Keep it Pono!

ponoFor as long as I can remember my father was a well respected full time luthier (stringed instrument builder & repairman).  He built custom guitars but mostly supported our family by doing warranty work for Martin, Gibson, Taylor and other guitar makers.  When teaching my brother and I this craft he always emphasized meticulous work and proper technique.  The focus was on precision, a deep understanding of the process, and attention to the smallest details.  He never urged us to be faster.  In fact he would tell me to “go slow and do a good job”.

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.  9 years ago when I left to start Hawaii Music Supply, my brother Noa took over the Ko’olau custom shop and has continued to perfect this art and take it further than ever.  My father 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 now he gives us the highly regarded Pono brand, our best selling line of ukuleles. Even though quality has become consistent, he still travels back and forth from the island of Java every few months working with the luthiers there and checking quality on every single ukulele.  This is not some kind of loose operation.  In fact I know their QC is second to none.  The cost of production in Java is much less than in Hawaii, but it’s run with the same requirements as Ko’olau.

“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.
Here is a look at the process of building a Pono followed by an overview of the models available. Each picture opens to a gallery with more info/videos. Enjoy, and let us know if you have any questions.

Pono TUR1 -

The Pono soprano is exactly what many look for in an ukulele.  It has a classic punchy tone with more “warmth” than others in it’s price range.  Some have a tough time deciding on which wood and model to get.  This video shows the four main models back to back with an unaltered “dry” recording for your listening comparison.
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.
The regular line of Pono tenors offers an unbeatable value.  The AT, ATD, MT, and MTD have been our best sellers and have served many musicians with a professional quality tenor ukulele for less than $500.  At  we do not filter our reviews. You can read customer comments there and see their personal experiences from these models.
The Pono baritone fills a much needed gap in the baritone market.  The tone and feel rival the finest baritones money can buy. We are currently out of stock on most of these models but will receive more in the next month. Like the tenors, the Pono baritone comes with a light weight dual action truss rod that allows us to fine tune the curvature of the neck to be just right.  It also gives long term assurance that they will always be a breeze to play.
Pro Classics
The new Pono Pro Classic series is providing the ukulele market with an instrument that is equal in quality to high end custom tenors and baritones, but with a lower price point.  These come in a variety of top quality tone woods and always include a deluxe arched top wooden case.  Recently there have been some changes to make these models even better.  The most notable difference with this years’ specs is that all Pro Classics have a radius fretboard.  Feels so smooth! Bracing has been refined, structure and sound are better than ever before, and the meticulous construction is more like a custom Ko’olau than I ever imagined. Hawaiian Koa binding now frames off the gorgeous tone woods of the Pro Classic tenors.  (Coming soon, soprano and concert Pro Classics in a limited run)  Inquire for more info on that.

Check back here for new models and updates

There will always be new models coming from Ko’olau’s Pono line. One soon to arrive is the chambered solid body version of the Ko’olau CE. Learn more about that model HERE. Others in the works include a tahitian style uke, more exotic woods, and further evolutions towards the ultimate value for the ukulele community.  Join us here and at our store, TheUkuleleSite,  for the latest on these and more.

NEW Comparison Videos!  4 Sopranos Back to Back-

4 Concerts Back to Back-

Acacia or Mahogany? Click here & read the full article


Corey Fujimoto is just finishing his first studio album. He has many instruments but chose to use only his Pono ukulele and Pono guitar.
He chose Pono for one reason and one reason only…. The Tone!

 Sing the Body plays an original on their Pono Guitar & Ukulele. They love the cedar rosewood. As do I!

Even huge stars like Bruno Mars choose Pono!

Mahalo and Aloha from your friends at HMS. Call or email us with any other questions about Pono Ukulele.

55 thoughts on “Keep it Pono!

  1. Wai-chung

    I love my Pono Pro Classic (a Mahogany Tenor). I still consider it one of the best sounding ukes I’ve ever played.

    If these new Ponos are further improved, they must be seriously good!

    June 13, 2013 at 11:17 am
  2. Paul Maynard

    I had an RTSH5, a top of the line pono with Cedar/rosewood. HMS installed a mi-si pick-up for me and shipped it to the UK. The whole experience, from the contact with the guys there at HMS, right through to recieving and playing the ukulele was excellent. Top people, top instruments and well just top everything! Now I have my sights set on that new one with macassar ebony back and sides…

    June 13, 2013 at 11:47 am
  3. Michael Spieles

    Going to have to start saving for one of the new Baritones, then!

