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View Full Version : Two new Ohana Sopranos - a review.



ukantor
03-04-2009, 02:14 PM
Two New Ohana Soprano Ukuleles.

I've been asked by the lovely people at The Ukulele Shop to review two new Ohana models. They are the SK50MG & SK70MG


http://www.ohana-music.com/sopr/sk50mg/master.html

http://www.ohana-music.com/sopr/sk70mg/master.html


These are both made to the familiar (to me) high Ohana standard. The fit and finish are good, for a mid-budget uke, and the level of decoration is just right neither too plain nor too fancy. The shapes of the bridges are slightly different from the norm, and I find them pleasing to the eye. The finish is a clear, deep gloss. This is not my favourite surface I prefer a satin, or semi-matt look but that's just me. My only niggle would be that the fronts of the bodies have been sanded, or buffed, around the fretboard extension in a way that shows lines on the surface. It is not a serious flaw, but does detract slightly from the otherwise smooth appearance.

The sides and back of the body are constructed from laminated wood. I don't call it ply-wood because that conjures up visions of the standard three ply used for the very cheapest ukes. These new Ohanas use a special instrument grade laminated wood, which is thin and light, and has a beautiful surface of highly figured veneer. Solid wood will always be preferred for high-end ukes, but good laminates for the back and sides are a very satisfactory alternative, being very strong and stable and free from any tendency to split. The fronts are solid wood; Cedar in the case of the SK50, and Spruce for the SK70. Both produce an excellent sound. They are loud and well balanced, with good tone. The way "my" two examples are set-up needs no adjustment. The intonation is, for all practical purposes, perfect. Aquila strings are fitted as standard. I like them a lot.

It did not strike me immediately, but these ukes have fuller bodies than the classic ukulele shape. I first noticed this when I tried to place one into a 'Gator' hard case. It would take a braver (or more foolhardy) person than me to fasten the lid down - so I didn't. In my humble opinion, they do NOT fit into a 'Gator' case. They are wider across the bouts, slightly longer and noticeably deeper. The proportions are well maintained, which is why I didn't notice at first. No doubt this increased body volume contributes to the very good sound they both produce.

The sound of a musical instrument is a very subjective thing. I like a fuller, more mellow voice, and for this reason I really loved the Cedar fronted SK50. I would go so far as to say that the Ohana SK50MG is one of the best sounding ukes I have ever heard. Many players prefer a brighter, more bouncy sound, and their wishes would be catered for by the SK70 with its spruce front.

The SK50 uses a "rope" style purfling and sound-hole ring. The detailing on the SK70 looks like abalone shell. Both have dark wood binding on the top and bottom edges of the body.

Any appraisal of a musical instrument has to be read with due consideration for the price. It goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that mass produced ukes cannot compare with the highest standards of bespoke luthery, however, compared with other ukes in the same price range, these new Ohana models are worthy of everyone's consideration.

The price? Well, I'm not absolutely sure. The Ukulele Shop are waiting for confirmation from Ohana, but hope to be able to sell them for around the same price as the current model SK35 which is 132.50p. I don't NEED another uke, but I am sorely tempted to treat myself to an SK50MG. I really like it that much.

Thanks to Ohana and The Ukulele Shop, both these ukes will be offered as prizes at the Hollesley Ukulele Festival in Suffolk, UK at the end of July. I will be sure to buy some tickets, and would be delighted to own either of them.

Ukantor, 4th March 2009.

Howlin Hobbit
03-04-2009, 07:48 PM
The Ohana site has these listed under concerts rather than sopranos on the links you supplied. Hmmm... one of us needs to email Mr. Wu.

But you can find them on their sopranos page (http://www.ohana-music.com/soprano.html), and their suggested price there is $259. Not at all shabby.

HoldinCoffee
03-04-2009, 08:13 PM
nic reviews. I'm... starting to... WANT ...ONE!

