This is another excellent addition to the Pono range, continuing their recent tradition of plugging the gaps for musicians looking for instruments outside the norm. Tuned an octave lower than a Mandolin in unison 5ths (GG-DD-AA-EE), and using acoustic guitar steel strings, this fabulously well engineered instrument produces a huge, rich texture and seemingly endless sustain. In the sound spectrum, its range sits below a Baritone ukulele but above a Mandocello (which is tuned commonly CC-GG-DD-AA). The strings used are a double course of acoustic guitar strings in these gauges (1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th strings from a set of acoustic 10s):
G: 40 40
D: 28 28
A: 20 20
E: 10 10
It has a slightly longer than standard Baritone uke scale length, and a 35mm nut width so it will feel very familiar in the hand to Baritone uke players. But adjusting to the steel strings might take a little time - they are more tense under the fingers and will feel very tough initially.
The saddle is compensated so that the instrument intonates really well over the entire range. The one that I am playing right now has perfect intonation near the nut and the 12th fret so you can play all the way up the neck with great confidence. Both strumming and melodic lead playing styles sound beautiful and you notice that there is little or no loss of volume and sustain the higher up the neck you play - this is a good trick and it pulls it off rather well.
The really noticeable thing about an instrument tuned in fifths such as this is the spread of notes in the chords in the first few positions is much greater. A chord of G covers 2 complete octaves, whereas on a ukulele with a low G string the most you can realistically achieve is 1.5 octaves.
This instrument can also be tuned EBGD, just like the top 4 strings of a guitar and like all standard Baritone ukuleles. It is strung with octave courses on the D and G, and unison courses on the E and B. So the gauges of acoustic guitar strings we use for this Baritone 8 string tuning are as follows:
D: 13 32
G: 9 22
B: 15 15
E: 11 11
I like them so much I might have to go home with this one I am holding now - there are more in stock, so don't worry!
Solid Spruce top
Solid Mahogany back and sides
Rosewood fingerboard, and bridge.
Bone nut and saddle
Rope soundhole rosette
540 mm scale length
35 mm nut width