New Uke Day (NUD) NUD #2 for Pops Redesigned Soprano WOW. It's a "ME TOO" Review

rhiggie

UU VIP
UU VIP
Joined
Jan 30, 2013
Messages
994
Reaction score
1,826
Location
Durham, NC
Well I couldn't have said it better than Alan (@ailevin) on his NUD on Pops Soprano Wow! I mean even the pictures will look the same (with the exception of wood grains and abalone patterns) as these two WOW's are basically "twins"! What I can add is perspectives from someone with a few nice sopranos as well as someone who has a few other members of Pop's WOW family, and it all started with one of his prototype soprano WOW's. I did a NUD on the prototype WOW saying I how impressed I was with it's giant, bold voice. So much so that I commissioned Pops to build me his first tenor scale WOW. And it's voice is like the soprano WOW on steroids, bigger, louder and warmer! Since then I also snagged a soprano Pineapple Sunday WOW. So I have come to understand what Pop's is talking about when he uses "his Stradivarius" to describe the WOW line. And who would have thought that big voice could come out of what most consider "lowly pine" wood!

First, how does it compare to my other sopranos? Well my all time favorite soprano "was" my KoAloha Koa Pineapple. Big strong voice, crystal clear and super easy to play. It was the soprano by which I judged all other sopranos I tried out. Well the WOW is a big step up, equal or better in the "easy to play" category, lots more volume and "punch". It's a soprano you can use (and I did last night) to lead a Uke Jam, it really cuts through. Next I'll compare the WOW to my vintage Martin. It plays way easier than the Martin, has ALMOST as much pop, or what I call that "plinky-planky" soprano voice. My KoAloha Pineapple is louder than my Martin but way warmer/less pop. Weird, but after playing the WOW for a few days, my Martin seems like it has a little too much pop, bordering on harsh. And I never would have said that about the Martin until the WOW came along. It's hard to describe but the WOW is louder with great punch but just sounds more refined. It will never replace my vintage Martin because the Martin voice is, well it's pure Martin. They have a very consistent "plinky-planky" voice that many associate with what a soprano should sound like, and some go so far as to say it's how a ukulele is supposed to sound. I won't go near those opinions. To be clear in the volume category, the KoAloha Pineapple is lots louder than the Martin, the WOW tops the KoAloha easily. So has the WOW replaced my KoAloha Pineapple in the "favorite soprano" category, easily the answer is yes (but my KoAloha Pineapple is staying on my Allstar team along with my Martin!).

Now as for more of the "me too" review. When I heard Pop's was redesigning his soprano WOW I thought, no way I'll ever exchange my prototype WOW. But then I saw it. I have to admit, I'm a sucker for side sound ports. So when Pop's added it to his redesign, I started thinking about an upgrade. And I couldn't get away from those thoughts. Nothing against my Prototype WOW, I think one-of-a-kind prototype ukes are very cool and show the way master luthiers like Pop's put their thoughts and designs into wood and voice! But hey, a side sound port, and it's almost a baby twin brother to my tenor WOW. So I pulled the trigger and got on the list. Little did I know there were 2 of us on that list at the same time! I agree with Alan's "feather-weight review", and I think that is a theme that runs across the WOW line. To qualify "feather-weight" I once owned a lovely Brad Donaldson soprano that he had built specifically as an example to present to the Ukulele Builders Guild on the topic of lightweight ukes. His uke weighed in at 10.7oz and to get to that weight he had cutouts in the bracing similar to Kanile'a. My WOW is 12.3oz so pretty darned close. And surprisingly I also checked my Martin style 0, and it weighs 9.9oz! (sorry for the sidetrack, I love details). Alan mentioned Pop's has incorporated a slightly convex back bow, similar to Martins. It is slight, more noticeable to touch than sight. It's not the obvious bow like Bruko has, but I gotta believe that any bow bounces the sound forward better than flat.

As with many redesigns, the looks have matured as well. As I told someone else this new refined WOW looks like "all dressed up for a night on the town". As Alan detailed, the cool abalone fret marker bars that tie in so nicely with the abalone bar on the newly designed bridge, and in Pop's cool headstock logo really give this otherwise blond uke some color pop! And I've said before that the headstock Pops has designed is crazy beautiful. It shares the KoAloha shape (that I'm sure Pops designed many years ago) and adds the layered mahogany/ebony/flamed maple plate to that recognizable shape. And Pop's logo which combines a "P" and a "S" (for Pop's Specialties) with a music note... what's not to love. Also the new binding woods really frame the blond body. So great looks are the icing on the cake, because, did I mention the cake has a side sound port? Same bigger than you'd expect from it's looks - sound, same GREAT playability and amazing setup as is typical from a totally Pops built uke.

