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View Full Version : Deciding between 5 Ukes.



Uk3player78
07-19-2011, 08:36 PM
Ok so i got my first ukulele, one Lanikai LU-21 Concert, just to see if i would like the instrument and want to take it up after guitar from age 16 to now 32. I'm hooked!

I will keep the Lanikai (unless i go for Uke 5) as a take everywhere Uke.

So, the options.

1- The Kala KA-SMHC concert all solid mahogany. First choice based on price and reviews.

2- The Kala KA-ASACC concert all solid Acacia, reason same as above.

3- The Pono Deluxe mahogany concert. Again based on reviews and videos.

4- The Pono MHC pro classic mahogany. A step up in finish from above + ebony fingerboard etc. This one starts to stretch the budget but is possible.

5- The Kanile'a K1. For this one due to the stretch i would have to wait till the middle/end of next month and possibly have to sell the Lanikai. I think at my stage of playing this may be a bit much and i maybe need to know what i like from a uke before splashing this amount out. Kind of like i did with the guitar, a progressive move up in quality.

I can't get to try them as the shop is a 1200 mile round trip :P.

Thanks in advance.

mds725
07-19-2011, 08:58 PM
I have a Kala solid mahogany concert and a Kala solid acacia tenor, and I think they're both really nice instruments -- very comfortable to play, good volume. My mahogany concert is a little "plinkier" than my acacia tenor, but that could be because of the difference in scale. One of my co-workers has Kala solid acacia concert. It's a beautiful instrument, and she totally loves it.

I have a Pono mahogany baritone that has a nice, somewhat more percussive sound to it. (Again, it could be the scale, but I think Ponos are a little more percussive anyway.) Pono ukuleles are made by Ko'olau, and they're very well built. I think the neck on my Pono is a bit thicker than the necks on my other ukuleles. I'm not sure what the difference is between the regular and deluxe mahogany Ponos, but if it's just bling and you end up picking Pono, you might consider a regular instead of a deluxe.

I played a Kanile'a tenor once. It's definitely a step up from your other options, being hand-built in Hawai'i instead of being factory made in Southeast Asia. The Kanile'a I played sounded really nice (better than my Kalas) but the neck was a little too thick for my liking. I believe nobody should say that an ukulele is too good for his or her level of playing (yeah, Jake Shimabukuro can make a Makala dolphin sing, but a good uke makes you want to play more and I think it helps you play better). However, you may be onto somthing with wanting to try many different brands of ukulele before splurging on your ultimate uke. I have a Kamaka now, but it took me almost a year of playing a lot of different ukes before I decided that the Kamaka I bought was the ukulele I wanted.

One thing you migth try is to search for sound samples of each of the ukuleles you're considering on sites like YouTube. Hawaii Music Supply (http://www.theukulelesite.com/) should have Pono sound samples, since it has a relationship with Ko'olau and sells lots of Ponos (http://www.theukulelesite.com/shopbyprice/200-399/pono-mcd-gloss).

I hope that helps. Let us know what you decide!

Uk3player78
07-19-2011, 09:21 PM
Thanks for your detailed response. I should add i had a bit of intonation trouble with my Lanikai. I fixed it myself. How are the Kala's for intonation? Probably a silly question.

zac987
07-19-2011, 10:43 PM
I would recommend just enjoying the Lanikai concert for a little while, until you decide on something you REALLY want. A lot of people with UAS also get bad buyer's remorse :P

mm stan
07-19-2011, 11:31 PM
Curious why you just picked these ukes...it that what is only available there?? buy with your ears telling you what to get...not us...

phil hague
07-20-2011, 01:02 AM
The Kanile,a is great. I bought one and it is fantastic. Save up a bit longer and get it, you wont be sorry.
Phil

Parlor Picker
07-20-2011, 01:05 AM
I'm very happy with my Pono PTO mahogany tenor. I think the Kanile'a would have a mellower sound with less punch than the Pono. I use the Pono in a 7-piece folk band (where I mainly play rhythm guitar) and it cuts through nicely.

ichadwick
07-20-2011, 01:11 AM
I have played and own Kalas and Ponos, and like both. Of the two, the Ponos are somewhat more expensive, which may be justified in some models and woods, but not all (mahogany is iffy).

I love my Pono mahogany baritone and my Kala cedar tenor, so for me it would come down to which one felt and sounded best. All have good action and intonation. I would (and likely will) buy more of them in future, albeit in other woods.

