View Full Version : what one would you pick and why

08-04-2012, 06:11 PM
I have been looking at all koa concert ukulele it is between kamaka
kanile'a or koaloha if you have one of these can you tell me why you decided on that one ,what are the differences and likes and dislikes

thanks steve

08-04-2012, 06:23 PM
I had a koAloha and I have a kamaka which is my very favorite ukulele. I tried a kanile'a in a music store. I didn't consider the kanile'a merely because it didn't feel as good to me as the other two. The koAloha is almost too light and has a brighter sound than the kamaka. My kamaka plays like butter and has a mellow sweet rich sound. I will never part with it. However I am sorry I sold my koAloha but if I had to choose between them I would choose the kamaka. Also koAloha gets alot of attention for excellent customer service. I have found kamaka to be very responsive when I contacted them to look up my serial number to identify when it was built. KoAloha was good too but not as easy to get a hold of.

08-04-2012, 07:21 PM
Having played all three I would go with the Kanile'a for a couple of reasons. First and foremost is the sound. Kanile'a uses an Ultra Violet (UV) cured finish developed by Taylor Guitars. Instead of the 15 or so coats that Kamaka and Koaloha use, the UV process only requires three coats. This much thinner finish really allows the wood to sing (the fact that this process is environmentally friendly also appeals to me). The second thing is something that can not be quantified. You have to choose the one that speaks to you. The gloss finish, bridge pins, rounded back, sand inlay and more just speak to me. All three are quality instruments, get the one that speaks to you.

08-04-2012, 07:27 PM
I'm lucky. I have one of each. Whichever one I'm playing is the one I like the best. They get played in turn and I'm always pleased. Play each brand and get whatever one you enjoy the most. Each brand has its advocates but they're all three good. I've had great experiences with customer service at each factory. Griz and Paul at Koaloha made buying my factory second tenor fun (Griz went upstairs for more ukes so I would have more to choose from). Ms. Kristen Sousa stopped what she was doing in the office and came out and personally showed me how to change strings using bridge pins (and helped fit my grandson with a Kanilea tee shirt). One of the Kamaka family members personally adjusted the action and adjusted a compensated bridge for my eight year old tenor. I was only on Oahu for three days, took it over to the factory on the first day, told them no rush that I was going back to Kauai in a few days but could pick it up in any time since I'm in Honolulu on business a couple of times a month. I got a call the next day that Mr. Kamaka wanted me to come to check and make sure the action was set like I wanted. It was great and the compensated bridge makes the intonation almost perfect.

Play each and pick the one you like best. For the sake of fairness, the customer service at Koolau and Kamoa is great, too. Sam at Kamoa backs up all his products. The folks at Koolau will help to fix problems with other makes (check the "Kanilea bellying" thread. There's a reason the best ukuleles come from Hawaii.

08-04-2012, 07:35 PM
My reasons for preferring Kamaka are pretty similar to Roxhum's above. I've owned both Kamaka and Koaloha, and while the Koaloha was a very nice instrument, I prefer the Kamaka - so much that I've owned 4 of them over the years, but just one Koaloha. As for Kanile'a - I find them to feel a bit heavy and clumsy, partly due to their slightly thicker necks, and I've found the sound to be a bit more... muted? ...mellow?? and a bit less bright than I prefer. That being said - all are excellent choices and I doubt that you'll be disappointed by any of them. As kauaijim noted, if you're able to play one of each, do that and let the sound and feel guide you.

08-04-2012, 07:50 PM
I have never played a Kanile'a, but the other two I have. No secret I like a bright uke sound (shoot- I have five Banjo Ukes), and to me, the Koaloha is the best sounding concert I have ever had in my hands. Totally comes with the caveat that I LOVE really bright sounds, spruce tops, ringing trebles and articulate notes. While I enjoy folks I know making beautiful noise with really mellow ukes, they don't work at all with my style (thus the resonator on order).

Dan Uke
08-04-2012, 08:38 PM
I've owned all brands but only the Kamaka and Koaloha in the concert. I personally liked the sound of Kamaka the best but sold it cuz it had 12 frets to the body. I would definitely buy the Kamaka Longneck Concert if it wasn't so expensive. At that price, I would get a custom.

08-04-2012, 10:26 PM
I'm a Kanile'a and Koaloha player - and they are both sublime. Kanile'a edges it in breadth of tone though

08-04-2012, 11:08 PM
i cant say anything negative about kamaka or koaloha but when i played a kanilea it felt so good sounded so good but you should probably not listen to me cause ive only played a kanilea

08-05-2012, 06:20 AM
I have a tenor from Kamaka, KoAloha and Kanilea. It is interesting that this came up because just yesterday I was comparing all three of them and contemplated doing a post focused on the differences between the three of them. Here is a photo of my three.

In order, I'd say this (mind you this is only discussing my three tenors, I fully understand that another instrument from the same manufacturer could be better or worse and this is entirely subjective):

Kamaka: This is the oldest manufacturer, and they have the history and name cache. Their instrument is actually the heaviest of three that I own weighing in at 1.25 lbs. (the Kanilea weighs 0.5 and the KoAloha an even 1lb). They have very classic looks, nothing as flashy as the KoAloha or Kanileas. You can often find some pretty grained wood in even a standard Kamaka, but they are very conservative looking: white fret dots, a straight tie bridge, mother of pearl tuners. As for customer service with them, I had one fantastic experience and one bad so for me anyway they are mixed -- though I haven't heard complaints from anyone else so I would say they are still good on average.

Kanilea: My Kanilea is kind of flashy, with lots of curl and abalone. But even their standard K1 models usually are quite pretty with the UV gloss that they use making them stand out. I would also rate their fit and finish far above the other two brands. Most of the Kanileas that I have played have been much more on the mellow side, and some of them have sounded more muted. Of my three, I would say it has the second best sound. It actually sounds better than my Kamaka but not as good as my KoAloha (more on that below). If there is one thing I don't care for, it is the tuners on this uke. They are not nearly as good as the ones on my other two, but that is purely subjective and others may disagree. One other thing that can be a hangup is the bridge pin style of bridge. On the one hand, it looks very clean and attractive (particularly when you replace the plastic black bridge pins that came with it - I subbed koa ones instead). They are, however, sometimes a pain to use when changing strings. It isn't a make or break it issue, but it is the one K of the three that uses them. As for customer service, I have had very good dealings with Joe and Kristen but I have never had a warranty or repair issue (unlike with Kamaka and KoAloha) so I can't say for sure as to their warranty/customer service. I've only had pleasantries and sales dealings and on those, they were quite warm and friendly.

KoAloha: I think that KoAloha definitely has the least conservative styling. They change their bridges frequently, and they are everything from the funky crown bridge (my favorite) to the rounded bowtie, or the new bridge that somewhat resembles Kamakas, only with the KoAloha branding on it. They also have the most outlandish headstock with the five points. I like it, but I can see where other people may have an issue with the aesthetics. If you like, or don't mind the looks though, they are the one to beat (in my opinion). I like the sounds of my Kamaka and Kanilea -- but my KoAloha blows them away. In volume, it is probably 30-40% louder. And tonally, it is much brighter and clearer than the other two. Not to say they they are muddy sounding, but the bell like tones of a KoAloha are wonderful. They use a very unique bracing system, and unique soundhole. Plus, the Okami family used to be in plastics and did some inventing. I'm not sure if that is why they have such loud, clear tonal quality but they do. And for customer service, they are unbeatable. For one thing, the warranty on the other two is only for the original purchaser. KoAloha's "Better than the Weather" warranty transfers to any future owner. In addition, their sense of aloha and ohana is unsurpassed or even rivaled elsewhere. You truly are part of a family with them. I had a fantastic experience when they installed a 5-0 pickup in my tenor -- they not only did it in a few hours, but they didn't even charge me. Additionally, I sent them a Pineapple Sunday with a flaw back in April and this week they emailed me to tell me that Papa is choosing the pick of the litter of new PS ukes for me to get in a couple of weeks. Tonally: they are wonderful. Warranty: they are wonderful. Customer service: they are wonderful. Looks/styling: they are a love it or hate it.

In summation (long post I know), you cannot go wrong with any of them. They are all wonderful companies and wonderful ukuleles. I love all three of mine. But I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite among them. If I could only keep one of my three it would either be my Kanilea or KoAloha. My Kanilea has the looks I like, and it has deep sentimental value to me. But my KoAloha sounds much better. All of this is subjective, and each company has its fanboys and fangirls. I'm sure you will love whichever one you choose. But if I had to vote on which to recommend that you purchase, it would be the KoAloha: for the tone, the volume, the warranty and the customer service, plus they are the least expensive of the three generally. Good luck to you in your purchase.

08-05-2012, 07:09 AM
I'm in the same boat, for the most part. I'm shopping for a new concert, and will buy either a Kanilea or Kamaka, as I already have a Koaloha.
The Koaloha is great, just as everyone has said. It's really loud and looks amazing. The tone is terrific and each string rings clear.
The other day, I called Hawaii Music Supply and talked to Aaron? (not sure about the name, but I talkd to the bald guy). I told him I have a Koaloha and would like a Kanilea or Kamaka in concert size, and wondered which one sounded the least like the Koaloha. He' didn't have an answer, and told me they all sound different from each other. I get that. For what it's worth, he prefers Kanilea to Kamaka, but again it's all subjective.
Based on talking to HMS and listening to all the videos I could find, I'm going with Kanilea this time around. It seems a little softer than the other two, and I can get one much more decked out than I can from Kamaka.

08-05-2012, 07:35 AM
For about the same $ you could get a Black Bear koa concert, which would sound better than any of these, IMHO.

08-05-2012, 08:13 AM
I am in Hawaii at the moment an have been playing ukes like a mad man. To me, KoAloha is in a class by itself.

I have or have owned: KoAloha, Kanilea, Black Bear, Compass Rose, and a few Ohana's. They are all very good ukes. KoAloha has a shine that the others do not, I find it inspirational to play. I have sold most of the other Ukes, but always hang onto the KoAloha's. The Kanilea is the only tenor I have and is also an exceptional uke.

I'll try some more tomorrow to be sure ;)

hawaii 50
08-05-2012, 09:19 AM
I have been looking at all koa concert ukulele it is between kamaka
kanile'a or koaloha if you have one of these can you tell me why you decided on that one ,what are the differences and likes and dislikes

thanks steve

if you want to try something different..vento music ukuleles..one man shop in hilo hawaii..all of his ukes are custom one off ukes..you get to pick the wood and also all options..for about same price as the 3 K's...i have all of the 3K ukes you have listed and will aways go with a custom build rather than a production uke..fyi my kamaka HF3 is a special order.. good luck www.ventomusichawaii.com

08-05-2012, 03:01 PM
I know that you mentioned the big three makers, but I think that you do yourself a disservice if you do not seriously look at Koolau!

08-05-2012, 05:08 PM
shhhhhhh -- then Ko'olau's will become more popular and even harder to find!

but, more seriously --- I agree with whoever said pick the one that sings to you. And that might be a Ko'olau -- that's what happened with me. My Koaloha tenor is nice but for me (and, ok, so I'm not a very experienced player) the Ko'olau just feels and plays better to me....