Ask almost any advanced ukulele player, and they’ll tell you they’ve embraced a concert ukulele for a while in their journey. Although confirmed virtuosos, like Jake Shimabukuro, use tenor-sized ukuleles, they reminisce about concert ukuleles when indulging in their practice sessions—that’s definitely for a reason.
Concert ukuleles are literally for everyone. The concert size offers as much playability to professionals as it does to beginners. Everything is buttery-smooth, from the transitions on a roomy fingerboard to easy-to-play changes!
Yet, from what I’ve seen, high-quality concert ukuleles are easy to replicate. I understood that manufacturers might exploit this point to offer low-quality ukuleles, especially that beginners mostly dominate the ukulele scene. I’ve been deceived more than I warm-up before playing (and yes, I do practice vigorously.)
A resonant sound, quality tonewood, and a playable fingerboard are all you need, and I’ve summed those up in my top picks, where you’ll definitely find the best concert ukulele for you.
At a Glance:
- Luna Tattoo – Best Overall
- Ranch UK-23 – Runner-Up
- Martin C1K – Best for Professionals
- Donner DUC-1 – Best Budget-Friendly Package
- Kala KA-C – Best Concert Ukulele Under $100
- Cordoba 15CM-E – Best Electro-Acoustic
- Lohanu LU-C – Best Concert Ukulele for Beginners
The 7 Best Concert Ukuleles 2020
Whether you’re the fingerstyle kind of ukulele player or a newbie striving to get a classic concert sound, there’s a ukulele here waiting for you. My top picks mark the end of my journey of finding a decent concert ukulele that features high-end tonewoods, quality strings, and the best intonation. I’m totally excited to convert this journey to a 10-minute read!
1. Luna Tattoo – Best Overall
You probably heard about mahogany concert ukuleles and how ear-filling their sound quality is. Well, in case you didn’t, let me acquaint you with the Luna Tattoo, the epitome of mahogany of both aesthetics and the charm of the mahogany build!
The Hawaiian reference also transcends the soundboard to the fingerboard with shark’s teeth inlays instead of the generic dot ones. As for stability, the walnut bridge is so dense that it retains the geared, chrome-plated tuners’ tuning. Alongside this concert ukulele, you get a Luna gig bag.
Another thing that makes this concert ukulele unique is the strings. Unlike most ukuleles, this ukulele has its nylon strings plated with bronze, enhancing the midrange sound that concert ukuleles are renowned for. Remember buttery-smooth fingerboards? While the mahogany body takes care of sound quality, the walnut fingerboard makes this concert ukulele easy to play!
Although the tuning machines are of high quality, I noticed that they somewhat couldn’t handle the bronze-plated Nylgut strings. Once I changed them for regular nylon strings, the sound went back to normal with no buzzing. However, I wish this concert ukulele could handle the strings it shipped with.
- Full mahogany body
- Playable walnut fingerboard
- Soothing sound from the bronze strings
- Overall warm tone
- Gig bag included
- Traditional satin finish with Hawaiian ornamentation
- Tuners can’t withstand factory strings
The Luna Tattoo is downright the best concert ukulele. For me, at least. The superiority of this concert ukulele lies in its simplicity; a mahogany top with a maneuverable fingerboard is all it took me to strum magnificent tunes satisfyingly, and this Hawaiian finish literally makes me burst with confidence as I play!
2. Ranch UK-23 – Runner-Up
Your mileage may vary from mine, and the all-mahogany top, back, and whole body of ukuleles may not be your thing. If that’s the case, you can mess out with a myriad of timbres with the Ranch UK-23, a concert ukulele with a magnificent tonewood combination!
When you take a glimpse of this concert ukulele, the wooden satin finish may not catch your eyes, but the ornamentation surrounding the soundhole definitely will! The soundboard’s back and sides are molded out of Sapele, a dense tonewood that pushes your dynamics (like crescendos and decrescendos) to prominence.
