Solid Koa

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Highest Quality Ukulele: Ohana, Kamaka, Martin...?

Hey! I am an avid ukulele player and I have been playing a soprano lanakai for a while now but I'm thinking of getting a higher quality (and, yes, more expensive ukulele.) The highest quality ohana, all the kamakas, and some of the martins are all around the same price (Martins, however, get the most expensive overall). IZ played a martin and they're by far the most expensive (up to $3000), but I played the highest quality ohana and it was beautiful. Kamakas have a really good reputation. If there's another brand that's better let me know. Basically, what is the best soprano (concert or tenor is also okay) ukulele on the market?

It depends on what you are really looking for. Something expensive? Or something that sounds better to you (and others hearing you play)?

Older martin ukuleles (solid mahogany) will fetch a premium because they were made in Nazareth, PA and the mahogany sweetens over time. I know several Hawaiian afficionados that swear by them -- but they bought them new many years ago, or they found a bargain at a swap meet (no more bargains on eBay). Most would not pay the "collectors premium" on them today. Most new Martins are made in Mexico. The exceptions are the VERY expensive ones with tons of paua (or abalone) inlay work -- a visual collector's item. If you can finad a Tenor or Soprano Martin (over 20 years old) for under $500, in good shape, ask to play it and buy if you like the sound.

That said, the other alternative is a solid Koa ukulele made in Hawai'i. The top ones (IMHO) are KoAloha, Kamaka, and Kanile'a. Koa only grows above 5000 feet in Hawai'i and cannot be harvested unless the tree is felled by natural means (lightning, wind, volcano, etc.). That makes the wood rare and expensive. On top of that, US labor costs make these ukulele more expensive.

Kamaka ukulele have been the favorite among islanders for so long, they are an institution. Many people go for a Kamaka because of reputation. The factory has limited output and they are very hard to find -- further driving the cost up. But they are sweet instruments in the right hands. It is the instrument that Jake Shimabukuro plays -- you should listen to his "While My Guitar Gently Weeps".

My money goes to Kanile'a and KoAloha. Which are a little easier to find and don't have as much of an add-on premium as Martin and Kamaka.

Kanile'a has the nicest finish of the two -- using a technique learned from Taylor Guitars to use UV light to cure micro-thin layers of finish. These instruments have a very high gloss without the thickness that might restrict the resonance of the koa wood. Their "Super Tenor" is the best of the bunch.

My personal favorite based on price and tone, though, is KoAloha. I have two KoAloha tenors. One a standard four-string low G and the other strung like a small guitar with six strings (a custom order). I play the tenor four string every week in kanikapila and I am constantly asked what make I am playing and receive many comments on the sweet tone. Then they ask if they can play it and are reluctant to give it back to me because of the feel and touch to play. Danial Ho, Herb Ohta Jr., David Kamakahi, Riatea Helm, Brittni Paiva, and George Kahumoku all play KoAloha Tenors.

Many of the other ukuleles are made overseas to keep the labor costs down -- making them affordable for most people. Lanaka'i is one of these. they are sweet sounding, the quality has vastly improved over time and they are the best value but not what the "professionals" play.

Discover Solid Koa On eBay Below:

Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele classical MOP inlaid hard case HU792
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele classical MOP inlaid hard case HU792
$180.00
Alulu Solid Acacia KOA SOPRANO Ukulele Butterfly MOP Inlay HU1492
Alulu Solid Acacia KOA SOPRANO Ukulele Butterfly MOP Inlay HU1492
$140.00
Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele Kit Aquila strings No Polish KITKT03 05 10
Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele Kit Aquila strings No Polish KITKT03 05 10
$75.00
Solid Acacia Koa Grain Pineapple Shape Concert Ukulele BU617 Alulu
Solid Acacia Koa Grain Pineapple Shape Concert Ukulele BU617 Alulu
$159.00
Alulu Solid Curly Acacia Koa var PQ Island Tenor Ukulele Hard Case BU445 BU450
Alulu Solid Curly Acacia Koa var PQ Island Tenor Ukulele Hard Case BU445 BU450
$180.00
Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulelebaroque butterfly MOP inlayUKT237
Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulelebaroque butterfly MOP inlayUKT237
$179.00
Antonio Eagle Inlaid Solid Wood Acacia Koa Ukulele Cutaway Tenor Handmade 2921
Antonio Eagle Inlaid Solid Wood Acacia Koa Ukulele Cutaway Tenor Handmade 2921
$99.00
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Baritone Guitarleleeagle MOP inlaidhardcaseHUA438F
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Baritone Guitarleleeagle MOP inlaidhardcaseHUA438F
$89.00
6 string Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Tenor UkuleleEagle MOP inlaid HUA177
6 string Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Tenor UkuleleEagle MOP inlaid HUA177
$99.00
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Pineapple Shape Tenor Ukulele Eagle Inlay HU941 HU943
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Pineapple Shape Tenor Ukulele Eagle Inlay HU941 HU943
$180.00
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Grain Pineapple Shape Tenor Ukulele Hard Case HU939
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Grain Pineapple Shape Tenor Ukulele Hard Case HU939
$180.00
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa wood Concert Ukulele Dragon inlay Satin polished HU00B
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa wood Concert Ukulele Dragon inlay Satin polished HU00B
$89.00
Alulu Solid PQ Acacia Koa Concert Ukulele rose inlay with hard case HU1649
Alulu Solid PQ Acacia Koa Concert Ukulele rose inlay with hard case HU1649
$99.00
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele MOP TIGER Inlay Bag UC17 2604
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele MOP TIGER Inlay Bag UC17 2604
$239.00
Alulu Solid Curly Acacia Koa PQ Island Tenor Ukulele Satin polish BU542 BU543
Alulu Solid Curly Acacia Koa PQ Island Tenor Ukulele Satin polish BU542 BU543
$180.00
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele Bevelled Armrest Bag UG17 2704
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele Bevelled Armrest Bag UG17 2704
$219.00
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele MOP Inlay Bag UY17 2167
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele MOP Inlay Bag UY17 2167
$219.00
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Concert Ukulele CowBoy Inlay Bag UC15 2185
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Concert Ukulele CowBoy Inlay Bag UC15 2185
$179.00
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Concert Ukulele Turtle Soundhole Bag UG15 2575
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Concert Ukulele Turtle Soundhole Bag UG15 2575
$56.00
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Concert Ukulele CowBoy Inlay Bag UF15 2050
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Concert Ukulele CowBoy Inlay Bag UF15 2050
$179.00
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Pineapple Concert Ukulele Turtle Soundhole UW15 2154
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Pineapple Concert Ukulele Turtle Soundhole UW15 2154
$219.00
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa wood Tenor 26 inch Ukulele sun rosette inlay CTU09
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa wood Tenor 26 inch Ukulele sun rosette inlay CTU09
$160.00
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele Bevelled Armrest Soft Bag UG17 2718
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele Bevelled Armrest Soft Bag UG17 2718
$295.00
Alulu Solid Curly Acacia Koa Baritone Guitarlele with Hard Case BGUE20 PQ
Alulu Solid Curly Acacia Koa Baritone Guitarlele with Hard Case BGUE20 PQ
$170.00
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele Hummingbird MOP inlay Hard case UKT242
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele Hummingbird MOP inlay Hard case UKT242
$109.00
8 String Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele Hummingbird Inlay HU1416
8 String Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele Hummingbird Inlay HU1416
$99.00
Alulu Curly Acacia Koa all solid wood Tenor Ukulele Hard Case BU571
Alulu Curly Acacia Koa all solid wood Tenor Ukulele Hard Case BU571
$99.00
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele Hand Craft Inlay Dot Hard case HU1508
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele Hand Craft Inlay Dot Hard case HU1508
$89.00
Alulu Solid Acacia Taiwanese Koa Tenor Ukulelehard caseshiny polishHUA130
Alulu Solid Acacia Taiwanese Koa Tenor Ukulelehard caseshiny polishHUA130
$150.00
Alulu Solid Hawaiian Koa Shiny Polish Concert Ukulele with Hard Case U
Alulu Solid Hawaiian Koa Shiny Polish Concert Ukulele with Hard Case U
$330.00
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulelebaroque MOP inlaidSatin polishedHUA105
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulelebaroque MOP inlaidSatin polishedHUA105
$109.00
8 String Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele Eagle MOP Inlay Hard CaseHU1030
8 String Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele Eagle MOP Inlay Hard CaseHU1030
$99.00


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