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View Full Version : Kamaka vs Koaloha - tenor - advice?



frianm
11-29-2017, 06:08 AM
I need advice - I have been looking for a "grail" tenor and find myself looking at both Kamaka and Koaloha. They are both gorgeous and seem to sound amazing. I certainly could never afford both but how to choose?
Help please
Ian

DownUpDave
11-29-2017, 10:28 AM
Andrew at HMS said it best by describing the Kamaka tenor ukulele as the Martin dreadnaught of ukuleles. The gold standard by which others are measured. That being said I love the full, resonant, vibrant tone of a Koaloha tenor.

Until you have played both (preferably owned both) you won't know which is "your" grail tenor. It is very personal, either one would fit the bill

Brad Bordessa
11-29-2017, 10:46 AM
...find myself looking at both Kamaka and Koaloha. They are both gorgeous and seem to sound amazing.

I bolded your troubles. Use your ears. If you can't play them in person, close your eyes when listening to demo videos. The difference between the two continues to be night and day, in my experience (in person and at live shows, not so much from videos).

Click this link, play the video, and immediately close your eyes (seriously!): http://www.theukulelereview.com/2013/10/17/comparing-k-brand-tenors/. Don't open them until the video stops (it's only 2:00).

Find some videos of people playing who aren't Corey or Kalei! They can make anything sound good and adapt to any uke's qualities. If you listen to a Joe Blow or two you might get a better sense of the "raw" uke sound. Or not.

It's really important to play an instrument, IMO (REALLY important). You're going to have a hard time finding the "grail" uke if you can't play it.

frianm
11-29-2017, 11:18 AM
I appreciate both your contributions to my dilemma. The sound tracks were amazing on the review link. Anyway I bit the bullet a little while ago and have bought a used Kamaka. The reasons are very subjective - I have a friend who plays the Kamaka and another the Koaloha. I believe that I am choosing the way of tradition. I already have an old gold label pineapple from Kamaka and it has aged really well. I also have a '91 D16 Martin so I understand the reference to Martin Dreadnoughts as the gold standard. Had I opted for the Koaloha I know I would have wondered about the Kamaka and I do not believe the reverse would be true. I also have an old Martin soprano that goes back to about 1934 that is a great player that has been repaired often. IMHO - it comes down to the question of soul and I believe the Kamaka has it. So - for better for worse etc., I am now poorer in $$$ terms but will be richer when it arrives next week.
Thanks again
Ian

Brad Bordessa
11-29-2017, 05:06 PM
Without hearing it, I'd say you chose right. Enjoy!

gabriele woodbine
11-29-2017, 05:14 PM
How interesting Ian, not sure where you are located but just today I am parting with two Ukes, one a Kamaka and Ko'olau CE2 both like brand new with a huge discount as I am trying to sell them in Australia before I sent them to Hawaii for sale. I am currently writing the Kamaka listing.
Both are tenors!

http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?130377-Ko-olau-CE2-custom-Uke-for-sale-1-year-old-condition-is-perfect!&p=2018537#post2018537

mm stan
11-29-2017, 09:57 PM
How interesting Ian, not sure where you are located but just today I am parting with two Ukes, one a Kamaka and Ko'olau CE2 both like brand new with a huge discount as I am trying to sell them in Australia before I sent them to Hawaii for sale. I am currently writing the Kamaka listing.
Both are tenors!

http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?130377-Ko-olau-CE2-custom-Uke-for-sale-1-year-old-condition-is-perfect!&p=2018537#post2018537
Trevor has a music store you can sell your ukes at in Australia
Also personal preference both them. warm kamaka, bright koaloha but i ve played a warm koal9ha tenor as well
But each uke built will sound different, just as each of us has distinctive voices.. don't go by names when
n you choose, your ears will
Tell you what you personally like, our opinions don't even matter imo
104856
Hes in brisbane

AlohaKine
11-30-2017, 04:50 PM
From what you said, I'm assuming, because it sounds like you've had them both in your hands and played them...

