KoAloha ukuleles are one of the most popular Hawaiian made instruments on the market. When I was shopping for my first uke, I kept reading good comments about them, but their looks kept me from actually purchasing one. The pictures that I saw on the web made them look a little boring as they didn’t have any contrasting binding, inlays, etc. Having said that, I don’t really like overly fancy 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 about them as far as their sound.
It didn’t take long for me to come down with an incurable case of UAS (Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome), so my second uke purchase was a KoAloha KCM-00. Let’s see if I can add even more good comments about these ukuleles.
The KCM-00 is a concert sized ukulele made of all Hawaiian Koa except for the neck, which is made of Sapele. Sapele, from what I’ve learned is a type of Mahogany, that comes from Africa.
There are two things that immediately grab your attention upon first seeing a KoAloha ukulele. The first thing is the unique sound hole shape, which might remind you of a teardrop or a guitar pick. Then there is the headstock…
It has a very distinctive design with five points and the KoAloha logo branded into the wood.
Like I mentioned above, I didn’t really care for the look of the KoAloha ukes when I saw them on their site and for sale on Ukulele4u’s ebay shop (where I purchased this instrument). But sound is way more important than looks right? When the instrument arrived, I was really surprised at how much nicer it looked in person.
The Koa body has a very nice grain and color. Not Orange like some web images seem to portray them.
The back of my instrument is very pretty. I guess you would say it’s curly. The finish is glossy and even. It’s not as thick of a finish as my Pono though. If you hold the instrument at an angle to the light, you can see shallow pits in the finish, where the pores in the wood are still evident. This doesn’t effect the sound quality, but some people may consider it a defect in workmanship. It’s not overly noticeable or bothersome to me, but I felt it necessary to point it out. I tried to get a good picture of the issue, but wasn’t successful.
I like the small bridge that is used, along with the slot design for the strings. KoAloha uses TUSQ material for both the saddle and the nut. This man-made ivory substance is supposed to increase volume and sustain.
In addition to the Koa body, the fretboard is also made of Koa, which gives the whole instrument a very uniform look. There is even a thin strip of lighter colored Koa binding for the fretboard. I like this feature as it makes the neck very smooth. You can’t feel any sharp edges from the fret ends when you are moving your hand up and down the neck while playing.
The KCM-00 is 23.75 inches long from end to the tip of the headstock, 8.125 inches wide and 2.5 inches deep at the lower bout. A side view of the KCM-00 shows an interesting angle to the neck heel.
Not an overly exciting feature, but something to point out nonetheless.
KoAloha’s come with Hilo strings installed. Not my favorites, but they sound decent, so I’ve not switched them out yet. The action is low, making playing easy and comfortable. That said, between the KoAloha and my Pono PKC 1-E, I would give a slight nod to the Pono as the one that for me, is easier to play.
Since purchasing my KCM-00 a few months ago, KoAloha is now using different tuners than what you see pictured here. Mine came with the old type Schaller style friction tuners that I found to be nicer than some friction tuners that I’ve seen, due to the large adjustment slot screw head. I’m sure you’ve seen the small Phillips screws used in other tuners. I like these a lot better as there is less fear of stripping them out. That said, I still prefer geared tuners over friction tuners. To each his / her own though…
Overall workmanship on my KoAloha KCM-00 is very good. The only things that I can really be picky about are the pitted finish and the fact that I can feel the seam where the sides meet at the bottom center of the ukulele. Neither of these things would cause me to change my mind about buying this instrument though.
How does the KCM-00 sound? I think it sounds significantly more Hawaiian than my Pono. It has a bright, happy, trebly voice with great sustain and projection. It’s actually almost a little too loud for me at times. My KCM-00 was built in November of 2007, so I can only imagine that the sound will get even better as I play it and time goes by. As it is, I’m happy with the way it sounds. It doesn’t have a mellow sound like the Pono, which is good… I wouldn’t want to own two ukes that have the exact same sound.
Here’s a link to a short sound bite to give you an idea of what this instrument sounds like:
koaloha-kcm00.wav (46 seconds)
Would I buy this instrument again given what I have learned about it? Yes, if I were in the market for a well made traditional Hawaiian sounding ukulele, I would definitely recommend KoAloha.
The KoAloha KCM-00 lists for $610.00, but can be found for a bit less through various online retailers. I purchased mine from ukulele4u.