Whats goin on with kala "elite"

Final_form

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I cant find these ukes anywhere except kala official site, is sth wrong with kalas elite ukz? Its also hard to find videos reviewing each model.

alohacitystore- nope.
hms - nope.
ukelikeapro- nope.
ukerepublic-nope.
...
stores in EU/UK - nope.... :(

I want to buy good midpriced uke (spruce top/full koa) with wide nut/string spacing (budget max. 1k$).
------ukes ive considered
-rebel/koaloha opio - 38mm nut but too narrow s. spacing
-romero creat. - i dont like back bracing
-koaloha/kamaka/kanilea - i dont want to pay that much. ( these uks also contains shell inlay so its extra + 100$ )

Kala 1koa caught my eyes, it has wide nut and string spacing which i like. The only video i found is very short clip by HMS on vimeo.



Maybe people associate kala as not the best sounding import ukes. i dunno.

*sorry for my poor english :)
 
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clear

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Maybe people associate kala as not the best sounding import ukes.

Don't know about Europe, but in the US, Kala is known for its good customer service and great value for $. The last few made-in-China Kalas I bought even came a signed and dated checklist, which means people in their US office went over those ukes to make sure they meet pretty decent playability standards. I don't think you can get this with the other import brands like Ohana, etc. Oh, heck, even Kamaka doesn't do that with their US-made ukes.
 

Rakelele

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From what I understand, Kala has started a direct marketing scheme which undercuts their sellers. Apparently, this is why some stores have stopped selling them.
 

Bill1

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The Kala Elite range is weighed down by the baggage of all the free ukes handed out to Schools and Libraries by Kala. And the reputation for being cheap. Even though the Elite range is good, very few buyers will believe that they are made in California, and that makes getting a decent re-sale price very hard.

The Kala brand has a sales office in the USA, apart from the Petaluma workshop, and is basically a sales and merchandising organisation with a big office in California. Not unlike other ukulele sales and merchandising companies.

The competing brands in Hawaii actually make ukuleles. The owners of the companies can make and design ukuleles, they are accessible to the public via popular factory tours. Sure, they merchandise the lower cost end of their product range or have set up a factory in another country, but they can design ukes and make ukes themselves and they are not shy of talking to the public. Why would you need to see a checklist QA check when you know that the foreman checks every uke before it leaves the workshop? And you can send them a question, and you get an answer from the Foreman or a senior executive.

These practices could be implemented at the Petaluma workshop, factory visits, access to the designers, dealing with the company execs and not a call centre. Then the workers in the workshop and the ukes they make might enjoy the respect they deserve.

I have posted before that I think the Petulama made ukes would really take off if they were not associated with Kala so much. I think a name change would do wonders for the sales of the Petaluma made ukes. How many loyal Californians would not want a well made, great sounding uke with "Made in California" proudly displayed on the label? And how big is the uke market in California?
 

Wukulele

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Kanilea has the nut width you want. With budget constraint, may have to give on other factors, unless you get lucky on something used via Reverb, eBay, etc.

Kanilea Oha line is Koa solid top, mahogany solid body, made in Hawaii. Concert Oha s in late 2019 was $700 USD. Like many things prices, have have likely gone up. Supply has been impacted as demand on ukes (among many things) increased during the pandemic.

But necks are more than just nut width... there's neck shape/depth too.

Kala non-elite has a high send-back rate from dealers who set-up & sell them, due to QC at the factory level. The ones sent back to Kala likely still get sold thru ??? sellers who don't set-up, perhaps.

I cant find these ukes anywhere except kala official site, is sth wrong with kalas elite ukz? Its also hard to find videos reviewing each model.

alohacitystore- nope.
hms - nope.
ukelikeapro- nope.
ukerepublic-nope.
...
stores in EU/UK - nope.... :(

I want to buy good midpriced uke (spruce top/full koa) with wide nut/string spacing (budget max. 1k$).
------ukes ive considered
-rebel/koaloha opio - 38mm nut but too narrow s. spacing
-romero creat. - i dont like back bracing
-koaloha/kamaka/kanilea - i dont want to pay that much. ( these uks also contains shell inlay so its extra + 100$ )

Kala 1koa caught my eyes, it has wide nut and string spacing which i like. The only video i found is very short clip by HMS on vimeo.



