Ukulele at NAMM 2014- Part 1

Uke News from NAMM – Day 1

This year I’ll be posting a blog each day of the NAMM, or at least that’s my plan. Corey arrives tonight and we have scheduled recording with many of the manufacturers before the show starts to give high quality sound samples. Today I will just share photos and reviews of the ukes that caught my eye and filling you in on new models from your favorite makers. The photos below open up to a gallery with more pictures so click on them to scroll through. Please feel free to share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below and I will try to answer them as the show goes on. Aloha, enjoy~

First I have to mention my family’s booth, Ko’olau/Pono. The first pic shows the new TE models which Ko’olau is showing in eight new options. These have already been reviewed here but I can’t say enough about how pleased I am with the line. The price is great and quality is excellent. They’re just a joy to play. We’ll be talking about other new Pono models as the show goes on. Next you’ll see some of the Ko’olau models displayed. I am proud of the quality and tone currently coming from my brothers customs. Noa is truly at the top of his game. I added a few videos in the gallery. Check it out~

Next I made my way over to the Takumi booth, my friends Nobu and Hitomi. They carry Kiwaya, Loprinzi, and more. I was surprised to see a new brand under their own name, Takumi. They had four concerts and I absolutely loved them! Super light in weight, very clean construction, and a very “open” voicing not always heard from Japanese makers. Master builder Kawakami helped them in design and setup, a builder that is making some customs for us. As far as the Takumi line, we will be bringing a few home with us for sure. I am truly impressed.

From there I was off to Kamaka. Casey didn’t finish any customs for the show like he has for the past few years, but said he would be letting me know soon… stay tuned. At this show, the most newsworthy info from Kamaka was that they will soon be offering slotted headstocks like the one seen here. Nice!

After Kamaka I went upstairs to see Kala. Kala has a few new lines including an all solid spruce/ ovangkol with Padauk binding and rosette. But the coolest thing I saw there was the new USA made Banjo ukes. We have one of each model coming to us and will be bringing you a sound sample and more details soon. These are the finest banjo ukes I have ever played. Really warm and musical. Not common adjectives used for banjolele.

Right Next to Kala was the Cordoba booth. Cordoba came out with the new 22 series that will bridge the gap between their 20 and 30 series very nicely. These have a solid spruce top, laminate rosewood sides and back, top binding and a tasteful rope purfling. They have a clean gloss finish and will be under $300. We already have these coming in all sizes and models. Also, you can see the 30 series now being offered with a graceful venetian cutaway and pickup.

Next up was the Luna booth. Luna has some cool new models. Two all solid mahogany concert that will go for $199 are called “Pearl” and “Coral”. They also had a concert model called “Heartsong”. It has a spruce top, and with a B-band active pickup and USB connection is still gonna sell for only $199. Wow, although I couldn’t find any USB connection and the Luna salesman couldn’t either, but that’s what the tag and catalog said. I have a meeting with one of their product developers tomorrow so perhaps I will see then. They were also showing four new “UBass” models, but they were strung with thin metal flatwounds and tuned up a whole octave, EADG. I thought it was ridiculous, but maybe somebody won’t. I won’t be ordering them but these should be available for 3-400. A few other new designs from Luna but these were the most unique new offerings.

From there I went back downstairs to find one of my favorite makers, Asturias, from the island of Kyushu in Japan. For the first year he showed a tenor. I bought the Koa slothead tenor for the store along with one of the concert cutaways with cedar and brazilian rosewood. These ukes are among the best. Look out for these to show up at The Ukulele Site when I get back.

Now most of you know that our island has some of the world’s finest ukulele makers, and one of our store’s best sellers is Kanile’a ukulele, building from the windward side with the most gorgeous koa and super sweet tone. We bought many of the ukes displayed at this show, but I want to feature the new models that they just released. The first is a super tenor with a 19″ scale, two inches longer than a normal tenor. This model is the SEST19. It has their new UV satin that is now seen as SILK on their labels. Also with this finish is a premium tenor and concert with ebony bridge fingerboard and faceplate. These models are SET and SEC. The other model from their Hawaiian production is the “Diamond” tenor. It has premium koa, a zebra wood rosette, top and back binding, and a “snake head” thin slotted headstock with Gotoh stealth tuners. Oh and of course the Diamond inlay on the fretboard. There is also a few new models in the Islander line and we’ll be bringing you more news on those soon.

Then I realized I had an appointment with Gretsch and Fender and made a mad dash to the third floor. Some sad news from Gretsch, no more deluxe series. They said we were the only ones selling it. But, they are replacing it with an all solid koa concert and tenor that will go for $399 and $429. They also came out with a long neck soprano that will go for $109 and a long neck concert with Fishman pickup that will be $179. (Not available without pickup?) They also have a revised banjo uke I liked and did the Guilele with a solid top, cutaway and pickup (still under $300!). The thing with all of these Gretsch models; they sound good and they are at an amazing price point. I am a huge fan. Still, no more 9121? Why Gretsch, why?! Oh well. Anyway, on to Fender, a new Tele style ’52 and a T-Bucket model that looks really cool. Corey and I have VIP badges to go up there tomorrow and do sound samples before people come in and make noise. Stay tuned for that and more tomorrow.

I’ll leave you with some pics of ukes that I thought looked really cool, but just didn’t want to make music. At least for me. But anyway, they look cool. What’dya think?

Any other ukes you want me to feature? Still three more days of madness so stay tuned to the review. Aloha, a hui ho~

Comments 11

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  1. Thanks for the pictures and info. I was excited about NAMM and couldn’t wait to see what’s new in the uke world. I can’t wait to try them myself. I’m in Memphis for the International Blues Competition. There needs to be more ukes here. They would be a great addition. Have fun tomorrow! Thanks again.

  2. Aloha Andrew…great pictures and reporting….looks like everyone stepping it up for 2014…
    can you imagine if you had one of Chucks masterpieces there…it would be the Big hit of the whole Ukulele world there…(the Peacock would of been perfect)

    keep sending pictures and videos

  3. Those pictures are so nice it’s like being there! I love the slotted Kamakas and I would love to have one of their Kamaka stamped ukes.

    Too bad for all the slow retailers arriving late cuz it seems like you buying all the top ones!!

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      Oh you mean Kamaka stamped Uke stands. Ya they don’t sell those. Hope to see you soon Daniel. Aloha

  4. I’ve really been looking forward to NAMM as well – this coverage looks great! Keep up the good work.

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