Pono Ukulele

4.33/5 (48)

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Ko’olau are one of the highest quality ukulele makers around. Their ukuleles can be hugely expensive. Their Model 500 ukuleles sell for up to $9,000.

The Pono range is their more affordable range. Affordable being a relative term here – Ponos are not cheap by any means. There’s not much corner cutting with these instruments. They are still solid wood and made with quality materials – they state on their website that they only use the top 20% of the wood they test.

To keep down the production costs, Pono ukuleles are made in Java, Indonesia and set up in Ko’olau’s Hawaiian factory.

Like many high quality instruments. Ponos can be a little temperamental. There are a few stories on the net of problems with cracking (such as here) but Pono do accept this and have a sturdy warranty (the ukulele in that thread was replaced without fuss). Still, if you go with a Pono and you’re in an at risk region, make sure you have a humidifier.

Recently, Pono have picked up some very high-level with them being played by Dent May (see here) and Amanda Palmer (take a look-see).

On Video

Sophie Madeleine plays her song Stars on a tenor Pono ukulele.

On eBay US

On Amazon UK

Video Review

Ken Middleton’s review of his Pono PKC1-E ukulele.

Pono PKT-2 Review

This was my first and (since I’m currently awaiting the arrival of a new Kanile’a) only high-end ukulele. It shipped with a gorgeous fitted hard case and was strung with Ko’olau Golds (low G) – for those who are unfamiliar with the Pono brand, Pono is the mass-produced line of ukuleles from the Ko’olua ukulele and guitar company. Ko’olau instruments are painfully beautiful instruments usually with painfully expensive price tags – but well worth the price. Based on the reputation of the Ko’olua name, I, without hesitation dumped out my piggy bank for the PKT-2 (an ukulele with and embellished binding, purfling and rosette almost at the top of their line of produced ukes).

When I received the uke all I could do was stare at it for awhile – it was that beautiful. I almost hesitated to play it because I didn’t want to defile the instrument with my hands. I quickly re-strung it with Worth Browns (high tension) on recommendation from other ukulele players – this Pono has a very mellow sound and the Worth’s would augment that sound nicely.

And then (after letting the strings settle for a little bit), I played it. It was beautiful. Rich and mellow, it was a wonderful instrument to play, listen to and sing to (reviews on my singing are on another forum – you’ll have to search for that yourself). I personally did not like the Ko’olau strings (but that’s just my opinion) and opted against my usual Aquilas to maintain the natural mellow sound of the Pono.

The neck is a little wider than than my other ukes but that was fine by me (almost the width of a Fluke, wider than Kala). This makes it great for picking. It is also heavier than my other ukuleles (also a nice, comfort-inducing feeling though). Overall, I was very, very pleased with the ukulele; initially at least.

Upon closer inspection there were a number (four to be precise) of small (almost insignificant) cosmetic flaws present. However small these flaws, I felt that for the price I paid for the uke, there should not have been so many. Maybe one or two but not four. In their defense, when contacted, the customer service at Pono was very quick to reply, professional and helpful. In fact, I was contacted by John Kitakis, owner of Ko’olua/Pono, himself. He suggested that I return the ukulele for either a refund or an exchange if I was not satisfied with the instrument. Note: I was eventually offered a refund because they felt my standards for cosmetic perfection were unrealistic. I was not offended at their decision and had they simply told me that they would not have been able to find a more perfect unit, I would have taken it back – yes, I loved the sound of it that much.

Overall, I would recommend Pono ukuleles to most anyone. They are a little more expensive when you start looking at the more embellished models but they sound wonderful. One recommendation: if you have very high superficial standards, view one before you purchase one if you can (I know most people have to buy online due to the very few ukulele retailers outside of Hawaii). You’ll love the sound; you might question their quality control.

Number of years played: 1.5

Price paid: $665 USD – with hard case and Ko’olau strings.

Other ukuleles owned: Kala KA-MTE-C, Kala KA-AFMT, Tenor Surf Fluke (and a handful of Mahalo soprano ukes)

Review by Roberto

Pono PKT Review

My uke is a Pono pkt, I’ve had it for 3 months a newbie to the uke world played a little guitar.

My uke changed my life brother, I’m for real. I always had problems reaching my fingers to get chords right on a regular guitar and was frustrated for years switching back and forth from steal string to nylon.

I was a frustrated I had no groove. but then i got my hands on my pono. It was love at first strum I think I sound great and my wife doesn’t give me funny looks like she did when I would try to play guitar. when passing through the airport recently the local costoms officials were so impressed by the ‘little banjo’ next time through I have to play ‘Oh island in the sun’ for them they said.

The Koa is beatifull and smells sweet every time I take it out of the case it’s like mama’s cookin man. than with just a few strokes me and my new best friend are swingin it country style with a few chord changes it’s a jump up Hawaiian boogie. what a way to get the stress out after a long day. forget the the kala pineapple man I don’t to ruin a good thing a got with my pono.

Review by JRT from PR.


  1. Brett January 4th, 2010 10:05 pm

    Purchased the Pono PBO. Got a smashing good price on it. Solid good sounding instrument. Very happy with the decision to buy Pono. warm tone and nice playability.

  2. David Comiskey April 21st, 2010 2:28 am

    Last week I purchased a Pono PKT-1. I bought it used for 375.00 Canadian. It is stunning! I just can’t believe how beautiful it sounds. During the day I can really strum it, and it’s loud and clear. In the evening when everyone is sleeping I can strum it gently, and the sounds that it produces are subtle and sweet. My rating is obviously skewed and over the top. However, I don’t have anything to compare it to. If anyone could give me some feedback re. my new axe, I’d very much appreciate it.

  3. Carl Harmon November 13th, 2010 6:07 am

    I bought my Pono PKT-2 about 2 years ago and must say this Uke is sweet as can be. I have the curly Koa version which in itself is a work of art. The first time strummed it I was in love. Highly recommended for the price.

  4. Eron G. February 26th, 2011 6:46 pm

    I played a new Pono MSD (Soprano made of Mahogany) along side of about a dozen other ukuleles, all ranging from $250 to $2,000 (USD) and the Pono was a real standout; even when compared to its more expensive Ko’olau brother.
    I have an Applause and a Lanikai soprano ukulele at home and the Pono blows them both away. (they’re all using the same Ko’olau Gold strings)

    The Pono MSD is a very bright, moderately loud, classic uke sound.

    I wound up ordering the uke from Hawaiian Music Supply (www.theukulelesite.com) who shipped it free, in a Ko’olau hard case and even included a guitar humidifier.

    I’m very happy with it. Great uke for the price.

  5. willem February 27th, 2011 11:28 am

    I recently bought a pono solid mahogany concert. I chose not to go for the deluxe version, which has a ebony bridge and fretboard, because I like the looks of rosewood better.
    On the internet the uke looked pretty plain, and indeed, also in reality. The mahogany looks surprisingly light, and there are no bindings.
    The bridge is built extremely light. In fact so much, that I took a photo of one of the holes through which the strings are fastened, in case it should tear in future.
    Positive factor are the tuning grips, which are small, and made of wood (ebony?) and look better than plastic ones.
    The action was very well adjusted; this is my first uke which I didn’t have to adjust. Intonation is above average.
    The neck of the uke is rather wide and thick, the string spacing wider than on a western guitar.
    This is a very good uke for strumming. It produces, well, a classic, friendly uke-sound, and if you put in a bit of power, the sound is really loud.
    I also like to pick the strings, and there I was a bit disappoited. The C-string sounds dull when picked, there is no sustain whatsoever.
    However, if you mainly strum your uke, this is a very good choice.

  6. Bryce September 13th, 2011 3:59 am

    I have a PT-6. All solid wood. From Hawaii Music Supply:

    Body: Solid Mahogany with inlaid ebony sound hole circle
    Neck: Solid Mahogany
    Binding: Solid Ebony
    Fretboard: Solid Ebony
    Bridge: Solid Ebony
    Nut and Saddle: Bone
    Headstock: Solid Mahogany with pearl inlay with layered ebony

    GREAT ukulele. Low G string for that deep tone. Ko’olau Gold string set. One of the best ukuleles I’ve ever played and seen. I believe this is the only PT-6 out there. This uke has made me very happy and didn’t have to break the bank! HIGHLY recommended brand!

  7. uku 1956 October 31st, 2011 7:51 pm

    Just received my New Pono MC Solid Mahogany Uke.
    Very nice, balanced, Killer turners, nice neck.
    Not sure of the strings, Paid $215. Not bad.

    1960’s Gold Label Kamaka Saprano
    Leolani Saprano
    Koa Pili Koko Pineapple
    Oscar Schmidt OU2 Concert
    Pono MC Concert

  8. Shreddi March 14th, 2012 4:16 am

    I just recieved a Pono Concert size today. I like the idea of a truss rod and bought a Tenor size while working in Maui. I bought this online so couldn’t check it out. The strings are not centered on neck and the heal of neck is not flush with body. A waste of nice wood due to really sloppy workmanship. Where are these made? The cheapest of cheap are put together better. My bad for buying online without seeing first. Before they offer to take back, etc. etc. I paid 50 bucks to ship it here, who is going to turn it around and in what time. If they stood by their product they would have it Fed exed overnight back and forth. I would be embarrassed as hell to have this out for anyone to see.

  9. Katherine May 29th, 2012 7:04 am

    I adore the Pono ukes. While in Hawaii, we visited the factory and before I knew it, I had bought 1 gorgeous little mango-wood soprano and 2 curly koa tenors, with their excellent cases. (1 was for my daughter.) I love the sound of these instruments – the tenor is my favourite. Since then I have also bought a Pono baritone, which has an amazingingly mellow tone, and a Kala UBass (it’s nice, but hasn’t the beauty of the Pono instruments.) I find strumming and picking give equally nice sounds from the Pono instruments – and they maintain their tuning extremely well. I was looking for one well made uke in Hawaii, and I certainly got what I was looking for. Thank you, Pono people. Now I just have to get a voice!

  10. Kaxahdan July 21st, 2012 12:08 am

    Below is my verdict after playing a solid mahogany MC Pono for over a month. I tried using Aquilla and Worth (high tension; clear), but prefer the sound of its original strings (Mahana by Koolau).

  11. Gail in Florida November 21st, 2012 8:43 pm

    I ordered a Pono Mahogany Concert from theukulelesite.com because they have such a good reputation for doing a setup and checking out their ukes thoroughly before sending them to a customer. Well it arrived a couple of days ago and I’m thrilled. The wood is a rich warm golden brown with a beautiful grain. I love the minimalist look without a lot of fancy doodads. I restrung it with Worth Brown strings and it really sings (strings are a personal preference kind of thing). The intonation is right on up the fretboard, and it has beautiful sound and resonance. Someone earlier commented that his C string sounded dull. Not so with mine, and all the strings ring out beautifully. But I did change out the strings, so maybe that’s what made the difference. I’m a happy uker!

  12. Paul March 23rd, 2013 1:10 am

    I purchased a used Pono PBO baritone base. I’m told it is a discontinued model. I got is at a music store a got a great deal.
    Cn anybody to me anything about it. It is the gloss finish and after I polished it up it turned out beautiful. It has a great mellow tone.

  13. Jim June 26th, 2013 3:54 am

    When I think of my Pono Mahogany Tenor, I have to say that one can have a snobbier ukulele, but one cannot have a better one. I have two Kamakas, a soprano and a baritone, but I have never played or heard a better ukulele than my Pono. It is a world apart from any other ukulele in my personal experience. Intonation is spot on, and when I strum or fingerpick it, the entire body vibrates as if it were a living, breathing entity. That warm resonance and sustain I have never heard in any ukulele. Keola Beamer speaks of a dream guitar, his nylon-string, double sound hole custom guitar, and I get it. That guitar sings to him as if it were an extention of him. For me, the Pono MT is a dream ukulele. Now, I know enough about stringed wooden instruments to know that sometimes the stars are all aligned for one particular instrument, and that the one produced just before it and the one after it don’t quite measure up. But for what it’s worth, this Pono tenor is the whole plate lunch special.

  14. Keoki May 12th, 2014 8:31 pm

    Aloha! From Monterey, California. I just received my Pono Tenor AT-5-PC Acacia 5 Series today and let me just say one word; BEAUTIFUL! This ukulele sounds great. I ordered mine with the low G and it is exceptional. Everything about this Uke is top notch. I ordered mine from The Ukulele Site in Hawaii. The customer service is second to none and the packaging was outstanding – the ukulele was packed very well and came with a nice hard case for “free”. Of all the ukulele’s I’ve owned, this Pono in my book sounds and feels better than anything I’ve ever played. Keep up the great workmanship and customer service Ukulele Site!