    June 13, 2013 at 12:10 pm
  4. Phil

    Just received my new Pono baritone Acacia Deluxe, looks and sounds great. Hard to beat the deal on this awesome uke!

    June 13, 2013 at 12:17 pm
  5. Maureen Gunn

    Love my new Pono cedar/rosewood tenor from HMS!
    Outstanding tone and absolutely flawless finish. Thanks for the great setup.

    June 13, 2013 at 12:43 pm
  6. Glenn Blackwelder

    I’v got a Pono MT and MB. I like both of them really well, but I’m looking at the ATDC-C because I’d like to have another tenor to use with linear tuning. I think it is one of the prettiest ukuleles I’ve ever seen

    June 13, 2013 at 12:45 pm
  7. Jeanette Tuitavuki

    Just purchased my first Pono not pro series but the Pono -MTD – Mahogany Tenor Deluxe-w/clip-on tuner-w- Oahu Case-w-special instructions, for husband. He LOVES it. It sounds beautiful

    June 13, 2013 at 1:22 pm
  8. Heather August

    Love the new ukes from pono. Unbelievable quality for the price. I have a mahogany soprano and bari with a six string tenor on the way. Might have to try out some from this new line. Hard to believe there was anything left to improve!

    I would also recommend checking out their line of guitars if you are so inclined. Same quality, craftsmanship, and incredible sound!

    June 13, 2013 at 1:28 pm
  9. Ann

    I am an insufferably proud owner of the ebony/cedar Pono tenor. It is everything I ever dreamed of and more – crystal clear articulation, never-ending sustain, and exquisitely sweeeet sounds… not to mention the stunning ebony wood grain and the flawless cedar top. I never thought I could get this quality of wood and workmanship at this price.

    June 13, 2013 at 1:30 pm
  10. Deb

    I have a Pono mahogany soprano with pickup that I bought several years ago. Not only is it an absolutely beautiful instrument, but of my seven ‘ukulele, it has the best sound. It has the beautiful, almost bell-like tones that I hear in the clips above. It’s hard to go wrong with a Pono.

    June 13, 2013 at 1:37 pm
  11. tracy

    Been using the Pono MS soprano from HMS for about a month. The build and setup is detailed and perfect. I’d recommend this uke or the new ones above to anyone starting out because it will feel and sound great and at the same time build confidence and skill versus starting out with a lower quality instrument and dealing with the opposite. Thanks HMS!

    June 13, 2013 at 1:40 pm
  12. Pavla Ruzickova

    Wow, these look amazing and the sound is even better. Wish I could afford one…well, maybe some day.

    June 13, 2013 at 2:03 pm
  13. Walt

    These new Ponos are beautiful. I’ve had my MBD Baritone less than a year but the new ones make me wonder if I’ll make it much longer.

    June 13, 2013 at 2:23 pm
  14. Ray Perreault

    I own a Pro Classic macassar ebony/cedar tenor and love the tone. I’ve owned several high end guitars and this little Pono compares well to my Lerrivee.

    June 13, 2013 at 2:59 pm
  15. David

    All the Pono tenors are worthy! Started with an MGM supplied solid mahog/spruce top Pono early in my uke career, traded in/out through thousands of dollars of other ukes, now back full circle with my HMS supplied Pono MTDx-E. Love it!

    June 13, 2013 at 3:05 pm
  16. Andy Martinod

    Wow, these news Ponos look and sound great from your videos!
    As soon as I get better on mine, I plan on getting one of the Pro Classic series, they seem to be on of the best quality/price ratio at that range 🙂

    June 13, 2013 at 4:09 pm
  17. I love my Pono Ukuleles. I recently purchased a new ASD from Hawaii Music Supply… but the work on these looks to be stellar! And the sound on the ATDC… man, I might be getting yet another uke!!

