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bynapkinart
04-16-2019, 07:36 AM
So I'm fresh off of finalizing my taxes, and it so happens that this is the first year in many years I'll get a substantial refund. Substantial enough to finally fund something I've been wanting for about 8 years now: a Hawaiian-built Tenor Uke.

With pricing now more or less the same across the K brands, I can afford essentially any of the standard tenors on the market, but since I kind of want to buy local I'm torn between the KoAloha and Kamaka tenors (there are dealers of each brand within 20 miles of me). My only experience owning a Hawaiian-built uke was when I owned a KoAloha soprano briefly back in 2012, which was spectacular -- I only traded it because I couldn't justify that level of investment in a soprano at the time.

I went to Oahu last fall and while I didn't get to tour factories, I got to play a heck of a lot of ukes that I didn't have access to here in Colorado. I continue to be really inspired by the sound and feel of the KoAlohas, but for some reason I don't feel that immediate "holy crap I have to buy one of those" that I do for their soprano. I have no idea what it is. Perhaps the low-g setup that comes standard now kind of overemphasizes the lower end of the scale...it isn't unpleasant by any means, just a lot boomier than I expect.

For the Kamakas there has always been a bit of a sense of unattainability for me which has shaded my view of the instrument. I know I don't like the stock strings and would want to hear what it sounds like with Worths or another CF string, but besides that the few that I've played have been built magnificently and sound really balanced, if a bit on the quieter side. But again, I don't know how much of my perception is colored by my favoritism of KoAloha in general.

What do you all think? At this point in time, I've been considering all for many months as I've been saving towards it...and I'm kind of leaning towards the Kamaka at this point because of the case and history and balance of the instrument itself. KoAloha, the Okami family story, and their whole design aesthetic is really close to my heart too, so I'm torn.

Counter
04-16-2019, 07:38 AM
You really need to try them both side by side first. The sound is different, the feel is very different, the neck is totally different.

bynapkinart
04-16-2019, 07:51 AM
You really need to try them both side by side first. The sound is different, the feel is very different, the neck is totally different.

I should totally clarify, sorry: I've played both side-by-side a few different times, twice at shops on Oahu and then again a few weeks ago in the Bay Area. I guess my perceptions listed above are kind of my A/B comparison I've got in my head since they both have a ton more pros and cons than I've listed out!!

Ukecaster
04-16-2019, 07:56 AM
Great news on the tax refund, and K-brand plans! I've never played any K-brand tenors, but seem to get the feeling from comments here that KoAloha tenors are generally louder than either Kamaka or Kanilea. I know each instrument is different, and things can change after an instrument opens up, but is there any truth to that generalization?

Counter
04-16-2019, 08:07 AM
I should totally clarify, sorry: I've played both side-by-side a few different times, twice at shops on Oahu and then again a few weeks ago in the Bay Area. I guess my perceptions listed above are kind of my A/B comparison I've got in my head since they both have a ton more pros and cons than I've listed out!!

Ah ok. Then I think if i was lucky enough to be in your position right now I would probably look for a Kamaka.

Having said that I am lusting after a mango Koaloha Tenor which are very hard to find in the UK.

glennerd
04-16-2019, 08:09 AM
The way you're describing them, you seem like you're not really blown away by either one of them but you like the idea of owning a Hawaiian tenor. I know you want to buy local, but maybe consider some other Hawaiian brands before deciding. But maybe nothing else in Oahu stood out to you? Between the two, I'd lean towards the Kamaka.

I know what you mean about KoAloha - I love my soprano, but not sure whether I'd be interested in a larger size.

Just Russ
04-16-2019, 08:10 AM
I think KoAlohas really excel in the soprano and concert sizes and would like to get one eventually. For tenors, though, my Kamaka HF-3 is my most-played ukulele. The neck carve is perfect for me and I like the quieter tone. KoAlohas seem like all the notes and chords end with exclamation points. I did swap out the strings to Worths and think it sounds great (I also added a Freemont low-g to it).

Kyle23
04-16-2019, 08:14 AM
KoAlohas come standard with low-g now?

Brad Bordessa
04-16-2019, 08:30 AM
Do the dealers have more than one of each model? If so, play them all. They are all slightly different, even the same model. Maybe a different instrument will speak to you. An A/B comparison of a single Kamaka and a single Koaloha isn't a very good cross-section, IMO.

kkimura
04-16-2019, 08:45 AM
Here's something to try, a Kamaka HF3 strung with Worth clear low G strings.

