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  #1  
Old 12-22-2016, 06:10 AM
jljohn jljohn is offline
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Default Intonation Issues with a Ukulele

Hi Folks,

I primarily play guitar and banjo, but I just purchased a ukulele as a Christmas gift for a member of my immediate family. I chose a "step-up" from the basic models. This one was manufactured overseas, but final assembly and setup was done here in the US. When it arrived, I checked it out and quickly noticed that the intonation is off up the neck. If it were one string, I would have assumed it was the string, but all four are off. If they went sharp, I would have suspected that I was fretting too hard, but they are all flat. At the 12th fret, three of the strings run 20--25 cents flat and one is more like 25--40 cents flat. My ear identified the problem, and three tuners have verified it.

I contacted the mfg., and was given a bit of the "Well we checked it so there can't be a problem" routine. I was hoping they could send a properly intoned replacement and have me return this one once the replacement arrived (that way I could still give the gift), but it's hard to suggest such a course of action when the other party won't acknowledge an issue!

So, I'm trying to step back from the situation and figure out how bad this intonation really is. Is 20--25 cents flat to be expected from a ukulele in the $200--$250 price? I wouldn't blink at this if it were a $99 Cordoba, but it seems excessive at this price point.

I know the answer probably is, "We'll if you're unhappy with it, send it back," but I wanted to make sure I'm not expecting to much from this ukulele.
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Old 12-22-2016, 07:34 AM
Mandobart Mandobart is offline
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I would consider taking it to a local tech who may be able to fix the intonation for less hassle than dealing with an unresponsive seller. If it can be corrected with a new saddle that won't cost much. Otherwise I'd send it back.
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Old 12-22-2016, 02:23 PM
merlin666 merlin666 is offline
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My first guess would have been that you played sharp which happens so easily with soft uke strings. I try to put the hardest strings on that I can find to avoid it. But as you ruled that out already, I can only guess that it does not have a compensated saddle. Hopefully a luthier can fix this by making the saddle adjustment, and also document any expenses and adjustments for recourse from the dealer or manufacturer.

It seems you bought it online so that sometimes can complicate and delay communications and customer service. Good luck with getting this fixed before the holiday.
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Old 12-22-2016, 03:22 PM
jljohn jljohn is offline
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Thanks for the advice. The seller has agreed to have it shipped back for a refund, and I have located a Pono nearby that won't cost too much more (once the case situation is taken into account--the Pono comes with a case, this other didn't). So, hopefully, we'll be all set!
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Old 12-23-2016, 08:30 AM
Wooden Music Wooden Music is offline
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My first, very cheap, ukulele intonated very badly.

A youtube video suggested sliding a bit of wire from something like a paper clip between the strings and the fingerboard, up against the nut, to create a sort of artificial "zero fret". Thereby, shortening the scale length of the instrument by a very small amount. It worked a treat and is still in place 4 years later!

To be fair, I have now bought a couple of better ukes, but I keep the original one to loan out in teaching situations, and if it sounds bad in the hands of another player, at least I know not to blame the intonation!
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Old 12-23-2016, 02:06 PM
Earl49 Earl49 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jljohn View Post
Thanks for the advice. The seller has agreed to have it shipped back for a refund, and I have located a Pono nearby that won't cost too much more (once the case situation is taken into account--the Pono comes with a case, this other didn't). So, hopefully, we'll be all set!
This degree of intonation error seems way out of spec, possibly more than can be fixed with a new saddle. I'd rather it intonate on the flat side than sharp, but more than a couple of cents is too much. Glad that the seller is taking it back for refund.

You can't go wrong with a Pono.
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Old 01-16-2017, 10:36 AM
pops pops is offline
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I have had to intonate every uke, including vintage ones, that I have ever bought. There are some out there, my daughter has one that came very playable, won't mention names.
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  #8  
Old 01-28-2017, 02:21 PM
Mivo Mivo is offline
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Yes, sadly, most shelf ukuleles need setup work. There are a few vendors in the US and Europe that include proper setups, which in my experience is worth the extra shipping costs (vs buying from a local store) and wait time. 20-25% in the 12th fret is definitely not acceptable.
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