When I got into work this morning I saw a a new Ko’olau on my photo table. CE-2.. it looks like…Wait…it’s not a a Ko’olau…This is the new Pono Tenor electric! A chambered solid body electric and it’s so nice! I am truly ecstatic to see and hear the quality of this new TE model. These will sell for 649 with a Ko’olau CE hard case. This is huge! A CE-2 is 2500! And this Pono is basically a CE-2 (+ radius fingerboard upgrade) There are some differences. Like..
The preamp section, that’s the main difference. They both use an LR Baggs pickup strip, but the Pono uses a Misi designed preamp. So you won’t change batteries on the Pono. It recharges with the Misi plug. But one thing to take note of; In the video, the Pono and the Godin are at full volume, or up all the way on their volume knob. The Ko’olau was at exactly half way up on it’s volume knob. I didn’t want to touch the amp but wanted it to be even in volume for comparison listening. Plus, I didn’t want to adjust or edit the audio after, so this seemed like my best choice. Basically the Ko’olau preamp is more powerful, which can be useful, but is not a necessity. Here’s some more details for this comparison video.
These were plugged into an LR Baggs reference monitor. EQ was flat. Zero reverb (a shame because it has some tasty verb). And all three ukes could have sounded “better” if I had tinkered with the mic placement and blend with the direct amp out, or even the frequency phase on the amp can make a big improvement. I didn’t touch any of that. In my opinion, the Godin could have used adjustment most. Which was ironic because it was the only one with an onboard eq to adjust and I tried to get the best settings within our constraints. I thought it had a warm tone, so I tried to add clarity but didn’t cut as much as the other two. With this amp and room, the Ko’olau and Pono already had a “clean” sound, without EQ. There’s other differences to note as well.
The Godin body is deeper, as you can see, and acoustically it has more volume and brightness. Godin’s body is also much heavier. It anchors at the bottom. The Pono is light and balanced. The Godin has classy top binding. The Pono’has the soft 1/2 inch bit round off, just like the Ko’olau. Makes for comfy holding. Speaking of comfort. A radius fretboard will be standard on these new Pono models. This one feels perfect, comes with a Ko’olau case. What a great value!
There are many benefits to these type ukes, even unplugged. They’re perfect for late night practicing. An you can “let loose”, or get dynamic without sounding obnoxious (or maybe less obnoxious?). Plugged in you get the tone of a great tenor ukulele. The biggest advantage is live, much less chance of feedback, even at high volumes. For over 15 years the Ko’olau company has been perfecting this concept. Soon they will offer a more affordable version with the Pono TE.
To me, the Ko’olau sounded best, but it’s close! If you factor in value, or bang for your buck, Pono takes the cake. For someone like me, average skill, young kids, ya, I’m gonna have to do the responsible thing….and buy the Pono!! Woohoo! I love being responsible:) Now which one should I get??
The Pono TE will come in various woods and options. The all Acacia is what you see here. The body is carved from a solid block of acacia, chambered to the right tone, and topped with more beautiful acacia. Cedar top will be an option, and…all mango! (stunning flame mango!) There will be satin finish models, even more affordable, and perhaps more. We’ll see. They’ll be available in October. We don’t take preorders. Just giving you a first glimpse. Thanks for checkin’ out the review. And what I really want to know is…
…. What did you think? Please share your thoughts below. Aloha!