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View Full Version : Asking for Thoughts on my Kanilea satin finish



the.ronin
07-11-2015, 05:59 AM
I have a Kanilea concert satin finish (K-1 C SF). I really like this uke. It's very unassuming looking but has great tone and sustain. But it is a a little too soft / warm / low volume. Also with the wider neck, the notes will tend to ring out more individually sometimes if I don't compensate with a faster attack through the strings further lessening the volume / making it more warm sounding. In fairness, my only direct comparison is my other concert which is a Koaloha and with clear worths, I think the guys in the Koaloha factory can here me play from here. I tend to avoid Aquilas because I just don't like how they feel over time (to me, they don't seem to wear in like a stubborn pair of jeans). I've got Worth clears on them now and I still find myself wanting more zing. Or perhaps I am asking too much from this satin finish concert? Build date was about a year ago so also maybe it needs more time to open up? (Koaloha was built last month though so go figure lol.)

Also, this particular K-1 C SF has a compensated saddle. Really? A compensated saddle on a uke? A smaller-than-a-tenor uke? Intonation is pretty good though on each string all the way up to the 20th (off by a few cents as I go up but tuners still in the green).

I do really like this uke though and I love the sound it can make. Just wanting a little more oomph I found myself having to play harder than normal in a crowd of people and when I do that I tend to sacrifice some precision.

DownUpDave
07-11-2015, 06:15 AM
Having a Koaloha will spoil you when it comes to volume and resonance.

If you are looking for louder, brighter there are a few strings to try out. Aquila Reds, South Coast mediums, D'addario Titaniums, PHds. I have had all these strings are various ukes and they seem to do what you are after. The PHds were designed by Daniel Ho for Koalohas...........want that sound those might help. Worth Clears do come stock on Koalohas but you tried those on your Kanilea already.

the.ronin
07-11-2015, 06:19 AM
Having a Koaloha will spoil you when it comes to volume and resonance.

If you are looking for louder, brighter there are a few strings to try out. Aquila Reds, South Coast mediums, D'addario Titaniums, Phds.
Thanks Dave. Ok, I will try those out! Yes, you are right, Koaloha might be a bad comparison. They are so bright in fact I'm going to try out the worth browns on them.

I've never heard of South Coast thanks for that.

Rakelele
07-11-2015, 08:13 AM
The warm and mellow sound you're describing is something that many look for and prefer over brightness. Of course, that's a matter of personal preferences, and KoAloha is known for being particularly loud.

As for the compensated saddle on the Kanilea: I have been wondering about these too, because I had bad intonation on my baritone with this type of saddle from them. I must say, I can't think of a string set where this particular kind of compensation would make sense. Why are the first and third string more compensated than two and four? I have made some experiments and what I found is that all of my three Kanilea ukes intonate better with a non-compensated saddle. There has been a discussion about this here (http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?107584-Intonation-flat-on-one-string-moving-up-the-fretboard) (see post #38 for a more detailed report on my experiments).

Doc_J
07-11-2015, 08:21 AM
You might want to try higher tension South Coast strings or Worth Heavy Strings for more volume/projection.

Another option is to install a pickup.

gyosh
07-11-2015, 09:03 AM
Having a Koaloha will spoil you when it comes to volume and resonance.

If you are looking for louder, brighter there are a few strings to try out. Aquila Reds, South Coast mediums, D'addario Titaniums, PHds. I have had all these strings are various ukes and they seem to do what you are after. The PHds were designed by Daniel Ho for Koalohas...........want that sound those might help. Worth Clears do come stock on Koalohas but you tried those on your Kanilea already.


PhD's were designed by Jason Arimoto, PhD., and distributed through Daniel Ho Creations.

(Just want Jason to get credit for his work.:) )

DownUpDave
07-11-2015, 09:33 AM
PhD's were designed by Jason Arimoto, PhD., and distributed through Daniel Ho Creations.

(Just want Jason to get credit for his work.:) )

Thanks for the clarification............as they say, don't believe everything you read. I was kinda right, hahaha. Great strings none the less

the.ronin
07-11-2015, 10:10 AM
Thank you guys. I've taken note of these string suggestions. I just picked up a set of the Daddario titaniums to start only because they were the easiest to obtain (Guita center). These will be for the Kanilea. For the Koaloha, I'm going to try these Kooalau golds which are incredibly mellow. In most any other case, too mellow in my opinion. I think it has a wound C (reentrant) which will be interesting for that uke.


The warm and mellow sound you're describing is something that many look for and prefer over brightness. Of course, that's a matter of personal preferences, and KoAloha is known for being particularly loud.

Oh yes I too look for that sound. But this is just too mellow. I should do a quick sound sample. Yes I will - comparing the strings.