The mahogany top achieves a balance between the high-end Sapele tonality and the typical warmth mahogany. However, the treble-heavy sound is dominant when lower tones kick in sometimes. You’ll know it’s time to fret some notes when you feel this rosewood fingerboard. Though tough, it’ll build endurance and muscle memory after lots of practice.
Apart from the sound, I appreciate how Ranch sands the frets carefully—concert ukuleles with pointy fret wires will leave you injured after a couple of phrases. Touching the strings, I immediately sensed the high-quality Aquila Nylgut. On the flip side, I can’t say that the tuners are stable. The bridge also seems to be composite, resulting in the ukulele slipping out of tune.
Criticism aside, I’m thankful for Ranch for providing this full-fledged package at an affordable price. You’ll have the luxury of an extra set of strings, a gig bag, a strap, a clip-on tuner, and a cleaning cloth, alongside this concert ukulele. You’ll also get 12 free online lessons that take you from tuning this concert ukulele to playing fingerstyle rhythm on it.
- Stylish adornments
- Affordable price
- Mahogany top with all-Sapele back and sides
- Neutral tone
- Sanded fret wires
- Comes with accessories and a gig bag
- Unstable tuning machines
- Tone leans toward brightness with bass lines
If you’re planning to showcase your dynamics in front of the world, the Ranch UK-23 is the concert ukulele to opt for. This wood combination, along with the sound-amplifying arched back, will take your volume control to the next level. Wondering how to get to the virtuosic scene? It’s evident—I didn’t miss a single practice session when I had this all-around package!
3. Martin C1K – Best for Professionals
I don’t know where to start with this concert ukulele, but you must’ve guessed how far the quality goes on seeing that it’s from Martin. The manufacturer believes that if you’re going to play a concert ukulele, the sound should resonate as it does from the high waters of the Pacific, from Hawaii!
While the Hawaiian ukulele ambiance is embodied in the aesthetics of the Luna Tattoo, it’s manifested in the essence of the Martin C1K. Unlike mahogany concert ukuleles, the top, back, and sides of this concert ukulele are crafted from authentic Hawaiian Koa. This exotic tonewood gives off just the right mid-range ukulele sound that you see professionals boast about.
Martin chooses a Sipo fingerboard for this concert ukulele. I bet the choice of a high-quality mahogany variant comes from Martin’s intention to give a bass boost to Koa’s neutral sound. When I moved down the carefully-sanded fret wires, I could tell that this concert ukulele is far from being a ukulele for beginners.
While the satin finish makes you appreciate beauty, you’ll let out a sigh of relief when you experience these nickel-plated tuners’ stability. I would vouch for Martin’s ukuleles’ sound and intonation even if I were blindfolded!
Lefties will give this concert ukulele a huge thumbs up when they know it’s left-friendly—all you have to do is reverse the strings’ order to start executing your tremolo picking with confidence! Martin ships this concert ukulele with a pre-installed set of its high-quality silver-plated nylon strings. Besides the satisfactory sound, they’re anti-cut and durable.
Well, I undoubtedly like the branded gig bag, but not the staggering price.
- Balanced tone
- Koa top, back, and sides
- Mahogany-like, long-lasting fingerboard
- Stable tuning machines
- Eligible for right or left-handed ukulele players
- Gig bag included
- Hefty price tag
As the holy grail of ukuleles, we’ve laid down a consensus that the Martin C1K is one of the best concert ukuleles for serious musicians. Once you strike a chord, you’ll be on the brink of summoning the real Hawaiian spirit for your playing. From sound to craftsmanship, this concert ukulele is the way to go!
4. Donner DUC-1 – Best Budget-Friendly Package
Among all ukulele manufacturers, Donner is unceasingly taking pride in its mahogany concert ukes. So, will its ukuleles stand up to par? Let’s investigate the do-it-all DUC-1 and start from the soundhole, where a sticker marketing the AAA-grade mahogany tonewood lies.
