossy.

I don't really know how to find something that fits all these things though. Is there a better way than just looking at Internet listings? I mean I'll do it, but that's going to take a while.

One quick question: what's your top three woods for soundboard, and top three woods for side and bottom? Let's say I know I want at least slightly warmer sound. That's about all I know though.
I suggest you keep gathering data, since you have a uke already. The screamo might go best with an electric uke, so you can make all the tone changes you want with EQ and gain.

I have Acacia and Koa and Mahogany and Spruce and Cedar and they all sound like ukes to me. Also Cherry, Maple and Mango and Laminate. They all sound pretty similar to me, because I always play with the same fingers and brain.

Edit: And make sure to buy used if you care about quality with limited duckets.
 
I kind of just feel like what I already have is junk though. I mean sure they're playable and I'm using them to learn, but I mean the primary concert I play was $76. Functional yes, good no.
You have gotten solid advice and information already, but I’m going to offer a slightly different experience. After several years of owning only laminate and plastic instruments (it's so dry that I crack in the winter), I decided to splurge on two solid koa ukes this year. After the initial ohhs and ahhs, I realized that my new $500 instruments sound and feel great, but are not life changing. My sub-$100 ukes do the same job as the rest of them. Granted, I haven’t broken into the Hawaiian made/luthier built realm, yet, but I expect that when I do, they will still sound like ukuleles.

This is a long-winded way of saying, you have some useable ukes in your house; focus on playing and enjoying what you have while you save and research your next instrument. It is fun to get new toys, but don’t lose sight of the fact that you already have enough tools to make music.

That is not to say I don’t have the same feeling that maybe my ukuleles don’t measure up when I see people with 20+ Kamakas, Koalohas, Beansprouts, etc.
 
I'm worried the tie bar bridge will be too difficult for me to restring though. I have a hard enough time tying a knot for the pull throughs. Very poor finger dexterity. (Not a good trait for a uke player, but not like I have a choice.)
Just use stone beads like the ones for making jewelry. Mine are red jasper. But, more importantly, you actually want a spruce top, rosewood back and sides, baritone ukulele. You just don't know it yet. Best of luck.
 
I bought this for my mom years ago. It has a sweet tone with good volume and plays well because of HMS's excellent setup. I imagine the solid wood, satin version is better, but I have not played that one.
 
You have gotten solid advice and information already, but I’m going to offer a slightly different experience. After several years of owning only laminate and plastic instruments (it's so dry that I crack in the winter), I decided to splurge on two solid koa ukes this year. After the initial ohhs and ahhs, I realized that my new $500 instruments sound and feel great, but are not life changing. My sub-$100 ukes do the same job as the rest of them. Granted, I haven’t broken into the Hawaiian made/luthier built realm, yet, but I expect that when I do, they will still sound like ukuleles.

This is a long-winded way of saying, you have some useable ukes in your house; focus on playing and enjoying what you have while you save and research your next instrument. It is fun to get new toys, but don’t lose sight of the fact that you already have enough tools to make music.

That is not to say I don’t have the same feeling that maybe my ukuleles don’t measure up when I see people with 20+ Kamakas, Koalohas, Beansprouts, etc.
You're absolutely right. I do have all the tools I need to get started recording(including other instruments, not just ukuleles) and I spend almost all day everyday writing new music or practicing what I've already written. Though I spend a lot of that time struggling to stay on task because of ADHD.

It seems like I won't have to settle for recording on my cheap ukes though. Several members of The forum have offered to give me ukuleles for free, and there's a very nice Pono concert in the mail courtesy of @efiscella. As well as an Islander tenor from @mlolya.

I think both of these will be instruments that could easily carry me past the early stages of my musical career.

@Bad_Astronaut (oh wait, that's who I'm responding to lol) Also is giving me a Flight soprano, but it's more for taking into town with me, and not something I would record on.

None of these fit my (probably overly picky) criteria perfectly by any means, but they're very nice nonetheless, and happy doesn't begin to describe how the generosity of the UU members has me feeling.

Thanks to all of you. Not just the people giving me free ukuleles, but everyone that has answered my questions or given me advice. I feel like my ukulele growth is being expedited a lot.
 
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