Pono MTDX-8 Deluxe Tenor 8-String Ukulele
This all solid mahogany Pono MTDX-8 is a lovely instrument full stop, but in the field of 8 strings, it is an absolute favourite of mine. The reason isn’t the looks, though it looks good, or the sound, though it is gorgeous in that regard. The thing that makes it stand out for me is the playability. In the case of many 8 strings, the jangling mandolin-esqe sound might be great, or the wood beautiful, but regularly they’d be a lot more difficult to play. Now, for chords and playing along at the ukulele club these ukes would be ideal, but anyone wanting to get into some more complex playing and they’d have to put down their 8-string and pick up a ‘normal’ ukulele. Not with the Pono MTDX-8 which requires an extremely light touch to play.
The Ko’Olau Mahana strings are nylon based and different pitches can be achieved without the string gauge being vastly different. I’ve often played an 8 string and struggled to sound out the high C, simply because it is so thin and paired with a chunky regular C string; my finger would strike the lower string and miss the high. That problem just doesn’t seem to occur with this model. The strings also provide a lovely, soft-edged and balanced tone too – even with the low G being wound, it doesn’t drown out the others, but rather offers a rich backdrop for the treble strings to shimmer and shine against.
Well, that was all very poetic… But I am going to back up a little bit for the benefit of those not familiar with the 8 string tenor ukulele format. The Pono MTDX-8 is tuned like a regular ukulele, GCEA. At each position, instead of one string, there are two. First there’s a high G and a low G, an octave apart. Then a regular C and a high C, the highest note, an octave apart. The two pairs, E’s and A’s. These combine to give a fuller sound, quite simply as more sounds are made from more notes! You get the benefit of a full tone from the low G, and added sparkle from the high C, with lots of good stuff going on in between.
This Pono deluxe 8-string is made from all solid mahogany, which isn’t stained dark brown (as we’ve become accustomed to – I didn’t realise the wood wasn’t just that colour naturally until recently!). There’s a nice bit of wood grain visible through the superbly applied gloss finish, and an understated rope-style soundhole rosette. Also, the headstock has a rosewood faceplate, which looks very smart. Very effective open geared tuners make tuning easy (although technically, still twice as difficult as a 4-string with the same tuners!), while the ebony fingerboard and bridge, bone nut and saddle help contribute to some very effective sustain.
If you’re looking at buying an 8-string, there are two realistic alternatives. Go for a cheap one and experiment a bit, or invest in something serious like the Pono MTDX-8 for a really enchanting, enriching experience. This is a lovely instrument for picking (picking pairs of strings is hard, but easier on this uke than many), so is right for someone with some good uke-skills, or the desire to acquire some!
We can, allowed a few extra days, fit this MTDX-8 from Pono with a Mi-Si Acoustic Trio pre-amp with LR Baggs undersaddle pickup, to make it into a really mean machine!