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dirtiestkidever
06-08-2013, 03:10 PM
I go to music/ukulele stores often and play a lot of high end ukuleles. But I am very confused by Kamakas. They seem to have an incredibly loyal following but they really don't do it for me and the magnitude of this disconnect bothers me a little. I have a suspicion that what I don't like may be the stock strings on the Kamakas (I have played many but every one has had those black strings). But every time I play one i notice that they are incredibly quiet, don't have much sustain, and the bodies don't seem to resonate that much. Compare this to KoAlohas and KoAlanas which are loud, resonant, and very bright sounding (I always have a hard time putting these down). Kanile'as seem to be somewhere in between. I am sure each brand is designed for a different sound. And KoAlohas are obviously designed to be brighter than Kamakas. But I am curious if some people just prefer the quieter gentler sound of the Kamakas? Or maybe it is those black strings that are quiet and changing the strings makes for a completely different sound?

I am not trying to knock Kamakas at all. Given their popularity they are obviously very high quality instruments. I don't doubt that for a second. I am just curious why they dont sound great to me.

Is it just a difference in personal taste? Do strings make a big difference? Do I just lack the refined ear to appreciate such a fine instrument?

Thanks in advacnce for your feedback. I always learn a lot here.

Dan Uke
06-08-2013, 03:22 PM
I think it's a personal taste and that should be a good enough reason

-Emma-
06-08-2013, 03:35 PM
I didn't like the stock strings on my Kamaka.

Initially I changed the strings to Aquila nylgut and then I put on Worth Clear Fluorocarbon (CM) strings and they made a big difference (in a good way). I love Worth clears and I think they really suit my Kamaka!

Markr1
06-08-2013, 03:48 PM
I agree with Emma. I didn't like the black strings that came with mine. I put Worth clears on mine also and it made a very noticeable difference.

hawaii 50
06-08-2013, 04:02 PM
Seems to me all Kamaka's sound different..
I have a HF3S and mine has a deep mellow tone..way different from most of my Mainland ukes..seems like if you get a nice Kamaka it is more like a Kanile'a in sound..the KoAlohas are bright and loud..

I put on some new Oasis tenor(test set) strings with a Fremont Soloist polished wound LowG and they work pretty nice..the highs are much cleaner/clearer than any other strings I have tried..

to me the Kamaka's have a true Hawaiian sound..if you get the right one..

TheOnlyUkeThatMatters
06-08-2013, 04:12 PM
It's preference. I looooove my Kamaka standard uke---it just keeps sounding better and better to me as the years pass.

I like Kamaka strings as well---I prefer the deep, mellow sound of nylon strings to the bright, ringing sound of fluorocarbon strings, and I prefer the thicker, softer feel of nylon to the thinner, harder feel of fluorocarbon. Plus black strings look best to me against that lovely koa and rosewood. Great sound, feel, and beauty---what's not to like?

Skinny Money McGee
06-08-2013, 04:28 PM
It's preference. I looooove my Kamaka standard uke---it just keeps sounding better and better to me as the years pass.

I couldn't agree more. My 2011 Kamaka Standard has an incredibly full sound, tons of sustain, and seems to get better all the time. I recently acquired a 2012 HF-2, and if you put a blindfold on, you would think the Soprano was the Concert. Strum a chord and you can feel the whole uke vibrate. Both have fluorocarbon strings.

soupking
06-08-2013, 05:06 PM
Kamaka ukulele is pretty much the standard uke sound. Some would argue Martin sopranos are. There's no right or wrong between the two, I suppose. Anyway, my experience with Kamakas, and actually playing them, dates back only to the beginning of this year, where I was able to play basically the full line at Mandolin Brothers last January.

I was really impressed with them- and that's after I bought about twenty five KoAlohas before even touching a Kamaka. For some reason- which, incidentally has everything to do with the OP's initial post- I thought they were inferior; based on vast research here at UU and across the Internet spectrum. I found that they're well-made and sound great, too: all models. If push came to shove, between the KTM-00 and the HF-3, I'd probably select the KoAloha, but only because my 2010 model is perfect from head to toe, and I've grown with it. However, the Kamaka is unbeatable in the looks and feel department, so it really is a toss up.

