Kiwaya KTS-7 Soprano - REVIEW

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27 May 2019

Kiwaya KTS-7 Soprano - REVIEW

There is a ukulele brand that I have featured several times on the Got A Ukulele reviews page, and each time they have been a joy. For some time though I wanted to head to their upper end. This week I am looking at the Kiwaya KTS-7 Soprano.

Kiwaya KTS-7 Soprano ukulele

I say 'upper end' because this isn't quite the top for Kiwaya, but it is very close! This is the standard 7 series though and made from Honduran mahogany. For those not in the know, Kiwaya are a Japanese brand who have, for many years now, been turning out some extremely well made instruments, mostly in a homage to vintage Martin ukes. Whilst they recently developed a more value line of laminates made in China, including the KSU-1L long neck soprano ukulele, the KTS series are solid wood instruments made in Japan. And when I say 'extremely well made', based on examples I have seen before I mean to say 'flawless'.

The KTS-7 is a traditionally shaped and scaled double bout soprano modelled on the Martin 3M Mahogany Soprano in looks. They are not the first brand to model on that ukulele and you will recall I looked at the Ohana SK-39 soprano not so long ago. What I will say with the Kiwaya versus the Ohana though is, when it comes to looks, the KTS-7 is much more of a replica where Ohana's design was a little more clumsy. I will touch on some of those points as we get into the review.

Kiwaya KTS-7 Soprano ukulele body

So, an all solid mahogany soprano it is. And being a Kiwaya it is incredibly well made using supremely thin tone woods. This will make for terrific resonance if it is anything like other Kiwaya's I have played. It's a deep rich brown colour with nice straight grain and looks terrific. That mahogany being Honduran is actually a step up from their KTS-4 and KTS-5 sopranos which use African mahogany. The top and back look to be single pieces, whilst the sides are a pair.

Decoration follows the Martin 3 styling with black and white purfling around the top edge against the cream binding, and this black and white repeated around the sound hole. It's altogether more finely done than on the Ohana which I found a bit chunky. It also comes with the cream inlaid parend / pendaloque at the bottom of the soundboard, shaped in moustache style like the Martin. Again, on the Ohana this was done more clumsily. It's then finished in a matte finish that is equally flawless in every area.


Kiwaya KTS-7 Soprano ukulele sound hole

Bridge wise we have an ebony slotted bridge to match the Martin and this is fitted with a typically eccentric compensated saddle made from bone. Very typical Kiwaya and indicative of their focus on accuracy of intonation and build. And whilst that bridge mount is simple it's still incredibly well crafted with delicate chamfered ends.

Kiwaya KTS-7 Soprano ukulele bridge


Inside is typical Kiwaya. Not an ounce of mess anywhere, notched linings and delicate bracing. It also shows off the soundboard top thickness as being really, really thin. Like all Kiwaya's.

The neck is made of mahogany and like other Kiwayas is both shallow in profile, roomy at the nut (36mm and 30mm from G to A) and really comfortable in the hand. Interestingly it's jointed at the heel - something I always point out, but not because it is a mark of a 'problem' or 'issue'. Rather that I simply dislike joints when they are obvious and ugly. This is nicely blended in.

The fingerboard is made of ebony too with end shaping in the same moustache outline to match the parend perfectly. Something else that the Ohana, strangely, failed to do. In Martin 3M style it has a thin black and white striped inlay running down the fingerboard and double dot markers inlaid in cream at the 5th, 7th and 10th. You also get side dots at same positions, but with extras at the 12th and 15th. Again, VERY Martin. That ebony incidentally, both here and on the bridge is a change for Kiwaya, likely to remove the CITES issues of rosewood. A change for the better I must say. Frets wise it's a standard extended fretboard soprano with 12 to the body and 17 in total. They are all, naturally, dressed supremely well. And talking of the extended fingerboard, you can also see that it is supremely thin so you don't have a huge chunk of wood sitting on the soundboard like you do with the Ohana.