The Pono necks are slightly wider, I believe, at least on longer scales.

Pono uses passive pickups, Kala active. The advantage of passive is never needing to replace a battery. But they have no volume/tone control on the instrument like the active pickups.

Kanile'a I don't know except by reputation.

Meanwhile, if I were you, I'd take a serious gander at a Mainland red cedar. You won't be disappointed with a Mainland.

Ian
PS. Sorry... can't resist... fingers moving outside my control... the ugly editor demon rises within me... and says... it's decide among five, not between five. Argh. There. I've pushed him down inside me again. Hard to keep him under control. Whew... :p

PhilUSAFRet
07-20-2011, 01:12 AM
No clunkers in the bunch. I recently got a used Pono MCD-E with Ko'olau case for $285
I also love that Kala cutaway mahogany (sucker for the tortoid binding). Go with your heart!

garyg
07-20-2011, 01:56 AM
If you're serious about the instrument then get the best you can afford rather than buy an intermediate level uke. But there were many wise folks who said "try before you buy" which really is the best advice. Yes I know you said that you can't get to the shop but you might ask the shop if you could have a 48 hr refusal period (any good instrument shop will understand this) on a mail order purchase, because you don't want to drop the $$$ on an expensive uke and then find it doesn't fit your hand. good playing, g2

Chap
07-20-2011, 03:26 AM
Personally, I'd go with the Pono Deluxe. But I really like the wider necks.

molokinirum
07-20-2011, 03:51 AM
If your choice is limited to only those 5 ukes...I would go with the Kanile'a uke. I've got one and it is worth every penny!!!

Uk3player78
07-20-2011, 07:04 AM
I'm not limited to these 5 but coming from the guitar world i know how confusing it can be to get more and more recommendations. Try before you buy is always the best option. Shame about the distance i am from the shop.

Here is where i'm shopping. http://www.southernukulelestore.co.uk/ Apart from the Pono Deluxe which is Duke of Uke London.

bbycrts
07-20-2011, 09:13 AM
Those are all solid choices - I haven't exactly owned all of those, but I've owned more than one representative uke from each company you mention.

Given the choices and my own experience, the Kanile'a would be my choice. I don't know that you'd get enough in selling your Lanikai to make a huge difference. My druthers would be to save a little longer and keep the Lanikai. I currently have two ukes - an inexpensive soprano that I don't mind taking everywhere and a custom (well...it's in progress) that I will be a little more careful with. That was also the case when I owned the Kanile'as (sold to finance my custom).

ukulelecowboy
07-20-2011, 09:58 AM
We endorse Ponos so there's a bit of a bias here. However, I must say that there are remarkable instruments for the price point.

Keep in mind a very important factor: Pono uses lower profile fretwire than other manufacturers. Some players aren't fond of this because you have to exert slightly more pressure when playing barre chords, for instance. However, I find that the lower profile frets allow for a more even distribution of downward pressure resulting in more accurate fretting. At least, this is my experience.

As they say, your mileage will vary. Good luck with your search...

Ron98GT
07-20-2011, 10:00 AM
Ok so i got my first ukulele, one Lanikai LU-21 Concert, just to see if i would like the instrument and want to take it up after guitar from age 16 to now 32. I'm hooked!

I will keep the Lanikai (unless i go for Uke 5) as a take everywhere Uke.

So, the options.

1- The Kala KA-SMHC concert all solid mahogany. First choice based on price and reviews.

2- The Kala KA-ASACC concert all solid Acacia, reason same as above.

3- The Pono Deluxe mahogany concert. Again based on reviews and videos.

4- The Pono MHC pro classic mahogany. A step up in finish from above + ebony fingerboard etc. This one starts to stretch the budget but is possible.

5- The Kanile'a K1. For this one due to the stretch i would have to wait till the middle/end of next month and possibly have to sell the Lanikai. I think at my stage of playing this may be a bit much and i maybe need to know what i like from a uke before splashing this amount out. Kind of like i did with the guitar, a progressive move up in quality.

I can't get to try them as the shop is a 1200 mile round trip :P.

Thanks in advance.

For the money, the Pono over the Kala. But as a fellow guitar player, if you can afford the Kanilea that's the way to go: more guitar like sounding, at least to me. Kanilea is like the Taylor Guitars of ukulele's: newer company, lots of tone, UV coating, bridge pins, etc). A better uke means you'll like it more (sound, quality, playability, and did I mention sound) and you'll play it more because you like it.

Check out the following:


KALA/KANILEA:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uFwPH2eRLU

(Listen to the difference in tone & how much more you hear from the Kanilea: just switch back & forth a few times and you'll really notice it. To me, the Kala sounds like banjo. Listen to the warmth & bass of the Kanilea, along with highs that you don't even hear from the Kala).


PONO:

http://vimeo.com/16917463

http://vimeo.com/16934848

http://vimeo.com/17143582

(not bad, but listen to the Kanilea below)


KANILEA:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdkhTR5LpgI&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFcmoEll-GU

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4iqochGlIc&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qp9tihR3sM&NR=1


ALDRINE ON HIS KANILAEA:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zrfm6KGSOoM

(This is the 2nd time I posted Breezin', you might get the idea that I like the performace and the sound of the Kanilea - Yeah)

PoiDog
07-20-2011, 11:00 AM
Kala to Kanile'a is quite a range! Seems as if you aren't super restricted by price at all. Why not consider others as well then? Keli'i, Mainland, KoAloha, aNueNue, Lanikai, Big Island, Mele, and Kamaka all fall within your high and low.

I guess I wonder what was it about the Kalas that impressed you so much that you have two of those on the list, but not other names.

pulelehua
07-20-2011, 11:36 AM
I have a Kala Acacia Concert. It's a good early ukulele. Intonation is ok. Not great, and I got mine from MGM.

What I would say is that the more expensive instrument will have a greater range of expression. And it will play well all over the fretboard.

Once I got my custom, I was much happier playing up the fretboard. So, I am now playing the WHOLE ukulele much more.

I love the tone of my Kala. It's a bit woofy, but it's very ukulele-ish. My problems with it are more technical than tonal.

From what I've heard, Ponos are a real step up. I think I'd skip the Kala stage if you can. If you're the type to get a good instrument in future, get a good one now. You probably have the ears to know the difference.

OldePhart
07-20-2011, 12:15 PM
If you can afford a Kanilea than price obviously isn't what you're basing your choices on. In that case, and if you are sure that the concert size is what you are going to be happy with, then go for the top end and get a Kanilea, KoAloha, or Kamaka. In a concert I favor the KoAloha.

The Pono and Kala solid wood ukes are decent, but may need a setup so make sure you buy from someone who does that.

In about the same price range as the Pono and Kala I'll second an earlier recommendation for a Mainland - and it will come set up nicely.

John

GrumpyCoyote
07-20-2011, 12:23 PM
It's not really a question... the Kanilea.

In my experience - Kala's are fair at best, Pono's are inconsistant to the point of unreliable, and Kanilea's generally blow them both out of the water. That screaming sound you hear is a stack of Kala and Pono owners about to tar and feather me, but based on what I've owned, been burned by, and played - the K1 is the only one on the list.

If the K1 isn't really an option I'd say Mainland - or even Ohana before the other two.

AncientMatingCalls
07-20-2011, 12:38 PM
I'm very happy with my Pono PTO mahogany tenor. I think the Kanile'a would have a mellower sound with less punch than the Pono. I use the Pono in a 7-piece folk band (where I mainly play rhythm guitar) and it cuts through nicely.

Having owned a pono mahogany tenor and currently owning a kanilea I have to say that I find the opposite to be more or less true.

While the kanilea is a more mellow sounding uke, it still has a bit of a,punch. I like to say subtle but still powerful.

My experience with the pono was that it was a quiet and dull sounding uke. I was not big on the tone nor the feel. The neck was uncomfortable to my hands. But also the finish was very annoying, very squeaky.

ItsAMeCasey
07-20-2011, 02:18 PM
I was in the same position as you before and I went with the Kanile'a. Since then I've taken the ukulele way more seriously and progressed tremendously. My reccomendation is the Kanile'a--you won't be sorry.

Uk3player78
07-20-2011, 03:54 PM
Thanks again for taking the time to post. I appreciate the links Ron98GT very helpful. Stock in the UK is not the same as other country's, some of the recommended brands are not sold here, or at least i cant find them.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oU5dOAOJ3Zw This video sold me on Kanile'a, skip to 4.44. Anyone know the song? If there is better at its price point or cheaper i would be interested. So far based on your help and advice the Kanile'a K1 is ahead.

One thing i noticed. All of the K1's on youtube are gloss finish but the ones in southern ukulele store are satin??

CTurner
07-20-2011, 04:38 PM
I have had a Kanile'a concert K-2 for three years now and love it. Rich, bit deeper sound, excellent playability. The slightly wider neck is, to me, a real advantage and the action is great. Southcoast medium strings and you're good to go. I will cost a little more, but you should keep considering it.

Doc_J
07-20-2011, 05:50 PM
+ 1 on the Kanile'a

I've had several Kanile'a ukes and liked them all. Still have 1 Kanilea that I will NEVER sell.

I had 3 Pono's, none of them were even close to the sound and quality of Kanile'a. I have 0 Pono's now.

GX9901
07-21-2011, 07:25 AM
I would say Kanile'a without a doubt. While I have not played a ton of them, all of the Kanile'a ukes I've tried have sounded really good. I've always recommended that you should get the best ukulele you can afford, regardless of playing skill. In fact, it might be more important for a beginning player to have a great sounding & playing instrument than an experienced player.


One thing i noticed. All of the K1's on youtube are gloss finish but the ones in southern ukulele store are satin??

Kanile'a makes them with both satin and gloss finish. You probably see more gloss finish Kanile'as online because they look a lot better/flashier to most people, therefore they get the gloss version. The satin finish ones probably sound a little better if everything else are equal, but probably not enough difference for most people to be able to hear the difference.

mds725
07-21-2011, 09:51 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oU5dOAOJ3ZwThis video sold me on Kanile'a, skip to 4.44. Anyone know the song?

In the comments section of the video, in response to the question "do you have tabs for the song you played in the video?", Ken says, "No, I was just making it up."

Ron98GT
07-21-2011, 10:01 AM
Thanks again for taking the time to post. I appreciate the links Ron98GT very helpful. Stock in the UK is not the same as other country's, some of the recommended brands are not sold here, or at least i cant find them.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oU5dOAOJ3Zw This video sold me on Kanile'a, skip to 4.44. Anyone know the song? If there is better at its price point or cheaper i would be interested. So far based on your help and advice the Kanile'a K1 is ahead.

One thing i noticed. All of the K1's on youtube are gloss finish but the ones in southern ukulele store are satin??

You might try contacting Ken to ask him where he got his Kani's, I heard the import fees/taxes are a killer into Europe. He could also answer your question regarding the name of that song. Here is Ken's info:

http://www.youtube.com/user/KenMiddletonUkulele

I started out looking at the Kala, but didn't like the quality. Looked at the Pono's, nice quality and I like the truss rod (guitar player in me), but decided I wanted a koa from one of the big 4. First settled on Kanilea (K-2 or K-3) for the sound and looks, but then stated going back and forth between Kamaka HF-3 (the standard from 1916) and the Kanilea K-1. Almost bought a Kamaka from Kamaka, but 3 big concerns. First, they seem to have a problem with their bridges coming loose: either partially at the base and tiling toward the neck or slipping forward like Aldrine's. Second, I've been reading about problems with the G & A strings: strings being played off the fret board. Third, I do not want to wait 1 to 2 years for service, which I'm afraid will be required because of the bridge problem. Any rate, I am waiting for Andrew at Hawaii Music Supply (HMS) to get a K-1T UV/gloss in, install a Mi-Si, and ship it to me with a Ko'Olau/Oahu case. I think it best fits what I'm looking for, I like the price, and I like the sound.

The URL's that I posted are just some of those that I viewed and saved during my ukulele seach, so glad to hear that you thought that they were helpful also.

Although I'm waiting for a gloss K-1T, HMS got 3 Satin Finish (SF) ones in (they sure are pretty, but I want the Taylor UV gloss):

http://www.theukulelesite.com/ukulelemarket/kanilea-k1-tsf-koa-tenor-satin-finish

By the way, where are you in Scotland?

Ron98GT
07-21-2011, 10:27 AM
I would say Kanile'a without a doubt. While I have not played a ton of them, all of the Kanile'a ukes I've tried have sounded really good. I've always recommended that you should get the best ukulele you can afford, regardless of playing skill. In fact, it might be more important for a beginning player to have a great sounding & playing instrument than an experienced player.



Kanile'a makes them with both satin and gloss finish. You probably see more gloss finish Kanile'as online because they look a lot better/flashier to most people, therefore they get the gloss version. The satin finish ones probably sound a little better if everything else are equal, but probably not enough difference for most people to be able to hear the difference.

