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View Full Version : My new Pono arrived!



ichadwick
06-10-2008, 05:56 AM
Just got my new Pono PTEC-CE from MGM this morning. Tenor, cutaway, cedar top, pickup and hardshell case. Low-G tuning.

Initial reaction (from a mere 10 minutes of play time):

The frets could be better dressed. I can feel the rough edges on almost all of the frets, especially those higher up the neck on the high-string side. Looking up the neck from the bottom, the frets are noticeably dirty, as if unfinished or uncleaned. Nothing I can't become accustomed to and probably can clean up myself when I next restring it, but a little disappointing.

The finish around the soundhole where the neck meets the rosette is imperfect. I doubt it affects sound, but it's evident. There are some very minor blemishes on the back and sides, plus a large smear (1/2-5/8") of some gunk in the side. It came off with some careful cleaning. Something waxy or gummy that looked like a scratch.

I expected somewhat better build quality from a $600 uke. Frankly, I don't think it's $200-$300 better build quality than my Kala.

Intonation is beautiful and seems spot-on. Neck feels nice to hold and play. The head and neck feel a trifle heavier than the Kala.

Sound is very nice. Not as high or sharp as my sitka-topped Kala, but rather more guitarish: mellow but still crisp with a nice sustain. The low-G tuning gives it a full sound, although I miss the ringing re-entrant sound in some pieces. I like it; it's rich with nice overtones. Not muddy at all.

I'll write some more when I've had a bit more time to play it, and plug it in. Canadian taxes and brokerage added another $80 to the cost, too.

berylbite
06-10-2008, 09:29 AM
I keep on hearing about pono disappointments among the forums, This worries me for I plan on purchasing one in the near future.

funkycarnivore
06-10-2008, 09:58 AM
Gosh, sorry to hear that. My first three ukes were Ponos. Two were older koa models (PKC concert and PKT tenor, before they added numbers to the model name), and one was a more recent mahogany tenor. I liked all of them (still have the koa tenor) and it's too bad that it seems like the quality control might be slipping. I know what when you're selling to a pricepoint, you can't always make everything perfect, but still.

One thing about sharp frets, though: it really depends under what moisture conditions the frets were installed vs. where you are. I bought a really high end bass a few years ago from a dealer in Las Vegas. When it got shipped to me out in southern California, the maple in the neck had shrank so much that all the fret ends were sticking out. I rehumidified it, but it never got back to where it originally was, so I had to take it to a luthier to file the fret ends. I'm not sure that would be a manufacturing defect as opposed to just a change in humidity.

ichadwick
06-10-2008, 11:19 AM
...I rehumidified it, but it never got back to where it originally was, so I had to take it to a luthier to file the fret ends. I'm not sure that would be a manufacturing defect as opposed to just a change in humidity.

From what I can see, it's not a humidity issue. We're in the middle of a humid period here right now, and the uke only took four days to get here (itself a minor miracle give the usual ostal sluggishness). It feels to me that the frets were filed down, but not as diligently as I would have expected from a higher-end uke (and for me, this is a LOT higher end that what I normally play...)

funkycarnivore
06-10-2008, 12:26 PM
Yeah, I dig. I didn't mean to make it sound like I was making excuses for the fretwork--just an observation. What matters most is that you get an instrument that you feel is worth what you paid for it. Sorry if I came across differently.

ichadwick
06-10-2008, 12:56 PM
Yeah, I dig. I didn't mean to make it sound like I was making excuses for the fretwork--just an observation. What matters most is that you get an instrument that you feel is worth what you paid for it. Sorry if I came across differently.

No, I apologize - didn't mean for it to sound like I was barking back at you.

The Pono is okay, but I kind of feel I bought a $300 instrument for $600 (plus the extra $80 the government swine dinged me for taxes and brokerage). I'm sure I will enjoy playing it once I get over that.

davoomac
06-10-2008, 03:02 PM
hm sorry to hear it didn't meet the expectations.

Every single pono ukulele I've ever seen and played has been fantastic. Haven't had a bad experience with one yet.

