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UkerDanno
02-03-2015, 12:27 PM
So, I've been contemplating whether I would like to trade my Martin C1K and my Ohana CK-80 for one concert size K-brand, just because I'd like to have a Hawaiian made uke. Besides, the 2 concerts I have are close to the same sounding, although the Martin has a fuller warmer sound.

So, I made a trip across town, almost across town, well, 40 miles worth anyway. To the only store that I know of, in the whole Phoenix metro area that carries Kanilea, Kamaka, Koaloha and Martin to compare with my C1K.

The results in a nut shell...as far as sound, I could find no reason that any one of them had much better sound than my C1K!

The Kanilea was a K-2 CD and had the best finish of anything else there and was my personal favorite, the sound was the warmest, maybe due to the stock Aquila strings.

The 2 Kamakas, were for me pretty uninspiring. The sound was just as good as any of the others but nothing better than my C1K. The downside was the friction tuners, although I'm sure once the strings are settled in it wouldn't be a big problem. The finish on the Kamakas and the Koalohas was similar, a thin glossy finish that showed dimples in the grain of the wood and I really am not a fan of.

The 2 Koalohas were a bit louder and brighter than the rest and again, had friction tuners. Both were KCM-00's but one was priced about $200 more than the other.

The Martins...there were 2 2K's and a 2M, the sound of the K's was almost identical to my C1K, the M was maybe a little brighter. There was also a vintage 40's-50's Martin style 0, which...my 30's style 0 sounds way, way better, might be the strings, not sure what was on it, I use Martins.

So, even though I still would like a Kanilea, sound wise it's hard to justify the cost. But, I might end up with one some day anyway.

My test and review only included the concert sizes.

75686
top row is all Martins, 2nd from left is a C1K, 4th & 5th, the 2K's and 7th, the 2M.
bottom row, left to right, an Eastman which shouldn't even be in the room with the rest of these ukes, Kanilea, 2 Kamakas, 2 Koalohas.
very bottom is a 40's-50's vintage Martin style 0.
75687

janeray1940
02-03-2015, 12:35 PM
Keep in mind that when you play a Kamaka off the shelf, it comes with the stock strings that a lot of us here (myself included) really dislike. New Kamakas now ship with Gotoh UPT tuners, not friction tuners, so those that you tried were probably a couple years old (and so were the strings, which probably didn't help!).

That being said - those Martin C1Ks are pretty nice. I had an opportunity to buy one for a good price recently but talked myself out of it because it didn't sound all that different than my Kamaka concert - it was much louder, but otherwise sounded like a good koa uke :) If you like your C1K, no reason to spring for anything else!

deschutestrout
02-03-2015, 12:35 PM
I just picked up a beautiful C1K from an awesome UU member. Nice to hear it stood the test against more expensive K brands. :D. I'm loving it!

hawaii 50
02-03-2015, 02:35 PM
Keep in mind that when you play a Kamaka off the shelf, it comes with the stock strings that a lot of us here (myself included) really dislike. New Kamakas now ship with Gotoh UPT tuners, not friction tuners, so those that you tried were probably a couple years old (and so were the strings, which probably didn't help!).

That being said - those Martin C1Ks are pretty nice. I had an opportunity to buy one for a good price recently but talked myself out of it because it didn't sound all that different than my Kamaka concert - it was much louder, but otherwise sounded like a good koa uke :) If you like your C1K, no reason to spring for anything else!

Yes the Kamaka concerts have been coming out with Gotoh UPT tuners for at least 2 years now....
but if you like the tone of the Martin you are set....

wayfarer75
02-03-2015, 04:15 PM
I'd just stick with the C1K, if I were you!

katysax
02-03-2015, 04:20 PM
I own a Martin C1K, a Kamaka Concert, a Kanilea Concert, previously owned a Koaloha Concert. The C1K is a very nice uke for its price range. And if it satisfies you then that's great. However, the C1K is very roughly finished, missing a lot of refinements that some of us enjoy. The C1K only has a 12 fret join to the neck which I find frustrating. If you are like most of us, your preferences will shift over time, and shift again and again.

mm stan
02-03-2015, 09:08 PM
Aloha Danno,
I am not sure what store you went to, but I always feel that most uke shops I go to (aside hms)
The ukes are not set up or tuned and most times the strings are not broken in. It is an also an unfair
Accessment, as some stock strings are poor quality. ..
Also the loudness in the store makes it difficult to have a fair comparison. .. happy strummings :)

TLab3000
02-03-2015, 09:37 PM
I bought a Kanile'a K1 Concert last December. A month later, I had the chance to test a C1K. It made me wonder why I've spent so much more money on the K-brand ukulele... Had I tried the Martin before the Kanile'a, I wouldn't have bought the K1.

