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View Full Version : Thinking or ordering a Kamaka HF-3.



steelerboy329
12-19-2013, 03:23 PM
I'm contemplating replacing my Taylor Uke with a Kamaka HF-3. I've heard a lot of good things about the Kamakas and really considering the swap. Is the build/sound quality really that good on the HF-3? I won't have a chance to play one, but I like the videos I've seen.

janeray1940
12-19-2013, 03:33 PM
I can't speak to your Taylor specifically but I have heard a Taylor from the uke/guitar set played next to a HF-3, and frankly, I'd take the HF-3. There was nothing particularly awful about the Taylor, but nothing particularly special - I play Kamakas myself (soprano and concert) and there is something about that sound that I prefer. The Taylor I played had an incredibly glossy finish, which to my ear sort of muddles the sound - I thought it sounded really dull in comparison to Kamakas in general, which tend to have a lighter finish.

But as I'm sure you know, sound varies from uke to uke - your Taylor may be totally different than the one I've encountered. For that matter, I've played identical Kamakas side by side and found them completely different from each other. Again, nothing awful, just noticeably different... so, if you do go for the HF-3, be sure and order from a merchant who has a return or exchange policy in case you're not satisfied with the sound.

All of that being said, I don't think you can go wrong with a HF-3! If I could play tenor (small hands, tried it, gave up) it would be my first choice, no question about it.

Radio Flyer
12-19-2013, 04:05 PM
I would like a Taylor uke...what price?

flyingace
12-19-2013, 06:02 PM
I'm with you on wanting your taylor uke! Coveted! I love my taylor guitars. Let us know what you decide to do!

As far as the Kamaka... You can't go wrong with a Kamaka! They are the most Ukulele sounding uke I've ever played or heard!

Kamanaaloha
12-20-2013, 09:07 PM
I have never played a Taylor, but I do love my Kamakas...and my Kanilea and my KoAloha...I would have a hard time parting with a ukulele family member. Is there anyway you can keep the Taylor and buy the hf3, too? I am not sure what your hands are like and if you like more room...I would encourage you to go with a longneck tenor...plus they are different from the standard model, and more collectible...check theukulelesite.com and sylvan instruments...and gryphon...

haolejohn
12-20-2013, 09:55 PM
I'll ask why kamaka? I'll go against the grain here. Overrated. There are good kamakas out there but to me their tenors are ok. I actually owned a good one that I traded away. But I've played many and always felt they were overrated.

UkuEroll
12-21-2013, 01:56 AM
O how would love to have that kind of choice.If I were in your shoes I'd stick with your Taylor.

Cornfield
12-21-2013, 02:06 AM
I own 3 Kamaka ukes and am currently trying to purchase a 4th. nuff said

hmgberg
12-21-2013, 03:40 AM
You can get a dud regardless of the manufacturer. I have two great Kamakas, but I've played dozens of them and come across one or two that were lackluster in comparison to others. The best makers will be most consistent, so your chances of getting a good one are higher. I would say that this applies to Kamaka in general.

I've not played a Taylor, but janeray1940 has. I trust her assessment of ukuleles. Given that you both have the same impression, I would be inclined to think that yours is not an anomaly. A thick finish will deaden the sound. Often a thick finish will be applied to cheaper instruments in an expeditious effort to resolve issues that should have been dealt with in earlier stages. The degree of gloss on a better made uke should not affect the tone by much, however. While it is common to apply more coats of glossy than satin, they are typically very thin layers. The degree of sheen on the finished instrument is a function of how it is buffed or rubbed. Obviously, a gloss finish can be buffed to a high sheen, but it can also be cut back with rubbing out: applying an even scratch pattern to the finish. Conversely, a satin finish can be buffed into a shine, just not the same kind of mirror finish as a gloss. All of this is just to say that in purchasing an instrument, if it is of higher quality, the kind of finish is mostly a matter of aesthetic preference, or should be.

All of the Kamakas I have played, particularly the newer ones, in terms of build quality have been very playable. I find them to be among the most comfortable in fact.

The other bit of advice that janeray1940 offered that I think is critical is that you deal with someone who has a good exchange policy, since you cannot play before you buy. In the best of all worlds, you would play in person and choose the right instrument for yourself. I know that this can be a challenge since most neighborhood shops in more rural areas only carry lower-end ukes. The closest shop to me that carries better ukes is 3-1/2 hours away. Nevertheless, I would make the trip were I in the market. I played a number of Collings concerts each time I was there. They were all pretty great, but one was fantastic. I'm just saying that if you travel you get the pick of the litter, so to speak.

steelerboy329
12-21-2013, 04:33 AM
I'll ask why kamaka? I'll go against the grain here. Overrated. There are good kamakas out there but to me their tenors are ok. I actually owned a good one that I traded away. But I've played many and always felt they were overrated.

Well, I don't have a chance to play many other Ukes around here and I've liked all the videos I've seen of the Kamakas. Part of the decision is I really want koa Uke. I like the all mahogany, but I prefer koa. Ah, the choices...

