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View Full Version : Koa vs Maple/spruce



BIGDB
08-08-2012, 09:56 PM
I put a deposit on a Willie Wixom and my first though was to get koa but as i was thinking more and more my favorite player is james hill and i love the sound of his maple Gstring. Is koa a better wood for me to get as my daily player or what should i do?

Hippie Dribble
08-08-2012, 10:19 PM
depends what kind of sound you're after mate. personally, and I know I'm in the huge minority, I don't like koa at all. I owned a few and the sound never did it for me, sounded a bit muddy and dead...(with 2 exceptions...a kamaka pineapple and a mya moe soprano) maybe they were just dodgy ukes, but give me the clean punchiness of a spruce/maple uke anyday. plus i think they're better looking.

of course the other answer is: get BOTH!!!!!!

Kamoa has a pretty decent range of spruce/maple ukes at under 200 bucks which sound really nice once you get rid of the aquilas.

Nuprin
08-09-2012, 03:26 AM
I'm a fan of koa but I'm also a fan of the spruce/maple combination. I think it really depends on what sound you're going for. Koa will have a balanced sound...not too bright, but not too mellow. The spruce/maple combo will be much brighter in comparison.

roxhum
08-09-2012, 04:55 AM
Two very different sounding ukes. You should play some of those wood combos. Or like Jon said buy an inexpensive one to play while you wait. You can sell it later and it will help you know what types of woods work best for you.

coolkayaker1
08-09-2012, 04:58 AM
I'm a fan of koa but I'm also a fan of the spruce/maple combination. I think it really depends on what sound you're going for. Koa will have a balanced sound...not too bright, but not too mellow. The spruce/maple combo will be much brighter in comparison.

I have both, agree with what Nuprin and everyone is saying, and I like both the all koas and the spruce topped maples.

Best sounding uke I own, though: cedar top, rosewood sides/body. To my ear.

Which is better for the your Willi Wix -- not a clue. lol

SailingUke
08-09-2012, 06:15 AM
I have both, agree with what Nuprin and everyone is saying, and I like both the all koas and the spruce topped maples.

Best sounding uke I own, though: cedar top, rosewood sides/body. To my ear.

Which is better for the your Willi Wix -- not a clue. lol

Maple will definitely be brighter.
James is now playing a spruce top on a koa body. I also really like this combo.
The cedar topped rosewood body is like a classical guitar, mine really rings.
Look at the Mya-Moe site, they have some great comparisons of the different wood combinations.

didgeridoo2
08-09-2012, 07:01 AM
Maple will definitely be brighter.
James is now playing a spruce top on a koa body. I also really like this combo.

His new DaSilva koa/spruce is loud and responsive and very nicely balanced.

maclay
08-09-2012, 07:50 PM
depends what kind of sound you're after mate. personally, and I know I'm in the huge minority, I don't like koa at all. I owned a few and the sound never did it for me, sounded a bit muddy and dead...(with 2 exceptions...a kamaka pineapple and a mya moe soprano) maybe they were just dodgy ukes, but give me the clean punchiness of a spruce/maple uke anyday. plus i think they're better looking.

of course the other answer is: get BOTH!!!!!!

As a ukulele builder this is probably heresy.....but I don't like Koa.
I have to agree with eugene on this. I will choose a nice spruce top over a Koa hardwood top any day.

mm stan
08-09-2012, 08:21 PM
What no Koa Eugene and Jake...arg arg "Ten Steps off the Plank mates" :o:p ha ha Only kidding... ha ha LOL
Yes certain ones can sound dull and muddy, but then again...There are the great sounding ones too...which is outstanding..
Guess you may have had some bad ones or should I say many bad ones...it's like any other woods and ukes...you get the
bad and good ones ratio.... and who made them and if all the elements came together for a great uke...
I guess it's your playing style too, and what sounds appeals to you....personal perference.. happy strummings:):)

Dan Uke
08-09-2012, 08:37 PM
A luthier I know says koa doesn't have the overtones that spruce has. However, koa pays the bills for many makers as people think that Hawaiians invented the uke :p

maclay
08-09-2012, 08:45 PM
What no Koa Eugene and Jake...arg arg "Ten Steps off the Plank mates" :o:p ha ha Only kidding... ha ha LOL
Yes certain ones can sound dull and muddy, but then again...There are the great sounding ones too...which is outstanding..
Guess you may have had some bad ones or should I say many bad ones...it's like any other woods and ukes...you get the
bad and good ones ratio.... and who made them and if all the elements came together for a great uke...
I guess it's your playing style too, and what sounds appeals to you....personal perference.. happy strummings

I think its important to note that koa was originally used because it was local, available, and looked nice. It wasn't chosen because it was the best tone wood.
Now its traditional, and traditions die hard. I'm glad to see that people are starting to consider other options. Im going to shut my mouth now before I get banished from UU...lol.

But you're right mm stan, it is a matter of personal preference. Play what you like.
I am a rosewood/spruce kind of guy :)

808boy
08-09-2012, 08:49 PM
Aloha BIGDB,
I have 2 Spruce tops, 1 Maple back and sides, the other Mahogany. To me, they're are both bright and punchy, good for certain songs especially Hawaiian chang-a-lang music.
On the other hand, my Maui Music solid Koa is well rounded and sweet. All these are concert models.
So depending on what kind of sound you're looking for, you can tailor the wood combo as needed. Ask Willie for his input on what woods would fit your needs.
Before you spec out your uke, do your homework and surf the internet for info on tone woods. I found a wealth of info before I spec'ed mine but unfortunately the sites are stored in my old laptop that crashed.
Good luck..............................BO.............. ............