    June 13, 2013 at 4:26 pm
  18. Donald Mosser

    I would just like to say how much I appreciate all of the time and care that you guys take in recording and making available the sound samples under consistent recording conditions. It makes the task of making sound quality and tone comparisons among different ukes so much easier. This is especially helpful when one is considering the move from entry level ukes to more professional grade instruments such as these new Pono Pro Classic beauties. I find the wood on the new Macassar Ebony/ Cedar to be very “drool worthy”.

    June 13, 2013 at 5:34 pm
  19. I love the rosewood backs. Will they be making any concert ukes with the rosewood back and radius fretboard?

    June 13, 2013 at 7:42 pm
    1. andrewkitakis

      There is a few Pro Classic Concerts being made.

      June 13, 2013 at 9:10 pm
  20. Joanie Hendricks

    I have a lovely Pono Baritone ukulele – it’s sound is beyond compare!! Warm & lovely tones I like to compare to chocolate!!!

    June 13, 2013 at 8:12 pm
  21. Barry Hudson

    I love my first Pono and really would like to get one of the new radius fingerboard models with a slot head.

    June 13, 2013 at 9:48 pm
  22. Sam Gaspar

    Time to start saving up

    June 14, 2013 at 12:21 am
  23. Sheryl Sexton

    As soon as a Pro Classic concert is available I will become a proud owner. Can’t wait.

    June 14, 2013 at 5:38 am
  24. Travis

    Beautiful, I was looking at some other ukes for my next purchase, but these look great. I’m highly considering this.

    June 14, 2013 at 9:10 am
  25. SYLVIE

    Hey Andrew, ohh I don’t like where this is going, but do you guys have the ATDC-C that’s in the photos on the site? That neck & back grain (ok, let’s face it – the whole package) have #5 written all over them!

    June 15, 2013 at 12:43 pm
    1. andrewkitakis

      I doubt it. I can go through available stock and take pics for you though. One thing cool about Pono is that the Ko’olau factory with their entire stock is one floor below our setup and shipping workshop. So we get to select from that for you.

      June 16, 2013 at 2:28 am
      1. SYLVIE

        Hi Andrew,
        I sent you an email about this to your address below – starting to get interesting!

        June 16, 2013 at 10:54 pm
  26. Tom S

    Hey Andrew,
    Ohh, not sure I like where this is going but do you guys have the actual ATDC-C in the photos on the site? That back & neck grain – oh, let’s face it, the whole package – have #5 written all over them!

    June 15, 2013 at 3:27 pm
  27. Kenny Wilson

    I love my pono acacia concert. It’s the best sounding of my ukes right now. I’m really itching for a pro classic tenor now! :p

    June 17, 2013 at 5:56 pm
  28. Ming

    The sound of a Pono…. nothing really beats it!

    June 20, 2013 at 1:39 pm
  29. peter

    Thank you Andrew!!!! What more can I say about first
    meeting you, and showing me what I was looking for at
    your shop in Wahiawa. You showed me more than what I wanted, and also introduced me to your other employees. You showed me “aloha”, and you knew how to stir my interest. Let me tell everyone that I purchased the Waiwi-Spruce Tenor Slot-head, and I couldn’t be more happier. Beautifully built, and the sound is very warm with great sustainability. I was on
    the lookout for a Spruce – Top ukulele, and I believe that I now have one of great quality. When I first heard Andrew playing it I was amazed, and I knew that I wanted it right away. Friends, for a great experience, you must meet Andrew and his gang at Koolau & Pono.
    Like I say, I have a great “Pono”. If you want quality then it is right up there with Kamaka. Check them out please.

    July 4, 2013 at 8:34 pm
    1. andrewkitakis

      Thanks SO much Peter!

      July 4, 2013 at 8:56 pm
  30. I love my Pono MT but the Pro Line is certainly calling my name!

    September 22, 2013 at 1:48 pm
  31. Andrew Nguyen

    Absolutely beautiful. Pono’s are definitely on my wishlist!

    November 18, 2013 at 9:28 pm
  32. Bob Johnson

    I really like the build quality to value of the Pono line that is carried at Hawaii Music Supply!

