Mahalo Hano Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

14 Jan 2023

Mahalo Hano Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

Returning this week to a ukulele brand that was actually my first foray with the instrument (for better or worse). This is the Mahalo Hano Concert.


Mahalo Hano Concert Ukulele


Mahalo is a brand that has been around for as long as this current ukulele wave and when you go back nearly twenty years as I do they were everywhere then. They made a name for themselves (and still do) in the brightly and thickly painted cheap sopranos (though have been trying to shake that off as you will see). First, some back story that I have talked about in interviews before. When I first decided on getting a ukulele before this site started it was a case of the ultra cheap or stuff I couldn't afford. I went ultra cheap as many people do. Now, I had worked as a part time guitar tech and knew the silliness of 'buying cheap / buy twice' - but I bought cheap. It was a Mahalo and it was AWFUL. Frets and bridge mis placed, terrible finishing. It lasted about a week in my house and I then dropped money on a Magic Fluke Flea and never looked back..  That's not a great start to a review, but Got A Ukulele always tries to be as objective as it possibly can be, so over the years I have kept going back to look at Mahalo instruments. Sadly, the results so far have not been stellar. Some passable, some not, but none as bad as that first one. I suppose i've been longing for the day when I find that they got one I could get behind, so I keep looking. This caught my eye.

The Hano is a fairly new line from Mahalo  but still a budget model. The Hano series come in soprano through to tenor with this one being a concert. Interestingly they make a wide nut concert in this series, but I couldn't find stock (though it seems they are listening to buyers to even make one like that). They are all fairly basic laminates, but share a departure from the thick gloss paint instead going with a translucent stain under a gloss, showing the wood grain through the mix. 

Mahalo Hano Concert Ukulele body


The wood here is (perhaps expectedly) laminate and the type is Sengon, an Indonesian hardwood. It's a new wood type for me and I suppose I am thankful for the translucent blue here as looking at the grain it's all rather uneven and not particularly attractive. The body shape is rather nice though with a large modern curve to the lower bout.

The bridge is specified as rosewood and is a slot style. If it IS rosewood, I expect it was a cheap cut that was very pale as it looks to have been stained, in fact almost painted. It's tidy though, yet I am not sure of the point of the side 'wings'. Sitting in that is a NuBone composite saddle with a compensated top. That's a slight step up from the use of plastic. String spacing here is 40mm.

Mahalo Hano Concert Ukulele bridge


The finish, as I say is a translucent blue stain and the models are also available in a red, black and natural. I think this colour looks best myself, and I find myself rather attracted to it. That is then topped in a gloss finish which, on closer inspection is rather scruffy in several areas where either the polish is not buffed out properly or has been over buffed, complemented by a couple of flaws and patches where the finish is not even. It's attractive 'from a distance' only. There is no other decoration other than a very simple gold screen print sound hole rosette.

Mahalo Hano Concert Ukulele decor


Inside is scruffy and basic with simple braces and un-notched kerfing. There is also a load of glue seepage and some wood chips. Not nice.

Mahalo Hano Ukulele inside



The neck is made of Jabon wood (another new Indonesian wood to me) in three pieces with joints in the usual places. Like the body it's stained and glossed and also like the body there are several finish flaws and smears. Whilst the nut width is very average at 35mm (27 G to A) the profile is not totally 'broom-handle' and slightly squashed. That helps

The fingerboard, like the bridge, is specified as rosewood but is clearly dark stained. It's in pretty good condition but there are more examples of non-buffed polish between some of the frets. There are 16 of those joined at the 12th and despite being edge bound in black, many of them have sharp ends. Basic pearl position dots face out at the 5th, 7th, 10th and 12th and they are complemented by side dots.

Mahalo Hano Concert Ukulele neck


Beyond the nut (intriguingly NOT NuBone like the saddle, but plastic..) is a generic crown headstock with some quite ugly grain. The Mahalo logo is one i've long thought looked tacky and basic and that is screen printed on the top face in gold.

Mahalo Hano Concert Ukulele headstock


The tuners are Mahalo branded open gears in gold with black buttons. The mechanisms look quite cheap and the buttons are the same as you usually see on Mahalo ukes. They look cheap, overly large and quite ugly.

Mahalo Hano Concert Ukulele tuners


Finishing things off are a set of Aquila strings and a dust cover bag. It comes in with a low street price of only £45 so sits in a very crowded price point but is not going to break the bank.

Mahalo Hano Concert Ukulele back


So a mixed bag so far. The core build seems ok here and I like the bridge and light weight. I even like the general look, but when you get closer you see some real scruffiness and the sharp fret ends are a no-no. I suppose though for £45 people may say it 'comes with the territory', but I see a LOT of ukuleles and know that not every £45 uke is finished like this. Still, perhaps not life and death. 

The setup though is WAY too high and needs work as it is affecting the notes. I can also say that I despise the tuners which are jerky and next to impossible to be accurate with. Volume and sustain are also only average here - it works, but there are better options on both of those fronts for the money.

The tone itself is rather flat and boxy for me with an obvious cheap laminate echo. There are clearly intonation setup issues in the tone that you will note on the video, but I suspect that even with an accurate setup the tone here is still going to sound boxy and a bit muddy.  Again, I think you can do better on tone with something from the likes of Donner, Octopus or Bumblebee for similar money. This just doesn't have a lot of character or life to the tone whether strummed or picked - very one dimensional, very generic.

Am I being too hard on this one? Well I don't think the score is as bad as some other Mahalo's I have seen and it's certainly leagues above the entry level brightly painted models. With a setup it will work as a basic uke and if you can overlook the finish flaws, it's not an ugly looking ukulele either. But as ever with me I am cursed by the sheer number of ukuleles I have reviewed so my brain is immediately flashing 'there are better alternatives out there' at me. So, whilst not a total howler of a ukulele, that's why it doesn't get my recommendation.




UKULELE SPECS ROUNDUP

Model: Mahalo Hano
Scale: Concert
Body: Laminate Sengon
Bridge: Rosewood, slotted
Saddle: NuBone
Spacing at saddle: 40mm
Finish: Translucent stain under gloss
Neck: Jabon
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Frets: 16, joined at 12th
Nut: Plastic
Nut width: 35mm, 27mm G to A
Tuners: Mahalo open gears
Strings: Aquila
Country of origin: Indonesia
Weight: 425g
Price: £45

UKULELE PROS

Nice colour and shape looks (from a distance)
Generally good core build
Light weight
Price

UKULELE CONS

Countless finish flaws
Sharp fret ends
Awful tuners
Poor setup
Boxy, one dimensional tone

UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 8 out of 10
Fit and finish - 7 out of 10
Sound - 7 out of 10
Value for money - 9 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 7.9 out of 10

UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW







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