Leolani Cedar Top Tenor Ukulele T524G - REVIEW

6 Dec 2020

Leolani Cedar Top Tenor Ukulele T524G - REVIEW

It's always nice to bring a ukulele brand to the Got A Ukulele pages for the first time, and that's what we have this week. This is the Leolani Solid Cedar Top Tenor.

Leolani Cedar Top Tenor Ukulele

Leolani is a name that sounds suitably Hawaiian, and whilst these are far eastern made, the brand is genuinely from Hawaii, Honolulu to be precise. In fact I had a very pleasant chat with the founder of Leolani, Jenny Liu by telephone in setting this review up. Jenny is Hong Kong born, but settled in Hawaii in her late teens. In the early 2000's she started working with manufacturers abroad and launched the Leolani line. 

This model is joined in the range by a concert version, and is a classy looker in all departments. To be precise the model number is T524G.  The top is made from solid cedar with a very nice straight and even grain. The back and sides are laminate Macassar ebony and look terrific for the stripe and deep chocolate tones. Fair play to Leolani too for making it clear that these pieces are laminate rather than using flowery language. The two contrasting wood types go together extremely well and give it a premium look. The top back and sides are all made from two pieces each and the back is wonderfully bookmatched. It's dead flat by the way.

Leolani Cedar Top Tenor Ukulele body

The bridge is a tie bar style with nicely chamfered ends. Leolani state this is made of Eco reconstituted rosewood, which is made from lots of thin offcut strips of rosewood remade into a block and then carved. If that is the case it's extremely well done as I can see wood grain running right through it (which actually leads me to believe it's an original block of rosewood). Anyway, it's extremely tidy on the finish and fitted with a straight topped bone saddle.

Leolani Cedar Top Tenor Ukulele bridge

Decoration is classy too and whilst they have gone with a bit of abalone around the soundhole, it's not overdone by putting it everywhere else. The edge binding, top and back is made from curly maple, complemented by black and white purfling on the top. The bindings really work nicely with both colours of wood.

Leolani Cedar Top Tenor Ukulele decor

The body is then finished in what Leolani call their Tuxedo 'TUX' finish. That is to say, it's a semi gloss satin which is extremely well done and smooth everywhere. On the top it creates a glassy smooth almost gloss look, whereas on the back and sides it's a more open pore affair. I think I would prefer the back to be grain filled to give it the same sort of smoothness, but I am really nitpicking. It feels very nice.

Inside is tidy enough with notched kerfing and tapered braces. There are one or two bits of glue finish, but really nothing tragic.

Leolani Cedar Top Tenor Ukulele inside

The neck is made from okoume wood with fairly well finished joints a the heel and headstock. It's finished in a satin too, but actually feels less polished than on the body. This is a good thing as it makes moving up and down the neck really slick. It tapers rounded profile, but one I can live with on account of the 38mm nut width with 30mm from G to A.

That is topped with more rosewood which is definitely reconstituted as you can see the layers. I'm all for this as a fingerboard wood as it has to be a better option than using virgin wood and I actually like the look of the stripe the pieces create. It's edge bound in a pale brown wood which hides the ends of the 18 frets (14 to the body). There are also no sharp edges at all. Pearly position dots face out at the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th and 15th and you also get small dots on the side.

Leolani Cedar Top Tenor Ukulele neck

Beyond the bone nut is a crown shaped headstock faced in what I think is more ebony. Whilst I usually yawn and crown headstocks as seen on brands like Kala, there is something about how curvy the top shape is on this one that I really like. Maybe it's the slight curves on the sides too which set it off. The Leolani logo is inlaid in a pale wood and looks great.

Leolani Cedar Top Tenor Ukulele headstock

Tuners are generic unbranded sealed gears with small black buttons. They work fine, but are unremarkable.

Leolani Cedar Top Tenor Ukulele tuners

Finishing it off is just the set of strings, for which Leolani have gone with Aquila. And that is available for a current price of around $195. I think this review 'may' serve to let down UK readers a little as whilst Leolani are carried by some excellent uke specialists (such as The Ukulele Site and Uke Republic), I don't see them much over this side of the pond. Bear that in mind. Still, $195 seems a very fair price, though I am mindful that you can get one or two all solid wood instruments for this sort of money these days. Still, with shipping to the UK (shipping is free within the USA) it comes in at about £170 which IS reasonable regardless.

As you can probably tell from the first half of this review there is not much I have found wrong here. I love the looks and the build and finish is excellent everywhere. It's not heavy at 545g and is balanced in the hands. The setup on this example is just fine for me too.

On the volume and sustain stakes it doesn't disappoint either. The volume is great and the sustain is long enough to make fingerpicking more interesting.

The tone is very clear all over the fretboard and notes are not muddy or lost. I did find it a lot brighter and chimier than I expected from this wood combination, though do remember that the back and sides are laminate. Because of that, when strummed it is much more jangly and peppy than i'd expect from a tenor. That's not a criticism because the tone is really pleasant - just not what I was expecting. It's not strident or overly zingy like some instruments, but my brain was telling me it sounded more like a concert.

Leolani Cedar Top Tenor Ukulele back

Fingerpicked and that chime and sustain comes in to play to really nice effect. It's got a music box like quality to it which is extremely pretty to listen too. Terrific.

I'm really glad I hooked up with Leolani to review this one as I am really rather taken with it. Sure, it's a shame they are not more widely available over here, but that's not a fault of the instrument. The price is still reasonable, though with the increased range now available bringing all solid ukes into this price point they may need to revisit that now. My gripes are minor though, and whilst I, personally like darker woodier sounding tenors, this is a pretty instrument in looks and sound that I am more than happy to recommend.


Model: Leolani Cedar Top
Scale: Tenor
Body: Solid cedar top, macassar ebony laminate back and sides
Bridge: Reconstituted rosewood - tie bar
Saddle: Bone
Spacing at saddle: 39mm
Decor: Curly maple binding, abalone soundhole ring
Finish: 'Tuxedo' satin
Neck: Okoume
Fingerboard: Reconstituted rosewood
Frets: 18, 14 to body
Nut: Bone
Nut width: 38mm, 30mm G to A
Tuners: Unbranded sealed gears
Strings: Aquila
Weight: 545g
Country of origin: ?? far east
Price: $195


Classy looks
Great build and finish
Decor not too fussy
Good volume and sustain
Clear tone and note separation
Fair enough price (but in a competitive market)


Would prefer flatter neck profile
Would prefer back finish grain filled
Tone a little brighter than I would like a tenor


Looks - 9 out of 10
Fit and finish - 9 out of 10
Sound - 8.5 out of 10
Price - 9 out of 10






  1. Hi there, excellent review. I am quite interested in this instrument and live in the US. I checked out their website and the price is actually, currently, $295. That's $100 more than in your review which is quite a big difference. I am trying to figure out how that's possible since your review was from just a couple of months ago. Any thoughts?

    1. I can only assume they were running an offer at the time - was approaching Christmas.

  2. Thanks, that makes sense!

  3. That same uke (with a different logo) is also available this side of the pond, at a lower price! At Thomann, under the name 'Harley Benton Hawaii Cedar Tenor Ukulele' (99€ at the time of writing).


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