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, “pono” means goodness and excellence. Let’s see if this instrument lives up to that definition…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bone is used for both the nut and saddle. Pono’s use a tie-on style saddle, which I prefer over a pin style.
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.
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.
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:
Yeah, I know I need to make some new videos 😉 I’ll make one for my next instrument review
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.
The Pono fits in the case like a hand in a glove.
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.