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View Full Version : The 3 Ks(+1), whats the story morning glory



the flat tire
10-06-2015, 11:16 AM
So I finally got the big three in my greedy not so little hands!
Kanile'a, Kamaka, and KoAloha.
Wait.
Koolau.
I'm working on that one.
Anyways, was it worth it?
What's the big deal?
Will my lowly Kala stand up to the big boys?

84145

Let's go from left to right:

The Kanile'a is from 2013 according to the serial no. so it's not representative of their current technology.
Or whatever.
I would have to say, it has the best finish.
All my ukes are gloss by the way.
Kanile'a, for what its worth, I think has the nicer woods.
The finish is nice and smooth. No problems there. This is one the deluxe jobs with the sand in the logo and the markers; nice touch, I used to live in Kailua.
Fit and finish is first rate, sort of.
The tuners were installed just slightly off so they are not symmetrical on the head.
I have an art degree, I can see that sort of thing.
Otherwise, great!
For some reason it plays small, like its not a tenor.
I'm not talking sound here, I think sound is all relative to the user.
I will say it took me six sets of different strings to find one set I liked.
Now it rocks. No small sound here.

Oh yes, the Kamaka.
Brand spanking July 2015 new! July 17th to be exact.
Isn't that cute? it has a birthday!
Took me almost five months to find this one.
I've also handled more than a few so trust me when I say they are all pretty much the same finish wise.
Which is pretty darn good!
It has the thickest neck of the bunch, but not thick like thick thick.
If you know what I mean.
I'd measure it but I'm too lazy to bring out the mike. Well okay, I almost did, but laziness prevailed.
Finish comes in a close second only because the gloss is very thin, not glass like the Kanile'a. Which actually may be a good thing.
Kamaka, in all their wisdom only makes two versions of the tenor, the basic and the deluxe. I'm still waiting for the slot head etc.
The basic model, upon closer inspection, doesn't feel so basic after all.
The body is nicely rounded; no flat bottoms here.
You have to pay extra to get that on a Koolau CS.
Fit and finish, nothing to complain about there. In fact I keep looking at the way they carved out the neck, the grain there is very nice!
By the way, I did a year in the woodshop on the way to my degree so I know a little about wood.
This is the only body I got where the heel of the neck meets dead center of the rear halves. The KoAloha might be close, but because of the grain I can't really tell. The others are just slightly off center.
I like the wood on the head plate, it matches the body, and they try to do that on all their ukes.
Schaller tuners. No skimping there.
The thin finish though seems a bit prone to scratching, I'll have to pay attention and be careful there. The Kamaka seems plain, but there's something about the way all the little things add up to one big thing and suddenly it's not so plain anymore.

The KoAloha seems to be the lightest of the group. Production date here is Sept 2012.
I gotta say, the top scares me a bit with all that deflection but I believe that's why they are so loud. In fact, all the body wood seems really thin. Reminds me of my vintage Silvertone.
Finish is below the other two.
Don't get me wrong, it's nice, it's the only one with a bound neck, but there's still something not quite there.
My opinion only.
In my Quest for Ukulele (QFU), I found that KoAloha is like Kamaka in that the wood they use tends to be on the plain side.
You need to wait and shop for one that really speaks or wait for a Special Issue.
Fit and finish again, just seems like a step below the other two, the gloss is thin and to me, feels like it's missing a coat or two.
You can really see and feel the grain, especially on the neck. This thin coating probably helps with the volume. While there is binding on the neck, the sides are bit rough, like it missed a sanding.
I don't mind the five point crown except that it gets in the way of the bottom two tuners when using a winder.
The headstock also makes it a bit top heavy.
I think it plays the easiest.

I threw my Kala into the fold because sound wise, it belongs in there.
Spruce top don't you know. It can stand with the big boys.

Anyways, in comparing the three there are differences.
The Kamaka has the largest body, thickness wise, the Kanile'a the thinnest. The difference being about a half inch.
The Kamaka and Kanile'a have rounded backs, the KoAloha is flat.
Again, the KoAloha has the thinnest neck, the Kamaka the thickest. All have plenty of room at the top for the dreaded D chord. I like the heel of the KoAloha best.
Factory set up was great for me, all measured about the same at the 12th fret. The Kamaka seems a bit lower at the nut though we're talking micros here.
The Kanile'a of course has the pinned bridge, which I sort of like.
All three are light, too close to call but it feels like the KoAloha is lighter.

In the ukulele family, the Kanile'a is like the graceful mom. She gets her hair done and wears a dress and has a beautiful voice. It plays the smallest and feels well, feminine. Caress it. I like it late at night.

Kamaka is the big daddy. Get the hell out of my way I'm here now. I got Aquila Lavas on there now and it just screams UKULELE! Typical cha lang a lang sound. It can play a nice quiet though.

KoAloha is like the teenager. Look at me! I'm bold and loud and not quite grown up! I need a haircut! For me the KoAloha only plays at one speed/volume. Any time any where. The electric ukulele you don't need to plug in!

My thoughts only, now that I got all three.
All sell for within a hundred bucks of each other, but you are getting three different instruments.
I think.
Again I'm not talking sound for there's a spruce top in there, but even between the KoAloha and the Kamaka there's a difference.
I've heard light and dark koa are different also (I'm partial to blonde curly koa).
Bottom line, all three are great, but you gotta try em before you buy em. I don't think you can go wrong with any of them, but I think you gotta find one that matches you.
One more thing, if I weren't insane I'd be perfectly happy with my Kala. It really does stand up to the big boys in tone and sound. Great value!
Why try all three?
The best ukulele is the one you take out of the case everyday. I just had to know which one it was going to be.
Have fun on your Quest For Ukulele!

DownUpDave
10-06-2015, 12:52 PM
Oh great............now I wanna buy a Kala :p

Seriously though I really enjoyed your review, hit some great points. It truely gave me a feel for what each one was all about, well done.The quest for the K brands are not complete until you have a Ko'olau. Just saying that because you made me want a Kala, what model is that by the way, spruce/ovangal????

the flat tire
10-06-2015, 01:35 PM
I got the limited edition spruce rosewood mango one. That ovangal one sounded really nice too!
Been waffling on a Koolau; maybe out of my league. Unless I get like a huge tax return!

Nickie
10-06-2015, 03:48 PM
I would love to have one of the K brands! When my income improves....
Oh, wait, I own a Kala! It's great, it's hard to imagine how much better a Hawaiian uke can play and sound. My under $300 Kala gets better every year.
A trip to Hawaii and HMS is on my bucket list.
Heck, I don't even have a bucket list. But that's where I wanna go....

the flat tire
10-07-2015, 12:14 AM
Play your Kala! I still play mine!
The mystique of the K brands...they make me sound awesome! Not.
They are nice to play and look at though.

tangimango
10-07-2015, 12:28 AM
nice K brand collection. Don't worry to much about getting a Koolau, really nothing special compared to other K brands.

guitharsis
10-07-2015, 01:45 AM
Very interesting K brand review. Unique perspective.:)

mm stan
10-07-2015, 02:12 AM
You need a maui music to the collection :)
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the flat tire
10-07-2015, 10:10 AM
Very interesting K brand review. Unique perspective.:)

thanks! I wanted to do something different from the 'normal' reviews


You need a maui music to the collection :)
84151

I haven't found one I could play! I think my next acquisition will be a locally made custom...

the flat tire
10-07-2015, 10:14 AM
nice K brand collection. Don't worry to much about getting a Koolau, really nothing special compared to other K brands.


Interesting.
I haven't found a really good review of a Koolau...ultimately it may be too much ukulele for me.

mm stan
10-07-2015, 12:42 PM
thanks! I wanted to do something different from the 'normal' reviews



I haven't found one I could play! I think my next acquisition will be a locally made custom...
Call andrew at hms and ask him, to call you when he gets them in.. pua pua you can try them there

the flat tire
10-07-2015, 04:53 PM
Thanks, I may stop by Pua, I'm just starting to go concert hunting.

mm stan
10-08-2015, 01:33 AM
http://www.mauimusicukuleles.com/ukuleles/
Peter is a member here too.. urcuzzn
Mine is a super concert willie k deluxe... im sure you know who he is :)

ukuleleden
10-09-2015, 04:18 AM
T.F.T.,

You superbly summed up why I Love my Kala Ukuleles so much and will put them up against any ukulele offering out there! Frugality has it rewards!

the flat tire
10-09-2015, 03:44 PM
I also have the tri-back and I'm thinking about getting the ASAC anniversary!
Although they are Kala's higher priced models, I think you get some quality sound at half the price.
In fact I think I can honestly say that in all instruments I tried, I can't remember one Kala that was a dud, though I can tell you some other offerings that were. One particular $200 dollar soprano comes to mind...
What Kala brings to the table is variety and nice sound at an affordable price!

ukuleleden
10-10-2015, 08:03 AM
I also have the tri-back and I'm thinking about getting the ASAC anniversary!
Although they are Kala's higher priced models, I think you get some quality sound at half the price.
In fact I think I can honestly say that in all instruments I tried, I can't remember one Kala that was a dud, though I can tell you some other offerings that were. One particular $200 dollar soprano comes to mind...
What Kala brings to the table is variety and nice sound at an affordable price!

After playing both the limited Tri-back and the ASAC 10th that are owned by friends and couldn't convince either of them to sell the Ukes to me (LOL), I began calling around to see who had them new in stock. I located two separate dealers that had one in stock. I'll be sure to do a video review when they arrive.