KM Ukuleles Koa Soprano - REVIEW

29 Mar 2020

KM Ukuleles Koa Soprano - REVIEW

Ukulele review day and because I am re-ordering the reviews now to give focus to the independent brands and stores first, it's a pleasure to bring KM Ukulele back to the site.  It's my third review of an instrument from this UK luthier, this one being an all koa soprano ukulele.

KM Ukuleles Koa Soprano


South Wales based Kevin Mulcock impressed me so much with the first instrument I reviewed of his, this dreadnought concert ukulele, that I had to buy it. It really did show me that he has a real knack with ukulele building in getting terrific tone out of pieces of wood. Imagine my delight when he asked me to look at one built in my favourite scale!

This one is made from all solid Hawaiian Koa in the body and uses the same dreadnought shape profile as Kevin's other ukuleles. He started using it for  much the same reason that guitar brands do. That wider waist helps serve to increase volume and projection and also broadens out he mids in the tone palette in the way a pineapple shape does. I think it looks great. I have to say that it's not the most striking piece of koa in terms of curl, but the stripe is nice enough and it has some shimmer in the right light. There are also a couple of interesting bear claws in the top of this example, which are nicely matched left and right. Talking of matching, there are two pieces to the top back and sides and they are each nicely bookmatched.

KM Ukuleles Koa Soprano body

The bridge is a slot style made from leadwood, a dark hardwood. It's fitted with a straight topped corian saddle and all really tidy.

KM Ukuleles Koa Soprano bridge

There is no other decor here and the body is then finished in a hand rubbed satin. Like any luthier build there are a few tooling marks here and there, but honestly, there are far, far fewer than many luthier builds I see. Like the concert model I looked at it's extremely well finished all over.

Inside is as tidy as the outside with really neat notched linings and braces. There is no mess at all.

KM ukulele soprano inside


Up to the neck, this is a bolt on made from a single piece of mahogany. It has the similar fat heel as the KM concert which I think looks great, particularly as it is capped with dark wood and a pale wood stripe. Lovely. It's also a traditional flat profile and a roomy 37mm wide at the nut (29mm from G to A).

Topping that is an unbound fingerboard made from leadwood which is extremely dark and uniform in colour.  It also comes with a generous 18 frets and the more unusual joint at the 14th, not the 12th. If you are wondering if that makes it a 'long neck' the answer is 'almost'. It's a 14 inch scale length which is halfway between more standard sopranos and concerts. Interesting.

You get a solitary outward facing dot at the 7th which I think looks great for being minimalist. You also get side dots at the 5th, 7th and 10th. I'd like one at the octave myself, particularly as the 12th is not in the normal place you'd expect for a body joined at that position, but it's a minor gripe.

KM Ukuleles Koa Soprano neck

Beyond the corian nut is the usual KM Ukuleles headstock faced in more koa. It's simple, yet attractive with a comfortable swoop on the back meaning lots of comfort for first position chords.

KM Ukuleles Koa Soprano headstock

The tuners are Grover 4 style copies which Kev has had the black buttons shaped by Andy Miles to turn them into keystone styles. That means more space for the fingers and makes them look vintage and more interesting. Cool.

KM Ukuleles Koa Soprano tuners

And finishing off the deal on this is a hardwood strap button in the base and Seaguar line strings. In this sort of spec, a soprano in koa will cost you a very reasonable £400 from Kevin, though I suspect it might be a bit cheaper if you specify one with a cheaper wood choice. I think it's a great price whatever the wood considering it is completely hand made in the UK.

Now the good bit... I get to play it!

In the hands it's a delight - it's light, it's perfectly balanced and feels just great. It's also incredibly resonant. I've said to Kevin before that I am not sure what he is doing with the build but whatever it is, it works. His instruments have a great punch to them.

And this is no different. The volume and projection here is just outstanding. Exactly what you want a soprano to be - punchy and in your face! Sustain for such a small instrument is also very good, meaning more ability to play expressively with fingerpicking. It's a lively little thing!

KM Ukuleles Koa Soprano back

And it has another good trait that you want a soprano to have. It harmonises with itself creating a jangly sound when strummed. It really shimmers along with itself which is just perfect for rhythmical strumming play. And with that shimmer, there is no muddiness as the notes stand out clearly however you play it. Sure, the use of koa wood is helping there, but the build is a big part of it too. It's got a rich sound that put a huge smile on my face however I played it. Fingerpicking is chimey and has a real zing on the higher notes and is a real joy too. Cor.. this one is terrific!

I'm really not finding anything wrong here. This really does tick all the boxes you want in a good soprano. Understated simple looks, light weight, great volume, jangly tone. And as such, as far as I am concerned it sits right at the top table compared to other excellent sopranos out there.

VERY highly recommended. I'd buy it if I could! Oh - this exact one IS for sale too - just get in touch with Kevin.

https://km-ukuleles.com

UKULELE SPECS ROUNDUP

Model: KM Ukuleles Koa Soprano
Scale: Soprano (14 inch)
Body: Solid Hawaiian Koa
Bridge: Leadwood
Saddle: Corian
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Leadwood
Frets: 18, 14 to body joint
Nut: Corian
Nut width: 36mm (29mm G to A)
Tuners: Grover 4 copies
Strings: Seaguar
Price: £400

UKULELE PROS

Light simple build
Great finish
Terrific volume
Good sustain
Jangly rich tone
Good price for a handmade

UKULELE CONS

None really!

UKULELE SCORES

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

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 9.5 out of 10

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