Comparison: Kiwaya U-TRIP-02 vs. Ohana TPK-25G

badhabits

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I've wanted to compare these two sopranino pineapples for a while now, ever since I first noticed the Kiwaya line last year (there is also an -01 double bout version). Some differences between them:
  • Kiwaya is a thin laminate ("layered mahogany"), Ohana is solid mahogany
  • Open pore, satin finish on the Kiwaya, thick gloss finish on the Ohana; I prefer satin in general… the Kiwaya is also a littler "redder" than I was expecting
  • The pineapple body shapes are very similar between the two, a bit more teardrop to the Ohana (narrower at top, wider at bottom) and the Kiwaya has a slightly bigger body (longer and deeper/thicker) when compared side-by-side
  • Overall, the Kiwaya is 480 mm long (just under 19") with a measured scale of 292 mm or 11-1/2" (spec is 290 mm); the Ohana is a little longer, 485 mm (19-1/8") and the scale just under 12" (11-15/16" or 303 mm as measured)
  • Headstock shapes are obviously different; I much prefer the plainer, more traditional Kiwaya... but is it weird to have the cartoon logo of a traditional shaped ukulele on a pineapple?
  • Generic geared tuners on the Kiwaya, Grover on the Ohana; both work fine, but a bit of play in one of the generics on the Kiwaya
  • Measured with digital calipers, the Kiwaya nut width is right at 35 mm and the Ohana is 33.5 mm (spec 1-5/16")...1.5 mm seems small but makes a difference, Kiwaya wins here
  • Neck profiles are comparable, the Kiwaya is chunkier towards body due to a bigger heel; "righty" side dots on both
  • String spacings at the nut are 28.6 and 27.1 mm and at the saddle 41.1 and 35.3 mm for the Kiwaya and Ohana, respectively... that makes the Kiwaya pretty “normal” and even slightly wider than some concerts I have
  • Weight-wise, the Kiwaya is about an ounce lighter at 321 gm vs. 354 gm for the Ohana
  • The Kiwaya comes with a thin, barely-padded bag of typical design, Ohana has an optional soft case (which is nice and plush, but adds another $25-30 or so)
  • The Kiwaya isn't commonly found, at least in the US, whereas Ohanas are just about everywhere
Both are currently fitted with fluorocarbon strings (stock KFC for Kiwaya, M600 on the Ohana, stock is the ubiquitous Aquila), set up similarly (about 0.5 at 1 and 2.25 mm at 12) and are tuned gCEA (a benefit of sopranino over the smaller sopranissimo, IMO). Seems like slightly more tension on the Ohana; not saying the Kiwaya is floppy, but someone else might. Intonation is good up the neck on both, nice sustain as well.

Both sound good, really good considering their size. Keep in mind I'm mostly a picker. When I first got the Ohana I thought it was infinitely better sounding than the smaller double bout O'nino that I had. Between these two, some days I think the Kiwaya sounds better, others the Ohana... they are very close to my untrained ear. Perhaps a touch more volume and bass to the Ohana, but I think the edge for sound goes to the Kiwaya because more often I feel the Ohana has that small instrument sound, less so for the Kiwaya. YMMV, of course. Can't say I'm surprised by the laminate though; I had a KSU-1L that sounded great.

The Kiwaya definitely wins on playability due to the wider nut and spacings, even with the slightly shorter scale. It just feels more like a bigger uke and fretting is cleaner (still easy to cheat on chord shapes though). Sometimes I think the body of the Kiwaya feels too deep/thick for such a small uke, but the difference in depth is only a couple of mm (yet it's also within a couple of mm of my Kala KA-15s).

The downside is the Kiwaya is currently difficult to find; not sure it’s even sold in the US. There are smaller and cheaper alternatives, but I would avoid those if valuing sound over size or if you do not want to tune up (like me)... i.e., I think this sopranino size is as small as you can get without it sounding like a toy. These two are both good choices, although the better playability gives the nod to the Kiwaya.

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Ukecaster

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Great review, thanks for sharing that! The Kiwaya's darker woods and crown headstock shape appeal more to me, very classy and traditional.
 

man0a

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fyi - Kiwaya U-Trip-02 sells for about US$60 (retail price in Japan) while Ohana TPK-25G sells for about US$175 (retail price in the USA). The entry-level Kiwayas are really great values, if you are in Japan.
 

RPAtech

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Thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed writeup.
It looks like I'll have to pick up a U-TRIP-02 soon.