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Thread: KoAloha Tenor Buying Advice?

  1. #1

    Default KoAloha Tenor Buying Advice?

    I'm hoping to buy a tenor ukulele to add to my collection. While I have a degree in music, I don't have a background in fretted instrument playing I was a violist, singer, and keyboardist. I have been playing ukulele since 2005.

    I have a Sonny D Super Concert, and while it has a gorgeous tone, I want an instrument that is a better one for strumming. I will probably sell that one to help fund this purchase.

    All of my other ukuleles are either sopranos or concert sized. Probably the two prized ukuleles of my collection, for me, are a KoAloha koa concert, and an Ohana 8-string concert (I love that jangly sound).

    Both the KoAloha and Ohana models are easy to play in my hands. I did look at an Ohana TK-300G gloss koa tenor, but while sounding sweet (and looking great), it wasn't capable of getting all that loud. I played a Martin T1K, but found it stiff and not very responsive at all, while sounding very barky.

    Ultimately, I'd like a tenor to learn the fretboard more and learn to play more instrumental music. I keep going back to thinking a KoAloha tenor. But I can't afford the $1200 or so dollars needed for a new koa model, as much as I'd probably love one.

    I do love the sound of koa. I love the harmonic complexity and sort of harmonic shimmer a good instrument reveals.

    I have seen the KoAloha Opio instruments online. Not thrilled with what I hear from the Acacia models. The spruce topped models are loud and clear, but I'm not sure they'll have the harmonic complexity or complexly interesting sound of the koas. (And it's tough depending on online videos).

    But budget is important here. I also like KoAloha's "Better than the weather" warranty. Helpful to someone who lives in the Northeast.

    So I'm leaning toward a KoAloha of some kind. I'm not in any particular hurry, so I'll wait for something to come along at the right price.

    Perhaps you might be able to help me out with 'pros and cons' of each option:

    KoAloha Opio Spruce top tenor

    KoAloha used koa tenor

    KoAloha used slimline tenor. (Any reason to consider this model?)

    Mahalo in advance.

    J

  2. #2

    Default

    What is your budget? If you know that Koa does it for you, I’d wait for the opportunity to come along that meets your price point in the second hand market.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
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    392

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    It looks like you are already well equipped with your two concerts. So it seems you played some tenors and you are sure you are comfortable with the longer necks and larger spacing between frets, which can make some things more difficult to play that are easy on a concert neck. Aside from difference in playing comfort, the tenor has a larger body which means you can get better response of lower frequencies, and if you want to expand your fingerstyle skills then it makes more sense to have a linear tuning (low G) on a tenor than on a concert size. But with this you will also lose some of the punch and higher frequency brilliance of the smaller size, and for some a low G tenor may even sound more like a little guitar than an ukulele. So yeah, take your time and wait for a used KoAloha. Maybe do some research on how they changed the model over time, and you will be able to pick a time from where they made them in a way that is particularly appealing to you. All the ones I played sounded great, but there are considerable differences in how they looked and felt in different years.

  4. #4

    Default

    Wow. Great response. Thank you.

    I don't know for sure that I'll love the tenor the way I love the concerts. The easier playing neck design of the KoAloha should help. Plus if I buy used, I shouldn't take much of a loss. My budget? <$600.

    I notice that when I play up the neck of the concerts, things get quite tight. And yes, I sort of prefer the sound of re-entrant tuning on a tenor ukulele. Otherwise it sounds too much like a guitar, and you lose that distinctive ukulele quality.

    What about a slimline KoAloha koa tenor?

    I don't have access to many better ukuleles, certainly used ones, in the Boston area. Can you try to describe some of the differences you have heard over time with regard to the sound (and perhaps playability of KoAlohas? My concert is from 2015.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2017
    Location
    Massachusetts
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    I love my Opio Spruce top tenor, I prefer the sound of it to my all koa Koaloha concert. There's one on the marketplace right now that's practically new, for about $200 less than new from Mim with standard gigbag.

    Have you checked out the Music Emporium in Arlington/Lexinton? They usually have a few better ukes in stock.

    I live in the Boston area - pm me if you want to see if trying my Opio tenor is feasible.
    Last edited by TobyDog; 07-11-2019 at 10:12 AM.
    "Got a whole lot of nothing, and I watch it like a hawk." - Louis Prima, 'I'm Living in a Great Big Way'

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
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    392

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    One of the big changes they made recently, possibly around 2015 or 16 is to go from the hand carved necks with a carving on the headstock to a CNC neck with Paua inlay (I think they are made in California) that is common to all levels, and then they attach a straight cut off fretboard to that in Honolulu (or Bangkok for Opio). I prefer the older necks a lot, and the ones on the rosette/acacia models at least look a bit like the old ones. There were also a lot of changes to their bridge design, bracing, where the neck meets the body, numbers of pieces of wood for the body, etc.

    In terms of sound, the KoAlohas of all levels sound remarkably similarly great. Though when you compare all levels side by side in the showroom it is also noticeable that the real Koa ones sound the best and the cheapest ones lose a bit with each price decrease. But if that small improvement is worth the considerable extra cost is the big decision. If I were to buy a new Koaloha I would prefer to do it from their showroom where they are quite a bit cheaper than from dealer. But I love traveling to Hawaii anyway at least once a year.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by TobyDog View Post
    I love my Opio Spruce top tenor, I prefer the sound of it to my all koa Koaloha concert. There's one on the marketplace right now that's practically new, for about $200 less than new from Mim with standard gigbag.

    Have you checked out the Music Emporium in Arlington/Lexinton? They usually have a few better ukes in stock.

    I live in the Boston area - pm me if you want to see if trying my Opio tenor is feasible.
    I have been to the Music Emporium many times. They have a $4000 Kanilea that is to die for, but way beyond my budget. I was less impressed with the $1200 Kanilea in comparison.

    I'll send you a PM. Thanks!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    Location
    Upper Hale, Surrey/Hants border, UK.
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    I got myself a KoAloha Opio solid acacia long neck concert - & my UAS stopped - I didn't really like the strings it came with, so put my favourite Living Water low G concert string set on it, & it is definitly my best sounding uke.
    Trying to do justice to various musical instruments.

  9. #9

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Croaky Keith View Post
    I got myself a KoAloha Opio solid acacia long neck concert - & my UAS stopped - I didn't really like the strings it came with, so put my favourite Living Water low G concert string set on it, & it is definitly my best sounding uke.
    �� Nice. Is that your first KoAloha?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    Location
    Upper Hale, Surrey/Hants border, UK.
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    5,801

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    Yep, first & only.

    (My secondary ukes are Ohana solid mahogany ukes, one long neck concert, one giraffe neck soprano.)
    Trying to do justice to various musical instruments.

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