Pippin
03-04-2009, 08:39 PM
Both of those instruments are also solid mahogany back and sides. I had an e-mail from Louis about these before the NAMM show. I reviewed the willow-wood counterpart from that line, the SK-50WG (the MG solid mahogany back and sides) is pretty much the same. Same neck profile, same bridge and saddle, same shape, a little thicker front to back than other Ohana sopranos.

http://www.ohana-music.com/soprano.html

This index shows the sopranos and tells you that they are solid wood back and sides on these models (which is what Louis Wu told me).

cosmoblue
03-04-2009, 09:12 PM
I am a newbie but I love my SK-70MG. For my first uke budget of less than $200 I didn't try anything that sounded even close to as lovely at McCabe's. It is so pretty too. I only wish I was any good at playing already so I didn't feel like it was being wasted on me.

ukantor
03-04-2009, 10:12 PM
Pippin's comment has highlighted a question I raised when I examined these ukes. At first I was told they had solid mahogany back and sides, but a peak into the sound hole shows that they ain't. I asked The Ukulele Shop (Europe) about this, they took it up with Ohana, the answer was that some pre-production versions were made with solid sides and back. After considering costs and likely selling prices it was decided to produce them with laminated wood for the sides and back.

Whether this applies to all markets, I couldn't say.

Ukantor.

Pippin
03-05-2009, 10:36 AM
Pippin's comment has highlighted a question I raised when I examined these ukes. At first I was told they had solid mahogany back and sides, but a peak into the sound hole shows that they ain't. I asked The Ukulele Shop (Europe) about this, they took it up with Ohana, the answer was that some pre-production versions were made with solid sides and back. After considering costs and likely selling prices it was decided to produce them with laminated wood for the sides and back.

Whether this applies to all markets, I couldn't say.

Ukantor.

Interesting... The SK-50WG I have, as I said, has solid-wood back and sides. That might be due to a difference in the cost of raw materials... it is willow, not mahogany in this case.

ukantor
03-05-2009, 11:33 AM
Pippin, that link you posted certainly claims that they have solid mahogany sides and back. I can only comment on the two ukes I was asked to review. They definitely have very nice, high quality, laminated wood sides and back.

Very nice ukes - I'd recommend either of them.

Ukantor.

MGM
03-05-2009, 02:21 PM
They are now laminate back and sides on the 50 and 70 models not solid

neutronrobot
10-09-2009, 04:27 PM
Any idea as to when Ohana switched these from solid wood to laminate?
I bought mine in February 2008 under the assumption that I was buying a solid wood uke.
Is there a way to tell by looking at it?
It sounds good but it's a little annoying as I already had a laminate Ohana and thought buying the SK-50WG was a "step up" to a solid.

Gaby
10-10-2009, 02:52 AM
With the willow it is easy to tell; the inside of your uke, if solid, would be as figured as the back and have the same pattern. Otherwise it would have an even pale look.

You have a wonderful uke, and I personally believe the laminated back and sites are just fine on these ukes; the overall sound is good and punchy.

On both models the top is solid.

neutronrobot, have a read about Kiwaya ukuleles, you will change your opinion on laminates and find that there can be a big difference in laminates. Ukantor mentions in his review.

Just enjoy your uke and it's tone and playability and don't fret!

neutronrobot
10-15-2009, 05:29 PM
Thanks-
BTW I meant to say I bought it in February 2009, not 2008.
Inspecting the inside of mine it is definitely a laminate.
It still sounds great, but I was hoping to have a Uke that would keep sounding better over time.
Unfortunately, every review I read about this uke before I purchased it said it was solid wood, which I guess their review prototypes were, but by the time they actually shipped them Ohana decided to go the laminate route.
I do feel slightly ripped off, though I only blame myself for not asking more questions before buying one.

existence
10-19-2009, 01:46 PM
Thanks-
BTW I meant to say I bought it in February 2009, not 2008.
Inspecting the inside of mine it is definitely a laminate.
It still sounds great, but I was hoping to have a Uke that would keep sounding better over time.
Unfortunately, every review I read about this uke before I purchased it said it was solid wood, which I guess their review prototypes were, but by the time they actually shipped them Ohana decided to go the laminate route.
I do feel slightly ripped off, though I only blame myself for not asking more questions before buying one.


I don't blame you, I'd feel a little upset too. But, the important thing is that you're happy with the instrument. I got to play an SK-50WG at a local shop over the weekend, and was impressed. Sounded nice with the stock Aquilas. I couldn't help but wonder what it'd sound like with some Worth medium tensions....errghh, now I want to order one! Must...resist....UAS....
:)

ukantor
10-19-2009, 02:02 PM
There is an interesting postscript to the review I posted at the start of this thread. The two ukes I reviewed were donated by The Ukulele Shop (since closed) to the raffle at the Hollesley Ukulele gathering last July. I bought tickets for the raffle. I won the SK70MG!

It is a fine instrument. I am very happy with it.

Ukantor.