Pono TE-C Chambered Electro Tenor Ukulele
The way the layer of cedar on the top of this Pono TE-C is flawlessly fixed and smoothly rounded into the acacia body is a fine looking feature, with the macassar ebony fingerboard and bridge adding further touches of class. The fingerboard markers are a touch small, and the headstock and logo look relatively plain, but these are small issues, and come down to personal taste anyway.
It would have been nice to see a wooden control knob, rather than a black metal one, but overall, the graceful shape and simple, elegant red cedar top make this Pono TE-C look stylish.
The TE-C has a chambered body design which clearly has more room for sound to resonate in the chambers than the Imua model, as the acoustic sound level is much higher. In fact, give it plenty of welly and it starts to get to a volume of a regular ukulele played modestly. The acoustic tone is warm, rich and full of character. When amplified however, its Pono passive pickup does sound a tiny bit thin in comparison with the more expensive Fishman in the Imua. However, taking some trebles out on your amplifier’s EQ, or preferably, a DI box, brings back that rich unplugged tone – only louder.
This Pono TE-C electro has a radiused fretboard – a very gentle curve that accommodates the natural position of your fingers. The Pono passive pickup is, as you’d expect, a lot better than an entry level undersaddle strip. Strings are by Ko’Olau, Pono’s Hawaiian parent company, and are slightly unusual that they have a wound C. This configuration won’t delight everyone, but it certainly gives the acoustic volume and boost.
The neck felt a little chunky at first, in comparison to the other ukes tested here. But it seemed to be just an initial surprise at the contrast, rather than anything serious. Certainly, the road testing of the TE-C was not a burden, quite the opposite in fact. Everything feels good once you get used to it, with no playability issues noted at all.
Equipped as it is with a custom, thin-body hard case, together with Pono’s undoubted craftsmanship and quality raw materials – the TE-C seems very reasonably priced for a ukulele that wouldn’t be out of place in the hands of a professional. If anything, the slight thinness of the sound when plugged in does raise a concern for those who just want to plug in and play. You can tweak your amplifier to recreate the lovely acoustic tone, with a little extra work.