Category Archives: Ukulele Reviews

Two Amazing Moore Bettahs

Moore Bettah is a famous custom ukulele brand made entirely by Chuck Moore in a remote and beautiful area on the Big Island of Hawaii.
They are very special instruments that capture the magic of these islands like no other. We proudly show you the quality of sound, feel, and attraction capable in a Hawaiian ukulele.

These two koa tenors are seemingly flawless. Moore continues to refine his design and precise craftsmanship. He is now creating what will be known for many years to come as a golden era of quality from an extraordinary artist and luthier. We are happy to review these incredible ukuleles for you with the most confident enthusiasm.

Click on images for specs and gallery.

Noah Campbell runs our store in Haleiwa along side Aaron. He’s experiemced, helpful and an inspiring member of our crew we’re gonna start recording more of. Stop by the shop if you can or call him at the shop during business hours at (808)622-8000. He’s also at noah@theukulelesite.com

We decided to take these down the road to record at the the pier in Haleiwa. If you haven’t been to Oahu’s north shore you gotta come see us!  World famous beaches and hundreds of different ukes to try!

Aloha, from all of us at HMS. Share a thought in the comments below. Mahalo!

Kala USA Elite Series 1KOA in Three Sizes

Kala has now expanded beyond just great value imports. Today we are reviewing the 1KOA series in each size. This is the entry level for the “Kala Elite” line made entirely in Petaluma California. They are listed for sale (if they are in stock) at our online store here – Kala USA Elite series at The Ukulele Site

Some people were surprised that Kala decided start building ukes in Petaluma but I think it’s a no brainer. No doubt it will only go to strengthen their import line with more in house expertise. I knew that and supported this bold endeavor, but I was a little caught off guard when we received these.

I wasn’t thinking I would like them as much as I do. I am mostly a tenor fan but I love the soprano and concert here too, and all three feel great!

How did Kala accomplish this? Owner Mike Upton started a few years ago by investing in top notch equipment and woods. He then hired renowned ukulele luthier Michael DaSilva to work with them. Then Mike, Phil, and Jason flew to Hawaii to spend time with with builders on our island. Of course this doesn’t assure anything but I’m pleased to report that we now have some modest but beautiful ukuleles with a deep wonderful tone and top notch feel.

Zachary Shimizu is Hoku award winning musician and songwriter that has been a crucial part of our team for many years. I asked him to do give his thoughts on the 1KOA series from Kala’s new Elite line. He wrote this,

“Usually when I’m talking about Kala it involves telling customers how awesome they are for the price and that we almost never get them returned. They rule the import market, but now they have stepped in the ring of USA made ukuleles.

We recently got in the Elite series 1 in three sizes. These three come in between 799 and 899 with a custom case and all are made right here in the US of A! One word to describe them: impressive!

It feels like I’m playing a different brand altogether. The feel, tone, look are completely different from their import line.

As I pulled each one out of the case it got a quick 360 glance and tune up. The first was a tenor and from the first C chord played Andrew and I both looked at each other with a look of surprise and excitement! There are only a handful of builders making such a rich sounding tenor. But even more surprising and exciting was that this sound carried through with the concert and even soprano. There is a consistent full, warm tone no matter the size.

One thing to take note of right off the bat that could either deter or attract you is that the neck is noticeably thicker than than their import. I would describe the neck as “beefy” but comfortable, and I personally like it. I’m primarily playing on a steel string acoustic guitar so I feel a little more at home with this type of neck on an ukulele. The nut width is 1 1/2″, so slightly wider than the 1 3/8″ nut on their import models. Many customers look for this type of a “roomy” spacing but others like it more slender.

I like to think I have a pretty seasoned palate when it comes to hearing what the world of ukuleles has to offer. We are constantly getting the finest ukes in our shop and I also go to the trade show, NAMM, each year to play other ukes on the market. I will say these Kala’s are in the upper tier of tonal quality! They have a full sound with deep rich bass notes and a strong treble presence that never sounds papery or floppy. I don’t want to compare them to other brands that I know because they deserve to stand out on their own! Hear it for yourself, throw away the concept of ‘Kala-great sounding imports at a affordable price’ for right now and listen to these with an open mind.”

Click on the galleries for pictures and specs.
Share your thoughts in the comments below. Aloha from all of us at The Ukulele Site.



KoAloha’s Opio Tenor

Coming up to the release of this Opio tenor I have gotten many questions on how it compares to the beloved KTM-00 from KoAloha’s Hawaii factory. So I thought I would do a video comparison of the two recorded under identical circumstances using our less compressed recording methods that can show a fairly true tonal rendering if listened to on quality speakers or headphones. It’s still a less than perfect method of comparing but is one data point for you. I will add some personal opinions from us that can try them in real life.

We just got a few dozen of the Opio tenor and I am pleased to report that they are consistently as loud and punchy as the KoAloha tenor that we love. The construction is identical but with different woods so there is a slight difference in tone. I hear the Koa tenor as having more note clarity. Corey describes it as a “presence” that the KTM-00 possesses.

Still the fact remains that the two models are very similar in tone and response and the Opio is an amazing value in a solid wood tenor that will sell for 579 with a case (for now). If you like the KoAloha tenor sound and can’t or don’t want to spend that amount, we can now offer this alternative for about half the price. And it’s a fantastic tenor with KoAloha tone and feel.

The KoAloha Tenor Opio will soon be listed at The Ukulele Site will all its details.

2015 Photo Contest Winners

Aloha friends. A big Mahalo to all that participated in the photo contest this year. I don’t know if we will do it again because I hate monitoring votes. We have an advanced way to make sure the contest is fair, but it’s tedious and unfortunate. Of course people can find ways to cheat. But I guarantee our winner was legitimate. I had to delete a few hundred double votes from her, as I did others. And I had to disqualify 5 people for consistent violation of the rules. But Janice won the contest of popular votes. Period. I asked her how she did it and she revealed her strategy, “I sent emails twice daily and posted a new Ukulele song on Facebook at least once per day”. She worked it and her friends came to our website to support her.

Congratulations Janice.  The next 10 photos were selected based on their quality, creativity, and composition and will be awarded $100 in their customer account at http://theukulelesite.com

There were many that we liked but we only had 10 spots to fill. Thank you for your kind understanding.

Click on the photos to enlarge and see some thoughts on why it was chosen.

Leave comments and questions below. If you are one of the winners maybe you can share with us the equipment you used, if you want. Thanks again and visit our store -The Ukulele Site Aloha!

The New KoAlana

Picking an affordable ukulele can be challenging. There are so many on the market and everyone claims to be a great value. What you essentially have though is a lot of different companies putting their label on the same ukes everyone else is buying from Asia and never even opening a box or working with the factory to improve their product. Many of them are fine, but you can do better.

There are real instrument makers striving to make affordable ukuleles, and along with our expert setup work, you will experience a great value. It’s an experience that can give you more joy than you’d expect. The whole mission of our company is to provide this so we are excited to show you a new affordable offering.

This is the new KoAlana line from the KoAloha company. They are made in Indonesia and all three of these models come in around $200. Look out for them to hit our online store The Ukulele Site in the next week. If you want a great uke in this price range, we give these our highest recommendation.

Our sound samples are recorded for true reference and have no alteration or enhancement. Use quality playback for the most accurate listening.

2 Kinnard Sopranos Reviewed

We first reviewed Kinnard Ukes a few months back here-
John S. Kinnard – Premier Luthier!

Since then my Kinnard soprano has become like a little buddy. It hangs
next to my computer in arms reach and when I struggle with web design it
helps me chill out. Banging on the computer never works, but anyway, I
play it daily, take it on vacation, and it’s more satisfying than I
thought a soprano could ever be. It’s not the loudest soprano I’ve
heard, but the tone and feel are just right. I was never crazy about the
“barky” punch and short sustain many loved sopranos are known for. At
least for my style the Kinnard soprano is much more musical and it feels
more comfortable as well with a 1 1/2? nut, .080? fret wire, and radius
fretboard.