It’s true—this ukulele boasts mahogany top, back, and sides, but it’s not the 100% hardwood mahogany we’re familiar with. Instead, there’s definitely some laminate incorporated into the blend. Even the open-pore satin finish on top explicitly says that this concert ukulele is the best bang for the buck.
I’d say this concert ukulele articulates a somewhat neutral tone quality. However, it may incline toward a treble sound when you fret the bass notes on the low G. Selling at an affordable price, Donner secures a professional-grade rosewood fingerboard that the concert size is known for.
It’s also thoughtful of Donner to craft this concert ukulele with an arched back, enhancing the volume. The whole body has ample space for the sound to resonate, and you can control the volume as you progress with your technique via employing dynamics.
There are two factors to sound stability in this concert ukulele, the first being the high-quality rosewood bridge, which endures tons of string tension. The second one is installed right on the headstock; these partially-closed tuning machines have 18 revolving pins on the gears, allowing for little-to-no out-of-tune strings.
Speaking of the strings, we’ve got the top-rated Aquila Nylgut strings here, both pre-installed and included. Yes, this concert ukulele is a package! The purchase includes a Donner-branded gig bag, a clip-on tuner, four plectrums, a strap, and a cloth.
If I were to complain about something, it’d be the poorly-sanded fret wires, which may need a final touch once you get this concert ukulele.
- Neutral sound with mahogany top, back, and sides
- Arched back for sound amplification
- Sturdy 18:1 tuning machines and rosewood bridge
- Gig bag included with accessories
- Top-notch for both beginners and professionals
- Unfinished fret wires
With an arched back, rosewood components, and an all-inclusive set of accessories, the DUC-1 concert ukulele proves that Donner nails its almost uncompromised craftsmanship at a low price segment. If not for the fret wires, this ukulele might have ranked higher on our list. Didn’t I mention that this uke comes with exclusive lessons? Well, you now know!
5. Kala KA-C – Best Concert Ukulele Under $100
Also called the Satin Mahogany Concert, the KA-C is a top-of-the-line concert ukulele from Kala, hailed at for being the ukulele industry leader. What makes this uke stand out is the standard ukulele sound you’d expect from Kala, which leans toward a bright, happy tone register.
However, the Kala KA-C doesn’t get overly crisp in terms of high pitch since its top, back, and sides are crafted from a uniform chunk of mahogany, rendering the overall sound quality to be somewhere in the middle between neutrality and brightness. It’s a blessing we have this balance at the sub-$100 price tag as most cheap ukes never convey a midrange sensation.
One peek at this hardwood bridge, and you’d say that this ukulele is a minimalistic-looking one. Connected to the bridge is a fine set of Aquila, one of the best finely-made nylon sets targeted primarily at ukes. Similar to rosewood, we have a laurel fingerboard to fret these strings, helping you build tension for vibrato and bending techniques.
When I took a peek at the back of this ukulele, I was thrilled to see that Kala decided to fully cover the geared tuning machines, unlike the quasi-closed ones in the Donner DUC-1 ukulele. No string would dare to slip out of tune with these sturdy machines. However, I noticed that the intonation runs sharp as you move down the fingerboard.
- Neutral tonal quality
- Premium satin mahogany
- High-quality strings
- Robust tuning machines
- Dense fingerboard
- Well-glued wooden bridge for tuning retention
- Imprecise intonation due to string height
Like most ukes from this manufacturer, the Kala KA-C sets the golden rules of thumb of how a concert ukulele should look, sound, and feel like. You’ll certainly enjoy strumming a straightforward, easy-to-play ukulele that’ll never malfunction beyond its capabilities.
