View Full Version : Big Island Honu Traditional Concert KT-CTS First Impressions

08-18-2011, 03:43 PM
Today I received a Honu which I got from someone here on UU (who got it from someone else here on UU!), and I thought I'd share my first impressions.

My background: I'm a new player, having received my first ukulele for Christmas last year. My new wife got me a Kala KA-KC which she hand-picked from our local music store because it "looked and sounded good" when the guy at the store played it. Frankly, I think she picked a winner, but that's a different review. Since then, I've read a lot about ukes and I've played with a lot of different kinds of ukes, from Makalas to vintage Martins, so I have an idea how they can all sound different.

Fit and finish: It's been said before, but it needs to be said again—these ukuleles are stunning. I went over the whole thing very carefully and can't find a blemish on it. The frets are well polished, the mirror finish is deep, the seams all meet up exactly, and the koa is gorgeous. If I had to make a complaint it would be that the Big Island label inside was clearly printed on an inkjet that needed to have the heads cleaned. Don't let the fact that this ukulele was made in Vietnam turn you off—I doubt you'll find a better made instrument outside of boutique ukes like Moore Bettah.

Style: Big Island has three models of the Honu available: The Traditional (mine), Rope, and Deluxe. Each model has an increasing amount of "bling," but the basic build is apparently the same and I would expect they all sound very similar. The koa on the Deluxe is AMAZING, if you don't mind abalone binding and a turtle for a bridge. (A turtle? Really? If you're going to put something so controversial on an instrument, don't do it to your top-of-the-line). No matter what you're tastes, Big Island has a model to fit it (if you can find one in stock anywhere!).

Sound: Big Island's slogan is "The Sound of Hawaii Is In The Wood," and I have to heartily agree. The tone of the ukulele has what I would call a very "Hawaiian" sound to it—bright and twangy, though a bit weak in the low-end. It has oodles of sustain, and it rings very clearly. It's a very characteristic sound. The only complaint I would have, and it's been echoed by a few others, is that it doesn't have a lot of "oomph." Compared to my Kala, it seems quite a bit quieter.

I actually did some rough testing using the Decibel app on my iPhone. From 3' away, using roughly the same strumming pressure, it plays about 4 dB quieter than the Kala. 3 dB is generally considered a barely perceptible change, while 5 dB is considered clearly noticeable, so you can see that it's hard to miss. Studying the two instruments, I'm guessing one reason for this is that the Kala is almost exactly 1 cm thicker than the Honu, so there's much better resonance.

Of the other instruments that I've been able to get my hands on, I would put the sound of the Honu up there with the best of them. I would think with the addition of a nice pickup on this uke and in the hands of a skilled player, it would be awesome. Without a pickup it may be too quiet if you're planning on playing along with other instruments.

Both instruments have Aquila Nylgut strings on them (unless someone changed out the ones on my Honu), but I'm hoping to try it with some Worth Clears or another brand and see what difference it makes.

A major difference between the two instruments is that the Kala is a koa laminate, while the Honu is famously solid koa (did I mention it was beautiful koa?). The date code in the Honu says 101130, which I'm guessing means it was built in November of last year. It's possible that the instrument may "open up" (as solids are reputed to do) and that it may sound better over time. I wish I had access to a Tonerite to potentially nudge it along! :)

All in all, I'd say Big Island has really made some great decisions with this ukulele, and if you aren't a slave to the whole "Made in Hawaii" aspect, you can get yourself a wonderful solid koa instrument for a great price.

08-18-2011, 06:17 PM
Mahalo for the great review. I agree that Big Island Ukulele Co. ukes are great instruments, however, there are a lot of people that prefer the 4 Big "K" Hawaiian made brands or U.S. made ukes. For a production made uke, I think they're great for a fraction of the price of a big name Hawaiian/U.S. made uke.

08-18-2011, 09:07 PM
Get the worths on it I have the BMs personally I like them best ,a couple like the clear heavys but a few don't like those a tall on this uke . Also the Fremont blacklines are great on it. I'm running a mix on mine right now that I love ,Fremont CEA and a worth BM low g. Can you say mellow lol. Thought about a misi but I love the sound it has I'm afraid a messin it up so thinkin of getting another (and I do know where there is one left lol) . I can buy it cheaper than the used K brand on e bay right now lol. Its new with a hard case ! but the KOA isn't as nice as the one I have .rats! It has really pretty much converted me to concert and I figured I was a tenor guy forever.

09-30-2011, 07:29 AM
What a lovey review, noobie. Very interesting and detailed and helpful. I hope you will post it to other websites, ones that allow customer reviews (or as a comment on a full review such as Tim's ukeeku.com, where he reviewed a different BI)> It's a shame to see such an eloquent review get "lost in the fodder" on UU as it slips down the board.

Very helpful to me, who is considering one of these). Bye now.