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buddhuu
01-26-2010, 10:48 PM
People selling acacia 'ukuleles often seem to make a selling point of how acacia is related to koa. The implication (even if not stated outright) is that there will therefore be some significant similarity in sound.

The acacia ukes I've heard in sound clips sound very nice, but I've never played one and a PC isn't the best medium for getting a real idea of how something sounds. Similarly, koa ukes seem to have a nice bright, strong tone - similar to how the acacias sound... but again, that's through laptop PC speakers or 'phones.

I'm not actually researching for shopping, just very curious.

So, you guys who have played both, what do you think? Do the two woods give similar sounds?

micromue
01-26-2010, 11:13 PM
There is an even more significant difference between different Koa-Models than between koa and acacia. My Koaloha and my Bushman Koa are sounding not even close and the Kala acacia I played had nothing in common with both of them. So, the statement "acacia sounds similar to koa" is not really resilient. On the other hand: If you put the most popular tonewoods (Koa, spruce and mahogany) on the line and compare them to acacia, it may be true, that of all three, koa and acacia sound closest. Reason is: spruce and mahogany have (in my nonprofessional opinion) very significant characteristics, while koa has a lot diversity. So, I think that acacia "may" sound similar to a koa uke, but will never sound similar to a mahogany or spruce-topped uke. But in the end I consider it just a marketing gag.

casarole45
01-26-2010, 11:18 PM
Rick this question interests me, I know you are a man of great knowledge in the guitaring/uking world but the thing I've been thinking lately is although woods bring general sounds to the instrument. The way the instrument is put together and other parts used will affect this sound, so you could have two Koa's that have completely different sound characteristics... do you think this is a fair comment?

I had a certain Acacia Tenor and found it to be quite dull almost dead sounding to my ears, many people said Acacia shouldn't sound like that it should sound like Koa but in my perseption of dull tone it did, I certainly didn't get the feeling of brightness (the bridge was starting to lift away from the body and the saddle was pretty loose so this may have contributed).

Note: I've not played Koa yet so don't take my comment from a perspective that I have.

buddhuu
01-26-2010, 11:43 PM
Good responses.

I guess what I'd really like to see would be comparison videos/sound clips from a range of otherwise identical ukes made from different woods.

For example, in a single video made with high quality equipment I'd like to see the full range of Ohana or Kala or whatever ukes played one after another by the same player, playing the same piece.

My curiosity is not limited to those two woods, but it was the marketing hook that they use on the acacia that really started me thinking about comparisons.

There are loads of comparison clips out there, but they were all made by different people with different ukes and equipment, playing different tunes in different styles!

If the manufacturers did like a video catalogue so we could compare models, with all other variables being equal, it'd be so much easier to judger how something sounds.

luvdat
01-26-2010, 11:50 PM
Rick this question interests me, I know you are a man of great knowledge in the guitaring/uking world but the thing I've been thinking lately is although woods bring general sounds to the instrument. The way the instrument is put together and other parts used will affect this sound, so you could have two Koa's that have completely different sound characteristics... do you think this is a fair comment?

I had a certain Acacia Tenor and found it to be quite dull almost dead sounding to my ears, many people said Acacia shouldn't sound like that it should sound like Koa but in my perseption of dull tone it did, I certainly didn't get the feeling of brightness (the bridge was starting to lift away from the body and the saddle was pretty loose so this may have contributed).

Note: I've not played Koa yet so don't take my comment from a perspective that I have.

Had a certain acacia concert and returned it...and the saddle wasn't loose. Yes, construction: a soundhole (too small), the use of ebony for too-thick wood, and the wood, Taiwanese acacia...that's also used to make beam supports in coalmines. Variability? Forget about grain variety, the color looked like coffee served with skim milk, not dark as in vids and other photos.