Both are good ukes, but although the Kanile'a is very well made and has a really nice finish, it's not better in tone (matter of taste, anyway) or playability. I'm buying a ukulele to play it, to make music, not to look at it. Well, of course I'd prefer my ukuleles to be pretty. But spending an additional 400 just for the looks...

If you're happy with the Martin, stick with it. Even if you buy a K-brand ukulele.

PhilUSAFRet
02-04-2015, 01:28 AM
I'd want to play/hear that new Kanilea with the ultra thin uv satin finish that they showed at NAMM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v41ivBO7-d4

philpot
02-04-2015, 05:25 AM
If you are happy with your C1K, that's wonderful. Like others have said, the ukuleles you tried would sound very different with different sets of strings, so it may not be an entirely fair comparison, but there's no reason to try to talk yourself into spending a good chunk of change if your current instrument makes you happy. If the day comes when you're seriously considering buying a K brand concert, try to find someone who owns one and has swapped out the strings. I know my Kamaka concert sounded dead and muddy with the original strings, but it simply sings with Fremont Blacklines (which I bought per Janeray's suggestions :) ).

janeray1940
02-04-2015, 05:32 AM
it simply sings with Fremont Blacklines (which I bought per Janeray's suggestions :) ).

Glad the suggestion worked out! I should give those a try again, at some point I decided I liked Martin fluoros best and stopped experimenting. I like that I can buy the Martins at my local shop - haven't yet been able to talk them into stocking Fremonts.

wayfarer75
02-04-2015, 05:34 AM
Just about any strings are better than Kamaka's stock strings. I don't know why they use them.

janeray1940
02-04-2015, 05:39 AM
Just about any strings are better than Kamaka's stock strings. I don't know why they use them.

If I had a buck for every time I've said that... :)

I'm guessing they use them for Hawaiian style strumming. Short sustain and (to my ear) kind of percussive sounding - probably excellent for rhythm players in 3-4 person bands maybe?

wayfarer75
02-04-2015, 06:27 AM
If I had a buck for every time I've said that... :)

I'm guessing they use them for Hawaiian style strumming. Short sustain and (to my ear) kind of percussive sounding - probably excellent for rhythm players in 3-4 person bands maybe?

Must be. I could hear my pineapple trying to be resonant, but those floppy strings were not letting it. They lasted a couple of days.

Andy Chen
02-04-2015, 01:40 PM
Er, I love the stock strings on my HF-3. They are warm, sweet sounding and has good sustain to my ears.

wayfarer75
02-04-2015, 02:26 PM
Er, I love the stock strings on my HF-3. They are warm, sweet sounding and has good sustain to my ears.

Well, it may not be so bad on a tenor--they already have more sustain and the strings have higher tension. On a soprano, the strings feel floppy and sound dull.

Andy Chen
02-04-2015, 02:55 PM
Ahh, I see. You are probably right. Anyway, I have never played an HF-1.

fongie
02-05-2015, 11:04 AM
I agree with the above post. You can't just compare with ukes off the shelf, there are many things to consider especially regarding strings.

But in saying that, I have to agree. I think a MM is worth every buck. I haven't yet played a C1K but I recently purchased a T1K and this guy is worth every cent. They are very loud, stay tune and I just love the neck.

The C1K is on my wanted list, hopefully soon.

UkerDanno
02-05-2015, 12:35 PM
I own a Martin C1K, a Kamaka Concert, a Kanilea Concert, previously owned a Koaloha Concert. The C1K is a very nice uke for its price range. And if it satisfies you then that's great. However, the C1K is very roughly finished, missing a lot of refinements that some of us enjoy. The C1K only has a 12 fret join to the neck which I find frustrating. If you are like most of us, your preferences will shift over time, and shift again and again.

The C1K is plain, not rough by any means, to me the Kamakas and Koaloha are just as plain, I just don't like the finish, it seems unfinished. Not to insult Kamaka or Koaloha fans, you like them and that's great, just that during my comparison, I didn't see much to make me spend twice the money.


Aloha Danno,
I am not sure what store you went to, but I always feel that most uke shops I go to (aside hms)
The ukes are not set up or tuned and most times the strings are not broken in. It is an also an unfair
Accessment, as some stock strings are poor quality. ..
Also the loudness in the store makes it difficult to have a fair comparison. .. happy strummings :)

The store was Acoustic Vibes, it was very quiet, I was the only one in there. Some were a bit out of tune, but I had a tuner with me, they all played very nicely. Are you saying the Big 3 K-brands send out instruments that aren't set-up? You go to HMS and you're going to be comparing the same off-the shelf instruments with the same stock strings.


