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Thread: Pono entry level ukuleles vs Pono Pro Classics?

  1. #1
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    Aug 2014
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    Default Pono entry level ukuleles vs Pono Pro Classics?

    Hi!

    I'm thinking about getting a Pono baritone (but can't try one out in person at the moment). Is there a noticeable difference in build quality and playability between Pono entry level ukuleles and their Pro Classics line?

    I'm guessing that radius fretboard and different wood choices make a difference. But how is the overall feeling?
    KoAloha KTM-00 tenor
    Ohana BK-70R

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    Hi g'est,

    I’m going to speak in generalities here because the nomenclature for Ponos can get a little confusing and has changed from time to time. I am not sure that this holds for the baritone models.

    I think the current Pono Tenor tiers are:

    Base: solid body with light satin finish; mahogany neck satin finish; ebony faceplate, heel cap, fingerboard & bridge; top & side pearloid markers rope inlay rosette

    Deluxe: solid wood bodies with high-gloss finish; mahogany neck with satin finish; ebony faceplate, heel cap, fingerboard & bridge, top & side pearloid markers; rope inlay rosette

    Pro-Classic: solid wood body with higher grade woodgrain figuring backs & sides; with high-gloss finish; mahogany neck with satin finish; bound radiused ebony fingerboard & bridge; more & larger pearl top fret markers; side markers; various inlays rosette; wood binding top & bottom; top perfling; faceplate & heel cap woods vary; better quality Grover tuners; comes with hardshell case

    Pro-Classic 5: Same as PC with better grade woodgrain figuring backs & side; fancier binding, rosette & maybe perfling; (At one time, the PC-5 came with side port, but that was dropped); fretmarkers are various materials

    Masters (Discontinued Limited Run): Same as PC; hand-selected soundboard tone woods; better grade wood figuring backs & sides; arm bevel; oval side port; ebony rosette; Ebony faceplate; “P” only wood inlay Pono logo; no top fret position markers, bound fretboard with side position markers; better quality Grover tuners

    All of their tenors come with bone nut and saddle; plus an adjustable neck truss rod

    Most of the PC models offered slot-head and cutaway versions as well. Some had spruce and/or cedar top models


    When I bought my 2017 MGT base-level mango tenor, I mentioned that I might buy a PC version in the future. The dealer said that they would be happy to sell me one, but other than the radiused fretboard, the sound from the base models sounded as good as the pricier PC versions. And they thought the satin finished base model sounded a little more open, especially the mango, compared to the deluxe high-gloss finished ones. Other than that, the playability and feel is pretty much the same. I have not done a side-by-side comparison with identical woods in the different models.

    The grade of the woodgrains and figuring is, to me, higher and the finish a little better in the PCs compared to the Deluxe models. And there is more bling on the PC versions. I can’t speak to the quality of the interior construction between the models. In the Pono tenors I own, the construction is uniformly very high from the base model to the Masters edition.

    Recently, I did have a problem with the quality of the mahogany neck of a base model, mango tenor pineapple I purchased. I can’t speak to the other models or sizes.

    Caveat: I am only familiar with the tenors I have purchased. And from the listings of the Ponos offered by online dealers.

    I hope this helps.
    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 don’t begin to know until you begin to try to do.

    —Lou Churchill, Plane & Pilot Magazine

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
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    CH
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    Having owned about 12 different models from Pono in all different ranges, I'd say the build quality and sound of the base models are absolutely on par with the more expensive and blinged out models. Their baritones are particularly nice.
    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

  4. #4
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    Aug 2014
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    Estonia
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    Thank you for the input!
    KoAloha KTM-00 tenor
    Ohana BK-70R

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2015
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    London
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    Having owned all three I would say the difference between the standard and the deluxe is significant, less so between the deluxe and the pro classic.
    Kamaka HF-3DC - Kamaka HF-2LD - Kanile'a Custom 5 string Super Tenor - KoAloha Special Issue Tenor - Pono MGTP5-PC

  6. #6

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    I've had standard, deluxe and pro classic Ponos in various sizes.
    Don't ask me how many, I've lost count LOL

    Like the others have said, purely as an 'instrument', they are all on par in build quality.
    But getting older now.. and appreciating the nicer things in life.. I would prefer the Deluxe and Pro Classic models for their superb gloss finish, cutaway (where applicable) and the aesthetic satisfaction.




    Regarding radius fretboards...

    I still insist on the ideology that a radius fretboard on a 4-string nylon string instrument serves no apparent advantage.
    In fact, for my personal tastes I consider it a detriment.

    If radius fretboards for nylon strung instruments is clearly superior, then Classical guitar should incorporate the design too as standard.
    But Classical guitars are flat fretboards on purpose, as it is suitable for the playing characteristic of classical guitar.
    Ukulele is more closely related, both structurally and playing-style wise to classical guitar than steel string guitar.
    Thus why radius fretboard is a "feature" in an ukulele beats me.

    Yeah sure, it's supposed to make barred chords a little easier.
    Makes sense when you have higher tension steel strings across a 6 strings.
    On a low tension nylon 4 string?.. pfft

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2019
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    I purchased a Pono because I have short, small fingers and figured the radiused fretboard would help with barred chords. My other ukuleles are not radiused. I have to say I prefer the non-radiused. I find the flat surface much easier to bar. Other players I know disagree. I guess it's about personal preference. As to the sound quality of the different models, I purchased a tenor PC model. A person I play with has a Deluxe model. I personally think there is a difference in sound quality.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2019
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    My first 'ukulele was a Pono MT-E—the cheapest in the line—and construction quality is the same as their mid and higher models. I still own the MT-E and it sounds wonderful: sweet, long sustaining and loud. I was never able to find a higher model Pono that sounded better, albeit the higher models certainly are prettier. Of course my Pono is well played in after 7 or 8 years whereas the Pono in the shop are green.

    I own two Romero Creation instruments with the radiused fingerboard and one without and find no difference in ease of fingering or playability. The action and type of strings seem to make the most difference in playability.

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