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Thread: Review of the new KoAloha Opio Tenor

  1. #1
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    Default Review of the new KoAloha Opio Tenor

    The first batch of Tenors from KoAloha's import line "Opio" has just been released a couple of weeks ago. With all the positive feedback for the Opio Sopranos and Concerts, I was anticipating their Tenor model very much, as it's the size I mostly play (and I prefer geared tuners over the friction tuners that come with their smaller sizes). Moreover, I was wondering how these would compare to the Hawaiian made KoAlohas as well as to other instruments in the same price range.

    I have only had mine for a couple of days, so the following assessment is merely based on my first impressions. Nevertheless, I felt that an extensive review might be helpful, as these are new to the market, offering a great option for many.

    Make
    The Opio line is made in Thailand to the exact same specs as KoAloha's Hawaiian models. Same body shape, same "Unibrace" bracing, same crowned headstock, same triangular "Musubi" soundhole, same tuners, same Worth Clear fluorocarbon strings, same branded logo (with the word "Opio" added beneath it).

    The differences are Sapele wood instead of Koa, and for the Tenors Mahogany fretboard and bridge instead of Rosewood, Mango fretmarkers instead of Abalone, and no gloss finish. The finish on the Opio differs from KoAloha's own "Pikake" satin finish as well, it looks and feels almost like there's no finish at all.

    Feel
    While I like the fact that the finish is barely noticeable, it makes me wonder how it will hold up towards stains from sweating and oily skin over time, something I don't worry about as much with a gloss finish.

    Weight is 630 gr (22.2 oz), exactly the same as my Pono AT, and a little more than my Kanilea K1-TSF.

    The frets are a bit broader than average. Binding on the fretboard makes it comfortable to hold (and a couple of mm wider than the regular 3.5mm nut width). It has a perfectly rounded neck profile, with a circumference similar to Pono's, which some people refer to as "fat".

    One thing that I wasn't expecting is that the peculiar shape of the headstock gets in the way of turning the tuners, especially with the edges next to the 1st and 4th string. Not a big issue, of course, and the tuners themselves work very smooth and precise.

    Look
    I have never been a big fan of KoAloha's special design elements, but I think these features combine nicely with the simplicity of the Sapele wood.

    Another thing that I didn't like about some of the KoAlohas that I've seen is the fact that the back and sides are often not matching the top in figure and color. On the Opio line, however, they match much better. Not sure if the Thai factory is doing this intentionally, or if this is simply due to the fact that the Sapele they are using is very consistent and straight grained (not sure if that is the wood's natural color or if it's dyed).

    One thing that I notice on both the Hawaiian and the Opio line is that the necks of the tenors are assembled from two pieces that may vary greatly in color, as is the case on mine, with the heel being much darker than the rest of the neck. Personally, I'd prefer a more consistent coloring.

    Sound
    While KoAloha instruments are generally famous for their bright tone, this isn't how I would describe the Opio Tenor at all. To me, it sounds warm and sweet, open and "woody". This probably has to do with the Sapele wood, said to be similar to Mahogany, but the thin finish might also be a factor. I think it sounds great with the unwound linear string set it comes with. Perfect for strumming, but also nice for fingerpicking, making this uke a great all-rounder.

    From the ukuleles I have played, it compares best to my Kanilea TSF and my Pono AT, all three of them having a satin finish, a wide body, and a soundboard made of the same wood as the back and sides. Out of the three, I might actually like the sound of the Opio best. It's very resonant, with good sustain and a nice vibrato, definitely among the loudest ukes I own.

    Price
    This is where my feelings get ambiguous. For $576 MAP, you'll get an instrument that is almost as nice and in some aspects even nicer than a Hawaiian made KoAloha (or Kanilea, for that matter), at almost half the cost. Considering that the Opio Sopranos go for $369 and the Concerts for $405, however, I think that the Tenor is slightly overprized.

    The same goes for comparing to other fine instruments in the mid price range. With a Pono, for instance, you'll get the same features (all solid wood, satin finish, geared tuners) for $350, and even if you upgrade to their "Deluxe" gloss finish and a nice Oahu case, you'll pay less than for the Opio.

