View Full Version : New to Kamaka A few questions?

03-23-2019, 11:45 AM
Was wondering how the Kamaka neck compares to Koaloha Opio or Kaniela, Ohana? I find the Koaloha Opio a nice neck and more rounded than a Kaniela which is more chunky and flatter. Is the Kamaka action on the low side? I have arthritic fingers and need a lower easy action.
When I listrn to the sound on You Tube it seems quieter and maybe sweeter sounding than Kaniela or Koaloha. What do others think? I am a little bit nervous about spending that kind of money since I probably will not find a used concert one so will be buying new. No place around to try one. Seems most people hold on to theirs.

03-23-2019, 12:03 PM
Everybody is different so out of the factory they're setup slightly raw with Kamaka's famous black nylon strings (hence the mellow tone). If you're a heavy strummer you need a little higher action but a gentle fingerpicker can get away with strings barely above the frets. You can have the Kamaka's action set up the way you like it and, of course, switch to brighter strings like carbons or nylgut.

03-23-2019, 12:04 PM
I cannot comment on the neck since I've never played one, but as for the action question... wherever you buy it from should be able to lower the action for you. I notice most companies do not provide the lowest action right from the factory, even K brand companies. My Koaloha had a high action from the factory. My Kanilea's action was lowered by The Ukulele Site, but it is still a tad higher than I'd like. Action can always be lowered is my point.

From my experience with hearing Kamakas is that they are a bit quiet and "thin" sounding. But that is just personal preference and it might be the stock strings they use on them. If you're worried about the money, buy from somewhere where you can return it. I believe The Ukulele Site allows for returns and they will set up your uke before sending it.

03-23-2019, 12:47 PM
I own a KoAloha concert and have owned two Islanders (one soprano, one tenor). Islander is Kanilea's import line and has the same neck. First off, the KoAlohas have a 36mm or 1 7/16 inch nut size. Kanileas have a 38mm or 1.5 inch nut. I find the 36mm size to be perfect for me, and the neck shape on my KoAloha is my favorite shape of any ukulele I've ever played. However, I find the Kanilea neck to be a close second in comfort, with a very slightly wider, but not thick or chunky neck shape. I had a Loprinzi with a 36mm neck for a year, but it had a very thin neck that was ok, but not my favorite. My aNueNue Moon Bird also has a 36mm neck with a comfortable neck shape that's minimally thicker than my KoAloha. I have no experience with Kamaka.

03-23-2019, 01:37 PM
Assuming that all Kamakas have the same sort of neck, I'll describe the neck of my long neck tenor. It is a diminished semicircle. Let me explain that term. I have a cheap Kala baritone whose neck is a pure semicircle. It is as if the neck had originally been a tubular piece of wood with a two-inch circumference and it was just cut in half to form the neck. The Kamaka is otherwise. You can perceive that it has less wood back there. They have trimmed off some of the wood, but still retained the semicircular shape. That's why I called it diminished.

It actually isn't my favorite neck. That distinction belongs to my custom uke that has a laburnum fret board with a neck of English walnut. I like it because it is more natural (it isn't shiny and you can actually smell the wood) and I like it because it is flat. Flat makes more sense for a place to keep your supporting thumb.

However...I am starting to babble. Hopefully you'll forgive me as there is no where else in the entire world where it would be appropriate to talk about ukulele necks. I got carried away.

03-23-2019, 03:05 PM
I can answer your question a bit. I have two Kamaka Tenors and a KoAloha tenor. I'm going to assume that the KoAloha Opio line uses the same specs as the regular Hawaiian made line. The KoAloha neck is skinnier just by a smidge than the Kamaka. Both are very comfortable to play. I have played a few Kanilea tenors also and have always noticed that the necks were chunkier and thicker. I could still play them, but you do notice it.

If you buy it new from the factory or from a store that does not do set-ups, I think the Kamaka action tends to be a little bit on the high side, especially at the nut, not the easiest in terms of DIY action adjustment, however, still very doable.

Sound is a personal thing. I like to play Low G. The KoAloha is a much louder, more bass heavy instrument than the Kamaka. I'm not sure I would agree that the Kamaka sounds "thinner." I would say that the Kanilea tends to emphasize more of the treble sounds and the higher notes, whereas KoAloha tends to emphasize more of the bass notes. Kamaka is sort of in between those two and it really has a nice balance (at least my instruments). I also changed out the standard nylon strings that Kamaka provides. those tend to be a bit "thud-dier" if that makes sense. They are also not as loud.

Finally, I would not agree that you couldn't find a used concert. You just have to be a bit patient. I think there's one on Reverb now listed by Elderly (which would solve your action issues as they do a set-up). It's $800 but it has some finish checking too it if that is important to you.

Good luck! If it means anything, I think my best sounding instrument is my Kamaka Otha-San which is a concert sized bell-shaped instrument.

Enjoy the ride!

03-23-2019, 08:26 PM
I have a Kamaka HF-3 Tenor; a Kanile'a K-1T Tenor; and a Ko'Aloha KTM-00 Tenor. All are solid koa.

I have all three strung with Living Waters Fluorocarbon Low-G strings. All were setup by the online stores I purchased them from. All have a slightly lower action because I too have somewhat arthritic hands and wanted an easier 1st fret barre.

Of the three, I find the Ko'Aloha the easiest to play. It has a very robust sound that is skewed towards the base end. Punchy but well-balanced.
The Kanile'a is a little harder to play. I find the thinner neck to a little more difficult to barre on the first two frets. It has a very surprisingly loud and deep voice. Maybe a little boomie.
The Kamaka has, to my ear, the most refined sound of the three. It's very well-balanced. It's rich, but emphasizes the mid- and treble end a bit more than the other two brands. But I find that the fret wires are not as high as the others resulting in it being a little harder to barre properly. It takes a little more pressure to get a clean barre chord.

03-24-2019, 05:58 AM
Get the one that pleases you in the way it looks and feels and sounds ....... then send it off to mike lull in Bellevue Wa for a set up. He has plek machine and the skills .... I have a 1986 guild 12 string he set up back in 1990 and the action across the entire fretboard is as low as you can go without getting any string because it is amazing.