Ko’olau Pono PKC 1-E Ukulele Review

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The Ko’olau Pono PKC 1-E was the first ukulele that I purchased when I came down with the uke virus last October. Pono’s are Ko’olau’s economy line of ukuleles. They are built in an Indonesian factory, on the island of Java and then their final adjustments and set-up are done on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. In Hawaiian, β€œpono” means goodness and excellence. Let’s see if this instrument lives up to that definition…

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This particular model (style #1) is constructed with a gloss finished solid Hawaiian Koa top, back, sides and faceplate. The neck is Mahogany, with Ebony used for the fingerboard and bridge. Adornments include an inlaid pearl Pono logo on the peghead face plate, inlaid pearl fingerboard position dots for frets 5, 7, 10, 12, and 15. There’s also a rope rosette inlay around the sound hole. Grover open geared tuners are used and the instrument comes strung with Ko’olau Gold Strings. A high quality Ko’olau hardshell case is also included.

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The PKC 1-E is a concert sized ukulele. When I first decided that I wanted to start playing this instrument, I wasn’t even aware that there were three different sizes: Soprano, Concert and Tenor. There are actually four sizes if you count the Baritone uke… but they are a slightly different animal. Concerts fall right in the middle as far as size, and this particular ukulele is approximately 24.25 inches long, 8 inches wide and 2.75 inches deep at the lower bout.

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The -E designation means that it has a Dean Markley under-saddle pickup installed. As you can see in the image above, the pickup port can double as a strap button.

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I just love the beautifully figured wood grain on this ukulele. It has a very rich color that almost seems to glow in certain light.

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The style #1 model doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles when it comes to adornments. That’s actually fine by me. I don’t really get all that worked up by lots of inlay work. I want a ukulele that sounds wonderful first and looks nice second.

The little fancy touches that the PKC 1-E does have are welcome though. The rope rosette really sets off the top.

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And the pearl inlay on the peg head picks up Pinks and Blues in different light.

Upon very close inspection, I was unable to find any imperfections in the wood or workmanship. All joints are smooth and even and the gloss finish is flawless. The craftsmanship on this instrument is extremely good for what would be considered an import. The only thing I could find to complain about is that the edges of the frets are ever so slightly snaggy when you slide your hand up and down the neck.

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Bone is used for both the nut and saddle. Pono’s use a tie-on style saddle, which I prefer over a pin style.

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Grover open geared tuners are used. I have found that I do like using geared tuners over the more traditional peg style. For me they allow for more precise and easy tuning.
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Of the three ukuleles that I currently own (Pono, KoAloha and Koa Pili Koko) the Pono has the best action. Playing it seems easier and more comfortable than the others. It could be because I’ve had this one the longest and played it the most, but I think there’s a bit more to it than that. The intonation is also spot on all the way up and down the neck.

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So, the Pono PKC 1-E both looks great, and plays great, but how does it sound? I think it sounds very nice and I have no complaints in that regard. It’s mellow and warm. I don’t believe that the Pono has the same traditional Hawaiian sound that my KoAloha ukulele has though.

Here’s a link to a short sound bite and a couple of videos to give you an idea of what this instrument sounds like:

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Amazing Grace video
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star video

Yeah, I know I need to make some new videos πŸ˜‰ I’ll make one for my next instrument review πŸ™‚

I should also mention that with every Pono ukulele, you get a great hardshell case. I love this case. My other two ukes came with zippered canvas gear bags… yucko.

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The Pono fits in the case like a hand in a glove. πŸ™‚

I’m very happy with my first ukulele and am impressed with Ko’olau. I would definitely recommend this particular uke to anyone looking for an instrument that not only looks gorgeous, but sounds very pretty too.

If you own this same model, please share your thoughts and comments.

The Pono PKC 1-E lists for $524.95, but can be found for a bit less through various online retailers. I purchased mine from ukulele4u.

15 Responses to “Ko’olau Pono PKC 1-E Ukulele Review”

  1. Very nice review, pictures are lovely and clear. I’m looking forward to your review of the Koa Pili Koko as I’ve been thinking of picking up one of those in the consert size.

  2. I bought a deluxe soprano Koa Pili Koko so that I would have at least one soprano sized uke in my collection. I’ll either review it next, or my KoAloha KCM-00.

  3. Good review. Great looking uke! Question though… Have you been playing so much that you have already worn the finish in the ‘strumming area’? Or is that caused by the photography?

  4. Solana: No, I haven’t worn off the finish πŸ˜‰ That flash on my camera just blew out that portion of the image.

    How was Hawaii and your visit with some luthiers?

  5. It was fabulous! Got to meet and visit with Sam Rosen at the Ukulele Gallery and also got to meet and visit with KonaBob. The gf was actually so impressed with KonaBob’s Walking Bass and demo that she bought one! Also went to the jam session at the Ukulele Gallery and got to see some really good and talented players. Sam was a great help in providing me with some resources for building my own uke, which was very cool!

  6. Excellent! If you do build a uke, you’ll have to let us know how it turns out πŸ™‚

  7. Great looking uke. I’m sure it sounds great. Really quick, what strings do you have strung on that four-string beast?

  8. The strings are Ko’olau Golds. I’ve heard that Ko’olau strings can have intonation problems, but I must have gotten a good set as mine are fine. You can hear how the uke and strings sound by clicking on the sound bite link towards the end of the review. πŸ™‚

  9. […] your noggin This style of tuner is available in enclosed and open types. The picture above is my Pono PKC-1E. I like this style of tuner better than the friction style used on my KoAloha because they allow […]

  10. forrrge:
    I just posted my review of the Koa Pili Koko deluxe soprano. πŸ™‚
    http://ukulelereview.com/2008/02/11/koa-pili-koko-deluxe-soprano-ukulele/

  11. […] instruments, but I do like my ukuleles to have just a little bit of style. I ended up buying a Ko’olua Pono uke, but kept the KoAloha in the back of my mind because of all the good comments that I had read […]

  12. Thank you so much for this excelent review! It was crucial in my decision to purchase the non-electric version of this instrument… and I am incredibly happy! It is such a wonderful little uke at such a brilliant price. Your images were definately a selling point for me. (MY personal ukulele is even prettier then yours, I’m afraid!)

    Thank you so much for this wonderful review.

  13. Wow, it is hard to believe that you have one even nicer looking than mine πŸ˜‰ What size did you end up going with?

  14. I think the Pono’s are beautiflly crafted, but I find they sound very unresponsive. The wood and finish are too thick to get a truly good sound….

  15. I was given this Ukulele for my birthday I was unable to go to Hawaii with the rest of the family and this was an awesome souvenir. I love the sound and size. I however do not have the pickup on mine. I am looking for a descent acoustic electric Ukulele for my next uke

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