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View Full Version : Ohana or Pono, need advice/opinions



Ian_001
07-27-2009, 10:44 AM
Hello, first let me say I am new to the ukulele world as well as this forum which has been very helpful in my ukulele learning adventure. 6 months ago I bought a $50 soprano Lanikia ukulele. Since then I have come to love playing my instrument. However, I have come down with a fever and the only cure is more ukulele!!!......

since a recent acquisition in cash I have decided to upgrade to a tenor in the $300 range. I have spent days researching ukuleles and have narrowed my choices to the Pono ohai tenor and Ohana TK35 tenor. Since I am living in the bay area, I visted Ukulele Source in San Jose last week to try out their Ohana's. The shop owners were very nice and helpful and let me play their ukuleles. I liked the sound of the Ohana but, as many have noted, the action was very high and akward to me. I also payed a visit to Gryphon strings in Palo Alto. Unfortunately the only Pono Ohai series available for me to play was the concert. The Pono was a gorgeous instrument although heavy and very quiet sounding. The action was far more playable than the Ohana. I am not sure which instrument to get. I want to give ukulele source my money because they were so helpful and insightful but the high and awkward action on the Ohana gives me reservations. I prefer the aesthetics and playability of the Pono but its quiet sound also gives me reservation. Both instruments will cost me roughly the same amount of money and I am choosing between them because I can buy each of them in a store(I want to avoid buying online). I realize I could probably lower the action on the Ohana myself, but I would be too squeamish to operate on my brand new ukulele.

Do you guys prefer Ohanas or Ponos? are their other factors I should consider?

I am sorry if this thread is in the wrong place

Thank you for the help,:)
Ian

vahn
07-27-2009, 10:53 AM
What do you think you will be using your uke for most? I hade an Ohai pono so I know what you mean about the volume. If you want to jam ever with your friends, and want to be heard over an acoustic guitar, I dont think the ohai would cut it. if you like to practice by yourself quietly and may record some covers or compositions, I bet the ohai tenor would be a great recording uke, I loved the tone mine had. But if your factoring the Ohanas high action into everything, and are hesitant to alter the action yourself, I'd go with a Mainland. Pretty much everything positive about a lot of Ohanas are also positive Mainland (solid wood, good price, good construction) but with Mainland they come set up for you. I noticed the Ohana your looking at is unamplified, all the unamplified Mainlands go for under $300, even solid mahogany and the red cedar topped tenors.

Raygf
07-27-2009, 11:10 AM
MGM has an Ohana TK-35G solid mahogany tenor for $279.95 + 18.95 shipping and a TK-50G solid wood, rosewood body, cedar top for $289 shipped. They are shipped, set up to play well so no worry about the action being too high. The Ohanas I played at the New York Ukefest were well worth the money. Very nice instruments.
Regards,
Ray

molokinirum
07-27-2009, 11:15 AM
Be careful with the Pono. There have been some problems with the Ohai wood. However, the Mailland ukes have been getting very good reviews. Check out the UU uke reviews, there are some good ones.

Kanaka916
07-27-2009, 11:21 AM
I would ask Smiley (Ukulele Source) if they could send it out to get the action adjusted as part of the deal. Won't cost you anything to ask and if that's the selling point then I'd order from MGM. Yea, I would rather support the local merchants, but ya gotta do what's best for you even if it meant making a purchase from somewhere else. My dos centavos!

Ahnko Honu
07-27-2009, 11:26 AM
Anything against KALA ukuleles? They seem to be much more consistent as far as action and playability than Ohana. Also can't stop singing the praises for Mainland 'ukuleles, great instruments, great service. :nana:

1014
07-27-2009, 11:27 AM
i love smiley and all but i'm not sure if he could do it. maybe if you go when rodney takahshi stay, he might be able to do it, but if you plan to hele aldrines show in berkeley, mike dasilva sells `ohana and when i talk to the guy from `ohana (shame i forget his name already but he's one good good guy) he said go see mike. (and i think mike get `ohana too.

Kanaka916
07-27-2009, 11:41 AM
Oh yea, I fo'got about Mike (DaSilva) and I pretty shua he does carry Ohana... Ian, check out Mike DaSilva (http://www.ukemaker.com/) in Berkeley or give him a call @ 510 649-1548.

Pippin
07-27-2009, 12:35 PM
Oh yea, I fo'got about Mike (DaSilva) and I pretty shua he does carry Ohana... Ian, check out Mike DaSilva (http://www.ukemaker.com/) in Berkeley or give him a call @ 510 649-1548.

Yep. Mike carries Ohana ukes. If given the choice of Pono or Ohana, I'd go for the TK-35G, nice looking uke, great performer.

