January 8, 2012 by Tim
What is a vita-uke? I understand how a normal uke looks and why a pineapple is called a pineapple, but what is a vita? According to Frets.com “They were called “Vita” after the famous Vitaphone movie shorts in which Roy Smeck appeared.”. In short it is one of the most famous ragtime uke styles. If you know about ragtime you know about Roy Smeck and all the stuff he did. In my opinion he was one of the best uke players in the world and did great things with it musically and also did not make it seem like a toy but a fun and real instrument. If you click on the Frets.com link up above you can see what an original vita-uke looks like. It is basically the same as the Ohana CKP-70, except for some small thing like the more defined seal sound holes and the tuners and head are very different. I have had the pleasure to play a few real vita ukes over the years. They are super light and really loud. One of the hard things to see in the pictures is that the old ones had an arched back, where the Ohanas don’t. Not a big deal, it is just different. The reason you don’t see a lot of the old ones is mainly because they were super fragile and broke easily. They were made to play, not to last.
Read on to see what I thought of this crazy big butted thing.
Didn’t Freddy Mercury have a song that went “Fat bottom ukes you make the uke world go round”?
Concert : 12 Fret
Tuners: Open Geared
Nut & saddle: Bone
Top: Solid Spruce
Sides: Laminate Mahogany
Back: Laminate Mahogany
Neck: Mahogany with a Rosewood fretboard
String Attachment: Knot in a slit
Case: Not included. Reviewed with a hard case
First look: (5) Are those seals for sound holes? No they are not, but close. I think this is a beautiful uke. the light wood top with a ton of grain that you can actually see is really nice. The binding on the top and bottom really makes this a nice looking ukulele and something that has a lot of workmanship and detail. From across a room you either know what it is or you are scratching your head, either way you smile.
Fit and Finish: (4)although it is a looker, it has some small cosmetic issues. The build
over all is really good with all the structural thing being spot on when it comes to straight bridge and neck and the frets are all perfect, there are none sticking out. Where I found issue is in minor things such as a little glue mark under the bridge, fret board on the body, and some at the neck joint can be seen. Also there are sanding marks on the fretboard, most noticeably where it meets the body. To be extra picky, the Ohana label is not centered on the headstock. All non-issues overall and do not have any effect on the playability or sound. For a sub-$200 (Street price) uke it is really well built.
Sound Type: Clear but sharp. When I say sharp I do not mean the notes. the sound cuts. it is not mellow or real warm like a mahogany. Since it is a spruce top it would be expected to be sharp, This one is the sharpest sound I have heard. Another key note is that since it is a 12 fret the sound is different from strumming above the fretboard compared to where I think it is meant to be strummed, between the top of the sound holes and the point of the fretboard. Roughly the 14-16th frets.
Intonation: (4) it is pretty good, could be better. If you are sensitive to intonation then this may not bother you so much. I could see someone going in and changing the saddle to have the E be a little more forward than the rest and it might be better. Also the nut is a little high making some first fret chords a little sharp if you press to hard. Plenty of room to get it perfect if the person knows what they are doing. It is very playable up and down, it goes noticeably off at the 7th fret area.
Volume: (5) Between the spruce and the huge butt on this uke it is loud, maybe annoyingly to some. I play spruce top most of the time and this one does not disappoint. I would not say it is banjo uke loud, but when you hit it, it screams
Sustain: (5) Long since it is so loud.
String Height: (Low-Medium) Setup really well when it comes to string height except the nut could be lower.
Neck Radius Depth: (3/4″) Basic C shaped neck,
Frets: (5) No binding and it is still smooth as butter. You can see the slot that were made from the sides but they filled in and you can not feel a single fret on the sides. They are also well dressed and tapered off as they should be.
Tuning: (5) It tunes, stays in tune, does not get bound up. Nothing to complain about. Wished they would use friction tuners..
Comfort: (5) With its fat end to hold on to it is easy to hold. Also that sweet backend can be rested on your leg to hold it up. The edges are nice with the binding, so that is also a plus on long playing sessions..
Sound Hole Smell: Glue.
If you are a ragtime nut, then you should have one of these in honor of Roy Smeck. Or you want a solid spruce top ukulele, then this would also be a good choice. With it being extra loud and very different, and we know uke players like to be different, this can be a real winner. I would change the strings to something warmer like Worth browns to mellow out the sound and cut some of the sharpness.
If I ever own one I would also buy the case for it since it is made for it. If Ohana stops making the cases then you will out of luck and have a hard time finding a hard case for it. I tried putting it into my Fremont case and it did not fit. The butt was to wide.
All Rating on a scale of 1-5
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|Fit and Finish||4|
|Sound Type||Clear and Sharp|
|Neck Radius Depth||3/4″|
|Sound Hole Smell||Glue|
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