4 Hawaii "K" brand ukuleles, which is your favourite?

4 Hawaii "K" brand ukuleles, which is your favourite?

  • Kanilea

    Votes: 33 22.6%
  • Koolau

    Votes: 14 9.6%
  • Kamaka

    Votes: 44 30.1%
  • Koaloha

    Votes: 55 37.7%

  • Total voters
    146

kerneltime

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There is a huge difference between Ko’olau vs others. Ko’olau is built by a small team and more inline with a luthier built ukulele. The others have assembly arrangements where they churn out a lot more ukes per year.
That said I have played all of those ukes and they are all amazing! Koaloha black label, Kanilea custom and Kamaka custom are the right comparison to Ko’olau IMHO.
 
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pmg2021

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Thank you so much for the information! I've looked at sound samples with the Iz IT tenor ukulele and older martins. I think what is tough is there are a vintage Martin ukuleles for sale with different years but it's difficult to find examples of them on youtube to compare to. I have asked for demos of some of them but I'm currently waiting for replies. With the sound from Vintage to modern Martin ukuleles, what would you say is the difference? I like playing very sleepy and warm music.
 

pmg2021

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Oh wow! That is amazing! I wish I could play any of those ukuleles you have described to compare to. I think it's difficult to decide because I want to buy a solid Mahogany instrument but I do not see any for sale with the Kbrands. I see Martin ukuleles with solid Mahogany but there are vintage v.s. modern and that is making it diffcult to decide if I should go this route or if I want a Kbrand made of Koa. They all sound so lovely and I wish I could have 1 of each lol. Sigh.
 

kerneltime

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Oh wow! That is amazing! I wish I could play any of those ukuleles you have described to compare to. I think it's difficult to decide because I want to buy a solid Mahogany instrument but I do not see any for sale with the Kbrands. I see Martin ukuleles with solid Mahogany but there are vintage v.s. modern and that is making it diffcult to decide if I should go this route or if I want a Kbrand made of Koa. They all sound so lovely and I wish I could have 1 of each lol. Sigh.
UAS is real. Vintage ukes sound like their own thing. There is a sparkle and jangle that comes from aged wood that is hard to replicate in any new ukulele. You are covering a wide surface area when you include mahogany, k brands and vintage. There cannot be a single uke that covers it all and there is no “better” uke but just personal taste. Personal taste comes only with experimentation. The good part of vintage ukes is that they don’t really depreciate so you can buy and sell them for around the same price. If you want to experiment try to visit a store that keeps the ukes you want in stock.
 

pmg2021

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UAS is real. Vintage ukes sound like their own thing. There is a sparkle and jangle that comes from aged wood that is hard to replicate in any new ukulele. You are covering a wide surface area when you include mahogany, k brands and vintage. There cannot be a single uke that covers it all and there is no “better” uke but just personal taste. Personal taste comes only with experimentation. The good part of vintage ukes is that they don’t really depreciate so you can buy and sell them for around the same price. If you want to experiment try to visit a store that keeps the ukes you want in stock.

I actually plan to visit the local music stores on the weekend. Thank you so much for your time and information, hopefully I will find the one I am looking for and then slowly expand.
 

mjh42

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You forgot Kinnard. Sure they are custom build and not made in Hawaii, so they don't exactly fit. I don't own a Kinnard but I have played one. Oh My! Best ukulele I have had the pleasure of playing. I do own a Koaloha. A Tenor. Purchase was based on about a year and half of research and many viewings of videos of the big 3 K brands being played. Some time later I was able to handle and play a Kamaka soprano. While overall nice, it did not immediately put a smile on my face and say buy me. With the Kinnard the price was three time my Koaloha but I actually I still considered buying it right there and then. Hard to make personal judgements on instruments one has not played.
 

Counter

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Having owned all three, Kanile'a for the glitz, Kamaka for the class, KoAloha for the sound. If only KoAloha made a Baritone!
 

Dohle

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I've owned all three major K brand ukes. Sopranos from Kamaka and KoAloha, and two Kanile'a concerts. Currently I only own the KoAloha and Kanile'a ukes. I just never got on with the Kamaka soprano. It felt lifeless with the stock strings but switching strings got rid of its own character, so eventually I sold it. I think Kanile'a is best out of the three in terms of build quality but KoAloha wins in terms of sound. All that said, I do still want to try a Kamaka concert some day.

I've never tried a Ko'olau but I've no doubt I'd really enjoy one of those. I've always liked every Pono uke I've played in the past and still own one.
 

bynapkinart

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Kamaka will always be the class of the K’s but I voted Koaloha. Overall, Pops’ enthusiasm for music, sound and the ukulele just shines through the entire line, and they’re not afraid to try the crazy concepts. They’re never the flashiest but I really love the sound.