There are some distinct advantages to a soprano. One being the shorter
scale which allows me to stretch a good 6 or even 7 frets from my first
finger to pinky. People like Corey and Kalei can do this on a tenor but
I just can’t. In this way it opens up harmonic possibilities to me that
a larger instrument won’t. The Kinnard is my favorite soprano because
I’m able to have this without sacrificing the tonal qualities and feel
that I prefer.

These two ukes were custom ordered a few months ago. Kevin Beddoe takes
care of the business and customer side of Kinnard Ukes and he has been
as professional and helpful as I could imagine. As I learn more about
the line and options I hope to not need his help as much, but he is one
of the most responsive and knowledgable guys in this business and I
really admire his customer service. On top of that, John filled the
orders in the time we were quoted and we now have two perfectly gorgeous
ukes made to the custom specs their owners requested. Together Kevin and
John run a hell of a business and we are blessed to have them in the
ukulele community.

Like my Kinnard these both have a cedar top. These, however, are both
complimented with beautiful curly claro walnut sides and back. This adds
a dark richness in look and sound and I’m fairly certain their new
owners are about to get the soprano of their dreams.

These are both Series 2 so they have high gloss finish and top and back
binding. The first one has an upgraded side sound port and the second
one has upgraded koa wood binding. They are both beautifully finished,
but that’s to be expected with a John Kinnard ukulele. Detailed specs
are at the picture galleries and Corey gives us sound samples.

Hawaii Music Supply has an exclusive on these wonderful Kinnard
sopranos. So if you’d like to add one to your collection, let us know.
John Kinnard’s build time remains a very reasonable 24-30 weeks at the
moment. Or, if you prefer tenors, check out the lovely Series 3 Tenor we
have in stock now.

Our sound samples are recorded for true reference and have no alteration
or enhancement. Use quality playback for the most accurate listening.

Hoffmann ML Concert and Tenor

Did you know that there’s an insanely talented ukulele builder in Missouri? I didn’t either until recently. Jerry Hoffmann offers something different and beautiful, in both look and sound.

The Hoffmann ML has a dominant mid-range and really interesting overtones in the sustain. That uniqueness is what’s so appealing to me. The sound has more “color” than your average custom. They do have the sweet, rich tones you expect in a high end uke, but not as “guitar like” as some. Probably because it’s not built like a small classical guitar. It’s not a world apart and it still a fan braced top, but these definitely take a turn or two from the common.

Jerry has some pretty unique concepts on building, but they are rooted in the science of acoustics, as you can hear. And what you get visually is an artistic twist from the norm. Something that might not appeal to every ukulele player, but to me, these two ML’s have a magnetic attraction!

Click on images for gallery pics.

One of the most out of the box aspects of these ukes are their neck joint. It might not be something most consider but I always look at the quality of the neck joint. These may appear less substantial because of not having the normal acoustic heel, but I can assure you, this neck joint is more than solid . These ML necks are built like an electric and the entire neck locks into a massive heel block that curls around that area where the neck and body join. So they’re not the lightest build, but they are also not the heaviest, not even close. They have a a good balance, weight wise, and I would describe the neck as as a medium D shape. I set them up just under 2.5mm at the 12th fret and they’re easy to play with a sound I love…take a listen. If you use a quality playback source you will here the voice most accurately.

Our sound samples are recorded for true reference and have no alteration or enhancement. Use quality playback for the most accurate listening.

The Cordoba “Mini”

When we were at NAMM this year me and Corey went around to booths in the morning before the show technically started so that we could actually hear the instruments. When we came to the Cordoba booth we were both floored by their new “Mini”. What we really like about this instrument is the feel and the sound. They are promoting it as a mini guitar, but from the factory they are tuned A to A, or C tuning like ukulele, so it’s more of a “guilele” or as some around here are calling these instruments, a “kiku”, not really a mini guitar.

This new instrument is the size of a baritone ukulele and fits into the baritone cases we carry perfectly. (For now, case companies tend to change their sizes on us). Cordoba’s current guilele is a 17″ scale and has a thinner nut width like a lot of guilele’s on the market. These are cramping to play and don’t sound nearly as good as the new Mini in my opinion.

The Mini is a 20″ scale, just under 2 inches at the nut, and it feels perfect. The size of the body and shape of the neck are just right. The tone is great, actually amazing for this price. They start at $199 and go up to $279. After a little setup from us it will truly be a great value for a quality musical instrument. Even I will be taking one home at these prices. Now which one should I get?

Look out for these to hit our online store The Ukulele Site this week!Our sound samples are recorded for true reference and have no alteration or enhancement. Use quality playback for the most accurate listening.

Moore Bettah -Scoop & Bevel Hibiscus Tenor

I can’t say we will never get a Moore Bettah Ukulele that isn’t incredible in every way. Even monkeys fall out of trees sometimes. But that day is not today. This ukulele looks, feels, and sounds spectacular! It’s a real treat to show you this extra sweet masterpiece from Mr. Chuck Moore. Enjoy!

Click on images for specs and gallery.

This gorgeous instrument is a custom creation from world-renowned Big Island builder, Chuck Moore. It features the new slightly larger body which allows for things like a scoop cutaway and bevel arm rest and still retains this full warm sound. I talked a bit about that as well as his new string thru bridge at the last review article The Ever Evolving Chuck Moore. I should add that this scoop style cutaway and the arm bevel are the smoothest, most elegant I have ever seen. Really beautiful design and craftsmanship on those elements.

What makes this one even more special is the wood and wood inlays. This amazing Hawaiian koa is accented with a wood rosette and hibiscus flower inlays using dye impregnated maple burl. Creative use of natural materials and protected with a perfect glassy finish.

Our sound samples are recorded for true reference and have no alteration or enhancement. Use quality playback for the most accurate listening.

The Ever Evolving Chuck Moore

We always document Moore Bettah Ukuleles here because they don’t make it to The Ukulele Site, our online store. If there is one at the online store it is a custom listing for a specific customer. Ukes like this will sell to someone that has been on a wait list that we have. I never know when we will get a Moore Bettah but when we do it’s always a masterpiece. If you want one it would be a good idea to let both Chuck and me (andrew@theukulelesite.com) know if you haven’t already. If you are willing to wait and are able to afford it, having a Moore Bettah is a special thing. Perhaps an indulgent pleasure, but one that will last your life and beyond, giving joy and inspiration along the way. I think that makes for a great value or even investment in true quality of life.

But what I wanted to point out today is two new aspects of design that Chuck has recently implemented. I bet real MB fans can find one of them. Did you notice? This doesn’t have his normal tie bridge. It has what they call a string through bridge (a beautiful one I might add). I asked Chuck why he made the change and his reply was this.

The through-bridge string system is something I did many years ago. People weren’t used to it back then and were confused as to how to change strings so about 10 years ago I switched to the tie bridge. The string-through offers at least two advantages that I see. It puts no stress on the bridge itself and it also increases the string break angle over the saddle (exerting more downward force.) That’s the theory anyway, in practice I’m not sure it’s any better than the other kind, but it should be. It’s a cleaner look and I like not having all those fussy twisted and knotted strings showing on the bridge. In the last couple of years it seems to be a more accepted method of string attachment so I thought I’d reintroduce it on my ukes.

It has become more accepted and in fact Joel includes this type of bridge in his restringing tutorial found HERE so if you are wondering how this is restrung you can watch that video. There is another design change that you probably didn’t notice because it’s quite subtle, but the lower bout is now a bit over a 1/4″ wider. The classic MB tenor is a touch more slender than most but it’s now pretty much average for tenors (9″ wide). I won’t get scientific about these minor changes and how they can affect resonance, etc. I’ll just talk about what I know. This new Moore Bettah Koa tenor with the string through bridge and wider lower bout has an exceptional, full, warm tone, and doesn’t lose any of that unparalleled note clarity MB’s are known for.

