KoAloha Royal Pikake Mango Longneck Soprano Pineapple Ukulele - REVIEW

23 Apr 2023

KoAloha Royal Pikake Mango Longneck Soprano Pineapple Ukulele - REVIEW

Back to the ukulele 'homeland' again this week with another Hawaiian made instrument. This is the KoAloha Royal Pikake Mango Longneck Soprano Pineapple Ukulele...

KoAloha Royal Pikake Longneck Soprano Pineapple Ukulele

A bit of a mouthful of a name, but if you prefer the model number this is the KSM-03RPMG (if that's any easier!). Whilst I normally don't like long names, I'll give them a bye on this one as there is a lot going on in that title that describes what we are dealing with. But before we get into the details.. the brand, for those new to ukuleles, is based in Kaka'ako outside Honolulu on Oahu, Hawaii, USA and founded by Pops Okami and his family. It's also one of those considered to be a 'K-Brand', being one of the main Hawaiian based instrument makers. I've reviewed (and owned) a couple of these and, without getting ahead of myself, think they firmly sit at the 'top table' of all ukulele brands - pinnacle stuff. The sort of uke that people often ask me 'which K-Brand is best' about, to which I always answer - they are ALL good - just depends on your personal taste! 

Shall we leave the review there? I can go and put my feet up... Oh go on then, lets take closer look.


There's quite a bit 'different' going on here compared to the 'standard' KoAloha ukuleles (a word that I always find odd when applied to top tier stuff.. 'standard'... ha ha... Firstly the 'Royal Pikake' naming denotes a couple of things. 'Pikake' is not a new convention for KoAloha and in fact my first KoAloha was a Pikake (and also my first Hawaiian ukulele). Pikake (Hawaiian for 'Jasmine') denotes a thin, satin finish which they think allows the wood to sing more as opposed to their more usual glosses. We shall see how this fairs but it certainly did with my first..  The 'Royal' element denotes a number of design additions over the standard ukes including the headstock cover plate, fingerboard and a hard case, but again, we will come on to those in more detail in the review.

KoAloha Royal Pikake Longneck Soprano Pineapple Ukulele body

This one is also the first pineapple shape ukulele from KoAloha I have played, a very old traditional uke shape going back to the earliest days of Kamaka and Kumalae. The pineapple shape is all about widening the waist and in doing so adding a breadth to the mids in the tone and it's something i've always found works well on small instruments in removing some of the nasal sound you can get with regular double bout sopranos. It's a soprano sized body with a concert length neck. Yes, that's always a gripe of mine that they call it a 'longneck soprano' when the scale tells me that this is actually a 'small bodied concert'.. but maybe I am in the minority for that annoyance. Either way - it's a small body, long neck uke and most importantly that's a combo I enjoy. It's quite deep in the body too (front to back) but not cumbersome and think that may add to the projection. I also largely enjoy the sound of the tone-wood that this is made of, in this example not their standard Hawaiian Koa, but the hugely popular mango wood - all solid, of course.. The wood is typically mango and has some of that 'sooty' black colouring I've spoken about before, but thankfully it all book-matches nicely rather than being one of those where makers are happy for smears hear and there without any balance. This is all tied together. I will say though (probably to the horror of Alex at SUS who loaned me this, and LOVES Mango), it's not a wood I've really ever been fully taken with on looks alone. It's hardly ugly, but (purely subjectively) I prefer a bit more stripe and figuring. Don't scold me!

The bridge is an extremely tidy tie bar made from ebony (I think being another part of the 'Royal' upgrades) and fitted with a straight topped TUSQ (artificial ivory) saddle. I don't tend to like tie bars on soprano bodies, but this is not too large side to side and being a pineapple I don't think it takes over the top. An interesting, if irrelevant observation came out of me sharing some 'sneak peek' pictures of this on line about the number of winds on the tie bar. I usually use about three myself, but there are four, possibly five here. There's no issue with that, and they are  certainly secure, but it amused me. They are all even though and very tidy. String spacing here is just over 41mm.

KoAloha Royal Pikake Longneck Soprano Pineapple Ukulele bridge

The body comes with no other decoration other than that very thin Pikake satin coat which feels great under the fingers. I remember back in the day discussing the Pikake finish with Alan Okami at KoAloha who told me that these were his own favourites for 'letting the wood do the work'. The body top and back edges are also slightly dressed back for comfort too. The whole thing feels 'special' in the arms. Oh, and yes - you get the trademark KoAloha 'Musubi' rice bowl shaped soundhole which is unique to them. It's a lovely thing.

KoAloha Royal Pikake Longneck Soprano Pineapple Ukulele finish

Inside is typically simple for KoAloha on account of how it's built. There are no top and back linings here holding the top and back to the sides on account of the KoAloha 'Unibrace'. That's a piece of wood they create that matches the dimensions of the middle of the instrument that they then cut a hole through to create a 'ring brace' that both braces the top and back but also runs around the sides and holds it all together. I 'think' they are unique in doing that and it's ultra strong without adding excess wood to the rest of the construction. Neat. It's all very tidy inside of course, and like other KoAloha instruments has the date of construction stamped on the neck block.

