Kanile'a K-1 Tenor ukulele - UPDATE

17 Aug 2011

Kanile'a K-1 Tenor ukulele - UPDATE

Well, I have been in possession of my beautiful Kanile'a K-1 Tenor uke for almost a couple of weeks now, and I thought it was worth giving you an update to my review having had chance to play my uke every day since it arrived!

kanile'a tenor uke

I dont need to go into the details of how it looks again, you have read that in the review, but I will say that every time I open the case I smile - this is a beautifully made instrument. What I wanted to share with you is how it plays and sounds in a little more detail.

At the time of my first review I had put Worth clear strings on it and I am still working with those. The tone from this ukulele is incredibly sweet and has both a nice chime and an earthy quality to it. Making this step up to a serious professional instrument really shows and the volume, clarity and breadth of the tone this creates compared to my other ukes is night and day.

Strumming I am still working on. Not only is this my first tenor, but those build qualities do affect the way this "works" when strumming it. At the moment I am still experimenting with my playing style and strumming position, but I do find that if strummed hard the instrument can overdrive or boom a little. This doesn't concern me at all at this stage for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I have come to this ukulele from models that are nowhere near it in terms of quality, The way the company have constructed this uke, in particular the quality of the woods and the clever bracing system means that this instrument creates decent volume with very little effort. As I say, I am working on my strum style and frankly am strumming it harder than is needed. The other reason may be down to the strings, and I intend to try various brands on this uke until I find the type that suits my ears best. Next to be tested on the Kanile'a are D'addario Pro Artes.

That isn't a gripe at all, as strumming the uke creates a shimmering full tone that is hard to describe. The best way I can put it is that in any stroke, the sound that is created is full and every single string is noticeable in the mix. I don't have another uke that plays that way.

But where I am most pleased with the Kanile'a is in fingerpicking. I have never been a big (or great) picker of ukuleles but do play guitar and like to play in that style on those. The reason I never really have on uke is down to the sound and the pleasure it can (or can't) deliver to me. With my other ukes, as much as I love them, a lasting sustain is just not there and I prefer them for strumming. Don't get me wrong, there is 'some' sustain on my other ukes, but nothing that lasts, and bearing in mind I fingerpick on guitar, I just don't find they cut the mustard, and fingerpicking ends up sounding too staccato for my liking. The Kanile'a changes that completely. This instrument has significant sustain and a beautiful clarity to any plucked note. Add to that the fact that the intonation all over the neck is perfect, and that makes this a sublime instrument to play in fingerpicking style.  During the last week I have found myself creating picked arrangements of many songs I usually strum. In fact I am getting huge pleasure just creating my own picking progressions. It sounds silly, but its one of those instruments that almost plays itself! Of course being a Tenor, that wider spaced neck helps in this respect, but the action and setup by Kanile'a is also a big part of it.

kanile'a tenor fingerboard

So, in summary, I am absolutely thrilled to have this ukulele in my collection. It has really opened my eyes (and ears) to the level of quality a handmade Hawaiian ukulele can deliver. Frankly its jaw dropping.

This uke is certainly going to be my go to uke when I want to fingerpick, it is just so sweet. Yes it is expensive, but if a uke like this is within your budget I can heartily recommend it.


  1. How much was it? And how about a post with audio? thanks for the review, from one thinking about getting a high quality uke.

  2. Jono - £650. Hopefully working up a video soon!

  3. That's a great review. It consolidates what I suspected with Kanilea. I happen to choose Pete Howlett and spec'd the same neck width. This type of quality is what I'm looking for. I'll find out next month if that's what I've ended up with.


  4. I have had my KoAloha tenor for about a month now and feel the same about mine. There is nothing that compares to a high quality K brand. The sweetness of tone and sustain are wonderful. Great review
    Happy strumming

  5. Do you know if The unwound Worth low-G string will fit the nut and the pin bridge without modification? Or does the slot in the nut need to be widened or the pin shaved down to accommodate the larger diam of the unwound low-G?

  6. Can't imagine you would need to adjust the bridge pin for a wound g, but you would certainly need to adjust nut for correct action and intonation.

  7. I have owned a Kanele'a tenor for a couple of years and its mellow sweetness never ceases to amaze me.

    But a note on strings: I kept the Aquilas on it and I love them too. If I understand your first review, you took the Aquilas off immediately. Before you move on to ProArtes or what have you, maybe give the Aquilas the benefit of the doubt. It's possible that Kanele'as ship with them not because of some deal, but because they`re a good match.

    FWIW, in my circle most people take off whatever factory strings the uke ships with and replace them *with* Aquilas. So the generalized preference for D'Addarios etc that you're seeing may just be a regional/taste thing.

    Anyway, don't write off the Aquilas without trying them. They might surprise you.

  8. @swiderman - no, to be fair I played it with Aquilas for a full day before changing to worths, then D'Addarios and then back to worths.

    I love Aquila strings and recommend them all the time, but I felt they were a case of volume over tone on a uke as sweet as this. Nothing particularly wrong with them, but I just thought the Worths had a sweeter ring to them.

    There is no right and wrong string, depends on your playing style and your own ears.

  9. Hello. I was going to order the Kanile a K1 Tenor because I can't get one where I live. I was wondering where you might have bought yours from and how it works with shipping. I did see a few on sites for sale, but wondering how it is shipped not to get damaged. Also I was wondering about the set up after.

  10. Hi - ordered mine from Southern Ukulele Store. It shipped in a hard case and setup was perfect


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