Again, welcome to Andy's Ukes. Over the last several years I have been researching which brands and models of Ukuleles I want to represent.
Quality and value is of the utmost importance, but that comes in a number of levels and area's.
Build quality = design and construction.
Sound quality = how good the instrument actually sounds.
Playability = if you don't enjoy playing it it won't get played.
While build quality dictates much of this, not all instruments are set up as well as they can be.
Setups are what set the string height from the nut to the bridge and they help determine how easily the instrument can be played.
"Every instrument deserves a great set up"
And I personally set up every instrument I sell.
Customer service = how well the product is supported.
Value = and this is where the "price point" comes in.
How good is the instrument within it's price point or price range.
What matters most to me is giving a customer the best possible instrument within their budget and to help them make the best possible choice for them.
(FWIW, and not bad mouthing of trashing another dealer but one of the bigger dealers charges $95.00 for their "advanced setup" which is similar and maybe a step below what I do as a "basic set up" on every instrument I sell. )
I started with Ohana as my foundation because I feel they have about the best balance of product line and price point.
Lanikai, Lanikai offers something unique, a wider neck and fret / finger board. For those who feel the standard size is a bit crowded, these might just be the trick.
96ART. I have been working with a small custom builder to offer his Tenor Ukues. 96ART works mostly with woods available in North America and his Ukes are not only beautiful but they sound incredible, I know I own two myself. They are true custom builds with the ability to pick the woods of your choice.
Kamaka, I am honored to have been accepted by the Kamaka family to represent their fine instruments.
Kamaka is a family business that goes back to 1916 and they are considered by many to be the voice of Hawaiian Ukulele's.
Many have come since then but they have kept to what have made them great and the sound they are known for all these years.
KoAloha, I am also honored to be able to represent the KoAloha family of instruments and their incredible products. They are known for their Hawaiian built instruments but they also own and run a factory in Thailand where they produce their Opio line. These are made to the same exact specs as their Hawaiian line just with a more budget friendly construction.
I also am a dealer of Amahi's brands of instruments.
Amahi has a large selection of entry to mid level instruments.
What I have found in my own quest has been how poorly most instrument are set up when you get them. Some dealers, distributors and sites are better than others and there are a couple that are really good. Even their work in many cases can be improved upon because they have to balance quality & time within a given price point.
Every Ukulele sold will be professionally set up by me included in the purchase price.
It does have an effect on sound to some extent, but the real benefit is in how much more enjoyable the instrument is to play.
Now for the excessively anal retentive like myself, having the frets mirror polished looks so damn KOOL and feels amazing.
It can take 1.5 to 2 hours to do a "Pro Level Set Up" on a Ukulele, this is available for an extra charge.
Tone can be subjective. Purity of tone isn't.
While I admire glossy finish's and how lovely they can make the wood look, depending on how they are applied they can be the enemy of resonance, and resonance is what creates that purity of tone.
The range of how these "Gloss" finishes are applied are all over the map, from overly heavy "one and done" applications to many light coats that are sanded and leveled between applications.
A note on "Gloss" finish's. There is always a trade off or balance between the thick glass like deep gloss finishes and tone.
To get that glassy look the grain of the wood needs to be sealed and filled so the gloss finish has a smooth surface to be applied.
Many instruments are bought on looks alone and these show off the beauty of the woods grains and colors well.
A relatively new finish mimics the old "hand rubbed oil finishes". These are thin "satin" or "open pore" finishes and usually applied without the use of grain fillers. They allow you to see and feel the woods natural grain.
Some companies still use tried and true "Nitro" Nitrocellulose Lacquer.
In a nutshell the thinner the finish the less influence it will have on the woods natural ability to resonate "sing".
You can often tell the finish and the woods interaction by doing a
simple "tap test"
Whatever is most important to you we can help you find the instrument that is right for you.
I am happy to share my $.02 on Ukulele design and construction.
Ukulele fun facts
The ukulele from Hawiaiian ukulele, pronounced approximately
OO-koo-LEH-leh) is a member of the lute family of instruments of Portuguese origin and popularized in Hawaii. It generally employs four nylon, fluorocarbon and sometimes gut strings.
The tone (sound) and volume of the instruments vary greatly with size and construction. Ukuleles commonly come in four sizes: smallest to largest, Soprano, Concert, Tenor, and Baritone.
Some say the name represents jumping fleas. Some because of the way talented played fingers "jump" around on the strings. Some claim because of the tuning "my dog has fleas".
One thing is certain, Ukuleles are all about fun, family and history. No conversation about Ukuleles would be complete without a nod of thanks and gratitude, Mahalo to Iz