Hawaii is an amazing place. The surf, the beaches, the Ukulele! Even better than that though is the Koa tree.
The Acacia Koa is native to Hawaii, where it is the second most common tree. According to The World Resources Institute: “Guitars made from Koa were an innovation of the early 19th century, when Mexican cowboys known as Paniolos (from Españoles) came to the islands to help wrangle livestock. They brought their own language and culture, including their guitars”. This led to the development of the Ukulele and other Koa dependent instruments.
With its unusual natural colour and sheen, it’s hard to ignore this rare but magnificent wood. Here are 4 of our favourite instruments made with Koa:
Merida Diana DG-20KOAGACES Electro Acoustic
The Merida Diane DG-20KOAGACES is a fine example of Koa’s ability to play well with others when partnered with another tonewood. The back and sides are built using Koa, which establishes a rich timbre with a stirring warmth. The soundboard (top) is crafted using solid Sitka spruce, a favourite amongst luthiers and guitarists due to its easy workability and gloriously resonant character. The result is an open and well-rounded tonal palette that endows this model with the readiness to tackle any musical style. Whether you’re a both soloist or an ensemble player you’ll love the way that this beauty performs and sounds.
The elegant mahogany neck and rosewood fingerboard partnership create a seamless feel for the fretting hand. The deep single-cutaway makes it delightfully easy to reach the highest frets in total comfort. The Merida/Fishman electronic allows you to hit the stage in style, wowing audiences wherever your music takes you.
PRS Limited Edition Angelus AE270E Figured Koa Electro Acoustic
The PRS Limited Edition Angelus AE270E Figured Koa offers luxurious style alongside comfortable playability at a price that is an absolute steal. The Angelus series of models have taken the world by storm since their release, and this limited-edition model is a boastful example of what PRS SE guitars are capable of. The richness of the tonewoods are married by incomparable craftsmanship, with elegant Fishman electronics delivering the sublime acoustic timbre with aplomb.
The highly figured Koa top is reinforced using PRS hybrid “X”/Classical bracing – as used on PRS Custom Shop acoustic – to provide support and enhanced resonance for peerless projection. Elegant playability is the order of the day across the mahogany neck, whilst the luxurious tactile feel of the ebony fingerboard is the stuff of dreams.
Whether you’re laying down tracks in the studio, wowing audiences on the stage, or simply kicking back and jamming to your favourite songs, the AE270E should be in your hands.
Taylor K24CE Electro-Acoustic
Taylor has a wide range of Koa models across various price points, but at the very top end is the K24CE model, as played by Taylor Swift. It’s no coincidence that the popularity of Koa wood guitars skyrocketed after Swift was seen performing with one.
The K24CE adheres to Taylor’s Grand Auditorium body shape, which marries comfort and power to create a fantastic all-rounder. By employing solid koa in the guitar’s build, the more that it is played, the richer the timbre that is generated over time. Ornate details such as the spring vine fingerboard inlay pattern enhance the visual aesthetic, whilst the Taylor Expression System 2 electronics allows you to amp up and take to the stage in style.
Another important thing to note is the work Taylor are doing to improve sustainability in guitar manufacturing and Koa sustainability. They have joined forces with Pacific Rim Tonewoods and the Paniolo Tonewoods project in Hawaii, both of which seek to establish sustainable sources of Koa in the islands.
Finally, we can’t write about the jewel in Hawaii’s crown without mentioning at least one Ukulele:
Tanglewood Tribal Spirit Tenor Ukulele
The Tanglewood Tenor is designed to keep pace with the most enthusiastic of performers. Premium koa is used in the construction of this uke to maximise its tonal range and lay a warm foundation. Subtle touches such as the tribal spirit soundhole rosette accentuate the natural finish.
The die cast tuners and rosewood bridge consolidate its high-end feel. Tanglewood’s TEQ-TUT pickup ensures that each note is reproduced with sparkling clarity when plugged-in. You can rest assured that the subtle nuances of your performance are captured in all their glory.
If you’re after an instrument with a unique look that plays beautifully, you can’t go too far wrong with Koa! If you want to see more, check out our full range here.
Jon is a multi-instrumentalist with a passion for inspiring others to get involved in making music. After spending many years playing venues here, there and – pretty much – everywhere, he joined the Dawsons’ Music Web Team before progressing into his current role managing the Dawsons Blog.