View Full Version : 2011 Kamaka HF-3 Tenor Review

03-28-2011, 05:37 PM
Kamaka HF-3

* What year was it made? Where was is made? Hawaii, date stamped January 18, 2011
* This is the standard HF-3 as described on Kamaka's web site
* Body style: Tenor
* Tuners: Schaller
* Any included accessories? Bought the Protec Case, which is pretty cool and works perfectly for my needs

Sound 10

I wanted to live with the HF-3 for a month or so before writing a review and I think this Uke is already sounding better and better to me. I tried a lot of ukes in stores in Sacramento and the Bay Area prior to picking the Kamaka. Tried Pono, Kanile'a, Ko'olau, a variety of Kalas, Kiwaya, Island (Rapozo), Graziano, Collings and a few others. The only K I didn't get to try was a KoAloha. But, I kept coming back to the Kamaka sound, whether it be a Soprano, Concert or Tenor. I think the mellow, almost understated traditional sound of the Kamaka was the main appeal. And, this one has that same sound. And, I actually like the Kamaka strings, which appear to have been revealed to be made by D'Addario.

Action, Fit & Finish 10

The Kamaka neck is a joy to play. The only neck that has possibly bettered it that I've tried is the KoAloha tenor, which I finally got to test after I bought the Kamaka. Action is low. Finish is perfect. I was not expecting the Koa to be as curly as what I received, as some of the Kamakas I've played in the stores were a bit plainer. Very pleasant surprise.

Reliability/Durability 9

Its a lot lighter than many of the ukes I've played. I don't think it would take very kindly to being sat upon. Seems a little delicate.

Customer Support 10/ (Potential future repairs 8)

Bought it straight from the factory. It was an excellent experience. They kept me informed. Ordered it January 3, 2011, received it mid-February 2011. Total 10 experience with lots of Aloha! (Due to the supposed extraordinarily long waiting period for repairs, which hopefully, I will not need...a couple of points have to come off.)

Overall Rating 9.5

* How long have you been playing? Uke- about a year and a half. Guitar - over 30 years

* What other gear do you own? A variety of Fender, Gibson, Martin and other guitars and basses

* Is there something you wish you had asked before buying this ukulele? Since I got it straight from the factory, I wonder if they might have done something to personalize it a bit...maybe one of the Kamaka family members could have signed the label?

* If it were stolen or lost, would you buy it again or get something else? I would absolutely buy an HF-3 again.

* What do you love about it? How it sounds and how it plays. The looks aren't too shabby either.

* What do you hate? That having something that sounds so good has set the bar too high, making UAS a very expensive condition! (Next uke in my sites is a KoAloha Super Concert. And, I'm very intrigued by Moore Bettah due to the raves on here and Mr. Moore's insightful posts on UU!)

* What is your favorite feature? The fact that it is going to sound better as time goes on.

* Did you compare it to other ukuleles? Which ones? Yes, as I said above. It was between the Kamaka and the Kanile'a.

* Why did you choose this one? The sound, and that I wanted to get it from an iconic manufacturer that is still making ukes on a relatively small scale at their factory in Hawaii. Imagine being able to go and get a guitar from Leo Fender's actual shop. Its a pretty rare circumstance nowadays.

* Anything you wish it had? Possibly a built-in pickup. But, I did want to stay traditional with this first one.

* Anything else you'd like to share?
There are so many fun ukes out there. The week after I received my Kamaka, I bought two Makala Dolphins for my office!

I finally took a couple of decent photographs today, so those are attached. A few more are in an album in my profile

And, here's a sample of how it sounds, multi-tracked -


03-28-2011, 05:57 PM
Aloha sonicbaker,
Congrats on that superb looking instrument. I'm sure it will serve you well....have fun........................BO...................

03-28-2011, 06:00 PM
Thanks! I posted about it when I first got it as a "new uke day post"...but didn't have any good pics and was just getting to know it. I am truly appreciative of this instrument after living with it for awhile.

03-28-2011, 08:16 PM
Oh man..Now i want a HF-3 :/

03-28-2011, 11:13 PM
Nice review; beautiful instrument. Congrats!

mm stan
03-28-2011, 11:50 PM
Aloha SonicBaker,
Congrats on you new Kamaka Tenor...Have fun and enjoy..Happy Strummings..MM Stan

03-29-2011, 01:23 AM
CONGRATULATIONS on your Kamaka purchase. You have a beautiful instrument which will give you years of enjoyment. Nice looking koa.

I've been enjoying my white label Kamaka tenor since I purchased it in '86 from the House of Music at Ala Moana Center (still in business??). It sold for $216 new. Wonder what Kamakas will be selling for 25 years from now?