6. Cordoba 15CM-E – Best Electro-Acoustic
If you’re in pursuit of finding a concert ukulele, then you must’ve come across the Cordoba 15CM. I ran my fingers through this uke’s fingerboard and was satisfied with the sound quality and playability. Being one of the best concert ukuleles, I felt the urge to plug it into an amplifier, but this ukulele was plain acoustic.
I was pleased to see that Cordoba decided to release the electro-acoustic 15CM-E with the same top, back, and sides molded out of genuine mahogany. The cream binding along the contours gives this concert ukulele an eye-pleasing look, especially when you factor in the satin finish.
Cordoba’s unprecedented craftsmanship is evident from the unplugged sound alone: the bass notes don’t fade out in the background at the expense of treble-sounding notes, unlike a plethora of concert ukes. When you crank up the amp, you’ll have access to onboard volume controls, and you can control the EQ parameters from the amp for a personalized tone blend.
Cordoba equips this ukulele with premium Nylgut strings from Aquila, and you’ll see these wires fixed onto two pairs of tenacious silver tuners—I’ve encountered zero alterations with the pitch quality here. Also, I found the string height optimal for out-of-the-box playing; it doesn’t take much time to get used to, even for beginners.
My only complaint here goes for tonewoods. One look at the neck, and I thought it boasted a rosewood fingerboard. However, I discovered that it was composite, not hardwood. The same applies to the bridge. So, I suspect that it isn’t affixed to the hardwood soundboard effectively.
- Warm, midrange tone quality
- Hardwood body
- Omnidirectional, full sound when plugged into an amp
- Excellent intonation and skin action
- Stable tuning machines
- Composite fingerboard and bridge
The 15CM-E still stands as a live testimonial for Cordoba’s craftsmanship in both tonewood assembly and electronics. Despite the composite materials involved in the build, this concert ukulele will definitely stand the test of time, thanks to the accurate tuners and the built-in Cordoba pre-amp!
7. Lohanu LU-C – Best Concert Ukulele for Beginners
A beginner ukulele shouldn’t be synonymous with low-quality. Yes, many beginner ukes are made of plastic that’s deceitfully marketed as hardwood. Alternatively, the Lohanu brings the best all-encompassing package to the table to step up your ukulele game once you get started! So, let’s unbox this kit and take a look at the ukulele first.
The reason I deem this ukulele among the best concert ukuleles for beginners is the all-Sapele body, allowing for a more dynamic volume range to mess around with at an early stage of playing. The neck is also made out of Sapele for improved tone articulation. Though unspecified, I could say that the fingerboard is walnut from one look at its matte black finish.
Walnut fingerboards are generally smooth, and it’s easier for a beginner to execute chord changes, hammer-ons and pull-offs, and slides on this soft tonewood. The overall tone profile tends to sound halfway between brightness and depth. Lohanu further improves Sapele’s sound amplification by slicing an arched back to this ukulele, boosting the volume.
I was surprised to see two fully-closed pairs of tuning machines, found in the best ukes at high price tags. You’ll never have to oil the gears because they’re both inaccessible and, in turn, won’t be prone to rust! The bridge also looks well-fastened into the soundboard, and won’t come off, no matter the string tension.
Despite all that, the intonation is still off-sounding as you reach for the higher frets, and that’s what I expected from a low-priced ukulele. However, for that low price, we get a padded gig bag, a clip-on tuner, two plectrums, a strap (strap pins are pre-installed), an extra set of Aquila strings, and a wide range of beginner lessons.
- Sapele body
- Mid-range tonal quality
- Arched back for increased volume
- Installed strap pins
- Reliable tuning machines
- Accessories included w/ lessons
- Treble tone takes over when played with low-end lines
- Inaccurate intonation
Struggling to vibrate this set of strings? The Lohanu LU-C will be your loyal companion throughout your learning journey. Lohanu GENUINELY cares about you getting better. The lessons were even tailored to beginners by Joseph Chung himself, the founder of Lohanu—isn’t that wholesome?
