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View Full Version : Help me decide: I've chosen a few models - Help me make my final decision



AcousticTones
08-22-2015, 04:36 AM
So I'll start by saying YES these are two very different ukes and price points :) ...and that is EXACTLY where you all come in :)

I have decided to sell one of my guitars to help me buy a nicer uke. I was hoping to keep my budget between $500 and $600, but if I sell the guitar I could go as high as $1,000-1,300.

So here is my question: After getting some great feedback on other post and after talking with the guys over at http://www.theukulelesite.com/ I've narrowed it down to a few models and wondering what direction all of you would go based on the models I'm currently looking at.

So here are my PRIMARY concerns, desires or key factors for deciding on my next purchase:

-Buying electric or having them install the LR BAGGS system in whatever model I purchase. So that is a MUST and/or given.
-Good sound/tone - Which based on the recommendations I've received to help narrow this down I'm pretty convinced I can't lose with any of these models
-Warm vs. bright tone - I will most likely have them string it with whatever strings they feel would provide a warmer vs. bright tone and then buy extra sets of whatever strings they recommend
-And the BIG ONE FOR ME IS GOING TO BE THE PLAYABILITY AND WHICH UKE OR BRAND WOULD HAVE THE BEST FRETBOARD OR GOOD CLEAN FRET WORK THAT I COULD GET FOR THE MONEY!!!

*So a big concern for me after playing and buying guitars for over 30 years is that I could always just walk in to a shop and spend time with an instrument to determine how it FELT. I obviously would have no desire to buy something that I didn't like the sound, but assuming it's a quality instrument and sounded good it still always came down to how it FELT and most of that came down to the next and or fretboard and fret work (NO sharp edges, clean and even fret work, etc.).

So based on the above scenario of how I'm used to buying my guitars I'm a bit nervous since I have to order and can't just go and play these beauties (I live in MN and we just don't have any really good uke shops with a variety to choose from).

So here are a few models that I'm seriously considering and maybe why - All will get the LR BAGGS system if it is not already installed:

-PONO MT-PC (C) CEDAR TOP MAHOGANY, KOA BOUND RADIUS FRETBOARD TENOR PACKAGE - http://www.theukulelesite.com/pono-mt-pc-cedar-top-mahogany.html

Aaron over at the site or shop seems to just LOVE these, and I can see why. I would be just under $1000 after adding the LR BAGGS and I see what seems to be A LOT of Pono fans in these forums.

-KOALOHA KOA SLIMLINE TENOR WITH LR BAGGS PICKUP - http://www.theukulelesite.com/shop-by/brand/koaloha/koaloha-koa-tenor-thinbody-electric.html

This model is at the top of my range, but it's still doable, and it really interest me. After watching their sounds samples and videos I love what I'm hearing in regards to the difference between the thin verses full body models. They are almost the same, but with the thin almost having just a bit more punch (which I kind of like).

-PONO MTSHC-S SPRUCE/MAHOGANY CUTAWAY- KOA BOUND - RADIUS -SLOTHEAD + - http://www.theukulelesite.com/pono-mtshc-s-spruce-mahogany-cutaway.html

This is another that would be at the top of my range after adding the LR BAGGS, but just looks to be something I would love.

---

So based on the above and keeping things at under that $1,300 mark:

-Are the two higher priced models going to worth the extra money?
-Who has the best neck and/or fret work (I know necks and shapes are personal, but in general who is known to have the best necks and fret work between these - and would the more expensive Pono be that much better then the lower priced Pono, and how would their necks and fretwork compare to the Koaloha)
-Which would you buy?

This is meant to be a life time purchase and hoping to make a good decision without a fear of thinking I wish I could return this and try the others.

Sorry soooooo long, and thanks for all you input and opinions. These three model choices came from a number of recommendations from some of you and the store itself. So you've already been REALLY helpful, and this is just the next step... and hopefully the last :)

DownUpDave
08-22-2015, 05:00 AM
Your biggest cocern or priority seems to be playability or feel. As you point out it is very hard to determine this over electronic media.Between the two Pono pro classics the neck, fretboard and frets are identical. Price difference is in the cutaway and slothead on the spruce one. You said you want a warm sound so stay with a cedar top.

I own Pono and Koaloha and the fit and finish is just a bit better on the Pono pro classics. The neck is a little deeper and the fret wires are larger in diameter. Both brands are top quality and highly regarded.

Tough choice..........buy both.

AcousticTones
08-22-2015, 05:07 AM
Tough choice..........buy both.

DOH!!! There's my answer!!! ;)

Hippie Dribble
08-22-2015, 05:08 AM
Koaloha - slim neck profile; brighter tone; louder
Pono - chunkier neck; more mid range; mellower

PhilUSAFRet
08-22-2015, 05:11 AM
That cedar topped Pono sounds sweeeeet! One in our Marketplace.

