Why are Pono Ukuleles some of the best value and highest quality ukuleles on the market today?
Pono ukuleles are incredibly popular due to their affordability in the all solid wood ukulele market. Ko'olau's Pono ukuleles are manufactured in Java, Indonesia, from ethically sourced timber. Pono also withholds the use of all synthetic materials both for tonal and environmental reasons: preferencing bone nut and saddles and hide glue, to plastic or synthetic counterparts. Pono's factory also has excellent working conditions: their ukulele luthiers are well-paid, receive medical insurance and yearly annual leave.
Quality Ukes is proud to be a retailer of such a great ukulele company, that promotes sustainability, ethical working conditions and unparalleled craftsmanship, at an affordable price. Please reach out if you have any questions, and please check out our ukulele blog where you'll find blog posts answering an array of questions.
What does "all solid wood" mean and is it worth the extra money?
It definitely is!
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 plywood/laminate wood, which is essentially a paper mache of several layers of "wood bits" glued together into sheets, with a veneer glued over the top. As you can imagine, laminate wood ukuleles do not have the tonal quality of solid wood ukulele. It is worth starting off with a solid top ukulele if possible! Generally, most ukulele brand's solid top ukulele models start from $400, all solid wood ukuleles from about $600, and premium all solid-wood ukuleles are generally priced between $800 and $1500. Some examples of these brands that make premium all solid-wood ukuleles of comparable quality include Martin, Maton and KoAloha's Opio series.
Does an ebony fretboard and bridge make a ukulele sound better?
It certainly does! Ebony is expensive but is indeed a quality timber. It is highly sought after for both its aesthetic beauty and tonal properties (greater brightness and definition). All Pono ukuleles come with ebony fretboards, headstocks and bridges made of one of the highest grades of true ebony (Diospyros celebica).
Are bone nuts and saddle better than plastic?
Some companies claim that synthetic nuts and saddles have more superior tonal qualities, however, this simply is not the case, but rather a cover-up to cut costs, as crafting nuts and saddles to perfectly fit a ukulele takes time and expertise. Pono don't cheap out on any of their components. They custom cut and shape all of their nuts and saddles from bone blanks, to perfectly fit every ukulele. Bone has the ideal density and tonal properties for conducting sound to the body of the ukulele and thus it is no surprise they are the preferred choice for most high-end ukulele companies.
Do Pono ukuleles come with a warranty?
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 recognises 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, sidestepping 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 its 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."
Is Pono a sustainable/ethical ukulele manufacturer?
Treatment of staff: Pono values each of their staff in Java, Indonesia. Pono's luthiers are mostly second and third generation luthiers who are respected and rewarded for their high level of craftsmanship. Pono's factory has excellent working conditions, reasonable working hours, and every staff member is given medical insurance and 4-6 weeks annual leave a year.
Sustainability: Pono is a very sustainable ukulele company, minimising wastage of timber, using sustainable timbers, all locally sourced. They also use no plastic or synthetic products in their ukuleles or packaging.
Where are Pono ukuleles made?
Pono ukuleles 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 of hand-making custom high-end ukuleles. Pono was 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.