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View Full Version : What is the best solid acacia ukulele? Kala, Pono, or something else?



UkuleleLadyxoxo
01-04-2014, 03:32 AM
I am looking into upgrading my Kala starter uke. After looking around, I was thinking an acacia ukulele would be a good choice for my budget. I have been looking mostly at these two:

http://www.theukulelesite.com/kala-ka-asac-c-all-solid-acacia-concert.html

http://www.theukulelesite.com/pono-acd-acaciagloss-concert.html

Could anyone recommend either of these? I am also very open to any other suggestions in a concert size. Unfortunately, I can't afford to spend any more than $500.

Reno Dave
01-04-2014, 03:54 AM
It is my opinion that the Pono is higher quality, better value as imports ukuleles are concerned, it's solid wood not a laminate. Purchasing through HMS is also a good choice. Andrew and his staff make sure everything is right (complete set up) before it's sent. Additionally, they have excellent customer service after the purchase. I say this from experience. Make sure you get a Oasis Humidifier with your purchase if you live in a dry climate.

UkerDanno
01-04-2014, 03:59 AM
personally, I would definitely go for the Pono...in that same price range you could get a solid Koa Martin C1K.

hammer40
01-04-2014, 04:03 AM
Of those two choices, I would say definitely the Pono.

UkuleleLadyxoxo
01-04-2014, 04:12 AM
Thank you so much for your opinions! Of those two, I'm definitely now leaning towards the Pono. I'll be looking into the Martin C1K as well! :)

katysax
01-04-2014, 04:31 AM
Having had a range of ukes - including a few Ponos - at that price range I'd skip the Acacia, the Martin C1K is a much better choice. It's a great uke for the price. And, with the Martin name the resale value and ease is much better.

stevepetergal
01-04-2014, 04:48 AM
I've played several of the each. You're looking at opposite ends of the spectrum (almost). I would be leaning toward Pono so far I would certainly fall over on it.

bborzell
01-04-2014, 05:03 AM
I own an acacia Pono tenor. It is a deluxe (gloss finish) with a cutaway. Tone quality is superb and balanced across strings. Build quality is flawless. Some take issue with the thickness of the neck, but having 20+ instruments hanging around the house with almost as many neck profiles to deal with, I long ago realized that neck feel complaints are pretty easy to forget about. All I have to do is play.

Debates about acacia vs. koa are destined to shed more heat than light.

connor013
01-04-2014, 05:55 AM
Another vote for the Pono.

They're awesome.

ukulelearp
01-04-2014, 08:45 AM
The Kala's a good value and sounds great. But as you can see, Pono has the brand behind it (for good reason). If the price difference isn't a huge deal to you, I'd go for the Pono.

Kayak Jim
01-04-2014, 09:27 AM
If you keep an eye on the used market you can find a Hawaiian made KOA uke for $500. I did a few weeks ago.

Ukulele Eddie
01-04-2014, 12:43 PM
I literally just played a tenor Pono in the $400 price range at McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica and while it had a very pleasant sound, it was very noticeably neck heavy. May or may not be an issue in the particular model you're considering.

If you're open to a tenor, I would add the Cordoba 35TS to the list. Full retail is $720 but street price is $550. And there are a couple of used ones on EBAY for under $500. One thing I love about this uke is the roomy fretboard. Which can be extra helpful to us beginners (unless you have very small hands in which case it might be a detriment).

Regardless, at $500 you're getting to a price point where you can afford a very sweet new-to-you but used uke. Of course, there are some risks with buying used...

Let us know what decide!

PhilUSAFRet
01-04-2014, 12:49 PM
You could do worse than a Mele. Wouldn't mind one of those solid acacia Pono's either.

http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_odkw=koa+concert+ukulele&_osacat=619&_from=R40&LH_PrefLoc=1&_trksid=p2045573.m570.l1313.TR1.TRC0.A0.Xmele+koa+ concert+ukulele&_nkw=mele+koa+concert+ukulele&_sacat=619

ukemunga
01-04-2014, 01:40 PM
Ok, so I'll throw this in here though it's more of a lateral move. If your ultimate goal is a k-brand koa but you're looking for a stop gap acacia in the meantime, don't underestimate the KPK.

Nicely done production uke and I just put some Fremont Blacklines on mine and it rings like a bell. If you like the Kala neck you'll LOVE a KPK.

FWIW.

ukulelearp
01-04-2014, 01:55 PM
Ok, so I'll throw this in here though it's more of a lateral move. If your ultimate goal is a k-brand koa but you're looking for a stop gap acacia in the meantime, don't underestimate the KPK.

Nicely done production uke and I just put some Fremont Blacklines on mine and it rings like a bell. If you like the Kala neck you'll LOVE a KPK.

FWIW.

I was about to mention this. The KPK ukes sound great, BUT are very inconsistent. I bought one that had over-filed frets, making it pretty much impossible to play the top and bottom strings past the fifth fret. I had it exchanged for one that turned out to have a bowed neck. If you decide to give KPK a shot, make sure there's a solid return policy.

