Kamaka HF‐3 Tenor Ukulele Review

– A guest review by Ben Hinkley

I received my Kamaka ukulele yesterday, and what an instrument it is. I bought it from Elderly Instruments, Lansing MI.  I was offered a really polite and efficient service ordered on Friday morning of the 29th August and shipped to the U.K where I received it on Monday morning of the 1st September.  This was a lightning fast delivery from a company that I would recommend to anyone…

I was very apprehensive about buying a tenor sized ukulele as I have always bought and played
the soprano and concert sizes, but as soon as I saw this tenor in the flesh, I knew I’d never willingly
part with it.

When I opened my package I was delighted to find my Kamaka in a shaped, hard shell instrument
case.  Both instrument and case were made for each other, hand in glove.

Build –
The top, back and side are all made entirely from solid Hawaiian Acacia Koa, with what I believe to
be a Sapele neck (one piece)…..correct me if I am wrong.

All joins on the body are immaculate, with no rough edges.  Although around the inside rim of the
sound hole there is a slight roughness but nothing to complain about.  On inspection I found that the Kamaka Ukulele is extremely well built, with adequate internal bracing.

When I looked inside my uke, I found that there was a serial number and a build date stamped
onto the internal neck joint, my uke was built on June 12th 2008.  The serial number is given so
that Kamaka can track the instrument details if anything goes wrong with it.

The fret board is of Rosewood as is the bridge.

The tuners are Schaller closed gears, which are ideal for this instrument, tuning is a doddle.

Finish –
The Kamaka HF‐3 Tenor 4 String Ukulele has an open grain gloss finish on the top, back and sides.
The open grain adds to the character of the instrument, I shouldn’t have liked it to have been a
completely “smooth as glass” finish.

The headstock has a piece of Koa that is fitted to the Sapele with the iridescent KK logo inlaid on it.

Look at that wonderful Koa grain.

The Kamaka HF‐3 Tenor 4 String Ukulele is a no frills instrument, just plain old wood, no sound
hole rosette, very plain fret dot‐markers.  One thing I will add though is that I like my fret markers
to be on the side of the fret board so that I can see where I’m moving my fingers when learning
new songs, the Kamaka tenor has one dot on the side of the seventh fret (I see this as them
meeting me halfway).

Specs ‐

Totally straight, at first sight I thought the nut and saddle to be of some kind of plastic compound,
but I do believe them to be of bone.

• Overall length: 27‐1/8″
• Scale length: 17″
• Total  frets: 18
• Frets to the body: 14
• The retail cost is around $980, but they can be bought a bit cheaper if ordered direct from
the factory – I noticed that KAMAKA HAWAII INC. were offering a 10% discount.

How does it sound and play? –
Well this instrument is fantastic in every way for me.  After the apprehension of actually taking
the plunge in buying this bigger than normal size of ukulele – for me I have been pleasantly
surprised with the size and the tenor sound it offers.

The sound is so sweet, with a tone that I have never experienced as an owner of an instrument
before.  I give credit to the Koa wood for the tone.

Sustain is excellent.  I would imagine that the bone nut and saddle contribute to note volume,
making a simple hammer‐on and pull‐off very easy and very effective.

Intonation is spot on, harmonics are perfect.

The playability of the HF‐3 is very good, it’s comfortable to hold and moving up and down the fret
board is very smooth – no sharp fret edges – the scale length is a bit more than I’m used to but I’ll
soon overcome that.  The action is very low which adds to the enjoyment of playing, I barely feel
like I need to touch the strings on the frets to get the sound that I want – no buzzing either.

Sound bite ‐

kamaka-hf3 – .MP3 file 585k

All in all –
I would recommend this Ukulele to anyone who wants to go the extra yard with their budget, I
say, “don’t be afraid, you’ll never regret it.”  After all if you look after your Kamaka ukulele it
should last you for many years and may also be worth something one day.  Enjoy & Aloha.

5 Responses to “Kamaka HF‐3 Tenor Ukulele Review”

  1. That’s a beauty, Julie. Thanks for the review. What was the price?

  2. Nate: I didn’t write this review, Ben did. Hopefully he’ll respond to your question about price 🙂
    I agree that he did a great job on the review!

  3. Hello Nate – thanks for the support and also thanks to Julie too.;-{))
    The price of the Kamaka HF-3 Tenor at most retail outlets is around $1040 but if you buy direct from the KAMAKA factory in Hawaii then you can pick it up for $900 (the last time I looked they were offering an additional 10% discount). I recently got a Koaloha KSM-00 Soprano uke but I don’t get to play it much since the Kamaka arrived – it is a joy to play – it getting me into trouble as I would rather play my uke than work (I do work from home so I do manage to get to work at least).

  4. I’d like to add that the Kamaka came with Kamaka strings on it, which sound great, after a few days though I switched to AQUILA ALL NYLGUT strings (no wound string)and the sound is soooo much better, brighter and rounded. Although Aquila strings, I find only sound their best on SOLID KOA instruments. I put Aquila strings on my old ARIA soprano (solid Mahogany) and the sound is not so good – a bit abrasive – sooo I have found that D’addario strings sound better on Mahogany ukes. Try it out and see what you think. ;-{))

  5. I’ve had a Kamaka tenor (the same model) for four years. The sound has improved and the lacquer odor is gone.The extra string tension took a bit of adjustment.
    It is sweet and loud, as loud as my National, with that great koa sound. I got rid of my Martin soprano as it no longer measured up in sound quality, but it was easier to play.
    I have tried various strings. I used Ko’olau gold for a couple of years andd I’m now using Aquila Nylgut.
    I’m not sure which I prefer, the Aquila’s seem louder and the Ko’olau seem sweeter. It’s so subjective.
    I’ve tried GHS on my National and they were a mistake. I’ve used Aquila’s on it but I’m going to try the Ko’olau. On my Kepasa Little Mac I only have used Aquila.

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