Thursday, January 22, 2009

Updated lineup rankings

I've had the Kelii and Kanile'a tenors that I impulsively bought for a couple of months now, so it's a good time to rank the lineup again, I think.

Beyond number one, which is still the King tenor, the next 3 spots are really a toss up. I lowered the action on the Kanile'a super tenor and slapped on a set of Worth CTs recently and have been really impressed with it. In terms of sound and feel, it is in the category of the 3 custom ukuleles I have, which is saying a lot. Kanile'a has built a truly outstanding instrument here. Between the Kanile'a super tenor, Koa Works tenor, and Kepasa Gypsy Rose, I could probably rank then in any order. Lately I have been playing the Kanile'a a little more than the other two, if only because I've "discovered" the awesomeness of the super tenor.

Gone from the collection since the last ranking is the Compass Rose tenor. It's a great sounding uke, but it wasn't getting played much due to the narrow nut width (well, that and I have too many other ukes). Plus, I figure it was more "marketable" than some other ones I might try to sell. Sure enough, it sold pretty quickly. Hopefully the new owner enjoys it. I might retroactively do a review on the Compass Rose if I feel up for it as I have pictures and sound files for it.

OK, so let's do a top 10 again:

1. William King long scale tenor: Not a surprise that this one is number one. I think the only threat to it is the King long scale concert I have on order. This ukulele looks, plays, and sounds great. And the emotional attachment one has on a custom specified instrument cannot be understated. If I could only keep one ukulele from my current collection (which would suck, by the way), this would, without question, be the one.

2. Kanile'a super tenor: It's a surprise to me that this ukulele could possibly be rated this high on my list. It arrived to me with action that was a bit high and I felt something was missing with the stock Aquila strings. A change to Worth CTs and lowering the action to a more comfortable height transformed this into an elite sounding instrument. I put this ahead of the Koa Works now because it has a bit more punch (or "bass", or whatever you call it), although the Koa Works has slightly more clarity in its sound. It also feels as good to play as the custom tenors, with a nice feedback that makes the top feel like a trampoline. And as for looks, other than the ugly-fat-kid "super tenor" shape, the wood has some medium curls and looks very nice. Consider that after the Microsoft cashback, this only cost me $580 shipped, this is a killer bargain.

3. Kepasa Gypsy Rose: This ukulele continues to impress me with great sound. It's so clear sounding and oh-so-easy to play. The action might have been setup too low though, as I think I still detect a smidge of string buzz sometimes. I also wish I asked about bound fretboard (not sure if Kevin Crossett does it) as the fret ends are protruding slightly. So this uke does have a bit of a "home made" vibe, but it is still a great player. It seems to be easier to get it to sound good plugged into an amp compared to the King tenor too, even though both has the same Mi-Si pickup.

4. Koa Works tenor: Well, I never thought an "off the shelf" Kanile'a could be ranked ahead of this great ukulele, but that's the case for now. From the sound quality perspective, I think the two ukes are equal. The Koa Works has more clarity while the Kanile'a has more punch, and both excels at their respective end of the spectrum. The Koa Works also looks better, with a lot more bling, although the Kanile'a's wood looks just as nice. The main difference is that the Koa Works is almost 4 times more expensive than the Kanile'a. Even at MSRP, the Kanile'a is still only half the price. So that has to factor in somewhere. I would say the Koa Works is the slightly superior uke if price is not considered, but I happen to prefer the type of sound from the Kanile'a a little more, so this is how I rank them today.

5. Kelii tenor: Yeah, I know, it looks like the new ukes are getting more love than the old ones. While it's possible that the "newness" will wear off sometime, I think this Kelii tenor is a real player. It features a different type of sound from the tenors listed above, as you might be able to hear from the comparison I did last week. I think it has a nice "Island" type of sound that makes it pretty unique. Also unique is its beefy neck and slightly long scale. I can definitely feel that the neck is thicker than other ukes I own, yet the whole ukulele is very light and balanced. It sounds like the uke IZ would use to play Over the Rainbow, at least to me. It also has pretty good sustain and now that I've lowered its action, it's a very easy player. I did score this one at a very good post-Microsoft-cashback price of $350, so it's another nice bargin.

6. Bluegrass Ukes tenor cigar box: With Jake's signature on this ukulele, it will always have a spot in my lineup. It still sounds very good and I'm trying a set of D'Addario J71s on it after having strung it with some old style Ko'olau Golds for almost a year. It's still got the mojo and nice tone. Excellent ukulele. (Edit: Initial impression of the J71 on this is excellent. It gives a bigger and fuller sound over the old Ko'olau Golds.)

7. KoAloha Pineapple Sunday: You know the competition is stiff when the Pineapple Sunday can do no better than number 7. It's a great sounding uke with a bit of mandolin and resonator uke in it. I do find that I like a more booming sound that's found on the King and Kanile'a super tenor, so I don't play this one as much. It is also by far the most neck heavy ukulele I have. It's not a problem for me, but it is very noticeable and might bother some people. I still love the pineapple styling though, and the sound is definitely first class.

8. Kanile'a Custom SS: This super soprano has a uniquely deep sound and gorgeous koa. It might be the best looking koa I have other than the koa found on the King tenor. I love the Kanile'a soprano shape and the gold hardware too. A very classy instrument.

9. Honu super deluxe concert: I don't play this uke much anymore, but when I do take it out, I still marvel at the great sound clarity and long sustain it has. It is not as loud as say a KoAloha concert, but it has great tone and outstanding workmanship, possible the cleanest interior I've seen in an ukulele. I believe this is built in Viet Nam, but it rivals the best of the Hawaiian factory made ukuleles.

10. Kiwaya KTS-7: This is a very nice soprano that's styled after one of my favorite ukulele styles, the Martin style 3. It looks great and has outstanding workmanship. It sounds more like a concert ukulele to me than a typical soprano, as it doesn't have the sound that's usually described as "bark". It has nice volume and a clear sound with decent sustain. I'm not much into sopranos right now, but I think this is an excellent soprano.

So that's it for the top 10. For reference, not on the list are a Sonny D tenor, a National concert, a Martin style 1 soprano, a Kala tenor neck soprano, a Uklectic, and a Bushman Cedartone baritone.

Until UAS bites again (which might be very soon...:p), thanks for reading the latest edition of my lineup rankings.

1 comment:

Jonathan Fung said...

Pineapple Sunday in 7th place?! That's sinful! :)

Gotta say that your William King is a very nice instrument though.

And now, I gotta find an RSS feed for your blog so that I can subscribe to it.

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