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View Full Version : Low-G Tenor -- which to pick???



Goats Can Eat Anything
07-22-2012, 06:25 AM
Hello Fellow UUers:

It's been a hot minute since I have checked in here -- I have been doing a lot of playing.

I'm very, very please with the way my reentrant tuned Collings mahogany tenor has been playing in -- the tone has become sweeter and the dynamic range wider, this, combined with the already thrilling clarity of the instrument has made me one happy guy. I got that one back in February and I haven't bought a uke since then!

But I'm thinking about adding another tenor to the stable. I have a Donaldson super-soprano on order already, so I'm okay with the notion of doubling down on tenors. Also, I want this one to be low-G.

There are two options: 1) get a new reentrant uke and repurpose the Collings as a low-G or 2) get a new low-G uke.

Whichever option, I'm thinking Hawaii-made K-brand.

My thoughts:
1) While I'm not opposed to this idea, it would require widening the string slot on the bridge and I'm really happy with the Collings in this role. On the one hand, if it ain't broke... On the other, that attitude may needlessly close some doors -- might there be a reentrant tenor that I like more???
2) This makes a lot of sense because a reputable retailer like HMS would get it set up with low-G fluorocarbons at no additional cost and I suspect they (along with my fellow UUers) could steer me in the direction of the right uke with which to do it.

But, you ask, which K brand?

Leading contender: Kanilea -- I like the look, really like the fit and finish, and I have enjoyed the sound that I hear on comparative test videos. The clarity and upper midrange focus (at least what I perceive to be) would, in my mind, lend itself well to the broader frequency range of low-G. The K-1 gloss looks great, the premium [I]looks[I] a little better. I understand that figure is not an aid to tone. But, I like pretty wood and the $200 wouldn't change my world. I hear they have some pretty good customer service too.

Another strong contender: Ko'olau -- the look is fine (reminds me of Larivee guitars) and beat on the street is that their F+F is also quite good. The videos show a clear and balanced tone throughout the range of notes and dynamics. Gloss adds some cost and they look like Ponos. But if there is a reason why this would be better for my purposes, I'm really open to it.

Lesser contender: Kamaka -- with the factory strings confined in a trash can, these things sound pretty good. However, the F+F is a very serious negative. I really hate the orange peel effect. But, I could get past it if there was a really, really, really compelling reason.

Non-contender: Koaloha -- for all of the amazing things that I hear about their tone and customer service, I can't get past the design. I know they are loved, but I hate the look. I wish that didn't matter, but it does.

OK -- so with all of that in mind, what do you guys think would be the best low-G uke for me? I mix between strumming and fingerstyle. I like clarity, focus, and depth in tone. I'd rather it not be a quiet uke, but loud is not especially important.

Thanks for the thoughts!

Dan Uke
07-22-2012, 06:36 AM
What you said. You haver really put some thought into it. Good luck

wickedwahine11
07-22-2012, 07:53 AM
I have never played a Ko'olau so I can't speak to that. I do, however, have tenors from Kamaka, Kanilea and KoAloha. I usually recommend the KoAloha as they have the best warranty, loudest voice, and usually, sight unseen, the best tone on average. I totally, respect, however, that their aesthetics are love it/hate it, so I won't try to sell you on that one.

Kamaka: they have the best history and tradition, but I have had some exceptional customer sevice from them, and some pretty bad, leading me to feel they are mixed on that front. They make lovely, classic ukuleles with a very traditional sound and design. You are right, their strings are icky, but I have enjoyed Worth CHLGHD strings on it when strung low g, and Savarez Alliance when re-entrant.

Kanilea: they have a finish that is simply gorgeous. There are some grumblings that their sound is a bit more muted in volume, and they definitely are more mellow sounding than the Kamaka - to my ears, anyway. Their customer service (in my personal experience) has always been outstanding. And if you pop for a premium, the curly koa they use is stunning. For this uke, I prefer either Living Water low g strings, or Worth BMLG. The Worth are a tad quieter, but make it very smooth. The Living Water bring it up to more of a KoAloha sound on my uke, it got much brighter and louder. For me this is a good thing, as my Kanilea has my favorite looks and my KoAloha has my favorite sound, so it makes it an easy pick for my favorite uke.

You really cannot go wrong with either, and both brands have their fangirls and fanboys. For me, if you make your Collings the low g, I would probably choose a Kamaka as it sounds good high g with its traditional tones. If you keep the Collings reentrant, I would pick the Kanilea for the low g uke, as it often has a more mellow voice which can be well suited for low g.

And if you just can't decide between the two, and are on the verge of flipping a coin, I would go Kanilea for the better finish. That being said, be sure you get a sound sample of your exact uke from HMS if possible as both brands make good ukes but can have duds. They are great but not as consistent tone wise as a KoAloha can be. Good luck and keep us updated on what you choose, I am sure you will love either.

emmaemme
07-22-2012, 08:04 AM
OK -- so with all of that in mind, what do you guys think would be the best low-G uke for me? I mix between strumming and fingerstyle. I like clarity, focus, and depth in tone. I'd rather it not be a quiet uke, but loud is not especially important.

IMHO, this is also a string thing, but let's not get into that... well, not just yet :D
I like a low g :cool: but have only had the pleasure on spruce and mohogany.

Loz
07-22-2012, 08:19 AM
I don't think you would go wrong with either a Kanilea or Ko'olau but I will say that I LOVE my Ko'olau CE-1. I expected it to be very, very good and it exceeded my expectations. Just how perfectly smooth and easy it is to play is was what blew me away. The string height is perfect up and down the neck, the frets were dressed impeccably, and its just really easy and fun to play. I have no complaints about the instrument itself but I will say that I did not like the strings that it came strung with (was easy to swap them out though). I know that you're not looking at getting an electric but I beleive that Noa is the man behind all of the Ko'olau's so you should be able to expect the same level of quality. If you're looking for a specific sound make sure to talk with them or HMS about wood selection.

katysax
07-22-2012, 08:23 AM
I have a Kanilea Concert and a Ko'aloha tenor. The Ko'Aloha is tuned to low G. Kanilea is different. The sound tends to be a bit more complex and mellow. The fret board is a little wider than other brands, and in my opinion the overall workmanship and quality is a step above the Ko'Aloha. My uke acquisitions have been mostly opportunistic - if I see something used that looks interesting I might buy it. However, I'd love to have a Kanilea tenor tuned to low G, and I'm sure one day I'll have one. I really don't see the need to make any modifications for low G, just use a low G string. I like the Worth clears. I do a lot of fingerpicking so the small extra width is really nice, and I like a mellow sound. There is something about the feel of the Kanilea that just oozes quality. I have two Ko'Alohas and they are less refined. However, the Ko'Aloha sound is more classic Hawaiian uke. It looks like you are buying pretty high end ukes. For what it's worth I also really like the Kanilea Islander Tenor and Concert. They might be cheaper buy they have a lot of the feel and sound of the Kanilea.

hawaii 50
07-22-2012, 09:29 AM
Hello Fellow UUers:

It's been a hot minute since I have checked in here -- I have been doing a lot of playing.

I'm very, very please with the way my reentrant tuned Collings mahogany tenor has been playing in -- the tone has become sweeter and the dynamic range wider, this, combined with the already thrilling clarity of the instrument has made me one happy guy. I got that one back in February and I haven't bought a uke since then!

But I'm thinking about adding another tenor to the stable. I have a Donaldson super-soprano on order already, so I'm okay with the notion of doubling down on tenors. Also, I want this one to be low-G.

There are two options: 1) get a new reentrant uke and repurpose the Collings as a low-G or 2) get a new low-G uke.

Whichever option, I'm thinking Hawaii-made K-brand.

My thoughts:
1) While I'm not opposed to this idea, it would require widening the string slot on the bridge and I'm really happy with the Collings in this role. On the one hand, if it ain't broke... On the other, that attitude may needlessly close some doors -- might there be a reentrant tenor that I like more???
2) This makes a lot of sense because a reputable retailer like HMS would get it set up with low-G fluorocarbons at no additional cost and I suspect they (along with my fellow UUers) could steer me in the direction of the right uke with which to do it.

But, you ask, which K brand?

Leading contender: Kanilea -- I like the look, really like the fit and finish, and I have enjoyed the sound that I hear on comparative test videos. The clarity and upper midrange focus (at least what I perceive to be) would, in my mind, lend itself well to the broader frequency range of low-G. The K-1 gloss looks great, the premium [I]looks[I] a little better. I understand that figure is not an aid to tone. But, I like pretty wood and the $200 wouldn't change my world. I hear they have some pretty good customer service too.

