View Full Version : Big Island Ukulele's Honu Traditional tenor

01-22-2010, 07:05 AM
Quite simply, this is an amazing ukulele. These ukes should be on everyone's "highly recommend" list.

Links to sound samples at bottom.

Features: 10

Model: TR-KRGT (Honu Traditional Tenor)
Year built: March 16, 2009
Made in: Vietnam
Size: Tenor with 14 frets to the body and 20 frets total.
Top, sides, bottom: solid Koa (cut, dried, milled by Big Island Ukulele’s parent company Winkler Wood products from their own source)
Neck: Solid Mahogany. Thin style neck that is 1 3/8” (1.375”) wide at the nut.
Fingerboard: Rosewood with Abalone inlay fret markers. Side fret markets are also present.
Bridge: Rosewood with a compensated saddle. Slotted bridge for holding strings.
Tuners: sealed gear (14:1 ratio) with solid Koa buttons (instead of plastic buttons).
Frets: Look like nickel silver
Finish: Gloss finish.
Pickups: None, this is an acoustic model
Strings: Worth Clear Low G

Sound: 10
This ukulele has the sound for which I was looking.

First a comment on the intonation of the instrument. This instrument has a compensated saddle designed to help the intonation remain accurate. The intonation is perfect on all strings all the way up the fretboard.

Here is where I will pick the only nit I can find with this uke. It is a very very tiny nit, and in no way do I call it a defect in the instrument. It’s more something to consider and be aware of when purchasing.

I requested that this uke be strung with low G instead of the standard high G. I checked the intonation with a digital clip on meter when I first got the instrument. According to the meter the intonation on the low G was a hair off in the first few frets (not enough to hear it or affect playing). As the low G string has stretched, and has broken in through playing, the intonation has come in line and is now accurate all the way up the fretboard.

Given how accurate the intonation was on the other strings from the start, I am pretty sure that if I had stayed with the standard high G tuning that the intonation of the G string would have also been spot on from the start. So if you get low G tuning, give it some active playing time to settle in.

The harmonics at the 12 fret sound clearly without much effort.

I love the sound of full instruments and this ukulele does not disappoint. I had read comments that Honu ukuleles were quiet. I would not consider this instrument quiet when strung with Worth Clears, but it is not loud raw harsh volume either. There are times when a quiet instrument that is properly in tune will sound louder than an instrument out of tune. This is how I feel about the Honu. It has volume when strummed, but a delicacy when finger picked. The low G string arrangement provides a rich “boom” to strums and finger picking.

I would describe the sound as full, rich, active, but not overly bright or harsh. It has a warm resonating quality to it rather than a bright and loud quality.

Action, Fit, and Finish: 10
I am picky about the quality of construction and fit and finish of my instruments. The Honu ukulele is an extremely well built instrument. I can usually find a flaw in almost every instrument I own, but to be honest I can’t really find one in this ukulele. I am astounded at the quality of the workmanship regardless of the price. The interior does not have any evidence of excess glue. The gloss finish is even. The oil/waxing of the fingerboard is even. The bridge is well made and applied straight.

The top and bottom sections are book matched Koa, and the assembly of these parts was done beautifully. The wood is a standard grade Koa. The grains are straight and clean. The boards are flat. There are no flaws in the wood. While it might be standard grade Koa, it looks to be very good quality wood. Exotic grains may look nice, but they don't necessarily add to the sound of an instrument and they increase the price. I'd rather have a quality piece of standard grade wood and pay extra for better build quality.

The top and bottom sections meet the sides extremely well. There are no gaps or exposed edges. You have to look to find the joints.

The frets on the fingerboard make the instrument a pleasure to play. They are smooth, even, and very comfortable. There is not a rough edge to be found on the frets.

The fingerboard itself is a rich dark color. The dressing has been applied evenly and consistently. The fret markers are inlayed Abalone – not fake stuff. There are also side markers on the fingerboard. Based upon experience with other fingerboards this one is simple but done properly. No complaints here.