I'd want to play/hear that new Kanilea with the ultra thin uv satin finish that they showed at NAMM]

yeah, that would be great! that was a great video!


I agree with the above post. You can't just compare with ukes off the shelf, there are many things to consider especially regarding strings.

really? so what do you compare?!?!?!

Again, not meant to insult any other brand, this post was my assessment of 4 major brands available in a local store. They were all fine instruments and I would be proud to own any (or all) of them ;-D

I'm not sure what this store is. It seems the stock is old, some people saying the Kamakas were 2 years old, and the gold tuner buttons on the Kanilea had some of the finish worn off. Maybe it's some type of Demo store or something. They are the only dealer in Arizona for the major K-brands and maybe Martin too, not sure.

I just know that my Martin C1K sounds just as good as any of the instruments I played and I played them over and over comparing to my C1K and nothing made me want to spend more money at this point. I was looking forward to being blown away by the ukes people rave about on here, but just wasn't. I guess it says a lot about the C1K or at least the one I have.

wayfarer75
02-05-2015, 02:46 PM
I've heard good things about the C1K and T1K. I can believe that they are great ukes and rival the K brands, though I have never played them. They just happen to be made in Mexico, so they are cheaper. I don't think the K brands are the only ukes worth buying--quite the opposite. I have only a Kamaka pineapple, and I love it. The made in Hawaii bit means a lot to me, but there are plenty of ukuleles with great sound that were not built in the Aloha State.

toyturbo
02-06-2015, 05:17 AM
Just to add to the previous post, the K-brand ukes being produced in Hawaii is the main reason of why they cost so much. With a high cost of living and apparently labor as well plus the production is very limited and with demand so high, the prices you see reflect that. An original Hawaiian instrument built in Hawaii by human hands can be a huge differentiating factor to many people, as opposed to Martin and in particular your C1k which was mass produced in Mexico, as noted in the previous post. Just take a look at the Martin's built in their US factory in Nazareth, PA and you'll see that the prices are pretty comparable to the Hawaiian-made ukes. Of the three K-brands you mentioned, Kanile'a has definitely got the smoothest finish since they buff and fill in the pores of the wood and use the same UV-cured polyester finish that Taylor guitars pioneered. Kamaka is legendary in the uke world since they are the original hawaiian-uke, having survived the Great Depression where other uke companies failed, they have been around for almost a century now. And as for KoAloha, they are relatively new, been making ukes since 1995 but have a unique, light-weight construction and sound that many players love, but in my experience not really the best in fit and finish of the K-brands you mentioned. If your looking for a high quality built instrument but don't want to spend the big bucks, I suggest looking at Pono, in my opinion, they have more consistent quality control and fit and finish compared to the likes of KoAloha and Kamaka.

fongie
02-06-2015, 11:43 AM
UkerDanno, my apologies if I came across as a little harsh with my post.

I do agree, these MM are wonderful ukuleles and I have no doubt your assessment/comparison was right on the money. My recent purchased of my T1K is a great buy.

The one thing I noticed with the T1k is, it is sounding even nicer as it opens up. As I mentioned, I wouldn't hesitate to purchase a C1K, I'm sure it will be a nice investment.

Thanks for your feedback

UkerDanno
02-06-2015, 12:49 PM
I would love to visit HMS and have my mind changed! ;-D :shaka:

someday...

molokinirum
02-10-2015, 05:14 AM
Er, I love the stock strings on my HF-3. They are warm, sweet sounding and has good sustain to my ears.

Same with me....have the Kamaka stock strings on my tenor and 8 string and to my ears they sound really good. Also, the people who are brave, or stupid enough, to sit and listen to me play also say the ukes sound really nice.

Dionysis
06-06-2018, 10:01 PM
So, I made a trip across town, almost across town, well, 40 miles worth anyway. To the only store that I know of, in the whole Phoenix metro area that carries Kanilea, Kamaka, Koaloha and Martin to compare with my C1K.

I know this is an old thread, but, wow! How lucky to have a store like that in driving distance! I live in Austin, Tx and the stores here do not stock any nice ukes, generally nothing above $400.

I am looking for the nearest such store to me, and Phoenix may be it!

So I gotta ask, what is the name of the store, please?

Thank you, and I hope you have found a uke that suits your fancy!

-D