Your statement about koa is not only fair but completely accurate. While construction varies and yes different levels of "brightness" and projection will vary I think koas hold up in general with a better, fuller midrange. By contrast, I think mahogs do treble and bass ends the best...and based on construction certain lam mahogs sound closer to my ears to koa than acacia because their brighter. Acacia IMO gets blurred edges here and there in the midrange. Koa, after playing (not buying) some Kamaka koa sopranos start out with that defined relative brightness and maintain that defined midrange.

BTW, the word "mellow" gets most often applied to these new offerings. I also get "submerged" and at times "slightly soggy." I prefer a uke that has the vibe that relates to that first shot of vodka...and not number 7.

Acacia IMO is another one of those "idea of it" tonewoods. After listening to more "idea of it tonewoods" I grow more a fan of mahogany and yes, good construction.

Lanark
01-27-2010, 12:34 AM
Just to inject another thought into this...

The comparison of some of personal acacia experiences described might not be exactly a particularly fair description though of what acacia is like as a tonewood (and especially in relation to koa) simply because the ukes in question tend to be kind of lower end chinese factory instruments. I'm not thinking that they're really going to give you a great idea of the potential of acacia as tone so much a selling point about botany.

The potential is maybe there, but we might not know until somebody makes a decent instrument out of it.

luvdat
01-27-2010, 12:55 AM
Just to inject another thought into this...

The comparison of some of personal acacia experiences described might not be exactly a particularly fair description though of what acacia is like as a tonewood (and especially in relation to koa) simply because the ukes in question tend to be kind of lower end chinese factory instruments. I'm not thinking that they're really going to give you a great idea of the potential of acacia as tone so much a selling point about botany.

The potential is maybe there, but we might not know until somebody makes a decent instrument out of it.

Fair statement.

But a good question: why so few better end acacia offerings? For starters, with price increases, folks might opt for mango or even koa? I think the "graininess" of acacia is the dealbreaker...and it'sworkability relative to something like mango.

BTW, the construction of that acacia was fine. Design, not fine.

ukantor
01-27-2010, 12:58 AM
I recently bought a Kala Acacia soprano. It is closer in sound to my mahogany ukes than to my one Koa uke, which is a Kumalae. As previously mentioned, construction, and the natural variation from one piece of wood to another, make it very difficult to predict what any uke will sound like. Even two identical ukes from the same batch can sound different.

When you have tried a good number of koa versus mahogany ukes, the generalisation about koa sounding "brighter" than mahogany holds up well, but I've played some pretty dull koa ukes, and some very bright mahogany ones.

My Kala Acacia is currently my favourite uke ("new baby" syndrome?). I find its tone very rich and satisfying, and it has decent volume, but wouldn't blow your socks off. My Ohana with a spruce front is my loudest uke, but the tone is much less complex than the Kala Acacia.

It should also be mentioned that it makes a great deal of difference what size of ukulele you are referring to.

John Colter.

luvdat
01-27-2010, 01:06 AM
Amen, John Colter. That's one of the reasons I stick to sopranos, LOL. IMO, sopranos can pull off a better variety of tonewoods and even lams!

I can honestly say that I could see how the accaia soprano would succeed where at least for me the concert acacia was kind of meh.

mailman
01-27-2010, 01:14 AM
Good responses.

I guess what I'd really like to see would be comparison videos/sound clips from a range of otherwise identical ukes made from different woods.

For example, in a single video made with high quality equipment I'd like to see the full range of Ohana or Kala or whatever ukes played one after another by the same player, playing the same piece.

My curiosity is not limited to those two woods, but it was the marketing hook that they use on the acacia that really started me thinking about comparisons.

There are loads of comparison clips out there, but they were all made by different people with different ukes and equipment, playing different tunes in different styles!

If the manufacturers did like a video catalogue so we could compare models, with all other variables being equal, it'd be so much easier to judger how something sounds.