Dan Uke
08-22-2015, 05:35 AM
I don't know if this helps but Jason Arimoto, professional in LA plays the Koaloha slimline tenor but with Misi

AcousticTones
08-22-2015, 06:06 AM
I don't know if this helps but Jason Arimoto, professional in LA plays the Koaloha slimline tenor but with Misi

Jason's got skills. That's for sure :)

lewclev
08-22-2015, 06:39 AM
I have the Pono MTSH-PC (C), same model but with slotted headstock. I have had it for a little over a week now and I absolutely love it!

The fit, finish and looks are amazing. The feel of the instrument is outstanding and I find the radius fret board helps me hit the barre chords much cleaner. I also like the depth of the neck. It is just a little more than my other ukes but feels good.

I did not care for the feel of the stock strings (Ko'olau Alohi Low G with wound 3rd and 4th) or the sound they produced at all. I replaced them with a set of South Coast Low G (LL-NW) strings and the ukulele really came alive and sang beautifully.

I have two other tenor ukuleles, a solid spruce top Cordoba and an all solid mahogany Fender. I talked with Aaron and Andrew to find a sound that would sit between the brightness of the spruce and the deep mellow sound of the mahogany and would be a step up in quality. The sound of the Pono with the South Coast strings fits perfectly between the two.

I am thrilled with it and would highly recommend it. I would also recommend getting the stock string set on the instrument but adding a set South Coast strings to your order. Strings and sound are really subjective with no right or wrong just what sounds best to you. If you get both sets, you have two options.

Good Luck with your purchase!

hollisdwyer
08-22-2015, 06:46 AM
You know, with the strength of the US$ against the AUS$ you could get a very nice custom from Barron River Ukes
http://www.brguitars.com/ for the upper end of your budget. That would include a pickup ( I'd suggest the MiSi) and radiused neck. Wait time is not that long and worth the wait as a custom from a good luthier is going to play and sound better than any factory Uke, even very good ones like the ones you mentioned IMO.
As you said you see this as a "life time purchase" broaden your search and take your time. That was the approach that I took when moving up from Factory instruments. First to 2nd hand customs and then to commissioning to my own designs. I know that I am fortunate to have been able to do this but there is no doubt in my mind that it was worth it as a fine instrument is a joy.

Fleacia
08-22-2015, 09:08 AM
I agree with lewclev and ubulele. I'd go with the cedar top Pono. It will be more mellow than spruce. As for playability, I've heard (haven't ordered from them) that the HMS guys do a great setup on every uke. So whichever you choose, fretwork should be fine. As a guitar player, you might also prefer the Pono neck over the KoAloha - the Pono has a thicker neck profile. I also agree that the string search, especially for a long-term uke, can take time. Give the factory strings a fair trial, but have others on hand until you find what you like. Knowing that they, too, could change as you progress! Let us know what you choose, and good luck!
O.T. what kind of guitar is moving on for this uke to come in? Just curious, I play acoustic guitar too. :)

ralphk
08-22-2015, 09:45 AM
Don't forget the old standby, mahogany. They are mellow ukes. And, this is an opinion, slotted head stocks may look pretty, but offer nothing meaningful in terms of playability and they are more troublesome for those of us who seem to change strings a lot. I'd save the money on slotted head stocks and put it into your electronics

AcousticTones
08-22-2015, 09:51 AM
O.T. what kind of guitar is moving on for this uke to come in? Just curious, I play acoustic guitar too. :)

A modified Gibson J-35. I had locking tuners added, different bridge pins (still have originals) and the LR BAGGS Anthem system. I've got about $2,200 in to her, but I'm assuming she'll go for around $1,500.

UkerDanno
08-22-2015, 10:08 AM
I would rule out the slimline first thing, you won't get the volume and tone of standard body...slimlines are for travel and/or if you like the compactness.

If you're going to play amped. just get this with a Baggs...
http://www.theukulelesite.com/shop-by/kala-sstu-t-tenor-travel-ukulele.html

rappsy
08-22-2015, 10:29 AM
Koaloha - slim neck profile; brighter tone; louder
Pono - chunkier neck; more mid range; mellower

Terrific precise descriptions, Jon. Two very different sounds, two very different Ukes.

If Low G is a possibility, the Pono will ring out more, so if you re going to be playing with others, then this is a reasonable solution.

The KoAloha is very light and easy to hold. The Pono is much heavier.

My vote for the way I like my music to sound is the KoAloha.

dirtiestkidever
08-22-2015, 10:55 AM
I have owned a Pono Pro Classic (Cedar top) and a couple KoAlohas (sop and concert). All great ukes. But I think for up to $1300 you can do much better. You should be able to find Pono and KoAlohas for a lot cheaper (used, factory 2nd, etc). I currently own a Kinnard and in my opinion it really blows away anything else I have played. There is one on FMM (https://www.fleamarketmusic.com/marketplace/) that is above your price range but within striking distance. If I were in the market for a tenor and had your budget I would sell anything I could to make the higher price point for the Kinnard. All of the Kinnards I have played have been really special ukes. Really special.

