New Uke Day (NUD) KoAloha Red Label 2022 AAA Cedar and Koa Concert

efiscella

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Echoing what @hands_on_lanzon said in his NUD on his Red Label Concert, I thought my days of UAS were over—I've owned Kamakas from 1976 to the present, Martins, Kanile’a, and just about every Pono. I've had numerous KoAlohas and recently played many Pineapple Sundays, Scepters, Juke-a-lele, and Wows for Pops’ Ukesa. But that elusive Red Label KoAloha kept haunting me. Reading Hands_on_Lanzon’s NUD made me want one even more. Then there's @rainbow21, a well-established member, who said his Silver Anniversary Red Label is not only different from KoAloha production ukes, but also worth the extra expense. A decision he never regretted. When @Laudra posted her Red Label Anniversary Ukulele in the marketplace, I resisted, but her latest post of an AAA grade cedar top with Koa sides and back was irresistible. She called it “magnificent,” and now that I have it, I can see that it truly is—in every way.

Back in 2012, I was new to ukulele, buying and selling my way up to quality ukes. My first serious uke was a 2009 KoAloha concert that blew me away. It was in new condition, and the sound was everything I wanted, especially since my goal was to play Hawaiian music. At one point, I needed money for a new uke and I put it up for sale, but I couldn't part with it and withdrew the listing.

In 2022, I saw the KoAloha Royal Pikake concerts and couldn't resist. I asked Moms Okami to pick one out for me, and when it arrived, it was wonderful. I kept my 2009 in high-G and the Royal Pikake in Low-g, and I was set. I keep reading about @ailevin’s journey with the Pops Wow concert and how it is his everyday player, but I don’t have one, and it will be a while before I can get one, but I do hope to have one someday.

So, why another concert, especially from the KoAloha family? I saw @laudra’s post and felt the tug. I closed my browser and decided to let it sit. But not for long because I got a text from @rhiggie saying that the Red Label I have long been looking for has been posted, and he directed me back to @Laudra’s post. I looked and looked and looked. I FaceTimed with @Laudra, and the deed was done after she showed me the uke and played for me.

I was sorry to hear her reason for having to sell because it was obvious that she loved this uke, but she was set on selling and determined that she wanted it to go to me. I will be eternally grateful.

So, I have some great concert ukes. How good could this be? It looks beautiful, but can it really sound better? Well, it arrived today, and upon opening the box, I was blown away by its beauty in person. Stunning. Magnificent! The reds in the wood make the Red Label an appropriate name. Every piece of wood is stunning. The fit and finish is perfection. I have never seen Koa so finely figured. The ebony binding is rich, and the high gloss finish looks different and smoother than the typical KoAloha finish. It is like a glass finish. The action is perfect, and it plays as smooth as butter. It also comes with an LR Baggs active pickup installed. It is everything I would want in a Red Label in terms of looks and appointments.

But how does it sound? Hmmmm—don’t negatively take that. Generally, I am a Low-g player. I have never been happy or satisfied with high-g instruments, and when I do want to go high-G, I go to Pops Wow or Pineapple Sunday. This new Red Label is high G, and the sound it produced on the first strum was sweet and immensely satisfying. I could not believe it was strung in High-G. I believe the Cedar and Koa combination play a huge role in this. I am very accustomed to spruce tops and the clear, loud, higher-pitched sounds produced, but the cedar is reminiscent of the Flamenco guitar. Whether played softly or strongly, the pitches hold true, but what is striking is the multitude of harmonic overtones that it also produces. It is full of richness in the mid-ranges. Just lovely!

How did it compare to my two other KoAloha concerts? Well, it is nothing like the 2009 Koa KoAloha concert. And this is not a bad thing. The 2009 KoAloha concert sings out pure and loud with the traditional Hawaiian tone that a Pops ukulele is known for. It rings. It sings. It is harp-like. I would choose this every time for playing in a group. It is what one thinks of when they think “ukulele”—and a very good one at that. I loved playing popular songs from the 20's and Hawaiian music with this beauty. However, the voices between these two ukes are so different from each other that they complement each other. One is not better than the other, but different.

The comparison with the 2022 KoAloha Royal Pikake is a little more complicated. They both have the same bracing, neck, fretboard, bridge, strings, and headstock. They are built the same, and for the most part, the tone is similar with a tiny variation. I believe this difference is due to the woods and woods alone, not the build. And then look at the price for the Royal Pikake, and there is not a ton of difference either. I would say that the differences are mostly in appearance and appointments and not the sound, making the Royal Pikake a great purchase should you be on the lookout for a concert uke.

After much consideration, I have decided to let my favored 2009 KoAloha concert go to a new home. I was browsing the forum and found a fairly new to ukulele player, reminiscent of an earlier me, looking to move up in quality as their skills progressed. It just seemed fitting to pass on the one uke that changed everything for me in my world of ukulele, and so today, this amazing uke was carefully boxed and shipped. I know she will cherish it as much as I did.

I am incredibly pleased to now be the custodian of @Laudra’s “magnificent” ukulele, and I will play it lovingly in honor of her dad, who she says “was the most amazing father a girl could ever ask for.”
 

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Congrats, that's a beauty!
 
Great writeup, I think I mentioned I was so impressed with that uke that even though I wanted a tenor and even though I wanted a Spruce top, I almost put that hunt on hold to grab this one! So happy you snagged it. When I Facetimed with Laudra I could tell this was a special uke. I love the rear facing tuners! Congrats...
 
Beautiful uke and a beautiful story of how great instruments can be passed and create a bit of their own legacy. Thanks for sharing (in every sense of the word).
 
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