Far Eastern hand crafted Instruments with a Questionable Reputation

Most Instruments made today come from the Far East and some of them are some of the best instruments made today so don't let the far eastern origin of an instrument alone put you off. However remember the maxim "if it sounds to good to be true then it probably is".

There are an number of brands that appear to offer "high quality" Hand Made Instruments, (not usually Banjo's but you never know), at very cheap prices. All of the ones I have seen have been made or based somewhere in East Asia (but this doesn't have to be the case). The instruments can look beautiful, appear to be made of good quality woods, have spectacular inlay and come with a 30 day refund option (but you pay all postage)

A lot of the feedback on these sort of instrument by people that have brought them is the quality of workmanship is very suspect, (poorly fitted machine head's, Bridges lifting, that sort of thing) and that the wood splits and crack's after a short period of time, due either to poor humidity control while building or insufficient original drying time, sometimes within the 30 day period! The feedback continues that getting the maker to honour the 30 day return offer is very difficult and what you get back probably won't cover the cost of the return shipping.

Sometimes in the various Internet forums for instruments, (and not just for Ukuleles these makers often make related instrument like Guitars, Mandolins or Violins), you can also find glowing endorsements for the makers and some people might have got a great deal, however it is the case that a lot of these glowing endorsements are made by people who have only just joined the forum and so might not be as genuine a regular player as they would like you to believe? (maybe I should do more posts in Ukulele Underground to up my own credibility?)

Another thing I have seen with some of these brands and it makes me suspicious of them for quality, is when they have a history of making one type of instrument, like Violins for example, they then appear to stop making this instrument due to reputation problems in that sector, and reappear a year or so later making a different instrument, like Ukuleles?

I'm not saying do or don't buy them, (or do or don't buy any brand of Ukulele really), but if you are going to pay a lot of money, (and the shipping alone is often a fair amount), do think first, research second, and commit you cash last

Names used that come up quite often.
  • Anything made in Cebu Province in the Philippines is suspect, (they did appear to have a period at the time of the Vietnam war when quality improved?)
  • Alegre
  • Alulu
  • Antonio Tsai
  • Ayers
  • Babalaudo
  • Bruce Wie (art) (Guitars)
  • Ferangeli Guitars a Cebu firm I've not heard anything specifically bad about them but the photos of the factory area give no confidence that the wood will have been dried properly and prepared to be taken out of the tropics?
  • G(itar)Media - Not heard anything specifically bad about them but any firm with this level of blatant disregard of copyright, (even willing to put "made in the USA" on their products), has to be untrustworthy plus being liable for confiscation and destruction
  • Hann Works (Hai Noi)
  • Hawaii Loa
  • Hawaiian Koa
  • Jefferson toys
  • Kaula - via Australia
  • Loopy - a sub brand of Alulu
  • Lumanog - Made in the Philippines and I have seen them including Gibson logos!
  • Nicholas C
  • New Susing's Guitars
  • Pelem
  • Sam Taisamlu
  • Song Chung Musical Instrument. Co - A Chinese firm started in the 1990s making Violins (possibly doing them an injustice here? I have heard nothing bad about them but I can't find any reviews at all? All the Ukuleles I have seen look very "artisan" and most of what I do know fits the profile of a firm with a questionable reputation)

If any of the people listed above feels I am being unfair here please do contact me with evidence that what you produce is a proper, long lasting instrument that can be taken to cooler, less humid climates and I will be happy to make your own page for you

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