Kenn2018
04-16-2019, 09:06 AM
KoAlohas seem like all the notes and chords end with exclamation points.

Perfect description. (Wish I came up with it.)

If you are looking to stand out in a group. With a full sound, KoAloha is great. I think the neck is also a little easier for me to play.

To me the Kamaka has a more balanced, sophisticated sound to it. As though they spent 100 years perfecting it.* I also like the silky feel of the light gloss finish.

I have Low-G Living Waters strings on my HF-3 & KTM-00.

One of the truly excellent players at my uke club played both (at different times) and I was blown away! They both handled, bluegrass, jazz and classical with aplomb. I've never made such glorious sounds come from either of them. The KoAloha was deeper and a little louder. A touch boomy. The Kamaka was clear and balanced, even when pushed to be loud. And made each note special.

They are both excellent and there are fans of both in the club.

I don't think you'll go wrong with either.

*I know, they didn't make Kamaka tenors 100 years ago. But the build techniques and refinements have filtered down.

merlin666
04-16-2019, 10:59 AM
I was in the same situation and it took me several trips to many stores on three islands to make my choices. I really fell in love with six string tenors, and had the good fortune to play three of the K brands side by side at Scotty's on Kauai about a year ago. It was a super tough call, but I liked the KoAloha best, whereas the Kamaka seemed made very well but also appeared heavy and just not quite as out there in sound. The new six strings were out of my budget anyway, so I eventually settled for a concert KoAloha. Then on my next visit to Oahu last fall I found a used old Kamaka Lili'u that my luthier brought back to life and it's now easily my favourite uke. He is also a Kamaka dealer and has 5 of them hanging in store, and none of them blows me away. So it's quite likely that they need a bit of set-up work and fresh strings, and some playing in to blossom.

I also did both factory tours and the huge difference in approach and philosophy is very apparent. Kamaka is very tradition oriented and their models are very evolved and only change in small increments over time. On the other hand, the KoAloha models change specs quickly and dramatically even in a quite short time. Although many of their changes appear as downgrades with purpose of reducing the build cost, it is quite impressive that with all their changes they stay true to their tone and remarkably consistent.

Kherome
04-16-2019, 11:09 AM
I'd like a Ko'olau myself, but I think in your situation I'd go for the Kamaka. You seem to really want one so why not?

ksiegel
04-16-2019, 11:31 AM
I played every ukulele Smiley had at Ukulele Source in San Jose a few years back, and none of them - KoAloha or Kamaka really did anything for me.

Then I played the only uke I hadn't touched... a Tenor KoAloha Sceptre.

That was it - the instrument picked me.

The only Kamaka I've ever played that impressed me was a 5-string tenor, but that had been well-loved and well-played by Gillian, of the San Jose Ukulele Club. I don't know what strings she used.

rainbow21
04-16-2019, 12:53 PM
You have identified the factors you need to use to decide. Now it is up to you since you know your preferences better than anyone. Otherwise it is like asking if blue or red should be your favorite color.

You will be happy with whatever choice you make due to the reasons you state. Then next year you should use your refund to buy the other.

DymnDog
04-16-2019, 02:25 PM
I was on Oahu last November and went to both places. When Kamaka told me they weren't even taking new orders for several months... I went back to KoAloha and chatted with Lloyd there. I wanted a tenor and they had a batch of just-finished full Koa Wood tenors getting strung up. I played one and loved it. Then they told me how they ran out of the grade of Koa stock that they had planned for this line and had to use a higher grade of Koa wood for these at no extra cost. SOLD. I play it for really musical songs and slower tunes. If I want a little more 'bite' I'll get my standard uke or my new Deering Goodtime Banjouke

bynapkinart
04-17-2019, 04:58 AM
Thank you all for your feedback, I really appreciate it!

I noodled around on both yesterday with a lot of this feedback buzzing in my head. In Colorado, the shops that carry each brand are about 40 miles from each other so I can't do a perfect A/B, but either I really like this particular HF-3, or the KoAloha really doesn't do it for me as much at the tenor size. I played the KoAloha soprano for fun while I was at that shop, and I honestly would have walked out with that if I was in the market for yet another soprano. Those things feel so alive, between how loud they are and how much they vibrate, but there's a clarity in each note that I feel gets a little lost in the volume/bass as the size gets larger. I love the feel of the neck and especially the heel, and the body sits really nicely on me. The finish of the neck is also super high-quality!

