Acacia or Mahogany?

That’s a common question and I find it hard to take sides. Pono is very consistent at this point. On top of that, these woods are a similar density. Both have a .54 specific gravity. The Mahogany is slightly lighter at 34lb/ft while Acacia is 42 lb/ft, and both are close to Hawaiian Koa which is approximately 41lb/ft and .55 specific gravity.

I have been trying different recording setups and today, after hours of experimenting, Zach found a pretty “true” sound. Sounded the same through the headphones and monitors as the real acoustic sound with our ears. We would switch back and forth and worked it until it was nearly identical. Zero eq, compression, reverb or anything. Just a better listening booth for you! Telefunken and Josephson mics were used. Anyway…

What would you answer if asked which is better, mahogany or acacia? What did you hear with these two ukes? Any advice you can offer to our readers?

Both woods are close in density, right in between soft woods like cedar (23 lb/ft, 32 sg) and hard woods like Macassar ebony (68 lb/ft, 1.09 sg).
But even though acacia and mahogany don’t have an extreme contrast, these two show the unique character and variance I commonly hear.Put on your best headphones/monitors and see if you can hear the tonal differences in a Pono Tenor Mahogany and a Pono Tenor Acacia. Corey Fujimoto plays these two models for us..

Learn more about the Pono MTSH and ATSH

alO-ha from HMS!

Sort of out of left field, but I figure I would throw this video in. Recorded in the same setting for your comparison. Maybe the answer to the title question is… neither? Pono ETSH

Comments 27

  1. The mahogany seem to have a slightly warmer sound, but the acacia sounds fuller and a bit louder. Both are beautiful Ukuleles. I would flip a coin to decide which one to buy.

  2. The acacia sounds crisper to me but personally I like the slightly softer sound of the mahogany. Both are awesome and the playing is amazing.

  3. Thanks for these Listening Booth vids! Choosing between such gorgeous and well-made ukes is always a difficult (but ohmygod fun) task, and these make it a little easier to see where your heart lies.

    Well I own the Ebony model so I’m a little biased, but it seems to me that the sound coming out of the ETSH is noticeably more defined than either the Acacia or the Mahogany. The Acacia seems to have a slightly ‘woodier’ sound if that makes any sense, while the Mahogany seems warmer, with a softer and possibly more melodious ring to the notes.

    Either way, you can’t go wrong with a Pono.

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    2. I agree the Cedar has a slighter sweeter sound than the other two. Frankly I can’t hear a gnat’s hair difference between the Acacia and Mahogany which surprised me.

  4. I live in the state of Minnesota and our weather can be either very humid/hot(up in the high 90’s) to below zero during the winter. How do these woods fair in this climate? L

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      Pono builds with proper luthier techniques every step of the way. That’s the main thing. There can be warping and cracking on any type of wood when not cut and prepared correctly.Then the owner should maintain a humidity level over 40%, being too dry is far more problematic and running heat inside during the winter makes it extremely dry. Get like 3 Oasis in there!

      1. I currently have a Lanikai and thoroughly enjoy it but in time, I may want to up-grade and so, I keep my eyes open for the future. I currently have a humidifier for it and worked fine for the winter……Thanks for all of your info. L

  5. With string changes, 6 in one hand, half a dozen in the other. With same strings, I usually prefer the mahogany’s depth, but that acacia model sure has a bright sweetness to it. Tough choice under these circumstances. Can’t lose with either.

  6. I think the real test and testament here is to the consistency of Pono’s production of tenor ukes. How lovely both are and any differences seem more like something in a dream than any reality. The phrase “over time” is used by many commenters; how about Acacia and Mahogany over time? Do they age differently? RM

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      Thanks Rolland, no difference on aging quality. Both will be much more “opened up” within the first year.

  7. Pono’s are exquisite ‘ukuleles. Whichever one you are playing is the best. I like the appearance of Mahogany but to my ear the Acacia sound is a little crisper. A step brighter is the Ebony. I’ll take one of each. They are all the best.

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  8. I agree that all three sound beautiful. Andrew, you are correct when you say this generation of Ponos really shine.

