About 20 years ago my dad (John Kitakis) started Ko’olau Guitar & Ukulele Company. That pride of craftsmanship and aim for the finest quality have always been at the heart of Ko’olau and many serious musicians were and still are delighted by this. 12 years ago, as I left to start Hawaii Music Supply, my brother Noa took over the Ko’olau custom shop building and has continued to perfect this art. Dad set forth on a new venture; To make a Ko’olau quality instrument at a more affordable price. This has been no casual effort. It’s taken him many years but he now provides a truly great brand, our best selling line of ukuleles. Even though quality has become consistent, he still travels to the island of Java to work with the luthiers there and continue improving.
“Keep it Pono” is local for, do it right, or show excellence in what you do. For Ko’olau owner John Kitakis, affordable excellence for the ukulele community has been a constant effort, maybe even a struggle. But I would now consider it to be an achievement, because Pono’s are now consistently excellent. Every instrument in the Pono lineup is of the finest value available.
I shot this video on a visit we made to the Pono factory earlier this year. Super awesome guys there. Talented luthiers and wonderful people to spend time with.
Take a look at the models featured below and also at our website HERE.
Mahogany Deluxe MSD
MS – MSD – AS – ASD
Regular model or Deluxe?Basically the only difference is the regular soprano has a satin finish and the deluxe has a gloss finish. Both are the same lacquer finish but the satin has a dulling agent on the final coats so it’s not reflective like the gloss which is sanded and buffed to a glassy look. This process to get a beautiful gloss finish takes extra time and costs more, but really shows off the wood. Differences in sound? I don’t hear much. What about you?
– Mango Soprano – MGS –
Classic tones from the mango.
Pono also makes super sopranos!See more Pono sopranos HERE and soprano long necks HERE.
Kalei samples the Mahogany Concert (MC)One difference in the regular model and deluxe when this video was shot is the rosewood fretboard and bridge that the regular models have. However by the end of the year all models will have ebony for the fretboard and bridge.
Pono only uses solid quarter sawn woods of the highest instrument grade. Their concert, like the soprano, comes in two woods, mahogany and acacia. These are available in either satin or gloss finish. They have a sweet, balanced tone, and are extremely easy to play.
Mango Pineapple Concert
Sweet tones from the pineapple mango. Go figure.
Our “Listening Booth” videos are recorded back to back with exact settings and mic placement for your comparison.
Below we listen to 4 different Pono Concert models.
MC – MCD – AC – ACD
4 Concerts Back to Back
One of the models Anuhea plays is a Concert Pro Classic
See available Pono concerts HERE.
The construction is clean and just like all tenor and baritone Pono models they come equipped with an adjustable, light weight truss rod. This really helps us fine tune the curvature of the neck perfectly in setup, and allows for further adjustments for personal preference.
Pono MT Satin Finish Mahogany Tenor
As I was saying with the other models, The difference in the regular and deluxe models is that the deluxe has a gloss finish. So this MT has the satin lacquer finish. The MTD has gloss finish.
Mahogany vs Acacia vs Mango
These are “raw” sound samples with no compression of mastering. Use quality headphones or monitors for most accurate sound.
Mahogany Deluxe Tenor MTD
The MTD offers a ton of quality in a mid priced package. It has the classic mahogany warmth but with a crisp attack, clear response, and sweet sustain. It has a beautiful gloss finish and uses the finest quality quarter sawn woods including a high grade mahogany and striking ebony fingerboard and bridge.
Nice classic tone with the high G and the deeper rich sounds come out with a low G. This sample is with the stock Ko’olau Alohi wound 3 high G set.
Mango Tenor Deluxe MGTD
Like Aaron talks about in the video, high quality mango like this has great tonal qualities of both mahogany and koa.
Along with great sounds, this new mango line features beautiful, exotic looks and variations in the wood grain that will bring you joy to just hold and admire.
All solid wood – Bone nut and saddle – Gloss Finish – w/Truss Rod
Cedar Top Mahogany MTD-CR
A perfect gloss finish shows off the stunning quarter sawn Honduran mahogany. Rosewood binding and wood rope purfling frame off one of the favorite tonewoods of many acoustic enthusiasts: western red cedar! The tonal character is sweet and clear on this wonderful ukulele. It’s a joy to play and hear.
