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Thread: Kala Elite KOA 3 with X bracing

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2021
    Posts
    23

    Default Kala Elite KOA 3 with X bracing

    Hello, so after finding out what size ukulele I like best through much trouble and trial and error (I like concert size the most). I decided to buy my first real USA made ukulele. I did the ridiculous amounts of research many of us do. I ultimately decided on a Kala Elite after hearing so many rave reviews and also the sound samples seemed to sound the warmest to me. Also, coming from a guitar background I really wanted to find the widest neck I could. So I purchased the the Kala Elite KOA3 for a $1200 directly from Kala. I know I probably could have found a used one but I had searched for weeks and never did find one. Trying to find the originals from 2015-2017 was next impossible. I would like to get an original with all the bling abalone trim and original bracing. If anyone ever finds one of those or has one let me know.
    So Kala sent me my ukulele and it showed about a week later. Upon first opening I was amazed at how nice of a hard shell tweed case that it came with. Nice green lining inside. It was packed very nicely. From first strum I was very impressed, warm, open, ridiculous sustain. Almost as if it was amplified and I could hear some feed back inside the sound hole. They neck felt awesome, big, beefy and super comfortable. During building they even extend the headstock so you hand have ample room after the nut so you won’t bump the tuning pegs. Ample wide string spacing at the saddle (mine measured 45.7mm from A-G). Great for fingerpicking and very, very comfortable.
    The only issue I ran into was it was on the quiet side in comparison to my Martin C1K concert. I wasn’t sure if it was overbuilt with the newer X-bracing?? I kept comparing it to my C1K and by the next day I even put in a request to Kala to send it back. They have a 30 day return policy no questions asked. They were great about it and said no problem. They immediately sent out a return label. The overall customer service was very good.
    Just in case, I talked with my luthier about the ukulele and decided to bring it to him the next day and get his opinion. He an instrument builder and bracing is his specialty. Some how what seemed like overnight, I played it a bunch the next day and it started to really open up! It was weird, it started to sing and chime. No matter how hard I pushed it, it would not distort! It only got louder and louder! My luthier played it and within seconds said “why would you send this back?” It plays and sounds great. He also mentioned how comfortable it was to play certain chords opposed to other ukuleles he’s played.
    So the next test was to compare it to a Kamaka and Kaniie’a. First I tried the Kanile’a. The Kanile’a was super light, had great resonance, despite the strings, which I was not impressed with. Great feeling neck, good craftsmanship. As soon as I played one chord in comparison to my Kala elite my mind was made up. Despite how good the Kanile’a initially sounded, the Kala elite beat it, in my opinion it terms of a very rich, dark tone. The Kanile’a is bright and happy, the Kala is almost a melancholy, dark, robust wood sound. The Kala elite sounds more like a classical guitar and the Kanile’a sounds more like well, a ukulele.
    The Kamaka I was surprised to sound even better than the Kanile’a. I have heard they can be hit or miss. Probably double the resonance than the Kanile’a. Definitely a more complex tone. The narrow neck however, didn’t do it for me. It felt cramped. If I had smaller hands I would have chosen the Kamaka over the Kanile’a if I had to choose between the two.

    The Kala to me is almost like a singer-songwriter ukulele, if you’re used to a classical guitar. For the $1200 bucks you get the premium KOA, binding, tweed hard shell case, humidifier, ebony neck and bridge (the Kamaka was rosewood, no binding and more money). The Kanile’a was no binding, no rosette, gig bag, same price as Kala. Customer service seems to be good with all companies, with Joe from Kanile’a probably beating out everybody on that front. I had a good time playing all the different uke’s. My take is if you want that happy traditional Hawaiian sound, both Kamaka and Kanile’a won’t let you down. If you want more of a standard classical, jazz, folk sound maybe the Kala Elite is for you. I know Kala Elite’s get a bad wrap and don’t have the resale value but it they suit all my needs: Chunky, Beefy wide neck, dark tone with lots of headroom. Just remember this only my interpretation, get out there any try them for yourself and have fun doing it! I’m just glad the Kala Elite stood up to some of the hype and proved itself to have it’s own unique tone. Good Luck!
    Last edited by Towser; 05-03-2021 at 03:46 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Pickering, ON, Canada
    Posts
    6,165

