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View Full Version : Koa Pili Koko vs Hawaiian Koa Ukes?



vcowman
04-12-2008, 06:48 AM
Hi Folks, Anyone have an opinion on the Koa Pili Koko vs Hawaiian Koa Ukes? I figure you can get a solid wood uke for $300 vs minmum $500 for the main HI Uke makers. Is the extra jump in price worth it in sound quality and craftsmanship? Thanks!

Ukulele_Junkie
04-12-2008, 07:12 AM
well both are from the acacia family so ur gettin a similar grain type as the non premium koa. When ryan reviewed his pili koa he said that it sounds very similiar to how a koa kamaka would sound jus like 400 dollar cheapers. The only thing different with pili koko jumbos are that they are all completely made out of wood, like the saddle and the bridge. But you can always make a Nubone saddle at a local music shop, maybe costing 40 bucks :o

vcowman
04-12-2008, 07:25 AM
Is MGM the only retailer of KPK? I would like to play one before I buy ;)

Ukulele_Junkie
04-12-2008, 07:27 AM
as of now it looks like MGM is the only seller and i think its hawaiin made and fairly new so no mainland exposure as of yet.

jakegio
04-12-2008, 12:45 PM
as of now it looks like MGM is the only seller and i think its hawaiin made and fairly new so no mainland exposure as of yet.

there is a link to Ukulele Friend at the top of the UU homepage (no i dont work there or anything). They have KPK ukes listed as well. I'm not going to post the link here so that you will click through from UU thus supporting the site:D

frozenfingers
04-14-2008, 02:45 PM
I haven't played a koa ukulele before, but I bought a Koa Pili Koko concert from Musicguymic. I upgraded from a cheap Hilo so I have little to compare it to, but I like the sound. It projects pretty well and it sounds good. It seems to bring out the mellow lower end sounds vs. the soprano I was playing before. The craftsmanship is good and the wood is pretty.
I think it is made somewhere in Asia... China maybe? and set up in Hawaii. I've had mine for a little over a month and I've been really pleased with it.

DigableKid
06-22-2008, 08:54 PM
A Koa Pili Koko soprano is one I have now. They're awesome and well worth the money and infinite enjoyment you get.

UkeNinja
06-23-2008, 06:40 AM
To those that actually have a KPK ukulele: please write a review of your experiences and impressions for the review section. You can contribute a valuable piece of info to the Ukulele Underground in that way. Please do!

g4ry
06-23-2008, 08:48 AM
I have a Tenor Koa Pili Koko from MGM. Overall, I've been 100% satisfied with it, but I'll try to nit-pick for the sake of a review.

Construction:

Body

The body is 100% solid acacia wood, as far as I can tell without tearing it apart. Looking inside the body, it has pretty normal bracing, and feeling inside with my finger I can tell it has fan-bracing for the bridge, not just a single plate. The linings are bent, not the kerfed type. There are also plenty of blue pen marks inside, suggesting that it was at least assembled by a human being.

Neck

I have no idea how the neck is attached, although the neck block inside the body would suggest that it's not a spanish style nece. I'd suspect there's a tenon joint, but I don't want to take off the fretboard to find out.

The neck is made of 1-piece mahogany, with a piece of acacia laminate on the headstock.
The neck has a flawless symmetry that would make me suspicious that it was CNC made. If it was hand-carved, whoever made it should take that as a compliment :)

Fretboard

The fretboard is made of rosewood. I have to say, I'm not entirely impressed with this. Although it looks really pretty, i find that it's a little softer than I'd like / expect. I'm personally used to playing the guitar, so admittedly i often find myself holding the ukulele with the kind of death grip that is required on medium gauge steel strings. I've found that after only playing the Koa Pili Koko for a month (ish), the more common frets are significantly marred up and worn down. I try to keep my fingernails on my left hand (and right hand, I just can't handle long nails) well trimmed, yet the frets still have countless gouges in them from the minute remnants of my fingernails. The fretboard is also coated with nitrocellulose lacquer (or so I believe), which is wearing off completely on all frets that are commonly played on. I've never had this amount of wear on any guitar i've played, even those with rosewood fingerboards.

That said, the frets are all quite perfect. There are no buzzes, except for when my would C string begins to wear out. The sides of the frets are all trimmed to a perfectly playable angle. As the sides of the fingerboard have the nitro sanded/filed off, I would suspect that the trimming of the frets was completed at a later stage, perhaps in Hawaii or maybe by MGM himself. In any event, they are done quite nicely. The fret marker inlays are sufficient, although they leave a little something to be desired. They might be MoP, might be synthetic....aren't really pretty enough to tell. There are 3, on the 5th, 7th, and 10th fret, as well as one side marker on the 7th fret.

Bridge, Saddle, Nut:

The bridge is made out of rosewood. It's a pretty contrast against the acacia soundboard. Nothing really special to tell about it, it serves it's purpose fine.

The saddle is also made of rosewood. This would seemingly be a problem for some people, although i personally don't mind. A bone saddle (or even brass, i guess) would seemingly transfer the vibration a little better, and make the uke have a little more bite. This could easily be changed, as mentioned before.