Rick,

About the sound clips you'd like to hear.... What about MGM's clips? Same equipment, same player, same tunes on every clip, many different instruments. Seems like just what you'd want....

buddhuu
01-27-2010, 01:29 AM
Rick,

About the sound clips you'd like to hear.... What about MGM's clips? Same equipment, same player, same tunes on every clip, many different instruments. Seems like just what you'd want....

Yeh, that's very close.

I do love Mike videos - the sound demos and the Friday jams! - but, with great respect to Mike, the equipment does not seem to be clear enough pro-quality for the kind of clear, serious sound comparison that should be possible. I hope that doesn't sound rude - Mike's videos are very helpful.

I think some serious pro videos would be of great use to those ukers who have to buy online due to having no good uke retailer nearby.

What I think is needed is a combination of good quality recording and consistency of variables:

Same player
Same tune/arrangement
Same (professional) equipment
Same strings
Same position relative to recording equipment

That'd be so helpful, and I ain't seen it yet.

It may be expensive and asking a lot, but if I was thinking about ordering an 'ukulele from, for example, Hawaii or mainland USA it would be pretty reassuring.

cornfedgroove
01-27-2010, 06:16 AM
hold on...you're telling me the great buddhuu doesnt know anyone with a koa or acacia uke??

it seems that one could interpret your post as you possibly having a koa uke, but never having heard an acacia one other than through sound clips. I live in nowhere, Indiana in a farmtown with 3500 people. This town is the last bastion of civilization when heading east, and I have an acacia...and guy down the street owns a koa.

buddhuu...I'm confused

paraclete
01-27-2010, 07:01 AM
I have a soprano KPK, which is Acacia. My soprano Kelii should be here sometime today, if the UPS guy doesn't get lost. The Kelii is solid Koa top and solid mahog back and sides. I'll post a comparison soon.

buddhuu
01-27-2010, 12:47 PM
hold on...you're telling me the great buddhuu doesnt know anyone with a koa or acacia uke??

it seems that one could interpret your post as you possibly having a koa uke, but never having heard an acacia one other than through sound clips. I live in nowhere, Indiana in a farmtown with 3500 people. This town is the last bastion of civilization when heading east, and I have an acacia...and guy down the street owns a koa.

buddhuu...I'm confused

Mate, most of the UK is still in 'ukulele denial! LOL

Most of the people I know well own cheap Mahalos or Makalas! We get the occasional decent uke brought along to our session, but usually by drive-by participants who never show up again. I do try every uke I see in stores, but again UK stores don't do well in terms of uke stockage. My local shop has the odd Kala and Lanikai on a good week but that's about it.

luvdat
01-27-2010, 05:15 PM
Mate, most of the UK is still in 'ukulele denial! LOL

Most of the people I know well own cheap Mahalos or Makalas! We get the occasional decent uke brought along to our session, but usually by drive-by participants who never show up again. I do try every uke I see in stores, but again UK stores don't do well in terms of uke stockage. My local shop has the odd Kala and Lanikai on a good week but that's about it.

Sounds like New Jersey.

Ahnko Honu
01-27-2010, 11:15 PM
I was in a local 'ukulele shop a couple weeks ago, and he had both a KALA soprano solid acacia, and a KALA soprano limited production solid Koa. I played both side by side and the Koa was surprisingly brighter than the Acacia. I was expecting a similar sound from the two woods.

ukantor
01-28-2010, 02:32 AM
"the Koa was surprisingly brighter than the Acacia."

That seems to confirm my impressions, based on my own Kala Acacia soprano. It sounds much closer to a mahogany uke, than to a typical koa uke. It has a very pleasing voice, and good volume.

John Colter.

luvdat
01-28-2010, 04:03 AM
"the Koa was surprisingly brighter than the Acacia."

That seems to confirm my impressions, based on my own Kala Acacia soprano. It sounds much closer to a mahogany uke, than to a typical koa uke. It has a very pleasing voice, and good volume.

John Colter.

Great honest post.