Part of why I love Chuck is his humble attitude. The real geniuses are naturally humble. Aristotle said, “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” Or Socrates paradox, “I know one thing: that I know nothing”. But I’m not trying to get philosophical. My point is that the smartest people know that there is no end to understanding. There’s no end to learning and thinking and even rethinking what you previously concluded.

People commonly credit Chuck for making the absolute best ukulele money can buy. But he’s not sippin’ on Mai Tais rockin’ on the front porch with pride and contentment (I am presuming here). The thing is, he didn’t need to tweak his designs, make new moulds, jigs etc. But he’s constantly evolving and striving to give the world the best musical instrument that he can. That, along with his incredible skill, is why this ukulele is so extraordinary. And why those that are able to get an ukulele from him feel lucky. I know I do. And just like many times before, I had that sudden urge to keep this one as I first played it. But I would rather share it with those still awaiting a musical soul mate with the mana that these Big Island hand crafted works of musical art are. An aspiration for us that have the incurable lust for great ukuleles, not that there should be a cure. Personally, I believe in natural variation. Some people don’t share our passion, or value the art and music that bring us joy. But “those who feel it, know it”. A great ukulele like this is a rare treasure. An oasis of joy in an often crazy world. Mahalo for checkin’ out the review.

See more MB video reviews here.

Click on images for specs and gallery.


Our sound samples are recorded for true reference and have no alteration or enhancement. Use quality playback for the most accurate listening.

Hive Spruce Maple Tenor

This is a custom tenor from Jake Maclay in West Virginia. Jake built Compass Rose ukuleles for years before breaking off to start Hive Ukuleles.

Click on gallery above for more pictures and specifications.

When I first grabbed this ukulele out of its beautiful Ameritage case I felt it’s light weight and excellent balance. The build is extremely clean, seemingly flawless. The quilted maple is like a stormy sea of golden beauty. The striking tiger maple neck feels perfect and the setup is right on point. But what blows your socks off is this huge, warm, rich tone. So lush it’s amazing.
If you are in search of the biggest experience that the ukulele has to offer your senses, then Hive should be considered. This ukulele is sensational!

I decided to do a sound sample of myself playing this uke because Corey is such a fantastic player and most of us are, well, normal. But you don’t have to be a great player to sound great. That has much to do with the quality of the instrument and joy being had on it. No matter what level of player you are, the tone and feel will matter. How much it matters is subjective. But tone is tone, and Hive is in my top five.


Listening to Ukuleles Online

From the beginning of music stores, the main thing that we provide is a place for people to hear, see, feel and acquire musical instruments. Ideally salesman are knowledgeable musicians that can show the potential or at least basic tones to those getting into it or share their experiences and of course the newest toys coming out to their fellow musicians/ gear enthusiast.

The difference in our market now? Not much except that we can service the world thanks to the advent of the Internet. So we took a proud stand on this years ago and we only sell to one race: the human race! Our mission is to provide the best ukulele shopping experience for life. But right now I only want to explain one aspect of this: our video sound samples.

So the question is: “Can you really hear the true and often subtle tonal differences on your desktop, laptop iPad, phone device etc., with a really accurate, unaltered (i.e., “dry”) recording?” I’d say…no.

I do think you can hear many aspects of the instrument. But often our customers are trying to listen beyond the music and get some true comparisons. Well our video samples can provide these details, but it requires quality reference monitors or headphones made for mixing (not for enhancing). If you don’t have these tools, then do your musical inspiration a favor and get one or the other. You’ll enjoy the energy of your favorite players and albums. For those too far to visit the store, it will allow our resources for comparing the sound of different ukes to be beneficial, especially with our “listening booth”

As real as there are differences, there is the reality that some instruments, even made with different woods, can be very similar. I get asked regularly about these three models/woods and how they compare. These are all the same brand, size, batch, finish, and made with woods of similar density. Bottom line is, the Pono Acacia (AT), Mahogany (MT) and Mango (MGT), tenors are not so different. Just for perspective on that, the lbs/ft specific gravity for spruce is around 25-30. Macassar ebony 65-70. Those are quite different. But Mango, Mahogany, and Acacia are all within 38-42 lbs/ft. Those are averages. Wood is only one factor in tone. Builder’s methods, player’s style and ukulele size also matter.

This was a requested listening booth. It sounds like what I heard in the
room.

I do hear very subtle nuances, maybe even better in the video with the back-to-back. But, if you are choosing one of these, trust me, your musical satisfaction probably won’t hang on which one you choose. But who knows. Here’s one data point for you.

These reviews are, above all, for your enjoyment. When shopping for a uke, my best advice is, follow your heart and have fun. Aloha!

For more videos in this format go HERE
;. We will continue to add more of these
so keep checking!

Ukulele Humidification Tools

Having a wooden stringed instrument requires some attention to the humidity levels where it is kept. Too much humidity can cause swelling and lead to a number of problems. But too little humidity can be much more scary. It can quickly cause detrimental effects, namely cracking of the wood.

While some people would think that a smaller instrument needs less humidification, you have to consider that the panels of wood on an ukulele are thinner than almost any other instrument. On top of that, the best instruments are often built lightly for resonance which can be all the inspiration and tones you need, but can also require even more regulation of humidity.

So the first step is to know what your humidity is. In this regard, note what Dave Hepple from Oasis points out

Because relative humidity varies so much, even inside your home, we recommend that you keep your hygrometer close to your instrument.

What is closer than the case in which it lives? Oasis came up with a pretty good system to get a reading of what the humidity is right at the body of your instrument. This is the Oasis Hygrometer Kit OH-2. With your ukulele flat in its case, this hygrometer is thin enough to set on the top of your ukulele, over a piece of cloth so it doesn’t scratch the finish. Shut the case, but don’t move it around because the hygrometer might slide around. Just leave it flat for at least four hours. Now when you open the case, be ready to look at the hygrometer. You only have a few seconds to see what the humidity was before you opened the case. A well-humidified ukulele in its case will have relatively stable humidity readings, so you don’t have to measure the humidity all the time. But it comes with a clip and you can clip it in your case all the time.

So… once you get the reading what should you do? If your humidity is over 40% and under 65% you are fine. If your level is lower than 40% then you need to take action. If you are not currently using a humidifier then you should be. There are many ways to humidify an instrument but we chose the Oasis humidification system because we think it’s the best solution on the market. Other ones we have tried had leaking issues or were not as effective. If you’re anywhere from 25%-40% our standard Oasis OH-18 should work well and with your hygrometer you can measure that and make sure. We are now offering a more powerful humidifier and for those with 25% or less relative humidity where the instrument is stored for any period of the year it is needed. The Oasis OH5+ will emit more humidity to your instrument and we had them make it with the ukulele clip attachment. If you are currently using a humidifier and still are not above 40% in the case, consider switching to or supplementing with this humidifier.

In the pictures you see that the OH5 gives 50% more humidity than the regular Oasis. Note: The OH-18 emits half that of the regular Oasis. So the OH5+ is essentially 150% more than the OH-18.

Another key to this maintenance is the Oasis Humigel Replacement Kit. Joel covers the reasons for this along with a lot of great information.

So if you are in an extremely humid area, a dehumidifier in a closet can be a good solution. Also for absorbing excessive humidity in the case, one product is the Planet Waves Humidipak. We have this at our store but haven’t added online yet. Air conditioners also dry the air but you have to be careful because they can take it to the other extreme if running high consistently.

So that’s some info to help you understand how to care properly for the ukuleles that you love.

Mahalo for tuning in to The Ukulele Review. Share your thoughts or questions below.