The nut is also made of rosewood. I personally don't like this so much. Much like the saddle, it could easily be changed out for a bone one, and likely should be (personal opinion). The nut is incredibly thin, and seemingly made out of the same wood as the fingerboard. In tuning the would C string (and would even be worse if you went low G), the winding on the string binds with the rosewood nut. This makes tuning only possible in significant jumps, which is incredibly annoying. So basically, to tune up the C string, I have to turn the machinehead slightly, and then press on the string between the nut and the tuner, in order to "pull" the string through the nut. This causes me additional worry, as this is undoubtedly wearing away at the rosewood, and cutting the slot in the nut deeper everytime I tune up. This will seemingly eventually lead to the action being too low on that string.

Finish, appearance:

Whatever this acacia wood is, it is incredibly pretty. I have never seen real Koa, except for in pictures, but this appears really similar. There is a considerable amount of curly figure in the wood. The entire ukulele appears to be finished with nitrocellulose lacquer, which makes a nice shine, and it incredibly durable. The finish is what, i believe, you'd call open-pore. That is, rather than a glass-like perfectly smooth finish, the pores of the wood are not filled, and so the lacquer doesn't build up evenly, but rather accentuates the pores of the wood. I think this type of finish really compliments the wood, although I'd like to see it with an oil finish.

The machineheads are geared, and I've had no troubles with them. The have zero slip (so far).

Overall, this thing is really well put together, and I wouldn't have any worries about it's durability.

Playability & Sound:

As far as playability goes, this is my first ukulele, so I don't have any real reference. I have, however, played guitar for years. This things sounds great! It has pretty good volume, and the sound is incredibly mellow. On mine in particular, I have however found it hard to get the A string to ring out. It seems considerably more dead than the other strings--not to the point that it sounds bad, just i find that I have to really come onto it hard when i'm playing to get the sound out of it.

The ukulele came with Hilo strings. After hearing all the hype about Aquila nylgut strings, I decided to try them on it. At first, i wasn't very pleased. The volume was significantly lower, to a point where I found myself playing them far too hard to try to get the same sound I was getting from the Hilos. After I got used to them, I did realize how lovely they sound, more mellow and melodic than the Hilos, but without the punch. I am planning on trying some different string brands on this, but as of right now, I'd say the Aquilas aren't really the best choice for this uke. The ukulele is very mellow sounding to start with, and adding Aquilas to that just seems to take away all it's punch. I think this is just a matter of opinion though, your mileage may vary.

Overall, I am pretty impressed with the sound. I think it has "enough" volume, and an absolutely beautiful tone. In the near future, I'll be looking into a bone saddle and nut though, in an effort to give it a little more "punch".

Conclusion:

For around $300, you can't go wrong. Buy one, you won't be disappointed. I know my review here was kind of hard on it, but like i stated at the start, i was just nit-picking. This is a well made, beautiful sounding instrument, at a great price.

deach
06-23-2008, 08:52 AM
g4ry - that's a great review. Thanks!

Lanark
06-23-2008, 01:19 PM
What size are you looking at? I just got a solid koa Kelii soprano from MGM and that was only 300 bucks. I'm digging it. (I also wrote out a whole review yesterday and then closed the wrong tab while looking up extra info. d'oh!)

Plainsong
06-23-2008, 01:24 PM
What size are you looking at? I just got a solid koa Kelii soprano from MGM and that was only 300 bucks. I'm digging it. (I also wrote out a whole review yesterday and then closed the wrong tab while looking up extra info. d'oh!)

Oh that is brutal! I hate it when I do stuff like that, which is all the time. :rolleyes:

Yeah, I've noticed that the Kelii ukes are very nicely priced as well. Anyone ever compared the two? And aren't Keilani ukes related?

UkeNinja
06-23-2008, 02:40 PM
I...price.
Terrific review. Nice to read about wear issues and other small details that may or may not affect the joy of owning one.

It sounds like a KPK would be very enjoyable to have, with the option of upgrading the nut/bridge. Perhaps if you go with a set of Worth strings you can postpone exchanging the nut. The Clear kind may sound nice and bright and perhaps it can give a little punch to that mellow sound.

g4ry
06-23-2008, 03:10 PM
...Perhaps if you go with a set of Worth strings you can postpone exchanging the nut. The Clear kind may sound nice and bright and perhaps it can give a little punch to that mellow sound.

I'll definitely check out Worths, thanks for the advice. The whole nut issue has made me kinda shy away from wound strings, so I'm considering trying a nylon C string for the next set I buy....but that would likely lose some of the "punch" that i'm looking for.

//g4ry

eschelar
08-27-2008, 05:33 PM
Well I've had mine for about 40 days (musicguymic on the net) and I love playing it. I'll defer to the previous review for most details but will add a few.