Maybe people associate kala as not the best sounding import ukes. i dunno.

*sorry for my poor english :)
 

Peter Frary

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I bought a Kala Elite 1Koa Limited in 2020 from HMS. Stock comes and goes and I'm sure stock will eventually appear. I had to wait months to get a Kanile'a GL6 and RC Tiny Tenor 6, so Kala is in good company when it come to shortages. 'Ukuleles sold very well this past year and yet production was iffy for months due to the COVID thing, so it's not surprising popular models are sometimes in short supply.
 

Dohle

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-romero creat. - i dont like back bracing

I'm a bit confused here. What do you mean by back bracing?

I recommend you check out aNueNue's AKK2 (concert) and AKK3 (tenor) models. They're all solid koa ukes and cheaper than the standard K brands but, in my opinion, equal quality. The nut width isn't quite as wide as on a Kanile'a for example but the string spacing is very close to the same I believe.

No idea about Kala Elites though. Don't know much about them and rarely see them available anywhere. I'm not a fan of the brand even though I'm sure the Elite models are better quality than the Chinese-made ones.
 

Peter Frary

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I'm a bit confused here. What do you mean by back bracing?

I recommend you check out aNueNue's AKK2 (concert) and AKK3 (tenor) models. They're all solid koa ukes and cheaper than the standard K brands but, in my opinion, equal quality. The nut width isn't quite as wide as on a Kanile'a for example but the string spacing is very close to the same I believe.

No idea about Kala Elites though. Don't know much about them and rarely see them available anywhere. I'm not a fan of the brand even though I'm sure the Elite models are better quality than the Chinese-made ones.

Most of the Romero Creations designs use fan bracing on the back—sort of a quasi-soundboard. It provides a significant increase in volume and sustain but, if your instrument rests on your gut, it muffles back vibration, reducing volume considerably. A good reason to do extra sit-ups...
 

Towser

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I just bought 2 Kala Elites directly from them. Customer service was great. The kala elites sound big, full warm with an almost classical guitar sound. There are a few people who have done the Kala Elite tour in California. Just put in Kala Elite factory tour and it will come up. Also, Mike Upton owner of the company did over an hour podcast with HMS talking about the Kala Elites. That said, I am an agreement with some of the forum members, I don’t know is the USA made Kala Elites are here to stay? I’d get them while you can, if they stop making them they’ll just end being collector’s items. People will be saying “remember when Kala made a USA model?!” Good luck!
 

Kenn2018

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I confess that I was a little skeptical about the Kala Elites when I first heard about them. They didn't fit with my perception of Kala instruments. But after reading several complimentary reviews about the US operation and the high quality of the ukuleles they were producing, I bought one when it was listed in the UU Marketplace. It's a myrtle/spruce custom tenor that is a lovely instrument. Plays easily, terrific projection and sustain, excellent craftsmanship. All-in-all, and instrument that is well worth its price.
 

Final_form

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Kanilea has the nut width you want. With budget constraint, may have to give on other factors, unless you get lucky on something used via Reverb, eBay, etc.

Kanilea Oha line is Koa solid top, mahogany solid body, made in Hawaii. Concert Oha s in late 2019 was $700 USD. Like many things prices, have have likely gone up. Supply has been impacted as demand on ukes (among many things) increased during the pandemic.

But necks are more than just nut width... there's neck shape/depth too.

Kala non-elite has a high send-back rate from dealers who set-up & sell them, due to QC at the factory level. The ones sent back to Kala likely still get sold thru ??? sellers who don't set-up, perhaps.

Ive never seen guitar/ukulele built of koa top + maho b&S, so i dont want to risk even if its kanilea.

/

Thanks all for answers. One more uestion: kala elite koa owners, please tell me if this ukulele is loud.
 