Kiwaya KTS-7 Soprano ukulele neck

Beyond the bone nut is a Martin crown shaped headstock... of course. I've said it before about Kiwaya's but I actually prefer them to the current crop of Martin headstocks.  The shape is a little less severe and the logo (in a gold transfer under the finish) looks classier. You also get the Kiwaya logo on the back pyro embossed into the wood.

Kiwaya KTS-7 Soprano ukulele headstock

Tuners are a joy as you get Gotoh UPT planetary tuners as standard. These ones have white buttons and are a joy to use as I have repeatedly said. I think this is a more recent change from Kiwaya as I think they used to come with Gotoh deluxe friction pegs. A worthwhile change in my book, even if they do divert away from the Martin tradition.

Kiwaya KTS-7 Soprano ukulele tuners

It comes strung with Fremont Blackline strings, as do all upper end Kiwaya's. I have to say, I am not a fan of them, and when I owned a KTS-5 I swapped them out for Martin Flouro's. Still, strings eh? Silly discussion point. Plenty of people love these strings and there is no denying the quality.  And that all comes in at a serious price point of £999 in the UK. A big ticket price, but of course a Martin Style 3 will cost you twice that.

Kiwaya KTS-7 Soprano ukulele back

So the build, finish and looks are all pretty much perfection here. And that translates into how it holds. This is a very light instrument, perfectly balanced and just feels 'right'. Despite that light build it feels in no way fragile and is built to last.

And that thin top and light build means it has volume and projection in spades. Seriously, this is one of the loudest punches from a soprano I have come across meaning it does that part of the soprano job perfectly well.

Likewise it has the soprano 'jangle' in the string mix which is, again, just perfect. The soprano is a staccato instrument used for rhythmical playing and often they can turn out muddy and confused, rather like the Ohana did. This on the other hand has a crisp jangle where every note is perfectly in place in the mix and is incredibly pleasant. Fingerpicked too it shines. Something else that lesser sopranos can fail it. Here we have crystal clear bell like tones that really shoot out of the instrument. Superb. Sound wise I am really struggling to fault this one. One thing I will say comes back to those strings as I think they impart a warmth that I don't really want from a soprano. Still, a lot of people like that, and of course mahogany does have a darker tone. I am equally sure that a string change to Martin flouorocarbons will brighten the tone, much as it did on my Kiwaya KTS-5. Horses for courses.

All in all though I think this is pretty much close to perfection when it comes to a soprano. It has everything just right. And when you consider that the soprano is the de facto 'standard' ukulele, it could be argued that this is close to perfection when it comes to the ukulele full stop. This is utterly, totally, completely and VERY highly recommended.

Many thanks to Stones Music, the UK distributor for Kiwaya for arranging this one to come to me on loan.

http://www.stones-music.co.uk/kiwaya-famous

SPECS ROUNDUP

Scale: Soprano
Body: All solid Honduran mahogany
Bridge: Ebony
Saddle: Bone
Neck: Mahogany
Nut Width: 36mm (30mm G to A)
Fingerboard: Ebony
Tuners: Gotoh UPT
Price: £999

UKULELE PROS

Just perfection in the looks department
Supreme build quality
Flawless finish
Extremely light, thin and balanced
Terrific tuners
Volume and sustain to die for
Textbook soprano sound

UKULELE CONS

I'd change the strings to something else, but that is just me!!

UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 10 out of 10
Fit and finish - 9.5 out of 10
Sound - 9.5 out of 10
Value for money - 9 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 9.5 out of 10

UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW






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3 comments :

  1. A stunning instrument! Almost makes me want to try a soprano ukulele again (I'm just not into the sound...I'm sure I could adapt to the small size.)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Absolutely wonderful review as usual Barry & what a gorgeous Soprano! Bravo! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  3. The Timms Soprano is still the number one of all the ukes you've given a score (9.6 out of 10)

    ReplyDelete

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