Ohana SK-21 Sopranino Full Review11
March 23, 2011 by Tim
Are you sick of trying to manage playing a huge soprano ukulele? do you struggle to reach the 7th fret with your pinky when your first finger is on the 1st fret? Well no more, now there is the Ohana SK-21 (Better known as the Sopranino). It is a 12 fret, sub-soprano dynamo!!! Why play that bulky soprano when you can play a sopranino?
All kidding aside, I was confused by the sub soprano uke market. Between the Ohana and the Kala pocket ukes, I was really confused on the point, and I have played both. As time has gone on I think I get the sopranino at least, the jury is still out on the pocket ukes.
The first time I played one of these was at NAMM in Nashville last year. Mim, of Mim’s Ukes, had one and had to show it to me. She had hers tuned to C (gCEA). over a year later I convinced Chesbro music to send me one to review
Keep reading to see what I thought.
Sub-Soprano : 12 Fret
Tuners: Friction tuners, whit buttons
Nut & saddle: Bone
Top: Solid Mahogany
Sides: Solid Mahogany
Back: Solid Mahogany
Neck: Mahogany with a Rosewood fretboard
String Attachment: Knot in a slit
First look: (3) When I first saw it I thought it was a cheap uke. Don’t get me wrong, I know it is a solid wood uke with really nice binding, but really it looks like a laminate. I think it is the fact that they put binding on the top and back, usually done to conceal the laminate showing. One thing that screams cheap is the fact that I can see the slide on logo on the headstock.
Fit and Finish: (5) Here is the funny part, one of the reasons it looks like a cheaper ukulele is that it is too perfect. the matte finish is perfect and every glue joint and parts are perfect. what I think is really crazy is that the body is 3 pieces of wood, instead of the normal 6. The top bottom and sides are 1 piece each. the neck is only 2 instead if the normal 3 or 4. Beside the logo I see no workmanship issues at all.
Sound Type: Clear and forward, with a little mellowness
Intonation: (5) I found no issues at all. it seems very solid all the way up and down the fret board. I have heard, and find it to be true, that when tuned to D you don’t notice intonation issues or that it is out of tune as easily.
Volume: (5) Clear and very loud. I would expect an instrument that is smaller to have less volume, but this thing can stand up to pretty much any uke twice its size, and kick its butt.
Sustain: (5) Long and nice.
String Height: (medium Low) Just right.
Neck Radius Depth: (3/4″) Basic C shaped neck, a little thicker than a normal uke since it is shorter and the 5th fret is really at the 7th.
Frets: (4) Frets are good all the way to the last 3 (10, 11, and 12) I find that my finger gets caught when I strum there. All the rest are perfectly dressed, but the issue is nothing a fret file would not fix in less than a minute.
Tuning: (5) The friction tuners move with little effort, and that is good when you are trying to tune in D (aDF#B). I was glad to see that the tuners are not cheap at all and look nice to boot.
Comfort: (4) The 4 has nothing to do with anything more than the size. I find it awkward to hold since it is so small, it is worse on a Kala Pocket uke, but it is not always super comfortable to get to the chords. The edges are nice and rounded and it is super light. It could be lighter if they had also slimmed the bracing a little bit.
Sound Hole Smell: Maybe Easter is coming, but it smells like freshly peel carrots.
I have a problem, well I have many, but my one with this one is that I started thinking of it as mine. I sing tenor for the most part and many songs that I get are a little low for me. The sopranino tuned to D lets me take those songs and play them up one full step without having to transpose it, and that is nice. Sure I can’t just whip it out and play the same chord shapes while others play with me, but alone it is really awesome to not have to use a capo or transpose. So needless to say I will get one of these someday, it is on the list.
I do have one word of warning about this uke. There is no tail block. usually not an issue, but if you want to put in an under saddle pickup and the port goes out the back, you better hope that no one steps on the chord or yanks on it. I had a friend that his completely blew out the back when someone tripped on the chord.
