2010s Hadean UKB-22 Ukulele Bass

My friend Tom sold this all-ply Chinese-made Kala U-Bass ripoff to me for the grand price of $10. Hey, that's 1/14 what it sold for new! It lacked tuners and strings strings and the electronics were not working as-found. It looked like a new instrument that someone had stripped when it stopped functioning for them.

I bought some new Gotoh pegs, fit D'Addario Nyltech U-bass strings, plugged in some loose wiring and popped some new batteries in it, set it up a bit, and hey presto! ...a working piece of kit.

I have to be honest that I personally don't like U-bass-type instruments and I've never gotten along with them. I know many players who really do love them and use them all the time, though, for their upright-ish, rubber-band-ish, tubby, thumpy tone. For me it's the strings: they're made for these floppy, rolling-around, slightly-sticky, awkward things that are easy to put out of tune with a false move on the board.

These Nylgut-style ones that are on it are the best of them (less sticky, more stable, and better-sounding) but I yearn for something more akin to the nylon-wound LaBella Supernil upright bass strings to bring an instrument like this to justice. I know there are steel-core sets that are more like flatwound electric strings, but those have even more problems on such a tiny scale length from my point of view.

For those who haven't played one of these, there's a "trick" to playing the fretted versions to get good tone out of them. Instead of fretting the string right behind the fret and as close as you can get to it, you actually sort-of have to press down as far back from the fret as you can. That gets a better break-angle over the following fret up the board and thus a clean tone. If you don't play it that way, you have to squeeze more and thus put the instrument out of tune -- plus it's no fun to strangle a uke!

The other piece of advice I have is to always double-check whatever strings of this sort that you put on it. For instance: this new set is good on the E, D, and G strings but the A string has some minor inconsistencies in diameter and divots in it that are cause for minor frustration if playing harder. I've found that a lot of the strings one can get for these are not always true to their specs, so if you've just swapped strings and something is acting weird, it's a good place to check.

Setup notes: action is a low 1/16" treble and 3/32" bass -- quick and easy. The neck is straight and the frets are as-new.

Scale length: 20 7/8"
Nut width: 1 3/4"
String spacing at nut: 1 7/16"
String spacing at bridge: 2 3/16"
Body length: 13 3/4"
Lower bout width: 10 1/2"
Waist width: 7"
Upper bout width: 7 7/8"
Side depth at endpin: 3"
Top wood: ply zebrawood
Back/sides wood: ply zebrawood
Neck wood: mahogany-like
Bracing type: x-braced
Fretboard: rosewood
Bridge: rosewood
Neck feel: medium C-shape, ~12" radius board

Condition notes: replacement backplate, new tuners, otherwise original and clean.

It has an active preamp with volume, 3-band "eq" section, and tuner onboard. The pickup is an undersaddle type that's impregnated into the saddle.

Two watch-style lithium batteries can be easily replaced via a hatch at the jack.