View Full Version : Kamaka and koaloha and kanilea sopranos

uke philly
09-20-2010, 03:53 PM
Hey people of the forums, I was wondering if you guys have any feelings on these sopranos. If you do post a response. Thanks

09-20-2010, 04:30 PM
Hi uke philly! They all have their fans, and they're all good. Here's what I've learned recently.

My first "K" soprano was my Koaloha Pikake, strung with Worth Clears, which I absolutely adored until my Kamaka came my way. I had tried several Kamakas in stores before and been underwhelmed, but none of them were strung with Aquilas, which made all the difference in the world. While I still think the Koaloha is a fine uke, IMO the Kamaka has a much richer, more complex sound. It's also smaller, which for me, as a not-large person, is a plus, but others may find that a drawback.

I'm currently test-driving a Kanile'a concert - I'd love to get my hands on a soprano for comparison. While the sound is nice and mellow, and the 20 frets are certainly good to have, if I had to choose between a Kanile'a concert and a Kamaka concert, I'd still go for the Kamaka (unless I found a great deal on the Kanile'a, in which case, why not?) Kanile'a ukes have slightly larger necks, and for me they feel a bit awkward.

It's a tough comparison because they're all nice, and I suspect if you were to order any one of them, sight-unseen and sound-unheard, you'd be happy with it.

You might find this thread (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?32815-Need-your-thoughts-on-a-soprano&highlight=kamaka+kanile%27a+koaloha) helpful, as well as this post (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?35230-Kanile-a-Uke&p=459364#post459364).

09-20-2010, 05:07 PM
I currently own a Kamaka tenor but I have owned (have since sold them) a KoAloha tenor, Kamaka soprano, KoAloha soprano, and a Kanilea concert. I was pretty underwhelmed with the Kanilea. I seem to remember reading that Kanileas can be hit-or-miss whereas Kamakas and KoAlohas are more consistent. Between Kamaka and KoAloha, I like Kamakas a touch more but KoAlohas are amazing also incredible ukes.

09-20-2010, 06:34 PM
I too have been underwhelmed by most of the kanileas that I have played with the sound monster tenors being the exception. Kamakas and KoAlohas are different. I do like my Kamaka tenor but i almost put it up for sell to buy another Mele tenor but decided to keep it b/c it is a kamaka and it should only grow in value, right?:) My wife fell in love with a friends old kamaka soprano (1972 model) but she prefers her koaloha long neck soprano. I guess what I am trying to say, is that I am a KoAloha fan. every third person that posts in this thread will recommend a koaloha every third will recommend a kamaka and every third will recommend a kanilea. Really you are going to get a quality soprano in which ever one you pick.

09-20-2010, 06:58 PM
not to hijack this thread, but... how about ko'olau?

09-20-2010, 07:27 PM
not to hijack this thread, but... how about ko'olau?

I did a side by side comparison of my koaloha concert and a ko'olau concert. The koaloha tome was prettier, sounded better, and was louder. The ko'olaus workmanship is second to none though. that sucker was very well made. But to be honest Omega was looking to buy a Kamaka and I brought mine to let him play it. He also played my koaloha concert. He left our uke2gether with a desire to get a koaloha concert. It is that good. It makes my kamaka look bad:)

Ahnko Honu
09-20-2010, 08:00 PM
I've never met a Kamaka I didn't like. LOVE my soprano pineapple strung with Worth medium Browns.

09-20-2010, 09:03 PM
I have the KoAloha tenor-scale necked soprano here beside me. It will be reviewed in the next issue of Ukulele Player Magazine. I will say this, I really enjoy playing it.

09-20-2010, 09:04 PM
I'm a KoAloha guy myself. I have a Soprano and I played it next to a Kamaka standard from the 60s that my dad has. We both liked the KoAloha better. My dad recently audition the Kamaka and KoAloha side by side when he was on the Big Island and was surprised that he liked the KoAloha better considering he's been a Kamaka guy all his life. He gave me a lot of flack for buying my KoAloha soprano and tenor so it was nice to hear him say that. :)

I tried Kanileas for the first time last week at the wine country uke fest. I wasn't impressed. The only one that I really liked was this $1800 one that musicguymic had. I have no idea what model it was other than it had really nice figured koa, had a gloss finish, was a tenor and it sounded amazing. However playing their K1 versus my KoAloha tenor, I thought mine sounded brighter, louder and just plain better (purely subjective of course).

That being said, they are all damn good ukes. I'm just like the KoAlohas better. :)

09-20-2010, 09:24 PM
Of the few Kamaka's I've played, only a Pineapple soprano impressed me but it was the best sounding ukulele in the store and that store had Martin 5K's, Collings, Maui Music....

I still dream about it ;)

On the whole, I'm a KoAloha fan...

mm stan
09-20-2010, 10:52 PM
Aloha uke philly,
When I look at ukuleles, it's not a matter of big "K" brands.....Every ukulele has it's individual voicing, no matter what brand..
Higher end brands, you pay for sound preformance and consistancy in quality sound and craftsmanship. With that said,
when buying ukuleles, it is preferred for me to do side by side comparisions to be fair...then you'll hear and see the difference
right away. I really believe that out of every 10 ukes, one or two will be great sounding...Your job is to find them....It would
be unfair to judge them by just name brands...that being said, a 500.00 uke could sound better than one over a thousand.
Pick and choose wisely, as you're dropping alot of moolah down...don't get excited and impulse buy...take your time and
Find that gem in the bunch...But my personal preference is kamaka, or whatever you brand is,,find the best one!!it will pay off and you'll be satisfied!!
Good Luck!!! and Have fun!!!!"Keep strumming them strings"" MM Stan..

09-20-2010, 11:13 PM
Each brand has its own character, it's not really appropriate to say better or worse but it is appropriate to describe the nature of the beast. Each maker has their own concept of tone and that comes out in each soprano.

I have sopranos from Koaloha, Kanilea, and Ko'olau. The Ko'olau is my favorite, but more because I agree with their concept of tone more than the others. It's a more delicate, almost classical sound, very balanced and sweet. It almost sounds woody and reedy, and Oriental.

My Koaloha is very interesting, it's the loudest and projects well. The tone sounds aged and mature right out of the box. It looks (and sounds) like you're on the bow of one of those outrigger canoes strumming to the beat of 100 drums. I have baritone strings on it, which really bring out the sound. It's not as slick an action as the others, I think of it as a strummer and the tone is better for strumming than anything else I have.

The Kanilea is excellent, probably the best made of all. The neck is very playable. It feels big because it has 14 frets to the body, but it's not any bigger than the others. It's a modern instrument, not traditional, it plays like a mini Les Paul and the sound is also very professional. It has a lot of sustain, it almost sounds electric, especially with flourocarbon strings. To me the tone is a little cold, has less personality, but is very strong and even throughout the whole instrument. It has the best dynamic range - you can play quietly and then whale on it and get very loud. It's probably the most versatile of all. If you want to play jazz or play with other people it's probably the best choice.

My thing is to do these delicate melodies and the Ko'olau does that the best, but if I was a professional in a variety of situations, including recording, and gigs, I would pick the Kanilea as the one that would never let me down.

09-21-2010, 01:12 AM
I did a side by side comparison of my koaloha concert and a ko'olau concert. The koaloha tome was prettier, sounded better, and was louder. The ko'olaus workmanship is second to none though. that sucker was very well made. But to be honest Omega was looking to buy a Kamaka and I brought mine to let him play it. He also played my koaloha concert. He left our uke2gether with a desire to get a koaloha concert. It is that good. It makes my kamaka look bad:)

My KoAloha concert is also a great sounding ukulele! Got it last November from MGM, my first K brand. Defnitely a keeper as are my KoAloha and Kamaka sopranos.

09-21-2010, 05:44 AM
Honestly not a fan of Kanilea's - all four that I've played had playability or structural issues except one, and that one just wasn;t responsive - beautiful looking but dead sounding. These were older Kanilea's though and I've heard they've significantly improved their quality control. But I have no desire to try another one.

I love KoAloha's. They are responsive in my experience and have a rather unique tone as well as a unique look. I've played Pikakae and regualr models of sopranis and long neck sopranos and liked them a lot, but I especially loved a Pikakae soprano I once had and foolishly sold. If you dig the look and sound, you can't go wrong with a KoAloha. I also appreciate their "all weather" guarantee against cracking for the life of the uke as long as you promise to keep a humidifier in the ukes case. Apparently too, the small Hawaiian factory is family owned, and a member of the Okami family works on each uke they produce. I think that's cool.

Never had a chance to play the really big K though! I'd love to try out a Kamaka someday.

There's another little K made on the islands - Keli'i. I LOVE the all koa Keli'is - they are so responsive and just ring with resoanance. They are also quite inexpensive compared to the other K's, though I think they've been going up in price, but still a lot cheaper than the other K's. They tend to not be as decorated as some other ukes, but they got the tone. I think of them as sounding very hawaiian. Anyway, made in a small factory on the islands.

There's another K too - Ko'olau. Beautiful ukes made in Hawaii, but the two I tried had very high string tension which made them hard for me to play well - they had a low action, but high string tensiosn becasue of the way they angle the neck of the instrument. This allows for greater projection and a broader tonal range if you have the playing technique to evoke it. Me, I don't have the technique and I usually don't play with my nails anymore (they break off), but if you are a nail player and like hard tension, you really might want to consider these babies. in my hands though, they're quite dead sounding with a low volume.

That's all the experience I have with the Hawaiian made K's!

Have fun!

Ukulele Dave
09-21-2010, 03:13 PM
Look what I found for you :)


Keep in mind they all have different brand strings and that most deff makes a difference(ex: worth clears vs black GHS's = night and day difference). Also note video cameras do not reproduce exact sound

For bright sopranos/concerts I'm in to KoAloha's sound for life

Jerlial Prophet
09-21-2010, 04:41 PM
Look what I found for you :)

Keep in mind they all have different brand strings and that most deff makes a difference(ex: worth clears vs black GHS's = night and day difference). Also note video cameras do not reproduce exact sound

For bright sopranos/concerts I'm in to KoAloha's sound for life

Great Video! Thanks for posting that!

Ukulele Dave
09-21-2010, 05:35 PM
Great Video! Thanks for posting that!

Cheers! Mahalo to the guys at Hawaiian Music Supply and all their great videos

09-21-2010, 06:26 PM
I personally think that the Kamaka soprano has the really classic and traditional ukulele sound if that is what you're going for. There's really just nothing else that can produce the tone that comes to mind when you think of old-school hawaiian music.

But I do prefer the KoAloha soprano to the Kamaka soprano. I still regret trading my KoAloha soprano away about a year and a half ago. But I did get a super soprano to replace it. (Nevertheless, neither my KoAloha or Kamaka sopranos have seen the light of day in at least 6 months. Life is hectic, and when I have time to play, I usually grab a tenor.) The appeal of the KoAloha is that it is just more resonant and bright and responsive. I find these traits especially important when you have a small-bodied, short-scaled soprano. I enjoy(ed) playing the KoAloha much more than the Kamaka.

As for Kanilea, I have not had much experience with the current build of their soprano, at least not outside of the store. But I know that I preferred the KoAloha.

09-21-2010, 06:37 PM
Wow, great video. Thanks for all of your hard work!!! What a great comparison.

09-21-2010, 11:27 PM
Great video! Love the comparisons. The KoAloha really shines through! The Kamaka sounds good too, but I prefer Fremont Blackline strings to the standard strings. The Fremont Blacklines made a major difference in the sound of my Kamaka soprano.

The other ukuleles sound great too! A matter of preference. Individual differences even within the same make. This video definitely gives good general comparisons though.

09-22-2010, 12:06 AM
Watching the video the Kamaka and the KoAloha seem like winners. I want them both ;)

09-22-2010, 02:37 AM
they all sound good to my ear. the kanile'a and koaloha have a brighter sound. the kamaka and ko'olau sound more traditional... whatever that means. i have a ko'olau on the way.

09-22-2010, 02:41 AM
they all sound good to my ear. the kanile'a and koaloha have a brighter sound. the kamaka and ko'olau sound more traditional... whatever that means. i have a ko'olau on the way.

Congrats on the Ko'olau! Do let us have a sneak peek :)

Coconut Willie
09-22-2010, 04:26 AM
Tough one to call, I would lean slightly towards the Kamaka, more traditional. I have a Kanile'a 6 string and love it to death. Very well built and the sound is amazing can be played quiet and very loud, it all depends. I have played a Kamaka, will start to save up for one! Never played or heard in person a KoAloha, but they get some great reviews.

Ukulele Dave
09-22-2010, 05:40 AM
Yea going by the video IMO and sound preference I'd give 1st place KoAloha 2nd Kamaka. It's funny how you guys talk about the Kamaka being the more traditional sound. Back before I new sugar from salt in the ukulele world when I would think of Hawaii/the Hawaiian Islands/Hawaiian music I thought the loud/bright/happy/trebly KoAloha sound WAS the traditional sound. I still prefer it to this day, so you see it is all perspective :)

10-02-2010, 09:32 AM
Uke Philly, I assume you are in Philly? I am too, and I have super sopranos both Kanile'a and Koaloha in the house at the moment if you'd like to check them out. I wasn't crazy about the Kanile'a and am sending it back to the shop. I like the Koaloaha a whole lot. I also have a solid koa Kala soprano and a vintage Martin soprano (which is the best-sounding uke I have ever played.

Send me a PM if you're interested.


10-02-2010, 09:52 AM
Two cents worth about some ukes I played recently.

KoAloha - Bright, loud, looks really great.
Kamaka - Beautiful ukes, but the stock strings are not to my taste. I'd have to hear one with better strings before considering buying it.
Kanilea - Lovely ukes but don't dig that high gloss, 'sound monster' overrated, at least with those strings.

Just my opinions as a new player.

uke philly
10-10-2010, 10:15 AM
guys i think with all the great help and the steller reviews. i'm going with the kamaka pineapple when i get a chance to drive up to newyork. and if the price of 652 is to high i may go with the koaloha soprano. I cannot wait to get it but thanks i know every single uke is different, but i think the kamaka "original" pineapple is what i want. thanks for the help

10-10-2010, 10:28 AM
Have fun shopping and good luck finding that sweet one that calls out to you!

