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Thread: Review: Koa Kalane Solid Acacia Long Neck Soprano Ukulele

  1. #1
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    Default Review: Koa Kalane Solid Acacia Long Neck Soprano Ukulele

    When I heard about this company, I reached out to them, and they sent me two ukuleles to review, with the added benefit that I was to donate one of them to one of my students.

    I have already reviewed a solid top acacia concert ukulele by Koa Kalane, and decided to split up the reviews over a month.

    This is the UkeGuide review as well as the One Minute Review for the full solid acacia long neck soprano ukulele from Koa Kalane.

    It's a tremendous instrument at an absolutely incredible price, especially in terms of 2020. I have been impressed by the communication that I have had with Koa Kalane, and have been spending some time looking for reviews of their instruments.

    There have been a couple of horror stories, one told at length here on UU. However, I'll note that in every case of the horror stories, nothing has been said about the owner reaching out to Koa Kalane about the problem. Maybe people think that due to the low prices, it doesn't make sense to contact the company--they want customer satisfaction, and while they do not offer a "better than the weather" warranty like KoAloha (who else does?), I would certainly reach out to them if I had a concern.

    This is a great addition to a collection; beginner or otherwise, and really a good way to see if you are interested in the playing and care of a solid wood ukulele, at a very attractive price.



    My ukulele blog: http://ukestuff.info

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  2. #2
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    I have been curious about this Koa Kalane brand so this is a great and timely review. Thank you!

    I'm looking at an affordable long-neck soprano for my next purchase and all 3 long-necks that you mentioned at the end of this review are on my list! I hope you will discuss them all in the next comparison video.

    If you happen to get your hands on a KA-SML-SLNG, an Ohana SK-30M, a Flight LUS-5, and a Koa Pili Koko long-neck pineapple before your comparison video, that would cover everything else on my list...
    Last edited by TQuest; 10-17-2020 at 05:07 PM.
    Kumu TF-72 Thinbody Feather tenor
    Ohana CK-35s concert
    Kala KA-TEM tenor - sold
    Kmise Tiger Flame Okoume concert - sold
    2012 Islander MST-4 tenor
    Luna UKE-GWC concert - sold
    Ohana SK-10 soprano - gifted
    2018 Koaloha KCO-10S Spruce Opio concert
    Kala KA-SLNG Mahogany Long Neck soprano
    2014 The Rebel "Tiramisu" thin body concert

  3. #3
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    Excellent review. After your praise for the earlier model you reviewed, I've been actually fairly curious about this brand. I checked the Koa Kalane webpage and it seems they offer a flat $75 shipping fee to Europe, or at least where I live. That's not bad considering the distance and how affordable these ukes are. I'm actually really tempted by the pineapple model. On the whole, these ukes remind me of the Ana'Ole ukes because of the relatively plain looks but apparent good build quality, although these are much more affordable.

    I have to comment that, to me, the Koa Kalane uke in the video sounded a bit out of tune or that it had some intonation issues. That perception might just be the strings harmonizing with each other or the shimmering sound or just the tone of the Aquila strings themselves but it's as if there was something a little bit off on the sound. Might also be just my hearing.

    Also, a quick note on the koa/acacia debacle. The Latin term for koa is acacia koa so saying that these ukes are made from acacia koa is a bit misleading in my opinion. Their listings mention acacia koa specifically so that's on them. They do say on their website that the wood they use isn't the koa that's grown in Hawaii but I don't really understand why they use the term acacia koa when that actually means koa. Why not just call it acacia? I mean yeah, of course I understand why they do it because it's a marketing trick, but you could just have the same blurb on the website about how koa and acacia are related and simply say that the ukes are made of acacia. I'm not upset enough over it that I wouldn't buy a uke from them but it does annoy me a bit.
    Last edited by Dohle; 10-18-2020 at 01:53 AM.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dohle View Post
    Excellent review. After your praise for the earlier model you reviewed, I've been actually fairly curious about this brand. I checked the Koa Kalane webpage and it seems they offer a flat $75 shipping fee to Europe, or at least where I live. That's not bad considering the distance and how affordable these ukes are. I'm actually really tempted by the pineapple model. On the whole, these ukes remind me of the Ana'Ole ukes because of the relatively plain looks but apparent good build quality, although these are much more affordable.

    I have to comment that, to me, the Koa Kalane uke in the video sounded a bit out of tune or that it had some intonation issues. That perception might just be the strings harmonizing with each other or the shimmering sound or just the tone of the Aquila strings themselves but it's as if there was something a little bit off on the sound. Might also be just my hearing.

    Also, a quick note on the koa/acacia debacle. The Latin term for koa is acacia koa so saying that these ukes are made from acacia koa is a bit misleading in my opinion. Their listings mention acacia koa specifically so that's on them. They do say on their website that the wood they use isn't the koa that's grown in Hawaii but I don't really understand why they use the term acacia koa when that actually means koa. Why not just call it acacia? I mean yeah, of course I understand why they do it because it's a marketing trick, but you could just have the same blurb on the website about how koa and acacia are related and simply say that the ukes are made of acacia. I'm not upset enough over it that I wouldn't buy a uke from them but it does annoy me a bit.
    Thanks, Dohle. As for intonation, I think it is the strings, and nowhere in their literature do they claim to be Aquila. I have since installed Worth strings, and as expected, the tone is further improved, as is intonation. I don't check intonation fret by fret unless there is a reason to do so--I do check harmonics at the 12th, 7th , and 5th...and this one "pinged" on all of them as you would hope and expect. Ultimately, if I can get harmonics out at those three points, I don't spend much other time worrying about the intonation of the instrument, as the fretboard is likely set up correctly, or close enough for my needs.

    As for the acacia koa statement, it doesn't bother me for three reasons: first, it is at least stating "acacia," which some other companies do not, they do specify when they are using laminate or solid wood, and most importantly, the company basically has zero online presence. In other words, it isn't much of a marketing move when your company doesn't have much of a marketplace presence.

    I have a KoAloha Opio long neck soprano that I bought used that I need to review (it is now being pushed back a couple of weeks as I have some other ukuleles that arrived, and my policy is to review ukuleles that are sent to me for review before those that I purchase). It, too, is showing intonation issues, but is another situation where a string change is needed. So as soon as I'm done with that review, I'll be installing new strings and comparing the Koa Kalane to the Opio. I can already tell you that the KoAloha is going to win that comparison, but what I cannot say is that it is $300 (or more, depending on shipping) better than the Koa Kalane...and as I mentioned in the video, some of the features of the Koa Kalane such as geared tuners and a slotted bridge, are going to be more user-friendly to beginning players (versus KoAloha's friction tuners and tie bar bridge).

    Again, thanks for the comment...and I am sorry that shipping is so expensive to Europe!
    My ukulele blog: http://ukestuff.info

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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by TQuest View Post
    If you happen to get your hands on a KA-SML-SLNG, an Ohana SK-30M, a Flight LUS-5, and a Koa Pili Koko long-neck pineapple before your comparison video, that would cover everything else on my list...
    I was just commenting on a reply to Dohle that my comparison is going to be postponed a bit as a couple more ukuleles arrived for review.

    I have reached out to Kala about doing some reviews, even finding a local dealer that I could work with, asit would help if Kala would endorse it, and they stated, quite clearly, that they had no interest. Any Kalas that you see on my channel are those that I personally purchase, and I don't see myself buying an KA-SML-SLNG at this time. I can reach out to some local dealers on my own (they all carry the basics in this part of the world), but I haven't done much as a result of the pandemic--and there's no guarantee that local dealers will have stock beyond those basics or if they would even allow me to borrow ukuleles for review (Barry Maz has a great situation where he will get instruments on loan from the specialty stores...but again, there are none of those for many, many miles from where I live in the midwest).

    I do need to reach out to Ohana again, as it has been a while since I contacted them. As for the Flight, I'm interested in the LUS-5 (I do like Long Neck Sopranos), but am told that really, it's the MUS-2 that is worth pursuing (the Martin-styled model).
    My ukulele blog: http://ukestuff.info

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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Choirguy View Post
    Thanks, Dohle. As for intonation, I think it is the strings, and nowhere in their literature do they claim to be Aquila. I have since installed Worth strings, and as expected, the tone is further improved, as is intonation. I don't check intonation fret by fret unless there is a reason to do so--I do check harmonics at the 12th, 7th , and 5th...and this one "pinged" on all of them as you would hope and expect. Ultimately, if I can get harmonics out at those three points, I don't spend much other time worrying about the intonation of the instrument, as the fretboard is likely set up correctly, or close enough for my needs.
    If you checked the harmonics then I'm sure it's just the strings or what I'm hearing. It's good to know that fluorocarbon strings improve the sound, as they often do. I'm quite sensitive to how nylgut or nylon strings harmonize so it can be just what I'm hearing personally. I checked their website and they do specify the strings as Aquila in their listing. I'm not the biggest fan of them regarding sound nor tone.