    Still, the fact remains that the KoAloha Opio Tenor is a very well built, really fine sounding instrument at an affordable price. I like the approach that KoAloha is trying to offer the same design, quality and warranty as with their Hawaiian instruments for considerably less money. If you're looking for something that is very similar to a Hawaiian Tenor, but you're not able or willing to spend +/-1K, then I'd definitively recommend considering the Opio.
    Enjoying instruments by - Beau Hannam - Jay Lichty - Jerry Hoffmann - Luis Feu de Mesquita - Kala - Kamaka - Kanile'a - KoAloha - Ko'olau - Moore Bettah - Pono - Romero Creations - and others

  2. #2
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    Thank you for this wonderful review, Rakelele. I've been curious to know how owners felt about their tenors. Last spring I picked up an Opio soprano, which I love. Great sound and the workmanship is excellent. I hope that you'll enjoy your Opio as much as I've been enjoying mine.
    Last edited by turtledrum; 07-05-2015 at 08:01 AM.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the great review - your post in combination with HMS sound samples will be a huge aid to anyone considering the Opio Tenor
    Scott in New York City, NY - USA ...
    (I smile when I play my Pono ATSH-PC Tenor and MGBD Mango Baritone ukes...)
    My YouTube Channel

  4. #4
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    Thanks for review Rakelele,
    I have one coming in a week or so......... was wondering if the wood was as consistent as the picture on HMS. Any pics of yours? I have mine coming high g as that is what I play. Funny, I also have a Pono AT so I will chime in once I get mine and offer up my opinion. I could have bought a Koa Hawaiian made tenor but was curious, I hope my curiosity is rewarded when I actually get to play one in person. I was also wanting to try the 15 fret neck....more later once I get my hands on one. Any sound samples?

  5. #5
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    Great review Rainer, very well thought out and writen. The Opio concert that I own is wonderful and to answer your question YES the wood is stained, that is why it is so consistent in color. I did not like the dull mat finish and I was going to sand it down and do a danish oil finish. I test sanded a small out of the way area and a soon as I got through the finish the white sand paper started picking up the dark brown pigment. I abandoned sanding at that point and just buffed it with steel wool.
    Currently enjoying these ukuleles : *LdfM tenor, *LfdM 19" super tenor. *LfdM baritone, *I'iwi tenor , *Koolau tenor, *Webber tenor, *Kimo tenor, *Kimo super concert, *Mya Moe baritone, *Kamaka baritone, *Gianinni baritone, *Fred Shields walnut pineapple super soprano, *Kala super soprano, *Loprinzi super soprano, *Black bear ULO concert , *Enya X1 concert, *Enya X1 pineapple soprano, *Enya Nova *Gretsch tenor, *Korala plastic concert

  6. #6
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    Great review on a great ukulele. I have considered one, and love the sound samples I have heard, but I have a hard time liking the finish, and/or the monochromatic look. I guess I need to see one in person.

  7. #7
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    I finally managed to take a couple of pictures of my KoAloha Opio Tenor:

    KoAloha_Opio_01.jpg KoAloha_Opio_02.jpg

    As you can see, it is very plain and straight grained, like all others that I've seen. As Dave mentioned, the wood is probably stained/dyed. Personally, I like that simple, monochromatic look. You can also see that the heel is darker than the rest of the neck. I'd prefer a more consistent coloring here, too.

    Soundwise, the Opio has quickly become my favorite production line uke, being very resonant, loud and clear, and perfectly balanced.

  8. #8
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    Nice review, Rakelele. Will help others searching.

    Based on this positive experience with the Opio, do you see yourself eventually getting a Koa KoAloha?

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by coolkayaker1 View Post
    Based on this positive experience with the Opio, do you see yourself eventually getting a Koa KoAloha?
    As a matter of fact, my wife has an all Koa KoAloha Noah, which is their Sopranino model. I would love to see how the Opio compares to a Hawaiian made KoAloha Tenor. But I'm assuming that for my purposes, I like the Opio just as much or even better.

  10. #10
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    Thanks for sharing this information Rakelele, really nice work.
    All the best,
    Campbell


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