Often the only time I get to do any serious practice (due to teaching or performing or writing books all day) is late at night. I have been after a 'silent' ukulele for a while to enable me to do this. I have a silent guitar - the wonderful Aria Sinsonido (you can see my review here) which I use a lot and has been a great addition to my collection.
One of my students has a Risa Stick ukulele - which is an excellent 'silent' uke for late night practice - but it is quite expensive at £300 - so I have been looking for an alternative. I happened upon a Laka (by Vintage) VUV100 ukulele on ebay for £35 and thought it would be worth a punt. I have played Vintage Ukulele's before and must admit I have not been impressed by them, but at £35 I thought it would be worth trying it.
So what we have is a solid, electric ukulele. Here are the basics :
Length - 637 mm
Body - Mahogany
Frets - 18
Scale - 378
Nut - 34 mm
Piezo Pick up with volume and tone control.
The ukulele itself is pleasant looking - it is not un-similar to a Les Paul style and has a kind of sun burst colour. It is light and easy to hold. The neck is nice and smooth so running up and down the neck is easy. Overall its very playable. The intonation is not perfect by any means but it is not so bad that it is unplayable. The action is very low so I think on my one, altering the intonation could be quite tricky.
When the Laka VUV100 ukulele is not plugged in it is very quiet. Certainly if I am playing in one room, people in the next room would struggle to hear it. You can plug in headphones if it is too quiet for you. For me, to use it as a late night practice ukulele, I would say it is excellent. The frets are a little bit 'sharp' in places, and could do with a small bit of filing down - but again nothing too bad. Even though the action is lovely and low (I prefer a low action, especially when I am not too bothered about the tone quality) I never get any buzzing from the strings.
Where the Laka VUV100 falls down is that as soon as you plug it into an amp - the sound is unbearable. I have seen a few other reviews and people say they sound is good - but my one just distorts. Even at low volumes, the sounds distorts so much that I would not consider playing it as a gig. For me, this does not matter at all, as I only want it as a practice ukulele or a silent ukulele, so I never plug it in. If you are looking at buying one to use for gigging, make sure you check it out through an amp first - it could just be mine.
I have played a Risa Stick (one of my students has one) and as a cheap silent ukulele alternative, it is excellent. The Risa Stick sound is great when it is plugged in, whereas the Laka VUV100 sounds awful - but as I said, for a silent ukulele, that does not matter. I believe that whilst Laka Ukulele's are still available new, this model is not. They do crop up on Ebay occasionally and usually seem to go for around the £40 mark - which I think is fair. Laka also do the VUVS6 ukulele which looks very similar but is based on the famous Gibson SG style - so look out for that one too.