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View Full Version : Another 'Which High End Uke Would You Recommend' Thread!



sbpark
07-17-2011, 04:48 PM
so i've sold a couple lower end, chinese-made ukues to finance the purchase of a high end uke. Before everyone gives the usual replies of 'you have to get out and play them to make your decision...', i realize that and aside from the way they sound, which is entirely subjective to the player, what were the other reasons i should or should NOT lean toward one particular manufacturer? I know KoAloha has probably the best warranty, Kamaka is, well, Kamaka but am also going to be taking a look at a Kanlie'a. Also came across a used Big Island. The Big Island is the least expensive, but is a very nice looking uke, curly Koa, well made, but don't like that it's made overseas. i'm sort of leaning more toward a KoAloha and a Kanlie'a as my top 2 choices. Like the look of the Kanlie'a better (less flashy than the KoAloha and more 'traditional' aside from the geared tuners), but the warranty for the KoAloha is the best around. These are all concert size, btw. Didn't dig playing a tenor, and to me (and please understand this is entirely subjective and just MY opinion!) it starts to lose the 'smallness factor' for me, but the soprano is too small for my hands, and the concert seems 'just right'. Thanks in advance for your patience dealing with a newbie on here. I've been playing guitars for years, but new to the uke, and just looking for experienced opinins and advice. Thanks!

Hippie Dribble
07-17-2011, 04:53 PM
Hi sbpark,

I would recommend a Mya Moe concert. Amazingly smooth players, rich, sweet tones and are just superbly balanced hand-made instruments.

I also have a Kamaka HF-2 concert and it is one of the nicest sounding ukes I've ever heard.

wickedwahine11
07-17-2011, 04:53 PM
I have one of each (a Kamaka, KoAloha and Kanilea) and my favorite, hands down, is my Kamaka -- for a variety of reasons, mainly due to the history of the brand, and the particular way this uke feels in my hands (it is the most comfortable for me to play of the three), plus it happens to be the one with the curliest koa of my three, and so it visually appeals to me the most.

That being said, I usually recommend that others pick the KoAloha if they are buying sight unseen. It is the loudest, I think all things considered usually has the best sound, and it has the best warranty (by a mile).

I love the Kamaka family, the Okami family and the Souza family -- the Okamis and Souzas in particular have always made me feel like ohana. But in head to head competition, I'd recommend the KoAloha uke. Just my two cents though. I know you will find an equal number of supporters for each of the big K companies. Good luck to you and keep us updated on your choice. :)

janeray1940
07-17-2011, 05:01 PM
Obviously I'm a total cheerleader for Kamaka, so that would be my recommendation. However, the Koaloha concerts are especially good sounding - all of their ukes are nice, but I think the sound of their concert ukes is amazing. Kanile'a makes beautiful ukes, but in my (somewhat limited) experience the sound does not compare to either Kamaka or Koaloaha.

Wickedwahine11 has given some good advice if buying sight-unseen. Even within the same brand there can be differences from uke to uke - I was able to compare two Kamakas side by side when I bought my most recent uke, and they were pretty different. One was very bright (that one came home with me), the other was much more mellow - still nice, just not what I was looking for.

mds725
07-17-2011, 05:08 PM
I recently went through a similar experience, although I was comparing K brand tenors. (I bought a Kamaka, but now I want to add a KoAloha.) As you pointed out, most of the factors are subjective -- people prefer the look/design/sound/history of one brand over another. Aside from warranty and volume, the only other factual difference I can think of at the moment is that the Kanile'a ukuleles I tried had a thicker neck than the Kamakas or KoAlohas that I played. Whether that's a good thing or not is subjective -- some people prefer the thicker neck, others don't -- but it is an objective difference.

I also have a Kamaka concert, and I love it, but I've heard that KoAloha concerts are the among the sweetest-sounding ukes there are.