The way I see it, anyone who is collecting ukes of different sizes, this should be one that you have in your arsenal. So the new line-up should be sopanino, soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone (With a version of all sizes in pineapple, banjo, 6 or 8 string, and regular)
All Rating on a scale of 1-5
Click here for an explanation of reviews
|Fit and Finish||5|
|Sound Type||Clear, forward with a little mellow|
|String Height||Medium Low|
|Neck Radius Depth||3/4″|
|Sound Hole Smell||Carrots?|
Places to buy on the web:
Mim’s Ukes – As of this review she did not have any on hand, but can get them. there are stories of her sending them in baby blankets, since they are so cute like little baby ukes.
HD Audio Sample:
Well, Tim, you know I adore Ohana. That is always the brand I recommend. I’d love to give a sopranino a whirl some time myself. Like you, I am not too sure about the Kala pocket ukes, though. They seem heavy and clunky for something so small. Ohana’s answer is as elegant and lovely as the regular sized ukes.
Greta review. Tim. And I agree with the comment on the decal. But man, it plays well. My favorite brand as well.
With the paper label inside the bodies, I wish companies would just skip the headstock labels or stamp the back of the head. Also, I’ve played both the mohogany and the Koa, and I like the sound of the mohog better….. My opinion anyway.
Aye, I’ve heard that much of the quality Koa stock has been depleted. I’ve also read that koa was never superior in tonal quality to other woods such as spruce or cedar; it was epmerely available for making ukuleles, and in turn the Koa embodied the “ukulele sound”. Beautiful wood but I think there’s probably a better chance of finding better quality mahogany than Koa. However, give me enough time and I’ll be wrong about everything
wow, would a sopranino help me with my not being able to play barre chords problem? maybe. if it’s too small for others, it’s probably just right for me. i’m going to see if my music store owner will order one for me to try out! thanks for the review tim!
I have rather small hands so a Sopranino sounds like it would be great for me. I own an Ohana CKP-70 “Vita” and it has the same issue with the headstock decal. I’m wondering if it’s possible to remove the decal altogether with rubbing alcohol or acetone – I’d just be afraid of damaging the finish in the process. I wish they could just screen print the logo, if they must place it there at all.
i like the logo on my instruments, i think most of them are cool, and most are placed correctly, but ohana just has to get their act together and place it correctly (centered) or smaller and centered. it’s just attention to detai, imho. btw, if it’s just a decal, maybe just simple soap and water would dissolve it.
it should be super-sonprano. sub-soprano means ‘lower than soprano’.
Super soprano means soprano body with a concert neck, Sub soprano is what I have heard them called by Kala when they talk about the pocket ukes. I guess they mean lower on the list? Sub-soprano, Soprano,super soprano concert, Super concert, tenor, baritone
I just tried an Obama sopranino yesterday.
I loved it!
It was easy to chord all the way up the fretboard, and the sound was clear at every fret.
The one I tried was solid cedar and rosewood.
I saving up for one; since I no more chimney: and Santa no can find my house anyways.
To me is one of the best looking ukes I have come across. Finish, smell all speaks about solid woods! A truly beautiful instrument!
The big problem for me is the sound: bright, metálic, tight, thin although with volume and sustain. Why this if it is all solid woods? Well, the fact that it is a sopranino does not help and i do not expect it to sound like a soprano but certainly better than this! Try the xs from Romero creations! I wish Kamaka, Kanilea, Koaloha were building sopraninos.
I think that it has to do more with its structure, construction,…it has the same weight than my Kiwaya soprano and the top is at least 1/3 if not more thicker than the latter.
A real pitty as it is such a cute instrument. In any case I would recommend to give it a try and draw your own conclusions.
By the way Kiwaya has issued the UTrip 1 and 2(pineapple) baby (sopranino) models in their Student line. The quality of the sound of the ukes in what it is the cheapest line of the company belies their construction ( laminatted woods). We might be in for a treat! It wont be as beautiful as the SK 21 though!
Nice review. Thank you.