KoAloha Opio Concert Spruce and Acacia Ukulele
Good things come to those who wait. Or at least they do every now and then. In 2017, Barry Maz did a review of the KoAloha Opio Tenor Spruce Ukulele. It has a distinctive look with the standard KoAloha build, but a very pale face made of Spruce. I have wanted on ever since.
I already own four KoAloha products, and I wouldn’t buy another of the same size or wood configuration that I currently own, but I’m not opposed to adding more KoAloha instruments to my collection. I love the sound of a KoAloha, and I love the company. They stand behind their products with a legitimate warranty–my 2004 Koa Concert was completely refinished last summer for free (other than shipping to Hawaii)–and they treat people very nicely. I’ve seen the company simply ship a ukulele to vloggers who they want to encourage (no need to send one here, KoAloha…go bless someone else). I like KoAloha so much that my own photo of my Opio Sapele Tenor is used as part of (or the inspiration of) the UkeStuff logo, particularly on the video introductions that I use–and on the background header of both YouTube channels.
But I’m also a bargain shopper. I wait for a good price on a model, and if I trip on a good deal, I usually can afford to buy it. I was visiting some of the ukulele forums that I check on a regular basis, and a person was offering a KoAloha Opio Concert with the Spruce top and Acacia back and sides for $230. This has always been a $500 instrument, and a new one, at the time of writing, is $561 from a very trusted vendor.
I jumped at the chance to buy it, and the seller sent it quickly, paying another $34 to ship it (ukulele retailers seem to have shipping deals, but individuals have to pay A LOT to ship a ukulele). The seller brought in less than $200 for this instrument–but that was their asking price.
As for the instrument itself, it is traditional KoAloha, though built in Thailand. It has a spruce sound board, musibi sound hole, traditional KoAloha bracing (including the unibrace), acacia back and sides, a rosewood fretboard (with the inverse crown on the bottom…something the full koa models no longer have), a mahogany neck, and the headstock bears the KoAloha logo with “Opio” underneath. The 2019 models no longer show “Opio,” as the company believes that all the instruments are KoAloha…the sticker inside designates what line of KoAloha you purchase (we’re still waiting for the return of the inexpensive KoAlana series, which apparently all burned up in a factory fire last year). The fretboard also has maple dots (could be mango), and standard KoAloha tuners, with fretboard markers on the side of the instrument.
My model has clearly seen some use, which is fine to me, as it has no cracks, but I also don’t need to be afraid of scratching the instrument accidentally.
The sound is what you would expect from Spruce: bright and loud, with less depth than my Opio Acacia model. I can’t completely compare because my Acacia is strung with a Low G, and the Spruce has Worth Brown strings with High G. My Koa Concert has a completely different sound…it is certainly aged more (even though refinished) being built in 2004 (my two concert Opio models were made in 2016), but there is a balance and clarity with the Koa that isn’t achieved with the Opio models. Don’t get me wrong–we’d be all be lucky if the Opio series were the only ukuleles available on the planet. They’re wonderful–but my Koa Model is sublime. It’s hard to describe–but there’s a reason why you would want to drop more than $1000 on a new KoAloha Koa model. The Spruce is loud and clear–but the Koa model has a tenderness and depth–even while loud–that the Spruce does not. I’ll change the strings eventually to something else, partly out of curiosity–and I’d be interested to hear what a switch to clear fluorocarbons would bring to the Spruce and if that would have any impact on the comparison to the Koa.
I think the top on this Spruce model has begun to yellow with age, which is a good thing. A yellowish tone will look better with the Acacia back and sides (and Mahogany neck) in time.
I’m a lucky man, owning five KoAloha instruments:
- Opio Sapele Tenor
- Koa Concert
- Opio Acacia Concert
- Opio Spruce & Acacia Concert
- KoAlana Mahogany Soprano
The funny part is that if you total what I paid for all of them, I’m not that much over the cost of a single new Koa Tenor. Like I said, I’m a bargain shopper when it comes to ukuleles. And all of my ukuleles together are worth far less than my tuba, which I have owned for over 20 years, so while it isn’t a cheap hobby, most hobbies cost far more than this one.
What do I want to add? I’d like to add a KoAloha Soprano or a KoAloha SuperSoprano (full Koa), and if I ever see a used Opio Sapele Concert model (which they stopped making a few years ago) for a good price, I’ll buy it immediately. I love the sound of my Sapele Tenor, and think it is neck-and-neck with my Koa Concert. If my house was burning down and I could only grab two ukuleles, the Sapele and the Koa models would probably by what I would save.
Would I recommend an Opio Spruce model to you? Absolutely–but I’d recommend any KoAloha model to you. If money is tight, but you want a new ukulele (some people don’t like buying used things), then the value of the Opio Acacia model is hard to beat. If you want a brighter instrument, look at the Opio Spruce models. And if you are looking for the full KoAloha sound–which is a real thing–with a crazy blend of depth, brightness, volume, and tenderness, and you can afford it, look at the Koa models. All of them come with KoAloha’s warranty. And if you can’t afford one, watch Craigslist, visit second-hand music stores, and watch the ukulele sales forums. While the price of Koa instruments (any make) is sky high, there are deals to be found.
And if you are a fan of any of the other K models–I am not against those. One of the ukuleles on my long term “shopping list” is a Kamaka Concert; and if I ever see a deal on a Kanil’ea, I would also be interested. Each of these companies have their own sound, and I’m not opposed to owning those, either–but they would either have to come as part of a purchase on a trip to Hawaii as a living souvenir, or as part of great deal that I can’t pass up. Remember…good things come to those who wait.
It is probably good to mention that I am NOT a sponsored artist by KoAloha, nor have I been given any financial support from KoAloha. I just love their instruments and their company, and I’m a fan.