I think among each of the K brands you mentioned -- KoAloha, Kamaka and Kanile'a -- the kinds of things other than subjective stuff like the feel and sound of the uke, like quality of the workmanship, design, how great the owners are as people, reputation, etc., are pretty much equal. I suspect your decision will ultimately come down to which ukulele you feel the most comfortable with and respond to the most when you're playing it. Good luck and keep us posted.

70sSanO
07-17-2011, 05:56 PM
If you have ever heard Jon Prown play his Koa Works ukuleles it is hard to imagine a nicer sounding ukulele.

...after all you did say high end.

John

fabioponta
07-17-2011, 06:11 PM
Buy a Koaloha Concert Pikake model. You will have an uke that looks more traditional than a Koaloha Concert, with the most balanced and loud sound I've heard in a concert uke. Roy Sakuma uses one (I think he design this model).

joejeweler
07-17-2011, 06:19 PM
My 2 year old Moore Bettah soprano uke sounds really sweet to my ears. I bought it back then and never found the time to get into playing it. Now i have the time, (and currently sore fingers) to spend a lot of time with it and my other ukes.
I find them easier and more relaxing to play in the reclining easy chair than my guitars are,.....and am working on a few pieces.

I would recommend one of Chuck Moore's concert sized ukuleles in a heartbeat,......if you can find one! Players don't seem to want to part with them, and dealers can't keep them in stock. Add in that Chuck is currently backlogged and in not booking any new orders,...and ,well,.....you'll be standing in like like me waiting for a concert to appear somewhere for sale.

His ukes aren't cheap as you probably know,....but not out of reach for anyone serious about picking up an instrument to grow with. I personally feel they are a current bargain for what you usually get. Stunning koa, ample abalone coverage
and usually a very nice inlay or two,......in a pretty nice hard case.

Mine ran $2200 back in 2009, and i think they'll prove to hold their value and appreciate over the years possibly.
Meanwhile,....they sure sound nice and look fantastic. You said "high end", so just wanted to give you an idea.

Good luck in your search.....here's some pics of the one i picked up. (When the dealer HAD 8 or 9 available! @$#&%**%#%#!!!)
I should have broken the bank and bought a few "Moore"! lol

http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?49943-Moore-Bettah-Soprano-Mermaid

cheers,
Joe T

diego
07-17-2011, 06:19 PM
I've been looking at Moore Bettahs site for a while, and it really gets me hot! Custom inlay work looks pretty fricking sweet!

iDavid
07-17-2011, 06:49 PM
You can't get better than a KoAloha concert, I've tried. They have an almost electric sound. The Kanile'a defiantly have a wider neck, which could be good thing or a bad thing. I hear the Boat Paddle 12 fretter concert is amazing, btw.

mm stan
07-17-2011, 07:48 PM
My guess since you are mentioning all the K brands..your budget is around 1000.00 and up...I have played them all.....it's personal preference...and depends what sounds you like..
but an over all uke would be the Kamaka hands down.....by a long shot...for many reasons, sound or tone, well built to last, looks, comfort and playability... My guess you are staying in the premimum off the rack range.
but with any uke..play a few of them side to side and pick the best one...even the same brand and models..

scottie
07-17-2011, 07:48 PM
For 16 and change you can have this little gem. . . absolutely gorgeous wood.

http://www.acousticmusicworks.com/UT2613.html

haolejohn
07-17-2011, 08:53 PM
If I was looking at a stock concert. Itwould be a koaloha. No need to look at anyother uke in my opinion. Now if I wanted to go custom, then you have a whole new can of worms. If I wanted a tenor, same thing, soprano same thing I would explore others but if it is a concert, it is done in my mind.

Kekani
07-17-2011, 11:45 PM
...after all you did say high end.

John

Same thing I thought, so I expected to see the recommendations starting with Custom builders, and not factory instruments. Then I was hoping to see factory customs, and comments on the wait times, but alas, no suggestions to be seen in that arena. I think Stan hit the nail on the head that you're actually looking for something off the rack, and not necessarily "high end".