Another strong contender: Ko'olau -- the look is fine (reminds me of Larivee guitars) and beat on the street is that their F+F is also quite good. The videos show a clear and balanced tone throughout the range of notes and dynamics. Gloss adds some cost and they look like Ponos. But if there is a reason why this would be better for my purposes, I'm really open to it.

Lesser contender: Kamaka -- with the factory strings confined in a trash can, these things sound pretty good.

However, the F+F is a very serious negative. I really hate the orange peel effect. But, I could get past it if there was a really, really, really compelling reason.

Non-contender: Koaloha -- for all of the amazing things that I hear about their tone and customer service, I can't get past the design. I know they are loved, but I hate the look. I wish that didn't matter, but it does.

OK -- so with all of that in mind, what do you guys think would be the best low-G uke for me? I mix between strumming and fingerstyle. I like clarity, focus, and depth in tone. I'd rather it not be a quiet uke, but loud is not especially important.

Thanks for the thoughts!


try checking out www.ventomusichawaii.com
vento ukes are full custom..made by f vento in hilo hawaii(one person shop)..they sound as good or better than the k brands..but with a nicer finish..fred vento used to be the finish tech for james goodall guitars..before goodall moved back to calif..

and like all custom builders you get to choose your own koa..

and believe it or not the prices are about the same as the production k brands >>if you want one of the best finishes you cant beat it..i would say his finish is finer than kanilea..i have a kanilea concert k2

Kevdog
07-22-2012, 10:10 AM
I say put a low G on that Collings and hang on to your hat. I did that with my Collings Koa tenor and its a beast- sounds amazing.

FYI- I didn't have to widen the string slot to do that. I used the low G from Aquilla...

Hiddencross
07-22-2012, 10:58 AM
Personally I love the sound and look of my Kanile'a strung with low g Worth clears. I've played (but never owned) a Koaloha tenor and liked the sound almost as much as the Kanile'a, but did not like the aesthetics. Also played (but never owned) a Kamaka tenor and for whatever reason (perhaps a rare dud, or in need of new strings) wasn't nearly as impressed with the sound. All of them, as expected, had terrific playability.

Good luck with your search.

saltytri
07-22-2012, 11:28 AM
To my ear, my Kanile'a K2 tenor is a much better instrument as re-entrant than as low G. The koa Compass Rose, on the other hand, is made for low G and it is superb. But, of course, it's all subjective.

hawaii 50
07-22-2012, 11:46 AM
To my ear, my Kanile'a K2 tenor is a much better instrument as re-entrant than as low G. The koa Compass Rose, on the other hand, is made for low G and it is superb. But, of course, it's all subjective.

aloha saltytri..
i am waiting for my compass rose premium koa style c deluxe>>should be ready any day now..i spoke directly with rick when i made my order.. if you like good sounding ukes that look real nice too! check out the vento website..the finish to die for..

jazzbo
07-22-2012, 12:56 PM
You have already done a lot of research and I did the same thing recently. I ended up purchasing a Kanile'a because MGM told me on the phone that he recommended a Kanile'a because the fit & finish is a step above the rest. I also prefered the K1 tenor tone, based on the video reviews. Then, I spoke with the folks at Kanile'a and they were so personable and helpful that I knew this brand was right for me.

When I received my K1T Premium, I was so excited that I called the factory and personally thanked them for building such a great Uke.

Having said this, you can't go wrong with any of the brands you've mentioned.

nscafe
07-22-2012, 01:02 PM
I'm very happy with my KoAloha tenor strung low G. I agree with you about not liking the look of some KoAlohas, but what is it you don't like about their tenors? Is it just the headstock? Other than that it's a pretty standard-looking uke.

saltytri
07-22-2012, 02:03 PM
aloha saltytri..
i am waiting for my compass rose premium koa style c deluxe>>should be ready any day now..i spoke directly with rick when i made my order.. if you like good sounding ukes that look real nice too! check out the vento website..the finish to die for..

Congrats, you'll love it! Mine is delightful and, at least to me, sounds head and shoulders above any other low G tenor I've heard.