As for the compensated saddle on the Kanilea: I have been wondering about these too, because I had bad intonation on my baritone with this type of saddle from them. I must say, I can't think of a string set where this particular kind of compensation would make sense. Why are the first and third string more compensated than two and four? I have made some experiments and what I found is that all of my three Kanilea ukes intonate better with a non-compensated saddle. There has been a discussion about this here (http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?107584-Intonation-flat-on-one-string-moving-up-the-fretboard) (see post #38 for a more detailed report on my experiments).
Thank you! Great work in that thread! Yes, I have the same saddle (exact same). Except this is a concert LOL. I am more and more inclined to replace this saddle with a non compensated one to try out.

stevepetergal
07-11-2015, 10:31 AM
I own a Koaloha concert, too. I've bought three Kanile'a concerts, and they were all as you describe. I sold one and returned the others. Even after trying several different strings on two of them, to me they sounded dead.
I too use Worth strings on my instruments, as a rule, but found the Kanile'as I had were at their best (such as it was) with Aquilas.
My experience tells me you will never be able to compare your two instruments fairly.

the.ronin
07-11-2015, 02:30 PM
Thank you for the feedback stevepetergal - were your Kanileas all satin finish or were they gloss? I'm not sure I've reached your conclusion yet and despite my issues with its brightness, I do very much like the tone (richness of each note - no doubt the wider neck is helping with this at least from a fingering standpoint) and sustain (notes ring out and hang there nicely). But yea, if this turns out to be one of those "best with Aquilas" ukes, then I'll likely do as you did.

stevepetergal
07-11-2015, 03:06 PM
I had all high gloss finishes on my Kanile'as.

strumsilly
07-11-2015, 05:06 PM
I'm not sure if their gloss finish is any thicker than their satin. the gloss certainly shows off any flaw and is likely more expensive to apply correctly. Their gloss finish sure shows off their beautiful koa.

chuck in ny
07-12-2015, 04:56 AM
I own a Koaloha concert, too. I've bought three Kanile'a concerts, and they were all as you describe. I sold one and returned the others. Even after trying several different strings on two of them, to me they sounded dead.
I too use Worth strings on my instruments, as a rule, but found the Kanile'as I had were at their best (such as it was) with Aquilas.
My experience tells me you will never be able to compare your two instruments fairly.

i went into the guitar/uke store in santa cruz excited to finally have my hands on a kanilea. much the same as you i did not find the right resonance. the couple i very briefly played were dead sounding instruments. i'm sure there are very nice ones. i wouldn't know how to go about getting a good one.

coolkayaker1
07-12-2015, 05:13 AM
I'll make a point and an opinion about Kanilea...a ukulele that I have never owned, and will never own.

The point: when you see a professional playing a Kanilea (Aldrine, Craig Chee, etc.) you are seeing a closely microphoned and amplified situation, or are seeing a live performance though a pick-up and amp. This, in my mind, evens the playing field for not only the ukes, but also the strings, etc.

So, the original poster makes an excellent observation from hands-on, open air, Kanilea. I have heard that from others on UU. I have heard Kanileas myself, such as Mr. Petergal's, and have studied them in stores in Hawaii and Illinois--one could argue that the 10 or so that I have demoed--both satin and gloss--were unusual in that regard; statistically, that is quite unlikely. They were all as the original poster described. I think the bracing (this is pure conjecture, as I am not a luthier) is far too stout. That brace with the holes drilled in it is a small log. Of the "big 4" Hawaiian uke makers, Kanilea is the one that I have heard the most issues with of any on UU (not only for volume, as here, but also for intonation issues and warranty issues). I will never own a Kanilea based on the experiences of others, plus my own eyes, and my own ears.

To be fair, I know some ukulele players adore Kanilea (although, compared to the other popular K brands, one of which you mention, the.ronin, I think Kanilea-admirers are in the minority).

I will leave you with a video that, to my ear, further makes the point. Same recording conditions for ten ukes. Close your eyes and listen--you will be able to tell when Corey starts playing the Kanilea, both for lack of loudness/projection, and lack of tonal range. It's as bright as a pebble to my ear. But, you can judge for yourself.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_e-MuDoJk2c

To the.ronin, your ears don't fib. I think your questions about whether it will "open up" and whether different strings will make a significant difference are great questions. From my experience, the answers are "no" and "no".

(note: the Kanilea in Corey's video appears to be satin, and to have the most soundboard-driving strings available, Aquilas; the result is uninspiring.)