Upon receiving it, I noticed that the frets have a bit of sharpness (they don't do all that well with the 'cotton ball' test mentioned on luthier sites). They aren't extending such as would indicate a dry fretboard, just sharp at the ends. (I oil with fret doctor)

I'm not all that keen on the tuner selection, but they are OK. I will note that I have switched tuners on both of my cheap soprano ukes and the cost was less than 20 dollars for parts. One type is nearly identical to the KPK tuners. The other type is like a Chinese Grover Mini Tuner knockoff. It cost an extra three dollars (retail) and they work just fine AND have their knobs secured with a screw. I'm not all that keen on the cream colored knobs on this uke. Worse, they are not interchangeable (no screw). It's very easy to switch tuner knobs if they have a screw, but these require the whole tuner to be switched. Irritating for the end user if they are a customizer. It would have been very easy for the manufacturer to use tuners with screws and interchangeable ends. No big deal though...

But otherwise the uke is fine.

I bought a mess of other strings to try, but I've only used the Hilos so far. I bought strings to allow me to try out the Low G setup, but I intend to set up my soprano with low G first. I've still got a lot of learning to do with the typical re-entrant setup. I also found the sound strange at first compared to all non-wound strings. The wound C string seemed to have a lot of dominance in the overall sound, but I guess I either got better or something because that only lasted a week. I found some weird harmonic resonances when tuning the open E string too, but these also seem to have decreased with time. Not sure if that's the string or the body. The A string seems fine but doesn't like to ring out when fretted. I believe that this may have something to do with poor action possibly related to specific troubles on my instrument. I know that in the last week, the A string at the 12th fret was unplayable due to action problems caused by my bridge separation problem. My local shop offered a couple of shims for my saddle if I wanted to keep playing it. I would recommend trying a shim under the saddle if you find poor sustain between the 10th and 13th frets. I had been planning on customizing my own nubone saddle corrected for string thicknesses...

The primary reason that I purchased the uke was due to poor fretboard accuracy on my cheap soprano. The KPK filled this need very nicely and was generally accurate within 5-8 cents on every fret on every string if I was careful with my pressure. (APTuner) I believe that the low action of the uke may contribute to it's good fret accuracy.

After 40 days of use, I took the uke into a music store where I know the guys (I bought my first soprano uke there a long time ago, but never got excited enough to start playing it until about 2 months ago) and the owner pointed out that my bridge has started to separate from the body (3/4 of the width of the bridge) and that the top soundboard appears to be warped. He said that if the soundboard was straight, it was a simple repair. He said that since the soundboard was not straight, it indicated a deeper problem.

I took it home and did some independent checking. I have found that the top soundboard does have some contours (more than 1mm of inward bow and 1mm more outward flex) but I cannot be sure that these are not intended.

Do any Tenor KPK owners have a moment to take a straight-edge to their top soundboard to see if the thing is straight? The supposed 'warping' in my case has the majority of the top board in concave but south of the bridge it is convex. What wrinkles my forehead is that the convex 'warp' continues right up to the very edge where it is glued. This makes me believe that it could actually be how it came out of the factory...

Seems a bit strange I must say. I am currently researching the problem before conclusively stating that the uke is no good. Also waiting to see what Mike has to say.

Also, the bridge appears to have a crack or two that look like they have been reglued at the factory. I put a protective wax on my uke to protect the finish and got a little white line of residue on one side of the bridge. I also see a corresponding crack on the other side.

My local shop guy said that it looked normal, but he didn't look very closely since he assumed - as I did - that such a problem was unlikely for a brand new 300 dollar uke.

I am crestfallen since I have been spending an awful lot of time with that uke during the past summer school vacation. I also chose it for it's grain pattern among several offerings online. It's currently sitting with the strings removed from the bridge wrapped around the tuners.

I am going to take the thing in to another shop for another opinion. Even after all is said and done, it still sounds better than any uke the guys at that shop had ever heard. (They occasionally deal with some Chinese made solid spruce top laminate side-back ukes - the only place I have found in TW that carries anything other than the little toy sopranos)

my vote on the KPK?

still undecided.

PS. yeah, I know about how to take care of the uke. And I know about instrument glue. I researched it extensively before purchasing it. Although I live in a hot part of the world, the thing has never seen a temp higher than 105 degrees F. Humidity has been controlled between 45 and 55% and no sudden temperature changes. I don't own a car and have never left it in a car, hot or otherwise. I use a hygrometer/themometer and an instrument humidifier refilled weekly.

UkuLeLesReggAe
08-27-2008, 07:11 PM
I have a Tenor Koa Pili Koko from MGM. Overall, I've been 100% satisfied with it, but I'll try to nit-pick for the sake of a review.

Construction:

Body

The body is 100% solid acacia wood, as far as I can tell without tearing it apart. Looking inside the body, it has pretty normal bracing, and feeling inside with my finger I can tell it has fan-bracing for the bridge, not just a single plate. The linings are bent, not the kerfed type. There are also plenty of blue pen marks inside, suggesting that it was at least assembled by a human being.

Neck

I have no idea how the neck is attached, although the neck block inside the body would suggest that it's not a spanish style nece. I'd suspect there's a tenon joint, but I don't want to take off the fretboard to find out.

