Thursday, October 25, 2007

Revisiting the Honu

Ever since I first saw the Honu ukuleles from musicguymic's ebay store, I've been interested in getting one, since I seem be a big fan of honus (sea turtles) as I have lots of honu themed Hawaiian t-shirts. In August, Mike put up a Honu Super Deluxe concert uke up for auction. It was a newer design that's only sold in Japan at the moment. He had put one up earlier for sale and I was mesmerized by it as it seem to have every cool feature and decorative element you can think of. Plus it had that sweet looking honu shaped bridge. At that time I wasn't in the market for another uke so I did not go for it. But when it came up for auction in August, I was ready to go for it. Fortunately for me, I was willing to pay more than anyone else was willing to pay for it at the time and won the auction at $500. Given that the retail price for this particular uke in Japan (model #CT-KXXX) was closer to $800, I was happy with the price.

When it arrived to me, I wasn't all that impressed with the sound. It looked like a million bucks and the workmanship was flawless, but the sound didn't really impress me too much. It was a bit thin and quiet. Now keep in mind that since the uke I got right before this was a KoAloha Pineapple Sunday, which is in a class by itself, it probably would have taken something truly special to impress me at that point. After a day or two, I changed the stock Aquila strings to some Worth BM's (Brown Medium). It made the uke sound quite a bit better, especially at the higher frets, where it made a really nice and extremely clear sound. I also noticed that this uke has some serious sustain. Where all my other ukes, including the Pineapple Sunday, would sustain a picked note for about 4-5 seconds, the Honu would easily reach 6 seconds or more. It also had a 1.5" nut width with very wide string spacing, which makes it an excellent uke for fingerpicking. The sound still seemed a bit quiet and thin, but I was much happier with it and determined that it was a worthy purchase.

A month or so after getting the Honu, I ordered some new Worth strings, which included some CD's (Clear Dense) that I have not tried before. I decided to try those CD on the Honu. These worked very well and I thought I liked them on the Honu even better than the BM's. While the tone with the BM's sounded very nice, the uke felt a bit "slappy" sounding. With the CD's, that "slappy" sound seem to be minimized and the uke retained a nice crystal clear sound. By that time, however, I had acquired a Kanile'a super soprano and was very much enjoying that uke and the Honu was not played much.

Fast forward to this past week. I've been rotating between playing my ukes (mainly the 4 koa ukes I have) during the night time. I've come to apprieciate the Honu more and more in the past week. It no longer seem quiet and the crystal clear sound is becoming more appealing to me each day. Compared to the Kanile'a SS, the Honu is more trebly and seem a bit clearer sounding. While I felt I had preferred the Kanile'a's sound before, I now enjoy the sound of the Honu more and it is fast becoming my favorite uke.

So it has taken me a while to truly apprieciate what I had in the Honu concert uke, but I'd say it's never too late to apprieciate your ukes.

Here is a sound file of me playing Blue Roses Falling on the Honu concert.


Anonymous said...

I have a Honu cutaway tenor and I agree about the thinness and rather lack of volume, but that said, it really records well because of this. My model is an electric. I had to have the frets leveled and their is an issue with the jack loosening up, but otherwise I am very happy with it. I did a recording with it if you want to hear at: Mahalo! -Baron/

Rayan said...

Great review George. I had a nice long talk with the guy behind these ukuleles today. I am very interested in getting my and Aldrine's hands on one of them. We'll probably be working with them in the very near future at UU.

Which uke should I bring on my next trip to Oahu???

What's the maximum you'd spend on a ukulele case for your best uke?

If you could steal one of my ukes, which one would it be???

How curly do you like your koa? (preferably on a uke)

What's the maximum number of ukes a perfectly sane person should have???

Poll: How often do you play the ukulele???

Poll: Which guitar company's approach to ukes do you prefer???

Poll: What's your favorite type of headstock???

Poll: The new basic Collings concert uke (UC-1) sells for about $1k, your reaction is: