View Full Version : Koa Pili Koko vs. Kiwaya Soprano?

07-01-2008, 09:37 AM
I have a Pono Tenor, a Pono concert, and a Kanile'a concert. So I'm wondering about a soprano model...:)

I wonder if I could get some responses about the comparison between the Koa Pili Koko soprano and a Kiwaya KS-1 soprano? The KS-1 is the entry model for the Kiwaya line, so I am looking at something in the $200 or so range. They both have good reputations, but I am wondering about playability?

I am very spoiled by my Kanile'a: I understand of course that these would not compare, but I guess I would really need an instrument that was at least as easy to play (string height, neck thickness) as my Ponos.

This may be asking a lot of $200 models, I know, ....

Thanks for any advice,

07-01-2008, 09:52 AM
I don't have any advice for you, but I have been looking to get a soprano in the $200 range as well. I was wondering where you have seen a koa pili koko soprano for sale.

07-01-2008, 10:15 AM
I'm waiting on a Kiwaya Concert, but since it's taking its slow-assed time getting here I can't tell you my impression of the neck yet. However, one of the things I have read repeatedly about the Kiwayas are how nice the playability of their necks are. Now, that's in reference to the KT line, not the KS, but I suspect that they would have the same profiling.

FWIW, for the cost of return shipping you can try out pretty much any uke you want. A PIA, I know, to go through the expense of shipping. I just spent $50 returning a guitar, but at least I got to test-drive it before plunking down the big money.

07-01-2008, 10:31 AM
I don't have any advice for you, but I have been looking to get a soprano in the $200 range as well. I was wondering where you have seen a koa pili koko soprano for sale.

Send MGM a pm. He might have some not listed on ebay.

07-01-2008, 05:48 PM
I love my Koa Pili Koko. I've seen many Kiwayas in a local (Buffalo Bros.)guitar store here in Oceanside S.D. They do not look and sound as nice as my Pili Koko. My soprano is made with wood that comes from the Koa family. The Kiwayas at around $200.00+ look like regular (can't explain), dark wood (not mahogany). My Koa Pili Koko sounds better too. To each his own though. Payce!!

07-02-2008, 12:01 AM
Aren't the Kiwayas in that price range super thin laminates? That might explain some of the sound differences.

You might also consider an Ohana. People have very good things to say about them and they're solid mahogany. (if you're not totally tied to the koa/acacia thing.)

If you're willing to go above you're limit by a hundred bucks, I'd say have a look at Kelii. I got one a few weeks ago from MGM and I've been quite happy with it. Solid koa. Made in Hawaii. and all that stuff that lend it a bit of cache.

07-02-2008, 01:48 AM
I haven't heard the pili koko , but when I was buying my ukulele at musicguymic he advised me to go for an ohana concert over the pili koko, so you might want to check the ohana soprano or concert line out ( Ck25 /ck35 )

I was at a local ukulele meeting and there was a woman who had tried many ukulelees and even met Musicguymic , she was pleasantly surprised with the ohana and told me it compared to much dearer ukus. I wouldn't know though. :)

07-02-2008, 06:09 AM
I got a Kiwaya KS-1 from MGM, and I love it. I've only ever played a piece of junk Mahalo before this though, so I don't really know how the Kiwaya compares to similar models (especially the sound), but I will say this: it may not be the prettiest uke in the world, but it's well made, it plays like a dream, the intonation is perfect, and it stays in tune. That's all I was looking for, so I'm more than happy with it. :D

07-02-2008, 07:02 AM
I've played several Kiwaya's and think they have fantastic playability, excellent dynamics from loud to soft, excellent volume, and great punch. The KS-1 doesn't look beautiful, but it's light as a feather and has the same playability as its more expensive siblings. Note that the Kiwaya sopranos have a thin profile neck, but so do Kanilea's. These are made in Japan.

One of the things I love about the Kiwaya's is that you can play with very loud volume, and you can also play very very quietly (and everything in between) and still get a lovely tone. The only other brand of uke I've played that has this ability is a Larrivee uke.

The "hyperthin" plywood gives you a very stable, super lightweight, and incredibly resonant uke. But these ukes are all about punch and clarity, not sustain. If you like a phat sound, you might want to look elsewhere. Also the low-end Gotoh tuners look nice but are not the best quality.

My favorite Kiwaya models are the KSL-1 (solid mahogany top with laminate back and sides) and the KSL-2 (all laminated koa) long neck sopranos, but they are out of your price range. The KS-1 is a fine uke too, with excellent build quality, etc.

The Kiwaya's are strung with thin gauge Flourocarbon Fremont strings, and the string slots in the bridge will not accommodate normal gauge strings unless you slightly widen the slots. Very easy to do if you have a set of narrow files, or you can have a repair person do it for you in 2 minutes. Maybe MGM would do it for you?

I think the Kiwaya's sound best with Aquila strings which have a warmer and more vibrant sound, adding some nice overtones, and making the uke come alive. Flourocarbon strings, on the other hand, bring out the clarity and crispness and have a rather dry sound on this uke.

I'm sorry I can't comment on the other brand, which I haven't played.

I have a played an Ohana all solid mahogany soprano uke wiht a matte finish that was terrific for the price, and had a nice round tone, very good playability, very good dynamics, and good build quality. The Ohana's are factory outfitted with Aquila strings which sound excellent on these ukes. So you might also want to consider one of these Chinese guys...

07-02-2008, 04:27 PM
A new affordable now well built solid mahogany is the redesigned just out today fresh off da boat solid mahogany ukulele soprano from Kala Will be up tonight with video sound samples....a lot of goodies just arrived

07-03-2008, 02:37 PM
The Kiwaya Uke's are one of the top and best brands on the market today. Their all solid Uke's are class and their laminate Uke's match and beat anything laminate from anyone else.
A $200 - $300 laminate from Kiwaya will be very good.