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View Full Version : How much have the Ponos really improved?



g'est
02-10-2015, 08:02 AM
Hi!

I keep reading about how the Ponos keep improving. And I must admit, they do look great and seem to sound good! To be honest, I'm actually considering getting a Pono tenor, even though I already have a KoAloha, which I love. :rolleyes: Am I being silly?

Still, I recently read an old thread comparing Pono with K-brands ukuleles and most people seemed to think that there was still a noticeable difference in sound quality. So I was wondering, has anyone here compared the older Ponos to the new ones? Or the newer Ponos to K-brand ukuleles?

Brad Bordessa
02-10-2015, 08:10 AM
I've always liked Ponos. For the price, I don't think you can go wrong. Recently I got a BE-DC solidbody baritone (my first Pono) and I am super impressed. There isn't much acoustic sound to rave about since it's a solidbody, but the quality is fantastic for a $700 uke.

wayward
02-10-2015, 08:52 AM
I've always liked Ponos. For the price, I don't think you can go wrong. Recently I got a BE-DC solidbody baritone (my first Pono) and I am super impressed. There isn't much acoustic sound to rave about since it's a solidbody, but the quality is fantastic for a $700 uke.

I heard a sound sample of one of these :iwant:

Icelander53
02-10-2015, 09:17 AM
This is a good question. Like any uke can be hit or miss some Pono's sound better than others. When they sound good they sound really good imo. I have two that I won't part with but in each case I had Andrew pick it out for me and advise me what to get. In fact my favorite Pono was completely picked out and strung for me by Andrew. I knew it was a good choice because he owns it and Cory owns this model. I have heard Pono's that didn't impress me however. So...

There are a lot of good ukes out there, the challenge is to find them. If you trust just to luck you're results will reflect that. But if you do lots of research your choices will likely be much better. However you'll feel very confused by all the conflicting info. So you really got to be on your toes.

Ukulele Eddie
02-10-2015, 09:22 AM
I can't comment on how much they've improved as I haven't been playing long enough. However, I have owned three Pro Classic tenors and agree with the seemingly widespread opinion that they are good values. I bought them each knowing I would not have them for very long. Each was very nicely finished and had a nice tone. They are a little heavy in my opinion, but they sounded quite nice in absolute terms and super when you considered the price point. I don't care for the stock strings (much too hard for my preference) and always change them right away. The Macassar Ebony was my favorite of the three. In any case, they were all quite different from the KoAloha sound, so I think it's perfectly reasonable to have both without too much overlap.

sam13
02-10-2015, 09:25 AM
This is a good question. Like any uke can be hit or miss some Pono's sound better than others. When they sound good they sound really good imo. I have two that I won't part with but in each case I had Andrew pick it out for me and advise me what to get. In fact my favorite Pono was completely picked out and strung for me by Andrew. I knew it was a good choice because he owns it and Cory owns this model. I have heard Pono's that didn't impress me however. So...

There are a lot of good ukes out there, the challenge is to find them. If you trust just to luck you're results will reflect that. But if you do lots of research your choices will likely be much better. However you'll feel very confused by all the conflicting info. So you really got to be on your toes.

Which did you get you love ... was it the ETSH5?

sam13
02-10-2015, 09:28 AM
Hi!

I keep reading about how the Ponos keep improving. And I must admit, they do look great and seem to sound good! To be honest, I'm actually considering getting a Pono tenor, even though I already have a KoAloha, which I love. :rolleyes: Am I being silly?

Still, I recently read an old thread comparing Pono with K-brands ukuleles and most people seemed to think that there was still a noticeable difference in sound quality. So I was wondering, has anyone here compared the older Ponos to the new ones? Or the newer Ponos to K-brand ukuleles?

I am a Pono fan ... I have purchased 5 in less than 1.25 years and really like the Pro Classic Level. Finishes, and quality of product and sound really are hard to beat. If you love your KoAloha, then try a Mahogany or Cedar or Spruce top ... they really are fabulous.

