A Pair of Ponos

mlolya

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I have a tenor Pono AT-CR solid Cedar top, solid Acacia back and sides. I also have a tenor AT-MS (Master Series) with the exact same wood.
The AT goes for about $500 and the MS is over $1000. The MS has fancier fit and finish but otherwise they are pretty much identical
I have the CR strung with Pepe Romero high G and the MS with the same strings but a wound low G.
There is a distinct sound difference between the two. Of course, one is low G and the other is high, but when I play the CEA strings alone (even holding down the G string) the sound difference is quite profound.
I thought that perhaps the MS had a slightly larger body, but measurements proved that wrong. Exactly the same.
The AT is satin finish and the MS is gloss, but I can’t imagine that would make such a difference.
The MS is louder, deeper, richer and more resonant. The AT is lovely, a beautiful sound and clear sparkling notes, but much different that the MS. I like them both.
So, the only difference I can find between the two instruments, other than the finish and the bling, is the lattice bracing in the MS.
I would not have thought that would make such a difference. Is the difference enough to justify paying more the twice the price? That depends on what you’re looking for. As I said I truly enjoy both of them. The CR is delightful and has a wonderful sound, while the MS really digs deeper and fuller.
I’m fortunate to own both of them and I’m amazed at the difference between two almost identical ukuleles with just the difference in bracing and a little bling.
 
I know from the Pono ukes that I owned that they have a heavier build, more guitar-like, but I am wondering if the woods are the same thickness between the two models. And yes, bracing does matter, but I am finding that a thinner wood will make an uke much more resonant. These are beautiful ukes. I had to give up my Ponos because I developed tendonitis in the left hand and the thickness of the tenor Pono neck was too painful for me to play for any length of time.
 
I know from the Pono ukes that I owned that they have a heavier build, more guitar-like, but I am wondering if the woods are the same thickness between the two models. And yes, bracing does matter, but I am finding that a thinner wood will make an uke much more resonant. These are beautiful ukes. I had to give up my Ponos because I developed tendonitis in the left hand and the thickness of the tenor Pono neck was too painful for me to play for any length of time.
Guess I better get a micrometer.
 
I'm not a pro, but here are the biggest differences regarding cost difference to my eye. The cost difference is because of the materials and time involved by a luthier.
  • back binding
  • side purfling top and bottom
  • much more delicate rope rosette, including layers of purfling
  • inlay in headstock
  • gotoh tuners
  • graduated top
  • lattice brace
  • gloss finish
While they may seem like small details, these are all expensive details!
 
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MS has radiused fret board too, right? I don't have one(MS) and my main reason for wanting a MS is the radiused fretboard. I'd just like to see for myself how much difference it makes to me.
 
MS has radiused fret board too, right? I don't have one(MS) and my main reason for wanting a MS is the radiused fretboard. I'd just like to see for myself how much difference it makes to me.
It does, but so does the other model mentioned by @mlolya In the above list I'm just trying to note as what I see as being the big cost difference between the two :)
 
MS has radiused fret board too, right? I don't have one(MS) and my main reason for wanting a MS is the radiused fretboard. I'd just like to see for myself how much difference it makes to me.
The AT also has the radius fretboard. I’m not sure I notice much difference from ukuleles with flat fretboards. Maybe barring is easier?
 
I'm not a pro, but here are the biggest differences regarding cost difference to my eye. The cost difference is because of the materials and time involved by a luthier.
  • back binding
  • side purfling top and bottom
  • much more delicate rope rosette, including layers of purfling
  • inlay in headstock
  • gotoh tuners
  • graduated top
  • lattice brace
  • gloss finish
While they may seem like small details, these are all expensive details!
I agree. There are definitely differences that make the cost understandable. I just think that the only difference between the two that might affect the sound is the lattice bracing and maybe top thickness as Ed suggested.
 
I know from the Pono ukes that I owned that they have a heavier build, more guitar-like, but I am wondering if the woods are the same thickness between the two models. And yes, bracing does matter, but I am finding that a thinner wood will make an uke much more resonant. These are beautiful ukes. I had to give up my Ponos because I developed tendonitis in the left hand and the thickness of the tenor Pono neck was too painful for me to play for any length of time.
I sold my Pono mango concert deluxe because of the thickness of the soundboard. So you are definitely spot on saying that thinner uke resonate better than the thick ones. But this could all be my imagination as I have not had the experience of many different brands to make better comparisons
 
I sold my Pono mango concert deluxe because of the thickness of the soundboard. So you are definitely spot on saying that thinner uke resonate better than the thick ones. But this could all be my imagination as I have not had the experience of many different brands to make better comparisons
Welcome to the site. I have been here 13 years because it is a wonderful community of knowledgeable and caring people. Not long from now, like many others here, you will acquire UAS and so I look forward to your comparisons with many different brands and your thoughts on the Pono and see if they still stand up. I have a number of concert size ukes and one is a Pono. I find the Pono to be well-built but not as resonant as any of the others. Also, there is less sustain and less volume. The tone is very pleasant but the vibrations are missing in action. I purchased a Pono concert 10 years ago and had the same issue. I can't say that there is anything wrong with them and many people love them, but it is just not for me - the concert specifically. I love the mahogany sopranos and tenors.
 
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Welcome to the site. I have been here 13 years because it is a wonderful community of knowledgeable and caring people. Not long from now, like many others here, you will acquire UAS and so I look forward to your comparisons with many different brands and your thoughts on the Pono and see if they still stand up. I have a number of concert size ukes and one is a Pono. I find the Pono to be well-built but not as resonant as any of the others. Also, there is less sustain and less volume. The tone is very pleasant but the vibrations are missing in action. I purchased a Pono concert 10 years ago and had the same issue. I can't say that there is anything wrong with them and many people love them, but it is just not for me - the concert specifically. I love the mahogany sopranos

Interesting that you should note that the Ponos you have had lack ‘resonance, sustain and volume’. These are exactly the differences that I am noticing between the AT Pono and the Master Series.
I wonder if they took those factors into consideration when they made the MS instruments.
I guess the bracing must have helped those issues and perhaps they did make the top thinner. We’ll see. The micrometer comes today!
 
I have owned MHTSH, AND MPTSH and have loved them, but could not keep due to my left hand hurting with the thicker neck. I also owned a Pono tenor with redwood back and sides and redwood fingerboard- spruce top. The redwood tenor was so incredibly heavy. Gorgeous but a heavy build. Very guitar-like. The problem for me was that it had very little volume when strummed. When played finger-pick style it was the loveliest of sounds but since I am a strummer, I sold it.
 
Cost of living increases, materials/labor/design/marketing, etc. {pre and post cove especially},
 
Comments about lack of resonance and volume on Ponos have been posted many times previously, with some theorizing they may be slightly overbuilt for durability. But it seems the recent lattice braced models have addressed those concerns, being more open, loud and resonant, at least from owners' comments that I have read. But, as we know, every uke has its own individual set of woods, and even examples of the same model, from the same batch, can vary considerably. So "try before you buy" is good advice, or if not, at least be sure you have a good return policy from the seller.
 
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