After the thousands of ukes Pops has built in his lifetime, he truly has come up with an exciting new "voice" in the uke world, and the WOW's have the looks worthy of their voice! And he's done all this at a time in his life when he should be kicking back and enjoying his retirement! What a guy!

So that's my "ME TOO" review of Pop's redesigned soprano WOW. Some of you may be wondering if I plan to hang on to both soprano WOWs? My answer will show up in the Marketplace forum shortly! I'll try to do some side by side sound bytes so you can hear what I'm trying to put into words. As soon as I can figure out how to add short videos to these threads (any help is appreciated).

And finally I have to "ME TOO" Alans comments about working with Pop's and his "right-hand man" Ed Fiscella. Pop's goes above and beyond trying to build ukes that 1st sound great, 2nd play great, 3rd are well built, then finally 4th look wonderful. His focus on 1, 2 & 3 are evident when you play your new Pop's uke, as is #4 the first time you see it! It's obvious why he is a master in the luthier space! And Ed also goes out of his way to help with everything from the ordering/customization process through the build and finally the delivery. I felt "in the loop" at all times, and his wealth of knowledge along with his working relationship with Pops really is a recipe for success. And I have come to value Ed's opinions on various build aspects. He has always been up front and honest with me, not just saying what I want to hear. These two are truly the Batman and Robin in the UKESA company (Holy Amazing Ukes Batman)! Check out "my guys" at http://ukesahawaii.com.
 

Attachments

  • IMG_5127.jpg
    IMG_5127.jpg
    575.4 KB · Views: 58
  • IMG_5128.jpg
    IMG_5128.jpg
    507.6 KB · Views: 53
  • IMG_5130.jpg
    IMG_5130.jpg
    617.4 KB · Views: 45
  • IMG_5132.jpg
    IMG_5132.jpg
    513.6 KB · Views: 49
  • IMG_5156.jpg
    IMG_5156.jpg
    439.7 KB · Views: 44
  • New WOW 10a.jpg
    New WOW 10a.jpg
    546.7 KB · Views: 49
  • 1st New WOW 05.jpg
    1st New WOW 05.jpg
    553.5 KB · Views: 44
Last edited:
HOLY CRAP. I love it, it's so beautiful. Show some zoom shots of those inlays on the fretboard please?
 
This is hardly a me too as you have so much more history with this line of ukuleles and other sopranos. I am also impressed that you managed to get a picture that shows off the slight curvature of the back.

Is your ukulele strung with Low G? In any event have you played a Wow in both high and low G?
 
Beautiful. Great reviews.
 
Well I couldn't have said it better than Alan (@ailevin) on his NUD on Pops Soprano Wow! I mean even the pictures will look the same (with the exception of wood grains and abalone patterns) as these two WOW's are basically "twins"! What I can add is perspectives from someone with a few nice sopranos as well as someone who has a few other members of Pop's WOW family, and it all started with one of his prototype soprano WOW's. I did a NUD on the prototype WOW saying I how impressed I was with it's giant, bold voice. So much so that I commissioned Pops to build me his first tenor scale WOW. And it's voice is like the soprano WOW on steroids, bigger, louder and warmer! Since then I also snagged a soprano Pineapple Sunday WOW. So I have come to understand what Pop's is talking about when he uses "his Stradivarius" to describe the WOW line. And who would have thought that big voice could come out of what most consider "lowly pine" wood!

First, how does it compare to my other sopranos? Well my all time favorite soprano "was" my KoAloha Koa Pineapple. Big strong voice, crystal clear and super easy to play. It was the soprano by which I judged all other sopranos I tried out. Well the WOW is a big step up, equal or better in the "easy to play" category, lots more volume and "punch". It's a soprano you can use (and I did last night) to lead a Uke Jam, it really cuts through. Next I'll compare the WOW to my vintage Martin. It plays way easier than the Martin, has ALMOST as much pop, or what I call that "plinky-planky" soprano voice. My KoAloha Pineapple is louder than my Martin but way warmer/less pop. Weird, but after playing the WOW for a few days, my Martin seems like it has a little too much pop, bordering on harsh. And I never would have said that about the Martin until the WOW came along. It's hard to describe but the WOW is louder with great punch but just sounds more refined. It will never replace my vintage Martin because the Martin voice is, well it's pure Martin. They have a very consistent "plinky-planky" voice that many associate with what a soprano should sound like, and some go so far as to say it's how a ukulele is supposed to sound. I won't go near those opinions. To be clear in the volume category, the KoAloha Pineapple is lots louder than the Martin, the WOW tops the KoAloha easily. So has the WOW replaced my KoAloha Pineapple in the "favorite soprano" category, easily the answer is yes (but my KoAloha Pineapple is staying on my Allstar team along with my Martin!).