The bottom line, though, is that- much like The Ukulele Site description suggests- the HF-3- with Kamaka strings, gasp!- is THE quintessential tenor ukulele sound; sorry, I don't count Martin a current giant in this game, them having only recently just gotten back into it. So, if you're looking toward tradition, go no further than a modern Kamaka. You won't be sorry. If you like a more resonant, different sound, with a warranty that cannot be beat, go KoAloha. That's about the bottom line. Just trust me...

Doc_J
06-08-2013, 05:14 PM
I go to music/ukulele stores often and play a lot of high end ukuleles. But I am very confused by Kamakas. They seem to have an incredibly loyal following but they really don't do it for me and the magnitude of this disconnect bothers me a little. I have a suspicion that what I don't like may be the stock strings on the Kamakas (I have played many but every one has had those black strings). But every time I play one i notice that they are incredibly quiet, don't have much sustain, and the bodies don't seem to resonate that much. Compare this to KoAlohas and KoAlanas which are loud, resonant, and very bright sounding (I always have a hard time putting these down). Kanile'as seem to be somewhere in between. I am sure each brand is designed for a different sound. And KoAlohas are obviously designed to be brighter than Kamakas. But I am curious if some people just prefer the quieter gentler sound of the Kamakas? Or maybe it is those black strings that are quiet and changing the strings makes for a completely different sound?

I am not trying to knock Kamakas at all. Given their popularity they are obviously very high quality instruments. I don't doubt that for a second. I am just curious why they dont sound great to me.

Is it just a difference in personal taste? Do strings make a big difference? Do I just lack the refined ear to appreciate such a fine instrument?

Thanks in advacnce for your feedback. I always learn a lot here.

And I thought it was just me. :D

I had an HF-1 and an HF-2, and tried many types of strings. Strings make a difference. But to my ear and personal tastes, I just preferred other builders.

As Len said, you should to try a couple of the same model as they all sound a bit different. Maybe that is what I needed to do.

But it's great we like different ukes. Gives us more diversity.

hawaii 50
06-08-2013, 05:24 PM
And I thought it was just me. :D

I had an HF-1 and an HF-2, and tried many types of strings. Strings make a difference. But to my ear and personal tastes, I just preferred other builders.

As Len said, you should to try a couple of the same model as they all sound a bit different. Maybe that is what I needed to do.


Hey Doc

yes I really like Kamaka..but I have tried many that for some reason sound to bright and tight..

they should have deep,mellow and balanced tone..and sometimes the highs are not crystal clear.. but can not have everything..haha

you got to find a store with many in stock..good luck// as they sell out as soon as they get them..Gryphon in Palo Alto Calif always seems to have a lot of them in stock..but I know you not close..

soupking
06-08-2013, 05:31 PM
Hey Doc

yes I really like Kamaka..but I have tried many that for some reason sound to bright and tight..

they should have deep,mellow and balanced tone..and sometimes the highs are not crystal clear.. but can not have everything..haha

you got to find a store with many in stock..good luck// as they sell out as soon as they get them..Gryphon in Palo Alto Calif always seems to have a lot of them in stock..but I know you not close..

Where does it say that ukuleles should have a deep, rich, and mellow sound? :confused: They're actually *supposed* to sound like ukuleles. This uke-sounding-rich-and-deep thing is new. A tenor ukulele is supposed to sound like an HF-3 with stock strings. That's what it's supposed to sound like. Bottom line. We all like all the newer, modern builders, because they make them sound good, too, but it's not THE ukulele sound. It's entirely different...

pdxuke
06-08-2013, 05:46 PM
I love my Kamaka pineapple and had Fremont Blacks on it. I have a Barry as well and have not yet found the perfect strings, but I love the uke.

Dan Uke
06-08-2013, 06:34 PM
Where does it say that ukuleles should have a deep, rich, and mellow sound? :confused: They're actually *supposed* to sound like ukuleles. This uke-sounding-rich-and-deep thing is new. A tenor ukulele is supposed to sound like an HF-3 with stock strings. That's what it's supposed to sound like. Bottom line. We all like all the newer, modern builders, because they make them sound good, too, but it's not THE ukulele sound. It's entirely different...

Exactly....I like the rich, deep, mellow sound of my customs but none of them sound like a traditional uke, at least my definition of a traditional sounding uke.

guitharsis
06-08-2013, 11:51 PM
Love the Kamaka sound. So rich and complex. Just received a Kamaka Ohta San Cedar top from HMS. Incredible sound!

hawaii 50
06-08-2013, 11:57 PM
Love the Kamaka sound. So rich and complex. Just received a Kamaka Ohta San Cedar top from HMS. Incredible sound!


I took MM Stan down to HMS last week..he may have been playing that uke?

guitharsis
06-09-2013, 12:32 AM
Yes, he played it.

Love the deep rich tones of the Ohta San, still in low G, and the new upgraded tuners.


Also love my Kamaka HF2S, (3A) ordered directly from Kamaka.

dkcrown
06-09-2013, 02:01 AM
I have a 2005 Kamaka HF-3 tenor that is one of my best sounding ukuleles, along with a Liliu six string. And I have had, and still do have, many high end custom and production ukes including all of the K brands. It is true of any ukulele that the sound will evolve and grow over time. And finding the perfect set of strings to complement that uke is paramount to whether it ultimately will be a keeper or not.

What sound and tone each individual is looking for in his or her ukulele is subjective.

mm stan
06-09-2013, 02:16 AM
OKay all you kamaka ....um um um he he all brands of ukes will sound different even the same model and sizes .....that is why I say try before you buy, there are certainly better ones
and less better ones in any brand in any bunch.....Second the stock strings Kamaka uses give them a deep dark rich tone....OKay tonight I just put a SET of Oasis strings on my Kamaka Tenor white label
before it had some kamaka strings...I wanted to do a comparision on strings and the affect in the tone, and volume.....Yes I noticed a rich dull sound on the kamaka strings, well they were 3
years old...but I slapped on my test Oasis strings and it brightened up considerably and became more puncher and louder....very big difference ....the strings are your ukes voice box, different
ones will produce different tones....but all in all you have to have a great ukulele first.....strings don't fix everything, the they can certainly help if you know which one to use on you particular uke

strumsilly
06-09-2013, 03:07 AM
I don't get a chance to play different ukes much, unless I buy them. I did get a chance to play some new Kamakas on a recent trip and thought a Kamaka concert was the nicest playing/looking/sounding uke in the store, and there were many brands, including some customs. I don't currently own a Kamaka, but a good deal on one is certainly on my radar.

Doc_J
06-09-2013, 04:01 AM
Is there any production builder that plays every ukulele built, and then decides whether to release it or not? Or do most production builders want a diversity of sound from their instruments? I've always thought part of quality meant consistency.

Every production ukulele that I've played more than one, I've noticed a little to significant variation in the sound and sound quality. A little variation I understand, significant I do not. But since the production builders can sell everything that they make, i guess it doesn't make sense to throw out product that folks will buy.

By the way, when I'm talking about production Ukuleles here, I'm talking about the k-bands or the equivalent.

Maybe the variation is there to address what we're talking about here: the difference in personal preferences.

hmgberg
06-09-2013, 06:13 AM
OKay all you kamaka ....um um um he he all brands of ukes will sound different even the same model and sizes .....that is why I say try before you buy, there are certainly better ones
and less better ones in any brand in any bunch.....Second the stock strings Kamaka uses give them a deep dark rich tone....OKay tonight I just put a SET of Oasis strings on my Kamaka Tenor white label
before it had some kamaka strings...I wanted to do a comparision on strings and the affect in the tone, and volume.....Yes I noticed a rich dull sound on the kamaka strings, well they were 3
years old...but I slapped on my test Oasis strings and it brightened up considerably and became more puncher and louder....very big difference ....the strings are your ukes voice box, different
ones will produce different tones....but all in all you have to have a great ukulele first.....strings don't fix everything, the they can certainly help if you know which one to use on you particular uke

