BY GREG OLWELL | FROM THE FALL 2022 ISSUE OF UKULELE MAGAZINE
Each year, the team at Ohana manages to expand the company’s vast lineup of ukuleles of all shapes and sizes—and budgets. One of Ohana’s newest offerings is the CK-570G, a flashy concert ukulele with a solid koa body and plenty of abalone inlay. At its core, the 570G is a limited-edition version of a model that’s been around for a couple of years, the 370G. Both models share the same extensive abalone inlay work and high quality construction, but the 570G uses figured koa, with abundant flame and striking grain instead of the plainer koa used on the 370G, making it even more handsome.
Indeed, my tester featured beautiful koa throughout. The top and sides used fancy koa with a lot of flame and great coloring between the lighter and darker grain. But my review uke’s two-piece back had a prominent sapwood strip down the center that dazzled me with its prettiness. Of course, you can’t miss the abalone purfling that rings the 570G’s top and rosette. Likewise, the headstock features abalone purfling and logo, along with gold-colored tuners with simulated wood buttons. Mahogany binding on the 570G’s top, back, fingerboard, and headstock add an elegant touch to its look. The fingerboard’s abalone bird position-marker inlays show the birds doing something different in each inlay, from flying to standing, and sports a pair of birds at the 12th fret (in place of the double dots to show the octave). There was one note-worthy oddity, though: The 9th fret inlay looks like a bird sitting on the 9th fret, perched on a wire. The position marker pattern for the fingerboard’s side dots follows the standard ukulele pattern with a dot marker on the side of the fingerboard at the 10th fret. However, the fingerboard’s bird inlay is at the 9th fret instead of the 10th. The inconsistency might disturb some players, but it didn’t cause me any trouble before or after noticing it.
Though reviews of koa ukuleles often talk about “classic koa tone,” I’ve found koa to be one of the most unpredictable-sounding tonewoods used in ukuleles. The wood’s density and weight seem to vary much more than mahogany or rosewood, which can lead to a range of tones, so koa ukes can be all over the map. Still, if I was blindfolded and listened to someone play the CK-570G, it’d be easy to guess that it’s made from koa. This ukulele provides a distinctive balance of warmth and brightness and unleashes a potent bark when strummed quickly. Its snappy response and admirable presence made it an excellent rhythm instrument right out of the box. Still, I could also easily imagine it improving with years of playing. Perhaps more than any other wood, koa seems to get better and better with age. But since I won’t be able to come back in a few years and find out how it’s matured, let’s just say the Ohana’s sound is off to a strong start.
Fingerpicked parts came out with plenty of clarity at a reasonably good volume. My tester wasn’t a cannon, but it was closer to a loud ukulele than a muted one, which is something I value in an acoustic instrument. It’s not all about cranking volume, though, as an instrument as capable as this one can go from a whisper to a shout as easy as a flick of your wrist.
In typical Ohana fashion, my test uke had a great setup that matched its impeccable construction, and its body and neck were finished in a flawless glossy coat. The frets and fingerboard were just as good, with no high spots and with nicely crowned and shaped frets for smooth, easy playing. The medium profile neck had a comfortable C-shape, and the flat radius fingerboard was excellent for fingerpicking and fretting notes.
For players seeking a concert ukulele with a sumptuous, luxurious look—and high quality construction to match a very good sound—the 570G delivers. For under $899 street, the Ohana CK-570G offers a great feel and the sweet tone of an all-solid wood koa ukulele for less than many comparable instruments offered by other companies. While this may, admittedly, be above the price many folks would consider for a ukulele, what Ohana delivers for your dollars actually makes this feel like a relative bargain. It sounds as good as you’d expect for a ukulele in this price range, and as good as some costing a bit more, with added pizazz for players who want something that truly looks special.