I like my instruments to be simple and unadorned. There is no binding on the body, and the sound hole does not have a rosette. Because there is a lack of ornamentation it is even more important that the overall quality of the wood and construction be top notch. This instrument does not disappoint in this area at all.

Everything you would expect in a high quality ukulele is present with this instrument.

The instrument was purchased from a well known and reputable dealer, and it arrived with the action properly setup. I am not sure if the dealer set the action up or if the action came from the factory this way, but it is right where it should be.

Reliability and Durability: 10
This is an extremely sturdy instrument. The neck and body are joined very well and there is no movement in the neck when playing.

The gloss finish is very well applied. It is not paper thin, nor is it too thick. I am sure a more elegant finish could be applied, but for the price this finish is the right choice. It is even, smooth, does not go where it should not, and there are no application strokes visible which I can see.

The headstock and tuners are solid feeling. The Koa buttons on the tuner are a nice touch. They are a little smaller in size than standard plastic tuners. Visually they could be a little bigger. I imagine making reliable wooden buttons that do not split is not an easy thing. Given the attention to detail in the rest of this uke, I am sure the size of the buttons has been thought through. They are a very nice touch.

Customer Support: 8
Big Island Ukuleles are only available through a dealer network, so customer support is going to be as good as the support your dealer provides. Based upon my experience with other instruments one really needs to use a good dealer – even if it means paying a little more. However, there are no dealers in my area so this presents a bit of a hassle if warranty service is ever needed.

The warranty for this uke is either a year or two years, but I can’t remember which. The dealer I purchased it from said he performs most simple repairs (if needed) for three years free of charge.

My only suggestion to Big Island Ukuleles has been to increase the length of their warranty so that they are more in keeping with their competition. Having said that, I am also surprised when I see dealers offering “limited” lifetime warranties for solid wood instruments, but that is another discussion.

For me the length of the warranty is not a concern because as far as I can tell this is a very well built instrument.

Overall Rating: 10
I have played instruments for several decades now. I have owned a variety of solid wood instruments that are all handmade.

With any instrument there are always some lesser known makers who build outstanding products and offer them at great prices. I feel Big Island Ukulele is such a company, and I feel there Honu Traditional is one of the better combinations of quality and price available. I cannot say enough good things about this ukulele.

I would purchase another one of these instruments without hesitation.

Sound Samples:
All sound files were recorded in stereo at 44100Hz and 24-bit. Converted to MP3 using a 224 bit sample rate. Sound files were created by recording directly into Audacity and are in their original state. They have not been normalized, filtered, or otherwise altered.

String Pluck Sample Including Harmonics - low G (http://www.mediafire.com/?yhyyhxfjzy4)

Finger Picking Sample - low G (http://www.mediafire.com/?zizmyzmmxdy)

Strum Sample - low G

01-22-2010, 07:37 AM
Nice! :D

This is the next ukulele i was considering to buy, and you've really convinced me that its the next one.

Can you please post pictures or a video of it? I was wondering how it would sound with low G's.

Thanks :drool:

01-22-2010, 08:35 AM
I'll try and put up some sound samples tonight. I won't do a video because I think the sound gets too compressed and distorts.

Music Guy Mic currently has some photos of a tenor up on his website. His photos are actually pretty good if you enlarge them. One thing to note is that on one of the photos of the geared tuners it appears that there are white circles on the back of the tuning mechanism. Those white circles are an adhesive protective cover which peels off.

I'll try and post some photos of my tenor also.

01-22-2010, 09:41 AM
Here's a photo . . .



01-22-2010, 11:32 AM
great review spots. I'm with you 100%, the honu traditional tenor is an outstanding instrument.

01-22-2010, 12:27 PM
I feel exactly the same about the Traditional Concert. Superb value and very well built!

01-22-2010, 01:17 PM
Links to sound files have been added to the bottom of original thread.

My pictures did not come out as well as those posted, or those available through other places on the web, so I have not posted any.

01-22-2010, 02:00 PM
Thanks! :cool: