Two KoAloha Tenor Bodies Compared

KoAloha is a small ukulele factory here on Oahu and a household name here in the islands. They were started in the mid 90′s when Alvin Okami, engineer, inventor, musician that he was, designed a totally new ukulele. Because Alvin came from other fields of study, he had an entirely different approach to the support and resonance of an ukulele. The “unibrace” or one brace body defines the KoAloha sound and would have never existed had it not been for Mr. Okami. It’s different enough to say that confidently. It’s an amazing idea and it works! Alvin and his wife Pat, along with their sons Allen and Paul, are some of me and my wife’s favorite people..

The KTM-00 is a classic Hawaiian Koa Tenor Ukulele. Just over a grand with sounds like no other. But last year they introduced a new variation, a thin body brother! Slim sister?
The KTMS-00 has a 2″ body depth versus the regular 2 3/4″ of the KTM-00. So it’s not a drastic change, but how does it affect the sound? Come into our listening booth while the young and amazing Corey Fujimoto demonstrates these two Koa tenor ukes.

So what’s really going on here? What are the physics of body depth in an ukulele? Most of what we call tone comes straight from the top or soundboard resonance, but a large part is still determined inside the body, especially the bass frequencies and harmonic character. Cover your sound hole and you will hear this loss. Another interesting thing to try is humming inside the soundhole. Raise and lower your pitch and notice that some frequencies will be amplified more than others. The resonant frequencies of the panels, the opening or soundhole, along with the volume of air enclosed by the body, forms a low frequency resonator. This is known as Helmholtz resonance. Science lovers can follow that link into the vortex of Wikepedia. It’s interesting, if you’re interested.

Of course, many factors are involved here as they relate to body depth and it’s effect on volume and harmonic color. Examining anything closely enough can be fascinating, but for our purposes let’s make it simple. We have two KoAloha tenors with the same exact specs, except┬áthe KTMS-00 is 3/4″ slimmer than the KTM-00. In this recording and setting, how do you think it affected the tone?

Please share your thoughts, opinions, or experience in the comments below.

Aloha friends, a hui ho!

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21 thoughts on “Two KoAloha Tenor Bodies Compared

  1. len kojima

    Andrew they both sound great!..
    Corey is amazing…and he is playing Harry’s favorite song on the KTM-000

    July 19, 2013 at 3:50 am
  2. Travis Baguio

    I love these! Hey Andrew, do you think you can do a listening booth comparing a basic tenor from each of the 4 K’s? I would love to hear the nuances between each instrument for my next purchase.

    July 19, 2013 at 7:18 am
    1. andrewkitakis

      Hey Travis, Thanks and yes, with the Kamaka and my new mic setup I will do that. Until then, this video/blog shows three out of the four – 3-hawaiian-tenors/

      July 19, 2013 at 8:55 am
  3. Phil

    Hmmm, both sweet. One has a “slight” advantage with high’s, the other with lows. Would be a hard choice to pick one. I do love slimlines though. Awesome playing.

    July 19, 2013 at 9:57 am
  4. kevin

    The kmts seems to have a higher, sweeter tone. It’s pretty.
    I wonder if Koaloha will ever make a concert slim?

    July 19, 2013 at 10:06 am
  5. Tom S

    Wow! Shades away from each other. The slim body definitely nails the sweet tone throughout, while the full-size does bring more resonance and a hair more low-end, which mellows it out a bit more… I think:-)

    July 19, 2013 at 11:24 am
  6. Tom S

    P.S. Anyone know how to play 2ukes at once? ;-)

    July 19, 2013 at 11:25 am
  7. jesse

    Is there a picture of the one brace design, or illustration of how it is different than others? Both tenors sound beautiful. I like the fluted fretboard on KoAloha concerts and sopranos. Maybe the tenor design doesn’t allow the fluted fretboard.

    July 19, 2013 at 5:02 pm
  8. Tobi

    I’m surprised of the thin body sound, I would actually prefer the thinbody, it sounds warmer and more melodic to me.
    Btw what is the songs name Corey plays first?

    July 19, 2013 at 5:43 pm
  9. Steve

    Thanks for the great video. Sound is super! Don’t forget that the S also comes with the installed pickup. Love mine — don’t have any feedback issues!

