View Full Version : Looking for my first soprano: Kiwaya or Koaloha ??

02-11-2013, 01:41 AM
hi UUers
i want my first soprano,

my wallet can afford a Kiwaya KTS-4 or a Koaloha KSM-00

can you help me decide?
i've heard kiwayas are nice instruments, the koaloha also
but my main problem is i can't try any of them before buying.

02-11-2013, 01:47 AM
Oh, man. That's a tough choice. I have owned both. I thought they were both excellent.

Louder is Koaloha. Better build is Kiwaya. Hawaiian sound is Koaloha, and Martin vintage sound is Kiwaya. Better warranty is Koaloha, but then again more likely to need warranty work is Koaloha. Lol.

I'd say you're going to have to own both. Lol. They truly are different.

If you mention what you desire in a uke, that is, purpose and style of music, maybe one or the other will become a more clear choice, Patico.

02-11-2013, 03:06 AM
You've chosen two excellent builders. It's hard to make a strong recommendation in either direction, because they are both so good. The KoAloha has a more contemporary feel and a bigger voice, in my experience. The Kiwaya has a classic look and a more refined tone. KoAloha is made in Hawaii, Kiwaya in Japan, if such things matter to you. And finally, the KoAloha is koa, while the Kiwaya is mahogany, if you have a preference.

You really can't go wrong with either one. If it was me, I would probably go KoAloha; but that's because I really like the tone of their ukes, not because they are "better."

02-11-2013, 03:16 AM
Oh, wow, tough (but nice problem to have) choice. I have several KoAlohas, although not a KSM-00, and I have a Kiwaya KTS-5. I love them all. Coolkayaker1 and RichM have given you very good advice, and I have nothing more to add except I'm glad I'm not making the choice. :D

02-11-2013, 04:00 AM
A minty KTS-4 just went for less than $350 on eBay last night! I had to tie my hands down to avoid entering the fray on that one.

(But I've recently been picking up cheap vintage ukes to tweak into playing shape...and I thought how many kitschy $35 ukes I could have fun with for the same $$$$ as that Kiwaya...no matter how great a deal it was.)

02-11-2013, 05:45 AM
From MGM a few years ago...


02-11-2013, 03:31 PM
shouldn't have asked here .... now i'll have to buy both LOL

i play mainly fingerpicking when i'm playing alone, but lately i have been spending time with local musicians and usually do accompaining stuff. i don't need the extra bass or sustain my tenors have, i need something to cut through the guitars n voices, that's why i thought of a soprano.

mahogany or koa ???, i don't know.
i'd like to try a nice koa ukulele, but have nowhere to try different ukes. all you find here is tahitian ukeleles and guitars

thanks UUers !!!

02-11-2013, 04:06 PM
No wrong choice there...

02-11-2013, 04:08 PM
If you're trying to "cut through" you should go with a KoAloha concert. Lol. Seriously though.

Edit: Actually, KoAloha Sceptre. Plus you get to keep the tenor scale.

02-11-2013, 04:22 PM
i play mainly fingerpicking when i'm playing alone, but lately i have been spending time with local musicians and usually do accompaining stuff. i don't need the extra bass or sustain my tenors have, i need something to cut through the guitars n voices, that's why i thought of a soprano.

thanks UUers !!!

You've just nailed it for me: you need a Koaloha. I played my Kiwaya concert tonight, and I have had all sizes of Koaloha and still have a Kolaoha tenor.

Kiwayas, like Martins, are excellent for percussive stuff. Like this:

Don;'t get me wrong, there's a lot of picking in there, too (on the video), but for short sustain, percussive stuff with excellent sound quality, mahogany Martin stsyle Kiwaya is great. I can tell you but I don;t know why, that Kiwaya is quieter than Martin. Again, no clue whey, but something feels "tight" about a Kiwaya (perhaps other Kiwaya owners can chime in here). I've owned two Kiwayas, and they both had this tendency. More than Martin, for sure. Still, if your intention is for stroing right handed technique, Formby style, triples and split strokes and the like, the short sustain, percussive nature of the Kiwaya is excellent. Bosko is a percussive ukulele player (although he plays the lead and solos, too), and he plays a Kiwaya concert.

The Kolaloha is louder for your group. It can actually be harsh if strummed vigorously, but under control, it sings. It is a fingerpicker's delight (as can be attested by the pro's that have used it, like Brittni Paiva (in the past) and Taimane Gardner).

Whether you should get a soprano--and I love sopranos--for a group setting is a whole different question worthy of other's opinions. It might be too quiet (less for the Koaloha than the Kiwaya)? I don't know the answer, and you do have tenors, patico. So you likely know best.

02-11-2013, 06:53 PM
Never had a Koaloha. Wonderful people, sweet sounding ukes.


I have had two Kiwayas. KTS4 and KS1. WONDERFUL INSTRUMENTS.

I have never played the Kohaloa, so I can't speak to it. But I'm a Martin lover and the Kiwaya is a well made, dynamite instrument. Buy one today.

Chris Tarman
02-12-2013, 01:46 AM
I have a Kiwaya KTS-7 and a KoAloha KSM-00. They're both great instruments, but as a Martin fan, I have to say I like the Kiwaya a lot more. I've never played a KTS-4, but I've never heard or read anything bad about them. My KTS-7 is fantastic, and very "Martiney". It's really close in sound and feel to my vintage Martins. I've played it with guitarists, and it cuts through quite well, actually. I can't usually TELL that when I'm playing with them, but I've recorded some of these jam sessions, and the Kiwaya punches through like a champ.
I've never played the KoAloha with anyone, but honestly, I don't think it would work as well with guitars. It has a fairly delicate sound, to my ear. It's nice and chimey, but it is kind of thin. GOOD, but thin. I do a lot of finger-picking too, and the Kiwaya is fine for that as well.
Really, you can't go wrong with either, but personally, I'd buy another Kiwaya before I bought another KoAloha.
I don't have any videos of my Kiwaya playing with a guitar, but here's one of me on my Martin Style 3 with a guitarist friend, just to give you an idea of how well a classic-style mahogany soprano holds up to a guitar.


02-12-2013, 02:13 AM
Super video, Chris. Well done.

Question...Kiwaya versus Martin, stripping out any price differences, the Martin legend, etc....do you find the Kiwaya tighter sounding? ( it's okay to say 'no' lol). The Kiwaya just doesn't ring quite as much as the Martin, to my ear. I wish it did. I even tried other strings, and went from stock Fremonts to Worth to no avail. Side by side, my Martins chime a little more. They sparkle. It's almost like the Martins have a dash of a KoAloha, which is just not in KiWaya. See what you think; I respect your thoughts, Chris. Steve