Ohana CKP-70 Vita-Uke Full Review

7

January 8, 2012 by Tim


What is a vita-uke? I understand how a normal uke looks and why a pineapple is called a pineapple, but what is a vita? According to Frets.com “They were called “Vita” after the famous Vitaphone movie shorts in which Roy Smeck appeared.”. In short it is one of the most famous ragtime uke styles. If you know about ragtime you know about Roy Smeck and all the stuff he did. In my opinion he was one of the best uke players in the world and did great things with it musically and also did not make it seem like a toy but a fun and real instrument. If you click on the Frets.com link up above you can see what an original vita-uke looks like. It is basically the same as the Ohana CKP-70, except for some small thing like the more defined seal sound holes and the tuners and head are very different. I have had the pleasure to play a few real vita ukes over the years. They are super light and really loud. One of the hard things to see in the pictures is that the old ones had an arched back, where the Ohanas don’t. Not a big deal, it is just different. The reason you don’t see a lot of the old ones is mainly because they were super fragile and broke easily. They were made to play, not to last.

Read on to see what I thought of this crazy big butted thing.
Didn’t Freddy Mercury have a song that went “Fat bottom ukes you make the uke world go round”?

Maybe not.

Specs:
Concert : 12 Fret
Tuners: Open Geared
Nut & saddle: Bone
Top: Solid Spruce
Sides: Laminate Mahogany
Back: Laminate Mahogany
Neck: Mahogany with a Rosewood fretboard
String Attachment: Knot in a slit
Finish: Satin
Case: Not included. Reviewed with a hard case
Full Specs:
http://www.ohana-music.com/index.php?dispatch=products.view&product_id=29790

Looks

First look: (5) Are those seals for sound holes? No they are not, but close. I think this is a beautiful uke. the light wood top with a ton of grain that you can actually see is really nice. The binding on the top and bottom really makes this a nice looking ukulele and something that has a lot of workmanship and detail. From across a room you either know what it is or you are scratching your head, either way you smile.

Fit and Finish: (4)although it is a looker, it has some small cosmetic issues. The build

Glue On the neck

over all is really good with all the structural thing being spot on when it comes to straight bridge and neck and the frets are all perfect, there are none sticking out. Where I found issue is in minor things such as a little glue mark under the bridge, fret board on the body, and some at the neck joint can be seen. Also there are sanding marks on the fretboard, most noticeably where it meets the body. To be extra picky, the Ohana label is not centered on the headstock. All non-issues overall and do not have any effect on the playability or sound. For a sub-$200 (Street price) uke it is really well built.

Glue under the bridge

Sound:

Sound Type: Clear but sharp. When I say sharp I do not mean the notes. the sound cuts. it is not mellow or real warm like a mahogany. Since it is a spruce top it would be expected to be sharp, This one is the sharpest sound I have heard. Another key note is that since it is a 12 fret the sound is different from strumming above the fretboard compared to where I think it is meant to be strummed, between the top of the sound holes and the point of the fretboard. Roughly the 14-16th frets.

Intonation: (4) it is pretty good, could be better. If you are sensitive to intonation then this may not bother you so much. I could see someone going in and changing the saddle to have the E be a little more forward than the rest and it might be better. Also the nut is a little high making some first fret chords a little sharp if you press to hard. Plenty of room to get it perfect if the person knows what they are doing. It is very playable up and down, it goes noticeably off at the 7th fret area.

Volume: (5) Between the spruce and the huge butt on this uke it is loud, maybe annoyingly to some. I play spruce top most of the time and this one does not disappoint. I would not say it is banjo uke loud, but when you hit it, it screams

Sustain: (5)  Long since it is so loud.

Feel:

String Height: (Low-Medium) Setup really well when it comes to string height except the nut could be lower.

Neck Radius Depth: (3/4″) Basic C shaped neck,

Frets: (5) No binding and it is still smooth as butter. You can see the slot that were made from the sides but they filled in and you can not feel a single fret on the sides. They are also well dressed and tapered off as they should be.

Tuning: (5) It tunes, stays in tune, does not get bound up. Nothing to complain about. Wished they would use friction tuners..

