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shores&hammocks
07-03-2009, 11:00 PM
my first ukulele that i got about six months ago is a lanikai 21 tenor mahogany. it's okay, but it's a true entry level. i'm really looking forward to stepping it up to a nicer, higher end tenor. but i have lots of questions on which brand and model to choose.

i have either two choices:
1 - go into a high end model of the kala series
2 - go into a high end brand (koaloha, kanilea, etc.)

but as i'm researching i came into a lot of confusion. so here

is kala worth it? i've tried there 100 dollar ukes, and they're just like the my lanikai. there's these 350-500 dollar kala ukes - what's the dif? for kala, as the price rises, what's the increased value? are the high priced kala ukes a good step into the high end ukuleles?

when i was researching the high end ukes (pono, kanilea, koaloha, etc.) they had different price ranges. like i saw a kanilea at a store for only 150, but then they had another one for 800. since both ukes are made by a high end manufacturer in hawaii, what does the increased price range bring? also, when i was at the kanilea website, they had different series: k-1, k-2, and so on to k-4. so, just like the price increase, what does the higher k models bring to the table? is there really a difference? or would going with a 150-200 dollar kanilea uke be the same as their 800 dollar ones.

sorry if this is a bit rambly, and if you haven't noticed, i post a lot of questions on this forum. but i truly appreciate the feedback. thanks guys :D

12imnew
07-03-2009, 11:55 PM
or would going with a 150-200 dollar kanilea uke be the same as their 800 dollar ones.
I know almost nothing about ukes, I do not yet own one (i'm working on it) but I think it is fair to say with any instrument, an 800 dollar instrument will be better than a 150-200 dollar instrument. Generally, the more you are charged, the more you get. There is just no way a price difference that large would not have any difference in quality, and it should be a very noticeable difference, or it would not be worth spending that much more. I'm sorry I can't really answer your question fully, I'm sure someone else on this wonderful site can be of more help than me.

pingraham
07-04-2009, 01:29 AM
It is a tough question, and this may also be a rambling answer - There are a couple observations I have noted with instrument costs over the years relative to cost. My experience with banjos is more accurate, but it is the same with ukuleles apparently. There quality, sound and cost of instruments generally comes in plateaus. You will have the entry level instruments starting at a low price, say $50 and the quality of the instrument and sound will be the same for that instrument and a $250 instrument with the exception being the finish, grade of wood and inlays. To get the next grade of instrument up, you may have to pay $350 and they do the same job up to $800. To make the jump to the next plateau, you may have to break the kilobuck level for a Kamaka Tenor.

These prices are examples, - as for banjos back in the dark ages one got the entry stuff for $150 to $350, and the difference was only in the bling on the instrument - in that range they all played and sounded pretty much the same. The next level was $500 to $1000, and to jump to the next level you would have to cough up $1200 to $3500 - the difference being the bling of inlays, grades of wood etc. Nowdays a high quality banjo with nice inlays will set you back $3500 to $7500, depending on bling and gold plating.....!! Mercifully, you can't gold plate koa...

I would go with the best you can, best if you can play and compare, and look for the lower end of the higher plateau instrument when you get it down to a choice between two ukuleles. My experience is that getting the better made instrument with the higher plateau refinements (like a braced neck, better interior finish so glue globs don't start buzzing like bees in the sound box, and more attention to the height of the frets, nut, bridge, setup etc) will keep you happier in the long run than a bling covered cheap instrument that doesn't play as well.

Check on the reputation of the maker, and look at several made by each maker, and see if you see a variation in build quality, sound, playability. When selecting a brand, look for the consistently good maker. There isn't much that can be done if a dealer has put lousy strings on an instrument, but you should be able to judge that if you're playing already.

upskydowncloud
07-04-2009, 02:32 AM
my first ukulele that i got about six months ago is a lanikai 21 tenor mahogany. it's okay, but it's a true entry level. i'm really looking forward to stepping it up to a nicer, higher end tenor. but i have lots of questions on which brand and model to choose.

i have either two choices:
1 - go into a high end model of the kala series
2 - go into a high end brand (koaloha, kanilea, etc.)

but as i'm researching i came into a lot of confusion. so here

is kala worth it? i've tried there 100 dollar ukes, and they're just like the my lanikai. there's these 350-500 dollar kala ukes - what's the dif? for kala, as the price rises, what's the increased value? are the high priced kala ukes a good step into the high end ukuleles?

when i was researching the high end ukes (pono, kanilea, koaloha, etc.) they had different price ranges. like i saw a kanilea at a store for only 150, but then they had another one for 800. since both ukes are made by a high end manufacturer in hawaii, what does the increased price range bring? also, when i was at the kanilea website, they had different series: k-1, k-2, and so on to k-4. so, just like the price increase, what does the higher k models bring to the table? is there really a difference? or would going with a 150-200 dollar kanilea uke be the same as their 800 dollar ones.

sorry if this is a bit rambly, and if you haven't noticed, i post a lot of questions on this forum. but i truly appreciate the feedback. thanks guys :D

Hey I'll give you the run down of my experience with the different models I've had.