TheCraftedCow
01-04-2014, 08:45 PM
A name which seems to not come on on the forum is LEHUA. They are solid Acacia melanoxylon; made in Portugal, and are designed by Bob Gleason of Pegasus Guitars and ukuleles. They come with a choice of classical or traditional bindings which are also solid wood rather than some sort of synthetic material. The tenors have a 17.5" scale and the newer ones are semigloss/matte finish rather than a heavy polyurethane. They also have through the body stringing rather than tied to the bridge. Why no chatter about that line? I also know that the price has been the same since 2007. The line of gig bags are made in North America. They are very well crafted of good quality material. They are also reasonably priced.

1300cc
01-04-2014, 08:47 PM
Having had a range of ukes - including a few Ponos - at that price range I'd skip the Acacia, the Martin C1K is a much better choice. It's a great uke for the price. And, with the Martin name the resale value and ease is much better.
+1...........

flyingace
01-05-2014, 03:24 AM
For the price range of the two you present either would be nice, I'm sure. I have the Kala Acacia Tenor. I love it, although I did put some work into it to make it the fine sounding uke it is today. I got it in 2009 and immediately changed the saddle and nut to TUSQ, changed the strings to Worth Browns (now use SouthCoast). Shaped the saddle to better intonation. Installed a preamp and pickup in 2011. I was underwhelmed when I first got it as I'd been playing a solid mahogany concert (oscar schmidt) that was built in 2004 and even though "new" (no owner) it had been in the shop and played by many since he got ordered it in 2004. It was open and loud. The Kala, though, over the years has opened up, sweetened and is louder, more warm and pronounced than when new and is my favorite of all my ukes now. For $300, it just really can't be beat... that said, Pono is making some nice nice ukes these days and I can see myself owning one in the future but probably only the $8-900 models (cedar with macassar b+s).

I love the slotted headstock and own three ukes with them now! (as well as my Taylor GC5 has the slotted).

Good luck with your decision... probably not the last uke you buy but keep in mind that solid wood instruments take time to open up and you might also be initially underwhelmed. Just play the hell out of it and you will discover what the instrument really sounds like! :)

coolkayaker1
01-05-2014, 03:52 AM
+1...........
+2 to katysax suggestion and 1300s seconding that motion.

Flyinby
01-05-2014, 05:51 AM
Personally, I'd do some web searching for user and shop reviews of the two you've picked, as well as looking over the ukes as best you can on the web. As you can see, asking such a question here results in basically a listing of user favorites among thousands of users, to where you'll be better off looking for a used Martin Koa made in Asia but produced in Portugal, Hawaiian made from native Koa, with Worth humidifiers and solid Oasis acacia strings...

Coming from a photography background, I see the benefit of how photo equipment forums are separated into brands, which makes them much more productive when inquiries are made as to the performance and qualities of certain models. Even 'experts' quickly develop brand preferences based simply on what they own or have owned, which we are all prone to developing without any regard to whether it's genuinely better or not. (and remember the old computer tech forums where a legitimate question would produce the inevitable "get a mac" replies that helped nothing and turned threads into a waste of space?).

I've been considering one of those Ponos, though in a tenor size, and possibly the cutout model, and they certainly look very decent; I also have some Kalas, and the build and tone are excellent, with good value for the money spent...the Kala you're looking at looks very nice. Since you can't play them and feel them for yourself, perhaps just user reviews would be your best bet...keeping in mind of course that no matter what it is, you'll get some raves and some shipping complaints. Asking here helps too, of course, but it certainly could make a simple decision into a confusing mess if you took everything to heart, and be counter productive rather than helping. Since you know that either will be set up well, look over the qualities of both, price, build, appearance, and sound as best you can tell online, and make your own decision. I don't think you can lose with either one of the two you've settled on, and there are lots of other choices as you discovered, but having too many choices or recommendations might just make things more complicated and take the fun out of buying a new uke. Use your best judgment, and go from there.

suburude
01-05-2014, 10:00 AM
Pono !!!! :-)

KentSantaBarbara
01-05-2014, 11:11 AM
Sorry, but I am going to muck things up a bit. I have the Pono Acacia solid Concert and I have a Kala (KA-C) Mahogany Concert. And, maybe I just got lucky with the Kala or a little unlucky with the Pono. But the Kala sounds amazing for a $500 or under uke. And it only cost $105+. The Kala has a really nice tone and some sustain. The Pono is a little dull. I have tried many different types of strings on the Pono, but the best is still a little dull. Now the Kala isn't the quality of tone of a Kamaka, or Kanilea. But bang for the buck the Kala is great. I have Aquila low-G on it. Call the HMS guys and ask them to play both, with the same strings, and then make your choice. Or buy both, and return the one you don't want. Good Luck, it is difficult to buy a ukulele that you can't play. The HMS guys are great and they can help you.