The neck is made of 1-piece mahogany, with a piece of acacia laminate on the headstock.
The neck has a flawless symmetry that would make me suspicious that it was CNC made. If it was hand-carved, whoever made it should take that as a compliment :)

Fretboard

The fretboard is made of rosewood. I have to say, I'm not entirely impressed with this. Although it looks really pretty, i find that it's a little softer than I'd like / expect. I'm personally used to playing the guitar, so admittedly i often find myself holding the ukulele with the kind of death grip that is required on medium gauge steel strings. I've found that after only playing the Koa Pili Koko for a month (ish), the more common frets are significantly marred up and worn down. I try to keep my fingernails on my left hand (and right hand, I just can't handle long nails) well trimmed, yet the frets still have countless gouges in them from the minute remnants of my fingernails. The fretboard is also coated with nitrocellulose lacquer (or so I believe), which is wearing off completely on all frets that are commonly played on. I've never had this amount of wear on any guitar i've played, even those with rosewood fingerboards.

That said, the frets are all quite perfect. There are no buzzes, except for when my would C string begins to wear out. The sides of the frets are all trimmed to a perfectly playable angle. As the sides of the fingerboard have the nitro sanded/filed off, I would suspect that the trimming of the frets was completed at a later stage, perhaps in Hawaii or maybe by MGM himself. In any event, they are done quite nicely. The fret marker inlays are sufficient, although they leave a little something to be desired. They might be MoP, might be synthetic....aren't really pretty enough to tell. There are 3, on the 5th, 7th, and 10th fret, as well as one side marker on the 7th fret.

Bridge, Saddle, Nut:

The bridge is made out of rosewood. It's a pretty contrast against the acacia soundboard. Nothing really special to tell about it, it serves it's purpose fine.

The saddle is also made of rosewood. This would seemingly be a problem for some people, although i personally don't mind. A bone saddle (or even brass, i guess) would seemingly transfer the vibration a little better, and make the uke have a little more bite. This could easily be changed, as mentioned before.

The nut is also made of rosewood. I personally don't like this so much. Much like the saddle, it could easily be changed out for a bone one, and likely should be (personal opinion). The nut is incredibly thin, and seemingly made out of the same wood as the fingerboard. In tuning the would C string (and would even be worse if you went low G), the winding on the string binds with the rosewood nut. This makes tuning only possible in significant jumps, which is incredibly annoying. So basically, to tune up the C string, I have to turn the machinehead slightly, and then press on the string between the nut and the tuner, in order to "pull" the string through the nut. This causes me additional worry, as this is undoubtedly wearing away at the rosewood, and cutting the slot in the nut deeper everytime I tune up. This will seemingly eventually lead to the action being too low on that string.

Finish, appearance:

Whatever this acacia wood is, it is incredibly pretty. I have never seen real Koa, except for in pictures, but this appears really similar. There is a considerable amount of curly figure in the wood. The entire ukulele appears to be finished with nitrocellulose lacquer, which makes a nice shine, and it incredibly durable. The finish is what, i believe, you'd call open-pore. That is, rather than a glass-like perfectly smooth finish, the pores of the wood are not filled, and so the lacquer doesn't build up evenly, but rather accentuates the pores of the wood. I think this type of finish really compliments the wood, although I'd like to see it with an oil finish.

The machineheads are geared, and I've had no troubles with them. The have zero slip (so far).

Overall, this thing is really well put together, and I wouldn't have any worries about it's durability.

Playability & Sound:

As far as playability goes, this is my first ukulele, so I don't have any real reference. I have, however, played guitar for years. This things sounds great! It has pretty good volume, and the sound is incredibly mellow. On mine in particular, I have however found it hard to get the A string to ring out. It seems considerably more dead than the other strings--not to the point that it sounds bad, just i find that I have to really come onto it hard when i'm playing to get the sound out of it.

The ukulele came with Hilo strings. After hearing all the hype about Aquila nylgut strings, I decided to try them on it. At first, i wasn't very pleased. The volume was significantly lower, to a point where I found myself playing them far too hard to try to get the same sound I was getting from the Hilos. After I got used to them, I did realize how lovely they sound, more mellow and melodic than the Hilos, but without the punch. I am planning on trying some different string brands on this, but as of right now, I'd say the Aquilas aren't really the best choice for this uke. The ukulele is very mellow sounding to start with, and adding Aquilas to that just seems to take away all it's punch. I think this is just a matter of opinion though, your mileage may vary.

Overall, I am pretty impressed with the sound. I think it has "enough" volume, and an absolutely beautiful tone. In the near future, I'll be looking into a bone saddle and nut though, in an effort to give it a little more "punch".

Conclusion:

For around $300, you can't go wrong. Buy one, you won't be disappointed. I know my review here was kind of hard on it, but like i stated at the start, i was just nit-picking. This is a well made, beautiful sounding instrument, at a great price.

i tihnk this clears it all up, go for da koko

another great review by eschelar

Dino
08-27-2008, 09:21 PM
Hey VCM,
I recently bought a uke for my 11yo son from MGM. I asked about a bunch of ukes from his site including the Koa Pili Koko. MGM's recommendation......the Kala-KT-CT. This was the Koa Kala with Cedar top. I was skeptical thinking the KPK would have been better but after playing the Kala, I have to agree with MGM. He actually said that this one with the cedar top was one of his favorites. I think MGM had said that the Cedar top projected more and the sound was a lot brighter. Good luck in your decision.

