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View Full Version : PONO vs KoAloha



Icelander53
07-11-2015, 02:45 AM
Mine I mean. I was in a mood and waxing poetic and I made a slightly disparaging remark about my Pono's which I want to make right. I was determined not to make the same mistakes with fawning over my latest acquisition and making assumption that prove only to show me how flawed my thinking can be at times.

So I have the KoAloha Opio Tenor. (in the mahogany family) Of my Pono's in a play off the clear winner was my Pono ET-PC Tenor.(cedar/ebony) Both strung low G. The Opio sports Fremont strings. The Pono is sporting SouthCoast strings. Both came from and were set up by HMS.

I have put them to the test against each other with a clear bias on my part initially to the brand new Opio. I looked at and listened to them from the perspective of how I play and my skills and goals. In the end and it's never the end I'm enjoying playing the Pono more at this moment. When it comes to build quality I had to give them both a 10 on a scale of 1-10.

The Pono is for me easier to play and it's sound lends itself to the strum and sing that I do at this point. It has a very rich and mellow sound that is very guitar like. It blows all my other ukes away soundwise.(not including the Opio) The Opio is more articulate and accurate to my ear with wonderful bell like tones. And it's loud and as I move into fingerstyle for the first time it excels at that from the little I can do.

I'm not really doing this as a through comprehensive comparison but instead to reaffirm to you all my love of Pono's as a uke of choice. I really wouldn't want to be without either. I could let go of all my others without much pain but not those two. I'm done now.

DownUpDave
07-11-2015, 03:06 AM
I am glad you came to your senses. The excitement and newness seems to always pull us towards the uke we most recently excavated from the shipping box. Don't you just love the packing job HMS does..........feels like a bigboys Christmas opening one of those.

My ET-PC is right up there among three higher priced customs I own. I really enjoy the sound of it fingerpicked. The cedar top can be overly warm or muddy if strummed real hard, fast and agressively. But there is a reason they use cedar tops on clasical guitars, so sweet and articulate when finger picked. I have the same SC strings on my Pono as well

wayward
07-11-2015, 03:31 AM
Luke Chapter 15 Verse 7. Welcome back brother ;)

Sylvan
07-11-2015, 04:14 AM
Thanks for your thoughts on the Opio. I am looking at trying an Opio as my first tenor.

Ukulele Eddie
07-11-2015, 04:25 AM
@Icelander53, it's a good thing you cleared that up as I heard murmurs you were being booted from the Pono Fanboy Club. ; Just kidding.

It is interested to compare ukes from time-to-time and re-calibrate one's impressions. If you haven't, you should do the same test but record yourself and then compare. It has shocked me a few times how that can be different from what you hear while in the driver's seat (less of an issue when the ukes have sound ports).

katysax
07-11-2015, 05:50 AM
They're different - which is why it is fun to own both.

Uncle Leroy
07-11-2015, 05:54 AM
Variety........the spice of life.

Rakelele
07-11-2015, 08:33 AM
My experience as well. My Pono ETSHC (same model but with a slothead and a cutaway) is great for "guitar-like" tone and fingerpicking, while the KoAloha Opio is more of an all-rounder and better for strumming, more like my Pono AT.

Overall, I'd say that the Ponos are made using more high quality materials, hence offering a slightly better value for their price. But that Opio sounds mighty fine, too. I think it's great to see both companies offering wonderful instruments in the mid-priced range.

M3Ukulele
07-11-2015, 10:03 AM
My Opio tenor shipped yesterday from HMS. I have a Pono AT also. Haven't tried a Pono Pro Classic but many fans on UU and they are beautiful. I have a RTC (S) always on my radar though. In also have a custom Moodyville gypsy tenor with Sitka/black walnut to compare to.

My objective at this time in picking ukuleles is to get different sounds so trying different wood, makers, strings etc. I will try and offer objective opinion of my Opio after playing it awhile. As mention.....we all hear different things at different time.........that is nature of the beast. Fun though! I take everyone's opinion as that.
Cheers

page side
07-11-2015, 11:06 AM
Thanks for the review. I ordered an opio tenor from HMS last week and currently own a Pono MT. I'll be sure to add my two cents to this thread comparing these solid mahogany ukes from two great companies once I have the Opio.