The Kamaka is fantastic though. It looks like it'd be a lot heavier than the KoAloha but I'd say this one was maybe an ounce or two heavier at most. The neck feels really solid, especially for strumming, but the heel is a little harsh in comparison to the KoAloha. The body isn't quite as...I dunno, streamlined?...to my body as the KoAloha but it isn't uncomfortable. The sound is super clean and balanced, though. I felt I could drive the soundboard for a little more volume, and no one string would overpower the rest. I know for a fact I don't like the strings, since my go-to are always Worths (I may end up with Browns on a Kamaka), but even with the stock strings I just really liked the clarity both strumming and picking.

I'm feeling like I may end up going with the Kamaka in this case, but I should have at least another week or so to mull things over...I appreciate the advice though!

rainbow21
04-17-2019, 05:48 AM
Thank you all for your feedback, I really appreciate it!

I'm feeling like I may end up going with the Kamaka in this case, but I should have at least another week or so to mull things over...I appreciate the advice though!

Sounds like a clear preference for the Kamaka. Be careful about waiting and having it sold to someone else. The next one may not "sing" to you even though it is the same model. (What are you waiting for?)

stevejfc
04-17-2019, 06:19 AM
Between the three, Kamaka, KoAloha and Kanile'a, I personally like the build quality, the playability (with a standard 1 1/2" nut) of Kanile'a. But when you get right down to it, you can't go wrong with any of the three.

ghostrdr
04-17-2019, 07:36 AM
I'm a bit late to the party but I wanted to put my $0.02 in since I have both a KoAloha and a Kamaka Tenor. Once, I was torn between getting a KoAloha and a Kamaka tenor, but at the time, I could only find a KoAloha which I bought from musicguymic. I love that uke. I agonized over the first ding I put in her, etc. That uke got me through some sad times and some good times. I learned the most on it. When we re-modeled the house, it disappeared for like a year. I was convinced that someone had stolen it. Because I had toyed with the idea of getting a kamaka, I searched the internet and low and behold it was 2016 and Kamaka's 100 year anniversary. Figuring it was some sort of sign, I bought a Kamaka Tenor. A week later, I found the KoAloha (which had fallen behind some boxes in the garage - don't worry, it was in its case).

I had both strung up low G for a while. Here's my honest assessment of the two. The neck on the KoAloha is slimmer. Both instruments are fantastic. They are about the same thickness. The KoAloha is louder and the bass has much more "boom" if that makes sense. The Kamaka notes seem more balanced and seem to have slightly more depth or nuance to them. These are really fine distinctions, and really only when you are comparing them side by side. Honestly, they both sound great.

I kind of think of it like this. If you are in the electronics store looking at TVs, you nitpick and generally are drawn to the "brighter" tv, or the one you think has better colors. Once you get it home, you no longer have the direct A/B comparisons and the TV you have is great for you. You can't really go wrong with either the KoAloha or the Kamaka. They are both really nice instruments. If I wanted to play with others, I might lean toward the louder KoAloha. I mostly play for myself - and mostly finger picking. If you wanted to record yourself using fancy expensive equipment, it might make sense to go toward the Kamaka.

I also play in more quiet settings as the kids are studying or the wife is sleeping or watching TV. While I enjoy both, the tone on the Kamaka does make me smile a bit more. That being said, the KoAloha is a little better set up (maybe due to Musicguymic - bless him), and the folks at KoAloha are super nice and helpful.

Good luck! It sounds like you are leaning toward Kamaka, which is a fantastic choice. KoAloha also would be great. Which one visually appeals to you? Everyone here talks about tone, but we "eat" with our eyes first, and there's nothing wrong with a beautiful instrument. I think KoAloha's wood on their entry level tenors tends to be a bit more fancy than Kamaka's on their basic HF-3.

Jeffelele
04-17-2019, 05:14 PM
Sometimes the order of doing things is deciding what’s right first and then making the decision to do that.

Sometimes the order of doing things is make a decision and then make it be right.

AustinHing
04-17-2019, 07:20 PM
I'm feeling like I may end up going with the Kamaka in this case, but I should have at least another week or so to mull things over...I appreciate the advice though!

You go now. Drop everything and go. Quick, she’s not waiting!

Jerryc41
04-18-2019, 01:37 AM
I own both, and I'd say you can't go wrong choosing either. Both are built well, look beautiful, sound great, and have very good resale value. I just happen to like KoAlohas, but Kamaka makes excellent ukuleles (obviously).

