I’m fully going to admit guys, that this was an impulse buy. I was on ebay, and it advertised at me for $26.99 + shipping, ending in twenty minutes, with no bids. And dammit, it was PRETTY. I wasn’t about to go in a bidding war over it, but I realized quickly that this pretty thing could land at my doorstep for just about $35. It was advertised as having a solid spruce top, and I decided that was a worthy gamble. If I won it with a minimum bid, then cool. If I didn’t, oh well.
I mean, just look at this thing, guys! It’s seriously pretty, and that’s from someone who doesn’t normally go for flowers. Still, I saw it and fell in love, and while I’m not typically a person for making purchases based on my feelings, I also won’t deny that any time I’ve bought a musical instrument that I honed in on that way, it was the right choice. We tend to connect with our instruments in a way that isn’t entirely logical, so I went with my instincts, deciding it was cheap enough to take that chance.
Now, Kmise is a brand that retails cheaply. What you’re looking at here, at full cost, is still only about a $50 uke, and that’s important to know because an instrument’s budget tells you a lot about what you can reasonably expect.
At a $50 price point, you’re generally expecting a full laminate body, a nut that may or may not be plastic, and string action that might not be as exacting as you’d like. But, you’re still looking at an instrument that is playable and should stay more or less in tune. (Note: I did say ‘more or less’. I have ukes ranging in price from $30 to $250 – so I do know the difference between ‘stays in tune’, ‘stays in tune well enough’, and ‘is a tuning nightmare’.)
So, when I analyze this Kmise uke, I should be comparing it to other ukes in a similar price bracket, but the thing is, I can’t, because I haven’t honestly come across anything similar to the Kmise in that price bracket. This kmise has a solid spruce top, bone saddle, rosewood fingerboard, and the string action is pretty much spot on. It’s biggest weakness seems to be in the tuners, which, honestly, are still pretty on target, so it’s probably more accurate to compare it to ukes in the approximately $100 price bracket.
What I’m telling you here guys is not that ‘omg this is the most amazing ukulele you will ever see’, but I am telling you that it is a lot of bang for your buck, and probably the nicest piece of equipment I’ve seen at this price point. It produces a nice amount of volume, the sound is clean, it stays in tune reasonably well.
I would say, for comparative purposes, it stays in tune roughly as well as my Quilted Ash Snail. It’s far, far better than the Rubin RS-400L for this, and better than both my Kala KA-15S and my Lanikai SMP-T, but not as good as my Ibanez UEW20SLME, so the Snail is probably the closest comparison I have in my current collection. And, don’t get me wrong here, I do love my Snail, but my Snail cost me about $120, if memory serves, and the Kmise landed at my door for roughly $37, so it’s a bit crazy to be comparing the two at all. Still, my ears and fingers know what they’re telling me here, and it’s that I got a steal.
Now, to justify the cost of another uke I didn’t need, I decided to try something different with the Kmise, and bought a set of Low G strings for it. I haven’t tried Low G tuning before, but I already have two concert ukes with standard tuning, so I thought doing the new one up in something a little different would be worthwhile and decided on Aquila Reds.
The Red Series gets some pretty mixed reviews, but having been fiddling with them for a few days, I’ve managed to form my own opinions. You get quite a lot of reviews on the reds that say they break too easily. I have a strong suspicion that the people who say that have never handled guitar strings. Let’s face it, guys, traditional uke strings can take one hell of a beating. Guitar strings are more fragile, and I think the aquila reds feel closer to what you would expect out of a guitar string. On the one hand, they settle more quickly than you’re regular old run of the mill aquilas. On the other, that’s because they’re thinner and more vulnerable if you over-wind them. I can’t tell you how many times I broke a guitar string while stringing the guitar when I was first learning to do it. it happened pretty often on thinner strings. I haven’t had that issue with the aquila reds, but I suspect people who have had that issue with them likely are people who fell into that same trap.
So, when you look at the aquila reds, they’re named for the wound G string, which is bright red (though, color does seem to wear off as you play). The other strings are more or less a burgundy-brown color. Doesn’t bother me, but I’m not the type of person who cares half as much about how strings look as I do about how they sound. So you’ve got three nylon-like strings and one wound string that looks rather a lot like a guitar string. The latter almost makes you want to try playing your uke with a pick, which actually does work out pretty nicely if you want to play around with a different sound. (I gave it a try with a .38mm pick. They’re still uke strings, after all. I don’t want to be too hard on them.)
Overall, I like them. Their similarity to guitar strings makes me wonder if they’ll wear out faster than more traditional uke strings, but only time will tell on that front, so we’ll see. At the moment, I dig the sound. It makes my new uke sound a bit like a hybrid between an ukulele and a very small guitar, really, which puts it in a sonic space that allows me to justify having yet ANOTHER one.
No more ukes for a while, gosh darn it! I have run out of places to store them.