Sunday, October 11, 2009

Ukulele Smackdown: Mainland vs. Collings round 1 - Background and stuff

So the Smackdown begins! Sort of. We'll start with some background stuff about the two ukuleles.

The Collings UC-1 was introduced by Collings Guitars in April of 2009. I'm not sure why Collings all of a sudden decided to build ukuleles, but one guess is that given the poor economy toward the end of 2008, perhaps Collings was looking for ways to diversify their product lineup. Whatever the case it may be, Collings has a reputation of building very high quality guitars and mandolins. Their workmanship is considered some of the very best among factory guitar builders today. I became immediately intrigued by the new Collings ukuleles because of their sterling reputation and because I thought they could be the "vintage Martin ukes" of tomorrow. I paid pretty close attention to the developments of the Collings ukes and found out that they will be offering several varieties called UC-1, UC-2, UC-3. Each model is more expensive and features more decorations and exotic woods. Collings guitars and mandolins costs a pretty penny and the ukes are no different. The only model I was going to be able or willing to get would be the UC-1, which retails for right around $1000. I found out that the only UC-1's that will have the Collings "haircut" headstock were the first production prototypes, and jumped at one that was on sale at Gryphon Strings as I much preferred the haircut headstock than the Martin style headstock that normal UC-1's will have. I got the Collings in May, 2009 and have owned it for about 5 months as of this writing.

I had been interested in a Mainland mahogany concert since January, 2009, as evident by this UAS forecast entry I had written at the time. Back then I was interested in it because it was pretty inexpensive and I thought the rope binding looked pretty good. I also was still experiencing a lot of UAS. I made it through that UAS stage without getting the Mainland (but quite a few other ones) but when I noticed that Mainland was coming out with a slotted headstock concert a couple of months ago, I was again interested. I love slotted headstock ukes and having it on a concert is even better because it's fairly rare. In fact, I believe this is the first ever factory production concert scaled ukulele with a slotted headstock. One time I had checked with MP Ukulele about a concert with slotted headstock and he said he only makes them on tenor & baritones. Yes, I do have my King concert with slotted headstock, but as far as I'm concerned, you can't have too many slotted headstock ukes. I also had this comparison in mind already. So last week I pulled the trigger on a Mainland slotted headstock concert uke.

For the purpose of this Smackdown, you should keep in mind that since I've had the Collings for quite a bit longer, it may have "opened up", as opposed to the one week old Mainland. However, since getting the Collings in May, I haven't really spent all that much time playing it. I don't have any idea about the actual playing time, but I'd guess somewhere in the 10-15 hour neighborhood. Maybe less. So perhaps that's not much of a factor, but still something to keep in mind.

Coming up next will be some comparisons of the appearance and workmanship between the two ukes. Both ukes have been played a bit the last couple of days and I need to snap a some pictures for the next section, so stay tuned!

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