View Full Version : Next uke - Kiwaya KS-1 vs. KS-5 vs. Martin OXK

05-31-2015, 07:49 PM
So my next uke will, more than likely, be something laminate. I'm going Soprano and higher quality. So I think my best options are the Kiwaya KS-1 laminate mahogany (HMS with a free hard case) or the KS-5 laminate koa (HMS, no case - they just started re-carrying this), or a Martin OXK (probably from Elderly w/free shipping). Any comparisons/ recommendations/ suggestions?

I have a laminate soprano Flea right now with the hardwood fretboard, which I like. I would also consider a sopranino like the Ohana SK-21M from MIM's, though that is solid wood mahogany. I haven't played sopranino but I don't mind the smaller scale and wouldn't mind trying that size out.

I live in Phoenix and it's hot and dry. Ukes are kept in their gig bags or cases while at work, except the Flea is a desktop uke now. Does laminate mahogany sound like laminate koa?

My budget is probably $400, although I'm already trying to do the fuzzy math to "justify" getting two for a little more!

06-01-2015, 02:55 AM
I have the OXK and the KS-0 thin body (actually the Famous FS-0 ordered from Japan when no one seemed to have them in the U.S.) and I like both. I don't think you can go wrong with any of these. The Kiwaya will be lighter and the OXK seems more rugged but they both are nice to play and sound great.

06-01-2015, 03:12 AM

Recent Posts (5/11/15) with some viewpoints, igorthebarbarian. Good luck with your hunt.

06-01-2015, 04:32 AM
I am a huge Kiwaya fan and have a KS-5 (and many other Kiwayas) which I think is great. Super light weight, love the neck/action, and the sound. I just received from Elderly the Martin OXK and it was set up perfect. To me, the OXK has a really really nice sound and different. It is heavier then the KS-5 and as posted earlier seems to be more rugged. I tend to pick-up the OXK more often because the uniqueness of the way it sounds to me- i like it!- but it is also my newest uke which may have have something to do with it. The KS-1, KSL 1 or 2 and the KS-O are in my future plans to acquire. You really couldn't wrong with either.

06-01-2015, 05:00 AM
I have a KS-1 and a KS-5. The KS-5 is my all time favorite uke. Once I got it (used), I stopped playing my custom sopranos and concerts and sold almost all of them. If you're interested in a KS-1 send me a PM.

06-01-2015, 05:16 AM
Buy any one of the instruments you list and you will be very happy. Great choices, each.

06-01-2015, 05:32 AM
I live in humid summertime and dry wintertime West Virginia. I live in an old fishing cabin on a riverbank. My house itself has extreme conditions :). I do not have central air or central heat. I have the OXK, and it is my go-to ukulele. I love that I don't have to worry about the OXK, but I do treat it with respect - it does not stay in the car, it always stays cased unless played. In fact, in an "if I knew then what I know now" scenario, I would have started with the OXK and just had it for my moldy, drafty hot/cold living conditions alone.

It was my first good ukulele that I did not buy from a dealer that sets up such as MIM, Uke Republic, or HMS, although I would have done so if it was available from them. I got it perfectly set up by the factory from Musician's Friend with free shipping. They just put an outer box on the Martin factory box and shipped it on to me. It was obvious that MF never opened it. So, any reputable dealer will be ok to purchase it.

I love the sound, too. It is great fingerpicked or strummed.The heaviness of the OXK neck disappears when using a strap, btw.

So, I guess of the three you mentioned, your environment likely will be the deciding factor. I suspect the OXK is the more worry free of the three.

06-01-2015, 05:52 AM
As I mentioned above, when I could not find a KS-0 in the US I ordered the Famous branded version (FS-0) direct from Japan at a significant savings. Seems to be the same Uke to my eyes. Used one of dealers on Rakuten.jp and since they seem to be setup well from the factory there seemed to be little risk of getting one not ready to play. There also seem to provide some different models under the Famous brand, e.g. the option of geared tuners on some models that have only friction tuners on the Kiwaya models. If you are looking to save money it seems to provide a viable option with the risk of dealer support issues and probable lack of any warranty from Kiwaya.

06-01-2015, 05:15 PM
I had a chance to play an OXK a few months ago in a local shop. I wasn't expecting much since I knew it was made of formica type material. I was actually surprised at the nice tone and sustain it produced. What did surprise me was the weight of the neck since it is made of many layers of glue laminated wood. The neck was very smooth but definitely felt hefty. Now that I have the KS-5, if my memory is correct, I think the OXK may have had a bit more of a mellow tone, probably due to the body material. The body is basically a picture of wood grain on a manmade material. I think the OXK also has frets that stick out a bit higher above the fretboard than my Kiwaya. Both have compensated saddles to help with intonation. I really like the feel of the Kiwaya neck though as it is light and smooth. If knock-around durability is an important issue, I would definitely go with the OXK. Personally, I like the feel and look of wood on my ukes so I went the Kiwaya route. The very thin laminated Kiwaya top really resonates well. Someday though, I could see myself getting an OXK as a travel and outdoor/campfire uke as I do like their tone and they are pretty much indestructible.

06-01-2015, 07:02 PM
See this is why I shouldn't have posted this question - because now I want option D) All of the above. I thank you all for your inputs. I am surprised that a lot of people have actual hands-on ownership experience with them both - and glad that they're both highly recommended here.
I'll probably buy from HMS for the Kiwaya (not sure which one yet, maybe go cheaper lam mahogany first, then if I like it go lam koa down the road), and Elderly for the Martin OXK.
The Martin OXK would be known as The Ox, which seems appropriate since it sounds quite sturdy. Neck-weight is my only concern but that's a minor one.
I might have to sell off some others to make room now! Thanks everyone

07-12-2015, 06:58 PM
I picked up a used OXK via trade this weekend from another AZ uker here on UU (thanks Danno).
It's super-sturdy, and I mean that in a good way. I told my wife it's like a little tank. I am sure it is heavier than the Kiwaya's, but it feels solid.
I like it better than the soprano Flea I have. I think the OXK sounds great too. I am really liking it so far.

07-13-2015, 02:08 AM
You may want to check out the new Koaloha laminates. I've heard their sound is quite good!

07-13-2015, 03:33 AM
Awesome, glad you're enjoying it Tom! It is a tough little instrument for sure.