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Thread: Whats so good about Kanileas or Koolau?

  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Default Whats so good about Kanileas or Koolau?

    Hi, I have been scouring the internet for a good ukulele and consistently love the sound of the Kamakas, which seem to sound multidimensional with layers I guess I would call it. The Kanilea and Koolaus sound 'meh' and bland to me, no matter what video I'm watching. Maybe the experience is different when actually holding and playing one. Any thoughts on this, from those fans of the Kanilea or Koolaus?

    I'm just curious.

  2. #2
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    It's like with everything else: People have different preferences. Some brands have distinct sounds, usually a result of the bracing they use, and I think it's fortunate that you have a clear preference as that makes purchase decisions much easier. (I feel that individual instruments even by the same maker sound different and I doubt I would be able to distinguish different brands in a blind test, except maybe for KoAloha.)
    Playing sopranos: 1920s Lyon&Healy (mahogany, D), Black Bear (koa, C), Famous FS-5G (lam. koa, D), tenor: Barron River (cypress, Bb), guitar: Alvarez AP70 (spruce).

  3. #3
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    Yep, different preferences. I love my Kamakas but I'm not a fan of Kanile'a at all, based on in-person experience. I've only ever encountered one Ko'olau in the wild, and it sounded fantastic, but that could be due to the player's ability (Paul Hemmings) - he probably could have made a $30 Mahalo sound good!

  4. #4
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    As the owner of a Kanile'a Tenor - I think they are sublime. Just has a mix of woody yet chimey tone that I really like. Sustain to die for, great projection and superb build quality.

    It's all subjective though I guess. If you don't like the tone, don't buy the instrument though. Doesn't make you wrong. But then, people who like them are not wrong either.

    As an aside, I always hate to do the ' but this professional plays one ' argument - but looking at the top professionals out there, there are performers who stick with the likes of Kamaka, and there are those (like Chee, Maisel, Aldrine etc) who stick with Kanile'a. Horses for courses.
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  5. #5
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    As far as Kamaka vs Kanilea, it's apples and oranges, especially since Kamaka makes some elegant models as well. It's the old "Ford vs Chevy" all over again. I have a Kamaka white label soprano and a pre-war Martin O. Equal but very different from one another. I can like one better for whatever reason, but I can't say one sounds better...just my take on this. I had a Kanilea concert that also sounded "sublime" to my ears. Your ears? Can't say.

  6. #6
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    Is it possible that you mean KoAloha instead of Ko'olau? KoAloha, Kanile'a and Kamaka are the Hawaiian producion lines which offer a "comparable" product to a similar price, and are often referred to as the three K's. Ko'olau, on the other hand, is operated as a small custom shop with much lower output, and it's on a completely different level, which also reflects in the price.

    I don't usually hear THAT much difference in sound samples, even if they are from the same source (which is crucial to any sound comparison), but the following was a real eye opener to me:

    https://vimeo.com/95555490

    I'm hearing so much more depth and clarity than, say, in the following sample of a Kamaka Tenor that was recorded with the same player on the very same day, and it's not just low G vs. high G:

    https://vimeo.com/95546952

    Of course, as others have mentioned, there are a lot of personal preferences involved. Ko'olau ukes (at least their CS models) sound very "modern" to me, if someone prefers a more "traditional" sound, they'd probably be better of with a Kamaka.

  7. #7
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    Wasn't there a blind sound test done on 5 ukuleles, same wood, same size, same strings? You tried to figure out what number was which and later the results were posted. Wasn't it on UU?

  8. #8
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    Different strokes... I personally think kanileas have the most consistently marvelous tone for a production Uke.

  9. #9
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    interesting. I'll have to do some more research!

  10. #10
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    thanks for the links. Cant stand that wound low G. It is like scratching on a blackboard to me!

    I will take your advice and stick with the Kamaka, as I like the traditional sound. But I bet I will be woo'd by the wood of the others too!

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