Dino

SuperSecretBETA
08-27-2008, 09:37 PM
another great review by eschelar

another? It says Posts: 1

g4ry's the one you quoted too!

eschelar
08-28-2008, 02:15 AM
yeah, kinda left me a bit confused... ?

Anyhow, after a visit to one of Taiwan's top luthiers (guitar/violin/mandolin) - who just happened to be doing a sales visit at a music shop when I dropped in on my way into town - wasn't all that impressed.

He took a closer look at the bridge and called it a bad bit of work from the factory. In fact it hadn't been reglued (or not well) since he showed me that there was movement in the cracks. I told him more about the instrument and he just muttered a bunch of stuff about China. It looks like they sent me a uke with a bad bridge (I waxed it the day I got it and there's wax in the cracks so they must have been present that day).

He also pointed out that the fretboard is not attached properly to the uke so that there's a bit of a gap filled with glue on one side. I didn't notice.

I'll probably send it to him to get a new bone nut and have whatever replacement bridge I can get installed.

He seemed to feel that the warping in the soundboard was only moderate although not very good for 40 days.

It was interesting to hear the woman at the store telling me all about how the weather in Hawaii is so much different than here in Taiwan (right, two tropical Pacific Islands with nearly identical temperatures and humidity are different how exactly?) when he cut her off and just said "factory". Who knows, maybe he is biased because he's Taiwanese and they are in China, but she had nothing more to say about the matter.

He said that if I can get the materials for him, he'd make me up a custom uke however I like it for about the same price. I told him next year. What I wouldn't do for a quilted maple beauty... hehe

Anyhow, looks like in the end the bridge will get replaced (along with the nut and I will do the saddle myself)... We'll see what Musicguymic suggests.

Incidentally, I never seem to be able to get more than one sentence out of him, even if I ask several specific questions.

I asked him for advice on which uke to buy and he recommended the KPK. I'm not so sure that I would.

EDIT to add:

Mike got back to me today. One of the emails I sent him was lost. He said that the manufacturer guarantees workmanship for one year against defect. He will be contacting them and sending me a replacement bridge as soon as possible.

When I got my uke from Mike, I was blown away that it arrived here in just three days, so while I expect things to take at least a couple of weeks or so before I have the repaired uke in my hands (repaired at a local luthier), I also wouldn't be surprised if I'm back up to speed with playing my KPK in a week and a half or less. I will keep you all posted.

In the meantime, there's this amazing deal on a solid rosewood sides/back with solid spruce top and abalone inlaid steel 6-string guitar at my local shop for about 350 bucks with hard case that is C A L L I N G to me... damn it sounds good.

must.... remain... focused.... on.... uke........ :)

UkuLeLesReggAe
08-28-2008, 02:37 AM
another? It says Posts: 1

g4ry's the one you quoted too!

great post by gary and another great post by eschelar

brains are meant for using.

T@D
08-28-2008, 06:49 AM
g4ry - that's a great review. Thanks!

I second that :D Very informative. Much thanks.

Kekani
08-28-2008, 08:31 AM
i tihnk this clears it all up, go for da koko

Ummm, how does a review from someone who only has one instrument qualify it as one that should be purchased over others? Granted, there is experience in guitars, but steel strings and classicals are two different animals, and `ukulele even different after that.

That being said, statements seem to "unqualify" the KPK as a purchase for less $$$, supported by eschelar, and not compared to any other. Quality materials are not abound (wood nut and saddle), fretwork is not even at standard. But, for $300, yes, you get exactly what you pay for, and expectations shouldn't be any more than what $300 will bring.

Getting back to the original post - is it worth it to spend more money? Most of the time, yes.

Not dissing MGM (I'd never do that) and his choice to sell KPK's, the KPK does fits a niche on the way lower end, which is necessary in the market. To balance, he'll jet you into the midrange $500 - $1000 instruments, no problem.

If the question has to even be asked "Is it worth it spend more?" then the answer has to be "Yes." simply because you already know enough to sincerely ask that question, and if not, you will know enough as soon as you get your next instrument.

Note: Kamaka, KoAloha, G-String and Kanile`a Tenors should be closer to the $1000 end rather than the $500 side.

-Aaron

SuperSecretBETA
08-28-2008, 10:26 AM
Personally, I'd go for a solid Brazilian or Honduran mahogany over a KPK any day.

UkuLeLesReggAe
08-28-2008, 02:22 PM
Ummm, how does a review from someone who only has one instrument qualify it as one that should be purchased over others? Granted, there is experience in guitars, but steel strings and classicals are two different animals, and `ukulele even different after that.