"get the best ukulele you can afford, regardless of playing skill. In fact, it might be more important for a beginning player to have a great sounding & playing instrument" - totally agree.

"The satin finish ones probably sound a little better if everything else are equal" - You are probably correct, in fact Aaron from HMS states in one of the KI-T clips "Plus the satin finished koa has a really woody voice, very open".

I still want the protection offered by the UV/gloss finish. In another clip of a satin K1-T. Aaron writes " The draw backs of this finish is that you can’t let your auntie with 2 inch nails and 12 gold bracelets play it. You dont have to treat it like a baby, but it can get scratched easier than their gloss, so you have to be aware of that."

Ron98GT
07-21-2011, 10:42 AM
It's not really a question... the Kanilea.

In my experience - Kala's are fair at best, Pono's are inconsistant to the point of unreliable, and Kanilea's generally blow them both out of the water. That screaming sound you hear is a stack of Kala and Pono owners about to tar and feather me, but based on what I've owned, been burned by, and played - the K1 is the only one on the list.

If the K1 isn't really an option I'd say Mainland - or even Ohana before the other two.

"Pono's are inconsistant to the point of unreliable". This is the first time I've heard about these problems. In fact, I think this is the first complaints that I've heard about the Pono's.

Any rate, I still think (my opinion) that the Kanilea is a much better choice than the Pono (mid) or Kala (starter). Although, if I got a used pono for a good price, I think that it would make a good travel uke (better than my Epi) because of the truss rod (but nothing you can do about a twisted neck because of heat and humidity- been there, done that).

ukulelecowboy
07-21-2011, 11:02 AM
We own six Pono Ukuleles. Three baritones, two tenors, and a concert. They are high quality, priced well (within reason) and I have never had a problem with them. In fact, I love these ukuleles so much that we perform with Pono ukuleles exclusively. One of the nice things about them is that they are a high quality instrument that is still produced in a variety of tonewoods. I have played Kanile'a and they are wonderful. But what if you don't want a Koa instrument? In many cases, the specific jazz or swing standard that we play really calls for something else, like mahogany or spruce. It's nice to have options.

Keep in mind a few things:

1. Pono frets are lower profile than other manufacturers.
2. Only tenors and baritones have truss rods.

The problem with the original post is that there was really nothing to compare. I would say that given the choice, most players would choose the K brand. It's as simple as that. But if you are looking for high quality and tonewood choices, you can't go wrong with Pono.

My two cents...

GrumpyCoyote
07-21-2011, 01:02 PM
Pono has taken some heat over the last few years - some of it deserved, some of it not.

Personally, I would never own one again. From phantom buzzes, to shoddy pick-ups, to splits and top buckling, I have had nothing but bad luck with the brand myself. The single most problematic instrument of any kind I have ever had. In addition to my experience, I've had two different friends return their Ponos, both deeply unsatisfied.

That said, some Pono's I have played have been just great ukes. It's hit or miss as far as I'm concerned. I also have two other friends who play Pono almost exclusively and love them to pieces.

All of these contradictory anecdotes add up to my "inconsistent" judgment.

For the record - I’m not remotely bashing the company, just relating my experience with the instruments.

Uk3player78
07-21-2011, 04:23 PM
Ron98GT, i'm from north east Scotland, near Aberdeen. It's a shame that guitar shops are everywhere here but any uke's they have seem like an afterthought.

Update.. i sold a guitar on ebay to help with my purchase, sadly it made less then expected. Sooo i'm going to have to wait a little longer. My mind is set on the Kanile'a. I found the factory tours on YouTube, seems like they only have a handful of staff :).

My Lanikai will get plenty of attention in the mean time. I may still get it the end of next month fingers crossed.

Is there any acoustic guitar players here? I have gave the uke several hours a day for the past week without touching my dreadnought. Today i thought i'd take it out for a strum and WOW it lives up to the name dreadnought after playing the uke. I put my snark tuner on the headstock and it felt like it was miles away HUGE guitar :o.

OldePhart
07-22-2011, 06:40 AM
Is there any acoustic guitar players here? I have gave the uke several hours a day for the past week without touching my dreadnought. Today i thought i'd take it out for a strum and WOW it lives up to the name dreadnought after playing the uke. I put my snark tuner on the headstock and it felt like it was miles away HUGE guitar :o.

Heh, heh. I've played my Taylor so little the last year or so when I do pick it up it feels like I'm trying to put my arms around a refrigerator - and it's not even a dreadnought!