Good luck.

Highmiles
08-22-2015, 11:09 AM
I would rule out the slimline first thing, you won't get the volume and tone of standard body...slimlines are for travel and/or if you like the compactness.


Really? That's contradictory to what HMS says, or what an owner has told me. Also seems contradicted in the HMS video. I know I would have expected that outcome, but I was basing a future purchase on HMS information. I guess I need to hear from another owner, or try to get one to listen to now, if that is the case.

wayfarer75
08-22-2015, 12:27 PM
You know, with the strength of the US$ against the AUS$ you could get a very nice custom from Barron River Ukes
http://www.brguitars.com/ for the upper end of your budget. That would include a pickup ( I'd suggest the MiSi) and radiused neck. Wait time is not that long and worth the wait as a custom from a good luthier is going to play and sound better than any factory Uke, even very good ones like the ones you mentioned IMO.
As you said you see this as a "life time purchase" broaden your search and take your time. That was the approach that I took when moving up from Factory instruments. First to 2nd hand customs and then to commissioning to my own designs. I know that I am fortunate to have been able to do this but there is no doubt in my mind that it was worth it as a fine instrument is a joy.

I completely agree.

turtledrum
08-22-2015, 02:02 PM
I'm a Koaloha fan, with various models in various sizes. That Koaloha sound is singularly incredible.

That being said, I own a Pono 8 string that I really like.

UkerDanno
08-22-2015, 04:49 PM
Really? That's contradictory to what HMS says, or what an owner has told me. Also seems contradicted in the HMS video. I know I would have expected that outcome, but I was basing a future purchase on HMS information. I guess I need to hear from another owner, or try to get one to listen to now, if that is the case.

Notice the slimlines all have pickups pre-installed, they're made for playing amp'ed. Other wise why would most all acoustic ukuleles be full bodied?

tangimango
08-23-2015, 01:45 AM
sorry but it dosnt matter slim line or full body. you can get extreme volume and great tone from a thin body like this koaloha that will out volum/tone a lot of full body ukuleles. why? because of the overall build. i bet these pono has less volume then the koaloha. why, heavy bracing and thick gloss finish. most ponos are over built to stand longevity.
but Koaloha are known for being the brightest of all K brands. so if your looking for a mellow tone not sure, but the video sound clip of the Koaloha sounds pretty warm to me for Flourocarbon strings.

so original OP, don't consider the koaloha out. hope HMS can help you cause they actually can play it for you.


I would rule out the slimline first thing, you won't get the volume and tone of standard body...slimlines are for travel and/or if you like the compactness.

If you're going to play amped. just get this with a Baggs...
http://www.theukulelesite.com/shop-by/kala-sstu-t-tenor-travel-ukulele.html

tangimango
08-23-2015, 01:58 AM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUsEtBbftIQ


Notice the slimlines all have pickups pre-installed, they're made for playing amp'ed. Other wise why would most all acoustic ukuleles be full bodied?

Doc_J
08-23-2015, 02:05 AM
There are some excellent prices or preowned Pono models and other makers available in the UU marketplace. You might consider one of those.

greenie44
08-23-2015, 02:32 AM
I have owned a Pono Pro Classic (Cedar top) and a couple KoAlohas (sop and concert). All great ukes. But I think for up to $1300 you can do much better. You should be able to find Pono and KoAlohas for a lot cheaper (used, factory 2nd, etc). I currently own a Kinnard and in my opinion it really blows away anything else I have played. There is one on FMM (https://www.fleamarketmusic.com/marketplace/) that is above your price range but within striking distance. If I were in the market for a tenor and had your budget I would sell anything I could to make the higher price point for the Kinnard. All of the Kinnards I have played have been really special ukes. Really special.

Good luck.

Got to second the Kinnard. I recently got a used tenor tobacco sunburst Kinnard, and it is magnificent. It was a little out of your stated price range, but if you can find one, just buy it!

UkerDanno
08-23-2015, 04:00 AM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUsEtBbftIQ

Point taken, guess we should all switch to thinbody. I won't be anytime soon! Sorry to pirate this thread!

sam13
08-23-2015, 08:56 AM
I think over time you should get both.

I am a Pono Fanboy and have bought 7 over the last 2.5 years.

I have found the radius fretboards between the Ukes to be easier to barre and get a clean sound. But that topic is highly debated by players off all shapes and sizes of hands, limbs and level of experience. I am new to the Uke so a radius is helpful.

But I do have 3 Super Sopranos by different makers and one is a KoAloha. I love the tone, workmanship actually everything about it.

I have bought from HMS and they were exceptional to work with. I appreciate Andrew and all the staff.

But the CDA dollar exchange at + 25% makes things much less affordable. Then tax when it comes in to the Country. So excellent quality used Ukes make it affordable.

There are several Ponos for sale on the forum, and CoolKayaker listed a KoAloha Slim Tenor you were looking for.

Perhaps you could get both.