January 11, 2011 by Tim
How do I say that I am comparing this to other laminate ukuleles when it is something different? Yes it is laminate, but really thin laminate, and it is $249. How many $200+ laminates do you see? Not many, why? They tend to be cheap and that is why they use a laminate wood to make them. At first I thought Kiwaya (Pronounced Ki-wa-ya) were crazy for asking that kind of price for such a thing, but now I am a believer.
Side note: In Japan you will not find Kiwaya ukuleles. They are known as fortune and for the most part the models that they have like the FS-1 is the KS-1 for Kiwaya ukuleles.
Read to see why I think this is a new day for laminates and what they can sound like. What is next Kiwaya? An awesome paper ukulele?
Soprano : 14 Fret
Tuners: Gotah Friction tuners, whit buttons
Nut & saddle: Not sure, but it is black and the saddle is compensated
Top: Hyper Thin Laminate Mahogany
Sides: Laminate Mahogany
Back: Laminate Mahogany
Neck: Mahogany with a Rosewood fretboard
String Attachment: Knot in a slit
First look: (4) Meh, Not super impressed by how it looks. It is clean and no frills. I think that is the Kiwaya thing.
Fit and Finish: (5) No glue marks, check. Everything is straight, check. Can I feel the frets? no. Rounded edges, check. Any Buzzing? no. Butt of the neck level with back, check…. I could keep going but really it is perfect. I will highlight the extra awesome; No seam in the butt, the sides are one piece. The back is slightly curved both ways, and the saddle is compensated like I have never seen before. It looks like a wave coming in. Oh and the nut is so low that I wondered if it might buzz, and it does not.
Sound Type: Reserved but clear. It sounds right, just like a soprano should. Listen to the sound sample below.
Intonation: (5) With the ultra low nut and compensated saddle it makes for spot on intonation that any ukulele would strive for.
Volume: (5) It is not the loudest uke in the world, but it will be heard in a group.
Sustain: (5) Long and nice. The thin top really helps to let it ring.
String Height: (medium Low) Just right.
Neck RadiusDepth: (5/8″) Flat C shaped neck. not Kamaka thin, but thin
Frets: (5) I have said this before, but a bound fretboard is the way to go. Period
Tuning: (4) Some friction tuners are like butter, these are a little annoying. No matter how I tried they would go super sharp. I had to barely tap them to not go sharp. In the end friction tuners are the way to my heart and the traditional tuner.
Comfort: (5) Not light as a feather, but really nice and balanced. everything is smooth and nice. Not a thing that I could complain about. All the edges on the body are rounded but not that you can see it. they look crisp and nice but it is nice to hold.
Sound Hole Smell: OK, second time I have smelled something related to Kiwaya and it smells like nothing. not sure what that means.
Let’s see if you can remember what the top is………..If you guessed laminate you are right, but what kind and why is it special. What is this thing about hyper thin laminate? At first I was like “What BS is this? A laminate that is $250, HA You say” but in the end I am wrong on judging it before I played it. Keep this on your calendar and don’t tell my wife, I was wrong.
The Kiwaya KS-1 is made as an eco-line of ukes but seems to be still made like a high end ukulele. They seem to have figured out how to make it so thin and also use the fact that a laminate is stronger than a solid wood to make a sturdy, light-ish, awesome sounding laminate ukulele. This is better than many solid wood ukes I have played, leave it to the Japanese to show us how to make a classically looked down upon product, laminates, and make it awesome. I want one of these in my collection for the main fact that I know it will last longer and not as temperamental about temperature and humidity. Basically a high end go-any-where uke.
All Rating on a scale of 1-5
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|Fit and Finish||5|
|Sound Type||Reserved but clear|
|String Height||Medium Low|
|Neck Radius Depth||5/8″|
|Sound Hole Smell||Nothing|
Places to buy on the web:
You can find them on eBay in the UK for $200, but in the US it seems they are scarce. I will keep an eye out for them.
HD Audio Sample: