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View Full Version : Kamaka worth the extra money???



CYN
07-29-2018, 10:48 AM
As a newer ukulele player I have heard and played Koaloha, and Kanilea . However, I have never played or heard someone play a Kamaka in person. I have noticed that comparatively the Kamaka uke is always higher in price than the other two ukes. Is the sound and build that much better and worth the extra money? Is it easier to play?

Also, does anyone have any links to some well recorded sound clips? For example sound clips that list the microphone used.

EDW
07-29-2018, 10:57 AM
This may help:

https://www.gotaukulele.com/2018/02/kamaka-hf-1-standard-soprano-ukulele.html

upskydowncloud
07-29-2018, 11:14 AM
I can only really compare the sound of my Kamaka with my KoAloha and then itís not a great comparison as one is a tenor and one a concert. The Kamaka has an amazing tone and sounds rich and deep. The KoAloha is brighter and seems a bit louder (Iíve heard the same said for most of their ukes).

When youíre comparing the 3 K type ukuleles, there wonít be much in it between quality of build and ease of play as theyíll all be good. It just depends on what type of sound you like. Each instrument will be different too because the wood used is also never going to be the same.

You canít go wrong with any of the brands you mentioned. I personally like my Kamaka the most of any uke Iíve played but thatís probably not very objective!

There is a good sound comparison of the brands you mention at the link below. Be sure to use good headphones if you have any!

https://youtu.be/2dOmCRnplQo

quiltingshirley
07-29-2018, 01:53 PM
I have one of each of the brands you mentioned. Each has it’s own sound and playability. I like them all but prefer the Kamaka sound. To me it’s more old Hawaiian. Of course I am playing a custom ukulele so that does make a difference to my ease of playing the Uke. All are really nice. My 3 are high end models for comparison value but I like all ukes. My Makala dolphin plays like a dream but the neck’s soooo very short. It’s what feels right for you.

Nickie
07-29-2018, 02:21 PM
All I know is, Jake plays a Kamaka....

Joyful Uke
07-29-2018, 04:12 PM
As already said by others, it's a matter of personal preference regarding sound.

I've been able to try both Kamaka & Kanile'a in person, & both are great in their own ways.

One difference that may or may not matter to you is the necks. Kanile'a has a wide neck that doesn't work for me, but is no problem for many people. Just one thing to consider, though. The Kanile'a seemed quieter to me, but had a beautiful tone. The Kamaka was louder & I think brighter in tone, but maybe others have a different take on that.

Vimeo can be a good source of sound samples. Sit back with some good headphones or speakers, & decide what you like & what fits your style of playing. Only you can decide which ukulele is worth the price for you.

El Viejo
07-29-2018, 06:52 PM
I think part of why Kamaka charges more than the other K brands is that their stock grade of koa is a bit higher than what the other two brands offer. Most of it though is just frankly the brand name and their long history.

I think the consensus you will find is that Kamaka's look and sound is very traditional. Koaloha's look is untraditional in terms of design, and the sound is much louder and brighter. Kanilea's look is untraditional just regarding the type of cut of koa they use which is much more colorful and shows more patterns, grain, etc, and their sound is in between in terms of volume, and more well rounded than the other two.

As for me, after playing all three, I am primarily a Koaloha fan in terms of sound, and a Kanile'a fan in terms of looks. That's just my personal preference, I respect Kamaka but I don't think I will ever own one, unlike the other brands (which I already have a few of).

Jerryc41
07-30-2018, 12:05 AM
As a newer ukulele player I have heard and played Koaloha, and Kanilea . However, I have never played or heard someone play a Kamaka in person. I have noticed that comparatively the Kamaka uke is always higher in price than the other two ukes. Is the sound and build that much better and worth the extra money? Is it easier to play?

Also, does anyone have any links to some well recorded sound clips? For example sound clips that list the microphone used.

The Hawaiian K brands are wonderful, with KoAloha being my favorite. Comparing the sounds of what I own (not Ko'olau), they all sound great. As for which sounds better, I can't say one is better than the other - just slightly different. One thing about a higher price: it almost guarantees a higher resale price.

Rakelele
07-30-2018, 12:11 AM
Like others have stated, "worth" or "value" are relative to subjective feelings. As has been mentioned, the somewhat higher price of a Kamaka reflects a high demand based mostly on history, tradition and a famous brand name more than on quality of build and sound. Especially on the Asian market, "Kamaka" is synonymous to "Ukulele", so its THE brand to own.