Now as for more of the "me too" review. When I heard Pop's was redesigning his soprano WOW I thought, no way I'll ever exchange my prototype WOW. But then I saw it. I have to admit, I'm a sucker for side sound ports. So when Pop's added it to his redesign, I started thinking about an upgrade. And I couldn't get away from those thoughts. Nothing against my Prototype WOW, I think one-of-a-kind prototype ukes are very cool and show the way master luthiers like Pop's put their thoughts and designs into wood and voice! But hey, a side sound port, and it's almost a baby twin brother to my tenor WOW. So I pulled the trigger and got on the list. Little did I know there were 2 of us on that list at the same time! I agree with Alan's "feather-weight review", and I think that is a theme that runs across the WOW line. To qualify "feather-weight" I once owned a lovely Brad Donaldson soprano that he had built specifically as an example to present to the Ukulele Builders Guild on the topic of lightweight ukes. His uke weighed in at 10.7oz and to get to that weight he had cutouts in the bracing similar to Kanile'a. My WOW is 12.3oz so pretty darned close. And surprisingly I also checked my Martin style 0, and it weighs 9.9oz! (sorry for the sidetrack, I love details). Alan mentioned Pop's has incorporated a slightly convex back bow, similar to Martins. It is slight, more noticeable to touch than sight. It's not the obvious bow like Bruko has, but I gotta believe that any bow bounces the sound forward better than flat.

As with many redesigns, the looks have matured as well. As I told someone else this new refined WOW looks like "all dressed up for a night on the town". As Alan detailed, the cool abalone fret marker bars that tie in so nicely with the abalone bar on the newly designed bridge, and in Pop's cool headstock logo really give this otherwise blond uke some color pop! And I've said before that the headstock Pops has designed is crazy beautiful. It shares the KoAloha shape (that I'm sure Pops designed many years ago) and adds the layered mahogany/ebony/flamed maple plate to that recognizable shape. And Pop's logo which combines a "P" and a "S" (for Pop's Specialties) with a music note... what's not to love. Also the new binding woods really frame the blond body. So great looks are the icing on the cake, because, did I mention the cake has a side sound port? Same bigger than you'd expect from it's looks - sound, same GREAT playability and amazing setup as is typical from a totally Pops built uke.

After the thousands of ukes Pops has built in his lifetime, he truly has come up with an exciting new "voice" in the uke world, and the WOW's have the looks worthy of their voice! And he's done all this at a time in his life when he should be kicking back and enjoying his retirement! What a guy!

So that's my "ME TOO" review of Pop's redesigned soprano WOW. Some of you may be wondering if I plan to hang on to both soprano WOWs? My answer will show up in the Marketplace forum shortly! I'll try to do some side by side sound bytes so you can hear what I'm trying to put into words. As soon as I can figure out how to add short videos to these threads (any help is appreciated).

And finally I have to "ME TOO" Alans comments about working with Pop's and his "right-hand man" Ed Fiscella. Pop's goes above and beyond trying to build ukes that 1st sound great, 2nd play great, 3rd are well built, then finally 4th look wonderful. His focus on 1, 2 & 3 are evident when you play your new Pop's uke, as is #4 the first time you see it! It's obvious why he is a master in the luthier space! And Ed also goes out of his way to help with everything from the ordering/customization process through the build and finally the delivery. I felt "in the loop" at all times, and his wealth of knowledge along with his working relationship with Pops really is a recipe for success. And I have come to value Ed's opinions on various build aspects. He has always been up front and honest with me, not just saying what I want to hear. These two are truly the Batman and Robin in the UKESA company (Holy Amazing Ukes Batman)! Check out "my guys" at http://ukesahawaii.com.
UPDATE, well this is going beyond a coincidence, this makes the 3rd uke Pop's has made for me that has gotten in front of somebodies camera while in a stage of the build process. I think the Universe is assuring me I'm on the right ukulele path, and that I MUST CONTINUE! I've added the pic posted by both Alan and Ed show, our 2 uke "literally hanging out together".
 
