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:

Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Concert Ukulele MOP Inlay Bag UN15 2317
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Concert Ukulele MOP Inlay Bag UN15 2317
$249.00
Kala Elite All Solid Koa 1KOA C Concert Ukulele W Transit Bag
Kala Elite All Solid Koa 1KOA C Concert Ukulele W Transit Bag
$779.99
Antonio Dragonfly Inlaid Solid Wood Acacia Koa Ukulele Tenor Handmade 2970
Antonio Dragonfly Inlaid Solid Wood Acacia Koa Ukulele Tenor Handmade 2970
$79.00
Antonio Island Spider Inlaid Solid Wood Acacia Koa Ukulele Tenor Handmade 2990
Antonio Island Spider Inlaid Solid Wood Acacia Koa Ukulele Tenor Handmade 2990
$300.00
Antonio Aloha Hawaii Inlaid Solid Wood Acacia Koa Ukulele Tenor Handmade 2989
Antonio Aloha Hawaii Inlaid Solid Wood Acacia Koa Ukulele Tenor Handmade 2989
$179.00
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Classical Head Shiny Tenor Ukulele with Hard Case BU548
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Classical Head Shiny Tenor Ukulele with Hard Case BU548
$180.00
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Concert Ukulele Bevelled Armrest Bag UG15 2596
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Concert Ukulele Bevelled Armrest Bag UG15 2596
$34.00
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Baritone Guitarlele Dots Inlay Hard Case HU1472 1526
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Baritone Guitarlele Dots Inlay Hard Case HU1472 1526
$114.00
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Baritone Guitarlele Butterfly Inlay Hard Case HU1471 1524
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Baritone Guitarlele Butterfly Inlay Hard Case HU1471 1524
$114.00
Alulu Solid Curly Acacia Koa var PQ Island Tenor Ukulele Free Hard Case BU583
Alulu Solid Curly Acacia Koa var PQ Island Tenor Ukulele Free Hard Case BU583
$180.00
Alulu Solid Curly Acacia Koa var PQ Island Tenor Ukulele Free Hard Case BU584
Alulu Solid Curly Acacia Koa var PQ Island Tenor Ukulele Free Hard Case BU584
$180.00
Bruce Wei Solid 5A Curly Hawaiian Koa Concert Ukulele MOP Inlay Bag UG15 2032
Bruce Wei Solid 5A Curly Hawaiian Koa Concert Ukulele MOP Inlay Bag UG15 2032
$680.00
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Gypsy Tenor Ukulele Mop Dragon Inlay Bag GY17 2079
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Gypsy Tenor Ukulele Mop Dragon Inlay Bag GY17 2079
$359.00
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele Bevelled Armrest Bag UW17 2079
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele Bevelled Armrest Bag UW17 2079
$179.00
Bruce Wei Solid Curly Taiwan Koa Tenor Ukulele MOP Inlay Bag UG17 2775
Bruce Wei Solid Curly Taiwan Koa Tenor Ukulele MOP Inlay Bag UG17 2775
$350.00
Bruce Wei Solid Hawaiian Koa Concert Ukulele MOP Inlay Bag UG15 2518
Bruce Wei Solid Hawaiian Koa Concert Ukulele MOP Inlay Bag UG15 2518
$279.00
Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukuleleclassical MOP inlaidhard caseHUA539
Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukuleleclassical MOP inlaidhard caseHUA539
$180.00
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Mandolele MOP Vine Inlay Bag MD17 2036
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Mandolele MOP Vine Inlay Bag MD17 2036
$319.00
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele Bevelled Amrest Rose Inlay UF17 2031
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele Bevelled Amrest Rose Inlay UF17 2031
$179.00
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele MOP Inlay Bag UI17 2384
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele MOP Inlay Bag UI17 2384
$72.00
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Classical Head Tenor Ukulele with Hard Case BU600
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Classical Head Tenor Ukulele with Hard Case BU600
$180.00
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Classical Head Tenor Ukulele with Hard Case BU602
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Classical Head Tenor Ukulele with Hard Case BU602
$160.00
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Classical Head Tenor Ukulele with Hard Case BU605
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Classical Head Tenor Ukulele with Hard Case BU605
$180.00
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Classical Head Tenor Ukulele with Hard Case BU606
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Classical Head Tenor Ukulele with Hard Case BU606
$180.00
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Classical Head Tenor Ukulele with Hard Case BU607
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Classical Head Tenor Ukulele with Hard Case BU607
$180.00
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele MOP Inlay Bag UC17 2606
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele MOP Inlay Bag UC17 2606
$319.00
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Grain Pineapple Shape Concert Ukulele one Hard Case BU736
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Grain Pineapple Shape Concert Ukulele one Hard Case BU736
$180.00
High class solid Hawaiian Koa Thin body Tenor Ukulele Hard Case US
High class solid Hawaiian Koa Thin body Tenor Ukulele Hard Case US
$38.15
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulelehibiscus MOP inlaidhard case HUA 55
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulelehibiscus MOP inlaidhard case HUA 55
$170.00
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele Sea turtle abalone rosette HUA820
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele Sea turtle abalone rosette HUA820
$170.00
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulelegrape vine MOP inlaidHard case HUA57
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulelegrape vine MOP inlaidHard case HUA57
$180.00
Alulu Solid Authentic Hawaiian Koa Tenor Ukulele Beautiful Grain HardCase BU649
Alulu Solid Authentic Hawaiian Koa Tenor Ukulele Beautiful Grain HardCase BU649
$220.00


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