Thursday, February 7, 2008

Updated Rankings

Time for another update to the rankings of my 'ukuleles. Since the last ranking, I've added the Koa Works tenor to the lineup. I've also tried out several string sets on a few of the ukes and also made some slight fixes to a couple of them. I'm going to rank all of the ukes this time and make some more detailed comments on stuff I've done to the ukes where applicable:

1. Koa Works tenor: If you read a few of the past blog entries, you probably know that this uke is currently in Hawaii waiting for a couple of repairs by the builder, Rich Godfrey. Between purchasing it in Oahu last month and shipping it back for repairs, I had it for about 3 weeks. During that time, I thoroughly enjoyed every second of playing this uke. Not only does it sound great, but the feel while playing it is on an entirely different level compared to anything else I have. I'm really looking forward to getting it back as it's a truly magical experience for me when I get to play this uke.

2. KoAloha Pineapple Sunday: While this and my other ukes don't really come close to the Koa Works tenor, it is a tight race for the number 2 spot, and I think the Pineapple Sunday narrowly holds off the Honu concert, mostly because it has just a little bit more "mojo" from the unique styling. I briefly tried some Worth CT's on this uke. While it still sounded very good, I felt that something was missing with the CT's. It seemed to have lost some of the "Pineapple Sunday-ness" with the switch. Also, the middle two strings don't seem to sustain as long. I switched back to the Worth BL's after a couple of days and I really like the sound with BL's much better. The uke always has sounded great, and I'm still enjoying it very much. It's got a richer sound than the Honu, but not quite as crystal clear. Still a great uke in my book.

3. Honu Deluxe concert: I had tried some colored strings on this uke over the past month, first some KoAloha green strings, and then some Guadalupe rainbow monofilament strings. Unfortunately, both sets really didn't sound all that great compared to the Worth CD's I had on it, so I switched back to those Worth CD's. With those strings, this uke sounds so crystal clear to me it almost feels like the strings are made of glass while I'm playing it. It's not particularly rich sounding, but the clarity of the tone is pretty much second to none. Well, except for maybe the Koa Works, but that uke is pretty much on another level by itself.

4. Bluegrass Ukes Cigar box: This uke has been kind of like an ultra-Fluke for me. It can stand on its own and I'm not as careful with it because it seems to be pretty rugged, but its sound rivals the Pineapple Sunday. I tried a set of Guadalupe rainbow wound strings on this one and actually kind of like it. I normally don't like wound strings, but these look and sound cool enough that I've decided to keep them on for a while. I recently got a file from to file down the fret ends a little bit. It had stuck out past the fretboard slightly since I got it and while it wasn't too bothersome, I did wish to get it taken care of. I filed the ends down and it feels a little bit better now, but I think I still need to shape the fret ends a little bit since these are pretty big frets and some of the edges are a little sharp. Still a great playing with great volume and tone. It dropped from its #2 spot from the last ranking, but it's still a quality instrument in my book.

5. G-String Honu soprano: I have not really been playing my soprano ukes lately, so I've only played this one a handful of times in recent months. It still has great sound though and I still hold it in very high regard. But it doesn't get higher than #5 simply because I don't play it enough.

6. Martin Style 1 soprano: Another uke I don't play very often because I've been gravitating toward concerts and tenors. However, this is a top quality uke in my opinion. It is very loud. In fact, it seems to be as loud as or maybe even louder than some of the tenor scale ukes I have. It has a vintage sounding bark and is very resonant. The uke is also extremely light, which no doubt contributes to the sound quality. It's a keeper.

7. Kanile'a custom super soprano: While I've been playing concerts and tenors more frequently, the concert I usually play is the Honu instead of this uke. I think the main reason is that the Honu is so clear sounding that this Kanile'a sounds a little muddy in comparison. This uke is also deeper sounding, so that may contribute to that illusion. On its own, it is a very good sounding uke. I've recently restrung it with Worth CD's but it didn't sound all that different than the Worth BM's I had strung it with before. I would love this uke a lot more if the sound clarity is the same or close to the Honu's. This uke has gorgeous wood and I really like the super-soprano size and the Kanile'a soprano shape. But I find myself reaching for the other ukes listed above more often, so #7 is where it shall be ranked this time.

8. Pono cedar top tenor: This has turned into sort of an experimentation uke for me. I've tried many different string sets on it. The latest set I tried is a set of "custom" Savarez low-G strings as suggested by William King. These strings sound very good, although the last time I strung this uke with a low-G set, it was the original Ko'olau Gold strings that the uke came with and I don't remember how it compares to that set. For the time being, the Pono will be my low-G uke. I think it's a decent uke, but of course it's not in the class of the Koa Works or Pineapple Sunday. If I ever become more interested in low-G tuning, I may have to invest in a better low-G uke. Of course, I could just restrung one of the other tenors with low-G, but what fun is that??? :P

9. BugsGear concert: I got this uke for its silent-uke function and active pickup. However it was plagued by frets that stick out past the fretboard that causes it to be uncomfortable to hold. I finally decided to do something about it and bought a fret file from I filed down the fret ends and while I probably need to do more filing, it's already much improved in that regard. I almost never play it without plugging it in though, so I guess the silent-uke function is not all that important. It sounds fine plugged in, and I appreciate the tone and volume adjustment knobs on the uke. I would have to say that other than it being an electric uke, there isn't much else there to compel me to play it.

10. Maccaferri Islander soprano: This is pretty much strictly a novelty uke for me. I strum it once in a blue moon, but I keep it around for its historic and novelty value. It sounds plasticky and the intonation isn't that good. Still, it's pretty cool to have.

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