    Get to your nearest Pono dealer and strum a Pono Ukulele, you won’t be disapointed.

  15. kiboy July 23rd, 2014 4:46 am

    I have a pono cedar/mahogany with a radiused fretboard. It’s really easy to play and sound wise is the best in my stable of 10 ukes. Cosmetically I cannot find a flaw anywhere. I want another one.

  16. Matt June 22nd, 2016 8:48 pm

    I second Keoki’s review of the Pono and the excellent service received from The Ukulele Site in Hawaii!

    I just received my PONO ATDC GLOSS ACACIA TENOR CUTAWAY last week and its a jewel of a uke!

    Thanks Andrew, the customer service you provided to me has created a customer for life and an advocate of The Ukulele Site in here in the state of Virginia.

  17. Kenneth Miller November 27th, 2021 6:20 am

    I own a Pono AT, which is the basic solid acacia wood tenor ukulele. Like others here, I purchased my uke through The Ukulele Site, who offer outstanding service. When considering my uke the first decision made was wood type. There were several great options; mahogany, mango and acacia for this particular model range. I went with acacia because of its close similarity to koa, which was out of my price range. The Pono uke is made in Java under strict factory supervision by highly trained workers. As noted this model is the most affordable Pono tenor. That said it is beautifully made. This model has a satin finish, which I like, and the wood is impressive to look at. The instrument also has an ebony bridge, fret board and overlaid head stock, which adds to the beauty. The Pono logo is inlaid, as are the fret markers, and there is a nice rosette around the sound hole. Otherwise no embellishments. The tuners are Grovers, and really function well. To my eye the ukulele is a very fine looking instrument, but if bling is your thing (nothing wrong with that) you may want to check out Pono’s more deluxe models.
    However the main things for me in buying an instrument is how does it sound and how does it play? The answer is the Pono met or exceeded my expectations. My Pono came with the advance set-up from The Ukulele Site. That included adjustments at the nut and saddle, fret work, a beyond the standard factory inspection and more. So the action on my Pono is wonderful. Barre chording is easy, no buzzing anywhere, excellent intonation, etc. The major change I made was to switch out the factory strings for Uke Logic High G fluorocarbons.
    It should be noted that every decision I made I made with very helpful feedback from the staff at The Ukulele Site. When it came to strings they sent me links to sound samples of the three manufacturers I was considering. They also offered guidance about tone woods that was very helpful.
    The bottom line is I play my Pono for about 2 hours a day, probably six days a week. Sometimes I sit down thinking that I’ll practice for a half hour or so, and the next thing I know two hours (sometimes more) have flown by. For me it’s that much fun to play, it sounds that good. The sound is clear, crisp, and varied. I’m learning how to make it bark and even grumble on some songs, or to sing and float on ballads. It sounds great played quietly, it sounds great played hard. I’ve read that solid wood instruments open up and improve in sound over time. I’ve had my Pono for close to three months and don’t hear any difference. If such a change occurs it likely takes longer than such a short amount of time. But if the uke’s sound stays the same I won’t be at all disappointed.
    If anything this Pono has kept my other two ukuleles in their cases most of the time. It’s really spoiled me. So if you’re on a budget and are looking for a quality ukulele for less than $400 one of these Pono models (mahogany, mango or acacia) are well worth taking a look at. I will say that it seems as though the acacia model sells very quickly when in stock, so don’t snooze. I did, and had to keep checking the store’s website for a couple weeks before a few became available. But it was well worth the wait!

  18. Stephen Roberts December 4th, 2021 12:12 am

    I have the MTD-CR gloss with Cedar Top. It’s fantastic. I feels expensive and sounds the same. Strummed or played with a pick, the sound is beautiful and rich. I love to play some sweet jazz chords and let them ring on to the next chord change. I’ve often thought of selling it to get some K brand, but I really don’t think they would sound any better. I’m keeping this one. It’s better than I’ll ever be.

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