Koa upgrade vs "fancy" features

MentalAtom

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Hey everyone,

Me again looking for more "advice" (basically other opinions) on my ongoing ukulele dilema.

I will buy a Kanile'a 100%. The new problem is as follows:
- The KSR-T in Premium is a bit less "fancy" with Koa, but has the armrest and slotted headstock
- They have in stock a couple of K-1 and K-2 with "Master grade" Koa which looks super pretty but of course costs almost as much as the KSR. I also feel like a K1-T in Master grade is not a thing you see everyday...

Would you, personally, go for the slotted headstock and armrest (really not sure how useful they are?) and a bit less fancy wood, or pay the money for the upgraded "features"? I know it's a subjective thing but just would love to hear thoughts - especially if for you the slotted headstock or armrest are a game-changer somehow. And of course the sound is the same anyways, I know this :)

Thanks! It's just nice to hear other views to help me think it through.
 

clear

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Do you need an armrest for the uke? If so, then the answer is very simple.

If not, then is it possible for you to try them in person? The slot head balance and feel a little differently.
 

Nickie

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What do you think suits you best? Me, I couldn't care less about a slotted headstock, it's just for looks.
A chamfered armrest is a must!
 

kerneltime

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Hey everyone,

Me again looking for more "advice" (basically other opinions) on my ongoing ukulele dilema.

I will buy a Kanile'a 100%. The new problem is as follows:
- The KSR-T in Premium is a bit less "fancy" with Koa, but has the armrest and slotted headstock
- They have in stock a couple of K-1 and K-2 with "Master grade" Koa which looks super pretty but of course costs almost as much as the KSR. I also feel like a K1-T in Master grade is not a thing you see everyday...

Would you, personally, go for the slotted headstock and armrest (really not sure how useful they are?) and a bit less fancy wood, or pay the money for the upgraded "features"? I know it's a subjective thing but just would love to hear thoughts - especially if for you the slotted headstock or armrest are a game-changer somehow. And of course the sound is the same anyways, I know this :)

Thanks! It's just nice to hear other views to help me think it through.
Go with the one that sounds better to you. Fancy Koa is all about looks, most of the upgrades mentioned do not mean much to me. Pick the thing that will make you want to play it more often.
 

Dohle

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A few people have dismissed the slotted headstock but I'll give you an alternate opinion. I have two Kanile'a ukes with a normal headstock and regular tuners. Both are, of course, great instruments but I have a real issue with the regular tuners Kanile'a uses. The tuning posts are ridiculously short. So much so that if you try to wind strings with fairly small gauges you will quickly start to overlap the string around the posts unless you unwind the string, stretch it again and start over. Personally, I would immediately jump at a chance to get a Kanile'a with a slotted headstock if I had the option of two with similar prices.

The armrest, meh, don't care about that. Then again, I don't really care for the prettier koa either. I don't really see the point in having a basic K1 with master grade koa but that's just me.
 

Peter Frary

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I agree, the stock Kanile'a tuner posts are silly short. I have a premium k-1 super tenor and wish it had a slotted head stock. Of course I'm used to classical guitars but I find the lotted head stock so much easier to change strings on. And that ebony veneer is really shows string scratches compared to a slot...
 
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I love slotted headstocks and armrests, so that’s what I would go with. Prettier Kia doesn’t mean better-sounding koa.
 

merlin666

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I love slotted headstocks and armrests, so that’s what I would go with. Prettier Kia doesn’t mean better-sounding koa.

I don't understand the purpose of an armrest, but when I was in the Kanile'a showroom and had chance to play some of their ukes with slothead and stealth tuners I certainly felt that this was a feature that added a lot of value and sound improvement. While I dislike cheap slotted headstocks that look oversized and heavy the Kanile'a ones are great.
 

Spieler

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I don’t have a strong preference for slotted headstocks, and more specifically dislike the chunky ones found on Concert-sized Ohanas, Anuenues, etc (they are so close as to perhaps be the same CNC pattern…?), but: the Kanile’a headstock is sublime, in its proportions and visual elan. Definitely worth serious consideration, if that sort of thing appeals to you.

~ S.
 

Kenn2018

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I am quite ambivalent about slotted headstocks. They are pretty rare to see on the Kanile'a tenors.

The higher grade wood, if striking in appearance, is nice and an easy resell. I have a K-1T & K-1T Premium. Both are very unusual looking and sound virtually the same with identical strings. I've had unsolicited offers for both of them. Neither is for sale.

Some say the slotted headstock is better for the strings and neck angle, but you have to get the strings right so they don't rub. (See MyaMoe video.)

The armrest is very nice. If having the edge of the body digging into your forearm isn't a problem, then it's not a factor for your enjoyment.

Bottom line: Pros and cons. None of these features will affect the sound in any appreciable manner. So, it's up to you to decide on looks, comfort and your desire. What will cause you to play it more often? Increase your enjoyment? Impress your friends?

All of which are important to some and not so much to others. It'd fun to draw oh's and ah's amongst other ukers. But it's fleeting.

Get what works for you. Enjoy.
 

Graham Greenbag

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Hey everyone,

Me again looking for more "advice" (basically other opinions) on my ongoing ukulele dilema.

I will buy a Kanile'a 100%. The new problem is as follows:
- The KSR-T in Premium is a bit less "fancy" with Koa, but has the armrest and slotted headstock
- They have in stock a couple of K-1 and K-2 with "Master grade" Koa which looks super pretty but of course costs almost as much as the KSR. I also feel like a K1-T in Master grade is not a thing you see everyday...