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Bluesy

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I've got an early elite concert koa with fan bracing. Loud is not the way that I'd describe it, especially compared to my Blackbird Clara, which is a cannon. The Koa Elite has a sweet voice, very articulate, expressive. Mine has opened up nicely with daily play. I use it for fingerstyle and strumming. It's certainly not a muffled instrument. It will hold its own in a group, but doesn't overpower anyone. I guess I'd say it plays nicely with others.

The newer Elites with the X bracing will be louder.

Bluesy.
 

Wukulele

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So what's the rationale (logical reasoning) behind the bias against Koa top/Mahogany sides?

That YOU've never seen it likely speaks more for how (not) much you've personally seen/played LOL...

Just walked into a well respected (nationally, internationally) bricks & mortar shop. One of the most reliable models of instruments under $1K is (insert desirable top tonewood) + mahogany sides/back. Made by a company way older than Kanilea.

Ive never seen guitar/ukulele built of koa top + maho b&S, so i dont want to risk even if its kanilea.

/

Thanks all for answers. One more uestion: kala elite koa owners, please tell me if this ukulele is loud.
 

Kenn2018

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I'd have to hear a mahogany side koa top to decide if I liked the sound. I'm kind of surprised that you would put another hard wood on the top. How does that affect the hog body sound? Does it warm it up a touch? Make it a tiny bit brighter?

I think I'd be more interested in a spruce or cedar top to accomplish that and increase the projection.

I'm certainly open to a koa top on a hog body. It would need to prove its worth to me.
 

Towser

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I just purchased a Romero Creations Grand tenor in mango. I can attest that the back braces cause the ukulele to become thin sounding and muted when any part of your body touches the back! It sounds great if you can hold it away from your body but that’s not comfortable. I think I also will be returning it for a Kala Elite Tenor in Koa, since they don’t make it in mango. Really disappointed. Also I just got an email from Mike Upton last week, super appreciative of the business and they are slowly bringing things back up to speed. The had of batch of 4 for new Koa 3 tenors they sold in less than a week! Also in reference to the one forum member: I think Kala was trying to do direct buying like Kanile’a did with their brand. I know it made some stores unhappy, but all I can say is that Kala has great customer service and the CEO gets right back to you when you email him!

Maybe this Pearse ebony armrest on the back on the ukulele could solve the belly muting problem?

https://store.banjobenclark.com/products/john-pearse-ebony-right-hand-armrest-for-acoustic-guitar
 
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bynapkinart

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Are you in Honolulu? Easy Street Music had a couple last time I was in, and the Ukulele Store on Lewers had one too.

They’re definitely fewer and farther between than they seemed to be not too long ago though!
 

merlin666

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The newer Elites with the X bracing will be louder.

Bluesy.

Not sure if that makes sense. X-bracing was invented to enable flat top guitars to be strung with steel strings and not collapse. I assume this is not used on classical guitars because it would just kill the sound of synthetic strings. Someone in the Kala marketing department must have smoked a bit too much of the strong stuff.
 

merlin666

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@Bill1 those are good points. The typical uke store is set up that one wall has the cheap mass produced ukes like Kala and Ohana, and another wall has the high end usually Hawaiian ukes. I have seen an Elite mixed in with the good ukes in a store about two years ago and compared it. And yeah it fit in with the Hawaiian ukes but was also priced the same. And for that I would rather take home the Hawaiian made uke.
 

Peter Frary

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Ive never seen guitar/ukulele built of koa top + maho b&S, so i dont want to risk even if its kanilea.

/

Thanks all for answers. One more uestion: kala elite koa owners, please tell me if this ukulele is loud.

My Koa Elite Custom (tweaked Koa1) has a beautiful voice, leaning to the mellow and dark side. Good volume but tends to blend in an ensemble due to the darker timbre. I use it a lot on multi-track recording for backing tracks. Love the harp-like tone I can squeeze out of it. On the other hand, my Doghair Elite (mahogany) is a screamer: loud, percussive and on the bright side. Not great for backing tracks—too aggressive sounding and doesn't blend. But if I want a single line improvisation to pop in an ensemble or track, I reach for the Doghair.