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.
Lots of fun on this page as I have found two companies called Sun Musical Instruments Co.! As always with Chinese web sites it is never completely clear what is going on but from the addresses which are 1600km apart it does look like they are different companies?
This is based in Changshou City, Jiangsu Province and also goes by the name of Taiyang Musical Instrument Co.? It says the company was founded in the mid 1990's and makes Guitars, Pianos and "all kinds of wooden products". The Ukuleles I have seen from them look pretty budget and are produced for the OEM market; that said their website shows a lot of branded examples including Armstrong, Art, Casme, Eduland, Firebrand, Kapok, Melody, Star and a couple of others I can't quite make out from the pictures. Whether this firm owns the brand or is just the OEM I don't know? Firebrand I know is used on a Ukulele starter box set with a book that says it's Alfred so I think they are probably just the OEM here; but then I've never found who Alfred is? I also haven't seen all of these brand names used on Ukuleles, but if they are, this is where they are made. They are one of, if not the only, Ukulele supplier for the Hong Kong distributor CBSky, (who claim to own them? but I don't think so). All of the Ukuleles I have seen that can be attributed to this factory being fairly budget are Sopranos, so maybe that is all they make? (and maybe they make a number of the other "Budget" brands out there?)
This is based in Zhangzhou City, Fujian Province and appears to make a much higher quality Ukulele than the Changshou factory. The main house brand is Nices but it is also listed as Nai Shi (though I've only seen Nices on the headstock). These are laminate and come as Concert and Tenor in 3 series 100, 200, (with a slot head) and 300 (with a slot head and fretboard inlay) The there are some "commemorative" series which has a Soprano in the range too, but I don't know what they are commemorating? All of the Nices Ukuleles have a logo button with a stylized "N" on the heel. As well as Nices they do a couple of series of cat themed Ukuleles branded Adela equating to the 100 and 200 ranges but no logo on the heel and for the 100, or as it's called for Adela, "Meow" series the range includes a Soprano as well as Concert and Tenor and paw prints as fret markers; the 200 series is called "Cats Milo" and has ordinary fret markers. These Ukuleles are licenced merchandise but I have no idea who Adela the cat is? As far as I have seen they only make acoustic Guitars and Ukuleles, and don't do OEM for others but these things are hard to tell
Based in Huizhou City, Huiyang District and it may be Tong Yu? (I never know with these Chinese names) They have been around since 2014, maybe earlier? and make nylon strung Guitars and Ukuleles under the brand name ofAmos On the website it only show Concert and Tenor Ukuleles, and Guitaleles, but I have seen Sopranos from them as well. They often have a little soundboard decoration but other than that are fairly generic looking so despite claiming to have over 200 employees, with no sign of OEM either I am inclined to think they are more likely a distributor than a maker?
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