    Quote Originally Posted by Choirguy View Post
    I have a KoAloha Opio long neck soprano that I bought used that I need to review (it is now being pushed back a couple of weeks as I have some other ukuleles that arrived, and my policy is to review ukuleles that are sent to me for review before those that I purchase). It, too, is showing intonation issues, but is another situation where a string change is needed. So as soon as I'm done with that review, I'll be installing new strings and comparing the Koa Kalane to the Opio. I can already tell you that the KoAloha is going to win that comparison, but what I cannot say is that it is $300 (or more, depending on shipping) better than the Koa Kalane...and as I mentioned in the video, some of the features of the Koa Kalane such as geared tuners and a slotted bridge, are going to be more user-friendly to beginning players (versus KoAloha's friction tuners and tie bar bridge).
    I was really looking forward to that KoAloha review but I definitely understand the priority for ukes that were sent to you. KoAlohas can be a bit tricky in terms of intonation, partly because they don't have a compensated saddle and partly because of the break angle of the strings at the nut. I've found that you need to make sure the strings wrap around the tuning posts at the very bottom so that the break angle is as big as it can be because otherwise you can experience low tension and intonation issues. I've had this happen even on the Hawaiian-made KoAlohas.

  7. #7
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    Just to add a little about my experience with Koa Kalane.

    Based partly on your reviews, I ordered the cutaway all solid acadia concert. ~$174 shipped. More details below, but my guess is that at the price, you have to cut corners somewhere, and it seems Koa Kalane is putting their time into things other than packing boxes and answering email... Color me happy so far, and I think this represents an unreal value....

    Packing?
    Packed in gig bag and a normal uke-wedge shaped box. That box was pretty beat up. No damage, but there wasn't even anything to stop the uke-in-gig-bag from bouncing around in the box.

    Ship time?
    Arrived in North Carolina 7 days after placing order.

    Impressions?
    It is lovely and pretty well-balanced, if perhaps a tad neck-heavy. Action is playable, but well above 3mm at 12th. I can't stand Aquilas, so will mos def change the strings. Nothing unexpected, and all consistent with your review. Certainly not a perfect build, but it would be nit-picking to ding them at this price point.

    Customer service and communication?
    I sent a few messages to their email, and got absolutely no response.

    They must have shipped right when I ordered (which isn't what they said in the automated emails I got with order updates), and I got the "order shipped" email just a couple of hours before the uke was delivered.

    Shipping label and stuff is definitely Hawaii, so clearly just a disconnect between their e-commerce solution and their workflows.
    ,;"''";,;"''";,;"''";,;"''";,;"''";,;"''";,;"''";, ;"''";,;"''";,;"''";,;"''";,;"''";,;"''";,;"''" ;,

    Tiki King Flea Soprano
    J&D Solid Concert (a.k.a., CNZ EUK-200)
    Tangi Mango Concert
    World of Ukes Eden Origin Tenor
    Koa Kalane Cutaway Concert Acacia

    ,;"''";,;"''";,;"''";,;"''";,;"''";,;"''";,;"''";, ;"''";,;"''";,;"''";,;"''";,;"''";,;"''";,;"''" ;,

  8. #8
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    I’m very glad it wasn’t a dud—and communication with the company is a little strange. Sometimes I’ll get an e-mail several weeks after our last conversation.

    If I can be honest, I think the company just isn’t all that connected to the online world. They have a website and sell on eBay. They seem rather content with those channels—and selling ukuleles (and other wood items, their main business) at a low cost.

    It’s sort of a laid back Hawaiian vibe, which makes perfect sense to me. They have been incredibly kind in our communication. I hope to visit Hawaii someday (sooner than later) and I would love to stop by and say hello in person.
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  9. #9
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    As a result of these reviews, I have ordered an all solid body pineapple soprano. Shipping cost to the UK is much higher than within the United States (US$75) but UAS still burns brightly. What the heck - it's only money!

    John Colter

  10. #10
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    Thanks for the review, they look like a great value in an all solid uke. Also, you don't see 1-piece necks very often.

    Re the comments about the logo resembling Kamaka, I see some similarity, but it seems different enough to me, see pic below.

    K vs K.JPG
    John

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