I recommend buying something from here or Andrew at HMS. He has been great to work with and I will be ordering a Pono Pro Classic Baritone that will be coming in the March shipment ... can't wait!

g'est
02-10-2015, 09:41 AM
I am a Pono fan ... I have purchased 5 in less than 1.25 years and really like the Pro Classic Level. Finishes, and quality of product and sound really are hard to beat. If you love your KoAloha, then try a Mahogany or Cedar or Spruce top ... they really are fabulous.

I recommend buying something from here or Andrew at HMS. He has been great to work with and I will be ordering a Pono Pro Classic Baritone that will be coming in the March shipment ... can't wait!

Great suggestion, I was actually thinking about Mahogany tenor with a Cedar top. Does anybody have any experience with that combination?

And you're right to suggest HMS! That's where I bought my KoAloha from and I was very happy with the whole experience! :)

Icelander53
02-10-2015, 09:45 AM
I have that one, Cedar/hog tenor. I really started to like it when I restrung it with Worth Browns in Low G. My favorite however is the Cedar/ebony strung with South Coast Low G. Andrew gets all the credit on this one.

I really like Pono's with the cedar top. But like I said hit or miss. Andrew told me that the batch he picked that guy from was one of the best runs they'd ever heard, lucky me. So you know it's true Andrew told me that the next run of 30 were braced differently and he sent the whole shipment back to the factory. So.... even pono misses and we have guys like Andrew on point so we don't get those duds into the marketplace.

katysax
02-10-2015, 10:19 AM
I have and have had a number of Pono's. I had an older Concert and Tenor and still have a Soprano and Baritone. I also have 2 Pro Classic Tenors. The 2 Pro Classics are of very recent vintage, both have cedar tops. I briefly had a spruce topped tenor of recent vintage.

The particular spruce topped tenor in my opinion was slightly quieter and not as resonant as the cedar topped instruments. Probably just the particular tenors. Of the two cedar topped ones, one I had Andrew pick out and the other I got on ebay second hand. The one I got on ebay came from a seller who told me he just didn't bond with the instrument. As it turns out I did bond with it.

I also own two Ko'olaus, one is cedar/rosewood and one is cedar/mahogany. The Ko'olaus are made of higher graded wood, and the Ko'olaus, while each different have higher quality appointments and details. The Ko'olau neck is still thick and t he Ko'olau's are heavier than most of my ukes. The Pono necks are thicker still and they are even heavier. That said, the two Pono Pro Classics play and sound like the Custom Ko'olaus. I don't think I could tell them apart in a blind test. They are that good, but keep in mind they are (a) recent, (b) Pro Classic models and (c) Tenors.

The other Ponos that I have now that are not from the Pro classic line, in my opinion are overbuilt. They are all competent. Sound is decent and the intonation is OK but not on a par with the Pro Classic Tenors. I can't speak to more recent Ponos that are not Pro Classic Tenors.

The Ponos are different from the so-called K brands, but so are the Ko'olau customs that I have. There are differences between Kanilea, Koaloha and Kamaka, but when I compare their Koa instruments there are a lot of similarities. Each has a somewhat different sound and feel, but in my opinion all three of those are far more like each other than they are like Ko'olau.

To me what is cool about the Pro Classic line is that for under $1000 you can get a tenor that is 95% of what you would get if you paid three or four times as much for a custom. You can have a Cedar or Spruce top, slot head headstock, gloss finish, great sound and playability. You'll get a great instrument for slightly more if you get an entry level Koaloha or Kamaka or Kanilea. If you are someone who gigs or who travels with their instrument, who doesn't want to put their high end custom in harms way but you want a great looking and playing instrument that is replaceable and not horrifically expensive, then the Pono Pro Classic line is just a great working musician's instrument.

I do think the Ponos Pro Classics have gotten better and better. Both of the ones that I own are impeccable. The book matching is flawless. The finish is neither too thick nor too thin. Everything is aligned. I've looked at some older ones and the book matching was not well done, the finish was too thick and unevenly applied, and little things were "off". I have a Ko'olau spruce/mahogany that was built in 2006 when John Kitakis was still building and I have a Pono cedar/mahogany from 2014, and it would be easy to convince me that they were built by the same person. They even have a similar sound and feel.

