Evan Reviews: Kamaka Ukulele HF-3 D2I Slothead Deluxe Tenor – Is it worth the price?

*this review is not sponsored and features only my personal and honest opinion of the ukulele model reviewed.

The Kamaka “100th Anniversary” Ukulele HF-3 D2I Slothead Deluxe Tenor, retailing at almost USD$3,500, is a High G ukulele constructed of classic Hawaiian koa in a beautifully striking design.

I got this ukulele from an ukulele store in Singapore called Ukulele Movement. The store contains many different varieties of ukuleles, ranging from ukuleles just for strumming to ukuleles specially crafted for virtuosic fingerstyle playing.

The particular model I have is the β€œ100th anniversary model”, so none that I know of are available for sale anymore. However, I’m pretty sure they have similar models overboard in the Kamaka factory in Hawaii for sale. 

This is the second ukulele I’ve had the pleasure of owning. It is also the first ukulele I’ve had to work hard to pay for through my own ukulele performances. 😱

The Story of How I Paid for This Incredibly Expensive Ukulele πŸ™ˆ

Child Aid 2016 – Singapore
Multiple performances at Esplanade, Singapore
Seoul International Aloha Ukulele Festival – South Korea
Annual BBQ Block Party – Guam, United States

I got my hands on this ukulele when I was about 12 years old. At that time, I was obsessed with exploring the different complex ukulele arrangements by ukulele virtuosos such as Jake Shimabukuro (a source of inspiration for me) and Kalei Gamiao (I am a fan of his style of music). It was then that I really wanted an ukulele which could compliment this style of playing.

Kamaka ukuleles seemed like a great option to me since Kamaka is known for producing high quality ukuleles. The only problem was obviously, its super expensive price. 😡

So, I decided to make a deal with my dad. I would use my new Kamaka ukulele to earn money though performances, gigs, and collaborating with RockClass101, which would then be used to pay back the cost of it. And so my dad decided to get me this ukulele…with a loan of course. 🀣 On the bright side, my dad was especially generous since he loaned me the ukulele with zero interest! πŸ‘

I was incredibly grateful to my dad, and enamored 😍 with my shiny new expensive ukulele. I did as I promised – performing in a wide variety of paid and unpaid performances and gigs, both locally and overseas, in order to pay back the exorbitant cost of this ukulele. As you can see from the pictures above, my Kamaka ukulele has brought me through many of my major performances, and still continues to do so. πŸ’š It took me 3 years of hard (yet fulfilling) work to complete paying back the full USD$3,500 sum of the ukulele.

I am now on to paying for my other ukulele, the KoAloha Koa Tenor Ukulele (KTM-00), that I will also be reviewing soon. 😊

What I believe the Kamaka Ukulele HF-3 D2I Slothead Deluxe Tenor Is Good For

This kamaka ukulele is better suited for songs with a higher pitch and more upbeat melody, such as the ones listed below. This is because the ukulele has a very crisp and clear sound when plucking or strumming the instrument, and this compliments cheerful or high sounding melodies as it helps to put emphasis and bring light to the melody of the song.

Songs I’ve Played Using This Ukulele

Here are some of my YouTube videos featuring this ukulele. You’ll be able to hear the sound of the ukulele in every one of these videos and make your own judgement.

Let me know in the comments what you think about the sound quality of the Kamaka Ukulele HF-3 D2I Slothead Deluxe Tenor.

You Are The Reason by Calum Scott – Cover

The Kamaka ukulele fits this song as it requires a gentle and crisp sound, with most of the melody at the higher frets of the ukulele. These sound characteristics fit with the Kamaka ukulele since this high G ukulele places emphasis on the treble section of the instrument (the higher frets). Thus, this ukulele would bring out the beautiful melody of this song better.

I’m Not The Only One by Sam Smith – Cover

The Kamaka ukulele fits this song since it has different iconic melodies and rhythms from the piano and voice playing together simultaneously, and this requires contrast in dynamics for each musical part in order to distinguish them. By playing the piano parts on the lower register of the Kamaka ukulele and playing the melody on the higher register, it prevents the piano parts from outshining the melody since the Kamaka ukulele places emphasis on the higher register. But at the same time, it ensures that the piano part has enough significance to contribute to the piece, allowing the piece to stand out when being played on the Kamaka ukulele.

Volare by Gipsy Kings – Cover

The Kamaka ukulele fits this song as it is mostly upbeat containing many exciting and fast strumming and finger picking patterns. The clarity of the Kamaka ukulele allows the complicated sections to remain clean and pleasant to the ear. Occasionally, such rapid strumming and picking may result in a muddy or messy overall sound. However, with clarity as one of the Kamaka ukulele’s perks, it allows every note to be pronounced cleanly.

Sweet Child O’ Mine by Guns ‘N Roses – Cover

Distortion via effects with BossME-25 effects

Morning Breeze – An Original Composition

Stallion – An Original Composition

*I entered the 8th Thailand International Ukulele Contest 2020 with this ukulele and this song. I was awarded the overall winner and the best instrumental player.

Summary of the Pros and Cons of the Kamaka Ukulele HF-3 D2I Slothead Deluxe Tenor

Pros

  • Bright, crisp and clear sound with good projection
    • Best suited for bright and upbeat songs
  • Beautiful build and design
    • Beautiful colour and texture of the wood grains on the body of the ukulele.
  • Shorter time to get rid of tuning retention
    • Like all new ukuleles, the tuning would go off occasionally, but it took a very short time for this Kamaka ukulele to be rid of the tuning retention found in many new ukuleles.
  • *Higher string action produces clearer sound even when playing complex arrangements
    • At first, it was quite hard for me to play this ukulele because I was too used to the super low action strings of the Oscar Schmidt Concert OU7 ukulele. But after a while, my fingers got used to the high action strings of this Kamaka ukulele, and I started to realise how the high string action prevents the string from easily coming into contact with the fret board while ringing. This leads to a better clarity of the notes being played since there is no hindrance to the projection of the strings. 

*Higher string action refers to the distance between the strings and the fret board

Cons

  • Not ideal for songs requiring a mellow and warm sound
    • Since this ukulele is in high G tuning and contains a mostly bright sound, some songs which require mellow and warm sound would not fit with this ukulele, especially those which need full chords with the bass as one of the more prominent components of the piece. 

My Personal Recommendations

I would recommend this ukulele to…

  • clean fingerstyle players
  • those who like to play upbeat and exciting performance pieces with a mixture of plucking and strumming in their playing styles
  • those who are full-time, serious or aspiring virtuosic ukulele artists
  • those who would like a fancy, beautiful ukulele to add to their ukulele collections

I would NOT recommend this ukulele to…

  • those who like to make the lower registers of the ukulele more prominent
    • because the wow factor of this instrument is the clarity and brightness of the tone at the high registers of the instrument
  • those who are looking for an affordable ukulele

Is the price (USD$3,500) worth it to me? 

I think the price is a little too expensive, but since it is the β€œ100th anniversary model”, I can understand why it may be quite costly.

My rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

4.5 out of 5 Stars

This ukulele is basically the highest quality one can get. Bright and clear sounds matched up with a beautiful overall look, there is not much more one could ask for. πŸ˜‰

I am very grateful for all the support I receive.

To go ahead with a donation using PayPal, click the button below.

(*Because I am too young to own a bank account, the name shown will be my mom’s name. But no worries, it will show a picture of me!)

2 Comments

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