View Full Version : Fender Hau'oli Tenor

02-26-2010, 02:30 AM
After about six months of playing it I feel like sharing my experience with this instrument. All I can say is that it's been a long and rocky road for the two of us, but finally things are starting to look up.

Features: 5/10 before refit, 8/10 after.

Basic stats:

Made in Indonesia in 2008.
Tenor scale, 19 frets, 14 frets to the body.
Laminated Mahogani Body, Rosewood slotted bridge and fretboard.
Came with a gigbag and The Ukulele Method Book.
I paid 139€ for it.

The thing that had me sold on this uke more than anything was the Telecaster headstock shape. I know there are lots of people who dislike it, but I still think it looks freaking awesome. An added benifit is that it gives me more room on the first few frets, which is great since my hands are ginormous. Another good thing is that it's definitely lighter than a traditional headstock.
The neck is nice and slim and feels great. You would think because of my huge hands I'd prefer a thicker neck, but that's not the case. This neck just works for me.
Die cast closed tuners, I'd say they're Fender's own. These are actually quite pretty and keep the tune really well. Sometimes I don't have to tune the uke for days.
Nut seems to be bone. The slots for the strings are cut rather roughly. I got lots of buzzage from the C and E strings, which I had to fix with paper strips. I'd replace it if it wasn't glued on.
Saddle is some kind of plastic, low quality. When I changed back to a wound C the string wore a groove into it in no time and started to buzz like nobody's business. I replaced it.
The description calls the finish "Satin", but I'd say it's just dull. I've been meaning to polish it a bit for quite some time now, but I haven't gotten around to buying polish. Plus I'm lazy.
The "silkscreened" Fender logo and the "Acrylic Abalone Rosette" I could definitely do without. From a few feet away they look fairly ok, but if you come closer you'll see they're poorly made.
GHS strings. Need I say more?

Sound: 6/10 if you're a traditionalist, 9/10 for pure, unadulterated fun.

It sounded really crummy when it came out of the box, but as it had GHS strings equipped that didn't surprise me.
I played around with some strings until I found the setup I'm using now: Daddario Clear Tenor where I replaced the C with a wound C
Here are some other configurations I've tried:

Aquila Concert: no. Just no. It was like I'd put a muffler on the uke.
Aquila Tenor Low G: eeeeww. That low G overshadowed all the other strings and made the uke sound unnatural.
Aquila Tenor High G: Loud, yes, but not very clear. The sound was really diffuse and all over the place. Not much fun.
Daddario Clear Tenor: Better than the Aquilas, but also quieter. The uke sounded like a "real uke".
Update: I'm back to the Aquila Low G Tenor strings. This time the sound is much more balanced, probably because of the new saddle. I actually prefer a low G on this one now, the sound is fuller and just rocks more.

It sounds very aggressive and twangy now, the sound's a little closer to an acoustic guitar than your traditional uke, which is fine by me.
Since I've installed a new saddle and sanded that down this uke makes some serious noise. I was surprised at how much louder and clearer it sounded. Now it can easily keep up with me singing at the top of my lungs.
This is the uke I pick up when I just want to rock out. It's not your traditional warm and gentle goodie two shoes uke, but that's what I've got the Brueko for. This one's my bad boy, my beating rig, and as that it's one hella fun.
Update:I've since refined my strumming a bit, et voila: she can do warm and gentle now. And when I need it really rough I'm taking a Fender medium pick to her. It's really awesome how versatile this uke is!

Action, Fit & Finish: see Features

The action right out of the box was okay I guess, but lowering it a bit made quite the difference.
The intonation is fairly precise, even on the higher frets.
The overall quality of this instrument is on par with what I expected for this price range. It's not the shining pinnacle of prettyness, but there are no glaring flaws either. Basically everything is solid, but if you look closer you'll see some imperfections.
Corollary: When I first purchased this uke, the neck started to come off immediately. I returned it to the shop, got a new instrument and never saw that problem again. I've written it off as a QC-issue. The complete story behind that can be read here (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?15917-my-trip-to-the-music-store).
As noted above, the saddle was of poor quality and the nut was cut rather roughly.

Reliability/Durability: 8/10 for use as a blunt weapon.

Will this ukulele withstand live playing? Definitely, now that I've switched the cheapie saddle. The whole thing is pretty sturdy, I've knocked it around quite a bit, and it's only sustained some cosmetic nicks and scratches. I'm confident it will hold up quite well in a bar fight.
Update: I have yet to get into a Bar fight, but we've been busking a few times and the Fender's been just great.
The finish gets shinier where I hold and strum the uke, but it doesn't look like it'll actually wear off anytime soon.
Can you depend on it? **** yeah. This one's a keeper and will last me for a long time.
Would you use it on a gig without a backup? I have. Well, it wasn't a big gig, but still. I do keep a set of strings in my gigbag at all times, however.

Customer Support: 7/10 for slowness.

I haven't contacted Fender directly, so I can't say how friendly and/or competent they are.
When the crack at the base of the neck started to appear, I took it right back to the store, who sent it back to Fender. It took a while (3-4 weeks) but in the end I got back a brand new instrument, no questions asked. The guys in the shop said that Fender Germany was a bit slow.
I'm pretty sure standard warranty is 2 years, but the store extend all warranties to three years under their own volition.

Overall Rating: 6/10 - it's a fun instrument, very solid, but there's lot of nits to pick.

