View Full Version : If you had the choice

03-05-2012, 10:02 PM
OK, big question. If you were getting a high end Ukulele (within reason) would it be one of the top Hawaiian K brands or something different?
I am new to the Ukulele and have a Kala KA-ASAC-C concert as my first Ukulele. I want to get a great quality Tenor as I am hooked on the Ukulele. My guitars must feel as though I have abandoned them as I cant put the Ukulele down. Only been playing about 2 weeks but already feel as though this is the instrument I should have been playing all along. I know the benefits of having a good quality instrument so I wanted your opinions on great sounding quality Ukuleles. Not much choice here in the UK to get hands on and even if I could get to try them they don't seem to stock the main K brands. I understand that it is all down to personal choice but I welcome all of the advice I can get from the people who know so where better to ask.

Thank you all,

03-05-2012, 10:17 PM
I suggest KoAloha. I'm a little biased, as you can see in my signature area, but overall, they are just a great choice. Not only quality build, but their warranty is second to none. Don't be afraid to order one, because they will take care of any problems (if any) you have.


03-05-2012, 10:38 PM
I suggest KoAloha. I'm a little biased, as you can see in my signature area, but overall, they are just a great choice. Not only quality build, but their warranty is second to none. Don't be afraid to order one, because they will take care of any problems (if any) you have.


Thanks for reply Scott. The one thing I hope is that whatever I decide on will be free from fault as it will need to get to the UK. Dont want to be sending back it will cost me a small fortune. I have been doing my research and Hawaii Music Supply looks a great place to do business. Here in UK I had my Kala from a great online shop Southern Ukulele. They do stock a few KoAloha and Pono. The only thing I notice about KoAloha is that most of them have friction tuners. I have been put of those by reading so many negative views about friction tuners. Maybe higher end models have better quality tuners?
Thank you for your thoughts I welcome everyones view. As it will give me a better picture.

Thanks Scott,

p.s Scott I just read your story about your custom Tenor. A great read and all I can say is after that you deserved that Ukulele. Nice things go to nice people.

03-05-2012, 10:44 PM
All of their tenors have grover tuners (ears). My custom tenor was shipped to me by air, of course, and ground when it got to the lower 48, and it made it to me without blemish. They are usually nice enough to throw in a decent case for shipping purposes.

03-05-2012, 10:46 PM
I might be biased because I have a crown bridge koaloha, which has sealed gear tuners... (I think)

It sounds amazing.

But then recently in a nearby Ukulele store, there was a Kamaka HF-36, which is a 6 string tenor Kamaka and...It sounds absolutely amazing too..

03-05-2012, 10:53 PM
I didn't really explain the tuners very well. Lexxy is absolutely correct, they are sealed gear tuners, with a 16 to 1 ratio. The friction tuners only have a 4 to 1 ratio. So when tuning a tenor you can really tune it exact. And they move so much easier.

03-06-2012, 12:15 AM
Go get a Collings uke. Yes I'm biased but I don't believe that you will be disappointed, especially you're a guitar player as well!

03-06-2012, 01:49 AM
Of the three Kanile'a has great balance and range of abilities and instruments that are beautiful to look at. If you like a darker sound, I'd say Koaloha. If you're just looking for a "K" brand, I'd say Kamaka. If you get any of these instruments, you will be amazed at the difference between it and your Kala.

03-06-2012, 02:10 AM
I don't think you'd be disappointed with any of the Hawaiian K brands. I bought mine recently from HMS and they were wonderful to deal with!

Regarding tuners, most tenors have geared tuners. My first uke, a Kala pineapple, had them as well. No doubt those weren't high-end tuners, but I vastly prefer the friction tuners on the Kamaka. They're very smooth & precise. :)

03-06-2012, 06:12 AM
Hard to go wrong with anything on the top of the heap - they've all reached the top by consistently delivering top-shelf instruments! You're not likely to be disappointed with any of the big K brands, Collins, the luthiers like Rick Turner or the folks at Mya Moe, etc.

Choosing between them is really subjective so it's difficult for someone else to make meaningful recommendations because we aren't inside your head to know which seemingly insignificant little thing it is about a ukulele that is going to make one of them reach out and grab you by the...heart...and be "the one."


03-06-2012, 09:58 AM
I'm biased too, you can order a luthier made Loprinzi for the price of a K brand uke. So comfortable to play. Choose your soundwood combination and a few weeks later bingo. I love mine.

Drew Bear
03-06-2012, 10:39 AM
There is a dizzying selection of high quality sub-$1300 USD Tenor ukes. The first step would be to hunt down and listen to as many sound samples as you can of the various makes and narrow down your tonal preferences. Bright vs warm. Barky vs mellow...and so on. YouTube is a good source and musicguymic (http://www.youtube.com/user/musicguymic?feature=g-user-u) has posted hundreds of sound samples over the years. You can search his channel for specific brands. Hawaii Music Supply (http://vimeo.com/user4573115/videos/sort:newest) also has hundreds of searchable sound samples.

A visual search is easier and again you can cross off certain aesthetic features that might be deal-breakers for you. Spec sheets are a little harder to find, but may reveal "must haves" or "don't wants". Do you want a one piece neck? Are screw-secured bridges ok for you? How about bolt-on necks? Glossy vs satin finish?

Set a firm budget and time frame. Are you willing to wait for a custom-built uke to be completed? The production "K" brands have the advantage of hundreds/thousands of repetitions to refine their design. A custom build might be more variable in result depending on wood choices, but could also give you something uniquely spectacular. Custom builders also offer production (non-customized) ukes at slightly lower prices.

Take your time and do your research. Happy hunting!

mm stan
03-06-2012, 10:49 AM
I'd say play them first ......my logic is try before you buy...every uke even the same brand, model, made the same time and by the same person will have different sound Charateristics..
due to the many variations in the building process and materials... good Luck....you can even find gems in lower priced ukes if you are persistant and look..

03-06-2012, 01:24 PM
As you're in the UK, check out Pete Howlett, Rob Collins and Stuart Longridge. All three make excellent ukes, super players, and each offers something that you won't find in a factory-made ukulele, even a K brand.

Pete is acknowledged as one of the world's top uke makers, and his instruments will cost you more than a K brand but they are superb. http://petehowlettukulele.co.uk/ukulele_prices.html

Rob's take on the instrument is quite different from most makers - not sure how to describe it, but many of the UK's well-known players love them. http://www.tinguitar.com/ukuleles

Stuart specialises in using English woods (I'd pick yew). http://www.stuartlongridge.co.uk/Prices.html

Both Rob and Stuart will probably charge you less than a K brand, and I'd rate their instruments as better sounding and to play.

It's perhaps relevant that all of these make keeper ukes. You hardly ever see a scond-hand one for sale.

03-07-2012, 12:02 PM
I want to really support you making your decision AFTER you've played/heard an instrument. Yes, it might take more time but ukes vary so much in sound. I think it's really a personal/individual thing. MGM has some sound samples as well as Gryphon Strings' websites. Sound and "feel" does matter, especially when you are putting down big bucks. Good luck and happy hunting.

03-08-2012, 04:05 AM
Thank you all for your replies. I am going to take my time over this as it is a big buy for me. My main problem is lack of places to try out any good Ukuleles. The only local shop only sells one brand of lower end Ukuleles. The main seller of Ukuleles is a over a 100 miles away. So no chance of hands on I'm afraid. So, Hawaii Music Supply and plenty of You Tube clips to watch. Then save enough for shipping and all the added extras that UK customs and shipping handlers add on :mad:.


03-08-2012, 04:32 AM
You didn't specify what's "Within Reason" ... so, I'm recommending a DeVine uke.

Here's a link to Eric's website: http://www.devineguitars.com/


03-08-2012, 05:01 AM
I love all the K-brands, usually never disapointed, except by the price. you do get what you pay for. BUT.......... I have had more joy with my custom Boat paddle than any other uke. Seeing that BP is in the states, that may not work for you, but I would say to find a "local" luthier and have them make you a uke from local woods. then you can also play some and have something that is truly yours. Look in the luthiers section for the many talented people here at UU.

