At first glance, the new Pono Pro-Classic series ukulele looks like the Custom shop Deluxe series Ko’olau ukulele. At closer inspection, the new Pono Pro Classic still looks like a Deluxe series Ko’olau! And once you strum it, you are amazed at the volume and body of the sound.
There will always be a superiority to a custom shop ukulele built by a master luthier from start to finish. Yet, to get the features you want on a custom shop ukulele, it will put you well over a thousand dollars and beyond. Pono is a production model version of the custom shop Ko’olau. When you look at the build quality you can see the attention to detail; precise cutting and routing on the all wood bindings and purflings, the finish is glassy flat and, as you can hear from the resonance, not too thick, which is common on import gloss finishes. The only way you can get this quality is from very skilled and experienced craftsmen with a critical eye, and an artist’s desire.
John Kitakis, owner of Ko’olau, didn’t want to just “move boxes” with a cheap import line. He wanted to make the quality and depth of a Ko’olau instrument available to you at a price that you can afford (and justify it to your partner). And even though there is an unsurpassed refinement to the Ko’olau custom models, Pono is built with the same quality, design, woods, and most importantly, the meticulous oversite by Ko’olau.
Each model from the Pro Classic Series has quite a few different options. Options include cutaway, slotted headstock, or an excellent passive pickup system. There are a few of the 5 series which have REAL abalone going around the top. For those of you who have only seen Oscar Schmidt style abalone, it’s not the same. I’m not knocking them, because it’s a totally different price range. I’m just making a point that not all “abalone inlay” is real abalone. On cheaper instruments this can actually make it worse, like the thick plastic looking pearl known in the industry as “mother of toilet seat”. The two maple #5’s shown in this video have eye popping figured woods that leave you in amazement, but the Pro-Classic isn’t just about the “sparkle” of glitzing out an ukulele with flame exotic woods, mother of pearl and all those other buzz words. Instead, they used classic design and traditional woods. There is a reason why Rosewood, Mahogany, Spruce, Cedar, and Maple are used on stringed instruments more than any other woods. They are tried and true, and loved for their tonal qualities.
These ukes are setup to be professional level performing instruments with custom shop quality components. All Pono ukulele are made with solid woods and come with the industry’s best hardshell case. The tone on these instruments would rival just about anything out there and warrant the slightly higher price you step up to. If you simply want a quality sound, look , and feel and do not require Koa wood or 100% Hawaiian labor, these instruments will definitely serve you well and allow you to attain your musical goals. Enjoy the video! Aloha~