That being said, statements seem to "unqualify" the KPK as a purchase for less $$$, supported by eschelar, and not compared to any other. Quality materials are not abound (wood nut and saddle), fretwork is not even at standard. But, for $300, yes, you get exactly what you pay for, and expectations shouldn't be any more than what $300 will bring.

Getting back to the original post - is it worth it to spend more money? Most of the time, yes.

Not dissing MGM (I'd never do that) and his choice to sell KPK's, the KPK does fits a niche on the way lower end, which is necessary in the market. To balance, he'll jet you into the midrange $500 - $1000 instruments, no problem.

If the question has to even be asked "Is it worth it spend more?" then the answer has to be "Yes." simply because you already know enough to sincerely ask that question, and if not, you will know enough as soon as you get your next instrument.

Note: Kamaka, KoAloha, G-String and Kanile`a Tenors should be closer to the $1000 end rather than the $500 side.

-Aaron

everybody seems to like them, this huge review covered almost everything, so nobody can add anymore information. So the information is covered, now all people need to say is whether they like them or not. Not many people hate the koko.... thats how :)

MGM
08-28-2008, 07:50 PM
as for any ukulele brand... there is always a time when one or another ukulele will have a problem and I mean EVERY BRAND.. EVERY CUSTOM MAKER....no one is free from it. Whether is be a bridge popping to someone complaining there is a fingerprint on the gloss when it was received you deal with what is perceived to be issues. Don't let anyone fool you i have had ukuleles from every major known maker come to me with buzzes and issues out of the box. I have had more picky issues with even top well respected high end CUSTOM BUILDERS..each and everyone...Its just to what degree to you expect the instrument to be when you get it and at what price you paid. Then there is how to deal with the problem once it is there. Am I unhappy when i pay 3,000 for a custom instrument and the binding joint is 1/16th off center..me no another person may say its a major defect. Do I rush to return my simply wonderful sounding XXXXX custom because the top is not perfectly flat...me no....someone else who knows. There are certain things which however must be a given...Does it have good action within desireable range and does it intonate well and have a pleasant tone... Of course. Can the finish be perfect but have one tiny bit of dust under the finish somewhere that can barely be seen....to some they will never notice...to others ..no matter how well the uke plays and sounds...its marred for life and they swear they will never buy that brand again. You would mot believe the stories and reasons for liking or disliking a ukulele i have heard...nor will I disclose them but its always funny so I always takes reviews with a grain of salt. I will give one example.. Someone wanted to return a electric stringed instrument that was electric only...not acoustic...the reason It was not loud enough???? maybe a correct amp purchase would have solved that...hmmmmm

eschelar
08-28-2008, 08:07 PM
hrm. I wonder if I should mention that as a student, the price was exactly what I was looking at. 500 bucks was (and is) a bit much for me.

Part of this has to do with the fact that it is my first serious instrument. It wasn't the actual price as much as the risk that I would purchase a poor first instrument and be put off ukes in general. I bought a cheap uke for my first instrument over a year ago and it's poor quality has a lot to do with the fact that I learned three chords on it and put it on a shelf to be ignored.

Is the KPK good as a first instrument? Yes.
Is it good for 300 bucks? I think it's not too bad. My local luthier thinks it would be OK for around $150-$180, but he could be biased. I saw some used instruments (in particular a dual puka Mele tenor) for around 300 bucks that were worth far more, but would not have been wise choices since my experience is too little and there is risk in buying stuff from Ebay - especially when you live in Asia and the seller is in America.

I've played the instrument for 40 days and what I have learned in that time is extraordinary (to me). I spent 2 weeks learning scales and basic music theory. Before that, I spent 2 weeks just doing chord practices and strum practice exercises and arpeggio practice exercises. In the last 2 weeks, I have learned a number of songs which I can play fairly poorly, but some of which have some complexity and almost all of which required throwing out the online tabs (eyeroll) and figuring things out myself.

This is not a major accomplishment. It is simply a result of being excited about an instrument; enjoying playing an instrument. I could sit down for two hours and learn about scales and modes and keys as a homework exercise with a pencil and paper - not even touching the uke - and build my own chord charts and picking schemes because I was energized by something special to me.

The KPK was good enough to do this for me.

Therefore it was a good first instrument.

Could it have been better? Sure.
Could I have spent more money? Absolutely. I could simply have saved longer...
Will I buy a better instrument later? Almost definitely.
Will I buy a better instrument every year from now on? Quite possibly (damned UAS).

But I wouldn't have made faster progress or learned any more by purchasing that quilted maple Kanile'a on Ebay by Joe Sousza, so I'm satisfied.

eschelar
08-28-2008, 08:22 PM
Right.

If Mike hadn't offered the KPK for 300 dollars, maybe I wouldn't have purchased any nice instrument.

I wanted solid wood. The KPK is solid wood. If I hadn't I would probably have just gone for looks and ended up with the laminated curly mango as my first uke. I've heard that it's a little disappointing sound-wise in some reviews in the last few days.

Wouldn't that have sucked.

But in about two weeks (guess), I'll probably be back to playing my KPK under the grape vines for the ears of none but my local rice farmers looking over the rice paddies while the dragonflies and bats play in the billowing clouds of mosquitoes and the little flish dart and jump around in little their little irrigation puddles under a bright red setting sun.