Lori
07-12-2015, 06:26 AM
I got to choose my Kanile'a in person, and at the time I had maybe 6 instruments to choose from. Some of them were tenors, others were concerts, there was a guitarlele, and a super concert. All of these were the gloss finish (which I really love!). Playing them side by side, I noticed that some were nice sounding but not outstanding. The super concert in the group stood out with a sparkly high end, while still having a nice low end. It was the clear winner in the test, and I still love it today. Ukes vary a lot, even within the same model, so playing the more expensive ones before you buy is important. KoAlohas are very consistent in their sound, and I would say it is a very distinctive sound, loud with a brilliant high end. They are really meant to be a different sound, so comparing it to other uke brands is like comparing apples to oranges. Strings make a big difference too.

–Lori

greenie44
07-12-2015, 07:30 AM
I have read this thread with interest, based on a few years experience with my Kanile'a Super Tenor.

I originally decided on this model after a "backwards test" at HMS, when Mike, who was still working there, played 3 K brands while my back was turned. I choose the Kanile'a Super Tenor based on the sound from that test, but did not buy the new one that day, as it was a bit pricey for me. I ended up finding a used one in my price range and happily bought it.

Although I really liked the playability of the uke, and I loved the look and finish, I never really fell in love with playing it. This uneasiness continued for a couple of years, eventually leading to me buying a Collings Tenor, which I did absolutely love. OK, I thought, time to resell the Kanile'a. But before I did, I tried switching out the strings to a Savarez set with a low G Fremont squeakless, and WOW. The uke just came alive. I still have it.

My guess is that the larger size of the Super Tenor added resonance appropriate for a low G tuning. Others have intimated that the quality range of Kanile'as vary, and I might have just gotten a dud. Not sure which is right, or if it is something in between. The sound on my Kanile'a is certainly different from my Collings, but it's nice and works on some material.

Any thought from you all on this?

strumsilly
07-12-2015, 11:12 AM
I had a Kanilea gloss tenor. it did not sound dead. My Koaloha had a better pick up and I liked the tone slightly better so that's the one I kept. I have also played a satin kanilea baritone. that was not a dud. In my limited experience I would say they are fine ukes.

the.ronin
07-12-2015, 11:56 AM
Oh wow guys. First, thank you for the responses - very well thought out responses. coolkayaker, its very tough to argue with all of your points as they are all logical and very good.

I would really like to clarify though - I do not think my particular Kanilea (K-1 C SF) sounds like a "dead instrument." In fact, as I mentioned off the bat, I found the sustain and tone (and also like the wider neck) very good. These are the reasons I bought it when I played this and others at the store. It was only after playing a while and in a crowd of people that I realized the volume and brightness were direly lacking.

As an aside, I actually put Worth Browns on them first LOL!!! I was like wow this is too depressing sounding. They've got clears now but still not where I personally would like it. I got a set of D'addario Titaniums from a recommendation in this thread and will try those out.

So again, I don't find this a "bad" uke as far as sound ... I just find myself wanting more volume.

NOW ... since we are complaining about Kanilea lol :D ... I do have some serious other gripes. The tuners. Really Joe? China ebay (http://stores.ebay.com/taisamlumusical/)? Yes, they are the exact same ones. At least pick the ebony buttons not the cheap black plastic ones with the seams not even sanded down. And speaking of cheap black platic things ... really with these bridge pins? And lastly, the action on mine was horrendous. I went through and set it up proper. Maybe they kept it high to compensate for the low volume??? hmmm. Anyway, don't even get me started on the compensated saddle ... for a *concert* uke lol. [/rant]

But yea, I like this uke. :D

Nickie
07-12-2015, 01:07 PM
I sat right next to Sarah while she was playing her new Kanilea. At first I thought it was a bit quiet, but then I realized she was strumming and picking softly so as not to make my ears bleed. I think it's an awesome uke. Don't recall if it was glossy or satin coated.

UkerDanno
07-12-2015, 03:13 PM
ronin, you're weird...you like the uke, but all you do is trash it!

I love my Kanile'a K-2 CP...it's not as bright and punchy as my old Martin C1k, but not by much and it's tone and sustain are awesome! Not to mention the fit and finish, my K is a little older and has the old style bridge and uncompensated saddle, which I like, but my C1K had a compensated saddle as did my OXK. Not a problem for me.

Here is a comparison of the K and the C1K, the Martin was loud and punchy, I'd compare it to a Koaloha anyday. They both had new Martin strings, I've since gone back to Aquilas and think they sound great.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXTcYPQrzEE

Camsuke
07-12-2015, 03:25 PM
Here's another little sound grab for comparison. Kanile'a K1 Concert, satin finish, Aquila strings. Recorded raw through an iPhone.

