Where we do the ultimate ukulele showdowns and Comparison Videos, always more COMING SOON!
Check out individual product pages for more model specific videos! These reviews were taken from our Blog Site - TheUkuleleReview.com
New- Pono RTSH-Blackbird-KoAloha-Kanilea - Sound sample comparison!
NEW- 10 Hawaiian ukes sampled back to back! 3 concerts and 7 tenors-!
NEW- 8 of the Most Popular Tenor String Sets Compared!
Even people with expensive ukuleles need something less expensive to take around, or leave on the couch, and recently I have been amazed at how affordable a good ukulele can be. We took ten ukulele, three under $100, and seven under $200, and gave you a video/audio sample of what can be yours for.....well lets just say you might not even have to ask your wife.
20 Ukuleles under $200
4 Hawaiian Soprano/Standards Compared
3 Hawaiian Tenors Compared
The one thing you should know before buying an ukulele...
(Source - theukulelereview.com) The ukulele has mass appeal due to it's comfortable size and beautiful voicing. It works for any type of music, any size person, and can be found in any ones price range.
If you are buying your first ukulele you may not want to spend much because you are not sure how much you are gonna enjoy it and play it. This is where it gets tricky. Because the cheaper you go the harder it is to play, and less likely it is to stay in tune. As a result, you will play it less. And the only way to have fun and freedom on a musical instrument is to play it every day until it feels natural. The more you play, the more fun it becomes.
So, what is this one thing you should know? Well it is not that you need to spend a lot more money. The one thing you should know before buying an ukulele is that almost every ukulele under $300 and many over 300 need to be "set up" by the store you buy from. It takes very specialized knowledge to do this correctly.
I understand why most companies manufacturing ukes do not do this themselves. In the market, price rules. Everyone has a price point. So these companies, just like most online music stores, end up simply moving boxes in and out the door hoping never to see them again. The bean counters won't allow a worker to sit there all day making $100 ukuleles play better.
Luckily, here at Hawaii Music Supply, we don't count beans. Because we know that if your $100 ukulele plays easier and better, you are much more likely to play it longer and get better at it. And eventually you feel worthy of a better ukulele. And we will be happy to help you again.
Now with that said, if you know you want to be inspired by a great uke right off the bat and you are able to spend a bit more, it is definitely worth it! All the setup in the world will not make a $100 ukulele sound like a $500 ukulele. I'll give you an example with this recent experience. I recently came back from San Fransisco where my wife surprised me with Medeski, Martin, and Wood tickets at the Independent. This is a groove improv Jazz band that I have loved for years but never seen live. Being a "musicians" band I ended up in a conversation with a drummer/banjo player that has recently added the ukulele to his repertoire. He had a cheaper soprano and was having fun "messing around with it", but recently aquired a tenor Pono for something "bigger sounding". He was surprised at the amount of difference this made in his musical ability with the instrument. While he knew he would enjoy it more, it went beyond that. He was now using it live and composing what he never would have. Was it worth the extra amount he spent?
I have personally experienced this in a similar way. Though I love the ukulele, I am primarily a Bass player. I have played many basses of every quality. My favorite basses are Warrior basses, a custom shop in Georgia. Any level player can feel and hear the quality in these instruments. They are very easy to play and the tone is perfect for what I like. But most importantly, my inspiration to play or practice is much greater. Was it worth the thousands of dollars I spent? Hell ya!! My whole quality of life is better! Now maybe for some bass players it is a Marcus Miller, or a 90's Tobias, but the point is ...- it Does make a Big difference. So get an expensive ukulele if you can. It is worth it. But if you can not, there is no reason to hold off. I would rather have a $50 Makala in my room than no uke at all. And getting an ukulele from us means no matter how much or little you spend, you will be good to go!
Aloha from Hawaii!
What Makes an Ukulele Good?
About 6 years ago, when Hawaii Music Supply was above Ko'olau Ukulele in Kaneohe, Mike Aratani would come by and give us "blind" sound tests with our ukes. With your eyes covered he would play the same thing on 5 or 6 different ukes. We would have to guess which model was being played. Do this sometime if you get the chance and see how challenging it can be. Perhaps half of what we listen to is our eyes and preconceptions. I am, however, glad to say - my honest and unbiased opinion is that Hawaiian ukes rule. You just can't get what we got in China. Don't get me wrong, I know China can produce great things. The computer I am looking at was made in China, probably by people a lot smarter than me. And in the ukulele market you can get a good value and quality instrument made in China. If that bothers you then just play Hawaiian on it for a few years. It will be like raising a Chinese kid in Hawaii. After so long they are practically Hawaiian. But seriously, the bottom line is that most people need a deal you won't find in a Hawaiian made uke. And that is no reason to not make music with the ukulele. But people ask me if the $60 Makala was made here. I can't even fill up my tank for $60. Or get the supplies to make an ukulele. I don't know how they do it that cheap, but I am glad they do because we can't afford to give our kids a $700 ukulele to learn on. Or even justify to our wife why we need to spend that much even though we barely have any time to play. But if you can afford to.... I am not a real "we're the best" kind of thinker, but listen for yourself to the difference in a Hawaiian made ukulele. Of course I know, "tone is subjective", and I don't push my opinion because it just works out naturally. If you can't hear the difference in the more expensive one, then you don't need to spend that much. Problem solved.