This is hardly a me too as you have so much more history with this line of ukuleles and other sopranos. I am also impressed that you managed to get a picture that shows off the slight curvature of the back.

Is your ukulele strung with Low G? In any event have you played a Wow in both high and low G?
My soprano is a high G, I did change the high G on my tenor WOW to low G. It made it's big voice much bigger! I'm sure on your soprano the low G does the same thing, I've never had a low G soprano. I favor the jangly sound of high G on my sopranos, but I should change one before I say what I prefer!
 
UPDATE, well this is going beyond a coincidence, this makes the 3rd uke Pop's has made for me that has gotten in front of somebodies camera while in a stage of the build process. I think the Universe is assuring me I'm on the right ukulele path, and that I MUST CONTINUE! I've added the pic posted by both Alan and Ed show, our 2 uke "literally hanging out together".
Although, to do a full scientific case study, you should buy a few more and see if it was coincidence or if the phenomenon is real.
 
This is hardly a me too as you have so much more history with this line of ukuleles and other sopranos. I am also impressed that you managed to get a picture that shows off the slight curvature of the back.

Is your ukulele strung with Low G? In any event have you played a Wow in both high and low G?
Alan, I played your uke with both High G and Low G while Pops was testing. I prefer low G on my ukes because it is more of what I am accustomed to. I love your uke with a low G however I prefer it with high G because it is with the high g that I feel that it meets its potential. With the Low G, the sound is gorgeous though but not what I am used to with my tenors. It makes me think of what I am missing from my Wow tenor in Low G. But when played with High G- it is the best-sounding soprano I ever played (along with rick's- lol). This is just my opinion, if this uke were mine, I would have it high G (unless of course having it in high g would cause you not to play it). Give it a try and see for yourself and let us know.
 
Alan, I played your uke with both High G and Low G while Pops was testing. I prefer low G on my ukes because it is more of what I am accustomed to. I love your uke with a low G however I prefer it with high G because it is with the high g that I feel that it meets its potential. With the Low G, the sound is gorgeous though but not what I am used to with my tenors. It makes me think of what I am missing from my Wow tenor in Low G. But when played with High G- it is the best-sounding soprano I ever played (along with rick's- lol). This is just my opinion, if this uke were mine, I would have it high G (unless of course having it in high g would cause you not to play it). Give it a try and see for yourself and let us know.
I wanted to start with low G because almost all of the chord/melody arrangements I've learned are for low G since we are taking lessons and practicing primarily on the tenors. With the Wow in low G I can play all the same things. As my finger picking improves, I will probably want to try campanella arrangements that would be more appropriate to high G. I also think high G will be the way to go with traditional Hawaiian, of which I know very little so far.

As you said, a low G soprano is not a tenor--it has its own voice, which I am reallly enjoying. I am lucky enough to have a beautiful sounding tenor when I want that voice.
 
Weird, I have the link set to anyone can view. Try this maybe?
It was a user error. I was clicking on the videos on the left and the right box said -

"Who has access. You do not have permission to view sharing information for this item"​

so I thought I was blocked. I just had to click on the video to play it. Nice playing, and using white high g strings and brown low G strings makes it easier to know which is which!
 
I’m not normally a fan of side sound ports (big gaping hole in side of ukulele—eek!). But that slotted sound port is really quite elegant.
 
@rhiggie: I see you put a strap button on your Wow. Looking inside my ukulele, the end block seems exceptionally thin and looks like it is pine as well. Were there any issues with or did you have any concerns about installing the strap button?
 
@rhiggie: I see you put a strap button on your Wow. Looking inside my ukulele, the end block seems exceptionally thin and looks like it is pine as well. Were there any issues with or did you have any concerns about installing the strap button?
I put one on mine. Yes it's a slimmer than typical end block so you don't want a long screw. Just predrill the hole a little smaller than the screw and it will be fine. There's not much stress pulling out on the screw. the hardest part is judging where the center of the bottom is. The sides are all one piece so you have to sight down the top and use the strings to guesstimate the center. I used a black ebony button because I like matching woods.
 

Attachments

  • IMG_5224.jpg
    IMG_5224.jpg
    527.1 KB · Views: 5
Top Bottom