    July 19, 2013 at 6:35 pm
  10. Chris

    Wow, they both sound great. The KTMS doesn’t miss the extra 3/4″ at all! Both are really great looking too.

    July 19, 2013 at 10:11 pm
  11. Brian

    I could hear that one had slightly more warmth, and a more complex tone that I preferred. Funny though, I kept expecting it to be the deeper body when, in fact, every time, it proved to be the opposite – the thinner, 2″ soundbox. I’d go for the KMTS-00 hands down!

    Of course, I’d really like to hear both with my own ears. So when are you guys gonna sponsor a contest prize of a free round trip airfare to your shop?

    July 20, 2013 at 4:08 pm
  12. Paul

    Andrew, when will the tenors be back in stock? Cant see either on the site? Also, what about the Pono guitars? I’d love a spruce/rosewood in either size. What say you Mr K!!?? :-)

    July 22, 2013 at 3:36 pm
    1. andrewkitakis

      Hey Paul, I will restock the site now for KTM-00. We don’t sell guitars anymore. Get a hold of Koolau though. Thanks

      July 22, 2013 at 9:31 pm
  13. Mfujioka

    The slimline looks and sounds great!

    November 18, 2013 at 10:10 pm
  14. Kevin

    Gorgeous sound, and gorgeous ukes. I love KoAloha!

    November 18, 2013 at 10:47 pm
  15. William Kelly

    Andrew:
    This looks to be a truly amazing instrument, another that I would be more than pleased to own. Please not that this comment is supposed to be going towards the November 19 – 26th 2013 Ukulele give away, unfortunately I have been unable to locate the proper location for the comment to be put. what better place than right here at the Review of the Instrument being given away!!!

    November 19, 2013 at 4:17 am
  16. Deb

    Wow! They are both really beautiful instruments!

    November 23, 2013 at 1:50 am
  17. JohnOtsu

    Never really paid much attention to Koaloha before as it seemed to be the upstart new company of the premium K brands. However a KoAloha slim came up for sale recently on the site and I got to listen to the comparison of the slim vs regular tenor and was quite blown away. While the regular tenor sounds excellent in isolation the slim sounds more lively with better attack yet somehow presents sweeter and more evocative at the same time. I don’t know how KoAloha attains this full and unique sound and from a small sound box no less. Perhaps something to do with the physics in the bracing the Okami family has figured out. I think I’ll just resort to my default reasoning and call it ‘alchemy’.

    February 28, 2014 at 5:56 pm
  18. John Otsu

    As a follow up to my comment above: As I did a google search for more info about the KoAloha slim I got to see and HEAR some non-Ukulelesite reviews/vids and was struck by how roundly dreadful they were in comparison to what is being offered at this
    HMS site. While I am quite the noob to ukuleles I am a fervid noob and have been kinda (sadly if ya listen to my wife) obsessed with strummin’ & plucking, setting up, refinishing, modifying and listening to as many ukes as I can fit in…Hi my name is John and thanks for listening to my first step. Anyway the main source of my addiction are, what I have recently realised, the amazing vids Andrew Kitakis creates that allow us to not merely look and hear, but actually see, listen and most importantly discriminate between the various instruments presented. One has to appreciate the efforts to make just a single ‘dry’ unadulterated vid and then to apply the process over and over. Of course kudos to the skilled performers. We all know Andrew is promoting his business by making these videos and pics, but effectively his work serves the entire uke community by creating a useful reference or archive. When next watching a typical uke video its hard to overlook how generic or downright awful even a well acclaimed instrument can sound. Almost detrimental for the purpose of making judgements of qualities. Even the recordings done in the inimical environment of NAMM were better than most of the stuff out there. Hey Andrew maybe you could get royalties from the uke retail industry for creating the desire. So thanks Andrew for feeding the fever. You are my favorite recording engineer ever.

    February 28, 2014 at 8:29 pm
    1. andrewkitakis

      Wow, best comment ever, lol. But seriously, thanks so much John. It is my passion beyond whatever business is involved. I’m obsessed with showing the true sound of these beautiful instruments. Thanks for your kind appreciation.

      March 3, 2014 at 5:11 pm

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Aloha!