Icelander53
07-11-2015, 12:31 PM
@Icelander53, it's a good thing you cleared that up as I heard murmurs you were being booted from the Pono Fanboy Club. ; Just kidding.

It is interested to compare ukes from time-to-time and re-calibrate one's impressions. If you haven't, you should do the same test but record yourself and then compare. It has shocked me a few times how that can be different from what you hear while in the driver's seat (less of an issue when the ukes have sound ports).

Thanks for that great idea.

BB11
03-04-2016, 04:27 PM
Mine I mean. I was in a mood and waxing poetic and I made a slightly disparaging remark about my Pono's which I want to make right. I was determined not to make the same mistakes with fawning over my latest acquisition and making assumption that prove only to show me how flawed my thinking can be at times.

So I have the KoAloha Opio Tenor. (in the mahogany family) Of my Pono's in a play off the clear winner was my Pono ET-PC Tenor.(cedar/ebony) Both strung low G. The Opio sports Fremont strings. The Pono is sporting SouthCoast strings. Both came from and were set up by HMS.

I have put them to the test against each other with a clear bias on my part initially to the brand new Opio. I looked at and listened to them from the perspective of how I play and my skills and goals. In the end and it's never the end I'm enjoying playing the Pono more at this moment. When it comes to build quality I had to give them both a 10 on a scale of 1-10.

The Pono is for me easier to play and it's sound lends itself to the strum and sing that I do at this point. It has a very rich and mellow sound that is very guitar like. It blows all my other ukes away soundwise.(not including the Opio) The Opio is more articulate and accurate to my ear with wonderful bell like tones. And it's loud and as I move into fingerstyle for the first time it excels at that from the little I can do.

I'm not really doing this as a through comprehensive comparison but instead to reaffirm to you all my love of Pono's as a uke of choice. I really wouldn't want to be without either. I could let go of all my others without much pain but not those two. I'm done now.

When you say easier to play are you meaning string tension or something else? I have read that Pono's are very tight and may feel a bit harder as if the scale was longer. I am new to this, guitar player, so i do understand scale and tension. Thanks

Mivo
03-04-2016, 05:16 PM
Something to consider when you read older threads is that many ukulele manufacturers evolve their building techniques and processes, and they also switch around components, try out new things or drop old ones (KoAloha's friction tuner today aren't the same ones that they had five or six years ago, for example).

Another thing is that instruments are like people: they're not all the same, even if they come from the same place or even look alike. There are a few aspects that can be generalized, like the KoAloha sound that is a result of their unique bracing (so pretty much any current KoAloha will have "bell like tones", whatever that may mean exactly, and be loud), but often it's not so easy. Ponos, I believe, are even less homogeneous because there is a larger product palette with quite a number of current, new, and discontinued models.

Another thing is that people tend to use the same terms, but mean different things. Tension is one of those. Not only does that depend on the strings (gauge) and of course the scale, but there is a lot of room for preference. For example, I felt that Worth Brown mediums on my tenor had "too much tension", which I felt then had "comfortable tension" when I tuned it down to Bb. Meanwhile, others would describe the former as "great for fingerpicking" and the latter as "too floppy", making it somewhat meaningless for a third person who may have their own preferences.

I'm great at overthinking stuff (especially where money is concerned, because I don't have an abundance of it) and going endlessly in circles (just spent a month doing that before grabbing the Opio concert), but at the end of the day at some point you just gotta bite the bullet and buy something. I'd start with an Opio, for any of the three sizes, but that's me. If it's not what you want, try the next one. As long as you buy stuff that has an acceptable resell value (or at least doesn't cost $2000+ and a year of waiting time per try), it's probably the best way to eventually find something you really like. (I like Opios because I like the KoAloha sound, but also because I nowadays believe the $400-600 range offers the best performance/price ratio -- below and above you make sacrifice or deal with increasingly tighter diminishing returns. This is a view that will not be shared by everyone, though.)