Comfort: (5) With its fat end to hold on to it is easy to hold. Also that sweet backend can be rested on your leg to hold it up. The edges are nice with the binding, so that is also a plus on long playing sessions..

Sound Hole Smell: Glue.

Final Thoughts

If you are a ragtime nut, then you should have one of these in honor of Roy Smeck. Or you want a solid spruce top ukulele, then this would also be a good choice. With it being extra loud and very different, and we know uke players like to be different, this can be a real winner. I would change the strings to something warmer like Worth browns to mellow out the sound and cut some of the sharpness.

If I ever own one I would also buy the case for it since it is made for it. If Ohana stops making the cases then you will out of luck and have a hard time finding a hard case for it. I tried putting it into my Fremont case and it did not fit. The butt was to wide.

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

First Look 5
Fit and Finish 4
Sound Type Clear and Sharp
Intonation 4
Volume 5
Sustain 5
String Height Low-Medium
Neck Radius Depth 3/4″
Frets 5
Tuning 5
Comfort 5
Sound Hole Smell Glue

Places to buy on the web:

Elderly – $149
Ukuleleworld.com – Just the case $73

HD Audio Sample:

Gallery:

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7 thoughts on “Ohana CKP-70 Vita-Uke Full Review

  1. Great review Tim.I love my Vita-Uke! A great ukulele for the price. I got mine from Mim from Mimsukes.com and it is set up perfectly. It fits great in a Kala “uke crazy” concert sized case although it leaves a few inches of empty space at the top. But since the butt is so big it does not swim around in the case.

  2. Kurt Siegel says:

    I changed out the strings on my Vita-Uke for a set of Worth Clear tenor size – the sound has become significantly warmer, and I guess the tension is lower, because I don’t have to press as hard as I did with the Aquilas.

    And while I agree that the intonation could be better, mine plays well to the 9th fret, without an issue. I’m not that thrilled with the tuners – just a bit too much play in them – I’d prefer either Pegheds or Waverly open-geared.

    Mine also had cosmetic issues – a chunk of binding missing, some roughness to the top, and around the sound holes… But for the price I paid, it was a steal.

  3. HD says:

    Though they call it a concert, that’s just the size it seems to add up to. What needs to be mentioned is that it has a soprano scale.
    Big butt soprano would be more accurate!
    Great tone on these.

    • Tim says:

      It is weird. the scale is not the same as a concert, but it also does not measure up the same as any soprano either. it seems to be between them,

  4. Miss Joni says:

    Very nice uke–I love Ohana! I only wish they’d given the thing friction tuners. I’ve had my eyes on the bell uke for awhile…

  5. I liked the one I had, but I sold it in a herd thinning…

  6. Read your review of the Ohana CKP-70, and I agree with almost everything you say.
    I’ve had mine for about 18 months (the 70R – rosewood) and it is indeed a lot of uke for the money.
    In the shop I was able to try both the mahogany and the rosewood models, and the sound of the rosewood was less “sharp” – a bit more mellow (and, well, I won’t say “louder”, but certainly a more “solid” sound if I can put it that way – I’ve checked it against your sound sample, and that indeed seems to be the case.

    A downside is that the very thin spruce top distorts quite a bit. I talked with Ohana, and they said, “With a solid top that’s to be expected, you have to detune the strings from time to time”.
    Sorry, I don’t buy that – though to be fair, it could have something to do with humidity, which in Norway tends to be fairly low.
    Ok – a sliver of credit card under the saddle cured it with no effect on the sound.

    I also asked them if they would make me another, but with a tenor scale (which they were unwilling to do) so I’m buying another Vita, and a luthier friend will make a new neck for me – could be a disaster, but I’m going for it, just to see what it sounds like.

    I said I agree with “most” of what you say – I have no glue or sanding mark issues – maybe you were unlucky – though why they should send a less than perfect instrument to a reviewer defeats me!… or maybe I was lucky – who knows.
    Oh, and I have yet to see one of these instruments with the logo centered om the headstock – maybe it’s deliberate – they all seem to be a little to the left!

    Where I disagree with you is that the instrument (well, mine anyway) *does* have an arched back – 1/8 inch across the body at the bridge, and 1/4 inch on the neck axis…. just thought you might like to know 🙂

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