While I believe all builders try to consistently achieve a particular sound, and generally achieve this within some range, it is impossible to exactly duplicate the sound because there are so many variables beyond builders' control. I also have reason to believe that Kamaka does consistently achieve the particular kind of sound they want with their strings. It is a distinctive sound that not everyone loves, or loves equally. But as Bruddah Stan says, you can greatly change the sound by changing strings. However, if you prefer a Koaloha sound, you would be hard pressed to get it out of a Kamaka, just as you would be trying to get your Koaloha to sound like your Kamaka. I have both in concert size. They are very different and I think they are both fantastic. I find that thinner fluorocarbon strings are congruent with the Koaloha sound, whereas the Kamaka is more responsive and full on the low end with heavier strings.

I played an Ohta-San with a spruce top. It was one of the finest sounding instruments I've ever heard. I preferred it to the all koa version, by a mile, and the all koa one was really great. The spruce top was so distinctive that I don't think I'll ever forget it. I believe a UU member owns the uke I played.

I only heard the cedar Ohta-San recorded. It sounded spectacular. See, I'm getting myself all whipped up here. I just mean to say that a different tone wood on a Kamaka makes a big difference, too.

Are you listening, Bruddah Jon.

dirtiestkidever
06-10-2013, 05:22 AM
Thanks for all the response. Coincidentally I was able to play a wide selection of Kamakas at Sylvan Music yesterday. Some were even vintage and had other types of strings on them. There were quite a few that sounded great. Still maybe not my favorite sound but it was easy to see/hear why people like them so much.

Paul December
06-10-2013, 07:24 AM
The emperor has no clothes :eek:

Steedy
06-10-2013, 09:04 AM
As others have stated, strings make a big difference.

Here's my Kamaka experience, in a previous thread:

Kamaka + Worth Clears = Love (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?75183-Kamaka-Worth-Clears-LOVE&highlight=kamaka)

Cheers!

dkame
07-04-2013, 09:59 PM
I have two Kamakas, a soprano from the 70's and a tenor from the 90's. A couple of things are true for these - you can't get as much volume out of Kamakas and Kamakas intrinsically create the "Hawaiian" sound. When I play with a big ukulele group, I'm easily overpowered by other varieties of ukes - sometimes I think "Am I even playing?" which is good in some ways since I don't feel as bad about messing up. But with smaller groups or by myself, I really like the Hawaiian sound which I best describe as "plunky." Bright but a little bit muted in the highs, not quite as much sustain - but always brings you back to picnics outside at the beach and the Ko'olaus and Hawaiian ladies doing hula. As a comparison, at the store I have tried Kanile'as (tenor and super concert) and those sound different terrific - really full, resonant sound and long sustain. Ponos (tenor acacia and mahogony) felt different, heavier, with a higher set up. Lower end Kalas you probably won't like once you have been playing a Kamaka for a while. I understand Ko'alohas are loud but I have never tried one.

Certain kinds of strings seem to work better with Kamakas. I know people seem to change out the original Kamaka strings as soon as they can but I never thought they weren't good - only it just seems hard to find them to buy. The Kamakas are set up very low, which makes them very comfortable to play, and they can take strings that are harder. On other ukes, this kind of string might be uncomfortable. So I have used Hilos which were okay and Fremont Blacklines which I like (same Hawaiian sound but a bit brighter and clearer on the high notes). Aquila Nylguts on the soprano made me stop playing it because I just didn't like the sound or feel. Same with PHDs. (Didn't try these on the tenor.)