Ken Middleton
07-27-2009, 01:14 PM
I am meeting more and more people who like to strum their ukulele hard and want a high action. If we released ukuleles with low actions that were perfect for gentle strumming or light picking, we would get a lot more complaints.

It is very easy to take the action down a little, but much more difficult to take it higher. It seems very sensible to me to make sure that there is room for adjustment. There is no such thing as the perfect height for the action. It is always a compromise.

It may have been one of my reviews that unfortunately helped to create this debate. I reviewed a tenor instrument where the action actually was too high. In 15 minutes it was playing perfectly however. I have since played dozens and dozens of Ohanas and none of them have had an action that was unplayable.

Be careful buying an instrument where the action is very low. If you compare two identical instruments (one low, the other high), the difference in tone and volume is VERY noticeable.

I seriously doubt whether any of the top American factories release instruments with very low actions. They would be alienating many of their customers.


KEN


...

Ian_001
07-27-2009, 01:20 PM
Wow! thank you for all the quick replies I did not expect people to respond so fast!!!

Vahn: thank you for bringing up the point about playing with others. I live in a dorm during the school year and have some friends who play other instruments it would be nice to play with them without having to use an amp or anything.

Ahnko Honu: I got nothing against kalas (unless they try to start something :mad: ), I just dont know any places where I could try one before buying it

Thank you to all who recommended Mike Disilvia, ill keep his services in mind. However, I live in the very south bay and due to transportation limitations I dont think ill be going to Berkely any time soon. He looks very knowledgeable and it looks like he has an awesome shop though.

Hmmmmm. there does seem to be alot of good things being said about mainland, I'm not sure if I'm fond of the braided pattern around the edges though.

Maybe I will try to alter the ohana myself. How hard do you think it would be? Is it possible to buy a third party nut and saddle that might be a little lower and work with the Ohana?

Much thanks,
Ian

Ian_001
07-27-2009, 01:27 PM
Thank you KEN. Yes I saw your review on youtube which was what initially made me worry about the action. When I tried it in the store it was indeed awkward for me. Perhaps your right, if I played it more maybe it would become more natural. I assume lowering the action yourself voids any kind of warranty Ohana provides

Ken Middleton
07-27-2009, 01:39 PM
Thank you KEN. Yes I saw your review on youtube which was what initially made me worry about the action. When I tried it in the store it was indeed awkward for me. Perhaps your right, if I played it more maybe it would become more natural. I assume lowering the action yourself voids any kind of warranty Ohana provides

If you adjust the action and get it wrong, all it cost is few pence for a new nut. I don't think many dealers would be mean about it. If there were to be a serious problem with a ukulele (any make of ukulele), it would be a very brave dealer who would ignore the problem.

seeso
07-27-2009, 01:41 PM
Maybe I will try to alter the ohana myself. How hard do you think it would be? Is it possible to buy a third party nut and saddle that might be a little lower and work with the Ohana?

Much thanks,
Ian

You can totally lower the action yourself.

Here's the post I recycle for help with action adjustments:


There's two ways to lower your action. You can sand the nut and/or the saddle down.

When fretting a string at the 3rd fret, you should be able to slide a business card between the string and the top (crown) of the first fret with a little bit of friction.

If there's no friction, then you should lower the action at the nut.

Take the strings off and remove the nut.

Get some 220 grit sandpaper, and nail it to a small, flat piece of wood or something. It needs to be flat, whatever it is.

Run the bottom of the nut over the sandpaper a little at a time, checking your measurements frequently. You'll have to restring the uke a few times and check your measurements until you've got it just right.

If you can't remove the nut, you can also file the slots in the nut a little at a time. Be careful if you choose this route. If the slots get too wide, you can have problems.

Now restring your uke and check the action at the 12th fret. The space between the string and the crown of the 12th fret should be between 1/8 and 3/16 of an inch.

If it's too high, you'll have to adjust the action at the saddle.

To lower the action at the saddle, calculate the difference between your action at the 12th fret and 3/16 of an inch. Loosen your strings, take out your saddle, and mark this difference on it with a pencil, starting from the bottom of the saddle. Sand the bottom of your saddle down to that pencil mark.

Hope that helps. Good luck. It's always a good idea to have a few saddle and nut blanks around in case you take the action down too low and have to start over. You can buy blanks at Stew Mac (http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Nuts,_saddles.html).

Ian_001
07-27-2009, 02:16 PM
does anyone know if the saddle/nut are glued on an ohana? are the easy to remove? Thanks for the tutorial Seeso, I had glanced at that earlier but forgot about it.

Boozelele
07-27-2009, 02:46 PM
With out opening old wounds....I had a Pono Ohai Tenor, and really didnt like it, I returned it and bought a Pono Solid Mahogany Tenor and absolutely love it. I could not be more pleased. I also would recommend the Kala Solid Mahogany Tenor. I have one as well and its great. All of my ukes were purchased off the internet and except for that blasted Ohai, I have had nothing but good experiences buying online.

1014
07-27-2009, 03:00 PM
does anyone know if the saddle/nut are glued on an ohana? are the easy to remove? Thanks for the tutorial Seeso, I had glanced at that earlier but forgot about it.

no the saddle and nut are not glued.

to expand further on Ken's point, I'm not sure on you skill level as of yet, but if you are still reltively new to the `ukulele, a lower action, though easier to fret, will make you more prone to string buzz if your finger placement is just so. sure the higher action will hurt a bit more at the beginning, but that's what callouses are for.

lots of san jose `ukulele players here. i'm out by evergreen. cheeeehuuuuuu

Ian_001
07-27-2009, 03:17 PM
1014: thanks for the further explanation.

Thank you everyone for the advice, you all really helped me make a decision. Im going with the Ohana as soon as I can make it back to Ukulele Source.

Ian :cheers:

cocohonk
07-27-2009, 03:34 PM
I have an ohai pono concert, and I do agree that the volume isn't as loud as you expect it to be. And make issues in this particular line (which is something to think about) aside, I still think that the ohai pono has a delicious tone and sound to it. In fact, so much I'm still not sure if I'm exchanging my slightly defected one to another one at the store because there aren't a lot of choices at the store. Maybe it's because I've played on it enough to open up the uke to a beautiful sound, or that the kala (solid mahogany) had aquilas on them which I'm not a huge fan of, but there was no comparison. The Pono had a much more pleasing and gorgeous tone for me. But, Ohanas have a good rep, so either way, you'll have a good uke.

Which brings me to a related topic that I'd love any opinions on:-

So, I am looking at the few solid wood instruments in my price range at the store; what are your thoughts on a comparison between a Kala all solid mahogany concert and a Ohana all solid mahogany concert (which I haven't tried yet in person, but I will, but I'd love your thoughts on them)?

Between Kala and Ohana, which solid mahogany one would you choose? Aesthetically, I find them both to be similar in looks, so the issue would be how the uke plays.

Also, for Ohana, there will be 2 choices in solid mahogany - one that's glossy and more expensive, and one that's (I think) matte and looks plainer (but cheaper). Besides the physical look, are there any differences between these two Ohanas? Which one, in your opinion is a more solid choice?

Thanks for helping out!

clayton56
07-28-2009, 10:08 PM
part of learning to play is to be able to adjust your instruments to work the way you want them to. Don't be afraid to sand down the saddle. What you can do is order some blanks as suggested, and set aside the originals. Then if you make the saddle or nut too low you will still have your originals.

cocohonk
07-29-2009, 08:39 PM
So, is there a difference between the glossy and matte solid mahogany Ohanas, other than the physical look of the instrment?

Ken Middleton
07-29-2009, 08:52 PM
So, is there a difference between the glossy and matte solid mahogany Ohanas, other than the physical look of the instrment?

The SK35 (non-glossy) and the SK35G (glossy), for instance, are exactly the same, except for the finish. Both use high quality solid mahogany all over.

They sound the same. I suppose the non-glossy finish will enable to the wood to vibrate VERY slightly better, but it is hardy detectable. This is true on all stringed instruments: the thinner the finish, the better the sound.

Personally, I like the look of the glossy finish better, particularly if the instrument uses a highly-figured wood like koa.

cocohonk
07-31-2009, 01:39 PM
Ken, thanks for the clarification. I like both glossy and matte, so I could go with either one.

If anyone knows, is there a quality difference between the CK-25 model and the CK-35 models, other than the physical looks? They're about 50 bucks apart from each other.

Reading the info on both, the only difference in the specs are the tuners - CK25 has precision friction tuners and 35 has Gotoh friction tuners - is that the reason for the price difference, or is there more to it?

Ken Middleton
07-31-2009, 04:51 PM
Ken, thanks for the clarification. I like both glossy and matte, so I could go with either one.

If anyone knows, is there a quality difference between the CK-25 model and the CK-35 models, other than the physical looks? They're about 50 bucks apart from each other.

Reading the info on both, the only difference in the specs are the tuners - CK25 has precision friction tuners and 35 has Gotoh friction tuners - is that the reason for the price difference, or is there more to it?

The CK25 is very simple and plain, the CK35 had rosewood binding and black and white purfling. The headplate is more elaborate on the 35. They sound the same however.