Solid Koa

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 8 STRING Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele MOP Inlay Bag UG17 2578
Bruce Wei 8 STRING Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele MOP Inlay Bag UG17 2578
$359.00
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Concert Ukulele The Islands Soundhole UG15 2365
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Concert Ukulele The Islands Soundhole UG15 2365
$195.00
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Soprano Ukulele MOP Inlay Bag UY13 2139
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Soprano Ukulele MOP Inlay Bag UY13 2139
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Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele Turtle Inlay Bag UE17 2064
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele Turtle Inlay Bag UE17 2064
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Koa Pili Koko Solid Mahagony Concert Ukulele used good condition
Koa Pili Koko Solid Mahagony Concert Ukulele used good condition
$50.00
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Concert Ukulele MOP Inlay Bag UG15 2498
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Concert Ukulele MOP Inlay Bag UG15 2498
$51.00
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele MOP Inlay Bag UG17 2564
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele MOP Inlay Bag UG17 2564
$199.00
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele MOP Inlay Bag UJ17 2439
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele MOP Inlay Bag UJ17 2439
$219.00
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele Turtle Soundhole Bag UI17 2332
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele Turtle Soundhole Bag UI17 2332
$179.00
MELE HANDMADE SOLID KOA SOPRANO UKULELE
MELE HANDMADE SOLID KOA SOPRANO UKULELE
$499.00
MELE HANDMADE SOLID KOA PINEAPPLE SOPRANO UKULELE Beautiful Sweet sound
MELE HANDMADE SOLID KOA PINEAPPLE SOPRANO UKULELE Beautiful Sweet sound
$499.00
Mele HANDMADE SOLID KOA Concert Ukulele
Mele HANDMADE SOLID KOA Concert Ukulele
$549.00
MELE handmade SOLID KOA PINEAPPLE CONCERT UKULELE Great looks and tone
MELE handmade SOLID KOA PINEAPPLE CONCERT UKULELE Great looks and tone
$549.00
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Eagle Tenor Ukulele with Hard Case HU903 HU910
Alulu Solid Acacia Koa Eagle Tenor Ukulele with Hard Case HU903 HU910
$135.00
Lanikai Waimea Hawaiian Made Solid Koa Super Concert Ukulele
Lanikai Waimea Hawaiian Made Solid Koa Super Concert Ukulele
$1,194.99
LAG STAGE SERIES U700SE SOLID KOA BABY SOPRANO ACOUSTIC UKULELE w PADDED GIG BAG
LAG STAGE SERIES U700SE SOLID KOA BABY SOPRANO ACOUSTIC UKULELE w PADDED GIG BAG
$233.91
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele Mop Inlay Bag UJ17 2426
Bruce Wei Solid Acacia Koa Tenor Ukulele Mop Inlay Bag UJ17 2426
$359.00
Alulu Solid Curly Acacia Koa var PQ Island Tenor Ukulele BU396 BU400
Alulu Solid Curly Acacia Koa var PQ Island Tenor Ukulele BU396 BU400
$127.50
Alulu Solid Curly Acacia Koa var PQ Island Tenor Ukulele BU402 BU408
Alulu Solid Curly Acacia Koa var PQ Island Tenor Ukulele BU402 BU408
$127.50
Alulu Tenor Ukulele Solid Acacia Koa Eagle with Hard Case HU903 HU910
Alulu Tenor Ukulele Solid Acacia Koa Eagle with Hard Case HU903 HU910
$180.00
KoAloha KCM 00C Concert Solid Koa w 5 0PU Ukulele FREE US SHIPPING
KoAloha KCM 00C Concert Solid Koa w 5 0PU Ukulele FREE US SHIPPING
$1,300.00
Alulu Solid Curly Acacia Koa var PQ Island Tenor Ukulele Free Hard Case BU526
Alulu Solid Curly Acacia Koa var PQ Island Tenor Ukulele Free Hard Case BU526
$180.00
Alulu Solid Curly Acacia Koa var PQ Island Tenor Ukulele Free Hard Case BU527
Alulu Solid Curly Acacia Koa var PQ Island Tenor Ukulele Free Hard Case BU527
$180.00
Alulu Solid Curly Acacia Koa var PQ Island Tenor Ukulele Free Hard Case BU528
Alulu Solid Curly Acacia Koa var PQ Island Tenor Ukulele Free Hard Case BU528
$180.00
Alulu Solid Curly Acacia Koa var PQ Island Tenor Ukulele Free Hard Case BU529
Alulu Solid Curly Acacia Koa var PQ Island Tenor Ukulele Free Hard Case BU529
$180.00
Alulu Solid Curly Acacia Koa var PQ Island Tenor Ukulele Free Hard Case BU531
Alulu Solid Curly Acacia Koa var PQ Island Tenor Ukulele Free Hard Case BU531
$180.00
Alulu Solid Curly Acacia Koa var PQ Island Tenor Ukulele Free Hard Case BU532
Alulu Solid Curly Acacia Koa var PQ Island Tenor Ukulele Free Hard Case BU532
$180.00
Alulu Solid Curly Acacia Koa var PQ Island Tenor Ukulele Free Hard Case BU533
Alulu Solid Curly Acacia Koa var PQ Island Tenor Ukulele Free Hard Case BU533
$180.00
LAG U700SE Stage Series Uke All Solid Koa Baby Soprano Acoustic Electric Ukulele
LAG U700SE Stage Series Uke All Solid Koa Baby Soprano Acoustic Electric Ukulele
$233.91
Alulu Solid Curly Acacia Koa var PQ Island Tenor Ukulele Free Hard Case BU535
Alulu Solid Curly Acacia Koa var PQ Island Tenor Ukulele Free Hard Case BU535
$180.00
Alulu Solid Curly Acacia Koa var PQ Island Tenor Ukulele Free Hard Case BU541
Alulu Solid Curly Acacia Koa var PQ Island Tenor Ukulele Free Hard Case BU541
$180.00
Alulu Solid Curly Acacia Koa var PQ Island Tenor Ukulele Free Hard Case BU538
Alulu Solid Curly Acacia Koa var PQ Island Tenor Ukulele Free Hard Case BU538
$180.00


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