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Thread: Kamaka VS Collings - not fair - different planet

  1. #1

    Default Kamaka VS Collings - not fair - different planet

    After spending time recently with two different Kamaka tenors, I finally gave up on them and bought a Collings UTK. I couldn't handle the loose attention to detail that is inherent in the Kamakas - especially not for what they cost. They remind me of Puerto Rican Cuatros and Mexican guitars. Very nice in their own way - not a bad place to be at all - but not anywhere near precise in finish details. The Collings I wound up with cost as much as two Kamakas, but I would bet there's as much labor in one Collings as there would be in five Kamakas - and I wouldn't trade multiple Kamakas for the Collings. The Koa is beautiful. The finish is perfect, the fingerboard is radiused and bound and it plays like a jazz guitar. And the sound is incredible even as a new instrument. While they're nice traditional instruments with a certain ambiance, the Kamakas really looked like they were just bangin' em' out as fast as they could.

    My apologies to the traditionalists. But the reality is .......

    Doug

  2. #2

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    And oh, by the way, I checked out a Martin T2K along the way - thumbs down - not only did it have relatively dead sound but it didn't even play well. The Kamaka is definitely superior to the Martin and comes with a really nice case VS gigbag. So while the Martin is built with more contemporary guitar construction technique than the Kamaka, that alone isn't enough to make it better - Collings has a whole other thing going on.

  3. #3
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    I am interested to see where this thread goes. I have been eyeing those,Mya-Moe,William King. Regardless of my own opinions on your statements which are still open. I always appreciate good honest opinions and discussions that follow.

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    I'm one of the biggest Kamaka fangirls out there, but will be the first to say that they come out of the factory pretty inconsistently. However, in my somewhat limited experience with Collings, I could say the same. I've heard one Collings that is amazing; when I was most recently uke shopping, none of the ones available for sale came close to it - so, I think inconsistency is a factory-uke problem in general. As for the new Martins - again, limited experience, but I've been really unimpressed.
    Kamaka ukuleles, Martin strings. Just keeping things simple.

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    Wow... that's a serious shot across the Kamaka bow, there.

    This could get ugly pretty quickly.......... batten down the hatches!
    Thou Shalt Not.

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    I have heard some Kamaka HF-3's that sounded incredible. I think 2-3 out of ten are probably that way. This may be the same for other brands like Koaloha and even custom makers. It seems to be the elephant in the room that doesn't get talked about. They just get sold and people keep their sweethearts. Some of this isn't even a worker/luthier issue as wood will never be identical. I do wonder however is some custom makers seem to have more consistency on sweet sound. Finish is great,bling is great,but for me sound is king.

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    The Collings ukuleles I've played (about a dozen of them) have all sounded very good. What was even more impressive about them, and I think this is what the OP is referring to, is the quality of their construction. They were immaculate, every one of them, couldn't find a single flaw or drop of glue or anything indicating they had been created by human hands, yet there is a warmth to their appearance.

    I am a fan of newer Kamakas as well, not as pristine as Collings, but a whole lot better than most factory instruments out there in terms of build. I really like the sound of my concert, and I just played a new spruce-top Ohta-san that was astonishingly fine sounding. As far as tone goes, I think you can expect a certain amount of inconsistency from both factory and luthier-built ukuleles due to factors outside of the control of the maker, but the sound quality should be similar from instrument to instrument and at a certain level overall. To my ears, however, there is a significant difference between the new Martins made in PA and those made in Mexico (there's a significant price difference too), although I know folks who are happy with their South-of-the-Border Martins.

    I have a Harmony soprano, on the other hand, that is not exceptionally fine in it's construction, nor is it on par with a vintage Martin in terms of tone. I love it anyway. It's really plinky and fun to play. What I mean to say is that how I feel about an ukulele often transcends the empirical stuff. Have you ever loved a mutt, just because...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Newportlocal View Post
    I have heard some Kamaka HF-3's that sounded incredible. I think 2-3 out of ten are probably that way. This may be the same for other brands like Koaloha and even custom makers. It seems to be the elephant in the room that doesn't get talked about. They just get sold and people keep their sweethearts. Some of this isn't even a worker/luthier issue as wood will never be identical. I do wonder however is some custom makers seem to have more consistency on sweet sound. Finish is great,bling is great,but for me sound is king.
    Because they know how to work each individual piece of wood and get the most out of it. There are builders and there are luthiers. I guess the difference between the two is if you listen with your ears, or listen with your eyes?
    Passionately Untalented

    Compass Rose (Custom Tenor) Kamaka HF-3 Kamoa SM-P Kala KA-STg Tenor Pineapple (Rick Turner Build Kit)

    Gary Yoshida (added for Mim)

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    Quote Originally Posted by hmgberg View Post
    I have a Harmony soprano, on the other hand, that is not exceptionally fine in it's construction, nor is it on par with a vintage Martin in terms of tone. I love it anyway. It's really plinky and fun to play. What I mean to say is that how I feel about an ukulele often transcends the empirical stuff. Have you ever loved a mutt, just because...
    such great points you make Howard.

    my 2 cents...
    ooooh, I have to agree with the OP.....a little bit (*ducking for cover*). I'll qualify by saying I have owned 4 Kamakas, a 70's whitelabel sop, a HF-1,a pineapple and a concert. All great sounding ukes. The concert was a different story. Had a muted, dull and strangled kind of tone and was not impressed at all. I've never played a tenor so can't comment. I love Kamaka ukes and everything the name represents and certainly wish I'd kept at least one of the sopranos.

    BUT...

    in my view they don't come close to Collings in terms of aesthetics, balance and tone. I've owned 3, still have one, and every one sounded and felt incredible. Much lighter build, better playability, more resonance, livelier. And yes, I think anyone would be hard pressed to argue about your comments on the finishes of each respective maker. Collings ukes are as close to perfect as I've ever seen.

    All that said, these two are both at, or near, the top of the heap so we're talking Rolls Royce's and Jags aren't we, really. I'll take a Kamaka soprano and a Collings concert and be very happy!!! And be just as happy with my ol' mutt-dog that will probably get cuddled and played just as much as the other two.

    The other thing that needs to be said I think is re strings. Don't judge an instrument by the stock strings that it comes with out of the box. In my view, neither Kamaka or Collings do their instruments any justice at all by what they string them up with when they send them out to retailers. You need to try some different string sets that are sympathetic to each individual instrument and spend some time with each one to get a fair and balanced view before leaping to judgement.

  10. #10

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    I would just like to add and clarify - the Kamakas I spent time with sounded good - and they played well too. The wood in each was beautiful - my comments relate to construction implementation, especially in finishing touches, or lack thereof. Nuts were filed but left scruffy, didn't fit on the corners, there were tool marks on the bridge, the orange peel finish was put on poorly, had runs, etc, the wood on one of the fingerboards should have been rejected. I see on their website that they no longer sell seconds - I'm suspecting they just sell em". But, the ones I played sounded good and played well, although the action was inconsistent - but that's ok. I stand by my comment regarding the amount of labor time in a Collings as compared to a Kamaka, and given the fact that the least expensive Collings is actually cheaper than a Kamaka it leave me scratching my head.

    And, I did try several string types on each Kamaka - it does make a big difference on them. I had the instruments in my house for a couple of days before I decided against them both.

    Doug
    Last edited by wendellfiddler; 09-10-2012 at 12:29 PM.

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