Huber '59 Orca / Ruokangas Unicorn - Opinions

Discussion in 'The Small Company Luthiers' started by AD, Jan 17, 2017.


  1. AD

    AD Supporting Member

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    i'm looking at both these models (and the semi hollow Orca) and would like to get opinions as I'm having a hard time deciding. I am familiar with both builders work having owned a few models (and still own a Ruokangas Steambass).

    I understand the spec differences and also, given that I own a good Les Paul, it does not need to be fully in the LP camp. I read the thread that was posted a few years ago on this same topic and hoping to get some updated/added comments.

    The Ruokangas Tele and bass I owned blew me away and a Huber Dolphin and a couple KII's were also superb guitars.

    Any thoughts/opinions would be great.
     
  2. beorn

    beorn Member

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    What kind of sound are you looking for?
     
  3. AD

    AD Supporting Member

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    Amplified and good : - )

    I have a good Les Paul, Strat and Tele style and semi hollow guitar. There will be a bit of crossover tone wise but looking for something different which I know the Ruo and Huber will have their own thing.
     
  4. kingsleyd

    kingsleyd Frikkin genyus Gold Supporting Member

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    As I mentioned via PM, I'll try to play both in close succession while @ NAMM these next few days.
     
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  5. beorn

    beorn Member

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    Well, the build quality of both is just impeccable in my experience.

    Of the two, the Huber sounds a little less to me like a traditional LP, re low-mid chunk, though with more clarity, more like a Collings City Limits or typical PRS, though with its own character.

    The Ruokangas tone is my idea of a fixed LP in the sense that the low end on the neck pickup is clearer than an LP's, but there's not less of the low mids. I find the tone a little fatter than an Orca's. It's also noticeably louder acoustically than a typical LP or the Hubers I have played.

    Since the pickups of both models are virtually always Haussels, and the Unicorn pickups are a direct variant of the '59s in the Orca, tone is an interesting comparison.

    The neck carves are another point of variation; the Huber tends to be a little thicker, but also has small shoulders, so it doesn't seem as beefy as a '58 even though the first fret measurement might make you think it is. The large majority of the Unicorns out there have a '59 style boatneck that measures right at 0.9" at the first fret and feels much like you would expect.

    The Unicorns on the market also nearly always have a paper-thin finish on the back and neck. I think it feels great, but it's not a vintage Gibson finish, if that's what you're looking for, though of course you can order a vintage finish on a custom build. Paper-thin also means the Spanish cedar's perfume is evident the minute you open the case and your hands may smell like cedar after a few minutes of play time. If you like the way cedar smells, this is a good thing. If not, you might want to go with a different finish.
     
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  6. lifeson1

    lifeson1 Supporting Member

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    My feeling is... you could buy either of these builders, and basically come away says ngbyou have found the best guitar in the world... period.
     
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  7. Tim Plains

    Tim Plains Member

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    Since you're looking for opinions, I think the Unicorn looks terrible, and the Orca looks absoluetly amazing, but I'm sure both are exceptionally made. I would love an Orca someday. No affiliation.
     
  8. cosmic_ape

    cosmic_ape Supporting Member

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    I have never played a Ruokangas, but I own an Orca '59. Still the best guitar I have ever played!
     
  9. Jazzandmore

    Jazzandmore Silver Supporting Member

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    KD, will you still be there Sunday? If so where will you be hanging? I'm gonna get up there early Sunday if the rain isn't insane as I have to drive up from San Diego...(yes I know in SoCal if one raindrop falls drivers act as if it's the apocalypse...which is a reason to stay off the highway). I plan to visit Juha, Frank Hartung and a few other folks.
     
  10. kingsleyd

    kingsleyd Frikkin genyus Gold Supporting Member

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    Nah, sorry, I'm heading back up to the Bay Area on Saturday early AM and flying home from there on Sunday.
     
  11. Jazzandmore

    Jazzandmore Silver Supporting Member

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    Bummer, since we talked so much about both the Artinger and Ruokangas when I was having those built, would have been cool to actually meet.
     
  12. cosmic_ape

    cosmic_ape Supporting Member

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    So I visited this booth earlier today:



    Needless to say, I can't help you dude! You are on your own.

    To make matters worse, both Nik and Juha had their booths in the same area...
     
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  13. beorn

    beorn Member

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    It gets still more complicated contrasting these two builders, because their guitars wander from one to the other.

