The Most Beautiful Uke in the Room

This is a new instrument from the Ko’olau custom shop. It’s a CS model tenor with an all koa body, koa binding, koa faceplate , and for the first time from Ko’olau, a one piece koa neck.

In the past few years the CS has become my favorite model ukulele. Why? – #1 reason is the rich, sustaining tone and balance all over the neck. Factors for this may be the all hide glue construction, shape and bracing, compound radius top, and all the other specs, but more than anything, it’s the skill of two builders, Noa Bonk and Ryan Condon. They show a meticulous craftsmanship rarely seen. It’s a  treat to play this qualtiy. To me, ukes like this represent the finer things in life. Like food from a famous chef, it “hits the spot” in a unique way.

So Corey came by last night, says, “I heard a song on the drive up and think it’ll work on ukulele.” So he gets on my phone, goes to Youtube,  and figures it out while I set up to record. I give him the usual, “You need to figure it out before we record…”  Every time, he just barely squeezes out these musical thought’s while I have multi-camera HD running. But he’s a great  player, and when you pair that with a great instrument…it’s worth the time to share.

I have been asked before if koa makes a good tone wood or if it’s just popular because of the look. Koa is not the “best” soundboard for range or volume. But based on the builder and the player, Koa wood is arguably “the best” choice . It might be what you like.

What is your opinion of Koa?

Do “looks” matter?

Comments 6

  1. The first good ukulele I bought is a Pono 6 string all Koa tenor. A PKT-6E. It is still my pride and joy. The rich sound has mellowed as the overtones settled in and sound better all the time.
    The appearance improves too as the Koa becomes a little darker and the grain displays all of its subtilities. I thank my friend Kimo Hussey for steering me to the “best sound for the price” anywhere.

    1. Hey Chuck, Those Koa Pono’s were short lived. They will never do a koa series again too, so good find! Plus, how many things we buy actually improve with time. Thanks for the comment, Aloha.

  2. Stunning instrment!! I will be in the market for an upscale ukelel. The only thing I know for sure is that I want a 6 string tenor made of premium Koa. The problem is that I am judging sound based on UTube videos. I seem to like the sound of UTube Kanileas, but I’d love to hear your opinion of the Kanilea sound compared to someof the other premium brands. I wish I could play diffeerentones and form an opinion, but that isn’t an option where I live. John Ficarro

    1. Hi John, Yes, Kanilea makes a great 6 string. We have a few deluxe gloss Koa 6 strings from them now and they sound wonderful! I am not sure if there is a store anywhere that you will be able to try many high end six stringers and compare, but I can recommend the Kanilea K1-T6, it’s a great quality and tone. Aloha

  3. Andrew, I have a Kanilea and a Keli’i (LoG) (Thanks MGM) – both tenors, both Koa, both great instruments. I think you have clarified the difference between Koa and other timbers beautifully – “in the right hands koa can produce the sweetest tones that confirm your love for it”. I was recently playing Keli’i in a uke club setting and the lady beside me said “That is a beautiful sound – I love it” and then a few moments later “It doesn’t sound like a ukulele” – Her uke was solid timber – it looked like Spruce and mahogany. Your meticulously prepared instrument auditions are a fantastic resource and I have frequently directed people to visit your site to experience the great service that I have had. Aloha

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