Ko’olau Master Series – Orchid Dragonfly Brazilian Rosewood Tenor

Once every year or so Noa and John from Ko’olau design a one of a kind instrument for what they call, The Master Series. For this one they worked with one of the most famous and talented inlay artists, Larry Robinson. This concept started a few years back with just orchids but more recently Noa sent it back to Larry to add dragonflies. The result is both stunning and tasteful. Like Aaron says, there’s an elegance that this instrument just exudes.

As far as the sound, I can say this. I had to stop the recording to turn down from my normal levels because the microphones were clipping. It’s loud! The tone is super punchy, lively, with excellent clarity, sustain, and, overall, one of the most resonant instruments I’ve played.

Noa had been saving this Brazilian rosewood back and sides for years with this exact instrument in mind. He doesn’t have another set like it. He actually doesn’t have any Brazilian at the moment. This wood is pretty rare at this point and practically never looks this spectacular. The resonant qualities of this strain can add definition and sustain to the rich quality rosewood is known for. Coupled with a German spruce top, all hide glue construction, and a perfect glassy nitrocellulose finish from Ryan, this is an ultimate musical instrument and a special treat to the senses.

Congratulations in advance to whoever acquires this masterpiece. I can’t say we will see one like it again so naturally I’m preserving it here at The Review.
Enjoy a look/listen to certainly one of the coolest ukes to ever come through.

Pictures open to gallery.

Sound samples are unaltered and unmastered so use quality playback sources for a more accurate listening experience. A hui ho from Hawaii. Share your thoughts and questions below.

Hoffmann Lutherie – A Style Custom Tenor

Aloha friends! We have a cool new uke to show you from a custom luthier in Missouri named Jerry Hoffmann. From 2005-2015 Jerry built under the name of Boat Paddle Ukulele Co. He is now operating under the name Hoffmann Lutherie. This is the first time we have gotten an instrument from Jerry and I’m truly impressed with the unique design aspects, the feel (it’s a real joy to play), and the musical quality (tone and intonation are excellent).

This is not your average ukulele. You first notice it has the shape of an A style mandolin and two side ports instead of a sound hole. On closer inspection you can see it has a 3 piece neck with the two outer pieces of mahogany cut and bent to connect and flow down the sides. I’m not sure exactly what his theory or reasons for doing this are but I can say this; 1. It looks super cool. 2. It makes for an extremely strong neck joint. and 3. It helps reinforce the area around the two side ports. The next thing I noticed was pins in the nut holding the strings in place rather than nut slots. I don’t know what he calls this but I call it a great idea. With the break angle and tension of the strings this works perfectly. Go ahead and bend up a full note. Try your best Stevie Ray Vaughn licks. These strings are not going anywhere and you don’t deal with any of the issues you can have with slotted nuts. I’ll stand up and slow clap for this. It’s one of those ideas I wish I had. Maybe others have done it but I haven’t seen it and I’ve been looking at stringed instruments my whole life. It makes a lot of sense and works perfectly. Major respect to Jerry for this design aspect.

Other noteworthy features are the classy and unique pearl fretboard makers and bird inlay, the gorgeous kamagong ebony back and sides, and the modest satin finish that shows this wood in its raw beauty. This custom ukulele from Hoffman Lutherie has a clean construction and a sleek design. Hopefully we will be getting more instruments from Jerry and show you more of his unique line up.

The thing that was keeping this uke from sounding its best was the action. It was at 1.75mm at the 12th. This is really low action and it didn’t have the dynamics and body it does now. I made a new saddle for it and wow, it sounds awesome!

We do final setup work on 99% of the ukes that we send out. This is our expertise. We don’t just sell and review them. We consider ourselves to be part of the process in getting you the best quality ukulele. Before I started Hawaii Music Supply I did warranty repair work and for 10 years did all of the finishing and final setup for Ko’olau ukulele. Joel and Chris have setup over 50,000 ukes in the last 7 years. This is what we bring to the table and a service we provide at no charge. With that said, our goal is to offer the finest instruments on the ukulele market and this is certainly one of them.

Mahalo for tuning in to The Ukulele Review. Share your thoughts or questions below.

New Ukes from Pono!

Here’s a listen to some of the new Pono models that just arrived. Soon you’ll see them at our store – The Ukulele Site. These videos are all from one session where the Mics and levels are untouched so it’s a fair listen to the different instruments being sampled. Pono is consistently experimenting and revising their line up and these new models are super nice!

The 2 series have a cedar top and a radius fingerboard, like many of the pro classics. These were previously in a satin finish but given the nature of cedar, Pono opted to do these models in gloss for the protection it offers a cedar top instrument. Not that you won’t ding a gloss finish but…It looks good and how’s the sunburst? Very nicely executed. Pono builds with a custom quality and focus. In finishing, sunburst is a fine art. The color and fade of this finish is so smooth and beautiful.

These 3 tenors all have a cedar top and all sound very similar but much of the differences you can hear is the strings. The MTD-2 has a Southcoast HML-RW low G set. The ATD-2 has a Ko’olau Gold wound 3rd set, and the MTD-2SB has the Ko’olau Mahana all plain.

Both me and Corey were surprised by the thin body Acacia tenor. The prototype didn’t sound as warm as the one we pulled out to sample today. This is a real contender. Something unique and musical. It came stock with an all plain Ko’olau Gold set.

Next you can hear some of the best baritones on the market. These Pro Classics are not priced in the highest range but they will rival any bari in quality and tone. I hear the Spruce ans more focused and the cedar more spacious. Both excellent. We have other models like the EBSHC that we haven’t gotten to yet as well. Pono gives a sharp line up of baritones and then takes a giant step into the tenor guitar size 23″ scale nylon 4 string a.k.a Baritone Nui. The added scale and body add sustain and overtones like the best classical guitars you hear. Just beautiful tone from this big bari.

What you sacrifice with the Nui is fairly obvious but we should cover it anyway. We can’t just say it’s a baritone that sounds unreal. That is true, but it’s considerably larger in size and scale so chords can be a stretch and certain physical aspects of playing become more difficult. So it’s a give and take. One of the reasons that having many instruments is reasonable. Each can excel in their own unique ways. Mahalo for tuning in to the review. Please share your thoughtsw and questions in the comments below.

Moore Bettah Ukulele- Mermaid Tenor

Aloha! Here’s a new Moore Bettah uke and, even though it would sell without the pictures and video here, I always feel compeled to document Chuck’s instruments. They are visually and tonally rich. But one thing that I can’t display is the feel, so let me say this. For the way I like to play, Chuck consistently nails the feel, final setup, the whole shebang. You just don’t get more on the money out of the box. The rest of it you can see and hear in the pics and video. Specs are at the galleries. See more MB video reviews here.

Click on images for specs and gallery.


This is how she looks in the dark!

Our sound samples are recorded for true reference and have no alteration or enhancement. Use quality playback for the most accurate listening.

Beau Hannam Maccaferri Style Custom Tenor

This is a Beau Hannam Maccaferri Tenor ukulele custom made for someone that had to pass on it and we scooped it up to show you guys. If you don’t remember I reviewed one in 2013 here-. That one sounded great and we were eager to hear another. Let’s take a look at it first and get some specs and features covered.
I would consider this to be under the “jumbo tenor” category. The lower bout on this uke is about 10.5″ and it best fits in an Oahu baritone case, but it’s a 17″ scale tenor. It’s made very solid at 32 ounces in weight but has a nice balance and feels comfortable. The neck is a nice medium thickness and the action is low.