PhilUSAFRet
12-21-2013, 04:41 AM
Here's a good place to start checking out lots of different ukuleles, especially if you can wait until September:

http://festival.charlestonhotshots.com/

Toucan Mango
12-21-2013, 04:51 AM
All personal preference of course. I bet Kamaka is having a hard time keeping up with orders from around the world, so you can always sell it if it turns out not to be the one.

joeguam
12-21-2013, 05:54 PM
Well, I don't have a chance to play many other Ukes around here and I've liked all the videos I've seen of the Kamakas. Part of the decision is I really want koa Uke. I like the all mahogany, but I prefer koa. Ah, the choices...

I wouldn't go as far as saying they're overrated. There's a very good reason why Kamaka has been so successful for so many years and have many of the best artists playing their instruments. With that being said, and knowing that you want a koa uke, you have to know that Kamaka has a very unique koa sound. If you don't prefer this sound, you'll be wasting a lot of money - as they are also the highest priced on the market, mainly for their name brand. KoAloha also has a very unique koa sound. I think it's a tribute to these builders who have been able to consistently produce great and unique sounding ukes.

I have a Kamaka, had a KoAloha but much prefer my Kanile'a uke over them all. My advice is, make sure to listen to sound clips of other ukes of the same size and wood before you settle on this purchase without being able to play it first. Listen and compare the other koa ukes and if the Kamaka is still your preference, pull the trigger. Worst case scenario, I bet you could sell that on this forum in less than a month.

coolkayaker1
12-21-2013, 07:09 PM
There was an epic thread, long and good, on UU about nine months ago comparing the Kamaka builds and QC with another brand, was it Kiwaya? It gives a true taste, a poll of responders, to the spotty quality of Kamaka. I wish I could find it now. If anyone knows the thread, a link would be helpful.

I'd never buy a Kamaka sight unseen and without play unless I had an ironclad guarantee for return, as sister Janeray said. So much so that I'd tell the retailer before I bought it for mutual understanding. And then know that, even with a guarantee, I'll be forking over fifty doll hairs postage to return the thing if I didn't dig it.

For some reason, Kamakas never blew my hair back. And it's not because I have no hair (yet).

PS every time I even thinkabout getting a Kamaka--and I'm only human, subject to hype as well as the next guy--I pull my same-priced Mya Moe off the wall and say, "Thank you, Lord, for stymying my untoward lust for a lesser woman before I made a costly mistake."

haolejohn
12-21-2013, 09:21 PM
Well, I don't have a chance to play many other Ukes around here and I've liked all the videos I've seen of the Kamakas. Part of the decision is I really want koa Uke. I like the all mahogany, but I prefer koa. Ah, the choices...

Spartanburg is at I 20 and 95? There used to be a uke group close by I believe. There are definitely options. Wilmington isn't that far away right (my SC geography is rusty and I know Wilmington is in NC). See if there are any uke clubs close by or uke functions worth a drive. Is your Taylor not koa? Kamakas are decent and they are kamaka. I was just disappointed with their product. When I first started playing uke all I had to play were kamakas and meles. Of course most of those kamakas were sopranos. I'd buy a soprano in a heart beat. The tenors, I'd have to think about. However as mentioned above, go with one of the reputable dealers. Good luck with the search. I hope you get the one.

soupking
12-22-2013, 12:13 AM
I went to Mandolin Brothers last January and played pretty much Kamaka's whole line-up. I don't get how anyone could knock them. They're impeccably built, play effortlessly, and sound amazing. My HF-3 next to my KoAloha KTM-00 and Maui Music definitely has a softer sound, but it's no less beautiful... just different. I stayed away from Kamakas for a long time and bought other brands based mainly on reviews from Ukulele Underground, and I'm sorry for that. If I only had one uke, a Kamaka would be enough for me. They're excellent and if I were you I'd go for it. There's no tenor out there as classic as an HF-3. I bought mine from Andrew at HMS and it was one of my best uke-buying experiences.

soupking
12-22-2013, 12:29 AM
One other thing regarding Kamaka's pricing: to my knowledge, at present, they *are* the "most expensive" on the Hawaiian production ukulele market; however, they come with their own custom branded cases, which, in my opinion, are awesome. I don't know why, but I really think that that little touch is classy. It makes me feel like the company cares about their product and it puts them on another level. As I said, while I love the Kamaka cases, a Collings ukulele is almost worth the price alone just for the case itself. Lol... YES, even with their recent insane price jump...

consitter
12-22-2013, 12:38 AM
One other thing regarding Kamaka's pricing: to my knowledge, at present, they *are* the "most expensive" on the Hawaiian production ukulele market; however, they come with their own custom branded cases, which, in my opinion, are awesome. I don't know why, but I really think that that little touch is classy. It makes me feel like the company cares about their product and it puts them on another level. As I said, while I love the Kamaka cases, a Collings ukulele is almost worth the price alone just for the case itself. Lol... YES, even with their recent insane price jump...

Hey Soup,

I remember when you sold (1?) red label KoAloha uke a few months back. Would you say that your Kamaka sounds better than that one? Or is it a moot point, since you no longer possess it, and still have the Kamaka?

soupking
12-22-2013, 01:03 AM
Hey Soup,

I remember when you sold (1?) red label KoAloha uke a few months back. Would you say that your Kamaka sounds better than that one? Or is it a moot point, since you no longer possess it, and still have the Kamaka?

