Keli’i Ukulele

Kelii ukuleles are a Hawaiian brand and are produced by the same firm that make Kelilani ukuleles. They tend to focus on the mid-to-high price ranges with most of their ukuleles being $400 - $700.

They have recently had a big hit with their Koa Pili Koko ukuleles which look and sound like solid koa ukuleles at a much lower price.

On Video

The Baron drops some SRV on his Keli'i tenor.

On eBay

5 Comments

  1. Nigel Roe January 1st, 2010 5:02 pm

    I have recently brought a Kelii Koa soprano and I just love the quality of the sound.The solid wood gives it great sustain which means plenty of sounding to chords or single notes.I have changed the strings to Aquilla strings but only cos I prefer them

  2. Nick H September 8th, 2010 9:08 am

    Everyone gives five stars to their ukes. And, I have to for my Keli’i Koa Tenor that arrived today.

    Five stars or otherwise, here are my impressions:

    -Playability-
    MGM set this one up, and actually it took a few days longer than normal to ship. I figured this had to do with MGM setting up a handbuilt uke. TOTALLY worth the wait. The action is perfect and the frets are smooth as can be. It plays as easily as any uke I’ve played. (NOTE: Keli’i has gotten a lot of attention about it’s thicker neck and slightly longer scale. Compared to the Pono tenor I had, if nobody told me the neck was thicker, I would have barely noticed it. And, the neck has less roundness in back, so you close-grippers would not be impeded at ALL by the only barely thicker neck.) The scale gave me no trouble either…I easily stretch about five frets.

    -Sound-
    The Keli’i tenor is actually a lot mellower and sweeter than I expected it to be. I thought, compared to the deeper, guitarish Pono, that the Keli’i would be a really punchy thin sound. But, even with Aquila Nylgut strings (and maybe the Rosewood nut and saddle contribute to this?) the uke is very sweet, loud, and woody-sounding. It’s got lovely sustain, a real island-y and thick, woody tone. It’s gorgeous, and will encourage you to move up the neck. Its high notes – anything past the sixth and seventh fret, really – are especially BEAUTIFUL. “Sweet” is the perfect word for the Kelii’s tone. It’s so woody and nice. I love it. It’s got that mellowness I loved the mahogany Pono MTE for.

    -Construction-
    My only doubt about the Keli’i are the rosewood nut and saddle. I like to swtich out strings often, to try new ones, and I worry about the rosewood wearing faster than bone generally does. HOWEVER – the uke is tremendously well-constructed. I can’t find a flaw. It has a thin layer of gloss, which I imagine allows that beautiful sustain more than a heavy gloss finish would. The inner bracings are clean and neat – no splashed glue or lousy wood in there. The open, geared tuners are solid and sturdy, and the fretboard and frets are smooth, clean and comfortable.
    Important: The Keli’i has a very thin profile. I’m of course relating this to my previous Pono (which may have been beefy) — but this baby is thin, with a nice arch to the back. The fretboard, as I mentioned, is only slightly thicker, but also has less roundness to the back. It feels sturdy and comfortable – not too weighty – to play.

    -Looks-
    This was one area I had minor doubts about before receiving the Keli’i. The uke is solid curly koa, but the ebay pictures showed little, if any curl. I’d also heard that Keli’i uses decal headstock logos and not inlays. My fears were quickly laid to rest. The uke looks absolutely gorgeous. The wood is glossy and darker than I’d thought, and there is a ton of curl. It’s just extremely difficult to capture that curl in any detailed pictures. The uke is next to me now and I keep admiring the shiny curl all along the front, back and sides of it. Gorgeous. The headstock does have a decal, but it’s firmly and seamlessly attached, and I only noticed it was a decal because I inspected it closely. AND — if the decal is part of why I was able to buy an all-koa, incredible sounding tenor uke for ~$550, decal the whole fucking thing. It’s lovely. The gold tuners add to the mellowness, in my opinion. (Pono had ebony tuners — a little more aggressive).

    -Value for/Overall-
    I’m not a guy who justifies things he buys. I’ll admit downing $550 on something that I think is lousy. The Keli’i, though, is GORGEOUS. It really is. MGM told me that in that price range, there isn’t a better sounding solid koa uke. I’m incredibly happy with it. Letting my Pono go was a tremendously difficult leap of faith and I’m glad I took it. Keli’i is fantastic. If you want a very sweet, very thick, very island-y sounding koa tenor, go with Keli’i. Really.

    I’ll have a youtube video review up shortly.
    Search for NickFromOolee and you’ll find the video review.

  3. JBS from Apollo June 29th, 2013 4:17 pm

    Because of some quality control issues a few years ago, Keli’i severed it’s ties with the Koa Pili Koko brand. The quality control issues were addressed and KPK still makes high quality reasonably priced solid wood ukuleles via Jason at http://www.pilikoko.com. It has also recently come to light that although Keli’i is still labeled “Made in Hawaii”, the bodies and necks are actually made in China and the ukuleles are finished in Hawaii.

  4. Mandolin July 24th, 2013 8:09 am

    JBS, so KPK was part of Keli’i and then there was a falling out over “quality control issues” and they split apart? What were the QCI all about? Do you know? Does Jason make the KPK ukes all by himself?

  5. Rob January 26th, 2014 12:49 pm

    Keli’is are great ukes at a good price. Like Pono, which is an another excellent brand, they are not made completely in Hawaii although unlike Pono, they seem to go out of they way to hide this fact. This is silly as there are a few great hybrid make ukuleles that have lost very little to nothing in switching over part of their production to China. China no longer means cheap quality as is did some years ago. Even some 100% Chinese made ukes can be quite good. I realize that legally Keli’i can say that they’re made in Hawaii as more than 50% of their labor costs are from Hawaii, but this is a technical loophole and I just wish they would just be honest and come out with the real truth. No doubt it’s someone high up in the organization making this ‘Hawaiian Made’ decision while many of the staff just shake their heads at this stupidity behind his/her back. Keli’i’, you have a great product which will not be lessened in any way by admitting that part of your ukulele production comes out of China. Hiding this will eventually hurt your sales more than if you continue with the ‘Made in Hawaii’ BS.
    Best of luck to you,
    Rob

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