Concert Ukuleles Buying Guide & FAQ
There’s more to concert ukes than what we’ve unveiled in the in-depth reviews. For that, I’ll address some critical points that should help speculate the best concert ukulele for you.
Tonewood: What’s With the Myriad of Material?
You shouldn’t be meticulous in this regard when buying a ukulele—all tonewoods are great for the timbres they articulate. Although tonewoods haven’t been a dealbreaker for almost any instrument, it’s best if I acquaint you with some.
Mahogany gets the lion’s share in the ukes’ realm for its warm tonal quality that diffuses the overly-bright sound of most concert ukes. Without any sound coloration, mahogany adds depth to bright tones to deliver a neutral sound.
Sapele is almost indistinguishable from mahogany, yet it’s more dense and hard. All-Sapele ukulele bodies are famous for adding character and dynamics to the tone. When you gently strum the uke, you can use Sapele’s dynamic prominence to achieve a wide range of tones.
Mostly used for fingerboards, rosewood is harder than both Sapele and mahogany and offers a rigid playground for fretting the notes. Rosewood fingerboards are renowned for canceling out the sound brightness that a uke may run into, hence adding depth to the tone profile.
There’s a similar tonewood to rosewood: laurel. Both are almost indistinguishable in terms of either external appearance or tonal qualities.
You’ll find this tonewood incorporated into the soundboards of premium ukuleles costing either a high 3 or 4-digit price tag, and that’s for a reason. This exotic hardwood’s midrange dominance is superior to, but not as dense as rosewood. Thus, ukulele luthiers find it the perfect tonewood for ukuleles. That’s why handmade Hawaiian ukuleles are basically a big chunk of Koa.
Pitch Accuracy: The “Bridge” to Precise Intonation
Here’s a rule of thumb for all string instruments: when you move down the fingerboard, the notes tend to get slightly off. However, this isn’t an excuse for the dissonance you may hear when you finger higher notes.
When you get your uke, check how far the intonation gets altered. A fast-and-hard rule to implement is to finger the 12th fret and see how accurate it is in comparison to the open string. If it’s terribly flat or sharp, consider ordering a replacement.
Craftsmanship: Spot That Poorly-Made Uke!
You can easily identify craftsmanship defects in these areas:
- Binding: Look at the contours of the soundboard to see if the cream finish is messy.
- Bridge: A cheap bridge has rough edges that aren’t well-glued into the soundboard.
- Tuning Machines: Avoid the geared tuners that need constant lubrication.
- Sound Hole: Avoid the sound holes that don’t have evened-out contours.
What Is the Difference in Ukulele Sizes?
Ukes come in four sizes: soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. As you ascend the ukulele ladder from soprano to baritone, you’ll notice an increase in the soundboard size, fret number, and the neck’s width and length. The bigger the size, the more resonant the sound. Also, the first three sizes are tuned to GCEA, while the baritone is tuned to DGBE, like the guitar.
Is a Concert Ukulele Good for Beginners?
Without a doubt! The secret behind the concert size’s relevance is that it’s eligible for everyone. They’re not as restrictive as the small-sized soprano ukes, nor are they too advanced like tenor or baritone ukes, which are mostly used by intermediate or advanced players.
Which Is Better: Soprano or Concert Ukulele?
It depends. Soprano ukes are great for casual playing, and they’re easy to move around with, especially if you travel frequently. On the other hand, concert ukes have more frets, boast better playability, and are optimal for almost any player. Yet, you’ll need a tote or a gig bag to carry it around.
It turns out that finding the best concert ukulele isn’t that hard, after all! I appreciate how concert ukuleles are universal in how most players, regardless of proficiency, are able to embrace it, unlike other uke sizes.
In case you’re still baffled, I’d give the Luna Tattoo the “best concert ukulele” title. Not only does it hint at a Hawaiian persona with its ornamentation, but it also features a REAL mahogany form factor that gives the harp-like uke sound at an affordable price.