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Thread: Bizarre experience with a KoAloha

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2019
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    Finland
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    294

    Default Bizarre experience with a KoAloha

    Ok, so for the last few weeks, I've had quite the experience with a KoAloha KSM-00 soprano (actually two of them), and unfortunately not a pleasant one. Let me go into story mode for a bit.

    Several weeks ago, I decided to order a KoAloha KSM-00. My first Hawaiian-made koa uke. Couldn't be more excited. Once it arrives, I'm very pleased. Looks gorgeus, and sounds great... except for the G string. It buzzes like crazy, especially when played open. A little bit of pressure with a finger behind the nut on the string and the buzzing goes away, so I think this might be fixable. But on top of that, the tuner for the E string is busted and cuts into the headstock when turned. I contact the shop I ordered it from and they suspect that the issue might be that I opened the box it came in too quickly (within a few hours of receiving it). As it's fairly cold outside where I live, this might've damaged the uke or bent the neck/headstock or something. However, they offer to replace the uke. Phew, what a relief.

    I send the uke back and receive another one a few weeks later. This time, I wait a full 24 hours before opening. After the anxious wait, I open the box, test the uke and... unbelievable... now both the G and A string are buzzing like crazy. I'm distraught. Not wanting to send it back again, I decide to try to fix it myself (as this time all the tuners are working). I find out that some people have had somewhat similar experiences with KoAloha ukes. One suggested fix was to put a very small piece of paper in the nut slot under the buzzing strings so I proceed to do this for both the G and A strings. And lo and behold... it actually works.

    It seems to me that the nut used for the KoAloha has fairly wide slots, and if you put thin strings on them (like they do with the stock fluorocarbon strings) the strings are prone to buzzing. Or maybe the issue really is that the neck was damaged during the shipment or when I opened the box, but to have that happen with two separate ukes... I just find that unlikely. If I assume that there was no damage to the uke, I find it absolutely bizarre that an instrument this expensive (and presumably well-made) would have this kind of persistent issue. Since I managed to fix it (and without the fix affecting the sound of the uke that much, I think), I will probably keep it as I really don't want to send it back a second time. Has anyone else here had similar experiences with KoAloha (and also sorry for the long rant )?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Location
    Twin Cities Area, Minnesota
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    2,251

    Default

    No such experience with KoAloha...I have 5 different models ranging from 2004 to 2016 in all kinds of varieties.

    The sad part is that you are in Finland. KoAloha has a GREAT warranty...I know, as they restored the 2004 as it developed a saddle that pulled away (they told me this was common for the time period). The problem is that postage from Finland to Hawaii might be the cost of delivering it to them in person.
    My ukulele blog: http://ukestuff.info

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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2018
    Location
    Sparta, Wisconsin, USA
    Posts
    2,114

    Default

    I have a 2017 and 2004 Ko'Aloha KTM-00 tenors. I restrung both of them with Living Waters fluorocarbons. Which are pretty thin. No problems at all with either one.

    After about a year, the 2017 had a problem with a tuner that was slipping. I talked to Ko'Aloha, and they sent me a replacement. No muss, no fuss. Easy to swap out.

    If you are sure that problems are with the nut slots, you might contact Ko'Aloha and ask them to send you a replacement nut and then have a luthier install it.
    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

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2019
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    Finland
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    Default

    Thanks for the responses so far. The uke actually didn't come all the way from Hawaii but from a reputable uke shop in Germany. Although, I don't think it really matters since it's still in optimal conditions in the shop and is exposed to the cold European weather nonetheless.

    As I'm almost obsessed about keeping my ukes in shape, I have a room humidifier to keep the house humid enough for instruments and I also keep all my solid ukes in hard cases with humidifiers, so humidity and temperature should not be a problem. However, I have little faith in that proper humidification alone would fix the issue as it didn't happen with the previous KSM-00 I had. Although, I suppose given enough time it might be possible... who knows.

    In any case, as I really don't want to send the uke back again, I will contact the shop and possibly KoAloha directly as well and asses my options. I know a very good luthier in the city as well so getting the uke fixed is certainly possible. The issue there is I don't feel I should have to do that with a brand new high-end uke, but of course if it's damaged by the harsh weather or whatever else, you need to do what you need to do...

