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Thread: KoAloha or Kamaka tenor?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
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    Boulder, CO!
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    Default KoAloha or Kamaka tenor?

    So I'm fresh off of finalizing my taxes, and it so happens that this is the first year in many years I'll get a substantial refund. Substantial enough to finally fund something I've been wanting for about 8 years now: a Hawaiian-built Tenor Uke.

    With pricing now more or less the same across the K brands, I can afford essentially any of the standard tenors on the market, but since I kind of want to buy local I'm torn between the KoAloha and Kamaka tenors (there are dealers of each brand within 20 miles of me). My only experience owning a Hawaiian-built uke was when I owned a KoAloha soprano briefly back in 2012, which was spectacular -- I only traded it because I couldn't justify that level of investment in a soprano at the time.

    I went to Oahu last fall and while I didn't get to tour factories, I got to play a heck of a lot of ukes that I didn't have access to here in Colorado. I continue to be really inspired by the sound and feel of the KoAlohas, but for some reason I don't feel that immediate "holy crap I have to buy one of those" that I do for their soprano. I have no idea what it is. Perhaps the low-g setup that comes standard now kind of overemphasizes the lower end of the scale...it isn't unpleasant by any means, just a lot boomier than I expect.

    For the Kamakas there has always been a bit of a sense of unattainability for me which has shaded my view of the instrument. I know I don't like the stock strings and would want to hear what it sounds like with Worths or another CF string, but besides that the few that I've played have been built magnificently and sound really balanced, if a bit on the quieter side. But again, I don't know how much of my perception is colored by my favoritism of KoAloha in general.

    What do you all think? At this point in time, I've been considering all for many months as I've been saving towards it...and I'm kind of leaning towards the Kamaka at this point because of the case and history and balance of the instrument itself. KoAloha, the Okami family story, and their whole design aesthetic is really close to my heart too, so I'm torn.
    -Ben

    KoAloha Pineapple Sunday 6 String
    Kamaka HF-3 Tenor
    1928 Harmony Johnny Marvin
    Ohana TK-39
    c. 1970's Hikare Baritone
    Gretsch G9100
    Outdoor Ukulele Soprano #43


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  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2015
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    London
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    Default

    You really need to try them both side by side first. The sound is different, the feel is very different, the neck is totally different.
    Kamaka HF-3DC - Kamaka HF-2LD - Kanile'a Custom 5 string Super Tenor - KoAloha Special Issue Tenor - Pono MGTP5-PC

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
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    Boulder, CO!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Counter View Post
    You really need to try them both side by side first. The sound is different, the feel is very different, the neck is totally different.
    I should totally clarify, sorry: I've played both side-by-side a few different times, twice at shops on Oahu and then again a few weeks ago in the Bay Area. I guess my perceptions listed above are kind of my A/B comparison I've got in my head since they both have a ton more pros and cons than I've listed out!!
    -Ben

    KoAloha Pineapple Sunday 6 String
    Kamaka HF-3 Tenor
    1928 Harmony Johnny Marvin
    Ohana TK-39
    c. 1970's Hikare Baritone
    Gretsch G9100
    Outdoor Ukulele Soprano #43


    Videos

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
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    USA
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    Default

    Great news on the tax refund, and K-brand plans! I've never played any K-brand tenors, but seem to get the feeling from comments here that KoAloha tenors are generally louder than either Kamaka or Kanilea. I know each instrument is different, and things can change after an instrument opens up, but is there any truth to that generalization?
    John

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2015
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    London
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by bynapkinart View Post
    I should totally clarify, sorry: I've played both side-by-side a few different times, twice at shops on Oahu and then again a few weeks ago in the Bay Area. I guess my perceptions listed above are kind of my A/B comparison I've got in my head since they both have a ton more pros and cons than I've listed out!!
    Ah ok. Then I think if i was lucky enough to be in your position right now I would probably look for a Kamaka.

    Having said that I am lusting after a mango Koaloha Tenor which are very hard to find in the UK.
    Kamaka HF-3DC - Kamaka HF-2LD - Kanile'a Custom 5 string Super Tenor - KoAloha Special Issue Tenor - Pono MGTP5-PC

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
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    the wild west, Canada
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    Default

    The way you're describing them, you seem like you're not really blown away by either one of them but you like the idea of owning a Hawaiian tenor. I know you want to buy local, but maybe consider some other Hawaiian brands before deciding. But maybe nothing else in Oahu stood out to you? Between the two, I'd lean towards the Kamaka.

    I know what you mean about KoAloha - I love my soprano, but not sure whether I'd be interested in a larger size.
    Glenn

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Location
    Honolulu, HI
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    I think KoAlohas really excel in the soprano and concert sizes and would like to get one eventually. For tenors, though, my Kamaka HF-3 is my most-played ukulele. The neck carve is perfect for me and I like the quieter tone. KoAlohas seem like all the notes and chords end with exclamation points. I did swap out the strings to Worths and think it sounds great (I also added a Freemont low-g to it).

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
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    Buffalo, NY
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    KoAlohas come standard with low-g now?
    Just Feel The Groooooove

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
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    Honoka'a, HI
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    Do the dealers have more than one of each model? If so, play them all. They are all slightly different, even the same model. Maybe a different instrument will speak to you. An A/B comparison of a single Kamaka and a single Koaloha isn't a very good cross-section, IMO.
    Brad Bordessa

    My guide to fretting and fingering (NEW): Left Hand Technique for 'Ukulele

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    NH
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    Default

    Here's something to try, a Kamaka HF3 strung with Worth clear low G strings.
    Kamaka HF3, Tenor
    Martin S1, Soprano
    Ko'olau C1, Concert

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