Next choice after Kiwaya KTS-4/5?

Calbrit

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Given the current lack of inventory for these models can anyone recommend a similar all sold mahogany soprano around the same price. I've searched reviews but I'd be interested in suggestions from anyone that actually has a Kiwaya KTS-4 or 5 now and also own other mahogany sopranos that can provide a comparison. The model I am looking for should be readily available. I have a Ohana sk38 and looking for something more refined in terms of build quality.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions.
 

Bill Sheehan

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I'm with Pete! I love my Martin S-0! For some reason the S-0 doesn't seem to get all that much love within the uke community, and I know I probably sound like a broken record, but I love its light weight, its very decent stock friction tuners, its nice chunky frets, and the fact that its fretboard doesn't extend too far down toward the soundhole (so I'm not inadvertently banging my index finger on the fretboard when I strum). It plays accurately (Martin M-600 strings tuned up to "a D F# B"), although I would mention that for the most part I'm not likely to go up past the 7th fret for the stuff I do. It has a great banjo-y "bark". And, as I recall, my S-0 (purchased about 2 years ago) wasn't all that expensive-- just under $300.00 (consider checking out the Reverb site and making an offer!). If there's a potential downside to point out, it's that the uke doesn't utilize any internal "lining" to assist the top, back and sides in staying together; that always perplexed me, but maybe that helps with the light weight, and it seems more than sufficiently solid.
 
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hendulele

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Ken Timms, if you can find one on eBay or on the secondary market. Martins are excellent, too.
 

Dohle

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I'm going to disagree with some of the others and not recommend the modern Martins. The S0 and S1 are decent ukes for the money but, to me at least, they play, feel and sound noticeably different compared to those classic Martins and their modern copies. Kiwaya would indeed be the best bet if you want a new uke that has that vintage Martin vibe but, as you said, they are often scarce. I've played a Kiwaya KTS-7 and a 1920s vintage Martin style 0 side by side and they are incredibly similar.

I would say your next best bet after the Kiwaya would be a custom/independent builder. Ken Timms is a no-brainer but they are also very rare and sought after. I've seen praise for Brad Donaldson's vintage Martin style sopranos here recently so that's another alternative. Wunderkammer / Liam Kirby in the UK seems to make wonderful vintage style ukes.

Some other factory made models are the Ohana SK-38 you mentioned and also their SK-39 which is just a fancier uke modeled after the Martin style 3. The Flight MUS2 seems to be very similar. The best I've played myself is the Sigma Guitars SUM-2S which, in addition to being cheaper, is also miles better at replicating that vintage Martin vibe than the modern S1. However, if you're in the US it's literally impossible for you to buy one since Sigma is not allowed to sell their instruments in the US.

edit.

I almost forgot about Eastman Guitars. They make excellent classic mahogany style ukes and they're EU3S is a really classy mahogany soprano. The finish they use is a very high gloss which I think also makes the sound fairly bright, and they also use geared tuners on the soprano so in those aspects the Eastmans feel certainly more modern than most of the others I mentioned.
 
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Calbrit

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Thanks for the Eastman suggestion. I just returned a Martin S1 (my second). The build is excellent but the sound to my ears not so. My inexpensive Cordoba 20sm has a superior sound to the S1.
 

Dohle

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Thanks for the Eastman suggestion. I just returned a Martin S1 (my second). The build is excellent but the sound to my ears not so. My inexpensive Cordoba 20sm has a superior sound to the S1.

I completely agree. I don't like the thick fretboard on the S1 but otherwise the build is fine. But it's the sound that's the biggest issue. It's incredibly bright, almost shrill I'd say. A far cry from the warm but still punchy sound of the vintage Martins or Kiwayas. In terms of sound specifically, there are better and also cheaper alternatives.
 

Mivo

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I'd wait for them to become available again. If the sound and playability of Kiwaya appeal to you (and I really enjoy their instruments), you won't get quite the same experience from other models. But if we're talking great sopranos in general, the aNueNue US200 Moonbird or a KoAloha soprano won't disappoint. The KoAloha LN pineapple I had was one of the nicest soundest ukes I owned. Still regret that I let it go when I thought I would be happy with a Kanile'a guitarlele (fantastic instrument, but six strings weren't for me).
 

Ziret

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I think you’d be better off waiting for a Kiwaya, including a used one, than buying one of these others that’s “just about” as good and eventually buying a Kiwaya as well. It will be worth the wait. As I think I mentioned before, you may also find a used KTS-6—one step down from the KTS-7—for about the same price as a KTS-4. I’ve had some very nice sopranos and it’s by far my favorite. And the Ohanas—any Ohana—are like a different instrument in terms of build and sound. I could mention several very nice mahogany sopranos that are much better than the Ohanas, but the review always ends with “not quite as nice as a Kiwaya.” I’m sorry. I know how hard it is to wait. But they’re out there, and they’ll show up.
 

Ziret

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I'd wait for them to become available again. If the sound and playability of Kiwaya appeal to you (and I really enjoy their instruments), you won't get quite the same experience from other models. But if we're talking great sopranos in general, the aNueNue US200 Moonbird or a KoAloha soprano won't disappoint. The KoAloha LN pineapple I had was one of the nicest soundest ukes I owned. Still regret that I let it go when I thought I would be happy with a Kanile'a guitarlele (fantastic instrument, but six strings weren't for me).

Exactly. I’d love a Moonbird! But it’s not a replacement for a Kiwaya, if you want that sound. Nor would a Kiwaya replace a Koaloha.
 

hendulele

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Ken puts new ones on eBay with some regularity. If you can wait, either that or a Kiwaya should become available. Ziret is right. The others are great ukes, both they’re not modeled after the classic Martins.
 

Calbrit

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Ken puts new ones on eBay with some regularity. If you can wait, either that or a Kiwaya should become available. Ziret is right. The others are great ukes, both they’re not modeled after the classic Martins.

Thanks hendulele. Unfortunately, new Ken Timms Ukuleles are not readily available and based on recent EBAY prices plus shipping to the US places them quite a bit above my budget. I have decided to sell my Ohana SK38 (now with Gotoh UPTs!) in order to add a little more to my budget. I'm not sure if Kiwaya will keep their KTS-4 and 5's priced as before they sold out here so I may need the extra.

Thanks again to everyone who has contributed suggestions. Much appreciated.
 

richntacoma

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As mentioned, Brad Donaldson's Martin 0 style is really great, and less expensive than the Kiwaya and for sure the Timms.
 

Nickie

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If you can find one, the William King soprano is the best I've ever gotten my mitts on. Unfortunately, they tend to be expensive, and rare as hen's teeth.