So yes, Pono cedar/mahogany, the one I have is wonderful. The Ponos have been continuously improving. They are unique, if you want a small body, thin neck or light weight, you won't get that with a Pono. All of those things are things I have liked in ukes that I've owned so I would swear that Pono is not for me, except that I love the Pro Classic tenors. I consider them to be great workhorses.

coolkayaker1
02-10-2015, 10:32 AM
Yeah. What she said.

g'est
02-10-2015, 10:33 AM
Thanks, guys! Your answers have been really great and thorough, I appreciate them a lot! :D

PereBourik
02-10-2015, 10:41 AM
I have a Pono ATD purchased from HMS in 2013. There are no other Ponos around here that I can compare with. It is heavily built and has the thick neck for which Ponos are known. The finish is high gloss and even. The stock strings were not to my liking and finding the right set for it has been a bit of a journey. I finally tried as set of Living Water tenor Low G and my Pono came into its own. The tone is simply luscious with those strings. At that price point I can't think of any better value. The KoAloha Opios are still unknown. Martin T1 might be the other that is the Pono's equal.

Rakelele
02-10-2015, 10:56 AM
I've bought and owned some six very different Pono models over the last three or four years, and never have I been disappointed. They compare very well to the K-Brands. And if you'll get something like Rosewood or Ebony with a Cedar or Spruce top, it will be completely different from an all Koa uke and easily justify another addition to your collection.

sam13
02-10-2015, 11:02 AM
I've bought and owned some six very different Pono models over the last three or four years, and never have I been disappointed. They compare very well to the K-Brands. And if you'll get something like Rosewood or Ebony with a Cedar or Spruce top, it will be completely different from an all Koa uke and easily justify another addition to your collection.

I agree completely ... have a Engelmann Spruce top with Rosewood back ... love the upper tones and harmonics. Have a Cedar with Macassar Ebony back and sides and it is the same but at the lower spectrum of tone and colour. Just awesome.

I would be interested in buying a Mahogany Pro Classic Tenor and string it Re Entrant ...

kissing
02-10-2015, 06:45 PM
i've had Ponos, both regular and Pro Classic and Kamakas to compare

At the quality level they are at, you can no longer say which has a "better" sound. It is WHAT KIND of sound do you want? Quality level is very high for either ukes

Hippie Dribble
02-10-2015, 07:04 PM
I really like Pono's with the cedar top. But like I said hit or miss. Andrew told me that the batch he picked that guy from was one of the best runs they'd ever heard, lucky me. So you know it's true Andrew told me that the next run of 30 were braced differently and he sent the whole shipment back to the factory. So.... even pono misses and we have guys like Andrew on point so we don't get those duds into the marketplace.

Well said mate. Don't buy anywhere but from Andrew at HMS in my opinion. He takes customer service as seriously as anyone and knows the Pono operation inside out. He won't sell you a dud. It's that simple. I've owned several Ponos over the years in soprano and concert scale and been impressed. Certainly they'll need a string change upon purchase and admittedly, they're not the lightest builds, but for sheer quality of manufacture and tone hard to go wrong.

g'est
02-10-2015, 07:47 PM
Thanks, guys!

Also, now I'm mad at you all for not being much help in the not-buying-another-ukulele-department! :D (What was I thinking?)

DownUpDave
02-11-2015, 12:36 AM
Thanks, guys!

Also, now I'm mad at you all for not being much help in the not-buying-another-ukulele-department! :D (What was I thinking?)

That would be like expecting your drinking buddies to talk you out of having anothrr beer............not goina happen :cheers::music:

iDavid
02-11-2015, 01:59 AM
I had an older Pono mahogany baritone which was Okay at best. The finish was pretty thick and it had a small kind of hollow sound. I tried several different strings, but it was just Okay. I just bought a Pono gloss mango baritone from Andrew and it is a work of art. It looks fantastic, plays extremely well, and is one of the best sounding baritones I have ever heard. My plan was to get a decent baritone and then move up to a custom. However, I don't think I could do much better, so the custom is out of the picture. My Pono does not have the radius fretboard which I really like, but it really doesn't seem to make a difference on this one. Again, the set-up is just perfect.

bazmaz
02-11-2015, 02:25 AM
I own two.