There can be some objectifications to build quality. Here, my personal impression is that Kanilea has the lead with their elaborate bracing, very clean kerfing, and their mirror flat finish options. They also have the most figured Koa (which doesn't say anything about its tonal qualities). Both Kanilea and KoAloha seem to be quite innovative with their designs, whereas - again - Kamaka is holding on to a long tradition. Personally, I prefer the more modern sound of Kanilea and KoAloha over Kamaka, but if you want a more traditional instrument, then Kamaka is the way to go.

peanuts56
07-30-2018, 06:30 AM
I have a Kamaka and a Kanilea Tenor. Both are extraordinary instruments. They are nothing alike when it comes to sound and the feel in your hands, especially the neck. I have a radius fret board on the Kanilea as well. First thing I did with both is to take off the stock strings and replace them with Fremont Black Line strings.

Joyful Uke
07-30-2018, 10:11 AM
One other thing you might want to look into is the warranty. and who you're buying from, if you're buying a new ukulele.

I bought a new Kamaka not long ago, which arrived with a damaged bridge. The place I bought from, (not one of the usual places recommended here), wanted nothing to do with the problem. I took it to a local repair place, who tried to get the place that I bought it from to cooperate, and also got in contact with Kamaka. The bottom line was that Kamaka would fix it - but only if the place I bought it from returned it to them - and they weren't cooperating. But, even if it had been shipped back to Kamaka, the local repair place was told that it would take about 6 months to get it back to the place I bought it from, who would then have to ship it back to me. The local repair place offered to send it back to Kamaka, but that didn't work for Kamaka.

So, even the best case scenario for getting it fixed under warranty wasn't very good. But, even that couldn't happen, since the place I bought it from refused to be involved. So, the local place fixed it, (somewhat - I'm still not happy with it), at my expense.

That said, I would buy another Kamaka, because I really do like them. But, I'd be very careful about the seller, and hope that there were no mishaps, because shipping it back to HI and having it gone for 6 months when under warranty isn't appealing.

I have no idea how the other K brands handle their warranty repairs, but you might want to look into that. Odds are you won't need to have a repair done, but it still might factor into a decision on what to buy.

I'm not going to name the place I bought the ukulele from, in hopes that this was a giant misunderstanding or something, but I won't ever buy anything from them again.

Uke Don
07-30-2018, 11:43 AM
I think part of why Kamaka charges more than the other K brands is that their stock grade of koa is a bit higher than what the other two brands offer.

This has been my experience, too. Better wood for a slightly higher price for the base models of the three K brands. I prefer the Kamaka sound and looks to KoAloha. Don't have enough experience with Kanile'a to have a solid opinion.

Kenn2018
07-30-2018, 08:14 PM
My Kamaka HF-3 Tenor came strung with Worth Clear Low-Gs. I thought it sounded a little dull. After about 6 months, I put a set of Living Waters Low-G on it and it came alive. The sound is full and well balanced. With every note clear and crisp and has great sustain. It's a brighter sound than my others.

My KoAloha KTM-00 Tenor came with high-g fluorocarbons, don't remember which. I changed them out for Worth Low-G Browns, they sounded good, but were kinda loose. Swapped for Living Waters Low-Gs. Nice. Loud with a strong low end sound that rings. The sound overpowers many other ukes.

The used Kanile'a K1-T Tenor that I have is gorgeous! Really striking koa. I think Worth Brown Low-Gs sound a little boom-y. The Living Waters Low-Gs a little more balanced. I am constantly amazed at the K1-T deep, rich & loud sound that comes out of this relatively thin tenor. (Compared to the other two.) The unwound low-g is very percussive. And I really like the flatter neck compared to the other tenors.

Each tenor has a distinctive voice even with the same brand strings. If you angle the ukulele bodies away from your chest when you play (I use a strap) it increases the resonance and the sound is louder, fuller and even better than if you hold it across your chest.

I had all three setup with lower action because I have slight arthritis in my hands. The KoAloha is slightly easier for me to play. The Kanile'a has a flatter neck and has slightly lower fret wires. The Kamaka is a little harder for me to play. But the differences are VERY small.

I am very fortunate to have these wonderful instruments. If I were to guess, I think you pay more for the prestige of the Kamaka name, but also I think their sound is more finely-tuned overall. To me, the sound isn't skewed towards the bass or making the loudest notes. It's more refined. For want of a better description, a more carefully crafted, more neutral sound.

Josť de Londres
07-30-2018, 08:58 PM
This has been my experience, too. Better wood for a slightly higher price for the base models of the three K brands. I prefer the Kamaka sound and looks to KoAloha. Don't have enough experience with Kanile'a to have a solid opinion.

