hawaii based koaloha announced a limited series of ukuleles for their 25th anniversary in 2020. before the pandemic started they set the numbers to a maximum of 500 tenors, 250 concerts and 250 sopranos to be built for this special occasion – but then the pandemic kicked in and slowed down everything. three quarters of the jubilee year are over and only roughly half of the serial numbers have hit the markets; chances are they will never be able to build all of the planned 1000 instruments…
anyway, i am venturing towards bigger: sizewise and pricewise this ukulele is a step above my usual ballpark. but it also is my first contact with one of the “4 k” lutheries (hawaii based kamaka, koaloha, kanile’a, ko’olau are said to be the top four ukulele manufacturers on earth)
koaloha is a family owned small business on the island of oahu where their standard koa line is carefully handcrafted. other popular lines are the intermediate “opio” (= junior), built from acacia in thailand and the entry-level “koalana” line made in indonesia. manufacturing and quality standards are the same across all their factories.
- body: all solid premium koa (bookmatched), gloss finish, “musubi” soundhole – and the special “unibox” bracing inside
- neck: sapele, cnc carved
- fingerboard: ebony with ebony binding; 20 frets (14 to body); abalone dots & side markers on 5, 7, 10, 12
- bridge: ebony
- nut & saddle: tusq
- 5-pointed crown headstock with ebony faceplate and abalone logo inlay
- closed geared (21:1) tuners with logo
- strings: koaloha clear low-g fluorocarbon
- weight: 604g
- length: overall cm (21 ¼”), body cm
- upper bout: cm
- lower bout: 23cm
- depth: 7cm at neck joint, 7cm at bottom
- fretboard width: 38mm at nut
- string spacing: 30mm at nut, 37mm at 12th fret (measured from outer edge g-string to outer edge a-string)
- scale: 434mm (~17”) from nut to bridge
- serial #177 (built august 2020)
first hands-on impressions
just wow. it looks and feels like a true piece of art, clear and pure with a nice grain and the typical 3d-effects. the weight and balance feel exactly right for the size, strings are comfortably “soft” without being floppy. these are not your average fluorocarbon strings, they are koaloha exclusive selected by “pops” alvin okami himself.
pictures (for the time being) shamelessly copied from andreas david where i once again got the instrument.
here are some real insights showing the craftsmanship: koaloha don’t use any purflings and hardly any braces.
(last image taken from andreas’ factory tour video)
i am still searching for words to describe the sound – in the meantime have a look at some footage on the web (randomly selected)