Paul December
01-28-2010, 04:20 AM
I also own a Kala Acacia Tenor, and the best way to describe the sound is "buttery" ...not dull or muffled...loud too. I absolutely love it.
Yes it has its "bark" quality, but not a bright sounding uke. I'm not a fan of overly bright ukes, so am pleased.
Definitely sounds different than my Mainland Mahogany... which is good because it gives me the excuse to keep both.
If I had to classify it, I'd put it somewhere between Mahogany & Koa - which IMO is the perfect place to be.
(of course this could have a lot to do with construction, bracing, etc.... blah, blah, blah)

hoosierhiver
01-28-2010, 04:49 AM
Some people might not realize that acacia is a genus for many species of trees and shrubs.
Acacia Koa is the species that people commonly refer to as Koa.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acacia

Paul December
01-28-2010, 05:00 AM
We have a GIANT tree in our back yard that needs to be trimmed every couple years. The guys removing the limbs said it was an Acacia. Living in Chicago, I found that difficult to believe...but possibly there is some northern variety. It has tiny leaves and is a major PIA to rake up around in fall. If anyone needs wood for several thousands of ukes, bring a saw to my home.

buddhuu
01-28-2010, 05:09 AM
Some people might not realize that acacia is a genus for many species of trees and shrubs.
Acacia Koa is the species that people commonly refer to as Koa.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acacia

Yes indeed. Another reason I wondered about that marketing angle.

Don't get me wrong, I think the acacia ukes look very nice indeed, and Matt's (thejumpingflea) Kala tenor sounds gorgeous in the video review he did. I just wondered if people might be a little misled by the marketing emphasis on the relationship between the two woods.

This is an example of why I'd like to see manufacturers do good quality video comparisons.

paraclete
01-28-2010, 09:40 AM
oh man... I said I'd do a comparison between the KPK and the new Kelii. Ack! There is no comparison that I can make. The sound is similar, but the Koa is definitely clearer and brighter, the acacia more muted. But in general, the KPK sounds choked compared to the Kelii.

hoosierhiver
01-28-2010, 10:37 AM
We have a GIANT tree in our back yard that needs to be trimmed every couple years. The guys removing the limbs said it was an Acacia. Living in Chicago, I found that difficult to believe...but possibly there is some northern variety. It has tiny leaves and is a major PIA to rake up around in fall. If anyone needs wood for several thousands of ukes, bring a saw to my home.

He might be talking about what is commonly called a locust tree. http://www.2020site.org/trees/acacia.html

Paul December
01-28-2010, 11:19 AM
He might be talking about what is commonly called a locust tree. http://www.2020site.org/trees/acacia.html

Think about it Mike.... 1st you had Mahogany & Cedar... then Mango .... What's the next Big Thing? Locust!
I'm sure we could work out some kind of deal! :)

Ahnko Honu
01-28-2010, 04:54 PM
Just an FYI the Biblical Ark of the Covenant was made from Acacia wood covered in gold leaf. (Who hasn't seen "Raiders of the Lost Ark"?)

“And they must make an Ark of acacia wood, two and a half cubits its length and a cubit and a half its width and a cubit and a half its height. *And you must overlay it with pure gold. Inside and outside you are to overlay it, and you must make a border of gold round about upon it. *And you must cast four rings of gold for it and put them above its four feet, with two rings upon the one side of it and two rings upon its other side. *And you must make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. Exodus 25:10-13

buddhuu
01-28-2010, 10:20 PM
You missed out the next part, where it says:

"The stuff that's left over might make a good 'ukulele. Why not give it a go?"

luvdat
01-28-2010, 10:41 PM
Again, what puts it in perspective is a reference I found about Taiwanese acacia (the kind used in that Kala uke) also used in the beams in coalmines.

Aside from somewhat muted overall, especially while strumming in the concert size or even just partial chording it, trying to get some definition, there was a not bad melodic capactity, you could get lines to pop, but it felt like a back and forth with a kind of drop off in between. The tenor did sound good in that vid, but the wood I had looked very different than the one in that vid. In short, no thanks.