Some cons - friction tuners, at least the ones I have from back then are touchy and take fiddling to tune up. I think geared tuners would make this easier but that's kind of getting picky and doesn't really affect the sound. What I don't like is when the strings don't hold true notes all the way up the fret board. This might have to do with the specific strings and set up - I don't know. Particularly the open vs. fretted notes. With clip on tuners, it is easy to check nowadays. I would check this on any potential uke purchase in the store. So I imagine that a repair shop could make the adjustments on my Kamaka tenor that would true up the consistency of the tuning. I have a work around that is probably lame but works beautifully so I have great chording and it is just so much fun playing. Just remember that the better your uke sounds to you, the more you will play.

janeray1940
07-05-2013, 05:37 AM
Is it just a difference in personal taste? Do strings make a big difference? Do I just lack the refined ear to appreciate such a fine instrument?


In my opinion, strings make a HUGE difference. I fingerpick/play lead mostly, and the stock strings are just awful for that - not so bad for simple strumming, but for single-note playing I find they are very dull and lack sustain. Not to mention I think they just feel awful on the fingers. I know there are some folks on this board who love them, but I'm not one of them!

However, I'm a huge Kamaka fan - two of my three ukes are Kamakas (concert and pineapple), and I've owned two others (kept the two I liked best) - BUT I will say that I find them to be very inconsistent. This is true of all brands of ukes - no two will sound exactly alike - I've noticed it more in Kamakas. Fortunately I've had the opportunity to play several side by side when I've bought, and have always bought the one that sounded and played best to me. And that, I think, is where personal taste comes in.

Looking back, when I first began playing, the first "good" uke I bought was a Koaloha. Even though I knew I wanted a Kamaka after hearing two I really loved, I couldn't find one for sale that I liked. I think the shop I went to had 10 Koalohas in stock, and again, no two sounded or played the same. So the inconsistency is not brand-specific at all.

stevepetergal
07-05-2013, 06:30 AM
I go to music/ukulele stores often and play a lot of high end ukuleles. But I am very confused by Kamakas. They seem to have an incredibly loyal following but they really don't do it for me and the magnitude of this disconnect bothers me a little. I have a suspicion that what I don't like may be the stock strings on the Kamakas (I have played many but every one has had those black strings). But every time I play one i notice that they are incredibly quiet, don't have much sustain, and the bodies don't seem to resonate that much. Compare this to KoAlohas and KoAlanas which are loud, resonant, and very bright sounding (I always have a hard time putting these down). Kanile'as seem to be somewhere in between. I am sure each brand is designed for a different sound. And KoAlohas are obviously designed to be brighter than Kamakas. But I am curious if some people just prefer the quieter gentler sound of the Kamakas? Or maybe it is those black strings that are quiet and changing the strings makes for a completely different sound?

I am not trying to knock Kamakas at all. Given their popularity they are obviously very high quality instruments. I don't doubt that for a second. I am just curious why they dont sound great to me.

Is it just a difference in personal taste? Do strings make a big difference? Do I just lack the refined ear to appreciate such a fine instrument?

Thanks in advacnce for your feedback. I always learn a lot here.

I couldn't agree more. It seems they build wonderful instruments for their artists, but the ones I've seen in the store (had a close friend with a Kamaka dealership) have been just a bit better than production ukuleles. And I wanted to buy from my friend. She never got one in that I liked at all.

hawaii 50
07-05-2013, 06:40 AM
I couldn't agree more. It seems they build wonderful instruments for their artists, but the ones I've seen in the store (had a close friend with a Kamaka dealership) have been just a bit better than production ukuleles. And I wanted to buy from my friend. She never got one in that I liked at all.


I ordered a Kamaka HF3 Special directly from the Kamaka factory...these are built a little bit different..and you can add nicer Koa,,etc they cost more but are made just for you...I think they sound better than a production model too..

Tigeralum2001
07-05-2013, 09:18 AM
Just as an aside does anyone know what Kamaka might be planning to celebrate the 100 years? Centenary models, festival or beach party?

I don't have a Kamaka (same problem as OP), but I have tons of respect for them. I would like to see curlier Koa from them, too, but I digress...

According to their website, they were founded in 1916... I think a 100 year anniversary model (in tenor) would motivate me to finally step up and buy one. I hope they build these and give them a special treatment.