Would you, personally, go for the slotted headstock and armrest (really not sure how useful they are?) and a bit less fancy wood, or pay the money for the upgraded "features"? I know it's a subjective thing but just would love to hear thoughts - especially if for you the slotted headstock or armrest are a game-changer somehow. And of course the sound is the same anyways, I know this :)

Thanks! It's just nice to hear other views to help me think it through.

I would echo the mentality that says check the resale values as they are indicative (but not a lot more than that) of which is the better instrument, the opinions of people who do part with cash are a reasoned guide. I don’t do bling and I don’t do fancy but I do do practical so what features would you actually use, what wouldn’t give you advantage and what ‘features’ might be a pain (like too short tuning posts).

This is an expensive instrument so you really should play examples and compare with other instruments before you purchase, I suggest that you make that (maybe long) journey to the store or delay purchase until you can. Of course it’s your money and your decisions but understanding why you really do need that particular and such an expensive instrument would be helpful to you.

For what it’s worth I would advise against automatic brand loyalty. It might be a guide towards things you’re likely to like but I’m my experience it’s not a reliable enough guide.
 
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Cadia

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I have a KSR-T premium, and I feel it's worth it, if you can afford it. The beauty of the koa is sublime. The other features are very nice. I was fortunate to pick mine up "used", from someone who had just bought it from HMS the month before, so I saved a few bucks. Keep in mind that not only is the fretboard wider, so is the string spacing. This is a little uncomfortable for me, but I'll keep it anyway.
 

MentalAtom

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Thanks for all the input and opinions everyone. Especially about the very short tuning posts, I really had no idea... I spoke to my "local" dealer (its not so easy this side of the pond and outside of the UK) and he has a couple of KSR-T Premium tenors on the way.

Once they come I will go and see, because I figure KSR-T Prem is maybe the perfect compromise between master grade on a K1 or the KSR features.

Thanks again for all the advice and input and helping me figure it out!
 

Sporky

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Happy for you, that's going to be a phenomenal upgrade!
If you'd like my opinion on your dilemma... Of course it's down to personal preference, and it would depend on the master grade koa you're looking at. As with the lower grades, the variation is such that personally there is some master grade that I'm not a fan of. The Kanile'a slotted headstock, always a fan. Now this can go both ways when reselling. The KSR is not "unique" , that is to say someone can just order it new if they have the means. But it's also not going to have variations undesirable to some.
I agree with someone else in that often times slotted headstock are oversized and weird, but Kanile'a ones are sublime. But their regular headstocks are also beautiful, and I enjoy that ukulele look.
The armrest, for a tenor I don't think is required yet. Again personal.
Now, in both cases I find that these options are outside of the sweet bang-for-your-buck spot. The master grade koa and the KSR upgrades are both hugely expensive for what remains essentially the same instrument. If I had the budget for those, I would start considering custom instruments. Admittedly if it has to be a Kanile'a their 'design your own' ukes add up to crazy money.
For my budget (okay okay way outside my budget *tears*) I think that at regular pricing the best choice is a K-1 deluxe with particularly nice koa. Perhaps a premium. For models priced above that I would wait for a special deal from a store or individual.
Good luck with your choice :)
 

Kenn2018

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I’ve never tried one, but the arm rests look comfortable.

They are. I have a tenor with a very 90 deg right angle join between top and side and the edge digs into my arm a lot when I play it.

The Ko'Aloha tenors have a nice rounded edge to their bodies that are almost as comfortable as an armrest. I have a Pono Masters tenor that has an armrest and I like it a lot compared to their other tenors which have very slightly rounded edges.
 

Steedy

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I'll echo what a few others have said about the KSR-T Premium. I have one, and every time I play it I think it's my best-sounding Tenor uke. The beveled armrest is very comfortable, and I love Kanilea's thin slotted headstock. Makes it much easier to use a clip-on tuner than the beefy slotted headstocks on other brands. For me, the only drawback is the Gotoh Stealth tuners. They work fine, but the buttons are small and difficult for my old fingers to turn sometimes. (Right now, I'm dying to order a Kanile'a 2021 Platinum model, but $6K is too much, even for my UAS.)

Obligatory photo of my KSR-TP:

20201006_174048 (2).jpg
 

MentalAtom

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Thanks for the feedback everyone. I had an email that he is expecting the ukes to arrive on Thursday so hopefully I can get over there at the weekend!

My thought process is basically a couple of things. One being that right now I don't feel the need for the armrest too much, but since I plan to keep this uke for many many years then when I'm old(er) maybe I find it useful. Plus, it's for comfort so it can't be a bad thing. I also really like the look of the slotted headstocks and everyone seems to rave about the thin Kanile'a ones. Secondly, one of my ukes is already a custom (albeit not in the same price range) but with a custom you never know quite what you're gonna get. My target right now is Koa, Hawaiian, and so there's not so many options that I would really look into.

Assuming I buy the KSR, I have the Hawaiian Koa tenor which I'll probably keep in high G, the other custom which is my goto for low G and then the Enya tenor which is relatively "cheap" and will be my campfire/out and about/not-so-nice circumstances uke. So for now the UAS should be over! I'm already in trouble for 3 ukes :D the only remaining option would probably be to upgrade the Enya at some point but dropping so much on the Kanile'a that's not gonna be any time soon.
 

kkimura

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A last minute comment if I may. I believe Chuck Moore, of Moore Bettah Ukuleles, once said the plain straight grained koa is easier to make sound good than the fancier grades.
 

cayuga red

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A last minute comment if I may. I believe Chuck Moore, of Moore Bettah Ukuleles, once said the plain straight grained koa is easier to make sound good than the fancier grades.

My Martin 5K Soprano is made with dazzling koa and I can’t imagine how it could sound better!!