How long have you been playing? Almost a year now. I play almost every day, between 30 minutes and 5 hours.
What other gear do you own? Brueko #6 solid mahogany Soprano, Makala Dolphin.
Is there something you wish you had asked before buying this ukulele? Not particularly, no.
If it were stolen or lost, would you buy it again or get something else? I'd probably buy it again eventually. I wouldn't buy the PA'INA though, because at that price range I wouldn't want to deal with the issues my HAU'OLI had.
What do you love about it? It rocks! It's loud and aggressive and fun. And it just fits me, it's really comfortable to hold and play.
What do you hate? All the shit it's given me. First the neck comes off, then the saddle goes *poof*. An the finish is downright ugly.
What is your favorite feature? The Telecaster headstock and neck, hands down. If I ever get an uke custom made, I'll insist on having those copied. It's such a pleasure to play and I love the look of it.
Did you compare it to other ukuleles? Which ones? Not really. Uke-shops are hard to come by here in Germany. I thought about getting a different one, but didn't actually play any.
Why did you choose this one? Because it says Fender on the label, and the promotional pictures looked awesome. And the price was right.
Anything you wish it had? A pickup, which is probably too much to ask at 139€, and a decent nut, which most definitely isn't.
Anything else you'd like to share? If Fender got their QC up to scratch, they'd be cranking out some sweet ukes.

02-26-2010, 02:55 AM
Thanks for your honest and comprehensive review, Dirka.

03-02-2010, 01:29 PM
I've got a Fender Nohea. I don't know if the necks are the same, but it's got the best feeling neck I've played on any ukulele. The sound isn't great, but the neck is perfect.

03-02-2010, 01:40 PM
Nice review. I enjoyed reading it and your appreciation for the Fender comes through. The headstock isn't my thing but as a Mexican Strat owner I can definitely understand the allure of the headstock. If you do take it to a bar fight, please post video.

03-03-2010, 12:32 AM
Thanks guys! :D

If you do take it to a bar fight, please post video.
Will try. At the very least I'll post a scan of the police report ;)

Swampy Steve
03-03-2010, 04:38 AM
when I got my Fender Hau'oli Tenor , it was only cause of price. I didnt like it,much. But now Ive sanded down the bridge,, deepened the string slots,,,.. Well heck ,, its a pretty good uke ,, also put some worth browns on it, I still like the Lehua better ,, but for 139.00 its not a bad deal at all. I can keep it at work ,, or take somewhere wqithout worrying about it gettin messed up.

03-03-2010, 06:00 AM
Hi there. I am an old (57) musician (started playing guitar at 9) living in Brampton, ON, CA, the great white north. I am looking at buying a uke to add to my collection of instruments. I have only been able to check the internet at this moment since I have been bed ridden with plantar fasciitis for the last month or so. I hope to be back on my feet in another month or so. I fell in love with the Fender Nohea tenor uke (I love Koa wood) but have yet to try one. It's right in my budget for my first uke. I have read other critiques on this and it's mahogany sister and see, like most, it is not perfect. If I had a couple thousand dollars to spend on a uke I'd likely buy something better but I don't. As soon as I'm able to walk again I will head to my music store and, at least, try one for myself. I am driving myself nuts reading all the reports and unable to try one for myself.

03-03-2010, 06:16 AM
Hey man!

If you're not only looking for wall candy but for a nice instrument you could do a lot better than the Nohea. A Mainland Mahogani Tenor runs you only $250, and is by far the better uke. Mainland ukers usually rave about their instruments, just look around here on the board. I mean, the wood on the Fender isnt even solid, so if it's the Koa look you're after you should maybe check out the Kalas, which also are much nicer instruments (reportedly).

Just my 0.02€, not saying you can't play Fenders, but they're a bit of a crapshot, and I wouldn't want one as my first and/or only uke, not when there's much better stuff to be had for the same or less money.

03-11-2010, 06:40 AM
Lucky me...Fender is out of stock and won't be making another run until May or June. I just don't want to buy off the net without trying it out first but there are not that many places in the Toronto area that have stock. I did find a store about a half hour north of Brampton in Orangeville that actually has about 30 ukes in stock and has a get-together on the first Sunday of the month too. They have a Kala arch top tenor uke that I really like and am going up this Saturday to try it out and likely buy it. I know for sure I will not likely stop at one uke. There are so many others I like too!

06-21-2010, 07:56 AM
Fender Hau'oli tenor bad, Kala concert uke good!

12-12-2010, 11:57 PM
Update: added a few things, and corrected the price.

01-13-2011, 05:54 AM
I picked a Fender for much the same reason. I also have had the same issues with the buzzing and had to fix it with some paper.

Was there a particular saddle you switched to? I think i might change mine too.

02-06-2011, 03:05 AM
Hey sailboats,

I just went to a local music store and bought a random guitar saddle that happened to have the right width. It took some work to shape it just right, but for only 1 or 2 euros it was a cheap fix. It did wonders for the sound of the instrument, and it's still holding up great, even though the Fender is now by far my most played uke.

I really think that the crappy stock saddle just eats all the vibrations because it's so damn soft, so I'm pretty sure any other saddle would be better.

Hope it helps,

05-19-2012, 07:09 AM
I have a Hau'oli since 9 months back and Ive been really happy with it in some aspects; volume, character and "punchiness" to mention a few.

I do however find it very much more difficult to play than other ukes I have (two concert ukes) for two reasons.. The string height at the nut is quite high, and also the string tension is much higher than Im used to with concert size.. So still, after 9 months of just about everyday playing I still feel that I need to use alot of strength to push the strings down.

Ive already filed it down a little bit at the saddle to lower the action, but I think the problem lies more in the nut. As its glued on, its not so easy to replace is with a new one, and Im a bit terrified at the thought of filing down the chord slots in the nut..

I need some advice! Should i try to remove the nut by force, or file down the existing slots? Any other suggestions? And does anyone know of some lower-tension tenor strings? Ive tried aquila tenor and d'addarios nyltech, but they are very similar in string tension at least.

Hope to get some feedback! I feel a bit lost by myself.. :)