What do you mean by "better" wood?

Uke Don
07-31-2018, 05:59 AM
What do you mean by "better" wood?

Better means more figure. My Kamaka HF3 has consistent curl top to bottom on front, back and sides. I've never seen that quality in the base Kanele'a or KoAloha models.

hendulele
07-31-2018, 08:02 AM
I understand Kamaka seasons its wood longer than most competitors, which, as Barry pointed out (in a link that's already on the thread), makes it less vulnerable to changes in temperature and humidity. Having several less-expensive ukes crack because I didn't humidify properly, that would be a HUGE deal if it happened to a high-dollar instrument.

https://www.gotaukulele.com/2018/02/kamaka-hf-1-standard-soprano-ukulele.html

El Viejo
07-31-2018, 03:47 PM
Better means more figure. My Kamaka HF3 has consistent curl top to bottom on front, back and sides. I've never seen that quality in the base Kanele'a or KoAloha models.

That matches my experience. Kamaka tends to use curlier koa for their stock instruments.

That said, I think others would consider Kanilea's use of koa cuts with sapwood and other kinds of figuring very intriguing, too. Personally I prefer that look to a more typical curl- the most beautiful instruments to me are Kanilea's base models. But that's the joy of koa- the same amazing tree can be used to create instruments in so many different visual styles, whether you like a more traditional curl, or whether you like different cuts of wood!


I understand Kamaka seasons its wood longer than most competitors, which, as Barry pointed out (in a link that's already on the thread), makes it less vulnerable to changes in temperature and humidity. Having several less-expensive ukes crack because I didn't humidify properly, that would be a HUGE deal if it happened to a high-dollar instrument.

I'm not sure about their seasoning, but I wouldn't be surprised if that were the case!

I will say that Koaloha's warranty, though, is pretty impressive. Also, as someone that is a Kanile'a and Koaloha owner, I have only seen one crack, and it was because of pretty obvious negligence on the part of someone that shipped an instrument to me.

Rakelele
07-31-2018, 11:18 PM
Is there any proof to the claims that Kamaka uses "better" or "higher grade" or "more figured" wood? Sure, it's possible that Kamaka has the oldest stacks of wood, since the company has been around for over 100 years, but that does not mean that the other companies wouldn't properly season and dry their woods. "Higher grade" usually refers to more figured Koa and while Kamaka uses some nicely figured boards for their "Jake" and other high priced custom models, their regular models are mostly very plain in comparison to the "Premium" and "Deluxe" models from Kanilea. The tonal properties of wood, on the other hand, are very individual to each board (and how it is worked with) and do not correlate with figures. Overall, I tend to think that what we like or dislike about the sound of a brand has more to do with that company's specific voicing than with the quality of their woods.

Uke Don
08-01-2018, 06:12 AM
Is there any proof to the claims that Kamaka uses "better" or "higher grade" or "more figured" wood?

I can only relate my personal experience, but that has been my observation. The other two K brands seem to use less figured wood in their base models, but they (appropriately) charge less.

You will always find individual instruments that will not conform to this generality, but on average I think this is the case.

Kenn2018
08-01-2018, 12:10 PM
Sorry, I misspoke. I meant to say prettier. Kanile'a, in my experience, uses more figured and interesting wood, for the same price points, on their entry-level instruments, than most of the other higher end, solid wood instruments. NOT better sounding by any means.

I draw my conclusions from the listings I have seen for the various brands. But then that is very subjective. And, it has been posted in another thread, that heavily-figured woods have a slightly lower quality sound. (I don't remember the thread title nor the exact way it was stated.) Because it doesn't vibrate as uniformly as a comparable straight-grained wood.

Josť de Londres, thanks for challenging my statement. You were correct to do so.

Rakelele
08-01-2018, 11:21 PM
I can only relate my personal experience, but that has been my observation. The other two K brands seem to use less figured wood in their base models, but they (appropriately) charge less.

You will always find individual instruments that will not conform to this generality, but on average I think this is the case.

Sorry, I highly doubt this. Kanilea offers three "grades" of curls in their Koa wood: the least figured is called "Select", followed by "Deluxe" and "Premium". These three options are even used on their most basic K1 models, but will cost more accordingly. Again, you're paying for the beauty of curly wood, not necessarily for a better sound. My own observation is that on the entry level models from both Kamaka and KoAloha, you'll get an equivalent of "Select" Koa wood, while they use the more figured pieces for their more expensive models and customs, such as Jake's Kamaka or the Red and Black labels from Koaloha.