Always good to redress the balance a little in favour of baritone ukuleles on the Got A Ukulele reviews page. So it's nice to be looking at a brand for which i've never seen one of their baritones up close before. The Ohana BK-70.
Making up the ukulele top are two pieces of solid spruce with nice straight grain and no flaws in the wood whatsoever. I always think that is particularly important with spruce as being such a pale wood, flaws and knots would stick out like a beacon on the instrument. None of that here. And that pale spruce compliments a real contrast in the back and sides which are made from a warm coloured laminate rosewood. I think that's a mix that works really well in the looks department, and the laminates in the two piece back and sides are certainly pretty. Lots of warm orange with brown stripes at play here and the back shows an open grain and pore structure helped by the fact that the whole body is finished in satin. Incidentally the body depth seems fairly standard to me for a baritone and the back is very slightly (and I say 'very') arched.
It's a very classy look, very traditional but with enough about it to avoid being plain. And that is assisted by edge binding in cream on where the top and back meets the sides, with extra black / white / black striping on the top edge. We also have inlaid abalone purfling around the sound hole. The whole thing is reminiscent of a very classy acoustic guitar and I really rather like it for that.
Bridge wise we have a standard looking rosewood bridge plate in a tie bar design holding what appears to be an uncompensated bone saddle. No complaints here.
Before we move on, a quick look inside shows a tidy build. The bracing looks a little over done and we have notched kerfing with no mess or glue drops at all. Interestingly the makers label in this one is a little different to other Ohanas I have seen, so perhaps they are changing them. One of those minor details that some people like to know about...
They don't specify the neck wood, but it looks like mahogany to me and also finished in satin. It's a standard profile and in three pieces with well hidden joints at the heel and one at the headstock. The colouration is a bit variable on it though I must say. Nut width (which is bone by the way) is about 38mm so about standard too.
Topping the neck is a rosewood fingerboard which I must say on this review model looks extremely dry and icky. It's fitted with 18 nickel silver frets with 14 to the body. Not only do I think that is a bit low for something the scale of a baritone, i'm confused by the Ohana product description. Their own website lists it as being a 21 fret ukulele, but their product picture clearly shows 18.. Oh well. We have pearloid fret space markers facing out at the 5th, 7th, 10th and 12th and thankfully these are repeated on the side. The fret ends are nicely dressed, but the edges aren't bound. They are kind of hidden but the ends themselves have been stained black, so whilst you don't see silver notches, you do see black ones. They really shouldn't allow a fingerboard to go out looking that dry though...
Up to the headstock and we have a real delight I think. A slotted headstock with rear facing geared tuners that I think compliments the classy look of the body. It's faced in rosewood giving some contrast to the neck, and employs a different brand logo to what you will normally see on an Ohana. This is more of a calligraphic letter 'O' in inlaid wood. I think it looks great and would be happy to see them use this on more of their instruments as a matter of course.
The tuners are open gears, and despite being unbranded they hold ok. I like the look and size of the cream plastic buttons in particular. Saying that, one of them is a bit 'grindy' in operation which shows they are not the highest quality. The metal work is chrome and they are four separate tuners. Maybe it's just me, but I prefer the rear facing gears on slotted head ukuleles to be in the form of fixed pairs. Minor gripe..
Completing the deal are strings with a low D that is un-wound. That alone will please quite a few people. Ohana say the strings are Aquila but I was not aware Aquila made a clear un-wound low D string. In fact, all the strings look like clear Fluorocarbon and not Aquila, so I am not sure what has changed there. Answers on a postcard please.. The bag you see in the photos is not included, but is the recommended bag for this baritone specified by Ohana. It's called the UB-31C and is rather funky looking. Price wise, I always get a bit confused with Ohana as their website RRP's are usually much higher than you can actually buy them at Ohana dealers. The RRP on this one is $329, yet I saw this listed on a couple of reputable dealer sites for $250... make of that what you will.
So a very classy looking ukulele. A couple of minor issues, but I do like the look of it a lot. In the hands it feels solid and well made, and isn't overly heavy in the hands. What it is though is very slightly off balance and is a touch body heavy. It's not hugely out, but such things annoy me. One wonders if the simple addition of slightly more substantial tuners would even this out a little. The setup on this one too was just right, the nut in particular being well cut meaning there are no intonation issues at all.
It's not the loudest baritone ukulele I have ever played, but perfectly passable. It has a nice tone to it actually. Bassy as you would expect, but with some nice sustain on the higher notes when you need them with which you can easily get some noticeable vibrato when fingerpicking. I guess the tone and volume may be more strident with a couple of wound string fitted, but you know - horses for courses.
Strummed it gives a satisfying vibration into the chest, and all round it's a very nice ukulele to play. It seems easy on the fingers and fast on the neck, both things I really like. That sustain though is what it's all about for me. It still has a bit of that boom on strumming that I think is natural with baritone ukuleles, but it's not too bad really. But picked it's a lot of fun to play and I struggled to put this one down. So as you can tell, I have mixed feelings here. Still, it's not a bad ukulele by any stretch.
All in all a classy looking instrument with a nice sound. I can't help thinking though that the pricing is letting it down. When you consider that something like the Clearwater baritone ukulele I reviewed also has a solid spruce top with binding and inlays and only really differs in the composite back, I kind of think that even at $250 this is a litttle on the high side these days. That will translate to £250 in the UK and bear in mind the Clearwater is about £100... I mean you can get a standard Pono baritone that is made from all solid woods for £350. I'd say they should either drop the price, or consider having that back and sides made from solid wood also.
So not a bad one, but I suspect you might want to shop around for these.
Rather mean on the number of frets
Very dry fingerboard
Tuners could be better quality
Could do with a touch more volume
Too expensive for what it is.
Looks - 9 out of 10
Fit and finish - 7 out of 10
Sound - 8 out of 10
Value for money - 7.5 out of 10
OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 7.9 out of 10
UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW
© Barry Maz