Saturday, April 11, 2009

Updated Lineup Rankings

It's been a while since I've ranked my ukulele lineup, so I guess now is as good a time as any. Since the last ranking, I've added a Kamaka tenor, a DaSilva Santo reproduction, a LoPrinzi mahogany tenor, and a pair on tenors with Telecaster style headstocks (Fender and Aaron Taylor) that just arrived within the last week. Departed since then are a Kala long neck soprano, a Kelii tenor, a National mahogany concert, and I've tried to sell the Martin style 1 (got bit by a non-paying ebay bidder). The two newest ones will be left off the rankings since I haven't had sufficient time with them.

Before I rank the ukes, I'll briefly describe what it means (I don't think I've ever actually explained what this ranking means before). Basically this is a ranking based on how I personally feel about these ukes. This would take into consideration the sound, appearance, feel, and anything else that could influence how I feel about a particular uke. Just because one uke ranks higher than another on my list doesn't necessarily mean that it sounds better (although sound has more to do with how well I like a uke than anything else). I try to discuss some of the reasoning for the particular ranking by each uke so you have some idea. Please keep in mind that just because I rank a Kamaka higher than a Kanile'a doesn't necessarily mean that I think you should get a Kamaka over a Kanile'a. So take this ranking for what it is: a chance for me to have some fun rating my ukes and for you to learn a little bit about each uke and what I think of them relative to each other.

1. William King LS-tenor: This uke has been in this spot since I received it last May. I don't think it will be moving down unless I'm blown away with the King LS-concert I have on order with William. This ukulele not only is loud, clear, and easy to play, it has a stunning koa body and cool headstock. I'm really happy with this one.

2. Kepasa Gypsy Rose: This uke makes a return to the #2 spot. It helps that I custom specified this uke, but it just sounds so good. It's the only concert scaled uke I have that sounds like a tenor. While it does have a wider body than a typical concert sized ukulele, it actually isn't bigger than my Honu concert. I always seem to play it a little more than I intended to when I take it out of its case because of the sound. Awesome uke.

3. Kamaka tenor: I picked this up in Maui early February so it has only been with me for a couple of months. I actually think the Kanile'a super tenor sounds superior, but there's something about the mother of pearl "kk" inlay on the headstock that grabs me. To be fair, it sounds great in it's own right and it is good looking and well made. I got to choose this particular one out of about 10 Kamaka tenors and I think I made a pretty good choice. It is also only one of two ukes I own (King is the other) that has a one-piece neck. Not too important but makes is feel more "luxurious" to me.

4. Kanile'a super tenor: I still think the super tenor shape is ugly, but this thing just sounds so good. Great punch and depth to its sound. Definitely fuller sounding than the Kamaka and in a blind test I would choose this one every time. So why is it rated behind the Kamaka this time? I think it mainly has to do with the Kamaka mystique. Maybe that will wear off in time and the Kanile'a will move up again.

5. Koa Works tenor: I've been neglecting this uke for a while now. I'm not real sure why. Probably because the other ukes a newer. It's a great sounding and playing uke, but there are perhaps a couple of small issues that dampens my enthusiasm a bit. One, it's easier to pull the A-string off the fretboard on this uke than most other ukes I own. And two, the action is so low that I think it has a slight buzz when I strum hard. Neither is a huge issue but it does seem to steer me to play ther other ones a little more. Recently I changed strings on this uke and have been appreciating it more. Really fine instrument with lots of bling.

6. DaSilva Santo reproduction: This is a very cool looking ukulele. The workmanship is outstanding, as good as any uke I have. I did feel that the action was a bit high when I got it so I had to lower it at the saddle. It's also more challenging to play for me because the scale is shorter than the typical soprano at 13". It offers very big sound for such a small body. If I'm more into soprano sized ukuleles, this one would rank higher.

7. KoAloha Pineapple Sunday: I still love the styling of this one. It is very neck heavy though. While that doesn't bother me much, it's definitely very noticeable. I'm not a fan of pineapple ukes (they look more like a boat paddle to me), but this one actually looks like a pineapple and looks great to me.

8. Kiwaya KTS-7: I've been trying to learn "Gossip" and when I get comfortable enough to play it, I'm going to make a video using this uke. I still love the style 3 styling and this uke sounds great. In a blind test, I think I'd actually prefer this one over the DaSilva Santo reproduction. It has a very nice and clear sound that reminds me more of a concert sized ukulele.

9. Bluegrass cigar box tenor: With so many new ukes, I don't play this one much these days. It's still got the sound and mojo though.

10: Loprinzi mahogany tenor: This uke has great workmanship and good sound. To me the sound isn't quite in the class of the Kanile'a or Kamaka tenors, but on its own the sound is very pleasing. It looks good and plays well. Excellent uke for the money.

I just realized that I've got more sopranos (2) in the top 10 tan concerts (1). I guess lately I've been given a little more attention to those sopranos. Of the two new ukes that just arrived, I think the Aaron Taylor would probably be number 2 on this list while the Fender is pretty far off the top 10. We'll see how it goes the next time I rank these things. The William King cocnert that's due in next week will probably be number 1 or 2 when I have it in hand, so there should be some shake-up on the next rankings.

The unranked ukes are: Honu concert, Kanile'a super soprano, Bushman cedartone baritone, Martin style 1, Uklectic, & Fender Nohea.

Until next time...

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