Unless you’re talking tenor only — then Kamaka’s tenor is just the best.

All of this is of course just my opinion and everyone else here is also right.
 

deznuchs

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Having had all four K's I could say they are all great but have their own characteristics. My 2 favorites were Kamaka HF-3 and Koaloha KTM-25, for sound and playability. This is all relative because they are all top-tier brands. Surprisingly my least favorite was my Ko'loau T100 koa.

I voted for Koaloha as my favorite if I had to only choose one. I ended up selling all my k-brands to feed my UAS, but I recently got another Koaloha because I like the sound.
 
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Kenn2018

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I know this is heresy, but the Ko'olau spruce/rosewood (I think) tenor I had the opportunity to play, very briefly 3 years ago, sounded a lot like a Pono to me. And felt much like one as well. Somewhat lighter. It had a side sound port as well. The slot head was exactly like my Pono's. The neck had a somewhat nicer shape.

The sound was richer and was more nuanced. I'm sure if I compared it next to an equivalent Pono I'd find some nicer features. But I'm not sure I could tell one from the other in a blind listening test from 10 or 15 feet away.

At least that is the impression I was left with. Today, I might feel differently.

I still think the Kamaka HF-3 had the most refined and sophisticated sound of the Ks. But the new models may have narrowed the sound gap between them.
 
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Kaelrie

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I did not expect Koaloha to come out on top. I expected Kamaka to win.

As for me, I live in Hawaii so I can just go play any of the K brands anytime I want. I ended up with a Kanile'a because of the combination of liking how it sounded and just being next-level beautiful to look at.
 
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ripock

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I completely expected Koaloha to win because they go cheap and appeal to the hoi polloi. More power to them and their marketing department. I personally have a Kamaka to appease the traditional ukulele gods. I have a hf3-LDS. It is my concession to the traditional sound of the assembly line product. It is my only re-entrant instrument. I bought and keep it to remind me of the ways of our ukulele forefathers. It keeps me grounded whereas my other custom ukes soar to new, unexplored heights.
 

Dohle

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I completely expected Koaloha to win because they go cheap and appeal to the hoi polloi. More power to them and their marketing department. I personally have a Kamaka to appease the traditional ukulele gods. I have a hf3-LDS. It is my concession to the traditional sound of the assembly line product. It is my only re-entrant instrument. I bought and keep it to remind me of the ways of our ukulele forefathers. It keeps me grounded whereas my other custom ukes soar to new, unexplored heights.

I'm curious why you think KoAloha "go cheap". I'd actually agree that their QC and finishing isn't on par with the other K brands but, for me, it's the sound that matters and I think it beats all the others. Then again, if we were talking about tenors, which I don't play myself, my opinion might differ.
 

RosieKamozie

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I completely expected Koaloha to win because they go cheap and appeal to the hoi polloi. More power to them and their marketing department. I personally have a Kamaka to appease the traditional ukulele gods. I have a hf3-LDS. It is my concession to the traditional sound of the assembly line product. It is my only re-entrant instrument. I bought and keep it to remind me of the ways of our ukulele forefathers. It keeps me grounded whereas my other custom ukes soar to new, unexplored heights.

Wow, what a pretentious response. The poll is not about how much better your custom Ukes are. Most of us already know luthier built customs are on a different level…and are not accessible to most.
 

ripock

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Wow, what a pretentious response. The poll is not about how much better your custom Ukes are. Most of us already know luthier built customs are on a different level…and are not accessible to most.

sorry that my tone offended you, but anyone can save money and access a custom uke. Currently I am diverting a little bit of money from every paycheck to eventually pay for a custom baritone.
 

RosieKamozie

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sorry that my tone offended you, but anyone can save money and access a custom uke. Currently I am diverting a little bit of money from every paycheck to eventually pay for a custom baritone.

“I’m sorry you’re offended…but” is not an apology, just an intro to double down on your position. I’m trying to point out that your privilege is showing and it’s not a good look. Stick to the poll topic. Your ability to save and buy customs
isn’t it.

On that note: I voted Koaloha, but that’s the only K-brand I’ve played so I can’t compare the other two. Would love to play a Kamaka someday. Never been very drawn to Kanilea, they just a touch to fancy for my taste.
 

Cluze

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I voted KoAloha, but for me it was really a toss-up between them and Kamaka. I really love them both, and which I prefer really depends on the day. My vote could have gone either way.

I've never owned a Ko'olau, but I have played a few used ones when they are (typically briefly) at Elderly Instruments. They seem pretty nice, but I don't have a ton of experience with them.

I love the look but not the the sound of Kanile'a. It just isn't my cup of tea. It sounds fine, but it doesn't captivate me like the others. I own one, but I really never play it. It looks and feels great and build quality is top notch, but I always reach for my Kamaka or one of my KoAlohas first.