Gillian
07-05-2013, 10:45 AM
How about replicas of their first pineapple with the painted pineapple design? Like the one Fred Kamaka banged on the showroom counter top during our tour and made everyone cringe...the one Antiques Roadshow said was priceless?

hawaii 50
07-05-2013, 12:11 PM
I saw Fred Sr, hit a Jake model up against the hinges of the uke's case...wow

Pameulu
07-05-2013, 02:05 PM
I love the way Fremont Blacklines sound on my Kamaka concert.

guitarsnrotts
07-05-2013, 03:01 PM
I have an early 70s Kamaka white label soprano and was wondering how today's sound in comparison to some of the older ones. The shape of the current soprano also seems to be more traditional than some of the gold and white labels of several years ago. When was that change made?

ShakaSign
07-05-2013, 03:48 PM
I'll repeat two different perspectives that have relevance here. Gordon of Mya Moe once made a video discussing the correlation between ukulele quality and loudness. He said that the human ear tends not to hear all frequencies evenly and probably hears treble sounds better than bass sounds. If you make a uke that favors the treble and mid-range side, many people will probably say wow your ukes are loud and equate that to a higher quality. And if you make a more balanced uke, you may here some disappointment about the uke's quietness. But there are many people who prefer a.balanced uke or even a uke that has nice bass tones without being boomy. I agree and think the market shows that there is room for many ukulele voicings.

That brings me to the second perspective from Sam Bonano of Larrys Music. Before he started Kamoa, I remember him saying this to many people perusing his store in Kapaa: two of the best made production ukes in the world are the Kamaka and the Koaloha. Koalohas have this resonance and brightness that just rings and rings, yet the Kamakas produce this glassly clean bell tone. Then he would play them into a hot mic to demonstrate.

bearbike137
07-08-2013, 04:10 AM
I haven't played or even touched a uke I like as much as my Kamaka Long Neck Tenor.

That said, I loathe the stock Kamaka strings. I usually can't get them off of a new Kamaka fast enough. :)

molokinirum
07-09-2013, 08:15 AM
It's preference. I looooove my Kamaka standard uke---it just keeps sounding better and better to me as the years pass.

I like Kamaka strings as well---I prefer the deep, mellow sound of nylon strings to the bright, ringing sound of fluorocarbon strings, and I prefer the thicker, softer feel of nylon to the thinner, harder feel of fluorocarbon. Plus black strings look best to me against that lovely koa and rosewood. Great sound, feel, and beauty---what's not to like?

I agree!!! I love my Kamaka ukuleles and the stock strings. That is the sound that I like. Some like the bright and loud sound and there are ukes that deliver. It always....always....always comes done to what sound YOU like!!!

Coconut Willie
07-09-2013, 08:52 AM
I like the Kanile'a sound then the Kamaka. KoAloha is too bright for me.

Cornfield
07-09-2013, 01:40 PM
I have stock strings on theHF-3 tenor, Worth's on the HF-38 and the Soprano HF-1. It's all good.

bearbike137
07-10-2013, 06:19 AM
According to Jake (in an interview with Fretboard Journal):

FJ: What was your first instrument? Does your family still have it?

JS: Yes, we do. It was a Kamaka standard ukulele and we still have it. My mom had it when she was a teenager, so that was the instrument that I started out on. Kamaka ukuleles are still the brand that I play today. I love their instruments. They’re going on a 100 years. I think they’re going on like generations of ukulele makers now.

FJ: Have you dabbled with any other builders?

JS: Yeah, I have, but Kamakas are always my go-to. They’re the standard of ukuleles. To me, they’re just amazing, because that’s the sound that I grew up listening to as a kid.

FJ: Are you a collector of ukes?

JS: No, I'm not a collector. I have about four or five instruments at home…

FJ: Compared to many uke fanatics, that isn't many at all.

JS: Yeah. But I just have my main one that I tour with, play, practice on, record with. That’s my Kamaka four-string tenor.