Sunday, April 28, 2013

Side-by-Side: Mahogany and Koa Ukuleles

Kris asked, so ...

The ukes are both tenors, but slightly different sizes; the Koa is a tad bigger across the bouts. The Mahogany's headstock is a little shorter. Scales are about the same, as are the fretboard widths, though the Mahogany's looks bigger because the rosewood is lighter than the ebony. 

The Koa has a Gilbert-style bridge, which is strung a bit different than the Mahogany's standard classical-guitar style bridge.

Both have one-piece fronts and backs. The Mahogany has a slot-head with classical-style tuners; the Koa has standard post tuners. Both have bone bridges and nuts. 

The Mahogany is plain, no rosette, no purfling, no binding, with fret markers on the board at five, seven, ten, twelve, and fifteen. The Koa has the same frets marked, but with three added, and side dots, which the Mahogany lacks. 

I think the wood looks great on both of them, but the Koa  is more attractive to me. 

Click on the images and you can get a fair amount of detail. 

Koa, left; mahogany, right, above, flash picture.

Mahogany, left, Koa, right, above, natural light.

Mahogany, left, Koa, right, above, natural light.

Mahogany, left, Koa, right, above, natural light.
Back views.


Kris said...

Wow. That makes the visuals a bit more profound, doesn't it. However, what I was actually hoping for was a side by side of you playing them (should the desire strike you to do so), so I could hear the tonal difference. I was surprised that you hit an equipment "bottleneck" so soon, and wanted to see (hear) if I could tell a qualitative difference between the two. Thanks!

Steve Perry said...

Oh, got it.

I'll do that. I can hear the difference, but it would be interesting to see if that comes across on a recording.

The right way to do it is ears-only. Play a piece on one uke, then play the identical piece again on the other, without the audience being able to see either. Easy enough to do.

I've seen a few folks do this on YouTube; they play it, ask for opinions as to which hearers prefer, then reveal which is which after a couple days.

Of course, the notion of which sounds better is entirely subjective; I don't think I've see one of these blind-auditions wherein everybody agreed that one was "better ..."