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Thread: Why I Can No Longer Recommend Pono Ukuleles

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2018
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    Default Why I Can No Longer Recommend Pono Ukuleles

    This is a difficult thread for me to write. I really like my Pono tenors—I own six of them. (MGT; ATD; ETSH-PCC; PTEC-CE; RTC(S)-PC & MTSH-C-MS.)

    Without reservation, I’ve steered several people towards buying them. Because, I’ve often considered their starting-level ukes to be some of the best bang-for-the-buck bargains on the market.

    They were well made, durable and sounded great. I always thought they were a perfect, step up from an entry-level beginner’s tenor. (Provided the somewhat thick, C-shaped neck fit the person’s hand.)

    I’m afraid that after attempting to buy my seventh, an MGTP pineapple tenor, I found the quality has declined.

    I decided to get the base-level mango pineapple because it has a satin finish, and I feel that its sound was more open than the gloss-finished deluxe or PC versions.

    The mango body of the instrument was excellent. Tight, smooth, and good-looking with an excellent deep, warm and mellow voice.

    The neck, however, was another story entirely. The mahogany varied a lot in color. It had a light colored streak up its side and the three sections that make up the heel had angled color variations put together without regard to appearance. It looked crude, and called attention to the stacked heel. On top of that, the neck and headstock looked as though a stain was sprayed on to disguise some of the problems with the wood. (Attached photos.)

    Left Side Join.jpg Left Side Join2.jpg Headstock.jpg

    I sent pictures and complained to the vendor that I felt that the quality was of a B-stock instrument, and not that of a first-quality instrument. It wasn't up to Pono standards for a $400 tenor. Certainly, not something that I wanted to give as a gift to my niece.

    I asked to exchange it for a better-made example, or to get a refund.

    In response, I was told that the neck was not sprayed, that the color variations were all in the grain of the wood. (!?) Even if I accepted that explanation, it still does not excuse the way the neck was built. It should never have gotten through QC at the factory. Nor does it excuse it passing through the taking of listing photos, the full setup, nor packing for shipment, without someone pulling it for obvious quality issues.

    They told me to send it back for a refund. With no offer to exchange it. Which tells me the other ones they have are no better.

    I have a 2017 Pono MGT mango tenor that is excellent. The neck has some variation in grain and color. But it is subtle, and not at all objectionable. I still marvel at how well it is made and sounds.

    To say I was disappointed in this pineapple tenor is an understatement. And, because the build quality was so poor on the neck, I can no longer recommend Pono for a starting-level tenor. People should also be wary of their other entry-level sizes, and perhaps the higher-costing models as well. For, if this is acceptable workmanship for this model, what are they passing through on the other ones?

    If you decide to buy a Pono, I would strongly recommend that you get photos to make sure the build quality is what you expect it should be, before you pull the trigger.
    There is a subtle yet profound difference between the learning of something and the knowing of that thing.
    You can learn by reading, but you donít begin to know until you begin to try to do.

    óLou Churchill, Plane & Pilot Magazine

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2016
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    PNW
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    That really is a dog's breakfast of a neck. If that's the sort of thing that passes quality control, I don't think I'd want to chance buying one either. Not that I ever planned to, but I too have recommended them to friends.

  3. #3
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    Apr 2012
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    Elk Grove, Ca
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    I may have missed it, however, if this is a new instrument, perhaps your first plan of action would be to contact Pono and give them a chance to correct. I would say the same whatever brand we would be discussing. Understood the seller would not help you, and, i am sure you will not refer others to that establishment.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Location
    Saratoga, CA
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    939

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kenn2018 View Post
    This is a difficult thread for me to write. I really like my Pono tenorsóI own six of them. (MGT; ATD; ETSH-PCC; PTEC-CE; RTC(S)-PC & MTSH-C-MS.)

    Without reservation, Iíve steered several people towards buying them. Because, Iíve often considered their starting-level ukes to be some of the best bang-for-the-buck bargains on the market.

    They were well made, durable and sounded great. I always thought they were a perfect, step up from an entry-level beginnerís tenor. (Provided the somewhat thick, C-shaped neck fit the personís hand.)

    Iím afraid that after attempting to buy my seventh, an MGTP pineapple tenor, I found the quality has declined.

    I decided to get the base-level mango pineapple because it has a satin finish, and I feel that its sound was more open than the gloss-finished deluxe or PC versions.

    The mango body of the instrument was excellent. Tight, smooth, and good-looking with an excellent deep, warm and mellow voice.

    The neck, however, was another story entirely. The mahogany varied a lot in color. It had a light colored streak up its side and the three sections that make up the heel had angled color variations put together without regard to appearance. It looked crude, and called attention to the stacked heel. On top of that, the neck and headstock looked as though a stain was sprayed on to disguise some of the problems with the wood. (Attached photos.)

