Big Island Ukulele Co. KT-SP Full Review

2

September 3, 2010 by Tim


So, I will get this out of the way first. Yes the uke is over $300, but mine did not come with a case. That is my justification and I am sticking to it!

Reality is that this is one of those opportunities that I could not pass up. This is the ukulele that I received at NAMM this summer. I don’t think Jorma thought I was serious at first when I first talked to him. He let me play some of his ukes that were on display, but you really can’t hear them on the noisy floor of the convention center. I asked if he would possibly let me review his least expensive model. He said he needed to think about it and for me to come back in a few hours, I did. He then still needed to think and he wanted me to come back just before the hall closed for the night, I think he thought I would forget or not be able to find him again, but I did. He then pulled out a beautiful uke from a box and handed it to me. Over 2 month later I am ready to review it.

Just a quick note: If you are looking for one of these or see a used one, the model I recieved says SP-KRGT, that is the old model number. The new one is KT-SP. they are the same, just so there is no confusion.

Just a spoiler for the rest of the review; I LOVE THIS UKE!! It is on my list of ukes to own before I die. if I can, I will buy one of the deluxe Honu concerts. If it is as good as this one I am willing to shell out $800+.  

Specs:
Soprano : 17 Fret
Tuners: friction with Koa buttons
bone nut & compensated saddle
Top: Solid Koa
Sides: Solid Koa
Back: Solid Koa
Neck: Mahogany with a Rosewood fretboard – Abalone Dot
Finish: Crazy High Gloss
Case: Semi Hard case
Full Specs:
http://www.bigislandukulele.com/products/index.html#product03

Looks:

First look: (5) I really hope that you can see that the grain on this uke, it is 3 dimensional. It is plain and all that, but the gloss on it is stunning. The wood at times looks like it is two different colors because of how deep the grain and pattern is. You know from across the room that it is a great instrument. When people come over and see my wall of ukes they will always gravitate to it first, it is magnetic. One thing that I like most about it is the fact that it does not have the name across the head, that is just classy.

Fit and Finish: (5) Perfect. all the edges on the body are nice and rounded while the fretboard is crisp on the edges. every seam is flawless. I am hard pressed to find one speck of glue or a weird finish issue. the attention to detail is awe-inspiring. A small detail that I think shows that the people who designed it were really thinking is the way that they leave a thin layer of wood on the bridge were it is glued to the body. It makes it so you will never see bare wood or globs of glue. A small thing but a telltale sign that they know how to build a fine instrument.

Sound:

Sound Type: Loud and confident. It is not a punch to the face or over bearing, but it is not timid or muffled either. it is a clear and nice sound.

Intonation: (5) I have seen more sopranos that have really weird issues with the E string lately. I have a Lanikai that is just hard to play because it needs a compensated bridge. The Big Island’s bridge has each string addressed to make sure it is dead on. No matter what note you play on the neck it is right on the money.

Volume: (5) with Aquilas standard it is not a surprise that it is loud. I will not say that it is the loudest uke, but it holds its own with even a guitar.

Sustain: (5)  Long and loud. Fades nicely with no whine at the end.

Feel:

String Height: (Low) You barely need to touch it to make a note. I have found that it play clearer with it and faster than most any other uke I have.

Neck Radius Depth: (3/4″) Average radius depth for a C shaped neck.

Frets: (5) Low and rounded. there are no signs of sanding them down. Also you can run your fingers down the sides of the neck and they are perfectly flush.

Tuning: (5) Word of note. since the tuning buttons are wood they can change over time. I have not had to adjust them since I received it, but Jorma said that it can loosen or tighten depending on the time of the year and humidity. I love the tuners, they move like silk and keep it in perfect tune. not much pressure needed to move them and they stay put.

Comfort: (5) This uke is light, even for a soprano. It is balanced and easy to hold. since the body seams are nice and rounded it will not dig into your arm at all. You may stick to the high gloss if you sweat though.

Sound Hole Smell: Like glue or maybe the gloss finish. Kind of not like a warm summer day at the beach thing I want it to be. Just sayin’.

Final Thoughts

On Jorma Winklers business card (Made of wood) it has 2 companies on it; Big Island Ukulele Co. and Winkler Woods. Jorma does not make the ukes himself, they are made in Vietnam, he designs them and supplies the beautiful wood that they are made out of. I think this is one of the reasons the ukes are so great. He chooses the best Koa he has to make the instruments.

I love this uke. I play it almost every day, and not just because I need to review it. There is nothing I can find on it to complain about beside that I don’t own it. They are hard to find online and harder to find used, but I guarantee that if you buy one you will love it as much as I love this one.

I have to thank my father-in-law for letting me use his SLR to take these awesome pictures. That is why they look so nice.

All Rating on a scale of 1-5
Click here for an explanation of reviews

First Look 5
Fit and Finish 5
Sound Type Loud and confident
Intonation 5
Volume 5
Sustain 5
String Height Low
Neck Radius Depth 3/4″
Frets 5
Tuning 5
Comfort 5
Sound Hole Smell Glue or finish

Places to buy on the web:

Ukes.com with hard case $323.99 (Under KT-SP)

Sea Strings Music $329 with soft case

HD Sound Sample:

Video:

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2 thoughts on “Big Island Ukulele Co. KT-SP Full Review

  1. Joni says:

    Seeing this uke again made my heart skip a beat. I fell in love with this ukulele as well when you brought it to Indiana in July. It is a dream in everyway imaginable. Great entry, great review! I hope you get to have a Big Island Uke of your own some day.

  2. Susan says:

    I missed this review when you posted it. So glad I found it now. I have this beautiful ukulele! (and I’m so glad someone with more experience than I thinks it’s wonderful, too). I bought mine from Uke Republic. He didn’t have it listed as in stock, but when I called he had this one which was exactly what I wanted. What a great instrument, and I tell myself it has cured my UAS! (We’ll see.)

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