  5. #5
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    Aug 2019
    Location
    Finland
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    Well, this mystery might've been solved already. I contacted the shop and they said that this kind of "buzz" can be typical for KoAlohas. The issue manifests itself usually when plucking or strumming the uke hard, and since I'm extremely picky when it comes to the sound of a uke, I always rigorously test a new one out for the slightest buzz or other issues. So this might actually be more related to a personal issue regarding my playstyle (and the testing of course), and the uke itself is probably fine. The fact that the previous KoAloha had the exact same "issue" would be evidence for that as well. The shop owner suggested that it can be fixed by raising the nut but I wouldn't want to do that as it would affect playability and possibly intonation as well. Seems I'll just have to get used to how this uke sounds and feels.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Posts
    1,219

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    Without hearing it’s hard to say whether it’s your style of picking or the set up. I do know that KoAloha have excellent warranty. I’d try thicker strings AFTER I took Uke to shop to demonstrate what you are hearing. Get second opinion while playing the Uke. You can stand back and listen while someone else plays.

    I would also start a dialogue with KoAloha directly. Maybe a new nut is needed. May different string and nut filing. I’m sure KoAhola will be helpful. I would let dealer know what KoAloha say after discussing. First email, then a phone call to them.

    IMHO, a new Uke should be perfectly set up. Who you buy from is as important as what you buy. Also, maybe fret need level or crowning.
    I never accept, “ that is how they are are” statements. If that were the case would KoAloha be so popular and we’ll respected.

    I had an Opio by KoAloha and it had some ghost notes that were very annoying. A local dealer said they could not hear it. I heard it EVERY TIME I played that string. It drove me nuts. I got back to my selling dealer and they replaced it. Problem gone, issue solved.

    Sorry for your troubles. I’m not stirring the pot just offering opinion and suggestions.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
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    Catskill Mountains, NY
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    I'm sorry to hear that. It doesn't sound like the shop checked the ukes at all. opening the box too soon is not going to cause that kind of damage. I've never waited - summer or winter. It's too bad you can't oprder from a different shop. I would contact KoAloha about this. I've bought nine KoAlohas, new and used, and they've all been perfect. Getting two bad ones from the same shop? More than a coincidence.
    Too many ukes, but I can't stop buying!
    https://www.catskillukulelegroup.com/

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
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    Catskill Mountains, NY
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dohle View Post
    Well, this mystery might've been solved already. I contacted the shop and they said that this kind of "buzz" can be typical for KoAlohas. The issue manifests itself usually when plucking or strumming the uke hard, and since I'm extremely picky when it comes to the sound of a uke, I always rigorously test a new one out for the slightest buzz or other issues. So this might actually be more related to a personal issue regarding my playstyle (and the testing of course), and the uke itself is probably fine. The fact that the previous KoAloha had the exact same "issue" would be evidence for that as well. The shop owner suggested that it can be fixed by raising the nut but I wouldn't want to do that as it would affect playability and possibly intonation as well. Seems I'll just have to get used to how this uke sounds and feels.
    Whoever is running this shop doesn't know what he's talking about. KoAlohas are not known for their buzzing strings. Find someone who is experienced with ukes and have him play it - and listen to you playing it.
    Too many ukes, but I can't stop buying!
    https://www.catskillukulelegroup.com/

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
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    USA
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    Just curious, don't want you to name names, but what type of seller did you buy these from? What type of shop was it, a small shop that also sells online, or a big operation that sells Koaloha, in addition to other ukes? As you may know, there are a number of top notch dealers recommended here, all of whom examine and adjust/setup ukes prior to shipping. Some dealers just ship the uke as received. In that case, issues like this can arise, since the uke may have changed, due to environmental changes during travel and storage at the dealer.
    John

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2019
    Location
    Finland
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    As I mentioned earlier, I purchased the uke from what I believe to be a reputable shop. I don't want to name names, at least yet, but they are a very small specialised ukulele shop with several positive reviews or mentions, also on this site. So they're definitely not some massive warehouse operation. They also mentioned that they did check the uke before sending it. I don't have any (other) reason to distrust them, which is why I'm a bit confused about both the issue with the uke and their claims about it.

    I have now contacted KoAloha directly as well, so I'll see what they have to comment on the situation.

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