This larger Maccaferri style is actually less boomy than the regular Hannam tenor we reviewed, but the sustain and note clarity are incredible on this new style. It’s controlled on the lows which is great for recording, almost a guitar like compression. There’s a lot to admire visually, the sunburst is beautiful, love the trapezoid fret markers, many other little features.
There are a few minor cosmetic things we can take care of. First thing that caught my attention was along the binding at the neck, a few little spots where the finish was eaten through. Perhaps by superglue run off from fretwork or something like that? This is something we can fix properly because our workshop is in the same building as Ko’olau. In a few weeks, it’ll be like that finish flaw never happened! Beyond that, I think the back just needs a good buffing (as they say in Australia?) The scratches on the back scared me at first, but they’ll buff out. It’s not in the wood, just odd surface scratches. Only other little thing is that, I’ll take the G forward a touch on the saddle. It’s a hair flat on just that one string but there is plenty room to get it dead on.

It’s not uncommon for us to work on an instrument. Final QC is what we do. Beau is a really talented luthier with a good design; tone, feel, and look.

Hopefully, with the help of Aaron, I captured this rare beast. It’s a great ukulele, without a doubt. Mahalo for tuning in. Enjoy~

Ko’olau CS Models – 3 Custom Orders

Most of the Ko’olau instruments that come through are custom orders and we often don’t have time to document them, but each one is an amazing musical instrument. The woods, strings, and player just color the beautiful voicing that they have. This is 3 custom ordered CS model Ko’olaus that are just now ready to go out to their joyful owners.

To order a CS model visit this page – Ko’olau CS Custom Order Page, or contact us for help.

The Rebel Ukulele

Rebel is an ukulele maker from Thailand. The company is run by a bright young man named Peng. I got to meet Peng at NAMM as well as a few of the team there, and the instruments they brought were very impressive. So much so that we brought 4 of them back to show you and put more on order. I knew they made the KoAloha Opio line, which is fantastic, but I wanted to know more about them so I messaged Peng for some background info on Rebel; who they are, where they’re going, why they’re so rebellious.. Here’s Pengs response and some insight into this new ukulele company.

Hey Andrew. Howzit?

“The Rebel” team is a small team of ten people who love doing something different. We have full-time graphic designers and professional luthiers working together collaboratively. The guy I introduced to you at NAMM, “Yo”, is the head of the design team. He received many awards from his work of arts and films and he loves ukuleles and guitars! He was the man behind the limited KoAlana box (later became KoAloha Opio), Baan Ukulele’s website, accessories, leather bags and many of our ukulele and guitar custom works.

All of our craftsmen had been trained by KoAloha folks for years from the ground up when we first built the factory in Bangkok in 2011. Our lead luthier named “Chote” was once Paul Okami’s apprentice. He was a fine carpenter with over 20 years of experience and he now leads the Rebel custom shop and oversees the KoAloha Opio production. We further studied from Wiroon, the best guitar-making teacher in Thailand who was once Jose Romanillos’s student.

I first learned how to build an ukulele in 2009 from Mike Uyeno, a private teacher in Hawaii, who has a small workshop in his own garage. Every steps mostly done by hand in old-fashioned ways. Later that year, I was trained by Paul and Griz to understand the ins and outs of KoAloha building methodology. I learned the craftsmanship, technology, creativity and the Aloha spirit that go into every instrument. That was the seed and the beginning of our journey. We couldn’t have made it without all our teachers and those helping hands.

The Rebel is young and reckless! …hahaha. We know we still have a lot to learn. The direction and goal we have for “The Rebel” is to create something different for the music community especially for ukuleles and guitars. Never forget to give back to the community and never forget where we came from. With the blend of good taste in design and fine craftsmanship, we’re trying our best and couldn’t be happier for the support we’ve got! Mahalo for your friendship!

Well, what can I say, Peng and the crew seem like genuinely cool guys with something really special to offer. We’ll try our best to stock these super sounding ukes at the store and online at The Ukulele Site. Hopefully you will experience the quality and value Rebel is coming with. If you have an Opio KoAloha, you already have experienced it.

Craig Chee & Sarah Maisel’s GHS “Artist Curated” Strings

These two incredible musicians have been working with the folks at GHS and designed these new string sets to best suite their style. Maybe you will like them too. They are available now at our store here GHS Artist Curated.

Sarah’s is a Low G tenor set with monofilament nylon strings and a fluorocarbon low G. Craig’s set it actually tuned like a baritone but reentrant, so high D G B E. This is a special set to play a tenor size at this lower tuning and still project clearly.

In finding their sound as a duo Craig decided to take it down a 4th to the key of G (dGBE). This gives his accompaniment a more mellow attack, but with reentrant voicing. This compliments Sarah’s punchy linear set in the classic ukulele key of C (GCEA).

Craig and Sarah are both playing their custom DaSilva ukes. As you can hear, the tones blend perfectly as do their vocals. A beautiful rendition of an Alison Krauss song from Chee/ Maisel (You guys nailed it!). These two also have a killer new website. Check it out- http://www.cheemaisel.com/

Also learn more about these strings at the GHS website on these pages-
http://www.ghsstrings.com/users/2575126
http://www.ghsstrings.com/users/2575122
And look out for them at our store and online at The Ukulele Site.

Share your thoughts or questions below. Enjoy~

Ukulele Restring Tutorial – 4 Bridges & 2 Headstocks

Many of you already restring your own ukulele, and of course there is more than one way to string a uke, but could there be beneficial techniques you are not aware of? Is it possible that they could improve your overall experience by minimizing issues like string slippage, breaks, or even potential intonation problems?

Joel is a key member of our team. He’s a methodical and intelligent young man that has most likely set up more ukes than anyone of any age. Not only that, but he studies best practices and learns from other experienced luthiers. If you can take the time to watch this lengthy video and concentrate on what is being shown, you can most likely take away something to try as you restring your ukulele. If something passes too quickly for you, it will most likely be shown again at a different angle. Hope this is a useful reference for stringing techniques from the head of our setup department here at The Ukulele Site.

Let us know with any questions or share your experience below. Also, we now have a support center where me and Joel as well as others in the ukulele community answer questions and share our expertise. Visit our new Support Center. Mahalo!

A Visit from John Nash and a Tribute to Edgar Dang

Today a friend John Nash from the bay area stopped by our workshop. We had been in touch and wanted to meet and talk. Crazy thing happened today that affected both of us, our friend Edgar Dang of Aloha Warehouse in San Francisco passed away. John was telling me how he bought this Kanile’a from Edgar. I suggested we tribute a song to him on it. I really valued Edgar as one of the few true enthusiast. He was genuinely passionate about having quality ukes and there is only a few people I share this bond with. He was a really nice man and he left us way too soon.

This is an original composition by John.

John has more music and free resources at his website Ukulele Inspired

Mahalo for tuning in. This one is in honor our our friend and a great business parter, Edgar Dang. A Hui Ho Edgar! Our thoughts are with your ohana.

A New Body Shape from DaSilva

This is a new design from Mike DaSilva with a wider lower bout. Who doesn’t love a big bootie when it looks this good!

I declare quilted maple king of figured wood!

A very different tenor from DaSilva, bigger and more gorgeous than ever, And the sound….

Our sound samples are recorded for true reference and have no alteration or enhancement.
Use quality playback for the most accurate listening.

At the Listening Booth w/ Andreas David

Aloha friends! This is another video for the listening booth and we had the pleasure of recording a very cool musician from Berlin named Andreas David.

What we’re sampling is 4 similar models in Pono’s Pro Classic line. These are all tenors. We have spruce rosewood, then cedar rosewood, then spruce mahogany, and finally cedar mahogany. So if you are wondering whether to go with spruce or cedar, or whether to choose mahogany or rosewood for your back and sides, this video should be a good data point for you. Listen on quality playback to hear the differences and let us know your opinion. Aloha, see you next time.

Shop Pono.
pono spruce banner

Our sound samples are recorded for true reference and have no alteration or enhancement.
Use quality playback for the most accurate listening.