This uke would be quite similar to the OP's apart from the big bad Aquilas.

https://app.box.com/s/u4nwai5fru6encb0dp64dtqao4wizjab

Steedy
07-12-2015, 03:28 PM
Oasis, Living Water, and Phd strings might all sound very good on a Kanile'a. All three seem well suited to solid Koa ukes in my experience.

the.ronin
07-12-2015, 04:57 PM
Here's another little sound grab for comparison. Kanile'a K1 Concert, satin finish, Aquila strings. Recorded raw through an iPhone.

I think that's the same one I have. Great playing and yes, there is some good volume there with the Aquilas. Thank you for sharing that.


Oasis, Living Water, and Phd strings might all sound very good on a Kanile'a. All three seem well suited to solid Koa ukes in my experience.
I just put on a set of Oasis GPX low g on my tenor and really like them. I use them on my classical guitars and just found out they made uke strings. But I never associated them with volume just very crystal clear tones. I will give it a shot. I just put on the Daddarios Titaniums and first impression is not much more volume than the Worth clears. I'll give them a couple days to break in and see then.

the.ronin
07-12-2015, 05:06 PM
ronin, you're weird...you like the uke, but all you do is trash it!

LOL!! That is fair, UkerDanno.

But actually I've agreed to what you've said in my prior posts. The reason I bought this K1 is because I liked the tone and sustain - I also really like the look of the koa with the satin finish. I already knew gloss would have added more brightness when I bought it but I didn't expect to be so short on volume when I played it in a crowd.

As for my other gripes, it's really the fact that I think so highly of this uke (other than its volume) that I'm beside myself as to why they decided to go with such cheap tuners and bridge pins.

Anyway, great video - that Martin really booms for a concert.

Steedy
07-12-2015, 06:09 PM
Oh BTW, I prefer the Oasis Brights over their Warms. To me they sound about the same, only the Warms have more tension. Also, I like the original Oasis Low G string better than their new smooth wound Low G, which sounds a little dull to me, and doesn't squeak any less than the original. Just my two cents. :)

pritch
07-12-2015, 06:40 PM
I didn't expect to be so short on volume when I played it in a crowd.


I don't know about your experience level so this could be off the mark; when I play with others I can often hear their instruments better than my own because some of their instruments are facing me, my own is facing away. That isn't necessarily an indication of the relative volume of my uke(s).

the.ronin
07-20-2015, 06:41 AM
Ok guys I'm close to being done making changes with my K-1 C SF.

Cosmetically, the plastic bridge pins were replaced with some cool boxwood ones with zebra wood dots. eBay seller "taisamlu" carries the same 2L/2R tuners that Kanilea uses (exact same actually, they have the same branding engraved on the back plate facing the headstock). I picked up some walnut button ones to replace the black plastic ones.

Sonically, I replaced the tusq nut and saddle with some bone ones. Man, shaping these things from guitar ones is torture on the fingers lol. Intonation is good (off by a couple cents max using a Samson CT20 clip on chromatic) all the way up the fret on each string. My G and A initially sounded a bit tinny at first, but are starting to settle. I'm not sure if the change in the G and A tones are because of 1) the bone vs tusq, 2) ever so slight (fraction of millimeters) gap in the saddle slot, or 3) they need compensation. I'm going to role with it for now and see if it continues to bother me. As far as action, I'm at about 0.03" at the 1st and 0.095" at the 12th (yea, I know, I mighta gone a little crazy sanding down the saddle). I might bring the 1st down a tad but for the most part, I'm liking the volume I'm getting at this height with no fear of fret buzz.

Pics and hopefully a sound sample if I time coming. Hopefully this will be helpful for anyone else wanting to make changes to their K-1 C SF.

trevorg888
07-21-2015, 09:18 PM
I would try Koolau Gold strings

PhilUSAFRet
07-21-2015, 10:05 PM
Both the KoAloha and Kanilea concerts are commonly referred to as "tone monsters"...perhaps for different reasons. Like my Martin and Kamaka sopranos, equal but different. Some prefer one, some the other, some want both.

the.ronin
07-22-2015, 07:41 AM
I would try Koolau Gold strings


Both the KoAloha and Kanilea concerts are commonly referred to as "tone monsters"...perhaps for different reasons. Like my Martin and Kamaka sopranos, equal but different. Some prefer one, some the other, some want both.

I actually went back to Worth clears and I'll need to make a comparison video to be sure but I think I'm getting much better volume and also better tone out of this concert. Don't know if its the bone saddle, the new setup (lowered the 1st closer to 0.023"), everything just finally settling in (I bought it new but build date was last year) - likely a combination of a lot of things. But I really like the sound now. I always liked the tone and sustain but the volume / body of the sound left a bit for me to be desired. But now it seems much better!