So you've played them both, and you don't know what you like?

Didn't you notice the punch that a KoAloha tenor has? It's balance in tone is different, Kamaka is a more balanced tone...

Tone is in the Beholders Ears, buy what you like! ;)

As far as the Grail goes, that Award Goes To Kamaka as the oldest Ukulele builder in the USA.

frianm
12-01-2017, 01:11 AM
How interesting Ian, not sure where you are located but just today I am parting with two Ukes, one a Kamaka and Ko'olau CE2 both like brand new with a huge discount as I am trying to sell them in Australia before I sent them to Hawaii for sale. I am currently writing the Kamaka listing.
Both are tenors!

http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?130377-Ko-olau-CE2-custom-Uke-for-sale-1-year-old-condition-is-perfect!&p=2018537#post2018537

I did see your listing - I just baulked at the shipping from Australia idea. I am on the far side of the world - in Vermont, USA. I have enjoyed two brief visits to Oz and have sent banjo items there in the past. My hope is that you will be able to sell them there and that the whole music community can grow. e are fortunate up here in that the music community is huge. I am privileged to have lived in two great music cities and now in Vermont we find a huge music community strung out in the small towns, villages and hamlets.
Best wishes - Ian
PS - I found my Kamaka in St. Paul, Minnesota.

frianm
12-01-2017, 01:14 AM
From what you said, I'm assuming, because it sounds like you've had them both in your hands and played them...

So you've played them both, and you don't know what you like?

Didn't you notice the punch that a KoAloha tenor has? It's balance in tone is different, Kamaka is a more balanced tone...

Tone is in the Beholders Ears, buy what you like! ;)

As far as the Grail goes, that Award Goes To Kamaka as the oldest Ukulele builder in the USA.

I have not played the tenor instruments but other size ones. Indeed I own a Kamaka pineapple that is probably from the 50s. Part of the decision was to go with tradition. Yes the tones are different. In the end I knew that if I had bought the Koaloha I would have wondered about the Kamaka - not the other way around.
Best wishes - Ian

valde002
12-01-2017, 12:45 PM
I have both concert (2) and (1) tenor Kamakas. Just concert Koalohas (2), but am waiting for the right tenor to come along. I love them both, for different reasons.

For me, the deciding factor of which one I pick up is what kind of music I want to play. The Kamaka with the original thicker Kamaka nylon strings mind you, has more of a bendable nature to them. Very fun to play, very chimey sound but not as clear to hear. Good for traditional music, playful sustained sliding, etc. The Koaloha on the other hand has a clearer more distinct sound. The volume is a tad louder with my Koaloha concert even, compared to the Kamaka tenor (have Misi pickup on the tenor so that doesnt bother me), with more resonance it seems. My Koaloha concerts are definitely louder than both of my Kamaka concerts as well. The stock Koaloha strings are thinner, and can still bend, but the feel and sound to me is not as enjoyable- as the thinner FC strings are "dental flossy" to me. I am going to use my Koaloha concert for Christmas music later this month.

I don't think you can really tell how they compare by listening to videos. For me, the feel and nature are a big part of my enjoyment of playing the uke. Probably want to consider strings as well. These are my impressions, hope they help.

AlohaKine
12-01-2017, 02:57 PM
I have not played the tenor instruments but other size ones. Indeed I own a Kamaka pineapple that is probably from the 50s. Part of the decision was to go with tradition. Yes the tones are different. In the end I knew that if I had bought the Koaloha I would have wondered about the Kamaka - not the other way around.
Best wishes - Ian


Part of the decision was to go with tradition. Well as just mentioned, Kamaka is your choice, its the most traditional, KoAloha is not.

KoAloha tends to be a brighter, punchy take on the Uke with a slight modern tone, which is evident on their usage of Worth strings...