BB11
03-05-2016, 01:36 AM
Thanks Mivo.

intro
05-14-2017, 08:29 AM
Okay, so....here goes. First off I've owned: Rebel Circle of Fifths, Pono MTSPC and MTDX, Ohana TK 75 CG, and a varied assortment of others. I'm no fanboy to any. I like 'em all! Feel free to talk me down, but there's no way a $ 800-1200 Pono is better VALUE than a $300-500 Kala. Sorry. I own a Kala Tri-Back, and a Comfort Cutaway- I got each for under 300.00, and there's NO WAY that a Pono is worth three times that. Those Kalas are fine instruments- true-the Pono is better, but not THREE TIMES better.
And although this may be a matter of taste, The Ohana could be said to absolutely CRUSH them all in VALUE (what you get/what you pay) in volume, sound and build (if you like bling) it stands second to NONE of those. I sold my Rebel and both Pono's with only a whiff of remorse, and would do it again. I WILL buy another Pono, and probably an Opio as well, but honestly, I'm not even sure WHY!

sam13
05-14-2017, 10:16 AM
Okay, so....here goes. First off I've owned: Rebel Circle of Fifths, Pono MTSPC and MTDX, Ohana TK 75 CG, and a varied assortment of others. I'm no fanboy to any. I like 'em all! Feel free to talk me down, but there's no way a $ 800-1200 Pono is better VALUE than a $300-500 Kala. Sorry. I own a Kala Tri-Back, and a Comfort Cutaway- I got each for under 300.00, and there's NO WAY that a Pono is worth three times that. Those Kalas are fine instruments- true-the Pono is better, but not THREE TIMES better.
And although this may be a matter of taste, The Ohana could be said to absolutely CRUSH them all in VALUE (what you get/what you pay) in volume, sound and build (if you like bling) it stands second to NONE of those. I sold my Rebel and both Pono's with only a whiff of remorse, and would do it again. I WILL buy another Pono, and probably an Opio as well, but honestly, I'm not even sure WHY!

That's your opinion.

I wouldn't buy anything but Pono Pro Classic because they are that good.

I have owned other Ponos and sold them.

I have played Kala's and owned an Ohana and would not consider buying them. Great for some people, I just like a radius fret board enough to not pay attention to those brands that don't have one.

I play so many songs with constant barring flat fret boards don't cut it for me.

ukuleleden
05-14-2017, 10:22 AM
I WILL buy another Pono, and probably an Opio as well, but honestly, I'm not even sure WHY!

I know why: UAS. It's impossible to stop looking and wanting another uke no matter how content we may be with what uke we already own. Just curious, which Opio is on your radar? All-Acacia -or- Spruce-top?

DownUpDave
05-14-2017, 10:57 AM
"Not worth three times the price" is always an interesting statement. Sometimes a 10% improvement in sound moves a uke from OK to GREAT. If I hear a difference that really hits me in the heart and I am completely in love with the tone then 3, 4, 5 times the price is worth the 10% difference.

"Value" is another interesting concept. There is no value if I like the sound and playability of the more expensive one and never play the value uke.

Now if you like the sound and playabilty better on the value uke then that is true value.

intro
05-14-2017, 02:01 PM
It is great to see someone is so happy with their Chinese ukes. It would be interesting to see if the Chinese ukes are worth 3 times the cost of the other very similar Chinese ukes that are available. Has anyone found some Chinese ukes which only cost $100 but compare very well to the $300 Kalas and Ohanas? Would you say that the Kala and Ohanas are really three times better? I have a $15 Hanknn which is definitely comparable to a $300 Kala any day, I imported it directly from China via AliExpress.

uh...It would seem that my opinions have offended you..Certainly not my intent. Since you're a senior member, I'll just assume your attitudes hold sway here and just bail. Is buying a ukulele made in Indonesia or Mexico or elsewhere somehow more acceptable?

Choirguy
05-14-2017, 02:51 PM
While UU is generally respectful in tone, there are occasional little flare ups of conflict. I have been caught in one and I try to avoid these things. I would encourage you to not bail, but be convinced in your opinion.