Jerryc41
04-18-2019, 01:38 AM
Sometimes the order of doing things is deciding what’s right first and then making the decision to do that.

Sometimes the order of doing things is make a decision and then make it be right.

Definitely. I like #2.

bynapkinart
04-18-2019, 04:47 AM
Haha, I understand and don't want to wait either -- I just need to be patient till that refund lands! My partner wants to buy it for me this weekend just so I can lock it up though, so I'll try to snag it before it goes. I truly don't dislike either and ghostrdr is right, the KoAloha has a more interesting and curlier cut of Koa, so if the Kamaka goes before I can pick it up I won't be sorry to run with the KoAloha. I just think given the choices available I'd probably prefer the Kamaka just since it seems a little more versatile, and there is a little part of me that just wants to get the classic gold standard Hawaiian brand. A very little part.

With them both sounding so nice it almost kind of comes down to the fact that the Kamaka comes with a really nice branded hardshell case as part of that $1350, whereas the store that's selling the KoAloha is doing so for $1290 without the case. So they're the same price essentially, I just wouldn't get a nice branded case with the KoAloha and that'll run me more than $60.

Mandarb
04-18-2019, 06:13 AM
...Kamaka...

Jerryc41
04-18-2019, 07:01 AM
With them both sounding so nice it almost kind of comes down to the fact that the Kamaka comes with a really nice branded hardshell case as part of that $1350, whereas the store that's selling the KoAloha is doing so for $1290 without the case. So they're the same price essentially, I just wouldn't get a nice branded case with the KoAloha and that'll run me more than $60.

Including a case makes a big difference when I am shopping for a uke. It costs the dealer a lot less than it costs me to buy the same case, and it could be the difference between making a sale or not..

ghostrdr
04-18-2019, 07:19 AM
Haha, I understand and don't want to wait either -- I just need to be patient till that refund lands! My partner wants to buy it for me this weekend just so I can lock it up though, so I'll try to snag it before it goes. I truly don't dislike either and ghostrdr is right, the KoAloha has a more interesting and curlier cut of Koa, so if the Kamaka goes before I can pick it up I won't be sorry to run with the KoAloha. I just think given the choices available I'd probably prefer the Kamaka just since it seems a little more versatile, and there is a little part of me that just wants to get the classic gold standard Hawaiian brand. A very little part.

With them both sounding so nice it almost kind of comes down to the fact that the Kamaka comes with a really nice branded hardshell case as part of that $1350, whereas the store that's selling the KoAloha is doing so for $1290 without the case. So they're the same price essentially, I just wouldn't get a nice branded case with the KoAloha and that'll run me more than $60.

Whichever you choose, I'm sure it will be a great decision. You could also ask the shops if there are any discounts (like maybe paying cash (no credit card convenience fee), or a discount on a case) - that might take care of some of your worries. KoAloha now has their own branded hard cases, but I think they're like a $100 or more shipped from the factory. Not having a case also means you are free to explore other options. I have my KoAloha in a nice Mono M80 gig bag that is as protective as a case which I bought used for $75. Crossrock also has some nice cases too and I'm pretty sure you can find Ohana and Kala cases all over.

Let us know what you choose and the motto of Ukulele Underground - "if there are no pics, it didn't happen..."

Kenn2018
04-18-2019, 09:46 AM
The Ko'Aloha cases fit the instruments exactly. They are very similar to Crossrock ABS cases but have a pebble surface to them. They were only available through the Ko'Aloha factory store last year when I bought a tenor case for $100 plus shipping.

Enjoy your new ukulele. Both choices are excellent.

bynapkinart
04-18-2019, 10:37 AM
Including a case makes a big difference when I am shopping for a uke. It costs the dealer a lot less than it costs me to buy the same case, and it could be the difference between making a sale or not..

