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Kala is one of the best-known names in Ukuleles for a reason. Kala’s production and quality control range sets them apart from several competitors, enabling them to tap into the entire market for musicians, from beginners to expert ukulele players.
But their selection also means they can overwhelm you with everything available, which makes it challenging to choose a ukulele from them.
But worry not – that is why we are here. Whether you are starting with playing or need a new baritone ukulele, here are the best Kala ukuleles.
Kala KA-S – Best Overall
The Kala KA-S is Kala’s flagship product for a reason. Soprano ukuleles are the most common of the four types and are also the smallest. The tone is often bright and somewhat tinny because of their size, but the soprano is the right option for a “classic” ukulele sound.
This specific instrument is the best overall because it combines price, versatility, and quality. The body and neck are Mahogany, making it a small yet mighty ukulele with a warm yet thin resonance.
Reviews all claim it is perfect for pros and learners because its action is placed just at the right level above the strings. Its sound is as rich as the sound from a soprano gets.
Its only drawback is the low-quality strings it arrives with, though they can be easily replaced. For under $100, this Ukulele is an excellent option for pros and beginners to play in almost any setting.
Kala KA-SCAC-C – Best Premium Option
This Solid Cedar and Acacia Ukulele carries a higher price tag but its buyers have found the price worth it. The solid composition gives it a bright, warm tone in all sizes and its 18-fret neck also caters to beginners and experts by giving all players ample room to press notes and form chords.
The solid wood build produces a wide range of tones that improve with age, unlike laminate ukuleles.
The body will produce even further subtleties in the overtones and sound. Thus, this uke also offers potential for the experienced player with a good ear.
But be aware – this one is almost 300 dollars on most sites – so be committed to the prospect of playing it and taking care of it.
Makalya MK-S – Best Budget Option
Makala is to Kala what Squier is to Fender. Kala created Makala to make their products available for a budget, a goal that the imprint has achieved. As quality control processes have advanced, Makala’s Ukuleles exhibit the same quality Kala does. That explains why this uke is so beloved by budget players.
Its body is mahogany, just as the Kala KA-S’s body is, giving it sounds a nice sweetness, while the walnut fingerboard makes it easy to play.
For players just starting, this ukulele is probably your best option if you want a Kala at a budget price, as it has everything ukulele players love about Kalas for a lower price. The instrument, however, is less suited to intermediate or expert players because of its choice of tonewood and laminate top.
Kala KA-15T – Best Tenor Option
Tenor Ukuleles are one size step up from Soprano Ukuleles and have a deeper tone and more sustain to their sound. For the best overall tenor, we considered the quality of material, price, and sound from reviews, and the KA-15T stood out by a long shot.
Kala uses mahogany to build this uke and uses satin to finish it. These characteristics lend it a lovely, mellow tone and rich resonance.
Customers report its tuning gears only take about a week to stabilize. Its price falls around the 100 mark, making it feasible for professionals and beginners.
Kala KA-PWC – Best Concert Option
Made with Pacific Walnut that makes it look like an authentic Koa wood uke, the KA-PWC ukulele is a particularly aesthetically pleasing instrument.
That is not all it has going for it.
Its fretboard is rosewood, making it feel more like a guitar, and its walnut composition helps its sounds swell and project, making the tones warmer and spacier than those that usually come from a ukulele.
Like many options on this list, this product can appeal to long-time players and those just starting their journey on this instrument.
Kala KA-B – Best Baritone Option
The baritone ukulele is somewhat of the black sheep of the ukulele family because its tuning makes it more similar to a guitar.
Therefore, guitar players can carry this around on travels conveniently and continue practicing and playing.
The larger body of a baritone ukulele makes the sound cozy and deep, enabling it to project sounds far beyond the capabilities of the typical ukulele.
Another advantage of the baritone ukulele is that it’s easy to play, making it an ideal choice for beginners or experienced guitar players looking to learn a new instrument.
Baritone ukuleles are on the more expensive end, but this instrument from Kala gives you the exciting, interesting sounds of a baritone and a durable build without breaking the bank.
