Kiwaya KTS-7 Ukulele Review

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Ok, maybe I shouldn’t call this posting an actual review as I only had this instrument in my hands for about an hour before I boxed it back up and shipped it back to ukulele4u. I ordered it because I wanted to find out if a soprano sized ukulele felt ‘better’ to me than a concert sized ukulele. My first uke was/is a concert sized Pono. Ever since I bought it, I kept wondering if I had chosen the wrong size to learn on. I tested a tenor and found that it wasn’t to my liking, so the Kiwaya KTS-7 caught my eye and I decided to give it a shot too.

I’m surprised that the Kiwaya brand isn’t talked about all that often in ukulele forums. Apparently it’s been around since 1919 and is the most popular Japanese ukulele on the market. Their style of instruments are copies of the coveted vintage Martin ukes.

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The KTS-7 is a copy of the Martin 3M. It’s a soprano sized ukulele made of solid Mahogany, with a rosewood fretboard, 17 frets and nickel plated Gotoh friction tuners.

I found the KTS-7 to be meticuloulsy constructed. There were no cosmetic defects, blemishes, etc to be found. And I looked hard to find one! It’s just perfect in every way… well except for the size… But we’ll get to that in a bit.

One very noticeable thing about this instrument is the weight. It feels light as a feather.

And now for some images…

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Nice looking ukulele, won’t you agree? It sounds as good as it looks. I just wish I my playing could do it justice. Below you will find a sound sample of me playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Hope it gives you a general idea of the tone of this instrument.

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Why didn’t I keep this gorgeous ukulele? The size… Sopranos just feel entirely too small for me. I feel cramped making chords. That’s really the only reason why I sent it back. If you’re interested in a vintage Martin 3M uke, but don’t want your spouse to threaten divorce and don’t want to dip into your savings, the Kiwaya KTS-7 is a wonderful alternative (I’ve not had the opportunity to play a vintage Martin uke, but am taking the word of people more informed than I am about the comparison between the KTS-7 and the 3M). Priced below $800, this ukulele should last a lifetime.

If you own a Kiwaya uke, please share your opinions ๐Ÿ™‚

24 Responses to “Kiwaya KTS-7 Ukulele Review”

  1. Nice review, I’m not interested in Soprano’s anymore either, I find that the Concert size is just me perfect fit. So when are you going to do a review of that Pono concert ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I’ll be reviewing the Pono this weekend if all goes as planned. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I also have a KoAloha concert that should be delivered today ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Is it really possible to review a soprano ukulele when you have only played one?

  4. How many soprano ukes are required before being able to provide an opinion on sound, construction, etc?

  5. Well… a few more than one! It is not possible to properly review a ukulele when you have so little experience. You’re site is called ‘Ukulele Review’ not ‘My Uninformed Ukulele Opinion’, the word review suggests you speak with some authority. You’re not able to review the sound of a ukulele if you haven’t played a number of similar vintage and modern instruments with which to compare it to. At the end of your review you suggest this ukulele is like a Martin 3M, it is styled after that uke, but to suggest it as a cheap alternative you need to compare it’s sound and feel with the real thing. Also how does it sound and feel compared to a style0, these can be bought for less and have the real vintage Martin sound. You seem to think that people choose ukuleles by the size of the fretboard; there is in fact a significant difference between the sound of soprano and concert size ukuleles. You also seem to think that a poor quality recording will somehow allow people to hear the tone of the instrument, type of microphone used, mic placement and room colouration will all affect the tone of the uke.

  6. You make some very valid comments. I admitted at the beginning of the ‘review’ that I was only able to play with this instrument for a very short period of time before I had to return it. I compare it to the Martin 3M because others more informed than I am have commented to me directly that this instrument is a great alternative. But you’re right that it is unfair for me to compare the KTS-7 to an instrument I’ve never actually played. I’ll make a note of that in the review and will not make the mistake of making uninformed statements like that in future reviews. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Julie, you seem like a lovely person and well meaning. However you have missed my point, it is not the length of time you played the Kiwaya for, but your ability to comment on it with no experience of any other soprano ukulele. I would not trust a CD review from someone who had never heard music. You have added some unattributed hearsay as to the comparison with a Martin 3M as if this makes it all right. The only comments I have read where this uke is recommended as an alternative to the Martin have been made by dealers trying to sell them, these opinions are not independent. Can you cite your sources as to the comparison?