Honestly, I really don't think any uke sounds better than a KoAloha; but it's just my preference. I sold the Red Label for only one reason, though: the neck was too thin and it too must have been customized. I've had at least five KoAlohas and only have one left. My sickness is selling awesome ukes to try new ones. Lol.

Here you go, Coolio:

http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?70186-Kamaka-VS-Collings-not-fair-different-planet

Sigh, I really miss Andrew K... :(

dismount
12-22-2013, 08:26 AM
Yep! and I got one. Great old Martin soupking.

coolkayaker1
12-22-2013, 02:55 PM
Honestly,

Sigh, I really miss Andrew K... :(

Is he no longer on UU, Soup? I did see the unfortunate thread recently, but didn't know there was a repercussion.

Skinny Money McGee
12-23-2013, 03:54 AM
I'd never buy a Kamaka sight unseen and without play unless I had an ironclad guarantee for return, as sister Janeray said. So much so that I'd tell the retailer before I bought it for mutual understanding. And then know that, even with a guarantee, I'll be forking over fifty doll hairs postage to return the thing if I didn't dig it.

For some reason, Kamakas never blew my hair back. And it's not because I have no hair (yet).

PS every time I even thinkabout getting a Kamaka--and I'm only human, subject to hype as well as the next guy--I pull my same-priced Mya Moe off the wall and say, "Thank you, Lord, for stymying my untoward lust for a lesser woman before I made a costly mistake."

I own 3 Kamaka's, and have played probably 20 or more. Every time I visit Elderly in Lansing, they always have a few new ones, and make it a point to try them out. Seems to me they are very consistent in quality and sound.. I bought a used 2012 HF-2 that only needed minor nut and saddle setup work. Actually needed a new saddle which Kamaka sent me 2 extras for free.

If that had been sent to a customer from a retail store without being setup first, can see where it would upset someone. But all it needed was a simple setup, which I can do, and it's as smooth as butter, and intonates excellent. Unfortunately most retailers (the kind you see on ebay ), either don't know or don't care.

The only way you can buy a Mya Moe is by "sight unseen". They won't pay your postage back either, if they will even take it back.

The OP needs to try out any high dollar uke, before purchasing, to see if it floats his boat. And then probably still won't know until he's played it for a week or so.

mds725
12-23-2013, 05:03 AM
The only way you can buy a Mya Moe is by "sight unseen". They won't pay your postage back either, if they will even take it back.


Gordon and Char often Mya-Moe brings ukuleles to sell at the ukulele festivals at which they have a Mya-Moe booth. In the past, they've had an MM booth at the Reno, Denver and Wine Country (St. Helena, CA) ukulele festivals. While these aren't custom ukuleles, they are available for purchase, and you can try them before ordering a custom. Here's a list of the festivals they plan to attend in 2014. http://www.myamoeukuleles.com/doSomethingUkulele.html

coolkayaker1
12-26-2013, 09:43 AM
Gordon and Char often Mya-Moe brings ukuleles to sell at the ukulele festivals at which they have a Mya-Moe booth. In the past, they've had an MM booth at the Reno, Denver and Wine Country (St. Helena, CA) ukulele festivals. While these aren't custom ukuleles, they are available for purchase, and you can try them before ordering a custom. Here's a list of the festivals they plan to attend in 2014. http://www.myamoeukuleles.com/doSomethingUkulele.html

Correct, mds, about MM. And, they will take even a sight unseen ukulele back for an unsatisfied owner (as stated many times by Gordon on his videos).

Skinny Money McGee
12-26-2013, 12:36 PM
Correct, mds, about MM. And, they will take even a sight unseen ukulele back for an unsatisfied owner (as stated many times by Gordon on his videos).

Two festivals in 2014, both 2500+ miles from the east coast. The OP can jump on his private jet and go check em out ! lol

ukemunga
12-26-2013, 01:07 PM
There was an epic thread, long and good, on UU about nine months ago comparing the Kamaka builds and QC with another brand, was it Kiwaya? It gives a true taste, a poll of responders, to the spotty quality of Kamaka. I wish I could find it now. If anyone knows the thread, a link would be helpful.

I'd never buy a Kamaka sight unseen and without play unless I had an ironclad guarantee for return, as sister Janeray said. So much so that I'd tell the retailer before I bought it for mutual understanding. And then know that, even with a guarantee, I'll be forking over fifty doll hairs postage to return the thing if I didn't dig it.

For some reason, Kamakas never blew my hair back. And it's not because I have no hair (yet).

PS every time I even thinkabout getting a Kamaka--and I'm only human, subject to hype as well as the next guy--I pull my same-priced Mya Moe off the wall and say, "Thank you, Lord, for stymying my untoward lust for a lesser woman before I made a costly mistake."

I can't have an informed opinion because I've never had the opportunity to play ukes in that range. But your comment is very well put and provides food for thought to someone like me who might just pull the trigger based on popular opinion. I'm sure though most Kamakas are fine instruments in their own right.