Edit: er... this is a reply to mike. The previous post was done before I read his.

deach
08-29-2008, 01:24 AM
...Will I buy a better instrument every year from now on? Quite possibly (damned UAS)....

Once a year? That's not UAS!!!! lmUASao

eschelar
08-29-2008, 05:02 AM
uhm. I am a full time uni student starting study next week on two additional languages to bring the total to four concurrently studied languages (french, spanish, japanese and chinese - all studied in chinese - not my mother tongue). I work around my homework, so I live on less than 200 dollars a month income.

I bought the KPK because last year I got on the honor roll and picked up about $320 USD. I got better marks this year and thought I'd be getting it, but I missed it by 0.04%. OOps. That just came out of food money.

Buying one instrument a year in subsequent years in the price range between 500 and 1000 dollars is about as far as it gets. I've had my fill of cheapie cheapos (not referring to the KPK here).

I ate Oatmeal for two meals today.

If it makes you feel any better, I started building my own tenor uke out of a broken chair I found. It will probably be a while before it is finished though. I plotted out the fretboard today, but I am rather limited in tools and skills, so every single step is a new skill self-taught - including building the tools.

UkuLeLesReggAe
08-29-2008, 12:34 PM
uhm. I am a full time uni student starting study next week on two additional languages to bring the total to four concurrently studied languages (french, spanish, japanese and chinese - all studied in chinese - not my mother tongue). I work around my homework, so I live on less than 200 dollars a month income.

I bought the KPK because last year I got on the honor roll and picked up about $320 USD. I got better marks this year and thought I'd be getting it, but I missed it by 0.04%. OOps. That just came out of food money.

Buying one instrument a year in subsequent years in the price range between 500 and 1000 dollars is about as far as it gets. I've had my fill of cheapie cheapos (not referring to the KPK here).

I ate Oatmeal for two meals today.

If it makes you feel any better, I started building my own tenor uke out of a broken chair I found. It will probably be a while before it is finished though. I plotted out the fretboard today, but I am rather limited in tools and skills, so every single step is a new skill self-taught - including building the tools.

what do you spend the monthly $200 on... i would get around $320 a month cause im at school to... and i have to pay.. $80+$60=$140. $320-$140=$180...+petrol+rego coming up soon... -.-.-.- money sucks when ur studying.

eschelar
08-29-2008, 01:37 PM
Uhm. Can't see how it's relevant to this discussion on Ukes, but I spend my money on the usual, rent, food, transport, health insurance, tuition related expenses...

I doubt your situation is remotely similar to mine. I'm studying on a special scholarship program overseas. Anyhow I was just pointing out that putting 500-1000 bucks aside per year for ukes qualifies for UAS when it counts as something like 75% of one's total annual income. None of those numbers actually mean anything (in reality, I work extra during the summer and make a fair bit more than 200 bucks a month), just as UAS is an arbitrary statement based on one's feeling towards ukes.

Kekani
08-29-2008, 10:34 PM
But I wouldn't have made faster progress or learned any more by purchasing that quilted maple Kanile'a on Ebay by Joe Sousza, so I'm satisfied.

I disagree. If the Kanile`a fit you better, you may have been able to explore different things. My friend has an `ukulele that he cannot stand because of one flaw. Whenever he plays, its seems as though he's hampered. There is no "good" when he uses that instrument, because he doesn't respect it, and the music is very, external. He now has an instrument that has become an extension of him. His music now comes from a place that no one sees or knows, except him. However, those that see him play, can tell the difference.

vcowman,

Seems this is going all over the place. The problem with this thread, other than the obvious, is not that you're attempting to compare an apple to oranges. Its that you've only gotten responses from the apple.

My take on it, spend the extra money, and ask MGM specifically, what to spend it on - he won't steer you wrong. Of course, we're talking about a guy who sells Standards to customers who want a Pickup Installed. What does that have to do with this thread? Nothing, just taking a jab at Mike (inside joke).

Now, spending twice as much does not necessarily mean you'll get twice as much instrument (see MGM's post above).

So, you're asking, "Why, then?" At that point, its like riding a Harley Davidson, "If I have to explain, you wouldn't understand." Trust the man, whether it be a KPK, or G, K, K or K. Heck he can even get you a Compass Rose. The man be MGM.

-Aaron

eschelar
08-30-2008, 02:06 AM
Bottom line - I have enjoyed playing the KPK thoroughly. I may outgrow it in the future, but barring the cracked bridge (which mike is helping me get replaced), it has kept pace with my learning perfectly well.

The only significance is that since my learning curve has so far been quite steep, 2 weeks is a LONG time to wait.

When it comes time for me to fork out 800-1000 bucks for that quilted maple by Joe Sousza, I'm sure that will inspire another dramatic learning curve.

But I have 17 frets and their accuracy is quite good, so I have failed to run into any real musical obstacles with the KPK.

So far with the KPK, I have explored everything that a 4-string Uke can do. I can't do it all, but I've sampled everything. And that's why it's good enough - for me and for probably someone else - as a FIRST serious uke.

Kekani
08-30-2008, 08:42 AM
. . . for me and for probably someone else - as a FIRST serious uke.

Probably one of the best statements so far. I would venture to say "for me and probably most others starting out".

Hope you get that Kanile`a you're looking for. Here's a biased statement, but MGM can hand pick one for you, if you know what I mean. If not, you need to contact him to explain.

liquid_wind
01-26-2009, 03:18 PM
Well sorry for going off topic from your digression, but do they sell concert and tenor deluxes? Does MGM sell them and how much$?

experimentjon
10-12-2009, 12:05 AM
Bottom line - I have enjoyed playing the KPK thoroughly.

So far with the KPK, I have explored everything that a 4-string Uke can do. I can't do it all, but I've sampled everything. And that's why it's good enough - for me and for probably someone else - as a FIRST serious uke.

Hate to bring this thread back from the dead, but I have to agree with this statement. There is a distributor on Oahu now, who is selling KPK/Melodica ukes for much less than they used to be going for. I believe the price for a brand new tenor is only about $190 now. My dad brought one home to surprise me today. And I was sort of confused since he was the one who said that we had enough beginner-level ukes, and had told me to stop buying.

But I tuned it up and started playing it. It was strung with hard tension Hilo strings with a wound C. Not bad strings, although I'm probably going to swap them out for Worth Clears in Low G. First impression was that the action was a bit too high, and combined with the hard tension strings, it was hard to play. However, it actually sounded pretty good. I had been playing my Kanilea Tenor when my dad brought it in, so in a back-to-back, the KPK sounded much brighter than the Kanilea. I also noticed that the body in the KPK is a thinner body, so that may be easier to hold for some people. But here is what really impressed me: the neck and fret dressing. I don't know if the uke was set up after coming out of the factory, but that neck was super smooth going all the way down. It was comparable to Fender's hand-rolled edges on their American guitar necks. And it was smoother than my Kanilea's neck.

In that price range, I'd have to say that it's a great beginner uke. It just needs a bit of a setup with the action, probably going to do it at the saddle b/c I don't want to mess with a wood nut, and new strings. If I were to recommend a tenor to a friend looking in the $200 price range, it'd be a toss up between the KPK tenor and a Fluke. I have to say that I'm pleasantly suprised with the KPK, although I did not really have high hopes for it in the beginning.

WhenDogsSing
10-12-2009, 02:51 AM
I ate Oatmeal for two meals today.

You'd better start eating better than that...You'll dry up and blow away...:D

PhilUSAFRet
01-22-2011, 04:21 AM
All I can say is "KPK is brighter than a Kanele'a?" Really??? Hard to believe with the wood nut and saddle regardless of the strings. Another reviewer said Aquila strings produced a "mellower" sound on the KPK than the worth. I've never seen a uke review that didn't state the opposite. Anyone else have this experience?

mm stan
01-22-2011, 05:01 AM
I have had two KPK sopranos and I am very pleased with them....the regular one has a nice clear bright clean tone and the deluxe has a deeper richer woodsy tone maybe a bit less volume..both have perfect
intonation up and down the neck...I like the finish and look and if may be well built and with a slight minor weight but no problem...everyone says the neck is thicker, have they compared it to a Ko aloha neck???
It is definetlyworth the money and issues on cracking may have been a past issue, and with the new distributor on the islands he stands behind his products....I heard now they can come with an upgraded corian
saddle and nut choice between aquila and worths...and the price is really reasonable for what you get in my opinion...there is a KPK soprano regular that I used to own and has a bright nice sound..there is a video
here as the new owner has posted... it will change your mind...if you have doubts....about it..I like the thinner body style too as it is more comfortable...

Bosconian91
01-22-2011, 06:50 AM
I just got mine this week - a KPK tenor cutaway. I opted for the ivory corian nut and saddle with chrome tuners, strung with Worth low G. The workmanship is flawless and the thin body profile makes it easier to hold standing without the need for a strap. I like the clean, warm tone, the solid neck, the wood grain, the wider fretboard (well, wider than my Kala tenor), the dressed frets and the weight - it's all perfect! The communication with the Seller is excellent, combined with ultra fast shipping. I must say that I could not be any happier!

faithmusic
03-25-2011, 01:43 PM
Very nice tenor uke! I just received my Koa Pili Koko Tenor uke a couple of weeks ago and it is just beautiful. It has a very warm sound and nice sustain. The wood is beautiful and I find the rosewood nut, finger board, saddle and bridge to be lovely to the eyes and delivers a rich warm sound. This is my first tenor. I first bought an inexpensive soprano, then a baritone and decide to try a tenor. For a solid Acacia wood ukulele, and this price, you can't go wrong!
P.S. - I will be uploading some videos on Youtube shortly!

8-{-

Paul December
03-25-2011, 04:06 PM
I thought my KPK was nice until I got my Kala Acacia...
...the KPK sounded like it had a sock stuck in the sound hole :eek: