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UkeNinja
07-28-2009, 12:40 AM
I bought a Koaloha Tenor recently and posted a review (http://ukuleleunderground.com/ukereviews/viewReviews.php?modelID=185&manufacturerID=9)in the Review Section over at the main site.
It appears that this forum section is becoming the place to be for uke reviews, so please allow a c&p of the review below.

Koaloha KTM-00 Tenor Ukulele

Price paid: $850 (new)

http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/album.php?albumid=314&pictureid=2884

Features: 9
A May 2009 Koaloha tenor, it still had the smell of glue when it arrived at my door. No electronics, just wood & stringz. The finish on these ukes is glossy and OK, not extremely smooth but definitely not sloppy either. It looks like a solid uke that could stand a lot of playing. Grover tuners are precise and turn smoothly. An online purchase with a nice hardcase, tuner & book.

Sound: 9
Bought for high-G, to contrast a very mellow uke I use with low tuning. Very clear/bright and singing sound, it becomes even better with hard strumming and firm picking. Very satisfied with the overall sound using the Worth clears that came with it, and I see no reason to think about other string brands to enhance any missing parts in the sound. Just lovely.

Action, Fit and Finish: 7
Set-up is fine, action does not need improvement for me personally, the koa grain looks nice with a dark streak in the center. Unfortunately, my tenor has/had two (and a half) minor flaws.
First, the binding on one side of the fretboard (near the highest frets was rough and had not been sanded flush with the actual fretboard itself. I have used a piece of fine sand paper to straighten this out and it looks good now. None of the Koalohas I have seen in stores had any flaws I could notice, so I am sure it was just accidental, but to be fair this should have been noticed either in the factory or during the seller's setup.


The second minor aesthetic flaw is that on one side of the neck, where the binding is supposed to form a straight and sharp edge of the fretboard, it is slightly rounded off, as in how sharp wooden edges look when they are rubbed over and over for many years. My uneducated guess is someone went over this edge with a file and then realized he should stop. This is visible when the light falls onto the polished wood, and I can not fix it myself nor will it get better. Or at least not until the rest of the uke looks very used as well.


A third small thing: while the bridge is flawless, the nut looks like it got a little bump and it is a bit grimy. I had expected these parts to be kept cleaner during the manufacturing process, but since it does not harm the sound or functioning of the uke in any way it is not something that would influence my decision to buy. The above two could be.

Addition/note to self: I am not blaming anyone, this just shows that nothing tops handling the object you want to buy in a shop.

Reliability/Durability: 9
This Koaloha feels sturdy, there are no small bits or parts that look like they would fall off or break, and the finish looks like it can take a beating. The whole uke feels like a precise instrument and (in spite of said minor flaws) it is a joy to hold and to play.

Customer Support: 10
Despite some minor niggles above, I have had no need to contact Koaloha about their products. One of the reasons I decided on a Koaloha though, was the personal feel of the brand and the fact that they are present on the UU forums with pleasant and helpful reactions to users with potential problems or questions. This kind of transparency is a great good for any company.

Overall Rating: 9
I have played for 1.5 years and own a Fluke and a low-end luthier-made koa tenor. The Koaloha fills the "bright, happy, and cool high-G" spot in my arsenal and the luthier-made and this one should go a long way until I get the urge to go look for something else. Would I have known about the finish flaws, I might have reconsidered or asked to fix them but in retrospect, it is a wonderful instrument and I am very happy to have bought it. If it got stolen, another Koaloha would certainly be a possibility, the look is quite special as well. Compared with my other higher-end uke it is a bit neck-heavy, but this actually works fine when holding it standing up. This one is a bit heavier as well, but with the added solidity. The "custom" uke cuts the 500g mark, and almost felt brittle at first. I had been considering a Kanile'a, which are also very light, but free shipping and the cool looks and the timing brought me to this one. Now the task is to learn to play this so loud it will start to scream, but for the time being it still takes me for a ride every time I lift it out of the case.

For your reference, off to strum a bit now :music:

deach
07-28-2009, 03:02 AM
Thanks for this great review!

specialmike
07-28-2009, 05:37 AM
The second minor aesthetic flaw is that on one side of the neck, where the binding is supposed to form a straight and sharp edge of the fretboard, it is slightly rounded off, as in how sharp wooden edges look when they are rubbed over and over for many years. My uneducated guess is someone went over this edge with a file and then realized he should stop. This is visible when the light falls onto the polished wood, and I can not fix it myself nor will it get better. Or at least not until the rest of the uke looks very used as well.
[/LIST]


Is there a rule somewhere that states that the frets have to be straight and sharp edged with the fret board? My frets are the same as you have described and I never thought twice about it. I'm not trying to give you any attitude, I'm just wondering: what's wrong with curved edges?

DaveVisi
07-28-2009, 06:04 AM
He's talking about binding, not frets. I wouldn't want sharp edged frets on anything I play.

As far as binding goes, I think it might be different if the entire neck was rounded instead of just one section. Being uneven one way or the other is just sloppy.

UkeNinja
07-28-2009, 06:29 AM
Is there a rule somewhere...?
Probably my awkward description is to blame. There is binding on the fretboard sides, flush with the fretboard and with a sharp (clean, nicely sanded) edge on one side of the neck (the down side when playing), while being *unevenly* blunt on the other. So it does not look like part of the design, so to speak.
The frets themselves are fine, and as I stated, there is no problem playing the instrument, but if this had been a regular shop purchase I might have looked for one with nicer edges. That's it, no more and no less.

edit: Ah yes, DaveVisi kind of sums it up.

pithaya9
07-28-2009, 08:30 AM
Thanks for taking the time to give us a great review.

specialmike
07-28-2009, 09:31 AM
Probably my awkward description is to blame. There is binding on the fretboard sides, flush with the fretboard and with a sharp (clean, nicely sanded) edge on one side of the neck (the down side when playing), while being *unevenly* blunt on the other. So it does not look like part of the design, so to speak.
The frets themselves are fine, and as I stated, there is no problem playing the instrument, but if this had been a regular shop purchase I might have looked for one with nicer edges. That's it, no more and no less.

edit: Ah yes, DaveVisi kind of sums it up.

I see what you're saying.. I think. It's just I don't have that issue on mine so I didn't understand what you were talking about. The only thing I noticed on mine after reading your description were the frets being curved downwards. Meh, I love it, and I hope you will grow to love yours as well. And if not, I'll take it off your hands :)

dominicfoundthemooon
07-28-2009, 09:45 AM
koa grain looks nice with a dark streak in the center. i love those!! wish mine had that!

nice review!!! and you were so good about each point! i love the Koaloha as you all know..

5 stars! FTW

UkeNinja
07-29-2009, 12:19 AM
Thanks guys and you're welcome at the same time, I tried to be fair and rewrote a few times before posting.
There is just something about a good instrument/ukulele that it starts to sing if you strum it the right way. This Koaloha has it. Oh, and it is friggin' loud, the sound becomes really good when you strum it pretty hard.

My Flea has other attractive points (standing on it's behind, fair sound, no need for a case) but a little sprinkle of magic in the sound is just what is needed to pick a uke up day after day for practice. Uke on!

baumer
07-30-2009, 07:15 AM
Ninja, thanks for taking the time to do this review. Nice write up! I’ve decided that this will be about my price range for a nice ukulele upgrade and I’ve been looking around at lots of reviews and commentaries and have been leaning towards this specific ukulele*.

Did you get the model with the ebony crown bridge or the ebony bow tie? A picture in this thread would be the cherry on top of a great review. Thanks again!

*Since I’ve only been playing ukulele for a short time, I’ve set a personal playing milestone for myself. If (when) I reach it, I will reward myself. It’s good to have goals!

UkeNinja
07-30-2009, 04:53 PM
Hi baumer,

I think you will find all the ukulele you need around this price range. If you can spare the money, that is (there is a lot of good budget stuff available these days as well). Go out and play one if at all possible, there is nothing like feeling, playing and hearing the instrument by yourself.
Bow tie bridge??? Wow. No idea what you are talking about :D I upped a pic of the body in my album (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/album.php?albumid=314&pictureid=2884), could get it to show up in the original post yet (will try later).

baumer
07-31-2009, 04:44 AM
Hi baumer,

I think you will find all the ukulele you need around this price range. If you can spare the money, that is (there is a lot of good budget stuff available these days as well). Go out and play one if at all possible, there is nothing like feeling, playing and hearing the instrument by yourself.
Bow tie bridge??? Wow. No idea what you are talking about :D I upped a pic of the body in my album (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/album.php?albumid=314&pictureid=2884), could get it to show up in the original post yet (will try later).
Very nice Ninja, love the grain on that! I will definitely try to play as many as I can before I actually take the plunge. Hopefully by the time I've saved the money, I'll have had a chance to try a lot out.

As for the bowtie bridge, I wasn’t sure either. I just noticed as I looked around at Koaloha’s on the web that a lot of them had a different bridge, like this one (http://cgi.ebay.com/Koaloha-Tenor-Ukulele-KTM-00-1-piece-top-back-w-cs_W0QQitemZ250474970877QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_Defa ultDomain_0?hash=item3a5178befd&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14http://www.google.com/webhp?tab=mw). Still ebony, but not the crown. So I looked around Koaloha’s website and I guess they call that the bowtie. I like the look of the crown myself.

UkeNinja
07-31-2009, 06:00 AM
Now that you show that pic, I saw it recently as well with refurbished Koalohas on eBay (you got the pic from MGM?), but they had already fainted into a deep subconscious part of my not-so-big brain. Thanks for the reminder.

Btw, check them out (the refurbs), they look like a good deal ;)

micromue
07-31-2009, 09:59 AM
Congrats ninja, that koaloha looks gorgeous. I am sure you will like the sound even more after you played it in. Always keep in mind: They like it rrrrough!

best Greets

Micromue

UkeNinja
08-01-2009, 04:18 AM
Haha, thanks micromue. Yes I punish it regularly, don't worry. Good thing the coating is nice and hard, it takes a beating like anything.

Any new developments over there? Been to any festivals / meetings lately?

Ah....I'm hijacking my own thread :D sorry to self

micromue
08-01-2009, 06:10 AM
Any new developments over there? Been to any festivals / meetings lately?

Ah....I'm hijacking my own thread :D sorry to self

Sure thing! German scene is pretty active these days. There will be an especially cool meeting in Göttingen/germany on Sept. 12th featuring a concert of our scottish friends Gus´n Fin (GuGug). Really looking forward to it!
I will also hit the tokyo area again in november. Hope I gonna get a glimpse on your brandnew K´. (Uff, pretty hard making it back to topic :eek:).

koalohapaul
08-01-2009, 08:54 AM
Thanks for the review!

Regarding the bridge, we have switched the 4-string tenors to the bowtie bridge. My dad's in semi-retirement and he created the crown style bridge. As the torch is being passed, he gave me the okay to use the bowtie, which I designed for our tenors. The D-VI and 6-string have always had the bowtie, me being the person who researched and developed them.

On a related note, we are currently using East Indian Rosewood for the fret boards and bridges. We need to use a different saw for rosewood, so there are now 19 frets, instead of 20. Ebony is getting near impossible to get, on the numbers that we produce. We're not big like Martin or Taylor, yet larger than most ukulele makers. The big guys have millions in capital to purchase woods like ebony, while smaller makers don't buy in the same volume as us. It's an odd place to be in. I've been able to find a steady source of East Indian Rosewood, so hopefully we will be sticking with it for a while. Ebony is still my favorite - I wish is wasn't so expensive and hard to find.

Kaneohe til the end
08-01-2009, 03:18 PM
Thanks for the review!

Regarding the bridge, we have switched the 4-string tenors to the bowtie bridge. My dad's in semi-retirement and he created the crown style bridge. As the torch is being passed, he gave me the okay to use the bowtie, which I designed for our tenors. The D-VI and 6-string have always had the bowtie, me being the person who researched and developed them.

On a related note, we are currently using East Indian Rosewood for the fret boards and bridges. We need to use a different saw for rosewood, so there are now 19 frets, instead of 20. Ebony is getting near impossible to get, on the numbers that we produce. We're not big like Martin or Taylor, yet larger than most ukulele makers. The big guys have millions in capital to purchase woods like ebony, while smaller makers don't buy in the same volume as us. It's an odd place to be in. I've been able to find a steady source of East Indian Rosewood, so hopefully we will be sticking with it for a while. Ebony is still my favorite - I wish is wasn't so expensive and hard to find.

in other words, if anyone has any ebony they dont want... well you know, :D

jk, jk

UkeNinja
08-03-2009, 11:37 PM
Thanks for the review!

Regarding the bridge, we have switched the 4-string tenors to the bowtie bridge. My dad's in semi-retirement and he created the crown style bridge.
Ah, I see. Sorry for the misinformation, I didn't have a clue there. Thank you for filling in there.

Still I am glad to have a crown bridge, it's a cool accent to the design of your ukes. Any reason for the changed design? The bow tie seems to take a different road from the entire crown design (actually the matching headstock and bridge).

(I totally missed out on the last replies... Checking the site 57 times a day and still I can't keep up with my own threads :wallbash:)

koalohapaul
08-04-2009, 09:06 PM
Simple truth is, I like the look of the crown, but I hate making them. It's a two part procedure, creating the actual bridge, then the crown portion. Now that we have a laser, it's a little easier, but still more work than a single piece. The old crown bridges were single piece, including the crown, which was even worse.

I designed the bowtie for simplicity in looks and shaping. Unfortunately, it's not much easier to make than the crown, but it is easier to mask off before spraying.

AJ Hill
06-07-2014, 03:11 PM
I have one on the way and this has been very informative ,,,,can't wait to get my hands on the Koaloha ! Thanks