Pete Howlett
03-25-2012, 11:18 AM
There are as equally good builders in the UK and if you are serious about buying a hand built ukulele then it is a small price in time and fuel to pay travelling 100 miles for the experience.

Hippie Dribble
03-25-2012, 11:35 AM
Kamaka; Mya-Moe; Collings; Black Bear. These are my favourite uke makers. Have fun in your hunt etf. Uke Shopping is my favourite pastime, apart from playing em!!! :)

hawaii 50
03-25-2012, 11:40 AM
since you are a guitar player check out compass rose built by rick turner.. check him out on his website or google him he is in santa cruz calif and if you check out his bio you are going to be stunned..the most popular guy in hawaii moore bettah uke..2 year wait...there is a guy on this site musicguymic..he knows everything...you can check out www.theukulelesite.com

03-25-2012, 01:32 PM
I agree with hawaii 50. Compass Rose ukulele are pretty darn good. The look and sound are top notch. Rick Turner is hands down one of the most knowledgable luthiers around. He was R and D for Gibson a while back. Also this is his 50th year as a luthier. And John Mayer plays his model 1. Check out his youtube interview with Aldrine, NAMM 2011. And he makes ukulele for guitar players. He respects the past, but innovates for the future with his ukulele. Mya Moe, Jay Licthy, and Pete are other reasonable custom ukulele makers. If you wanna go balls to the wall then get a Moore Bettah, of if you got the funds get a Devine. Pretty much museum grade ukulele! Of all the K's I'd go with a Kamaka. KoAloha are great and loud, but they lack in tone dynamics. They really don't know how to play soft. Its their bracing that creates a ton of volume. Kanilea's are great and are probably the best looking of the K brands with their UV finish. Bill also does a great job on the action and set up. But I wasn't 100% sold on the sound. I know they use their TRU bracing but I don't think it really does what it is said to do. Koolau's sound great, but only if they are tuned with strings that aren't from their own company. Aquila's really make Koolau's pop. But of all the K brands they are easily the most expensive. And finally Kamaka-very traditional sound. The ukulele by which all others are compared to. So if you want the traditional sound of the ukulele, then you gotta grab a Kamaka. Really in the end it up to you.

Pete Howlett
03-25-2012, 08:27 PM
Have you played a kos Howlett? Probably not as ther are only 550 or so sloshing around out there. 15 years ago, it was the H brand on the Big Island :) If you live in Hawaii you may be lucky enough to own one of the 200 I built for that market back in the day :)

03-25-2012, 09:09 PM
First of all, to get into the high end of Kamaka and KoAloha, you need to get on their wait list. I'm sure Joe has one as well, as does John. Personally, of the instruments I've played, Joe and John will sound and play close to their factory instruments, probably a little better. Casey and Paul build instruments that far exceed their rack instrument, otherwise known as the mid priced ones at $1k.

MGM would be better source to quantify the differences, as he's played many of all of them.

That said, and since you want to get into high end, the trip to visit Pete wouldn't be out of the question. I'm sure in the end, the price and wait time will be right up your alley.

But, don't take me as gospel because this is, after all, the Internet, and your post is like American Idol votes; the most popular makes it. Truth be told, my "vote" for Pete is more about location than anything else. If you were in CA, Australia or Maryland, you'd get different names. However, each of those names would be worth the mention. I'm sure there are good builders across the pond. . . Doesn't take much to see what Pete can do.


03-25-2012, 09:29 PM
To avaoid the expense of shipping, as someone else suggested, why don't you check out people in your own country? Pete Howlett is a very good builder.

If you want something without ears sticking out the side, there is a lightweight inline geared tuner called PEGHEDS. www.PEGHEDS.net. It only costs about $8.00 to send a set over. Friction tuners do NOT have a 4:1 ratio. What you turn is what you get It is a direct connection between the knob and the spool.