One about 3 years old, one about 18 months old.

I adore them both.

ubulele
02-11-2015, 07:53 AM
That would be like expecting your drinking buddies to talk you out of having anothrr beer............not goina happen :cheers::music:

{starts singing "Oh comrades, fill no glass for me"}

wayward
02-11-2015, 08:06 AM
I had an older Pono mahogany baritone which was Okay at best. The finish was pretty thick and it had a small kind of hollow sound. I tried several different strings, but it was just Okay. I just bought a Pono gloss mango baritone from Andrew and it is a work of art. It looks fantastic, plays extremely well, and is one of the best sounding baritones I have ever heard. My plan was to get a decent baritone and then move up to a custom. However, I don't think I could do much better, so the custom is out of the picture. My Pono does not have the radius fretboard which I really like, but it really doesn't seem to make a difference on this one. Again, the set-up is just perfect.

I have the satin version, and I agree - I don't want another baritone now: so, maybe buying a Pono will help with your UAS... once you've bought at least 1 Pono in every size... + all their electric ukes... oh and a tenor guitar ;)

sam13
02-11-2015, 09:58 AM
I am looking to trade one of my Ukes for another Pono RTC Spruce top ... gonna use it as a re entrant tuned Tenor. Oh, and then I have on order my first Baritone ... RBSH C Spruce ... yeah, baby ... excited!

g'est
02-11-2015, 10:26 AM
I am looking to trade one of my Ukes for another Pono RTC Spruce top ... gonna use it as a re entrant tuned Tenor. Oh, and then I have on order my first Baritone ... RBSH C Spruce ... yeah, baby ... excited!

Sounds great! I love the anticipation of a new uke! :)


I own two.

One about 3 years old, one about 18 months old.

I adore them both.

I read your reviews about them, they were great as always! :)

g'est
02-11-2015, 10:32 AM
Also, I was wondering, how much of a adjustment the Pono neck profile might be. I've never tried an uke with a radius fretboard before. And I've read that their necks are really chunky, although I like the 1 3/8 nut. What do you guys think?

katysax
02-11-2015, 10:37 AM
The neck adjustment depends on you. If you tend to grip your neck, you are going to have to make some changes. If you hold the neck properly then it won't make that big of a difference. The one thing I noticed was that I felt like my had was open a little bit wider on the top two frets. As far as the radius, I've never felt any real adjustment going back and forth between a radius and flat fretboard - it just feels slightly different.

Icelander53
02-11-2015, 12:04 PM
Also, I was wondering, how much of a adjustment the Pono neck profile might be. I've never tried an uke with a radius fretboard before. And I've read that their necks are really chunky, although I like the 1 3/8 nut. What do you guys think?


Pono and Gretsch both have chunky necks. The Gretsch even more so. That's why I love them.

PereBourik
02-11-2015, 12:14 PM
The neck adjustment depends on you. If you tend to grip your neck, you are going to have to make some changes. If you hold the neck properly then it won't make that big of a difference. The one thing I noticed was that I felt like my had was open a little bit wider on the top two frets. As far as the radius, I've never felt any real adjustment going back and forth between a radius and flat fretboard - it just feels slightly different.

Yes this. Just play it. The neck profile and thickness is just a characteristic of the instrument. You play for the sound, not the feel of the neck.

bazmaz
02-11-2015, 12:33 PM
G'est - thank you!!

EDIT - Re the neck adjustment - I grip the neck - terrible technique (if you judge such things) - I LOVE the Pono necks and spent a year on stage week in week out playing one very comfortably.

davidrboy
02-16-2015, 02:10 PM
I've gone through more than a few Ponos of my own, and played dozens. The best of them all is the only one I've kept -- an older PTEC-CE. The new cedar/ebony pro classics looks nicer, and sound much the same. They all sounds great. But the older one I have has a shallower neck profile. Not nearly as chunky as the current ones. And it's a cannon -- really lively for a production uke with pretty thick finish.