Ukulele at NAMM 2015- Day 4

I’ll close up this years coverage of NAMM 2015 with some final videos and thoughts. I’ll start by just mentioning that there’s a new Misi pickup system that I thought was really cool but it’s still in the works for ukulele I beleive. It’s a whole different concept using capacitors in a similar way my Schoeps mics do when they “pickup” the sound for our sound samples. Speaking of which, lets check out some jams and sound demos from Day 4.

First off is the two tenors that Michael DaSilva brought for us and I was lucky enough to get a sound sample from the cool and creative couple from Cali, Craig Chee & Sarah Maisel. The tenor Sarah is playing is a new shape and design from Mike with a wider lower bout. He calls this the Jumbo Tenor. Craig plays the thin-body tenor model that was introduced 2 NAMM’s ago and both are spruce topped and feel amazing. Big mahalos to Craig and Sarah!

The next video shows a spontaneous jam session at the Ko’olau booth with three musicians from Hawaii representing jazz with undeniable skill. I wan’t to listen again but it’s too late in the day, the adrenaline keeps me up! Hope you take a listen, these guys are the best.
After that Corey sound samples a few of the D’Angelico soprano scale archtops. I was asked how this compared to the new Eastman Archtop. Obvious question given that they are both brand new archtop sopranos, which is not exactly a big category in the ukulele market. They both have pickups and I haven’t compared that, but acoustically I would say the D’angelico has a more scooped mid range and warmer voicing while Eastman has a very forward mid range voice almost reminiscent of a resonator ukulele, or with a similar vintage coloring tot he tone. The D’Angelico and the Eastman both very are cool in their own way.

Next we hear a revamped version of Kiwaya’s K-Wave tele style uke. For a few years they stopped making this model because China copied them pretty well. They brought it back because they re-voiced it and it sounds better than the cheaper versions now on the market.

We’ll close out this year with a listen to a few Kanile’a ukes that are now new models we will try to stock regularly. They no longer will be making the UV SILK and will simply have the lacquer sprayed UV cured gloss finish and the varnish hand applied satin finish, which both of these models have. The first one has the CS feature or cobra slot head with stealth Gotoh tuners. The second one features their new cutaway which takes minimal soundboard by just taking a little scoop to the edge of the body. More sound samples will be showing up from these new models in the next few weeks.
Even though I couldn’t get to all the pictures and footage I took this weekend, we regularly review the newest ukes on the market here at the ukulele review and we also choose only a few hundred models to stock at our store and website from thousands on the market. Our goal is to show you the best products on the market and this happens all year round. So I’ll wrap it up there and be back with more reviews real soon. Mahalo for tuning in. Leave comments or questions below and I’ll try to answer them as I can.
Her is links to the first 3 days of the 2015 NAMM Show
Aloha!

Ukulele at NAMM 2015 – Day 3

Aloha and thanks for tuning in to our coverage of ukulele at NAMM 2015. When I get back to Hawaii I will be posting many more videos including a wonderful young Kamaka artist named Kayln Aolani, a video of Craig Chee and Sarah Maisel playing two DaSilva ukuleles we just picked up, and much more. It was a fun show and the talent and professional quality in the ukulele world has never been more apparent. I’ll have that final post in this series up within a few days so check back soon.

We’ll start off today with some sound samples from Larivee. We stocked Larivee guitars for a few years so I got to touch base with old friends with the company and try their revamped ukulele line. Unfortunately their new ukes were heavier in weight compared to their previous uke line, especially in the headstock area which was chunkier here than before. I expressed to them this concern and they told me that they were planning on adjusting that and also using a lighter tuning key to achieve a better balance. We plan on picking up the line because they sound nice and have a very clean, quality construction.

Then we show a few videos from a local maker, Imua. We have seen continual growth from and this Hawaii company and we’ll be bringing more in soon for you to try.
Then we stopped by Cordoba and I was very pleased to discover what’s now my favorite affordable guitar-lele on the market. This new instrument they call the Mini is a longer 20 inch scale compared to the 17″ guitar-lele they have been offering for the past few years. Plus it has a wider 50mm nut width which I think is much more comfortable than the other 46mm nut width on their smaller guitar-lele model. In my opinion, this is far superior instrument and will come in three wood options, all of which we should have in stock in about one month. These feature a solid top and a fantastic price point. If you are considering a quality guitar-lele with a modest price tag, I put this new model as my top recommendation. They also introduced a new master series classical guitar line made in the USA and I was so impressed with it that I commissioned a run of ukuleles to this custom quality that we will most likely see in another year or so.
Next booth over from Cordoba is Kala so we decided to sample a new model from their cedar top series that has a florentine cutaway and arm bevel.Keep a look out for these to come soon to our store and website. There are a few other new models from Kala that will reach the site soon too so keep your eyes peeled for those.
Next we visited the the Chinese violin makers from Eastman that have been impressing me with their guitars for many years. The hand carved ukulele archtops they advertised as concerts were actually a soprano scale and while I don’t think they sounded as warm as the new D’angelico, they have a punchy cool vintage tone and we’ll bring in one of each for you to see! We’ll just bring some of the mahogany line from them too and see how the response is. I think the ones at NAMM would be really good if set up a little better.
Mike DaSilva showed up today with two amazing instruments for us including the first ever jumbo tenor body size that sounds and look amazing. I’ll be getting these in on wednesday.
We’ll leave today with a few videos from the master, Benny Chong. Enjoy the music and see you soon!!

Ukulele at NAMM 2015 – Day 2

Uke News from NAMM – Day 2

Aloha friends. Thanks for tuning in to day 2 of our 2015 NAMM coverage. I am late releasing this because last night my internet went out and when I went to save, it disappeared! (face palm). I had no time to write it again until after today’s session. But anyway, enough of my sad story and on to the good stuff; sound samples of these awesome new ukes! I should note that this portable recording rig uses the most transparent mics and field recorder. There is no post production, and no enhancement or compression. So even though this is NAMM, and there is background noise, the tones should come through as they truly are if you listen though quality monitors or headphones. Nothing is like actually playing an instrument yourself but we try to provide the next best thing.

We started off at the KoAloha/ Rebel booth. This first one demo’d has been asked for many times and it’s finally in production, the KoAloha Opio Tenor! It’s everything I’d hoped it would be. KoAloha tenor tone, but with that mahogany warmth, and for half the price! You’re gonna love it, I guarantee! Next we see their new KoAlana line. As I mentioned in Day 1’s blog, these are laminate instruments, but take a listen. They sound great and will compete in the entry level price range. KoAloha is now covering all price points and doing it well! We’ll give you one more sound sample from KoAloha for now, the new “Rosette” series tenor. Just a bit more cost than a regular KTM but with a tasteful and unique rosewood rosette.

