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Thread: Koaloha vs. kanilea

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2010

    Default Koaloha vs. kanilea

    Hey people of the UU forums. I live over here on the east coast and the ukulele has yet to become popular. This means that ukulele shops are meager and non-existant. I've decided on a koaloha or kanilea or kamaka. I figure that i can find some kamaka's in NY,NY like wise of koaloha. but the "dark horse" seems to be kanilea. If anyone has any of these three and would like to give some helpful advice that would be awesome.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Troschelhammer, Germany


    I have a KoAloha Concert and it is a wonderful instrument. It is very responsive, increasingly light, and very loud for its size. The wood on mine is crazy dark and striped Koa.IMG_7314.jpgIMG_7315.jpgIMG_7321.jpg

    I play it constantly and it plays like butter. I have owned several expensive guitars and KoAloha is easily their equal it not better.

    That being said, I would like a Tenor in the future and am looking at KoAloha and Mya-Moe. I think both break the traditional mold in build and the end results are fantastic.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Minneapolis, Mn


    We've got one of each. There is no wrong answer. They're all good in their own way.

    Since this nearly exact thread has popped up a few times in recent memory, I might suggest a site search as a good place to start. The info you seek is here if you dig a little.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2009


    Not sure that I would agree that the ukulele has yet to become popular on the east coast. The uke craze is in full swing here in MA. I was at the Music Emporium two weeks ago to pick up a Moore Bettah custom tenor and Joe the owner said that they are selling a ton of ukes.

    With regards to your original question, KoAloha, KoAloha, KoAloha. I have four of them and one Kanilea. I general they are louder and more resonant than Kanileas. Kanileas do have a nicer finish, if you go with the UV.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Monterey, CA


    A while ago, I owned a Kamaka soprano and a Kanile"a concert - both "standard" models. Time to add a tenor -right? So, why not go for a KoAloha to round out the stable. In Northern California, with access to some fine ukulele stores, I was able to put a KoAloha, a Kamaka and a Kanile"a tenor side by side by side. Visually, it was clearly either the Kamaka or the Kanile'a - both perfection of workmanship. All were strung with aquila - high G. Playability and tone, it was either the KoAloha or the Kanile'a. After a lot of back and forth comparison, I now own two Kanile'as. It all depends on how things look and sound to an individual on a given day, but on that day, for my eye and ear, Kanile'a won again.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Sevierville, TN


    Both are fine instruments. If you played 2 kanilea ukulele each would probably sound slightly different. It is just the nature of the materials and building instruments. To really tell what you wouldl ike you have to play the instrument. Although the East Coast does not seem to have the same selections as the West Coast there are plenty of dealers out here. check out the Ukulele stores thread for some help on finding shops.

  7. #7


    I've tried all three and am decidedly a Kanilea fan. The tone of a Kanilea uke blows me away every time. The sustain goes and goes and goes. The setup is like no other - they play like BUTTER.

    But that's just me. Everyone has to decide for themselves.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    San Pedro, CA


    I have one of each. My Kamaka is a tenor strung with low g (Fremont blacklines). My Kanile'a is a K2 tenor strung high g with Worth CT strings, and my KoAloha is a Pineapple Sunday currently strung with Worth BL strings.

    It is not a straight comparison for me because the Pineapple Sunday is not like a regular tenor (it has a brighter tone and actually I find the body shape a lot less easy to play). But I have played a KoAloha tenor in the past so I will try to give you my advice based on that ukulele.

    Each has its strengths and weaknesses.

    I think the KoAloha probably has the best tone of the three. It has great volume, and their ukuleles sound amazing. If their strengths are in design, where I would consider it lacking is perhaps in the visual arena. This is just my opinion, and mine alone, but aesthetically I'm not crazy about some of their bridge styles. I don't care for the bowtie bridge currently being used on their tenors, and that has been a huge factor in keeping my from buying one. But if you can find one with the old crown bridge styling, snap it up. It will sound the best of the bunch. And their customer service is the best, hands down. All three have great families running the companies, but I think the Okamis are just that little bit nicer and have the better warranty over the Kamakas and the Souzas.

    For aesthetics, I think the Kanile'as are the best. They use a unique UV finish that is simply stunning. They also have a bit of bling in a lot of their ukes. Major downside (at least for me) of the Kanile'a is the bridge pins. While I like the clean look of them, they make it a pain in the behind to change out your strings. And for someone like me, who is constantly trying out new sounds of strings, it is a major downside. Plus, as much as I love the Souzas, I think the KoAloha and the Kamaka's tone are better. But I think that might be my ukes. I hear that a lot of Kanile'as are touch and go...some sound amazing, others less so.

    Finally, there is the Kamaka. For name and history, they can't be beat. There is a reason why they have been making ukuleles for almost 100 years. If you want a historical collector's piece of Hawaiian tradition, I think they are the one to choose. One downside of that many of their ukes being out there though is that they have a huge waitlist for repairs. Think about it, if Kamaka has 100 years of purchases, KoAloha 15 and Kanile'a less than 10, it makes sense there are more people in line for repairs. Another major downside is the crappy strings they put on their ukes. So when you try them side by side in a store, they will fail by comparison. I think you really need to hear a Kamaka with upgraded strings in order to really get the true tonal capabilities of their instruments.

    In the end, you can't go wrong with any of them. Good luck and keep us posted on what you choose.
    Moore Bettah Kauai Dreams undersea inlay tenor "Hui Nani"
    Moore Bettah slothead offset soundhole tenor "Kula Leo"
    KoAloha KTMS-00 "Lokomaika'i"
    Taylor K24CE all koa guitar "Hali'a"
    Cordoba 55FCE guitar "Serenidad"
    Yamaha SLG200N guitar "Sasayaki"
    Emerald X7 koa Select guitar "Cuairteoir"

    Building and Owning a Bettah Ukulele: The story of Moore Bettah Ukuleles
    Listen With Your Heart: The KoAloha Ukulele Story
    Listen With Your Heart: The KoAloha Ukulele Story e-book edition

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Norwalk, CT USA


    I'm on the east coast too and I think you might be a little off on the popularity. The music stores have been slow on picking up on it but they seem to be beginning to. Do some searching around and you might find a uke club near enough for you to get to. If you do find one and you show up, I can just about guarantee a warm welcome and a chance to see and hear some of the instruments you are interested in. Flea Market Music has a great page that can help you do this. . That's where I found the people I jam with.

    I personally have a Kanile'a K1T and I love it. I prefer the sound of mine to any of the Kamaka's or KoAloha's I have heard but it really is all about personal preference, they are all good instruments.

    "Major downside (at least for me) of the Kanile'a is the bridge pins. While I like the clean look of them, they make it a pain in the behind to change out your strings."

    I use a pair of scissors to get the bridge pins out. Open them just a little and you can put one edge on either side of the pin, then gently pry the pin out with the leverage you now have. Makes a string change a piece of cake.
    Last edited by Waterguy; 05-23-2010 at 08:49 AM.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Dallas, TX


    I have a Kanilea and a Koaloha also. The Koaloha is a soprano and it's louder than the Kanilea concert, but they both have very unique tones. I love the tone on both and they're so different it's hard to say which is "better" but I would have to say my favorite is probably the Koaloha. In terms of looks and workmanship I think the Kanilea has the edge. The Koaloha is built great and has no flaws, but the Kanilea has abalone inlays on the fretboard, a great looking woodgrain, and an awesome uv gloss, while the Koaloha just has white plastic fret markers and a rather plain wood grain. They both play wonderfully and I think you really can't go wrong with either one. Oh and about the bridge pin issue, most guitar string winders (usually only $1 at music stores) have a bridge pin puller on the end and it pops them out really quickly with no problems.
    Last edited by ashleychantel; 05-23-2010 at 09:01 AM.
    Koaloha Soprano Standard Kanile'a K-1 Concert Fender Nohea Tenor

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