  8. I know that at first–especially with the bigger ukes flooding the market–that a soprano can seem cramped. But as someone dedicated to the review of these instruments (and so early into the hobby), it seems you would want to give this most traditional instrument the chance it deserves. The Kiwaya is certainly a superior factory-built instrument, and you’re not going to find a much better mahogany uke in the production market. However, like most aspects of music, it takes time to adjust to new sizes and to work out fingerings for a short-scale instrument. I, for one, am glad that not everybody is a soprano player. However, sopranos are, in my estimation, the “original” sound of the ‘ukulele. My recommendation? Get a good sounding, less expensive soprano (geez, even a vintage Martin 0 would be less than the Kiwaya!), and let it hang out with you for a few months just to see if it doesn’t take.

  9. Good idea. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m in a spending spree these next few days and will try to find a good soprano to test for more than 1 hr. I should have never called this article a ‘review’ as it was more of a quick look. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Great review, Julie! Sounds to me that you performed a careful inspection and provided a qualified review. You simply didn’t like the size.

  11. Solana: Thank you for your comments! More instrument reviews coming very soon. I just received my new Zoom H2 recorder, so that I can make better sample sound bites.

  12. Looking forward to them Julie!

  13. […] The ukulele comes in various shapes and styles. There are regular classic style ukes, like the Kiwaya KTS-7. There are also ukes made of plastic, banjo ukes, cigar box ukes, boat paddle shaped ukes and […]

  14. Thanks for your review, Julie. I for one found it very informative and not at all misleading since you’re upfront about your level of experience. If I have to choose between a review by an inexperienced player and no review at all, the former wins every time. I particularly like the professional quality photos. As I’m sure you know, there aren’t many photos of Kiwayas out there and the ones on the Kiwaya site leave a lot to be desired. Thanks for confirming that the Kiwayas at this level are constructed and finished as meticulously as I’d hoped. Like you, I find sopranos too small but if I see a Kiways concert…

  15. Thank you for the compliment on my photos!

    I’m very tempted to buy a concert sized Kiwaya… but I don’t want to get too carried away with my UAS ๐Ÿ˜‰

  16. Julie, I found your review and sound clip very helpful. I’ve had the UAS for a little over a year now and had bought a Samach laminate top concert, a Kala laminate top soprano and a Bushman Jenny soprano and was aching for more when my brother informed me that he had our grandfather’s Martin 2k (which I didn’t know about) and he sent it to me because he plays guitar and I play uke (sort of). So with one of the holy grail of ukes in my hand I got spoiled and ended up buying a kiwaya kts-4 on ebay and to my great delight it plays very favorably to the Martin and has become my every day uke.

  17. Doug:
    Thank you for your comment. It is much appreciated. I actually just purchased a KTS-4 myself ๐Ÿ™‚ Kiwaya sure knows how to make a wonderful uke.

  18. I have had a Kiwaya KTS-4 for just over a year now and found it to be absolutely superb. The dealer I got it from can’t recommend all of their line enough and he deals with just about every high class make there is.
    I have tried other traditional manufacturers Uke’s and have done a great deal of research, my conclusions therefore are that you would be very unlucky to get any of the Kiwaya line and not be totally satisfied. As Julie said at the start, these Uke’s are feather light compared with pretty much everything else and the quality of finishing, action, the whole product, can’t really be faulted. In fact, as far as I can tell, in a Mahogany Soprano or Concert, (I have not tried a Tenor) you would have to search long and hard to find better. Yes, they are not cheap but you do get quality.

  19. I also have a Kiwaya KTS-4 soprano (The KTS-7 without bling and only 12 frets). It’s a really lovely instrument. The craftmansship is superior to all factory ukes I’ve seen so far (Pono, Keli’i, Koaloha, Kala, Risa…). The intonation is spot on, the action is just how I like it… low, but not so low that the strings buzz. The sound is sweet and full and even seems to have improved significantly over time (1 year)… it’s the best sounding uke I’ve ever laid my hands on. I didn’t have the chance to play vintage Martins/Gibsons, but a well known uke player with a garage full of Martins was also quite impressed and really seemed to enjoy playing it. You probably get a better instrument from a luthier, I don’t know. I’ve only played one luthier uke, and I wouldn’t have traded it in. All the positive things Julie said about the KTS-7 apply to the KTS-4 as well.

  20. I play a KTS-7, and it’s the best ukulele I’ve owned or played, and I think I’ve probably played instruments from most modern manufacturers, many of the smaller luthiers in Europe and the USA and most of the well-known vintage manufacturers. I only wish I dared electrify it, so I could play it at large gigs. The neck profile is wonderfully easy to play with, and the seventeen frets make it hugely versatile; it’s really loud and has a warm, buttery tone. It’s almost like a concert, somehowvsqueezed into a soprano size. It is so light it feels like it’s made of helium, and the build quality is absolutely flawless. It’s the one uke I would reach for if my house was on fire and I had to rescue one thing. Brilliant.

  21. Hi Julie
    I just wanted to add my support and say that I like the website, your reviews, and particularly your excellent photos.
    To be honest, your (relative) lack of experience is refreshing and even beneficial – other, more experienced reviewers can be a bit intimidating for us beginners, and I trust your ears as much as anybody else’s ๐Ÿ™‚
    I notice that these reviews are from quite some time ago, so that makes you a lot more experienced than me anyway ๐Ÿ™‚

    Keep up the good work ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. I have a Kiwaya KTC-1, the replacement for my vintage martin soprano. this concert sounds almost as good as my Martin did, and will probably sound every bit as good as it ages. This being a concert, it has the little bit more room I needed hit certain cords cleanly, but not too much where some would be a stretch. This little beauty only has a 12 FRET NECK, just like the Martin soprano, and it still has the traditional ukulele sound.I sometimes wish it were a KTC-2, same uke w/ a 17 fret neck, but I bought it used so it wasn’t an option. I can’t say enough about this Kiwaya product, I love it.

  23. oodles of hugs on March 15th, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    I have had lots and lots of soprano ukulele’s and have quite a few ukuleles.
    I prefer the vintage martins especially the early 1920’s 3K’s and 3M’s This is when they used french polish and before they sprayed the ukuleles. all hand rubbed if you can believe it. While I agree a more informed review would be one compared to others you have played. I did enjoy your photos. they showcased the instrument nicely. I feel that the criticism of the irritable responders a bit harsh and intentionally hostile. I just ordered my first Kiwaya KTS7 so I will play it and write something. cheers!

  24. The ukulele pictured here in this review is the ukulele i own. i stumbled upon by chance being sold on ebay. I am luckily enough to live near the Southern ukulele store in southbourne bournemouth where i purchased my first kiwaya uke a ks1 it was the volume and build quality that impressed me and made me buy it. A few months later i played a KtS4 in teh S.U.S it was awesome andi just had to have it.. months later this kiwaya KTS7 appeared on ebay and i won it at a real bargain price. it is the finest instrument that i could ever wish to own. Owning it now it is irreplaceable and would easily of payed 10 times the amount i payed, knowing now of the ukuleles quality and sound, it really is “the Ukulele of dreams’ . Better than any martin new or vintage i have played … i challenge anyone to find a better uke anywhere. I have been spoilt Living so close to the southern ukulele store as they have, in stock, the finest instruments from all over the world..to try out and play. My Kiwaya KTS7 is the best ukulele in the world in my honest opinion. Every ukulele i play now i judge by this ukulele and none have come close. I am devoted to my Kiwaya KTS7 and will have it for ever…if you are a serious player of ukulele and haven’t tried or played a kiwaya soprano uke try one today.
    Having tried Kiwayas other size ukuleles, concerts and tenors, i can say they do not compare to their sopranos. Whatever it is Kiwaya knows and builds into its soprano ukuleles is perfection.
    Peace x

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