Also comes in spruce top, MTD-SP that Aaron reviews here-
A key feature in all of the Pono tenors and baritones is the dual-action adjustable truss rod. This stabilizes and adjusts the lengthwise forward curvature (also called relief), of the neck. It can be adjusted from right inside the soundhole with an allen wrench provided. Over time and with humidity changes, this is a very useful option to have, and a very easy thing to adjust with little room for error. Here is a video that explains this feature.
Cedar Acacia Deluxe ATD-CR
Pro Classic Tenors
MTSH Mahogany Tenor Slothead
The materials used on the newest pro classics are top notch. The body is quarter sawn Honduran Mahogany, an expensive mahogany used for the best musical instruments. Rosewood frames off the top and back of the body. The bridge and the fretboard are also ebony and the faceplate is Macassar ebony.
This model has a full bodied sound with clarity and warmth, this is the classic mahogany tenor sound at it’s best. Ko’olau is very exacting and the results are impressive!
The MTSH comes in a number of variations. It can come with a spruce or a cedar top, with or without a cutaway, and also with a sunburst finish.
Variations on the MTSH
Spruce Top & Sunburst
Cedar & Spruce w Cutaway
ATSH Acacia Tenor Slothead
Current production of this model like you see in the pictures has wi’awa wood binding and Grover 18:1 sta-tite tuners. It also has gorgeous Macassar ebony used for the bridge fingerboard and faceplate. Like all new Pro Classics from Pono has a radius fingerboard. It’s hardly noticeable, but it surely adds to the comfort of play. This slight curve allows for low action and plays like a dream.
This tenor is displayed and protected by the cleanest gloss finish yet from Pono. This glassy smooth lacquer finish is extremely strong yet just a few thousandths of an inch thick. This is the art of uninhibited protection. Also to be noted is that Pono has kept improving and I would put the beautiful look of this finish up against ANY custom shop instrument. It’s as flawlessly executed as you will find.
How does the Acacia and Mahogany sound back to back?
Bruno has gotten 3 Pro Classics from us 😀
Mango Tenor MGT5-PC
This is a Pro Classic 5 series tenor with beautiful Mango wood. The 5 series is the flagship of the Pono line. It gets the highest grade woods, and aside from all the appointments of the Pro Classic line, wood bindings, radius fretboard, gloss finishes, abalone rosette, included wood hard case, etc, beyond that there is also abalone inlay going around the top. Just a little icing on the cake.
Also available in pineapple.
TE Chambord Body Electric Tenor
A solid chambered acacia body topped with the finest North American red cedar. This is the gloss Deluxe model with the Pono pickup. Along with a truss rod to fine tune perfect action it features a radius fingerboard for a buttery smooth playing experience. Macassar ebony fingerboard and faceplate are stunning and the custom made hardshell case is the finest CE Ko’olau case to date. These are made in Ko’olau Java factory and pickup installation and setup is done at the Ko’olau custom shop in Wahiawa, Hawaii.
Acacia Baritone Deluxe ABD
Acacia is a family of trees that Hawaiian koa belongs to. This is not Hawaiian koa but comes from a very similar species found throughout Asia. This instrument was built on one of the Indonesian Islands with hands on guidance and quality control from the Ko’olau Ukulele Company. These are constructed by the finest instrument makers and to Ko’olau specs and design. This gloss finish and woods used on this model are only the finest. And, we are happy to hear the impressive tonal character! This is a great value on a pro-level baritone!
Mango Baritone Deluxe –
This mango was quartersawn cut, dried properly, and then built in a climate controlled environment. The mahogany neck was also reinforced with a light weight, dual action, adjustable truss rod in the neck for long term stability and adjustment capabilities.
The baritone is a fun and relaxing instrument that any guitar or ukulele player should feel right at home with. This mango model is one of the best you’ll find.
Spruce Top Mahogany Deluxe MBD-SPThis one sits in between the Pro Classics and regular line. It has a spruce top with top binding, and a radius fretboard also bound. Wonderful looks and tones!
The MBD-SP is an excellent choice for the tone-conscious musician looking for a serious sound with depth and clarity in the beautiful baritone voicing and at a reasonable price point.
Pono only uses solid woods, bone nut and saddle, wood bindings, and no plastics.
Radius fretboard for extra comfort fretting
Simple but beautiful solid mahogany body
Ebony binding and appointments
Real pearl and abalone accents
Professional gloss lacquer finish
New improved wooden case from Pono
Acacia Baritone Nui BN-1
Also comes in a Pro Classic version-