Care to share some pictures or video of it? :music:

Boozelele
06-10-2008, 04:15 PM
Hey Ian, I'm really curious if MGM has said anything about it to you yet. Everyone always speaks so highly of him. I was also looking at Pono as the next logical step up in quality (plus I can't really afford a $700+ uke). Hopefully this was an isolated incident and not a indication of a continuing quality problem.

Plainsong
06-10-2008, 04:31 PM
That sounds like the neck of my Pono tenor, except for the fret issue. The neck itself looked rough. It played nice, just looked rough. But it didn't look out of sorts for the price I paid, and it certainly played nice. It had no issues to keep it going out the door, I just figured that's the look Pono is going for.

I think in the 700 USD price range, I'd probably look at other brands.

ichadwick
06-10-2008, 04:47 PM
Hey Ian, I'm really curious if MGM has said anything about it to you yet. Everyone always speaks so highly of him.

Mike's always been patient with me, and I've bugged him a lot, but he's often slow to respond to emails. I sent him a comment on the rough frets, but haven't heard back. I'm not asking for a refund, just wanted to alert him. I've bought four ukes from him this year, and will likely buy more once I have saved up again.

I think a good luthier (if I can find one - I live in a small town with few such resources locally) can probably smooth them out without damaging the fretboard - I wouldn't try it myself because there's precious little wood between the string and the fretboard's edge to waste by amateur efforts. But that's another expense and I'm already into this instrument for almost $700.

Playing today, I really love the sound. Very beautiful and just the tone I was looking for. But I'm pretty sure that any aggressive string work on the A string, especially in the higher frets, will wear it out much faster because it rubs on those rough edges.

The fret edges are rougher than any other uke (or guitar) I've owned. Perhaps someone else might not find them as abrasive, but to me they really stand out. That makes me hesitate to recommend Ponos to others in future. Perhaps it is nothing more than a single instance of slipshod dressing, but it's the only Pono I have to base my judgment upon. For all I know, it could be standard for all Pono ukuleles and everyone else thinks it's fine and I'm daft to complain.

I had a choice between this Pono and a Kala cedar top - basically the same cutaway with pickup and case - at $200+ less. I had hoped spending the extra meant $200 more quality. I am, instead, somewhat disappointed and considerably poorer.

ichadwick
06-10-2008, 04:51 PM
hm sorry to hear it didn't meet the expectations.

Every single pono ukulele I've ever seen and played has been fantastic. Haven't had a bad experience with one yet.

Care to share some pictures or video of it? :music:
Soundwise, it's beautiful and has looks to match. No complaints there.

I can try to take some pics, but the imperfections are minute. I don't know if they'd show up. It's what my fingers can feel. And just to be sure, I ran my fingers over the fretboard edges (and fret wire ends) of every instrument I own. Even my old Disatone uke is smoother.

bluesuke
06-10-2008, 05:56 PM
I got a pkc-1 about a month a go and it is great mgm put worth strings on it for me and it sounds and plays great. the frets on it are smooth as silk. I would highly recommend them to anyone

Rubbertoe
06-10-2008, 07:31 PM
I have to chime in here and and my two cents. I just got a Pono PKT2 and soundwise, it's beautiful. It's very mellow and I love playing sappy ballads on it (I switched up the Ko'olau Gold strings for Worth Brown Strongs - so far, I think I've made the right choice, I think).
However, as far as (cosmetic) construction goes, I was dissappointed too. I bought it from MGM and was told that this uke was built better than another uke I was considering. I just want to say that MGM did not mislead me in anyway. This Pono feels like it's built like a tank. I've read complaints about the weight of Ponos, but I love the heavier feel (I'm a photographer and usually a heavier camera makes me feel a lot better when shelling out a couple grand for what is essentially a new toy - same thing goes for ukes - for me at least).
My dissappointment lies in the cosmetic flaws of the uke. There is a tiny ding in the back edge of the body near the neck. On the bottom of the uke, the upper binding isn't flush with the body of the uke so if I run my fingernail along the bottom of the uke, I can feel a tiny gap between the body and the binding. The base of the neck (where it attaches to the body) isn't symmetrical (as you move from the fret board to the heel of the neck, there is a distinct indentation in the left side - ie. it is more concave - vs. the right side which smoothly flows from fret board to heel). Lastly, the seam in the middle of the sound board (where the matchbooked halves of koa meet) is very visible when seen in the right light (the varnish probably seeped into a gap that wasn't filled in when joining the halves or it wasn't sanded properly).
I know that this does nothing to the sound of the uke (again, it's a beautiful sounding istrument) and I know that eventually, all ukes will pick up a couple "beauty marks" - like when you get hardwood floors installed. I just feel like the beauty marks should be my doing (so I have a story to tell with it, you know? Like: oh, I got that ding in the back when I smacked it on the gear shift while playing and driving again).
Ok, enough griping. I love the uke. It's not perfect, but who is?

