View Full Version : What is the Difference?!

05-19-2009, 06:13 PM
I own a Kala KA-P, Mahogany, (Soprano I believe)

But what is the difference between Mahogany and Koa Ukes?

Does the shape make a difference? I really dig the Pineapple shape, but is there a better shape?

What are the better brands for Ukuleles? Brands you should stay away from?

Special Strings? Any Accessories?

As I get better, I will look for better Ukes.

Thanks! Shakalohana!

Roy Jovero
05-19-2009, 06:25 PM
I'm not too sure about the wood thing, but I'm sure someone will chime in on it. I do know that koa ukes sound distinctly Hawaiian.

The shape thing.... IIRC, pineapples are a bit more mellow than the typical figure-eight. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.

Better brands? Well there are the K's, i.e. Kamaka, Kanilea, KoAloha, Kumalae, Kelii, etc. Then there are the custom builders, i.e. LoPrinzi, Moore Bettah, Graziano, Maui Music, etc. You really do get what you pay for.

Brands to stay away from? I'm heard that Oscar Schmidt is a no-go. I haven't really heard of other brands that are black flags.

Strings..... I like the D'Addario Pro Arte line a lot. I prefer higher tension strings, and the Pro Artes provide that tension I want. Also, they offer more sustain than most strings I've played with. I used to like the Aquila Nylguts, but they attacked more than I liked. I've tried the Kala Reds and didn't like them. Same with the Martin strings. Strings are a very objective item.

Hope that helped even in the littlest bit. I'm still a beginner, and I'm sure the experts will be able to provide more help.

05-19-2009, 06:28 PM
Well in the end its all personal opinion. The difference between Mahogany and Koa is what the wood is, Mahogany or Koa. Shape Im not sure about but i would assume the smaller the body, the less loud it is or resonates? Kala is a good brand esp for starting out. Once you get going and feel its time to upgrade or just get that UAS like a lot of pple get here you can check out stuff like Koaloha or Kamaka. There are tons of good uke brands out there mainland ukes are the ones that sponsor UU. Strings, i like my aquila strings they are nice. But seriously in the end, its ALL personal opinion, if you think it sounds good and like it then it dont really matter what it is.

05-19-2009, 06:41 PM
The main difference between koa and mahogany ukuleles is about 200 dollars. Another difference is the sound. Check out this video for a further explanation on tonal differences in tonewoods: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHKwcTcbTWM
The body shape can make a difference in that a pineapple has a larger surface area, so theres more wood resonating.

The word "better" is misunderstood. Check out this video for look at the concept of "quality"... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Bf1fNZRDW0#t=06m24s

05-19-2009, 06:42 PM
Koa gives a brighter tone than mahogany does, generally.
Strings are personal preference, Find one that match your uke and give you the sound you want. Aquilas, worths and D'Addarios are all popular, among others.

05-19-2009, 07:52 PM
In my limited experience between the Kala KA-KT (Koa Tenor) and Kala KA-ASMTEC (Solid Mahogany Tenor), the Mahogany does have the darker, mellower tone, than the brighter, crisper Koa.

It's a matter of preference. I prefer mahogany, my friend prefers koa.

Roy Jovero
05-19-2009, 08:22 PM
Well, Kala doesn't make a solid koa uke. And their koa line prices reflect that.

05-19-2009, 08:52 PM
When you are talking about solid wood, koa is often noted as having a distinctive "bark" to it. It is a bright tone wood that is chipper sounding and does have a loud sound that shines through with a player that knows how to use that "chunka, chunk" technique, like Aldrine.

If you play mahogany, it is bright, but it gets mellower with age, and warmer. I personally love the sound of an aged mahogany instrument. You can hear that tone distinctly in vintage Martin ukuleles. That is why they have become so popular.

So, as a summary, on Koa, think crisp, rich, barking sort of sound. Mahogany, think warmer, more mellow, moreso with age.

Depending on your style of play, you might like one more than the other, but, most players have both in their collections.

05-19-2009, 09:35 PM
Think about what the top is made of too. You get a lot different sound with a spruce, cedar or redwood top. I'd call it more guitar like. Just listen to the different instruments and your ear will tell you what you want...usually one of each in my case.

05-19-2009, 09:45 PM
the shape of the ukulele body I like is the standerd one..

05-20-2009, 04:13 AM
Brands to stay away from? I'm heard that Oscar Schmidt is a no-go. I haven't really heard of other brands that are black flags.

Dude I have to take a little exception to that! A genuine Oscar Schmidt is a well made instrument for the money (beware of knock off's). I have two that I just love, because I am a sucker for well done abalone purling and rosettes. The "brands" I would stay away from are the "specials" on ebay that come from China or some undisclosed Asian country. Those aren't even well made toys in most cases. :cheers:

05-20-2009, 04:33 AM
I know it goes against what's considered the norm(the whole koa is brighter then mahogany) but my koa KoAloha Tenor produces a more deep, warm, rich tone with the right strings then pono's deepest mahogany model.

07-14-2009, 10:45 AM
everyone thanks for the information!

its been a while since i've checked up on this thread, but i've learned a bit by hanging around the local surf shop. the owner is a uke player and he's got the Kala Koa Tenor Spruce Top which i am in love with, but i was looking at the concert size. its for $325, and he's droppin the price to $260 because i hang around alot. but after less than 3 months of playing only i know i'm not ready for something so beautiful. he told me to shoot for like a $200 ish concert size since i'm advancing semi fast and i feel that i'm going to soon need a concert size in order to play more advanced songs. and i'm going to kona in august so i'm hopefully trying to find something amazing there. i have my eyes on a lady's Kala concert spruce top mahogany (its got the high gloss which i don't really care for) and its used and you can tell. but she wants to sell it, and if she gives me a reasonable price (less than 100 would be AMAZING) i would take it just because of the price and the fact that i can do whatever to that uke and not live to regret it versus buying a $200 uke and constantly worrying about the condition of it. my Kala Mahogany Pineapple is my take everywhere uke and its got sand in it, and a few dings, but it plays well and i love it. So i'm at a bit of a predicament and i was wondering if anyone has and suggestions on what i should do.

thanks again you guys! :D

07-14-2009, 10:59 AM
I'm not an expert...but what I've found:

The vibration of the wood (top, back and sides) gives an instrument it's color: The color is overtones produced when the string is plucked: Wider vibrations and overtones give more depth to the sound (lower overtones and vibrations) or, warmth (lows and middles) and bark, or attack (highs).

The selection of the tone wood and the construction all contribute to the sound depth: Koa generally gives more highs and pineapple shape has more surface area to vibrate, thus increasing the amount of sound and vibrations.

That does not mean a koa pineapple sounds better, louder or have more color than a mahogany traditional build: The quality and age of the wood make a huge difference, as does the internal bracing (internal strips of wood that keep the top from collapsing). Mahogony is a stronger wood and doesn;t need as much bracing.

Here is where an artisan luthier also makes a difference: His selection of wood and bracing patterns. I know of some luthiers who keep woods for 30 years curing them, and charge huge amounts for instruments made from those woods.

The best judge: Your ear. Take 5 string instruments from the same maker with the same tonewoods and line them up in a row and they could/would all sound different.

Strings: Personal preference....I like Aquila and Koolau's myself. This is much easier to judge for yourself..buy different makers strings and try them to see what you like to listen to and play.

My personal opinions...and may be open to debate.