What To Look For in Kala Ukuleles
The first key to Kala Ukuleles is authenticity. Make sure your instrument is truly a Kala. You can do this by purchasing directly from Kala’s website or buying a product with a certificate of quality control. Both Sweetwater and Amazon typically include this in their product description, and thus, you can add one more step of quality control.
This way, you can assure that your instrument is of high quality and keep inauthentic copies of quality products such as Kala out of circulation.
But beyond the authenticity of the instrument, there are several more factors to consider.
At a glance, you should consider and look at these traits of all ukuleles – not just Kala – when you are considering purchasing one:
- Build type
- Musician level
- String type
- Hardware (tuning gear, note accuracy)
Before you begin looking for a Ukulele, or any musical instrument, you will always have to consider your budget. Related to that, you should also consider who you are buying the instrument for. We will get more into that at the bottom of this list of considerations.
Whether or not your intended recipient is a seasoned Ukulele player will define the budget. If you or whoever is acquiring the product is a seasoned player, a higher budget will get you further getting an instrument used by professionals and performers.
But if you are a beginner, then there is no need to spend so much – because good beginner Ukuleles do not have to break the bank.
In defining your budget, Ukulele material is the first thing you will consider.
Materials are critical to consider because they are the part of the instrument’s build that most affects its sound.
Kala typically uses mahogany wood in its mass-produced ukuleles. The few pockets or gaps and even grain make it a durable and excellent material for a ukulele body. It also creates a warm, straightforward sound in a ukulele. This aspect makes it a popular material to use for ukuleles.
Though dark red wood has several advantages and positive traits, it best suits beginners as it does not create the subtleties in over- and undertones that other woods create and provide.
Among other products, Kala uses spruce, acacia, and cedar. These three materials provide a wider range of tones and age differently.
Spruce is one of the best woods for ukuleles because of its density and grain and its change with age. When spruce ages, it adds further subtlety and depth to the sounds, deepening the low sounds and raising the high notes.
Acacia has similar qualities, in addition to being an authentic Hawaiian ukulele material. This wood’s density also richens the product’s sound with time.
Acacia has the bonus of being a native Hawaiian wood that looks similar to koa, giving a ukulele the traditional Hawaiian appearance.
Expensive materials are somewhat sensitive to weather conditions, especially given the typical build type of ukuleles that use them. So, be aware that you will have to store them in dryer places so that moisture does not damage them.
The last thing to mention regarding the material is appearance.
Mahogany gives a ukulele a pleasing, dark appearance that gets darker as time goes on, so if this sounds pleasing to you, then this common material will be the material you should choose.
If you want a ukulele that looks closer to the traditional koa ukuleles produced in Hawaii, wood like cedar, acacia, or spruce will be better for you.
Ukuleles need hardwood for their fretboards so the instrument can produce the proper sound. Most body woods vibrate too much to use for the fingerboard.
Vibration is preferable in the body because it projects and distributes sound waves from the instrument. But it is undesirable in the part of the Ukulele that defines the note.
Kala uses rosewood, ebony, and walnut for their fingerboards. All three are hardwood and therefore provide resistance against the string that produces accurate notes.
Using these woods for the fingerboard also means that Kala’s builders are experts, seeking to make notes accurate and clear on all levels of their products.
Ukuleles are built from specific tonewoods using one of two construction types: solid wood or laminate top.
They have different effects on the durability of your instrument, so you should know the difference before you buy.
Laminate top ukuleles tend to be cheaper because they bind inexpensive layers of thin wood together, while Solid wood tops use one layer of a specific wood.
Laminated tops have an often sturdier body because the combination of several layers of wood and binding makes the product heavier.
The sturdiness of a laminate top ukulele, especially a soprano ukulele, can be good for someone who travels a lot and wants to bring their instrument with them. Laminated bodies are also more resistant to changing weather conditions and moisture.
Consequently, you will not have to worry about it as much when it comes to moisture.
But laminate builds do not add richness to sound with age. That reality makes them better for beginners and people who play alone.
Solid wood ukuleles will change their sound with age, which is an attractive feature for professionals and long-time musicians who perform.