    For instance, in this photo we can clearly see that a Ruokangas Duke has crept stealthily into the Huber display area:

    [​IMG]

    This continues an earlier trend in which Juha and Nik swapped guitars for a photo, while notifying nobody they had done it, just to see who would notice. Gotta love luthiers with a sense of humor.
     
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  14. Metal Tiger

    Metal Tiger Supporting Member

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    There is also a teufell and, is that bass a Ritter?
     
  15. cosmic_ape

    cosmic_ape Supporting Member

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    In this case, they are cross pollinating. Juha build a bass with pictures of Nik. Nik put a Dolphin inlay of Juha's guitar.

    The whale inlay he did on that Teuffel is sublime. I forgot to take a picture. Maybe tomorrow!
     
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  16. flcmcya

    flcmcya Silver Supporting Member

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    I wondered why they were all mixed up....but all in good company!

    I had Nick pull that ocean blue one down for a look...beautiful!

    The Rouk. Tele body second from right was gorgeous as well.
     
  17. Lemuel

    Lemuel Member

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    The Ruokangas tone is my idea of a fixed LP in the sense that the low end on the neck pickup is clearer than an LP's, but there's not less of the low mids. I find the tone a little fatter than an Orca's. It's also noticeably louder acoustically than a typical LP or the Hubers I have played.----I agree. The few I've heard are very nice.
     
  18. stealthtastic

    stealthtastic Supporting Member

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    Both are great builders, can't go wrong with either. I had a Ruokangas and have played Hubers at NAMM and neither had any flaws or anything like that.
     
  19. jdsgilmour

    jdsgilmour Suffering from chronic gearitis Gold Supporting Member

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    I currently own both a Unicorn (built by Juha last year) and an Orca (built by Nik in '05 - the original "Peter Green" Orca). They are similar but quite different. First, they are both AMAZING instruments. We're talking about degrees of amazing here folks. I could be "stuck" with either one and be happy for the rest of my life. So the distinctions? First, the Unicorn seems more Les Paul'ish to me, if that's what you're looking for. A big part of that is the 24.625" scale. The Orca is 25" (a la PRS). That said, the Orca seems to have more separation in the notes. I attribute that to the 25" scale. So depends on what you're looking for. Second, I asked Juha for a figured cedar body. He told me from the get go that it would be a little heavier than a non-figured cedar body. So my Unicorn is about 8 pounds 15 ounces (still light compared to many Les Pauls), and my Orca is about 8 pounds 7 ounces. Not much of a difference, but it seems to add to the sustain of the Unicorn. Also, while the pickups are all Haeussels, I find the Unicorn pickups to be hotter. They are louder and distort earlier on the volume knob. This may be because I have Harry's Peter Green pickups (Alnico III magnets) in my Orca and not his 59s (he hadn't created them yet in '05). Neck carves - if you're having them custom built, both Juha and Nik will work with you to create whatever neck carve you want. On my Unicorn, I have a custom carve about 0.95" at the first fret and half-way between Juha's 59 Boat and his Baseball Bat carve. On my Orca, I have a C/D carve that's about 0.94" at the first fret. Definitely more shoulder than my Unicorn and perhaps my favorite neck carve of all time. Finish wise, I prefer Juha's paper thin finish on the neck. It just feels unbelievable. Nothing wrong with Nik's, just more of a traditional finish whereas Juha's is something original and different. And yes, they're both nitro. I want to try one of Juha's Unicorn Supersonics which look to have taken his finishing to a new level. I will say that Juha's fretwork is truly unbelievable. It approaches - if not meets (they're different in that Stefan has nickel silver frets whereas Juha has stainless steel) - D'Pergo's fretwork. Truly in a realm of their own. Beautifully polished, round, perfect fret ends as smooth as a baby's bottom. Seriously, just look at the pictures on Juha's site. Bending notes and vibrato are so easy, consistent and smooth. So, at the end of the day, you simply cannnot go wrong with either. Personally, based upon the foregoing (and my half-deaf ears), I use my Unicorn for more classic rock and my Orca for more pop/country, but ether could sub for the other in a pinch. These are two of my favorite builders and have been for more than a decade. Buy both! ;-) Happy to answer any specific question or post pics. Cheers!
     
  20. Bogner

    Bogner Supporting Member

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    I own several Huber's and have not owned but have played the other. My vote is for the Nik Huber but I can't say anything negative about the other. The build quality of both were fantastic. Fit and finish, again fantastic! Either one is a great decision. I just lean towards the Huber's.
     

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