10-10-2010, 10:58 AM
I was doing the same thing not that long ago, I tried a few K brands and sent them all back. I had a custom uke built by Aaron Keim of Beansprout Ukulele and couldn't be happier. Mya Moe also makes an amazing instrument in the same price range. There is wonderful American made instruments that don't start with K.

10-10-2010, 12:35 PM
Hum, not to throw a wrench but I have had all 3 brands and stuck with the Kanilea's. My soprano has a voice not to compare to anything else. The long neck Concert is in its own class. Like any other instrument it is what you want it to sound like when you buy it. I have a lot of Ukuleles- been collecting since 1965. Some came from the trash and sound like the best of the best, some are cheap ones and are really nice. Now that is not the say I have not work them over to get what I want from them. Some never measures up and were sold. So I guess I'm trying to say in a round about way get what sounds good to you.

10-10-2010, 12:47 PM
I had no idea there was so much negative response toward Kanile'a! I don't discount any of it - tone is purely subjective and I can't say that anybody's opinion is right or wrong - but for what it's worth, my Kanile'a soprano (K1) is the loveliest sounding production uke I've heard. Maybe because it's mine, I guess, but I love it love it love it. I did restring it with Worth clears - it was beautiful before, and I think the Worths have brought out the very best in it!

Strummingbird Stu
10-11-2010, 08:41 AM
I have a Kamaka soprano and tenor ukes. If you like the genuine "traditional Hawaiian" uke look and sound, the Kamaka is for you. I like them, but I prefer my Koaloha concert uke. You really can't ask for a better made uke - the construction is nearly flawless, and it is very stylish also! However, in summary, my favorite uke is my Kanile'a concert. It looks beautiful, feels just right to me, and souds so warm and mellow! I just looove it! In the end, I think that all 3 are excellent ukuleles - it's really a personal choice of what looks, feels and sounds right for you. Good luck and happy ukeing! :music:

10-11-2010, 10:34 AM
I have no sopranos but I do have a Kamaka and a Kanile'a both tenors. My favorite is the Kamaka because it is traditional Hawaiian and plays great as well as sounds awesome. My Kanile'a is a 6 string and that uke is awesome in construction and sound. Heck, Aldrine plays a Kanile'a so they can't be that bad!! Anyway, you can't go wrong with a "K" brand, they are all awesome ukes!!

10-11-2010, 03:53 PM
Disregard that

10-11-2010, 04:03 PM
Regardless of what kanilea ukuleles sound like. Their customer service is pathetic and I would be embarrassed to say I'm the face of kanilea.... I do not recommend kanilea now, or ever, unless you like cat and mouse games.

I'm so very sorry that you had such a bad experience with them. I have had nothing but wonderful experiences in every dealing I have had with Kristen and Joe Souza, from touring the factory, to having them install a strap button on my uke, to Kristen offering to pick me up at a bus stop in Hawaii, and them recognizing me at every occasion I have run into them at an ukulele festival. It is actually due to my sentimental attachment to my Kanile'a (because it was my first "real" ukulele, and because of their customer service) that I refrain from trying to sell mine. As I see other people like Aldrine, Lori and bbycrts who adore their Kanile'as, I can't help but think I got a dud on mine. Which is a shame, because it wasn't cheap, as a K2 tenor.

I know from reading the other thread that you have had a lot of problems with your Kanile'a, and I'm so sorry it hasn't been a good experience for you. But while I'm not ecstatic with the sound of my Kanile'a uke, I just wanted to say I have considered them to be wonderful people...I still hold out hope that your situation will be resolved to your satisfaction.

10-12-2010, 04:33 AM
Interesting. Both of mine are awesome. The first one a K2 long neck concert was purchased because a customer backed out of the deal. When I got it I liked it so well I ordered a Soprano custom. It took longer that they had told me and at the end there were some minor flaws- that didn't affect the playability at all. They gave me a super deal on it and assured me if I wasn't happy I could send it back. When I got it I fell in love with it.
They aren't a huge operation so stuff is bound to happen.
Sorry you have had a bad experience but maybe you should talk to them and voice your complaints to see if they would be willing to work with you.

BadLands Bart
10-12-2010, 05:35 AM
I'll take what you don't want!!!!

uke philly
11-06-2010, 07:14 AM
Thanks for all the help. The forums are amazing. I think scince my monetary situation has changed and I'm good enough to play a tenor with ease and skill. i'm starting to see the need for the 13th fret , And BEYOND!!!!!!. so i think because i live so close to ny and they have a bounty of kamaka's i think guessing if a kanilea tenor would be good. or testing out a bunch of kamaka tenors myself is a smarter idea. Thanks for all the help.