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Thread: Big 'Uns: Pono Baritone Nui and Kala Tenor Guitar

  1. #1
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    Default Big 'Uns: Pono Baritone Nui and Kala Tenor Guitar

    I really like Guitars. I just can't get myself to master those six strings. So I'm really glad to see that some makers come out with what could be thought of as a really big Baritone Ukulele or a Guitar with only four strings.

    The two models that I have tried are the Pono BN-10D and the Kala KA-GTR. While Pono has created the name Baritone Nui (Hawaiian for "big"), Kala is referring to theirs as Tenor Guitar, like the ones that were popular in the 1920's. Both can be tuned to DGBE, but other than that, they are very different:

    • Pono is designed for classical/nylon strings; Kala is using steel strings.
    • Pono has the size of a fully grown Guitar with a 23" scale; Kala is right in between a Uke and a Guitar, with a 21" scale.
    • Pono has a nut width of 1 1/3 (35mm), like most Ukes; Kala is much narrower with 1 1/8 (30mm), more like a traditional Tenor Guitar (which were originally tuned in Fifths, like Mandolins and Banjos, and therefore, have a slimmer neck).
    • Pono has a bound radius fretboard; Kala's is flat and without binding.
    • Pono is made of all solid woods and adorned with an Abalone Rosette; Kala has a solid Spruce top, but laminated Rosewood back and sides with plastic binding.
    • Pono uses a perfectly mirror flat Gloss finish; Kala has a Satin finish with open pores.
    • Pono comes with a very nice case included, Kala offers a case that is very nice as well, but costs some extra money.
    • Both have a slotted headstock and very nice Grover tuners.

    At the price difference given (Pono starts at 879$; Kala retails for 329$ without the case), it is clear that Pono has some nicer features and a much higher quality. Nonetheless, both have their specific value:

    • The Pono Baritone Nui feels like a Guitar. Soundwise, it's arguably the warmest, richest, and deepest Baritone you'll find. It's a unique instrument, and just very high quality overall.
    • The Kala, on the other hand, is closer to a Baritone in size, but gives you the powerful sound of steel strings that no other Ukulele will, with tremendous volume, sustain, and clarity. It's smaller than most other Tenor Guitars and hence appealing to Ukulele players; I only regret that Kala didn't make the nut wider to accommodate for tuning to DGBE. To me, the fretboard is too narrow for chords like 2220.

    I like them both very much and recommend them to anyone who is looking for Guitar-like sound, but without having to deal with two extra strings. Of course, if you're exclusive to Sopranos tuned to high G, these won't be your thing...

    Pono_BN-10D_Kala_KA-GTR.jpg
    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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    I have been very close many times to pulling the trigger on a Pono nui, and still might. But for those wanting steel strings, very small guitar size, not so narrow at the nut, consider the Harmony tenor guitar. Solid Mahog, reasonably well constructed, and readily available at a reasonsble price(prob 200-500 dep on cond). I enjoy mine. I use it mainly for when I'm jamming with guitarist, un-amped, whenever I would get drowned out with my reg. Bari.

  3. #3
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    Those Harmony Tenor Guitars look nice. Do you happen to know their scale length and nut width? Their necks look pretty narrow, too. I'm sure you would be very pleased with the Pono Nui.

  4. #4
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    Oh Rainer.........you are fueling the fire

    Very nice review, very well layed out points and comparisons. If only the Kala had a 1-3/8" nut it would be a great cross over instrument for us uke players that want the steel string sound

    Someone should make something like that............nudge, nudge, wink, wink, bet a bunch of us here would buy them.
    Last edited by DownUpDave; 10-26-2015 at 06:15 AM.
    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

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rakelele View Post
    Those Harmony Tenor Guitars look nice. Do you happen to know their scale length and nut width? Their necks look pretty narrow, too. I'm sure you would be very pleased with the Pono Nui.
    Scale is 23", measures 1 5/16 at nut. I don't really find the spacing to be too difficult. But then I'm comfortable with the soprano or the Bari. You adjust quickly.
    Last edited by bunnyf; 10-26-2015 at 02:40 AM.

  6. #6
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    I have the Pono baritone Nui, and have played it almost exclusively since I got it. I also put Southcoast classical steel strings on it and tuned to DGBE, it is VERY guitar like. It has opened up a whole new world for me, and I think my playing has improved because I seem to be able to pull sounds from it that Im not able to get from my tenor ukes.
    In fact, I am very close to selling my Mya Moe tenor. I havent been able to bring myself to let go of it yet because it was such a big step to have a custom uke.
    Anyway, for a guitarish sound from the big Pono baritone, check out SouthCoast strings.
    Pono Acacia Baritone Nui
    Mya-Moe Walnut/Port Orford Cedar Tenor
    Pono Mahogony Tenor
    Kala Concert
    Lanikai Laminate Tenor

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by nancyg View Post
    I have the Pono baritone Nui, and have played it almost exclusively since I got it. I also put Southcoast classical steel strings on it and tuned to DGBE, it is VERY guitar like. It has opened up a whole new world for me, and I think my playing has improved because I seem to be able to pull sounds from it that Im not able to get from my tenor ukes.
    In fact, I am very close to selling my Mya Moe tenor. I havent been able to bring myself to let go of it yet because it was such a big step to have a custom uke.
    Anyway, for a guitarish sound from the big Pono baritone, check out SouthCoast strings.
    Could you tell us which sets of Southcoast strings you have tried exactly. They have SO many, I find it confusing. They are one of my favorite strings, btw. I've been wanting a NUI for a while, but was concerned about the string tension. Which did you find to have the least amount of tension? thanks!
    peace,

    david

  8. #8

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    Ibanez has a couple of tenor guitar options for those who are steel-string inclined... I have the PFT2 (the cheaper option that's shaped more like a dreadnought) and have been happy with it, but the AVT1 (which is more parlor shaped) is super cute and I've seen good reviews of it.
    The herd:
    Ukuleles: Lanikai LU-21C, Epiphone Les Paul, Kala KA-SMHT, Oscar Schmidt OU28-TE, Ohana TK-35, Ohana 30-L, Ohana SK-21, Ohana SK-21M, Pono MGTP, Pono ABD
    Guitars: Seagull S6 Slim, Seagull Coastline S12, Dean Espana Classical, Epiphone Les Paul II, La Patrie Etude
    Mandolin Family: Washburn A-style, Harmonia mandola, Trinity College octave mandolin
    Others: Seagull Merlin, Yamaha Guitalele, mountain dulcimer, Giannini cavaquinho, Harmonia cuatro

  9. #9
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    I have the blueridge BR-40TCE and i love it. Had it for ohh maybe 4-5 months or so now. If it is a representation of their products (ive never played any of their other guitars) i wouldnt hesitate to purchase anything else from them! Been a joy. My only issue is that i do miss the sound of nylon strings sometimes, i do play my bari when the mood strikes me for that sound but i really do prefer the size and scale of the tenor guitar. My end-game is to eventually snag a nui but they are a little to rich for my blood right now. I sold a nice pro classic in order to fund the blueridge and it was the best decision ive made. Good size, surprisingly loud, nice neck. It is an all gloss instrument and i really really dislike gloss necks (reeeally dislike but its not a hindrance at all. Has the pickup, honestly havent used it besides to check if it worked so i cant tell ya much about it lol its a fishman sonicore. But all together i love it!
    Blueridge BR-40TCE
    1950's Harmony Baritone
    Kohala Concert
    Makala Pineapple
    Makala Tenor
    Sojing Solid Electric Tenor
    Mahogany Merlin

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