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Thread: Need opinions on mid-range baritones

  1. #1
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    Default Need opinions on mid-range baritones

    After playing only soprano ukes almost exclusively, I've decided to dabble into something a bit different, the baritone. I'm looking for a mid-range solid or solid top baritone in the $500 price range but preferably a bit lower. My main candidates so far are either standard or deluxe mahogany/acacia Pono or solid mahogany / solid top cedar Kala. My conundrum is that the Kalas go for around $400 whereas the Ponos are around $500 for the standard and $600 for the deluxe. My question to people with experience of these instruments is, is there a discernible difference between these to justify the higher price for the Ponos. I know Pono is regarded as one of the best mid-range uke brands but the Kalas I've had in the past have been decent quality as well. Unfortunately, trying these instruments out before buying is out of the question since none of my local music shops carry them, so any comments regarding the build quality, volume, sustain, playability, etc. would be appreciated.

  2. #2
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    Kala KA-SMHB which is the all solid mahogany baritone it is an excellent instrument that punches way above its $329.00 price. A friend owned one which I played a number of times and I was very impressed, so were a bunch of others that played it. This instrument gets recommended a lot and for good reason. Hey I love Pono and have owned a few of their instruments, if you want to spend the extra money you will be happy with those as well.
    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

  3. #3
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    Cedar topped Kala, great tone.
    Trying to do justice to various musical instruments.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by DownUpDave View Post
    Kala KA-SMHB which is the all solid mahogany baritone it is an excellent instrument that punches way above its $329.00 price. A friend owned one which I played a number of times and I was very impressed, so were a bunch of others that played it. This instrument gets recommended a lot and for good reason. Hey I love Pono and have owned a few of their instruments, if you want to spend the extra money you will be happy with those as well.
    This is the one from Kala I'm most interested in. I like everything about it - especially the slotted headstock that isn't available for the cheaper Ponos - except the satin finish. I'd prefer gloss myself but that's not a deal breaker. The price for me wouldn't be quite that low as I live in the EU where ukes (and instruments in general) are often a tad more expensive but it's still at a fair price compared to the Ponos and often comes with a case as well depending on where I'd order. Seems like very good value for money which is why I'm asking for reasons whether a Pono would be worth the extra money.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by DownUpDave View Post
    Kala KA-SMHB which is the all solid mahogany baritone it is an excellent instrument that punches way above its $329.00 price. A friend owned one which I played a number of times and I was very impressed, so were a bunch of others that played it. This instrument gets recommended a lot and for good reason. Hey I love Pono and have owned a few of their instruments, if you want to spend the extra money you will be happy with those as well.
    Couldn't agree more with this! One of my friends I regularly jam with has this one, and I pick it up and enjoy playing it every time I visit her home. I think it can be found for as little as $299 sometimes ~

  6. #6
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    I have a spalted, spruce top Kala KA-FMB which went for $300 a while back, but I paid less than that. I like it a lot.

    So many UUers buy baritones, but then retune them to GCEA, which doesn’t make sense to me. Have you considered a tenor?
    Kala "Spalted" baritone - Lo D GBE - Finger style
    Gold Tone “Mini” Travel banjo - Steel GCEA - Noodling
    Luna “Peace” concert - CGBD Plectrum music

    Kala tenor eight string - gGcCEEAA Strum

    Flea "Red" concert - Hi-G CEA - Wall hanger
    Kala "Exotic Mahogany" soprano - Hi-A DF#B Wall hanger
    Mahalo yellow "Smiley" soprano - Wall hanger
    Ka-Lai Pineapple soprano (old) gift - Bookshelf

    God gave us old age so we wouldn't mind dying so much.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Down Up Dick View Post
    So many UUers buy baritones, but then retune them to GCEA, which doesn’t make sense to me. Have you considered a tenor?
    I can assure you I'm not going to do that.
    I'm intentionally looking for something different to GCEA tuned ukes as I have plenty of sopranos for that already, and the lower tone of the baritone is specifically what I'm after. I could do with a super tenor with DGBE tuning but I bet I can get an actual baritone for less money.

    So far most recommendations have been for the solid mahogany Kala which certainly is tempting. Still waiting for those Pono fanboys to turn me around.

  8. #8
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    Okay — good. As I said before I like mine. However, I like my Kala KA GTR tenor guitar way better, and one could always change the strings to Aquilas. It seems to me that it’s a lot more versatile.

    I thought that I might not like steel strings, but it turns out that I like ‘em a lot better.
    Kala "Spalted" baritone - Lo D GBE - Finger style
    Gold Tone “Mini” Travel banjo - Steel GCEA - Noodling
    Luna “Peace” concert - CGBD Plectrum music

    Kala tenor eight string - gGcCEEAA Strum

    Flea "Red" concert - Hi-G CEA - Wall hanger
    Kala "Exotic Mahogany" soprano - Hi-A DF#B Wall hanger
    Mahalo yellow "Smiley" soprano - Wall hanger
    Ka-Lai Pineapple soprano (old) gift - Bookshelf

    God gave us old age so we wouldn't mind dying so much.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
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    Whidbey Island, WA
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    I've had the Kala KA-SMHB for a year and a half and am very happy with it. It's an excellent instrument for the price. One difference between Kala and Pono is the neck profile; Pono necks are thicker. Neck profile is a matter of personal preference.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary52 View Post
    I've had the Kala KA-SMHB for a year and a half and am very happy with it. It's an excellent instrument for the price. One difference between Kala and Pono is the neck profile; Pono necks are thicker. Neck profile is a matter of personal preference.
    Neck thickness hasn't really bothered me. I can deal with regular or thinner necks as well as some thicker ones such as with Magic Fluke ukes. However, I did notice that Ponos usually only have a 35 mm wide neck at the nut which seems a bit narrow for such a large uke. Not that I'm not used to that width, in fact it's probably my sweet spot for a neck width on a soprano. But I genuinely want something different from a baritone, including the nut/neck width, just so I can challenge myself to try something new. That might be another point for the Kala since it has a wider 38 mm neck width at the nut.

    Also, having now listened to a few videos where the Kalas and Ponos are played one after another, I really like the sound of the solid mahogany Kala as well. I think I'm veering towards the Kala at the moment but I'm not rushing things yet. I'll probably wait for my next paycheck in a few weeks before pulling the trigger.

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