Pono and Godin – Tenor Solid Body Review & Compare

When I got into work this morning I saw a a new Ko’olau on my photo table. CE-2.. it looks like…Wait…it’s not a a Ko’olau…This is the new Pono Tenor electric! A chambered solid body electric and it’s so nice! I am truly ecstatic to see and hear the quality of this new TE model. These will sell for 649 with a Ko’olau CE hard case. This is huge! A CE-2 is 2500! And this Pono is basically a CE-2 (+ radius fingerboard upgrade) There are some differences. Like..

The preamp section, that’s the main difference. They both use an LR Baggs pickup strip, but the Pono uses a Misi designed preamp. So you won’t change batteries on the Pono. It recharges with the Misi plug. But one thing to take note of; In the video, the Pono and the Godin are at full volume, or up all the way on their volume knob. The Ko’olau was at exactly half way up on it’s volume knob. I didn’t want to touch the amp but wanted it to be even in volume for comparison listening. Plus, I didn’t want to adjust or edit the audio after, so this seemed like my best choice. Basically the Ko’olau preamp is more powerful, which can be useful, but is not a necessity. Here’s some more details for this comparison video.

These were plugged into an LR Baggs reference monitor. EQ was flat. Zero reverb (a shame because it has some tasty verb). And all three ukes could have sounded “better” if I had tinkered with the mic placement and blend with the direct amp out, or even the frequency phase on the amp can make a big improvement. I didn’t touch any of that. In my opinion, the Godin could have used adjustment most. Which was ironic because it was the only one with an onboard eq to adjust and I tried to get the best settings within our constraints. I thought it had a warm tone, so I tried to add clarity but didn’t cut as much as the other two. With this amp and room, the Ko’olau and Pono already had a “clean” sound, without EQ. There’s other differences to note as well.

The Godin body is deeper, as you can see, and acoustically it has more volume and brightness. Godin’s body is also much heavier. It anchors at the bottom. The Pono is light and balanced. The Godin has classy top binding. The Pono’has the soft 1/2 inch bit round off, just like the Ko’olau. Makes for comfy holding. Speaking of comfort. A radius fretboard will be standard on these new Pono models. This one feels perfect, comes with a Ko’olau case. What a great value!

There are many benefits to these type ukes, even unplugged. They’re perfect for late night practicing. An you can “let loose”, or get dynamic without sounding obnoxious (or maybe less obnoxious?). Plugged in you get the tone of a great tenor ukulele. The biggest advantage is live, much less chance of feedback, even at high volumes. For over 15 years the Ko’olau company has been perfecting this concept. Soon they will offer a more affordable version with the Pono TE.

To me, the Ko’olau sounded best, but it’s close! If you factor in value, or bang for your buck, Pono takes the cake. For someone like me, average skill, young kids, ya, I’m gonna have to do the responsible thing….and buy the Pono!! Woohoo! I love being responsible:) Now which one should I get??

The Pono TE will come in various woods and options. The all Acacia is what you see here. The body is carved from a solid block of acacia, chambered to the right tone, and topped with more beautiful acacia. Cedar top will be an option, and…all mango! (stunning flame mango!) There will be satin finish models, even more affordable, and perhaps more. We’ll see. They’ll be available in October. We don’t take preorders. Just giving you a first glimpse. Thanks for checkin’ out the review. And what I really want to know is…

…. What did you think? Please share your thoughts below. Aloha!

Comments 45

  1. I’ve lusted after a CE-2 since I first saw one on your site a few years ago (?) but could not justify the cost to my wife as something I “need” to add to my stringed instrument collection. Sooooo, the new Pono looks like a viable alternative which I trust will not be as expensive. I’ll start saving up today. Can’t wait until October. Thanks for keeping my uke dreams alive.

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  3. Andrew – when you do a video review you remind those of us who can’t afford a $2400 uke that the player is much more important than the product anyway. Thanks for the fine playing.

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    Oh, man, I feel bad. I never gave props to my man, Corey Fujimoto. I almost always have him demo because he’s such a great player. Perhaps listening to him will subconsciously make us play better πŸ˜€

  5. Cory always sounds fantastic, as a beginner, I’m sticking to non-electric. Love my Kala acacia concert I purchased from Hawaii Music Supply

  6. The Pono is now on my short list. I hope you have them in stock when I come for a visit in July.

  7. I just bought my 1st Pono on the HMS recommendation, I have a tenor ATDC and what a great instrument! Especially for the price. Now after hearing the video would love to have the TE solid body! I won’t say I prefer it over the Godin (I’m Canadian, u know how polite we are),but given the option of 1 or the other it would be tough! A problem I hope to have one day!

  8. It seems like Pona is making more and more affordable ukes-isn’t this bad for Koolau? If Pono ukes are indeed as what the founder claims, “same build quality, just less appointments”, what’s the point of buying a Koolau at all? Also, the recent addition of radius fretboards for Pro Classics also seem strange. While a Koolau custom can demand an excessive 50 dollars for that feature, why do Pono’s offer them for free? From a consumer stand point, this is all great news, but to me, what the company is doing makes no sense.

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      Hey Power Puff. Ko’olau stays over 6 months backordered always with custom orders. Stores wait a few years if they get any. Ko’olau owns Pono, one supports the other. For most of us the Pono will be perfectly great. But if money is no obstacle, why not buy the Ko’olau?

  9. Three great options but from this one sample I’m leaning more towards the warmer Godin sound. It has less “thunkiness” than the other two either but maybe that’s just a function of bass cut on the EQ? I certainly fall into the “why Ko’olau when Pono is this darn good” camp. Looking forward to hearing the other wood and finish options too. Man, what an exciting time to be getting into ukulele!

  10. Ah….Pono! Best value around. I’m sure it will not surprise you to have an order for one of these electrics from me, Andrew. Bravo! to Corey’s skill for demo’s.

  11. I have an early CE-2 model and the new Godin. I like the Godin better! More comfortable to play because of the radius’d fretboard and the neck feels better to me than the CE-2 which seems a little too flat and wide. I also like the overall weight of the Godin best and the thicker body. The CE-2 is a tad small for me, but still a great uke. I’m a larger guy, 6’3″ and have big hands. On a side note, I still like the size of my Ovation Celebrity tenor uke best, but it is not near as good sounding of an instrument as the other two ukes. If I had to use only one, it would be the Godin!

  12. Another neat test would be to set up just like the first video but turn off the amp – just to demonstrate the unplugged sound of each.

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          Ya, I can notify you, but we don’t presell unless it’s a unique situation. Also I can show you this one in the review if you are around and want to compare it with other options. Just call me up or email-
          (808)781-9168 or Andrew@theukulelesite.com

          Come by the workshop, 2nd and 3rd level of Koolau or I can send it up to the shop in Haleiwa.

  13. Though I’m not a fan of the high grain wood, these do look pretty cool. I’m curious how they sound.

  14. Hi. I was wondering if there were any major differences between the Ko’olau CE1 and CE2. The only visual difference I see on the ko’olau website is the extra knob on the ce2. Thanks for your help!

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      Hi David, the CE-2 has an eq control and gets premium woods automatically. Other than that, no difference. Thanks

  15. Looks very cool – does the TE have a truss rod? I like in a very different climate from Hawaii (high desert) so I like the ability to correct for any changes the wood may go through (and yes – I humidify)

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  16. … solid body electric … radius fretboard … satin finish with the cedar top option … sight unseen, I’m in … where’s the line?

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      Keep poppin’ in at TheUkuleleSIte. Should have some like that before the years end. Thanks Eric

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