ichadwick
06-11-2008, 02:40 AM
Ok, enough griping. I love the uke. It's not perfect, but who is?
I love the sound of this new Pono, and the build quality issues don't affect that, so I will keep it and make the best of it.

I have, however, written to Pono to express my disappointment. I'll let you know how they respond.

Rubbertoe
06-11-2008, 04:16 AM
I love the sound of this new Pono, and the build quality issues don't affect that, so I will keep it and make the best of it.

I have, however, written to Pono to express my disappointment. I'll let you know how they respond.

D'oh! <<hand slapping forehead>> I should have thought about that. You'd think that supervising a customer service department would have made me think of doing that too! From experience, I know that replacing something like this doesn't cost a company anything at all except the loss of a potential bad reputation. Let's see what they have to say.

Ukulele Dude
06-11-2008, 04:50 AM
Ian, sorry to hear you're not completely happy with your Pono. Did you consider returning it? It will be interesting to hear how Pono responds to you. Keep us posted.

ichadwick
06-11-2008, 09:39 AM
Ian, sorry to hear you're not completely happy with your Pono. Did you consider returning it? It will be interesting to hear how Pono responds to you. Keep us posted.

I debated the question of trying to get them to replace it - but that means an indeterminate time without it until either a repaired or replaced uke arrives.

It really sounds lovely and I want to play it, so being without it isn't very appealling. I will await their response (nothing so far but it's only been since 6 a.m. today).

I've also considered taking it to a luthier in Toronto and having the frets properly smoothed, but having spent almost $700 on it already, I hesitate to spend more.

Plainsong
06-11-2008, 11:49 AM
I once found a thread on another forum that was full of these complaints and worse. I forwarded it to Koolau/Pono, and got zero response. Mine turned out lovely, but I think the amount that customer service would care runs into the negative numeric scale.

Funny thing is, that puts off not just Pono, but Koolau.

funkycarnivore
06-11-2008, 12:41 PM
Yeah, wow. It seems like maybe Pono is letting a good thing slip away. I've had three of them--two earlier koa models and one recent mahogany tenor--and they were all very nice. Of those, I still have the koa tenor and am very satisfied. It's really too bad to hear that the quality control seems to have slipped quite a bit. I've made hundreds of online purchases (all my ukes were purchased sight unseen over the internet) and it's a real bummer to be excited about the arrival of a new toy, only to find that it's not what you expected.

Rubbertoe
07-08-2008, 07:40 PM
So, where do I begin? Earlier, I had written about my Pono PKT-2. It had some (minor) cosmetic flaws. There were more than I could easily ignore, especially for what I had felt was a fair amount of money ($664 USD). After reading about other issues of quality control from Pono, I decided to contact them and see what they would say.

So, here’s where this story begins. I contacted Pono via an email address I had found on their website. It was a generic sales@ email addy so I was expecting a generic reply or even an automated response in reply to my inquiry. To my surprise, I was contacted by the owner, John Kitakis, himself! He suggested that I send the ukulele back to Ko’olau for assessment to determine whether they would replace it or provide me with a refund. I then informed him that I loved the ukulele and that the cosmetic flaws were indeed minor and if it wasn’t possible to replace it with a better model than I would (reluctantly) live with the flaws. Yes, I know, I’m a little anal-retentive about cosmetic flaws on my equipment. I then mentioned that shipping it to Hawaii from Canada is very expensive and asked if he would reimburse me for the cost of shipping. Again, always concerned about customer service John told me to send him the invoice for the cost of shipping after I sent it back and he would reimburse me. So far, I was a happy camper!

A week or two went by and I hadn’t heard anything from John but assumed that shipping plus assessing the uke would take some time. So I waited. Shortly after that, I was contacted by MGM who told me that the cosmetic flaws were indeed so superficial that it would be better off for everyone to simply refund the cost of the ukulele. I contacted him and asked him if he could hold off on refunding my money because 1) I didn’t want to lose the $150 worth of initial shipping and tariffs I paid when I received it 2) I really did like the uke and 3) I might be interested in upgrading to a higher-end uke. He replied (even though he was in the middle of watching a movie – uh, sorry about that Mike) saying that he’d hold off for a bit.

I decided that I really didn’t want a refund and I was still thinking of upgrading a little to make up for everyone’s effort to help me out. I was considering the same uke with pick-ups (the PKT-2E) but MGM had just listed a Kanile’a K-1 DLX (upgraded koa) for $999 USD. MGM let me upgrade to that one, discounted the price of the uke and offered to have it shipped as a gift so I wouldn’t have to pay the taxes for a second time! So now, I’m waiting for a new Kanile’a but no word from John about the reimbursement of the $175 dollars it cost to get the original Pono from Canada to Hawaii.

John contacted me today and… wait for it… said that it would be more worthwhile for both he and I to, instead of sending me a cheque for $175, send a Pono PCM instead (a solid mango concert-sized model). I couldn’t believe it! I now eagerly await a Kanile’a and a Pono.

I have nothing but respect and admiration for both John Kitakis and MGM. This is customer service that goes well beyond the call of duty. John, Mike, you are gentlemen and scholars – we are definitely not worthy! :bowdown:

So for all of you people who are not familiar with MGM or Pono/Ko'olua (yeah all three of you), buy from them with the utmost confidence! They both go well beyond the extra mile to make sure that you are happy! I am so frikken' happy!

RON<>VA
07-08-2008, 07:53 PM
I have nothing but respect and admiration for both John Kitakis and MGM. This is customer service that goes well beyond the call of duty. John, Mike, you are gentlemen and scholars we are definitely not worthy! :bowdown:

Wow! What a great story of customer service. I will remember those folks the next time a buy a uke! By the way, enjoy your 2 new ukuleles.

deach
07-08-2008, 11:53 PM
This is new-thread-worthy.

Plainsong
07-09-2008, 01:22 AM
That is great customer service. I'm awaiting an Oahu branded Koolau case that I bought from their website. John emailed me personally to tell me that yes they do international, and how to send the payment. I haven't heard back on whether or not it shipped, but it's summer, and assuming they sent it out a week or so ago, it wouldn't be here yet anyway.

But I hope that they keep an eye on the prize with regards to Pono and not let a good thing go bad.

But dude, two ukes! I am full of envy!

Merit
07-09-2008, 06:54 AM
In the last two weeks, I have noticed a few things about uke companies and customer service:
1) There will always be people either unhappy or thrilled with the customer service, and
2) There is a direct relation between those who are thrilled and those who took the time to contact the company :-)

Enjoy the fruits of your contact!

Rubbertoe
07-09-2008, 07:52 AM
This is new-thread-worthy.

I was thinking the same thing! I think I'll do that right now.

ichadwick
07-10-2008, 10:10 AM
I have nothing but respect and admiration for both John Kitakis and MGM.

I was contacted by both John and Michael, and they both offered to pay for a luthier to properly dress the frest on my uke. While I appreciate that gesture, I live in a small town, and the closest luthier I've been able to find is at least two hours' drive away, in Toronto.

So it's a nice gesture, but not terribly practical. It means scheduling a weekend off, making an appointment for the work (assuming I can find anyone to work ona Saturday or Sunday because I can't get out on a weekday), taking the uke down there, waiting while it gets done, driving home. A full day's effort, time, gas and because of staffing issues in my business, not likely something I can do before the fall. I suppose my only other choice was to return it for an exchange or refund (and lose $80+ in taxes and brokerage I paid).

That has not, however, entirely dampened my spirits, and I did purchase a second Pono (a solid mango tenor) which had no issues or problems.