Personally, I have a custom built by Casey Kamaka sitting in my house, and have played more than a few by Paul Okami, even less by John Kitakis, Chuck Moore, Rick Turner, Bob Gleason, Derek Shimizu (before he went into hiding), Joe Souza, and a host of other builders (yup, played a Koa Works, too). So to answer your question which high end instrument would I recommend (if that's what you're looking for), I would argue the question should be changed to, "Which builder should I work with to create a high end instrument?"

Just my $.02.

PhilUSAFRet
07-18-2011, 05:01 AM
Since it's a smaller company, always amazes me that Ko'olau is consistently left off the list of K ukes.

roxhum
07-18-2011, 05:01 AM
[QUOTE=Kekani;728339] I think Stan hit the nail on the head that you're actually looking for something off the rack, and not necessarily "high end".


Ha ha, I guess high end depends on how big your paycheck is. A $1,000 concert versus $200 versus thousandS of dollars. In my world $1,000 K brand ukulele is high end a $2,000+ custom is only a dream... and a Mainalnd or Ohana is a perfectly lovely and acceptable instrument.

csibona
07-18-2011, 06:10 AM
Two ukulele makers I really like are Mya-Moe and Collings; I own a Mya-Moe. I'd be interested in playing a Rick Turner Compass Rose, but alas, I have yet to find one.

PoiDog
07-18-2011, 06:20 AM
I was able to compare two Kamakas side by side when I bought my most recent uke, and they were pretty different. One was very bright (that one came home with me), the other was much more mellow - still nice, just not what I was looking for.

Just curious as to where you did the comparison. Was it at McCabe's? Last time I was there (a couple of weeks ago), they didn't seem to have multiples of any of their upper-end ukes - just one of each in each size (i.e. one Collings tenor, concert, soprano, one Kamaka of each, etc).

janeray1940
07-18-2011, 06:27 AM
Just curious as to where you did the comparison. Was it at McCabe's? Last time I was there (a couple of weeks ago), they didn't seem to have multiples of any of their upper-end ukes - just one of each in each size (i.e. one Collings tenor, concert, soprano, one Kamaka of each, etc).

It was at McCabe's. In my experience that's usually the case - they have one in each size, and that's it. One day they happened to have two Kamaka pineapples in, and I kind of took that as the universe telling me "do it now!" :)

EDW
07-18-2011, 06:37 AM
Lots of great builders out there. In no particular order the folks that would be on my short list would be Dave Talsma, Joel Eckhaus (Earnest instruments), Pohaku ukulele, Kepasa ukuleles, Black Bear, Pete Howlett.

I am sure there are a couple I have forgotten, but these would be a great start.

sbpark
07-18-2011, 08:37 AM
I actually just picked up a used 2009 KoAloha Concert. I believe its a KCM-00. Solod koa body and fretboard with mahogony neck. Came with a case and is it basically like new conditionexcept for sonr barely noticable superficial scratches (and they are almost impossible to see.) Owner said he bought it from the factory when he was in Hawaii and it was new not a factory second of blem. I paod $480. Hope i got a decwnt deal. I'll poat pics later today once i get home (typing this from my phone.)

DreamerZz
07-18-2011, 08:43 AM
I would love to see those pictures. How would you compare it to your other ukuleles?

Pippin
07-18-2011, 10:04 AM
I have a KoAloha Super-Concert and a KoAloha Pineapple Sunday. They are both superb and the highlights of my collection.

pulelehua
07-18-2011, 11:17 AM
Mike Pereira makes seriously underpriced custom instruments.

www.mpukuleles.com

I got mine last autumn, and he is happy to follow your lead to the finest detail, and is completely upfront about what he thinks will and won't work, and what is and isn't his thing. If you compare his costs to other custom makers, you will be pleasantly surprised.

