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!

Comments 17

  1. Pingback: Video: 12 String Sets Tested Back-to-Back

    1. First off that Kamaka does sound great. …….very balanced and articulate. Most of those string sets sound good to great but I had a few personal preferences. In high G my favourites were Oasis, Fremount and South Coast. Low G was a bit of a suprise as I usually love the South Coast with the wound 3rd and 4th, but they came in second. I was most impressed with the Freemount Blackline and Soloist for low G. It sounded very even across the range and the wound string did not over power the others. Thanks for doing this Andrew it was a great presentation as usual. I now have a hankering for a Kamaka, lol.

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  2. I’m really surprised with the stock Kamaka strings. I’ve heard so many people questioning why Kamaka continues to use these strings but they sound really good. There a good reason why Jake, Kris, Kalei uses the D’addarios J71s.

    Personally I think this video shows that a great instrument sounds great regardless of which strings you use. Thanks for sharing

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  3. I too was surprised about the kamakastock strings. I was also surprised that I didn’t particularly like the Fremont strings despite having read so many positive reviews of them. I liked the sound of the aquilas even though I tend to never choose them for my ukes. My favorite were the southcoast strings. They seemed to have an extra level of complexity and clarity of tone. I’ll be ordering them soon. Second choice were the worths which I find to make pretty much any ukulele sound good. Third choice were the oasis warm low G. Haven’t tried them personally but given what a bargain they are I think there’s a good chance they’ll make it onto all my ukes for testing purposes at some stage.

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  4. Very enlightening video comparison. My conclusion is that ALL of them sound fantastic on that Kamaka!
    On my tenor I hear huge differences between nylgut and fluorocarbon but everything sounds great on that HF3! Time to upgrade my uke, I think.

  5. I have a Kamaka HF3 and I’ve tried a number of different string sets on it. String tone and feel are subjective, and I’ve found that what I hear online is not what I hear on my ukulele. That’s reasonable; recorded sound is not going to match live sound without very high quality recording and playback equipment. However, airiness, thickness and thinness of sound is reasonably well represented in most recordings, and differences in tone can be heard. I’ve found that I don’t like the Ko’Olau strings I’ve tried as they feel too thin, too soft, but would be good if one had a very light touch on the fingerboard/fretboard. I like the stock Kamaka blacks for tone and especially for their percussive chunk, but they are heavy, feel high tension and are not the best for quick fingering due to their feel. I’ve tried various Aquila sets in high and low G, and while some are okay, especially for ease on the fingers, they seem to lack brilliance, and one set tried recently seemed to use much heavier gauge material than sets that I’d tried earlier. To date, the best combination of tone and feel that I’ve experienced on my Kamaka tenor are the Martin Flourocarbon strings. They’re lighter feeling than the Kamaka blacks, much easier playing, and they have a brilliance, a clean sound, while the blacks have a definite darker coloration in tone, with a solidity the Martin’s don’t quite reach. The Martin’s carry more treble, though, and would likely be heard distinct in a room full of tenors strung with Kamaka Blacks, not due to volume, but due to perceived frequency range. Ya know, regarding tone, moving from one string set to another is like moving the levers on a hifi’s equalizer, just more time consuming. On another note, I’d like to see ukulele string manufacturers apply gauge ratings in the manner that strings for guitars are applied – extra light, light, medium, heavy, etcetera, along with the actual string thickness, as that would make it easier to select more comparable sets from the different makers. To sum, the Kamaka Blacks and Martin Flourocarbon high G sets are my favorites to date, and they are quite different, when you compare them for tone and feel. Each has its particular qualities. I suspect that I need more ukuleles to get the most out of the strings..Haha!

  6. Spot on with this write-up, I really think this website needs
    much more attention. I’ll probably be returning to read more, thanks for the advice!

  7. Very helpul. I had no idea that the Kamaka strings were actually D’addario strings. All the strings sounded amazing, but I personally liked the Kamak strings the best, and I am definitely going to try them on my uke.

  8. Very helpful and informative – I like the Worth and South Coast… of course, I may be influenced by the fact that I’ve got both on order. In any case, this was a fine effort by you folks to help players compare string sets – Thanks.

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  9. I’ve always used Worths (low G), on my ukes, but after recently buying a Kamaka tenor from your good selves, I found the intonation was out on the Worths, same with a set of Daddario fluorocarbons.
    However, on restringing with Kamaka blacks, the intonation was practically spot on, and they sound good too.
    Just not too keen on a wound low G though, (scratchy).

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      Thanks Geoff! Try the Fremont soloist low G. It has the punch of the wound low G without the squeakiness.

  10. Extremely helpful guidance with respect to strings! Hope to see more reviews in the future. I really like the Southcoast strings. The Kamaka HF-3’s sound is just wonderful no matter which string set is used.

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