BTW, I actually preferred what I could get out of my Kala 15-S, a kind of light one I found. My only mod to that one was removing the sound hole decal (greater resonance, LOL).

Ahnko Honu
01-28-2010, 11:29 PM
Here in the islands we have besides the endemic Koa (Acacia koa) and Koai'a (Acacia koaia) the introduced Formosan Acacia (Acacia confusa), and Australian Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon). The mature trees are relatively easy to tell apart but the wood is more difficult.
I beleive Cordoba, and Lehua both use the Australian Blackwood in their construction. The Biblical Acacias are Acacia seyal and Acacia tortilis. What's not to like about Acacia.

ambrose
01-29-2010, 07:12 AM
Video is the wrong medium for comparisons. It's very low quality, and streamed to boot. It does show you what the instrument looks like, but tells you nothing about what it sounds like. Someone should do short high quality, not streaming audio comparisons. Same player, strings, mic, preamp, converters etc.... This is done all the time for audio equipment tests online. Some of the equipment being compared lead to extremely subtle differences. Like the difference between brands of cables. I could do something here in Toronto as I have decent audio gear. I don't have a lot of ukes though and I play left handed. But maybe i'll propose something at the Corktown Uke Jam. There's still not a great variety of ukes there, but there are a few k's, and lots of Kala's and Ohana's. My own ukes are all old: Martin soprano, Kumalae soprano, Harmony soprano and Baritone. I'll start with these, all of which have Aquila strings.

spookelele
01-26-2015, 10:35 AM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vf1_1jClILM

So.. this is an interesting insight into koa, notably, the quote from 1:40

"For those of you who ah, who don't know, uh, koa when it grows in higher elevation, you know, its uh, that.. the quality actually goes up."

Anyone know exactly what that means?
Like.. if you had mountain koa, coastal koa, and coastal "unidentified acacia", which 2 would sound the most similar?

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
01-26-2015, 11:19 AM
i can only say that Tasmanian Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) and Koa (Acacia koa) work, look and sound very similar.

Other Acacias im not sure about.

Stats on 7 Acacias are listed here- http://www.wood-database.com/wood-identification/by-scientific-name/

spookelele
01-26-2015, 11:31 AM
i can only say that Tasmanian Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) and Koa (Acacia koa) work, look and sound very similar.

Other Acacias im not sure about.

Stats on 7 Acacias are listed here- http://www.wood-database.com/wood-identification/by-scientific-name/

That's kinda what I'm wondering.
Academically, acacia's should be similar.
But from a real world standpoint, some koa, and some acacia sounds dull and muted, while others can be vibrant.
Granted, not all ukes are made the same, and until that statement, that's the rationale I had in my head.
But it's got me wondering about the climate.

Like... Tea. All tea is the same species. But even on the same mountain, the stuff that grows at the bottom of the mountain tastes very different from the stuff that grows at the top of the mountain. High mountain tea consistently tastes better than lower mountain tea. Low mountain tea leaves grow larger than high mountain, even from the same size bush/tree. Same species, different morphology, and different chemistry.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
01-26-2015, 11:37 AM
I saw that too but I don't necessarily agree. What I'm about to say is a generalization as there are exceptions to every rule. Based on my experience...........
The higher elevation grown koa tends to be stiffer, denser and darker and more colorful in appearance. The curl or figure is often more dramatic. In my experience the "prettier" koa comes from the higher elevations. So if appearance equals quality, in that sense he is probably correct. The koa that grows at the lower elevations (1500' to 3500') grows much faster and tends to be more open, lighter in weight and less dense. The colors can often be blonde or brownish but as a rule it's more subdued in color and with much less figure, if any. This koa is actually my favorite to build with as it tends to be light and stiff and very responsive. A good sounding uke can be made of either (as is the case with most luthier woods) but it's easier to do with the lower elevation koa. BTW, I have stacks of this koa gathering dust. Unfortunately, many people hear with the eyes rather than their ears and when a customer is paying more than a few hundred dollars for an uke they demand both looks and sound. I try to provide a balance.