03-29-2011, 03:27 AM
Congrats on the new Kamaka. I have a 2010 Kamaka HF-3 that I bought directly from the factory. I was also pleasantly suprised by the amount of curl. The personal touch for me is the date stamp on the headblock of when the uke build started. I had received an e-mail stating that my uke was started on a certain day and it is cool seeing the matching date stamp. I have mine strung with D'Addario J71s which I think are great. Anyway, congrats again and enjoy your beautiful uke.

03-29-2011, 03:38 AM
Congratulations!! I love that wood and the grain!! Yes, Kamaka makes an awesome uke and you will be happy for many, many years of playing.

03-29-2011, 04:07 AM
Welcome to the Kamaka club

Coconut Willie
03-29-2011, 04:24 AM
That is a BEAUTY!!! Congratulations and a great review too! However, I am wondering about the 8 you gave for customer service. You stated that the whole experience was excellent but you deducted 2 points for a wait on uke repairs and you do not need a repair. Anyway, just seemed a bit odd to me. No problem!

03-29-2011, 05:39 AM
That is a BEAUTY!!! Congratulations and a great review too! However, I am wondering about the 8 you gave for customer service. You stated that the whole experience was excellent but you deducted 2 points for a wait on uke repairs and you do not need a repair. Anyway, just seemed a bit odd to me. No problem!

Oh, well, I should have made my disclaimer a bit more clear with that...The customer service in the purchasing process from Kamaka was absolutely a 10! Here is why: They were very upfront about the length of time from ordering to receipt of uke. It was 6-8 weeks just like they said. Actually, it turned out to be about 6. They asked me if I had any preferences...darker, lighter color. I didn't, so I just asked for whatever they thought looked the best at the time. When it was ready, they called me with an estimate of delivery date and wanted to make sure that someone would be home to receive the uke. I received both emailed and printed receipts, along with tracking numbers. Really, they couldn't have been better to deal with. Lots of Aloha!

So, the 8 rating was only because I am aware that their turnaround time on repairs is really long. They posted something about this recently on their Facebook page (which, if you're on Facebook, you should definitely add them) which showed a wall of ukes in the queue waiting for repairs; they mentioned that since they have been around so long, there are years and years of Kamakas that may be candidates for repairs as a reason their backlog might be a lot bigger than other manufacturers. Since this review might be read by some that are unfamiliar with Kamakas, I thought it would be wise to give them a heads up about the repair backlog issue in case that is something one might want to consider as a variable in their purchasing decision. If something "did" happen to my Kamaka, I'd be pretty bummed to have to wait 6 months or longer for a repair. I'll edit the review to reflect that, though...thanks for pointing it out.

Ronnie Aloha
03-29-2011, 06:08 AM

I agree with your assessment of the "8" for customer service (ie. repairs.) I know that Kamaka has been around for a century but only two people handle repairs from my understanding. In addition, these two might also work on the Jake ukes further slowing everything down. I had to wait one year for each of my ukes to get repaired. They were upfront saying it would be a MINIMUM of one year for the repair. That's much too long IMHO.

They should take the time to train a couple of other people to do the repairs and cut the repair time in half.

Of course, they've been in business for 100 years or so and are still booming so they must be doing it right! Never mind... : )

03-29-2011, 04:46 PM
As a happy owner of two Kamakas, I loved the review. Yes, the UAS bar is high, now. :-)

03-29-2011, 05:33 PM
Great review and what a beautiful uke! Mine is a concert and much plainer than what you got. But I have to admit, I'm with you on the sound. It just keeps getting better! Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!

03-29-2011, 05:37 PM
That is STUNNING wood!! Beautiful uke :D

03-30-2011, 10:26 PM
Great review! One of these days I'll get around to posting about mine.

03-31-2011, 05:51 PM
Beautiful ukulele, and very informative review. Next week, I'll be going to Hawaii with the intention of coming back with a K brand tenor. I've been leaning toward Kamaka -- many of K ukes in my Hawaiian music class are Kamakas -- and I've really enjoyed the one or two that I've played. Your review put into words what I experienced when I've had a chance to play Kamakas.

03-31-2011, 06:08 PM
Thanks for everyone's kind comments on the review and on the uke! I really enjoy reading others' reviews and new uke day details as well.

03-31-2011, 07:17 PM
Thanks for the review post and photos bro. I've been kicking around the idea to get a new Uke and know that the better I go the better the sound and fun I'll have with it.
Wood looks great too! Enjoy sir.

04-01-2011, 05:35 AM
I want the uke....and the sunny weather in SAC. nice score with both.

04-01-2011, 06:24 PM
Congrats! A very beautiful uke!