I've got the following ukes:

Lanikai LU21 Concert, price $80
Lanikai Curly Koa Concert, price $300
Kamaka HF-3 Special, standard model price is $882 (mine was $1500)

I purchased them in that order.

In relation to the expensive Lanikai vs the not-so-expensive Lanikai there were obvious differences in build quality and sound. The more expensive one had better tuners and more attention to detail (like fret markers). The more expensive uke sounded better too, it was louder, had a better sustain. However I found the tone to be similar between the two instruments.

There was a HUGE difference between the 300 dollar Lanikai and my Kamaka tenor. I only truly noticed the difference after I picked up my Lanikai after playing my Kamaka since Christmas. The best way to sum up the difference I think is to say that the Kamaka feels like a proper musical instrument whereas the Lanikai sounds like a sort of toy; like going from an electronic keyboard to a Steinway. Don't get me wrong I loved my Lanikai and thought it was the greatest thing ever until my Kamaka arrived. The Kamaka's tone is beautiful and notes sustain for what seems like years. The uke is much louder too although the fact it is a tenor as opposed to concert is likely to account for most of that.

Personally if you've been using the LU21 for a long time and are serious about playing the uke I would save up and get one of the Hawaiian K brands. You really won't regret it, and you'll get a quality instrument that will last a long time. It's value will also probably remain solid. Personally I think it's false economy to get one of the mid-level Kala brands although a lot of people on here swear by them and it may turn out that you find a cheaper uke that sounds better than a more expensive one. The key is to find one that fits with your sound and feels good in your hands.

I saved up for a long time for my Kamaka and don't regret it at all so my advice is to save up and get a more expensive one. I hear the Koaloha tenor is also very cool so you might want to check that.

Kanilea's have never really appealed to me and their model numbers confuse me a lot. You could also check out Ko'olau although their numbering system confuses me even more than Kanilea's. I think the higher the number the better finish you get and the more options you get. I'm sure someone better informed will help you out with that.

As another plug for Kamaka you get a simple and plain uke that sounds incredible and is pretty hard to beat in my opinion. There's no need to spend 2 confusing years looking at purfling options either.

Good luck and let us know what you decide to do.

seeso
07-04-2009, 03:10 AM
is kala worth it? i've tried there 100 dollar ukes, and they're just like the my lanikai. there's these 350-500 dollar kala ukes - what's the dif? for kala, as the price rises, what's the increased value? are the high priced kala ukes a good step into the high end ukuleles?

The difference between the Kala ukuleles as you climb up in price is due mainly to the wood used. Of course there are other specs (electronics, number of strings, bling, etc.) that factor into the cost. But mainly, you are paying more because of the wood being used.

Different woods cost more than other woods. Simple as that. Whether or not you as a player think they should cost more is a moot point. You might think that a $150 nato sounds better than a $400 lacewood/spruce.

So this whole concept of "better" is entirely subjective. Which brings me to my next point -

I have the electric version of the Lanikai you describe. I play it more than my $300 Kala cedar top. Why?

It's all due to feel. I actually think the Kala sounds better than my Lanikai. And it should sound better. It has a solid cedar top.

But the Lanikai feels better to me. I just enjoy playing it more. To me, that's more important. I know it might be tough for other people to understand, but if I don't like the way an instrument feels, I'm not going to be playing it much.


when i was researching the high end ukes (pono, kanilea, koaloha, etc.) they had different price ranges. like i saw a kanilea at a store for only 150, but then they had another one for 800. since both ukes are made by a high end manufacturer in hawaii, what does the increased price range bring? also, when i was at the kanilea website, they had different series: k-1, k-2, and so on to k-4. so, just like the price increase, what does the higher k models bring to the table? is there really a difference? or would going with a 150-200 dollar kanilea uke be the same as their 800 dollar ones.

sorry if this is a bit rambly, and if you haven't noticed, i post a lot of questions on this forum. but i truly appreciate the feedback. thanks guys :D

First of all, I wouldn't put Pono in the same category as KoAloha or Kanile'a. To me, the Ponos don't sound as good. BTW, they're not made in Hawaii.

Secondly, you saw a Kanile'a for $150 and you didn't pick it up? If you're not mistaken about the price or brand, then something was seriously wrong with that instrument for it to be selling for so low. Not calling you a liar, but I find it hard to believe that a Kanile'a was selling for that price.

