What makes a good ukulele?
Through a lot of experience playing, buying and selling ukuleles, I've learnt a lot about what makes a good uke. Being made of wood, ukuleles have a lot of natural variation. This is part of their beauty, but also part of the challenge. The main things to focus on are:
Tone preference (warm, bright, mellow)
Quality of materials (solid woods)
Intonation (correctly designed and set-up)
Neck (smoothness of fretboard, fret edges, action, buzz)
Ponos are unique in that they are Hawaiian made quality, but at a more affordable price. They don't cut edges. However, like any high quality instrument, issues can occur. Pono recongises this and has a sturdy warranty policy.
"On occasion we hear a customer question how a flaw or defect could have passed through so many levels of quality control.
If it’s of any consolation, we (Ko'olau) wonder too how this happened. The difference is that we know it will happen on occasion. Defects sometimes slip by. However, when this becomes known, then a thorough investigation is the next procedure. Besides correcting the problem, what’s important to us helping our customers to know that we stand by what we make. Whenever there are defects due to faulty craftsmanship we will repair or replace the instrument. We never give dumb excuses, side stepping our responsibility. Our record of high quality customer service speaks for itself."
"Making a stringed instrument involves cutting a tree, shaping it into something called a guitar or ukulele, and then adding a few metal and bone parts. Wood is composed of cells, it breathes, and will go through changes in it’s lifetime. And yet, in most cases, will still playable for many hundreds of years. So, changes will happen, but we try to prevent them as much as possible."
Where are Pono ukuleles made?
Pono are made by Ko'olau, based in Wahiawa, Hawaii. Ko'olau is considered one of the best ukulele makers in the world (along with Kamaka, KoAloha and Kanile'a). Ko'olau has a rich history of over 40 years hand making custom high-end ukuleles. Pono were born out of the idea to have hawaiian made ukulele quality, at a more affordable price. Pono's are manufactured in Java, Indonesia and set-up by Ko'olau in Hawaii. John Kitakis, Ko'olau's original luthier regularly goes over to Java to train their staff and do quality control. Check out this awesome video showing Pono's production process.
What does "all solid wood" mean, and is it worth the extra money?
95% of the unique tone of a ukulele comes from the quality and type of timbers used. When you strum or fingerpick a ukulele, the movement of the strings vibrates into the bridge via the saddle, causing the soundboard to essentially wobble, like a speaker cone. The wood used for the top of the ukulele has the greatest effect on the tone, but as does the woods used on the back, sides and even the fretboard and bridge. Depending on the density and elasticity of the wood, tonal properties can vary hugely!
If a ukulele doesn't specify solid in the description, it is made of ply-wood, which is essentially paper mache, as it is made of several layers of wood bits glued together into sheets, with a pretty venere glued over it. As you can imagine, it doesn't have the tonal quality of a solid wood instrument. In my opinion its always worth starting off with a solid top ukulele if its in your budget. All Pono ukuleles have all solid bodies.
Does an ebony fretboard and/or bridge make a ukulele sound better?
It certainly does affect the tone (brighter with greater definition), but the prestige of ebony is more as a result of its aesthetic beauty. All Pono ukuleles come with fretboards, headstocks and bridges made of one of the highest grades of true ebony (Diospyros Celebica).
What are the tonal differences between Acacia, Mango, Mahogany and Spruce?
If I was to simplify it, although this is a difficult question, it would be as follows:
Mahogany: warmest and most mellow tone
Mango: similar to mahogany, but slightly brighter
Acacia: bright, but still warm
Spruce: bright and loads of projection
Do you set up the ukuleles?
Yes, I have a workshop, with all the tools to set-up any ukulele's nut, saddle and truss rod (in the case of Pono tenor and baritone ukuleles).
Why buy local?
If you are based in Adelaide and want to see a ukulele before you buy it, don't hesitate to contact me. During COVID-19, I am also happy to organise a video call to demonstrate any ukulele or talk you through a product. Buying local, from an Australian retailer, gives you the reassurance that any issue can be dealt with very easily.
How much does shipping cost?
At Quality Ukes, we do free shipping (to all metro, and most rural areas). However, if you are remote, I will do you the best price for the uke and shipping that is practically possible!
Help! Something is wrong with my uke?!
I want happy customers :), so please contact me if you have any issues!