Next Corey plays some of the Rebel ukes I was telling you about. These solid wood instruments range from around $400-$1200 dollars and the quality is among the best you will find in their price range. The first two are a thin body soprano and concert. I thought these had a loud, punchy, “KoAloha like” tone. The next two are from their custom line with artistic, detailed appointments and an open bell like tone I really like. I think you’ll be impressed with these tenors. They’ll be up at the shop in about a week so stop by if you can and try for yourself.
Next up we hear a concert and tenor from custom Japan builder Teruyuki Tashiro. This is a one man custom shop and the quality and design reflect their higher price range. They are as comfortable to play as any of the best ukes I’ve played. They’re very light in weight and have fantastic volume and sustain. I’ll give detailed pictures and more videos when we get back to Hawaii.
Next we’ll look at a new line from Kala that’s been years in the making. This is their custom built line made in Petaluma California by a group of 7 talented luthiers. For a few years they have been making Ubasses and Banjo ukes but this is the first launch of their regular ukuleles they call the Elite series. The tone is big and warm more indicative of the best Hawaiian makers. We saw the early prototype for this line but they have really improved in every aspect. Corey first samples a gorgeous Koa tenor and after gives us a quick listen to their 10 year anniversary model redwood topped koa tenor. The next elite model is a concert, also with a perfect gloss finish but with koa binding and a tasteful koa wood rosette. This is sampled by an old friend of ours, Neil Chin. Neil also samples for us the basic model satin finish Elite.
One thing Kala just implemented for their custom shop is the UV cured finish that Kanile’a and Taylor guitars uses. This is quite an investment and tells me that Kala is ramping up to achieve a steady production from their California shop. We are promised to be the first to get this wonderful new line so keep a look out for them here and at our website.
There’s some other new models from Kala’s regular line that we’ll highlight tomorrow. Here’s a sneak peek.
Last stop for the day is the Ko’olau booth were I caught a slew of amazing musicians. First is a musician from Berlin Germany named Andreas David. Andreas gigs full time in Germany with ukulele. Every year the ukulele becomes more recognized worldwide as a serious instrument and it’s beautiful voice is getting discovered daily by professional musicians. Here Andreas samples a BN-30 spruce rosewood baritone nui. We had a few of these models already but will be getting another dozen or so at the beginning of march. Mr. David then samples a spruce/koa Ko’olau CS that will be available at our store.
Next we get a real treat with some rippin’ jazz musicians you most likely already know. Hawaii’s own Abe Lagrimas Jr. and Reggie Padilla serve us some rip-roarin’ bebop like double shot of espresso. Enjoy!
Tomorrow I’ll post a few videos of Benny Chong with Abe, as well as sound samples from D’angelico, Kanile’a, Kamaka, and many more pics and highlights from NAMM 2015.

So even though I’m behind a day I’m off to the Kanile’a party and I’ll try to post Day 3 and 4 before I head back on monday. Can’t miss the Kanile’a party though. It’s always a rager. Last year Bruce Shimabukuru poured a glass of water on his head and did the worm! I didn’t see Bruce this year though. Maybe we’ll get Corey to do that. Now that would be a good video!

Ukulele at NAMM 2015 – Day 1

Uke News from NAMM – Day 1

Aloha friends. It’s that time again. NAMM! I am gonna space this out because I’ll be posting every night of the show so I’ll just go over some of the cool new brands and models I bought today. First off I’ll mention the KoAloha booth since it was their first year setting up at NAMM. There is a new series from them that will only be about $80 more than their standard series but with a unique wood rosette. We bought the three they brought to the show that you can see in the gallery below. I was using a new lens and will get it down better tomorrow. I see now my f-stop was a bit too open. Also Corey and Zach just showed up this evening so starting tomorrow we’ll be doing sound samples of all these models. We also got a real cool Red Label solid body that you can see Alan holding. Other news from KoAloha is that they have finally released the tenor Opio! We got 30 on order so stay tuned for those to arrive. Also, they released a new KoAlana series made in Indonesia. They are laminate and very affordable but they sound great! The last picture here shows them behind a few Rebel ukes that they shared the booth with. Speaking of Rebel…

Rebel Ukuleles are made in Thailand by the folks that make the Opio line for KoAloha. They shared a booth with KoAloha and it was great to meet the kind Thai brothers doing such great work. We bought most of the ukes Rebel brought because, well, they sound and look amazing. I’ll take some better pics and give you some sound samples in the coming days. They sound good. REAL good! Also the leather bag you see in the last picture is coming back with us and we’ll be ordering more from Rebel though they say it is very limited in production. Let me know if you are interested and I can share more info on these super stylish gig bags.

From there I’ll take you over to the Takumi booth where I snagged some uber cool ukes I think you’ll like. The D’Angelico ukes are electric archtop sopranos made in Japan and I LOVE them! They have previously only been available in Japan but I bought the three that Nobu and Hitomi brought. They sound and feel so good and come with a really nice custom case. Even though they are soprano they are extremely comfortable with wonderful tone and a quality pickup system. At Takumi’s booth I also hand picked a half dozen LoPrinzis that I thought were an exceptional value. We also bought the Kiwaya Telecaster style ukes. Kiwaya made some improvements to this design and we are excited to bring them back to The Ukulele Site.

Speaking of the website…Today we launched a brand new version of the site I have been working on for months. In the next few months I’ll be adding many features and improving on it but it’s up running so check it out HERE! Ok, back to the show.

A few booths over from Takumi I found an amazing custom builder from Japan named Teruyuki Tashiro. Without hesitation I bought a spruce top concert and tenor that sound and look top notch. Real top of the line quality from this one man shop and I can’t wait to show them to you.

A great company I haven’t ordered from in a while (who knows why) is Fluke. Their Firefly banjo uke is one that I have been meaning to reorder for a long time so I have more of those coming and also got the last of a limited edition run of Mandala Fireflies. I also ordered some of the fleas for us to stock. We only order from Fluke with the wood fretboard and metal frets so that we can adjust as we need to and maintain our standard quality control as needed. Flukes are all American made and they simply have a great product. There’s no reason for us not to be supporting these great folks and soon you will see them back at the store and website. I also odered a new double CD from Jim Beloff that includes the sheet music for all of the songs as well as a new book they are putting out from Fred Sokolow. See samples of these in the gallery below.

Oh, I forgot, they are also coming out with a UBass fluke that sounded and felt good. I ordered for our store though we most likely won’t be listing them online.

So let’s visit some of the other Hawaiian makers that we love so much. Kanile’a just introduced a new scoop cutaway and the one Joe is holding will be coming home with us. This style cutaway takes very little from the soundboard while still offering easier access to the highest frets. On a side note Islander introduced some mini guitars that are quite an impressive value. We’ll have a few of these in the store though they won’t make it on the website. Inquire for more info on these.

Kamaka is always a fun booth to hang out at with fantastic artists like Benny Chong, Bryan Tolentino, and Kalei Gamiao. I am gonna try to catch some sound samples of their new prototypes with these guys before the end of show. These models include the slothead tenor and (for the first time) slothead concert, as well as a sweet new tenor with a headstock inlay of a honu riding a wave! More pics and videos will come so stay tuned throughout the weekend.

We pre-bought most of what Ko’olau brought including a mind blowing CS slothead we’ll show you later in the show and the first ever slotted headstock CS you see here.

We also pre-bought the Collings ukes they brought and I’ll be showing you those and many other ukes as the show goes on. Check back tomorrow for more ukes from NAMM 2015 and sound samples to go along with them! Also, feel free to comment or ask any questions below, and let me know if there are any models or brands you want us to sample. Aloha from Anaheim. A hui ho~

I’m off to look for this guys coverage-

KoAloha & The Legend of Naupaka

KoAloha is never afraid to go “outside the box”. This new model that will be available in their 3 sizes at about the same price as the regular models is the yin and yang of two lovable Hawaiian woods. It looks cool in my opinion, but the reason I really like it is because the tone is sweeter. It mellows out the highest frequencies while still having the KoAloha volume, which is always impressive. I’d say you have to played a half koa half mango ukulele “Naupaka” and experience it for yourself.

So What’s the name Naupaka mean? Here’s some info from aloha-hawaii.com/

One of Hawaii’s most famous legends is built around naupaka, a shrub found in the mountains or near the beach. The flower’s unique appearance—it resembles a half-flower, with petals missing—caused early Hawaiians to believe it was the incarnation of an ancient native separated from her lover.
The Legend
In ancient times, one version goes, there was a beautiful Hawaiian princess known as Naupaka. One day, the villagers noticed that Naupaka looked very sad. They told her parents, who approached Naupaka and asked her what was troubling her.
“I have fallen in love with a man named Kaui,” replied the princess. “But Kaui is not of noble birth—he is a commoner.” According to Hawaiian tradition, it was strictly forbidden for members of royalty to marry people from the common ranks.
Distressed, Naupaka and Kaui traveled long and far, seeking a solution to their dilemma. They climbed up a mountain to see a kahuna who was staying at a heiau (temple). Alas, he had no clear answer for the young lovers. “There is nothing I can do,” he told them, “but you should pray. Pray at this heiau.”
So they did. And as they prayed, rain began to fall. Their hearts torn by sorrow, Naupaka and Kaui embraced for a final time. Then Naupaka took a flower from her ear and tore it in half, giving one half to Kaui. “The gods won’t allow us to be together,” she said. “You go live down by the water, while I will stay up here in the mountains.”
As the two lovers separated, the naupaka plants that grew nearby saw how sad they were. The very next day, they began to bloom in only half flowers.