As for the differences between their series (K1, K2, K3 etc.), it's the materials used. You want more expensive binding? More expensive rosette? B/W/B? You're going to pay more for it.

Not having played every model in their series, it's my guess that you're not going to find too much difference in the sound of their different series. Everyone I've heard from raves about their ukuleles. They're not going to make one series sound worse than another series. It's the bling, baby.

Now when you're talking about a $150 Lanikai compared to an $800 Kanile'a, the difference in sound is like night and day, to me. I'm assuming you haven't had the chance to play any of the Hawaiian-made K brands, but if you get the chance, you'll see what I mean.

I've had the chance to play some of those K brands, and to me, there's no comparison. Night and day. The sound jumps off the uke. They're loud. They're more clear. They sustain much longer. They sing, man.

When I bought that Kala, I thought I was stepping up in quality. The truth is, it was more of a lateral step. I was trading playability for sound. And the sound wasn't that much better to offset the difference in playability.

I wish I had held off on buying that Kala and saved a little more for a Hawaiian-made K brand.

So that's my advice to you. Hold off on buying a high-end Kala and save up for a Kamaka, Kanile'a, KoAloha, or Ko'olau.

kailua
07-04-2009, 03:33 AM
Being a noob, take what I say with that in mind. Like most anything you get what you pay. With the K's, I'm sure you pay a premium for the "name", but you get a fantastic instrument that will last a lifetime. So, I'd get the best uke you can afford. Your question regarding Kanile'a's pricing of K1 - K4: K1 is basic, no frills and K4 is the kitchen sink but still basic. Then there's "custom" where you tell them what you want. I prefer the basic models, but still drool over the many customs shown on this forum. You said you saw a Kanile'a for $150. Was it broken? The cheapest soprano on Kanile'a's website is $688. Good luck with your search. Let us know what you decide. :music: edit: seeso said it all above,

wickedwahine11
07-04-2009, 06:40 AM
Wow, a Kanile'a for $150? It must have been mis-priced...wow, I would snatch that up.

Let me preface my opinion by saying it is just that: MY opinion. There are a lot of people on this board who have Kalas that they love dearly, and they would never give up or trade. That being said...I ordered a Kala and it was fine, but I regretted not buying one of the Hawaiian K's. I ended up selling it and using the money to put towards a Kanile'a K2 tenor. I have never regretted that decision. For me, anyway, it was better to spend the extra money to have a ukulele that I would play forever (as opposed to buying a mid range one and then wanting to upgrade later).

If you can afford to wait, and afford to spend the extra money, I highly recommend that you get one of the 4 K's (Kamaka, Kanile'a, KoAloha or Ko'olau)...

ichadwick
07-04-2009, 11:33 AM
is kala worth it?
Yes, certainly if you buy something better than their $100 models. Get something with a solid wood top and you won't regret it. My Kala cedar top is one of my favourite ukes these days. I also have a spruce top that is quite good.

Also look at Mainland. I've got a sweet Mainland red cedar tenor I play almost daily.A bit of a wider neck and gobs of sustain.

strum4ever
07-04-2009, 12:28 PM
Very interesting analysis Seeso, it's a good read.

seeso
07-04-2009, 02:04 PM
Very interesting analysis Seeso, it's a good read.

Thanks man, I'm glad someone reads my rambling posts. :)

BTW, as I re-read it, it sounds like I'm dissing Pono. Just for the record, every Pono I've heard and played sounds lovely. I just think the sound is a step down from the sound you get from one of the four K's.

shores&hammocks
07-05-2009, 10:03 AM
honestly, these replies are fantastic - thanks guys.

oh, and you guys were skeptical about the 150 dollar k uke. well, it wasn't kamaka but it was koaloha - is that still a steal? or is it mispriced and maybe doubtful?

http://sales.momilanis.com/Cart/minishopper?action=cart&type=view_prod&form=view_prod&value1=163&value2=&sourceform=shopcenter&path=IndexPath&pathindex=1

seeso
07-05-2009, 10:14 AM
honestly, these replies are fantastic - thanks guys.

oh, and you guys were skeptical about the 150 dollar k uke. well, it wasn't kamaka but it was koaloha - is that still a steal? or is it mispriced and maybe doubtful?

http://sales.momilanis.com/Cart/minishopper?action=cart&type=view_prod&form=view_prod&value1=163&value2=&sourceform=shopcenter&path=IndexPath&pathindex=1

Glad you found the replies useful.

The ukulele you linked above is not a KoAloha, it's a KoAlana. KoAlana is the budget brand of KoAloha. Similar to how Ko'olau's budget ukulele is Pono.

Here are a couple of threads about KoAlana:

http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?t=12092

http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?t=2837