Well, I guess trying not to buy a ukulele while in Hawaii is like trying to watch TV without turning it on....or something....
Anyway, even though I did not intend on buying a ukulele on this year's trip to Oahu, I succumbed to UAS once again when I picked up a new uke yesterday from Hawaii Music Supply. The uke in question is a Ko'olau CE-1. I had brought my William King LS-concert along on the trip and did not expect to actually buy a ukulele. To be honest I really had not played any acoustic ukes on this trip that caused me to want to buy it. At least among the ones that's within the realm of affordability (about $1000 and under). However, I had been thinking about a Ko'olau for a while now, because it's the only Hawaiian "K" brand that I have not owned yet (I had a G-String soprano that I consider part of the Hawaiian "K") and after checking one out at Ukulele Puapua, I really thought hard about getting a CE-1. I mean, I've never had a Ko'olau ukulele and I don't currently have a solid (or in the case of the CE-1, semi-hollow) body ukulele, so I thought the CE-1 made sense, especially since it's obtainable for around $800 online. I thought perhaps I would get it from online sources later on, so even though I liked it quite a bit after some hands on tests at Puapua, I didn't expect to get one during my stay at Oahu this week. That is until a visit to Hawaii Music Supply.
Unlike the Waikiki shops, Hawaii Music Supply caters to the locals as well as the internet, which means much better prices than Waikiki (tourist prices). There was a CE-1 in Koa hanging on the wall with a price tag of $750. I was impressed with that price and while I tried out other ukes there I was thinking about maybe picking it up. Andrew, who runs the store, was helping out another customer and while talking to them he brought out 3 Ko'olau ukes they had just received. One was a CE-1 that has a well-figured Myrtle top as well as head-plate/fingerboard/bridge upgraded to ebony and gold tuners/hardware. It is a great looking uke and I had in fact wanted a Myrtle topped one over a koa topped one. Andrew mentioned that even though it has some upgraded materials, it would sell for the same price as the koa one hanging on the wall. That pretty much sold me on the uke right there. It had better materials than what I was looking for, and costs less than what I expected to pay for a standard CE-1, so to me it was a no brainer. They even ship anything over $200 for free, so I had them send it to Minnesota as I did not have any room to take on more luggage on the way back home. It was simply a deal I couldn't refuse.
Regarding the CE-1 itself, it was a beautiful example (yes, pictures will be posted once I have it) and it had a very nice sound plugged in as well as unplugged. Obviously it is pretty quiet unplugged, but it sounds good, and should be great for quiet practice. This is the 4th solid/semi-hollow type of ukulele I've owned (the others being a Risa uke solid, BugsGear Eleuke, & a Uklectic), and I expect it to be far and away the best.
So I ended up getting a uke in Hawaii after all. In each of the last 4 years, I had picked up a ukulele in Hawaii. I guess it's something that's bound to happen whenever I'm in Hawaii. When you are in the land of the ukulele, it's so hard to not end up bringing one home.
Oh, and I want to put in a quick plug for Hawaii Music Supply. If you are interested in a ukulele you think they might have, give them a call for an accurate quote. On some stuff they actually can't advertise their lowest price online, so it's worth while to call and check. I saw several other ukes on sale at oh-so-tempting prices. They are biased toward Ko'olau and Pono ukes (Andrew is Ko'olau owner John Kitakis's son), so they should have some of the best selection and prices for those.
I will post pics of the new acquisition as soon as it arrives to me in Minnesota. Until then, I need to think hard about possibly making room for it in my collection....