BIGDB
08-09-2012, 09:28 PM
depends what kind of sound you're after mate. personally, and I know I'm in the huge minority, I don't like koa at all. I owned a few and the sound never did it for me, sounded a bit muddy and dead...(with 2 exceptions...a kamaka pineapple and a mya moe soprano) maybe they were just dodgy ukes, but give me the clean punchiness of a spruce/maple uke anyday. plus i think they're better looking.

of course the other answer is: get BOTH!!!!!!

Kamoa has a pretty decent range of spruce/maple ukes at under 200 bucks which sound really nice once you get rid of the aquilas.

the thing is i dont want to spend any money... want to put all my money into you really nice one

Hippie Dribble
08-09-2012, 09:45 PM
the thing is i dont want to spend any money... want to put all my money into you really nice one

not sure I understand what this post means BIGDB. If I have it right you've put a deposit down on a Wixom custom and are trying to choose between an all koa uke or a spruce topped maple uke...yeah? We can't really advise you on what are your own personal preferences in tone; all our ears and sound tastes are different. The wood combo is going to be up to you. Talk with Willie and explain to him the kind of sound you want, and also like Bo said, do some on-line research about tonewoods and you should have no worries choosing a configuration that suits your needs. All the best with it mate. FWIW my fave uke woods are mango and mahogany. Followed closely by walnut. Koa would be near or at the bottom for me.

mm stan
08-09-2012, 10:24 PM
You know a good uke to me is one that sparks me to pick up and jam and just automaticlly and try new stuff and enjoy....you have to try alot of ukes to find the right one for you....
it's not only the materials, but the builder too and there is this thing called luck .....there is so much in the variations in the building process that makes a good instrument...
you can have a pair made side by side and both cam sound completely different....it's the luck of the draw when you go into customs...good luck and happy strummings..

justinlcecil
08-09-2012, 11:38 PM
I don't know if my koa bodied Wixom tenor could get much brighter =) How about a spruce top with koa back and sides? I considered this when thinking about what to do for my Wixom build.

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
08-10-2012, 08:24 AM
A good player can make the cheapest instrument sound good, regardless of tonewood used. Of course, that is no excuse to make bad instruments, just that putting koa vs spruce is like asking what looks nicer, a midnight blue Harley Davidson or a red and chrome Indian: Both are very fine motorcycles perfect for different or the same people.

justinlcecil
08-10-2012, 12:49 PM
How about a yellow indian with a sidecar =) We recently got rid of ours. It was awesome. Only a black Harley Davidson Road King now.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
08-10-2012, 01:37 PM
Regardless of the wood chosen, make sure your builder is comfortable with, and has experience with the combinations you are interested in. I think that's at least as important, or more so, than the species you decide upon.

Hippie Dribble
08-10-2012, 02:05 PM
I've heard more than one luthier say that wood is the least important aspect of any ukuleles sound ultimately. More important are the design of the instrument and the builder who is constructing it. Like Justin said, you can have a bright koa instrument or a warm and sweet spruce/maple....the wood really isn't as important as we sometimes think. Duane Heilman could make a spruce topped maple uke sound as warm as any uke on the planet. I also agree with Chuck in that you need a builder who is experienced in getting the best sound out of the wood at his disposal. This is why I implicitly trust someone like Duane who has years and years of doing this stuff and knowing what will and won't work.

Dan Uke
08-10-2012, 02:54 PM
I have a spruce top / koa s&B which is so warm that I have to use Savarez Alliance to brighten it. It sounded warmer than any of my all koa woods in the past.

Pueo
08-10-2012, 03:23 PM
I like Koa ukuleles because they are the "traditional" wood that Hawaiian ukuleles are made from, they are beautiful, and the two that I have sound really nice.
I also have two ukuleles made from Milo wood, another traditional Hawaiian wood, usually used to make calabashes and especially to`ere, the polynesian log drum. I really like the sound of the Milo ukuleles, lots of volume.
I just got a Kamoa GC-700 that is made of Tiger Maple. It rings and rings, you can actually hear like an echo or overtone effect while you are playing - remarkable, and I don't think any of my other ukuleles do that, or certainly not to the same degree as the maple.

I say of YOU like the way it looks and the way it sounds, then it is good for YOU!

Paul December
08-11-2012, 08:32 AM
The more ukes I play, the more I realize I like boring old Mahogany.

coolkayaker1
08-11-2012, 10:44 AM
The more ukes I play, the more I realize I like boring new Acacia.

whit
08-11-2012, 11:19 AM
I've played with cedar/rosewood, spruce/maple, mahogany and koa. All but the koa are the same scale and maker, which provides what I would consider a pretty good basis for comparison. The verdict - I like 'em all!

My koa is probably the most 'Hawaiian' - concert scale pineapple, and is great for laid back strumming sessions. The three tenors all have their merits, and I'm always surprised at how well the mahogany compares to the other two. What started as an experiment to determine what woods I would select for a custom has not proven very conclusive.