UkerDanno
01-26-2015, 12:18 PM
So, Chuck, what you'e saying is, Koa and tea have absolutely nothing to do with each other? :shaka:

spookelele
01-26-2015, 12:51 PM
So, Chuck, what you'e saying is, Koa and tea have absolutely nothing to do with each other? :shaka:

I think I heard two things from Mr Moore.
1) like tea, koa is physically affected by elevation.
2) that when spookelele can afford a Moore Bettah tenor, he'll cut me a great deal on a less figured, but bettah sounding uke. :drool:

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
01-26-2015, 01:28 PM
The only thing elevation has to do with anything (that I know) is that, apart from different soil makeup etc, it is (usually) associated with a drop in temperature (as you get higher) which makes the tree grow slower, giving it more of the dark, hard grain lines of the winter growth.

Having said that, Tasmania is alot colder then Hawaii......

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
01-26-2015, 02:32 PM
The "quality" of koa will be affected by elevation, rainfall, wind, sunlight, soil and mineral content, fires, even where it's grown in relationship to the volcano (whether it's been affected by ash or vog.) It seems the harsher the environment, the more dramatic the figure is. These trees grow much slower than their siblings at lower elevations, accounting for their denseness. I've run across a lot of gorgeous koa that I've rejected because it's been to dense and stiff to bend, having a specific gravity in the 70s. Faster growing koa, with an SG in the low 50s is much easier to work with. Koa grows best in a moderate climate with plenty of rainfall.
Given the natural habitation of koa forests growing between 1,000' and 7,000' if I had my choice I'd build with koa growing at elevations somewhere in between. Unfortunately these days we can't be too picky about where our koa comes from and what the growing conditions were. It's a builders job to make the best sounding instrument from whatever wood is made available to him.

hawaii 50
01-26-2015, 05:00 PM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vf1_1jClILM

So.. this is an interesting insight into koa, notably, the quote from 1:40

"For those of you who ah, who don't know, uh, koa when it grows in higher elevation, you know, its uh, that.. the quality actually goes up."

Anyone know exactly what that means?
Like.. if you had mountain koa, coastal koa, and coastal "unidentified acacia", which 2 would sound the most similar?


Hey Keli'i is that you?...:)
did Andrew see your ukes?...I want to see um....

good luck with the new ukes brother, I will be pulling for you....keep um coming....they look nice

kohanmike
01-26-2015, 06:33 PM
My best sounding ukes are acacia koa; the Kala cedar top with acacia body, the 2 hole Uku, then the black mandolin. I like my mahogany Gretsch next, then the spruce/quilted ash Lanikai. Still waiting for the curly maple/Indian rosewood gypsy to open up.

wayfarer75
01-27-2015, 03:19 AM
My best sounding ukes are acacia koa; the Kala cedar top with acacia body, the 2 hole Uku, then the black mandolin. I like my mahogany Gretsch next, then the spruce/quilted ash Lanikai. Still waiting for the curly maple/Indian rosewood gypsy to open up.

Huh, I didn't think the Kala cedar top was koa back/sides, but one of the bazillion other species of acacia, and laminate. I've been considering one as an entry-level tenor, because they do sound so nice. I just don't like gloss finishes, and I'd probably wind up buying something all-solid later anyway if I liked tenor scale.

It's interesting how the "prettiest" koa can be a pain to work with. Good for furniture I suppose, but we all want it on our ukes, hehehe. Maybe headstock veneer? And Chuck, if you ever build me a ukulele, you can use the plainest, dustiest koa you have! I think curly koa is lovely, but for some reason I'm really drawn to striped koa. My Kamaka pineaple isn't curly, but has all these different colored stripes in it that make it look so beautiful.