    I like Ann own the Macassar Ebony model. I think the refined sound may be due to the higher density of the ebony dampening the harsher backend of the string resonance. I, however, think the ETSH might benefit from a string change. I swapped out the Koolau to Southcoast Light Med and then to Oasis strings when Dave Hepple offered free samples to UU forum members to try. Both sets of strings, perhaps due to their lower tension, provide a greater resonance and ring that I think really makes the ETSH sing. (The Oasis strings need a day or two of stretching and settling to reach their potential.)

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  9. All three Ukuleles sounded nice. I personally prefer a warmer tone – so mahogany is my favorite. But the sweetness of the acacia – definitely lends itself to finger picking. I found the cedar and ebony was nice but lacked a bit of depth of tone compared to the other two.

  10. “Maybe the answer to the title question is… neither!?”-andrewkitakis

    Winner winner ground-beef dinner (hey, we’re on a budget and like nice ukes haha)! Always asking the right questions Andrew 😉

    The answer is neither, but here’s the kicker – nor is it the Ebony/Cedar Pono Tenor. No sir, the King of Kings goes to non-other than the now discontinued Koa Pono line: the PTK-1 & PTK-2 respectively. IMO their characteristic brightness, projection, and traditional sound make it the clear winner.

    Plus, it looks the prettiest gloss-coated with wavy red/orange/gold grain streaks and blonde dimples. So lucky to have come across a throwback one and taken her home. Maybe I’ll let you sound sample with your same recording setup one day for the end all be all comparison 😉

  11. Hej, This is a bit off the track now, but I’ve got a question. I’ve read somewhere, that the Acacia (Pono AT) has got a somewhat chunky neck. Is the neck any different form the MT neck?
    I’m asking because my beloved Pono MT just broke and I am considering the Acacia Model.

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      They have the same neck size. Your MT broke? That’s odd, contact me about fixing it if you like.

  12. These videos and sound samples of ukuleles were crucial in my selection. I ended up picking up the Pono ATD with a low G and could not be happier. Thank you for this resource.

  13. While both instruments sound very nice, but the video samples are not a fair comparison of Acacia – vs – Mahogany.

    About 70% of the tonal production of an instrument comes from the soundboard and how it is braced. Are these two models braced the same?
    20% from the back and sides, and the last 10% from the neck, tuners, and string selection. Same string sets?

    You have an all Mahogany instrument compared to a Macassar Ebony body with a Cedar top. Specific Gravity or density is not a good comparison of woods for tonal comparisions either, as it relates to the generalized tonal production of a tone wood. You would be better to compare the Janka Hardness and Modulus of Elasticity (MOE) values, as they relate to the hardness and flexibility of the wood instead of its weight. The things that actually contribute to tone production.
    Mahoganies used in these instruments can have a Janka Hardness of around 800-900 for that specie, and Western Red Cedar is around 360. Their MOE is closer between1,386,00 and 1,110,00. While Mahogany does have a warm sound, it will have more punch than most Cedars due to the Cedar being softer, but this Cedar is paired with Macassar Ebony and that changes the whole equation.
    The louder and more diverse sound of the Macassar/Cedar is considerably contributed to by the Macassar Ebony body with a Janka hardness of 3250. Higher than Brazilian Rosewood, Cocobolo, and most Ebonies. It’s at the top of the chart for hardness. This tends to isolate more string energy into the top, and not let it dissipate into softer sides.

    It would be better if the video files were of and all Acacia/Koa and an all Mahogany instrument of the same model braced the same. I would appreciate hearing that.

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      Yeah, that’s what you were hearing. Same bracing, size, neck, tuners etc, back to back recording in the same position using an AD converter, transparent preamp etc… I’m not sure what your beef is with the way it was sampled Mark, or why you say it wasn’t fair. Thanks for the science info but I’m not sure how it helps customers understand anything better. It all boils down to the fact that woods have different properties and tonal characteristics depending on how they’re used. That’s a given. These videos are just to help people listen to that. Each instrument is unique but this is just another data point to hear these differences.

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