Solid wood ukuleles have other features, such as lighter weight and potential fragility. They are built solid with strong wood. Lighter than their laminate counterparts, they are less sturdy and more sensitive to moisture and temperature. Thus, if you buy a solid wood ukulele from Kala, you should know how to store it and keep it safe from bending or warping due to moisture.
Solid wood ukuleles, though more expensive, are not always far pricier than laminate top ukuleles, especially with a company that prioritizes affordability and quality like Kala. If you are a beginner who wants to start with a solid wood ukulele, it is possible to do so. Just prepare to work extra hard to learn more about keeping it safe from environmental damage, and be prepared to commit further to learning how to play if you do not know.
As the list of Kala ukuleles already showed, there are several sizes and types of this small Hawaiian instrument. The size of each type and their material quality level affects the sounds they can make.
Three of these sizes share the same tuning, function, and sound, while one, the baritone, is the odd one out because it is more like a guitar.
Kala produces all four ukulele types, so consider which size sounds right for you before you buy a ukulele from the company.
Soprano ukuleles are the most popular type of uke for several reasons. They are the smallest of the sizes and types. Because of their size, their note range covers the highest pitches of notes produced by a ukulele hence the name soprano. The sound you typically associate with ukuleles comes from the soprano.
These small yet mighty ukes create a bright, joyous sound that you will find in traditional Hawaiian music. Therefore, the soprano creates sounds authentic to the place of the instrument’s origin.
They are 21 inches long, with about 15 frets and a G-C-E-A tuning for their strings, which is standard for ukuleles. Kala makes its Soprano ukuleles with a wide range of materials, ranging from mahogany to walnut.
So, if you want a portable instrument with a great sound that is easy to learn to play, the soprano ukulele offers excellent prospects.
They can also cater to several musicians, from beginner to professional musicians, as many famous ukulele players used sopranos to create their happy, easy-to-listen-to music.
Sopranos also come in acoustic and acoustic-electric, making concert performances possible.
You should remember, however, that their size means they do not project sound as their bigger counterparts can.
Concert ukuleles offer more versatility than their smaller sibling but not as much as the tenor.
The name does not refer to its use, so do not fall into the trap of making sure you have a concert ukulele if you want to play live, and especially unnecessary to make sure your product is acoustic-electric.
Concert ukuleles are 23 inches long, putting them between tenor and soprano. The sound is typically the twinkly, happy, and lovely sound associated with ukuleles, but its slightly larger size gives it some extra projection power and dynamics to bolster the sound.
Their capability to produce richer tones gives you flexibility and nuance in your playing. They can also project higher volumes, making this product appealing to experts who play live but who do not want to transport large instruments.
It also suits beginning musicians with large hands, as the added room on the fretboard can accommodate bigger hands.
Though they produce concert ukuleles with a Mahogany build, Kala typically uses cedar and spruce for its concert ukuleles. Therefore, the company’s choice of material places the better concert ukuleles toward the expensive end of the spectrum. But the cost is worth it if you seek a ukulele that is still easy to transport and store with a sound that will only grow better over time.
The next octave down from soprano, tenors are slightly bigger than soprano ukuleles. The name is yet another half-misnomer. The name indicates a high pitch, but tenors produce a deeper sound than two of their counterparts because of their 26-inch length.
That is only scratching the surface with this larger ukulele. If you want to move up from a concert or soprano ukulele because you have improved your abilities as a musician, the tenor will suit your needs perfectly.
The tenor’s versatility and abilities to add subtlety to notes and their expression make it the top choice of several expert ukulele players. Its bigger body and extra room for the notes to travel enable it to sustain plucked notes and strummed chords for longer. As a larger ukulele, it also sounds louder both acoustically and electrically.
It can be played quietly and loudly, however, adding a room to show off technique and musical dynamics with whatever you play on it.
The strings on a tenor are more tense, meaning you should be ready to use it a lot so your fingers can get used to it, or it means you should have experience playing a stringed instrument.
Tenors can also accommodate newbies with their longer fretboards, as people with large hands and fingers may struggle with the fretboards of soprano and concert ukuleles.