As for senior members versus junior...that just means that you posted more often to hit some limit. Nothing special there!

When it comes to ukulele, you buy what you like and what you can afford. It is probably best to follow these guidelines as much as possible.

And in context of the thread, I have a Opio and I have a Pono. I would like to add a KoAloha someday. Yes, please...I will take another.

(And no, not other ukulele I own sounds like the Pono or Opio--so while they cost more than a $250 Kala, I'm okay with that.

intro
05-14-2017, 03:54 PM
While UU is generally respectful in tone, there are occasional little flare ups of conflict. I have been caught in one and I try to avoid these things. I would encourage you to not bail, but be convinced in your opinion.

As for senior members versus junior...that just means that you posted more often to hit some limit. Nothing special there!

When it comes to ukulele, you buy what you like and what you can afford. It is probably best to follow these guidelines as much as possible.

And in context of the thread, I have a Opio and I have a Pono. I would like to add a KoAloha someday. Yes, please...I will take another.

(And no, not other ukulele I own sounds like the Pono or Opio--so while they cost more than a $250 Kala, I'm okay with that.

Thank you for your explanation. Perhaps someone will offer an explanation to the other person. Perhaps not.

intro
05-14-2017, 03:59 PM
No, I am not offended and the Senior Member thing is nonsense, it is just a number of posts.
I was just making a point about the materialistic practice of assessing every ukulele based on how much it costs. People do not always buy a Pono or a Kala just because of the price, owning a ukulele is about a musical experience, it has little to do with money or how much stuff costs. Obviously, the price tag will affect what you can afford, but beyond that it is about a musical experience.
However, the thrill for other people may be in the money, so if that is what you want to talk about, don't just stop because someone presents a different point of view.
A better way to present the argument may be to put in some work on a video or a sound comparison, with a voting thing, as many others have done before. But you have to start somewhere, I don't see a problem with starting out with a bold strong argument. But it is unrealistic to hope that you are only going to get patronising replies to a strong bold argument.
The moderators and owners of the board specify what can and can't be posted, members just type away and follow the rules, or they get reported and the moderators will take what ever action is appropriate. Many members have been banned because they did not follow the rules. I certainly do not have any right or authority to stop anyone from posting anything they want. The moderators will make sure that the rules are not broken, not me. I am glad you are not offended. Perhaps that is because you are not Chinese.

Mivo
05-14-2017, 06:04 PM
I am glad you are not offended. Perhaps that is because you are not Chinese.

He just referred to mass-manufactured factory ukuleles coming out of China, which do tend to be same-y. It's not a slight, though I can see how the generalization may look like one.

My Moon Bird is a Chinese ukulele too, though hand built by master artisans, and it cost around $1200. It's one of the finest Ukes I have experienced, with great playability, fantastic sound and high quality materials. The craftsmanship is higher than that of a similarly priced KoAloha I had, and better value as far as the materials go. I guess the same instrument built in the USA would have cost twice as much, so the stigma of having been made in China worked in my favor. :)

No, a $1000 uke isn't three times better than a $300 uke, but playability, craftsmanship, and possibly sound will likely be superior. Certain features, like radiused fretboards, soundports, planetary tuners, etc also increase the price. And the materials, like rosewood back/sides, koa, and so on. How much that matters to you, and how much it is worth it to you, is an individual call.

Rakelele
05-15-2017, 01:43 AM
Value or performance are not linearly proportioned to price. A car that costs ten times as much as another car will not run ten times faster. But it may offer other benefits, some of which will be objectively better, while others may only subjectively be perceived as "better" according to individual preferences. And then there are other things that add to the value without necessarily ending up in a better product, such as fair vages, tolerable working conditions, health care, and retirement plans for the workers who build the product or sustainability of the resources that are used.

While I know that both Pono and KoAloha Opio (which are, to my knowledge, built by the Rebel company in Thailand) are not afraid to show their factories, I have never seen any factory documentation from the Chinese brands mentioned above, and despite different labels/logos, some of their instruments might even stem from the very same production line.