KoAloha says,

Our interpretation tells a more joyful story. Our Naupaka unites the unlikely couple of of koa and mango to produce an ukulele with a truly unique aesthetic and tone.

I have always loved the tone on both Koa and Mango ukes. These new KoAlohas have positive tonal qualities from both woods. The power of koa and sweetness of mango. A truly wonderful sound and super fun to play with, the Naupaka is definitely different. It makes a statement. What do you think Naupaka says?

Charlie Fukuba’s I’iwi Ukuleles

Here’s a look at two new ukes from custom builder Charlie Fukuba. Charlie is a full time custom builder in Makakilo and he makes some of the nicest ukes you will ever find. These two really blew me away. Both are just incredible in all ways. The sound and feel of this tenor is right there with the absolute best I’ve ever played. Seriously amazing instrument. The concert too! The sound is so impressive on both of them I just want to take them home! This job is rough. Take a look and listen here, and come up to the store and try yourself. They are some of the finest I’ve ever played.

These will soon be available at The Ukulele Site.

Moore Bettah Rope Bound Koa Tenor Ukulele

Chuck Moore makes phenomenal ukes. Every time we get one, it’s a treat. This is an all koa tenor with rope binding. Real vintage style rope binding. Rope is now commonly used as a purfling that goes inside of a binding, but this way is the classic look. Of course Chuck takes classic ideas and makes amazing art. Beyond the visual though, is the feel. The edges of the body are sanded and rounded to be soft against your arm and body as you play, and the action is nice and low. Easy and comfortable. And there’s also other features I could expound upon but I want to mainly highlight the aspect that made me a true fan of Chuck’s creations… The tone!

Sound sample from the one and only, Corey Fujimoto.

Why do Moore Bettahs sound so great? Well… this artist/craftsman, with a driving work ethic and incredible talent, grew from years of ukulele experimentation and luthier meditation, until he finally reached enlightenment. Now the wood obeys him. The sound waves line up like Waimea Bay during the Eddie Aikau. The magic of nature!
Recording is with stereo Schoeps mics, a Canon 5D mrk2 camera, and this awesome lens, Canon 200mm f/2L (my friend, Selwyn in Singapore loaned me). This lens is so good! Just like the uke, I can’t imagine any better!
There’s a big difference in this $6,000 lens and my $1,000 one, and the same is true in the ukulele department. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have taken the time to show you this instrument that’s already sold. But showing the best ukes in the world is my favorite part of the job. Another passionate ukulele player from Europe joins the MB Ohana! Much More Moore Bettah most likely to come. (Try saying that 5 times fast!)See more MB Video Blogs Here.

New Models from Pono

Here’s a sneak peak at a few new models that are about to hit our store – The Ukulele Site

The first model here is an AT2. The 2 series have a cedar top and a radius fingerboard, like many of the pro classics, but with the less expensive lineup. These will be around 500 with a case and also comes as an MT2 with mahogany sides and back.

The second model is gonna hit next year mostly. We only have two of them now so they most likely won’t be for sale long but we are getting more in another few months. It is a deluxe Acacia tenor but with a slimmer body depth (under 6mm). This gives it a different tone and slightly different feel, more comfortable for some to hold and play. (less reaching around the body)

The pics and videos were done with a Canon 5D mark 2 (like always) but now with a Canon 200mm f/2L lens that I have courtesy of my friend Selwyn in Singapore. He sponsored us with a really amazing piece of gear. Nothing can match a 3 dimensional first hand beauty as you hold an instrument. But this is the closest I’ve seen. No editing at all. Just like when I bought good mics I could stop editing my audio, so it is with a real piece of glass like this. Enormous mahalos to Selwyn for true Aloha from across the ocean!

12 Tenor String Sets on Kamaka HF-3

New Kamaka Tenor HF-3’s are extremely consistent. They have been making ukes for 98 years now so there is a wide variety of Kamakas out there, no doubt, but new Kamakas are as uniform as you will find. In fact I would say that this model is as good as it gets for a test like this. Now I’ve done many string comparison videos in the past, but I haven’t done any in the last year since I obtained better microphones that don’t color or compress the sound, along with a good AD converter for accurate conversion. Still, there is always some compression when uploading, and you are probably not listening to this on true studio monitors but with descent speakers or headphones and focused listening I think you will hear the individual voicing of the different strings.

There is a lot that is similar but there is also factual audible differences. Don’t get me wrong. This is not meant to enlighten you in the way personally trying these on your tenor can. This is just one person (Corey Fujimoto!) playing a few songs, comparing strings on a video. But you can still use it as a data point and consider this, you can never listen this closely in time when you try these sets yourself. This back to back listening is something we can only do with a recording.

Let’s talk about the strings now. First off Kamaka strings are D’addario Pro Atre J71’s dyed black. The Kamaka sets high G is .0285 instead of .0290. Every other string is exactly the same. Ko’olau Mahana strings are also D’addario Pro Arte but in a slightly thicker gauge. They all sound the same because they are all the same material made by D’addario. Peter D’addario worked with these companies before D’addario was offering ukulele strings. This material is high quality nylon rectified for great intonation and with a warm tone. It can be too “dry” for some, and just right for others. Jake uses these strings. I think he chooses it for the balance, how it handles dynamics, and how they sound when plugged in.

 

 

Check out our string selection at our website – The Ukulele Site Strings

Ok, so then we get into the Fluorocarbons. Yes, it’s fishing line, but let me just say, nylon was also used for fishing line for many years and it still is. Fluorocarbon is just a new type of material that doesn’t absorb moisture as much and carries a higher tension per diameter. Even though the different brands of fluorocarbon are all 100% fluorocarbon, the make up and production processes vary and you can hear and feel a difference when trying the various options on the market. The Fremont, Oasis, and Worth are each unique in subtle ways. All of them sound great with Kamaka in my opinion. Then we get to the Aquila, a very unique nylon. The “New Nylgut” is actually not the newest one, which is the “Super Nylgut”. The “New Nylgut” is the most popular set and has been for a few years (I like them considerably more than the new “Super Nylgut”). And the last set, South Coast, is fluorocarbon with a brass wound 3rd.Then we added low G strings. The Kamaka, Oasis, and Aquila are a silver wrapped nylon. The Fremont soloist and the new Southcoast HML-RW low G strings are a brass wrap polished to be smooth, no squeak, and the Worth is a plain fluorocarbon low G. So that’s the low down. Thanks for tuning in to the review! I want to know what you hear and what you liked. Mahalo!

Pepe Romero Series 5 in 3 Wood Options

Today Pepe Romero hand delivered these 5 series 14 fret to body tenors. The 5 series has top of the line woods (as you can see), and usually abalone purfling going around the top, and a super fat abalone rossette, but this koa one is the first of it’s kind and features a unique wood rope purfling and rossette. All 3 that Pepe brought us are truly gorgeous instruments with a powerful sound that I love. Pepe’s 14 fret to body instruments have an extra vibrant tone with great note clarity even when played lightly. So here’s some pictures and videos with the talented Corey Fujimoto sampling these 3 very special instruments that Pepe just brought us. Share any thoughts or questions in the comments below. Aloha!
Click on photos for gallery.

Aloha!