    Default

    Glad it all worked out for you, the Kala Elite are excellent instruments. I have bought a bunch of instruments over the years and I always give the new one a full week and a lot of hard playing before I pass judgement. Just coming from one environment to another the wood takes a while to acclimatize and settle. Newly build instruments even more so. Sounds like (pun intended) you have a keeper, Congratulations.
    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 walnut pineapple 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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    I bought a KOA Elite 3 Tenor in 2016. They are a beautiful sounding and looking instrument. Since then I realized that a concert fits my hands better. So if anyone is interested, I think I may be putting it up for sale, or trade for an elite 3 concert.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2020
    Posts
    142

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    Congratulations! I've got an Elite 3 concert, crafted in 2015. It's been played daily since March of 2020 and it has really opened up beautifully. You were smart to get that second opinion and continue to get acquainted with it.

    In the summer of 2020, I had a short period when mine stopped chiming away. I'm embarrassed to say that all it needed was new strings to completely revive it.

    It's a build that delivers excellent value for the money. I don't purchase with re-sale in mind - I buy for sound first and appearance second.

    Bluesy.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2020
    Posts
    2

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    I AM!! Please post photos.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by ukuevey View Post
    I AM!! Please post photos.
    I'm not sure if your referring to my post above, but if so, here are some pics from when I purchased it.
    GuitarPhotos_178552481.jpgGuitarPhotos_178552483.jpgGuitarPhotos_178552484.jpgGuitarPhotos_178552488.jpgGuitarPhotos_178552489.jpg
    Last edited by jkib; 05-06-2021 at 02:45 AM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Posts
    1,314

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    Great looking tenor. How much are you going to ask for it? Just curious, I’m full with five right now but dang, that nice looking and I’ve alwats like the sound of the higher end Kalas made in Letaluma. Also, really like the string thru ebony bridge.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2018
    Posts
    115

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    Quote Originally Posted by Towser View Post
    The Kala elite sounds more like a classical guitar and the Kanile’a sounds more like well, a ukulele.
    This difference in tone is so important for players to realize if they're dipping their toes into the high end ukulele market. Do you want your ukulele to have that classic ukulele sound, or do you want it to sound like a small classical guitar? I opted to answer that question with "both." There are settings I prefer the guitar-like sound of my Anuenue Birds or Jupiter Ukulele, and other settings I prefer the classic ukulele sound of my Kanileas...My Koaloha is somewhere between the two. All of them sound amazing in their own beautiful way!
    Soprano
    KoAloha Opio - Acacia

    Tenors
    aNueNue AMM3 - Mahogany (Low G)
    aNueNue UT3K Koa Bird - Koa
    aNueNue UT200 Moon Bird - Spruce/Rosewood (Low G)
    Jupiter Ukulele #64 - Cedar/Sycamore (Low G)
    Kanile'a K1-T Premium - Koa
    Kanile'a K1-T5 - Koa
    KoAloha KTM-25 #161 - Koa (Low G)

    Baritone+
    Kanile'a K1-B - Koa
    Pono UL4-30 - Spruce/Rosewood Steel String

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by M3Ukulele View Post
    Great looking tenor. How much are you going to ask for it? Just curious, I’m full with five right now but dang, that nice looking and I’ve alwats like the sound of the higher end Kalas made in Letaluma. Also, really like the string thru ebony bridge.
    I would like $999 plus Shipping and insurance. Original price was $1299.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2021
    Posts
    23

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    Another thing to take into consideration is that how much longer are you gonna be able to get the USA made Kala Elite brand? I know that the gentleman that works at the Southern Ukulele Store said that now matter how great they sound, they have a hard time selling them because it says Kala on the headstock. I know a local store who said the same thing, no matter how great the sound, they can’t move them. People just can’t get around it saying Kala on the headstock. I noticed a lot of places are no longer keeping them in stock for that reason. It will probably be one of these things were they’ll discontinue making them and in 20 years from now they’ll be a collectors item. If anybody has a concert size Kala Elite with the abolone binding I’d be interested in buying one. Unfortunately, I can’t find them used anywhere in any size.

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