Tenors have bigger frets and, consequently, should cause no such problem. Like its previous two sizes, it plays with the standard ukulele tuning, G-C-E-A.
Unlike all previous sizes, the baritone ukulele does not play with a G-C-E-A tuning. The baritone ukulele is more like a guitar in size and tuning. Its strings are tuned to D-G-B-E, which is a linear tuning running from lowest pitch to highest pitch. It is also the same tuning as the first four strings on a guitar.
Baritone ukuleles are about 30 inches long, which makes them the biggest size of ukulele, just two inches shorter than the widely produced and played “Baby Taylor” acoustic guitar.
Its sound is deeper but still capable of the warm, bright tones produced by other ukuleles. Its volume is the highest among ukuleles, and its dynamics, like many aspects, are similar to a guitar.
Therefore, many musical groups use a baritone guitar to bridge the higher ukuleles with the deeper guitars. It can also compliment soprano or tenor ukuleles on its own, creating a soundscape canvas for a smaller ukulele to play on top of.
Baritone ukuleles are a natural switch for guitar players because of their tuning and size and provide an entry into the world of ukuleles. But for ukulele players moving to baritone guitar, it is easy to make your transition as you learn: simply put a capo on your fifth fret and you have a standard ukulele tuning.
Acoustic or Acoustic-Electric
This is probably the shortest question you will address when considering what type of Kala ukulele you buy.
Most Kala ukuleles are acoustic. All listed ukuleles from Kala are acoustic, but they do make some acoustic-electric models. The difference lies in how much you can amplify the sound.
Acoustic-electric guitars have a pickup in their build, allowing an amplifier to pick up their sounds for live performances.
Many professional ukulele players will choose acoustic-electric guitars for live gigs, but this is after years of practice and warming up for gigs. If you plan to play live gigs, you do not need to start with an acoustic-electric. We recommend you do not unless you have the requisite experience. We recommend starting with the simple acoustic model.
Each ukulele can use different string types, and to get the best possible sound out of your instrument, you will need to research the strings and lengths each instrument uses.
The tone is up to you, too – it’s part of why there are several sizes to choose from – but certain strings work better with certain materials.
Most ukuleles use different nylon strings and specific materials, but most Kala ukuleles say you should use Aquila Nylgut strings. Kala recommends these strings because they deliver a sharp tone, and their feeling on the fingers is almost tacky, which some players prefer.
You can choose other string types, such as D’Addario’s nylon strings or Worth’s Fluorocarbon strings, which produce different tones than Aquila.
By hardware on a ukulele, we mostly refer to its tuning pegs and bridge that holds the strings in place. For the first few days, until your ukulele is broken in, notes may not be as accurate. The tuning pegs should get used to the needed notes soon and hold accuracy. If they do not, it means the hardware is not quality.
Check reviews to check if the hardware on your intended ukulele works well. Kala has an extensive quality control process for hardware production, so their tuning pegs are mostly accurate and high-quality.
Musical experience and purpose may be the most important aspect to consider.
You can read “musician level” as “purpose,” too. Depending on your musicianship level, you will buy a ukulele from Kala for a specific purpose. If the ukulele is a gift, you will have to know what your recipient will gain from it and ask yourself how skilled they are, what level of musician they are – beginner, intermediate, or expert – and what they will do with it.
You must consider your purposes and musicianship if the instrument is for you. Will you commit to learning it? Are you just starting, or are you seasoned? How will you maintain it? How will you learn to play it? Will you play it alone, or do you intend to play live?
If you can answer these questions, you can know what to look for in terms of size, material, and style and know how committed you are to your budget.
Top Kala Ukuleles, Final Thoughts
Kala produces a vast range of quality ukuleles, but their names and the materials make no sense to the beginner or intended buyer without an introduction.
The six ukuleles at the beginning are almost guaranteed to serve whatever purpose you are chasing in playing the ukulele. They will bring you joy, a new skill, and great music from within your own home. Just be sure you are buying the ukulele that is optimal for you.
You can do that by looking at all the aspects we listed in this article, all of which we considered in drawing up the list of the six best Kala ukuleles. We hope whatever instrument you choose brings you great experiences and happiness at the right cost!