    Left Side Join.jpg Left Side Join2.jpg Headstock.jpg

    I sent pictures and complained to the vendor that I felt that the quality was of a B-stock instrument, and not that of a first-quality instrument. It wasn't up to Pono standards for a $400 tenor. Certainly, not something that I wanted to give as a gift to my niece.

    I asked to exchange it for a better-made example, or to get a refund.

    In response, I was told that the neck was not sprayed, that the color variations were all in the grain of the wood. (!?) Even if I accepted that explanation, it still does not excuse the way the neck was built. It should never have gotten through QC at the factory. Nor does it excuse it passing through the taking of listing photos, the full setup, nor packing for shipment, without someone pulling it for obvious quality issues.

    They told me to send it back for a refund. With no offer to exchange it. Which tells me the other ones they have are no better.

    I have a 2017 Pono MGT mango tenor that is excellent. The neck has some variation in grain and color. But it is subtle, and not at all objectionable. I still marvel at how well it is made and sounds.

    To say I was disappointed in this pineapple tenor is an understatement. And, because the build quality was so poor on the neck, I can no longer recommend Pono for a starting-level tenor. People should also be wary of their other entry-level sizes, and perhaps the higher-costing models as well. For, if this is acceptable workmanship for this model, what are they passing through on the other ones?

    If you decide to buy a Pono, I would strongly recommend that you get photos to make sure the build quality is what you expect it should be, before you pull the trigger.
    Is it just me who thinks there is nothing wrong here? Wood varies in shades and color, beansprout actually makes it a feature of their Ukes.. the sound is "Tight, smooth, and good-looking with an excellent deep, warm and mellow voice."
    A full refund was offered.. what I am I missing here..? FYI: From what I understand bearclaw used to be looked down upon by some as a flaw and now this seems to be an desirable attribute..
    I do not think stain was sprayed incorrectly.. maybe a luthier who has more experience can comment..

  5. #5
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    Jun 2014
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    CH
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    Like yourself, I am happy to own several fine Pono instruments and have recommended them to dozens of people. What I particularly like about them is that they are all solid wood and that they offer so many options (woods, cutaway, slothead) and unusual models (like that pineapple shaped tenor you got there, or their Nui and UL).

    I totally agree that a company like this needs good quality control and constant examination of their product rollout, especially since they aren't exactly cheap. However, from what I understand, the problem you mention is strictly cosmetic and has nothing to do with "poor build quality", as there is no affect on sound or playability (no tangible crack in the neck or anything of that sort, right)? I agree that they could take a little more effort and pride in using pieces of wood for the heel of the neck that match in grain and color, but I don't see why they should burn an entire piece of perfectly fine wood just because it shows some variations? In many cases, figured wood is exactly what we - the players and consumers - want, and not just with the exotic woods used for the bodies: In the past, aesthetic preferences have shifted from perfectly "black" fretboards (often dyed) to showing some figures and sapwood. As long as it doesn't affect the playability or the tone, I wouldn't request companies to use only homogeneous looking wood for the neck and throw out every piece that shows some variation in color (which can often only be told when the neck is finished), especially since the supply of exotic hardwoods is shrinking. I would, however, want them - the companies who build or sell them - to be up front about it by providing pictures of the exact instrument so that any potential buyer can decide if the looks are to his or her taste or not.
    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

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2019
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    Honolulu
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    It looks okay to me and I suspect most people would be fine with the cosmetics of this Pono, especially if it sounded good at this price point. If you're particular about the appearance of wood grain, you should pick out the instrument in person and/or save up for premium wood cuts.

  7. #7
    Join Date
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    Nashville, TN USA
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    It's got a real pretty heel cap on it. That's a nice touch for a base model.
    If music be the food of love, play on! -Bill Shakespeare

  8. #8
    Join Date
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    West Midlands GB
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    What a strange and unnecessary diatribe. If you don't like that particular uke, take the refund. That's how it works when you buy online.

    It isn't faulty - you just don't like it.

    John Colter

  9. #9
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    UK
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    I have to agree with John here. I wouldn't reject that one myself either. It's just cosmetic surely?
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  10. #10
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    Ken I like you and consider you an online friend but I think you jumped the couch on this one pal. It is purely cosmetic as others have said, wood is wood and will vary in color, grain and shading. I have a $3000 custom with a stacked heel that is noticeable, it is wood.

    I think you might come to regret writing this post while in the heat of the moment. You accuse Pono of poor build quality, the build quality on that neck is fine, you just don’t like the way it looks. The vendor offered you a full refund, that is very fair.

    20191204_083025.jpg20191204_082954.jpg20191204_083113.jpg
    Last edited by DownUpDave; 12-04-2019 at 03:44 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 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

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