For whatever reason, he hasn't caught on like some other luthiers, and so his waiting list is also generally pretty short.

sbpark
07-18-2011, 01:38 PM
here's a link to a post i put up with some pics and my first impressions of the KoAloha concert I just picked up: http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?50505-NUD...KoAloha-Concert...&p=728951#post728951

OldePhart
07-18-2011, 01:48 PM
I don't think you mentioned the type of uke you're looking for. I think in a concert or longneck soprano you'd be hard pressed to beat out KoAloha. For a soprano I think maybe Kamaka has the edge. I don't have any "high end" tenors but from clips I've heard I think I might give the edge there to Kanilea. Then, of course, there are the smaller luthiers and boutique builders like Mya Moe, Moore Bettah, and some others.

The bottom line is you are probably not going to be disappointed by any uke from one of the big three "K-brands" or the better-known luthiers. Once you get into that category they're all good - it's just a matter of selecting your bling vs. personal sound preference vs. price mix.

John

sbpark
07-18-2011, 01:52 PM
I don't think you mentioned the type of uke you're looking for. I think in a concert or longneck soprano you'd be hard pressed to beat out KoAloha. For a soprano I think maybe Kamaka has the edge. I don't have any "high end" tenors but from clips I've heard I think I might give the edge there to Kanilea. Then, of course, there are the smaller luthiers and boutique builders like Mya Moe, Moore Bettah, and some others.

The bottom line is you are probably not going to be disappointed by any uke from one of the big three "K-brands" or the better-known luthiers. Once you get into that category they're all good - it's just a matter of selecting your bling vs. personal sound preference vs. price mix.

John

i mentioned i wanted a concert actually...and ended up scoring a KoAloha concert earlier today!

OldePhart
07-18-2011, 02:10 PM
i mentioned i wanted a concert actually...and ended up scoring a KoAloha concert earlier today!

Hey, cool, all is right with the world! :)

fumanshu
07-18-2011, 02:39 PM
Mike Pereira makes seriously underpriced custom instruments.

www.mpukuleles.com

I got mine last autumn, and he is happy to follow your lead to the finest detail, and is completely upfront about what he thinks will and won't work, and what is and isn't his thing. If you compare his costs to other custom makers, you will be pleasantly surprised.

For whatever reason, he hasn't caught on like some other luthiers, and so his waiting list is also generally pretty short.

I agree with that statement, Mike build some very nice custom ukes and at a cost that you will nevr find anywhere else...and believe me, they sound very very veyr good!

I've owned the production line from Koaloha, Kanilea, G-String, etc....and seriously, I don't care much about them since the day that I've owned my MP customs.....and now that I've got my final and last uke ever, the Luis Feu de Mesquita custom, I don't think I will ever need any other uke......once you owned a uke like that, you don't need to look or search anymore!!!

Rick Turner
07-18-2011, 05:54 PM
We're just about to put our first 14 fret concert Compass Rose in the spray booth. Flame maple top, rosewood back and sides, rope purfling, extended cantilevered fingerboard, new shape...or rather and old shape...it's a miniaturized 1934 Super 400. I'm calling it a micro-jumbo. We'll to the same "A", "B", and "C" trim levels as our Compass Rose tenors, and they'll be priced the same. We haven't sprung this on any dealers yet, but I'm planning on starting the build on three more as soon as I play and hear this first one. Tap tone is really nice, can't wait to get strings on it.

I personally have run out of frets on my 12 fret uke, so I'm needing one of the next ones of these myself!

Then we'll do a 14 fret tenor, maybe in two body styles, the current one by moving the bridge a bit, and a slightly larger version of the micro-jumbo. I've already got molds for doing a baritone in the jumbo shape.

Gillian
07-18-2011, 09:52 PM
Two ukulele makers I really like are Mya-Moe and Collings; I own a Mya-Moe. I'd be interested in playing a Rick Turner Compass Rose, but alas, I have yet to find one.

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, Sylvan Music in Santa Cruz (http://www.sylvanmusic.com/inventory.php?search=Ukuleles&instrument=ukulele&manufacturer=Turner%20Compass%20Rose)has three in their store according to their inventory.