    November 18, 2013 at 9:58 pm
  33. Matthew Harkleroad

    OMG! (and I don’t use those 3 letters lightly!) After a year of saving and waiting I finally bought a Pono MS this past summer through HMS. This was my next jump from the Lanakai LU-21c I began with. While I’ll always love my first, the voice on this little soprano has me completely hooked. The mellow mahogany paired with the set of flourocarbons that I installed, its got such a rich and articulate sound that is just so sweet and beautiful. And I’m actually completely digging the small size too, which I was unsure about, being a 6’4″ dude. And as for the craftsmanship, it feels so good and is quite easy on the eyes. And to top it all off, the fellas over at HMS just completely rock! I worked with Joel, Zach and Andrew. Helpful, humble and passionate about what they do. Thank you!

    November 18, 2013 at 11:07 pm
    1. andrewkitakis

      Thanks Matthew! Yer awesome!

      November 26, 2013 at 8:30 am
  34. Charles

    Love the Pono’s. Definitely impressed by the entire line. High end boutique instruments at prices a regular guy can handle. Want one in every size!

    November 19, 2013 at 12:59 am
  35. Wai-chung

    I literally play my Pono MTSH everyday ever since getting it from HMS. Still love the beautiful outlook and the amazing tone it has.

    November 19, 2013 at 1:22 pm
  36. Steve Andsager

    My Pono MB and I are getting along marvelously. Thanks for the excellent set up.

    November 19, 2013 at 1:42 pm
  37. Scott

    I love the look of the Acacia in the gloss finish. I have a Pono Tenor Koa in gloss that is absolutely beautiful. It does not have the same punch as some mahogany models, but has a sweet mellow sound.

    November 19, 2013 at 4:58 pm
  38. Ryan

    I have to say Mahalo to Mr. Kitakis for creating the Pono brand. I love my Acacia Tenor. Please continue to make wonderful instruments.

    November 19, 2013 at 5:37 pm
  39. chris parker

    Absolutely love these ponos, so much quality and remarkably affordable.

    November 21, 2013 at 4:18 pm
  40. […] All TE & BE models will include a deluxe arched top hardshell case and all feature a radius fretboard and come equipped with a light weight titanium dual action truss rod. To learn more about Pono Ukulele visit this article – Keep it Pono! […]

    January 3, 2014 at 1:12 pm
  41. Juan

    Hi Andrew,
    Just want to know if you have or will have concert/soprano pro classics and if they will come with radius fretboard.

    August 28, 2014 at 8:34 pm
    1. andrewkitakis

      Hi Juan, We have some now. No radius though.Thanks

      August 31, 2014 at 12:20 am
  42. John_Kay

    I got my hands on a PKT-2 a few weeks ago. I really love its sound, and it’s a great pleasure to play it everyday.

    November 6, 2015 at 10:09 pm

    Please advise..I was thinking of buying a new MTD SP Tenor ,have discovered the machine heads/ are of the old open screw type. All my current ukuleles have Grover enclosed type tuners / machine heads. Please advise are these Ukuleles old stock ?,As a professional musician playing various fretted instruments it is essential for me to be able take the instrument out of the case ,tune-up and play. A clogged tuner would be a disaster.
    thank you,

    November 29, 2015 at 12:19 pm
    1. andrewkitakis

      The new ones have the open gear grovers which are better I think that the older closed gear Pono tuners. There is a lot of misconceptions on open gear tuners. Some of the best tuners in the world including Waverly’s are open back and are of the highest quality. Plus the gear is right there for you to oil up if it ever needs, which they almost always do at some point.

      November 30, 2015 at 12:33 am
  44. hee

    Will there be new models for the NAMM 2016?

    January 22, 2016 at 2:48 am
    1. andrewkitakis

      No but there are some in the works. Thanks

      January 28, 2016 at 6:55 am
  45. Rev. Mike

    I own 21 ukuleles. Six of them are Pono’s and I’m planning on adding more Pono’s to my collection. I like them every bit as much as my Kanilea, Koaloha, G-String and Kamaka ukuleles. I have the following Pono’s; MSD, AC, MCD, PTO-E, MT2, and RTSHC. They are all beautiful, playable and sound wonderful!

    June 1, 2016 at 11:37 pm
  46. Audrey Parks

    Hi Andrew. Are there any plans for getting Ovation to make you some more koa-topped tenors? Mahalo. Audrey

    June 13, 2016 at 7:54 pm
    1. andrewkitakis

      Hey Audrey, No they aren’t making it anymore. Thanks.

      June 30, 2016 at 8:13 pm

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