Sound is only one aspect in the quality of a musical instrument, but is arguably the most important. So let's just focus on that for now. Sound. What makes the sound of an ukulele.. good? To start off with, this video addresses common misconceptions people gather when learning about the ukulele. It seems nowadays, people rarely get or give their information from true research, experience, and thought. I find myself in forums full of regurgitated opinions. "the blind leading the blind". What makes a good uke is like asking what makes a good person. It is not something you can prove with a resume. The point is -The truth is not always in specs.
For instance, in my opinion the worst sounding of all demoed was the Mango Lanikai. ?? But it is All Solid Wood!?? Bone Nut and Saddle! Four times the price of others! Oh well. At least it feels super good after we dress the frets and lower the action. And personally, I still put feel #1. And anyway, that is just my opinion of it's sound. Listen and compare with your own ears and mind.
For those of you that can't come to the store and play and feel these instruments, our sound clips here on our site is your next best resource. As far as feel, we give every single ukulele shipping out a pro level set up that we are pretty sure you will love.
So check out our product pages and see what the most popular model ukuleles actually sounds like. Going elsewhere can be like reading my blog to learn how fo' write. Cheeee-hoo! Enjoy Aaron's video review!
The Pono Pro-Classic Series
At first glance, the new Pono Pro-Classic series ukulele looks like the Custom shop Deluxe series Ko'olau ukulele. At closer inspection, the new Pono Pro Classic still looks like a Deluxe series Ko'olau! And once you strum it, you are amazed at the volume and body of the sound.
There will always be a superiority to a custom shop ukulele built by a master luthier from start to finish. Yet, to get the features you want on a custom shop ukulele, it will put you well over a thousand dollars and beyond. Pono is a production model version of the custom shop Ko'olau. When you look at the build quality you can see the attention to detail; precise cutting and routing on the all wood bindings and purflings, the finish is glassy flat and, as you can hear from the resonance, not too thick, which is common on import gloss finishes. The only way you can get this quality is from very skilled and experienced craftsmen with a critical eye, and an artist's desire.
John Kitakis, owner of Ko'olau, didn't want to just "move boxes" with a cheap import line. He wanted to make the quality and depth of a Ko'olau instrument available to you at a price that you can afford (and justify it to your partner). And even though there is an unsurpassed refinement to the Ko'olau custom models, Pono is built with the same quality, design, woods, and most importantly, the meticulous oversite by Ko'olau.
Each model from the Pro Classic Series has quite a few different options. Options include cutaway, slotted headstock, or an excellent passive pickup system. There are a few of the 5 series which have REAL abalone going around the top. For those of you who have only seen Oscar Schmidt style abalone, it's not the same. I'm not knocking them, because it's a totally different price range. I'm just making a point that not all "abalone inlay" is real abalone. On cheaper instruments this can actually make it worse, like the thick plastic looking pearl known in the industry as "mother of toilet seat". The two maple #5's shown in this video have eye popping figured woods that leave you in amazement, but the Pro-Classic isn't just about the "sparkle" of glitzing out an ukulele with flame exotic woods, mother of pearl and all those other buzz words. Instead, they used classic design and traditional woods. There is a reason why Rosewood, Mahogany, Spruce, Cedar, and Maple are used on stringed instruments more than any other woods. They are tried and true, and loved for their tonal qualities.
These ukes are setup to be professional level performing instruments with custom shop quality components. All Pono ukulele are made with solid woods and come with the industry's best hardshell case. The tone on these instruments would rival just about anything out there and warrant the slightly higher price you step up to. If you simply want a quality sound, look , and feel and do not require Koa wood or 100% Hawaiian labor, these instruments will definitely serve you well and allow you to attain your musical goals. Enjoy the video! Aloha!
Cordoba Tenor review
3 Ukulele Clip On Tuners Reviewed
So what is out? your my - your dog - your has - or your fleas? Probably all of them!! But, here we will show you three magical devices that will keep you sounding good. Working at a music store, I can't imagine life without them. Aaron gives his best "Shoot Out" as he calls it, comparing features and opinions on these 3 Tuners from Ukulele companies. Which one do I like? Which ever one is closest! Enjoy the Video info and review. It's not the most exciting shoot out, but this video will come in handy when looking for an ukulele clip on tuner. Aloha!
How to use a clip on tuner
6 tenor strings compared
In this video Aaron runs through 6 of the 20 or more string options you have with a tenor ukulele. The first set is the Kamaka all nylon. Aaron describes them as bright and loud. To me they are strong in the higher mid range, so you get a cutting, punchy, mid range tone. Very different from the Aquila strings brightness, which are sharper in the highest frequencies with a more scooped mid section. The scooped mid range is a common way to make an acoustic sound "sweeter", but you lose a little body as you go. The two biggest factors are the way the instrument was built and the technique of the player. And even after that, the way a string affects the EQ of an instrument can not prove it to be better, because the best sound is still an opinion. I do have my opinion that the Aquila strings really help out the less expensive ukulele’s. The accentuated highs can bring it more alive and the lower tension can help the feel and longevity of the uke. However, on a more expensive ukulele, or with certain styles of music, or through an amplifier or PA, Aquila may not be my first choice. The Low G Alohi was my favorite sound from the 6 Kamaka’s. However, it seems almost necessary to have 2-4 tenors with different string setups. Don't you see how perfectly reasonable this is!
4 concert strings sets compared