Chinese Brands with Limited Distribution click for more
There are a lot of Ukulele factories in China, usually in Guangzhou, and whilst some of them make the famous brands that are distributed internationally, (and some don't respect copyright), they also produce other less famous brands that only get very limited distribution. These may be the factory "house" brands or may be a limited trial run and they never really went into production, (but then a trial run of 500 is more than some luthiers will ever make)? I haven't found the information to be more specific, but some of these brands are as good as the famous ones made along side them so deserve some recognition.
Some of the factories will have used more than one of the brand names on otherwise identical models of Ukulele and I am finding the more I look into it that some of these "manufacturers" are really only Ukulele distributors and by this I mean that a company that specialises in making say Guitars or Violins is asked by a customer to supply Ukuleles as well. Instead of making the Ukuleles themselves, although they probably could, they buy them from one of the other factories and sell them on as their own; making it hard to work out who exactly makes them? Anyway here is what I have found.
Based in Shenzhen, Guangdong and founded in 2010 (the earliest reference i could find though they claim founding before 2003), as Willer Guitar it changed its name in 2012, probably to avoid confusion with Willer Custom Instruments in the US. It is a manufacturer of acoustic Guitars and Soprano, Concert and Tenor Ukuleles mainly unbranded for OEM but I have seen them with Croway on the headstock, I have also seen them use Andrew, Vidar and a large R on the headstock, possibly others too. The output I have seen is usually laminate but in a number of wood finishes and all looking fairly generic for Chinese factory Ukuleles.
Based in Shanghai and founded in 2009 this was originally a producer of Violins and associated paraphernalia but it has expanded its range to include acoustic Guitars, brass bodied resonator acoustic Guitars, electric Bass Guitars and Ukuleles including Guitaleles. From what I understand from the website the branching out in other instruments came when they started making a Violin with high quality images printed directly onto the wood, they called this the "Visual Artistic Violin" and then went on to produce Guitars and the like in the same fashion calling them, including the Ukuleles "Visual Artistic Guitar" Though they have produced plain Guitars I have not seen any undecorated Ukuleles from them and though they do offer different wood options, (for the Ukuleles, the Guitaleles are all sapele and spruce) all of the ones of their own they show are what appears to be Concerts(? it doesn't actually give the size but they look like Concerts to me) Hidden away in the OEM section of the website they do show Sopranos, (they show Luna's Aurora range) Apart from OEM and Kinglos they main factory brand for fretted Chordophones is Aliyes
I have seen a lot of this brand on sale through eBay shop and Amazon but I haven't managed to get specific details on the firm behind it. I can find the name was trademarked in Europe in 2014 and the US in 2015 to a Ma Chao in Shenzhen, Guangdong. I can see that there isl all manner of musical instruments, including kits and parts with this name; there is also a jewelry retailer that appears to be part of the same enterprise. Most, if not all of the stock I have seen online has been through the Chinese retailer Lotus Music The Ukuleles themselves look of fairly standard manufacture and there are a lot of factories in that area making Ukuleles so I am guessing that it is just an online retailer / distributor (as they do sell in bulk too if you go to the wholesale websites). The range comes in Soprano, Concert, Tenor and Baritone and whilst there are plain one there are a lot with distinctive decorations and sound holes.
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