That's what I hinted heavily to the shop owner....and then reminded him that the other uke in my price bracket comes with a case...and is available nearby...

frianm
04-18-2019, 02:57 PM
I went through this process a year ago and bought the Kamaka - a used one from 2004. I liken it to the Martins of the guitar world. It is wonderful and strung with Worth clears in a high g as I want the ukulele happy sound. Later on I bought used a Koaloha longneck soprano. It is my go to instrument now. I am not sure why but I love it. Between the two brands - one is traditional and the other is a tad innovative with the Kolaoha bracing that goes around the inside of the instrument. I love my Kamaka and have two old soprano Kamakas as well. Eventually you have to make a choice and go with the instrument that gives you the most joy. It will not simply the maker that you go for but the actual instrument that speaks to you.
In my case the instruments are way better than I deserve and my playing can never do justice to these fine instruments.

bynapkinart
04-19-2019, 10:22 AM
Quick update:

I just bought the Kamaka! I went back for another session before the weekend and noticed something about the Kamaka that I hadn't noticed before -- the heel stamp date just so happens to be the exact day I first set foot in Hawaii. It was just too perfect and serendipitous and personal to let go, given that we stayed less than a quarter mile from the factory during our stay there, and it's so fun to think of this exact instrument being finished by those folks at Kamaka while I got my very first taste of the islands.

I'll do a new uke thread at some point with pics this weekend, but I thought that was a fun resolution to this question I posed!

Kenn2018
04-19-2019, 11:03 AM
I'm not a big believer in: "it was meant to be". (Just ask my ex-wives.) But that is a great reminder/memento of your trip. A really fun connection.

Eager to see your photos.

pix.fairydust
04-19-2019, 11:27 AM
Quick update:

I just bought the Kamaka! I went back for another session before the weekend and noticed something about the Kamaka that I hadn't noticed before -- the heel stamp date just so happens to be the exact day I first set foot in Hawaii. It was just too perfect and serendipitous and personal to let go, given that we stayed less than a quarter mile from the factory during our stay there, and it's so fun to think of this exact instrument being finished by those folks at Kamaka while I got my very first taste of the islands.

I'll do a new uke thread at some point with pics this weekend, but I thought that was a fun resolution to this question I posed!

Great choice! I like koAloha for soprano, but every other size I've had has eventually got moved onto a new home!
Also I love that extra special touch of the date stamp!

bynapkinart
04-19-2019, 01:45 PM
117161

Here’s a quick shot of the Kamaka next to my GS Mini Koa! More pics later this weekend :)

AustinHing
04-19-2019, 02:10 PM
117161

Here’s a quick shot of the Kamaka next to my GS Mini Koa! More pics later this weekend :)

Great choice and beautiful kamaka. It’s meant to be yours from the very beginning. Gosh, a guitar next to an ukulele always really make a uke seems so small and this is a tenor size.

ghostrdr
04-19-2019, 04:45 PM
Very nice striping! Enjoy!

komakakolima3
04-19-2019, 04:56 PM
I own both and would say that I love the tone quality of the KTM00 over the Kamaka which is also an excellent sounding instrument but I pluck soft on most of my songs and I feel the mana more so with the KoAloha! Up to you my friend either choice u can not go wrong....God Bless.....Komaka

Steedy
04-19-2019, 05:27 PM
Great choice and beautiful kamaka. It’s meant to be yours from the very beginning. Gosh, a guitar next to an ukulele always really make a uke seems so small and this is a tenor size.

And that's a small guitar, as well! Beautiful photo, nonetheless. They look like siblings!

As for me, the question of a KoAloha or Kamaka Tenor, can only be answered by a KoAloha and Kamaka Tenor! :)

edhaponik
04-20-2019, 04:53 AM
Congratulations! I came in here to advocate for the HF-3, as that is also my most frequently played uke, but KoAloha is no less splendid - just different. Wishing you many years of enjoyment with that instrument!

pix.fairydust
04-20-2019, 05:27 AM
117161

Here’s a quick shot of the Kamaka next to my GS Mini Koa! More pics later this weekend :)

Now that's a looker!

UkerDanno
04-20-2019, 07:34 AM
Quick update:

I just bought the Kamaka! I went back for another session before the weekend and noticed something about the Kamaka that I hadn't noticed before -- the heel stamp date just so happens to be the exact day I first set foot in Hawaii. It was just too perfect and serendipitous and personal to let go, given that we stayed less than a quarter mile from the factory during our stay there, and it's so fun to think of this exact instrument being finished by those folks at Kamaka while I got my very first taste of the islands.

I'll do a new uke thread at some point with pics this weekend, but I thought that was a fun resolution to this question I posed!

Congrat's! That would have been my choice between the 2. Did you ever play a Kanile'a? Do you ever play with the Boulder Ukulele Group? I played with them a couple times about 4 years ago. Used to work in Boulder, lived in Lafayette. The meetup group in Ft. Collins is fun too.

penak
04-21-2019, 08:51 AM
interesting thread, I had the same questionhttps://juragan.club/assets/4/o.png