KoAloha Royal Pikake Longneck Soprano Pineapple Ukulele inside

The neck is made of mahogany and seems to be a single piece, CNC carved I think. It tapers to a flattened profile which is certainly my preference. Width wise, on account of the fretting style I talk about below, I find KoAloha have wider nuts and this one comes in at about 37mm. Spacing is still 27mm though so you are getting more meat either side of the outer strings. That combined with the profile is all good with me, though also like many KoAloha instruments I've seen the nut sits quite proud of the neck with deep slots. I'd prefer something more diminutive, but with the KoAloaha ukes I have owned, i've never had a problem with them. The neck finish is satin too.

The fingerboard is ebony, even in colour and in good condition. In another KoAloha trait the 17 frets (a more unusual 13 to the body) don't reach the sides of the board but rather have wood either side meaning zero chance of sharpness. In earlier models of theirs I saw I think there were side pieces added, but I can't tell here if that is the case or the frets are set in independent slots. Either way - no sharp ends!! It's also end shaped on these 'Royal' models with the spiky pineapple motif of the headstock at the end above the sound hole. Abalone dots sit at the 5th, 7th, 10th and 12th spaces and they are paired with small versions down the side.

KoAloha Royal Pikake Longneck Soprano Pineapple Ukulele neck

Beyond the TUSQ nut is the usual standout KoAloha spiky headstock which is so well liked. On these Royal models that is faced in ebony which looks outstanding and the double K logo is inlaid in Abalone. I adore the two tone look here around the spiky top. Wonderful.

KoAloha Royal Pikake Longneck Soprano Pineapple Ukulele headstock

The tuners here gave me some pause for thought. No, I don't like gears on sopranos, but then this is actually a concert instrument. They are, however, utterly lovely gears made by Der Jung, branded with the KoAloha logo and work wonderfully. Weirdly I find with this headstock and the angled positioning they don't offend me as they would on, say, a Martin soprano. I still think I'd like the 'option' of friction pegs (as KoAloha pegs are always decent and I think they would make this instrument more attractive), but there you are. Surely that's not an outlandish suggestion?

KoAloha Royal Pikake Longneck Soprano Pineapple Ukulele tuners

The strings are not specified, but from memory KoAloha used to always use a custom set that were derived from Worth and they 'feel' like fluorocarbon. With the Royal series you also get a quite sublime branded hard shell case which reminds me of the Ko'olau cases that used to come with high end Pono instruments back in the day. Very nice indeed. And this one is priced at £1,249 which is, of course, serious money, but kind of in line of the way of things for USA / Hawaii instruments these days, if not an increasing handful from the far east too. In fact it's currently one of the cheaper KoAloha's available which, considering the ebony and fitted hard case makes it a decent deal in comparison to their standards perhaps.

So all is pretty good here so far and any minor gripes i've raised are purely subjective. The build and finish are excellent and you know you have something quality in the hands. It's not heavy at 490g and balances well too. I love the feel of the neck as I always do with KoAloha.

Volume is very good here - perhaps not the loudest I have ever played, but still very good an likely will open up and improve. Sustain is just lovely and is an instrument that feels alive in the hands wherever you touch it. Very good.

As I say above, whilst the looks of mango may not be my preference, I certainly like the tone of it as I do small pineapples. And this doesn't disappoint. There is a massive breadth of tone in this instrument ranging from bass through wide ranging mids and lots of treble chime. And all of those things come together, particularly in a strum in a harmonious way that is not confused or muddy but rather complex and highly interesting. Strummed I found different chord combinations, strum types or sequences bring out different characters that are all engaging and shimmery. It sounds absolutely beautiful. Fingerpicking brings out more of the high end (obviously when played up the neck) and shows the chimey nature this would can demonstrate very nicely and prettily indeed. It all works extremely well for me - a refined and grown up tone but with some surprises that really catch your ear at times and have made this a joy for me to play.

So yes, I said from the off that this was going to do well, but then it is a KoAloha - they don't make duds. The minor gripes of mine are purely subjective as this is a killer instrument. Whilst I may not dig the looks of mango, I certainly dig the characterful tone which this has in spaded. Probably one of the most enjoyable instruments I have had on loan for some time. Very highly recommended.


Model: Ko'Aloha Royal Pikake Pineapple
Scale: Concert neck, Soprano body
Body: All solid Mango
Bridge: Ebony tie bar
Saddle: TUSQ
Spacing at saddle: 41mm
Finish: Satin
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Ebony
Frets: 17, joined at 13th
Nut: Nut
Nut Spacing: 37mm, 27mm G to A
Tuners: KoAloha custom gears by Der Jung
Strings: Unspecified
Extras: KoAloha hard case
Weight: 480g
Country of origin: USA
Price: £1,249


Superb build and finish
Ebony fittings give it an extra touch of class
Excellent volume and sustain
Rich complex tone
Oozes quality in the hands


The lack of tuner choice, but I'd live with these
I find mango a bit plain


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








  1. Yeah, everything about those macro pics screamed Koaloha, even how it was tied at the bridge.

  2. I am convinced that the naming convention is based on the belief that an “enhanced” (Long Necked) soprano will have more marketing appeal than a “diminished” (Small Bodied) Concert, to the uninitiated.

    1. I think you are right. Still irritates me - like those Chinese Amazon brands listing ukes by 'overall size'...


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