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The Kala KA-15S (compare price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is a soprano ukulele made of mahogany wood. It’s a budget-friendly, entry-level ukulele that has drawn praise for its simple design and inexpensive price.
Unlike other ukuleles in its price range, the Kala KA-15S does not sound cheap nor quick to wear down. Most enthusiasts appreciate its warm, woody tone. While it is not perfect, it is hard to beat this sound quality. This Kala Ka 15S review will take a closer look at its features, its pros and cons, and reveal who it’s most suited to.
Kala KA-15S ukuleles feature an array of unique design points. Depending on your level of expertise, these may either help or hinder you.
Some features worth noting include:
- Super nylgut strings
- 13.625-inch scale
- Figure 8 shape
- 12 frets
- Satin finish
- Rosewood fingerboard
Super Nylgut Strings
These strings are smooth, glossy, and quite comfortable to touch. They are less likely than other strings to leave you with sore hands and callused fingertips. Super Nylgut strings are synthetic gut, which blend the crisp sound of natural gut strings with the reliability of synthetics.
Generally, gut strings need to be replaced every 120 to 150 hours of use. These strings last considerably longer, with some players reporting using the same ones for over a year.
Like all soprano ukuleles, the KA-15S comes with a smaller scale at about 13.625 inches in length. It has a rosewood fingerboard, a relatively solid type of wood. It is a good scale for people with small hands, but if you are a bigger person, you may find this model challenging to play.
It only has 12 brass frets, so take note before making your purchase. Many players might prefer a concert ukulele with 15 frets or a tenor with 20 to 23 frets.
Form and Aesthetic
For its price, it is a nice-looking ukulele. It has a satin finish, which gives it a glossy look that many people will appreciate. Likewise, it has the traditional figure 8 shape with a tight waist. This shape makes it perfect for hugging tightly against your body, protecting it from falling.
The mahogany wood is appealing to the touch. Your first instinct after buying the KA-15S will probably be to run your fingertips over it. If you prefer a different aesthetic, Kala also sells Black Satin Mahogany and Spruce Top Mahogany KA-15 ukuleles for the same price.
How To Buy A Kala KA-15S
There are multiple ways to buy this model. You can purchase your Kala online from a multitude of online vendors like Sweetwater and Amazon. These vendors list the original pricing, the shipping cost, additional taxes or fees, and provide crucial specifications and user reviews.
When buying your instrument, it is always best to check the different stores to find the best possible price. Moreover, double-check to make sure you are purchasing the correct model as Kala has several models with similar names.
Of course, you can always buy them in person. Buying online might be less stressful, but you run the risk of a damaged or out-of-tune ukulele, not to mention delays in shipping.
Pros of the Kala KA-15S
The KA-15 is an entry-level uke in an excellent price range but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking as a musical instrument. While the KA 15s is a budget model, it nevertheless comes with several benefits:
- Great sound
- Smooth finger placement
- Locally-made and sustainable
- Tropical vibe and attractive overall aesthetic
It is difficult to overstate how impressive the price range for this instrument is. Despite being a $60 to $70 investment, the KA-15S could last you years or decades with the proper care. If you feel comfortable switching from a novelty ukulele to one that is a step up in the professional grade, this one will do the trick as it reflects the high standards typical of Kala.
The body and individual parts are quite inexpensive. Replacing the strings on this ukulele will only run you about $5. Moreover, gig bags and cases will only cost between $10 and $40 depending on the material.
If you want to make the most of your purchase, you can often find the instrument for sale with string bundles and a gig bag for under $100.
Portable Size and Weight
The soprano is the smallest size available for ukuleles. A KA-15S is almost exactly 21 inches long, just three inches under two feet.
Its figure 8 body makes it easy to grip. In addition, the waist is only about 4.5 inches in width, so you should have an easy time holding onto it. The depth of the body is about 2.6 inches deep, meaning it will never feel too bulky or hard to press against yourself.
Kala KA-15S ukuleles are some of the best in their price zone for portability and travel. To aid portability, the Kala KA-15S comes with a black strap button for additional security. With a strap, you can take it essentially anywhere you want. These ukuleles are also very light and you will not tire yourself out carrying them as you might with an acoustic guitar.
The design of this ukulele may seem simple, but it is nonetheless capable of producing very professional-sounding tones. Soprano ukuleles are very small, meaning the sound waves have less room to vibrate inside the instrument.
Their size creates a much higher pitch than concert ukuleles or tenor ukuleles. Many players will consider the sound of a KA-15S pleasing. It is an island-like tone that is perfect for delivering a tropical-like sound.
This Kala ukulele has a sweet, smooth sound thanks to the type of wood it uses. Unlike koa wood, mahogany has a warmer sound with less “twang.” If you prefer a brighter sound, however, consider koa.
Excellent For Beginners
When balancing price points, it can be a bit difficult finding something that finds the right balance between affordability and quality. Here is where the KA-15 shines. Its portability, inexpensive price tag, and smooth tone make it the perfect ukulele for young musicians and beginners.
You will find no shortage of entry-level musicians commending the ukulele for being easy to use while boasting a simple setup. The 13-inch scale plays a large part in it being novice-friendly and accessible to people with smaller hands. You will never feel like you are overstretching your fingers while playing it.
Likewise, this ukulele has smooth, Super Nylgut strings which are more durable than natural gut strings. You will not have to change your strings very often, which students will find helpful.
Cons of the Kala KA-15S
While there are plenty of benefits to buying this ukulele, it will be apparent from this Kala Ka 15S review that it is only an entry-level option. While that makes it perfect for budget-minded players, there are certainly better quality ukuleles out there.
More expensive ukuleles will generally yield better sounds and more tremor. So, if you’re a competitive or professional player, the following cons might be a deal breaker:
- Fewer frets
- Tight finger spacing
- Instrument might be too delicate
- Could get damaged during shipping
- Better quality competitors
- Not as professional as competing brands
If you prefer an instrument with more frets, the Kala KA-15S is not the model for you as it only has 12. Fewer frets mean fewer notes on the instrument and a generally tighter feeling when holding the strings down.
The benefit to having fewer frets is that you can switch notes without having to move your fingers too far. On the other hand, some musicians might prefer fitting more notes on a single string. Likewise, having more frets makes it easier to push the strings against the fingerboard.
Can Be Too Small
The size of the instrument makes it ideal for novice players. However, someone with larger hands could struggle with how small the fingerboard is. Playing the instrument may feel too cramped or tight.
In all fairness, the size is less an issue with the Kala KA-15S and more an issue with soprano ukuleles in general. If the size issues are a dealbreaker for you, you might want to consider a concert or tenor ukulele also made by the Kala company. Should you want to replicate the same pitch on a larger instrument, get koa wood and tighter strings.
Competing Wood Qualities
Although mahogany wood is great for this specific instrument, it has many competitors. Mahogany produces a unique sound that some may or may not prefer. The harder the wood, the more sharp and crisp the sound will emit. So, if you prefer the sound of harder types like rosewood, you will not find this model particularly satisfying.
Rosewood ukuleles are world-famous for being some of the best-sounding ukuleles on the market due to their strength and tightness.
In addition to superior sound quality, rosewood is longer lasting than mahogany. Unfortunately, rosewood is much more expensive than mahogany thanks to the materials’ scarcity in nature. That rarity means that rosewood ukuleles can cost upwards of $100 to $300 online.
Professional musicians who have been playing ukuleles and string instruments for a long time are not the target demographic of this model. After all, many professional musicians prefer unique, custom-made ukuleles specific to their proportions and playstyles.
Kala KA-15S ukuleles are good quality, but they simply are not on the same level as specialty handcrafted ukuleles, or even carbon ukuleles. Indeed, there will be a noticeable difference in quality when performing music with the Kala KA-15S compared to a uke that costs thousands of dollars.
Although Kala KA-15S ukuleles are hard to drop, a mishap could leave them permanently broken. While mahogany is by no means a cheap material, a fall can still crack it or bust a hole in the side of the body. Hard impacts could also damage the strings and headboard.
Even with additional packaging, ukuleles can be susceptible to damage during the shipping process. Ukuleles are relatively fragile instruments, and some models end up being delivered out-of-tune.
The KA-15S is particularly vulnerable to being damaged thanks to its tiny size of 21 inches long. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to prevent this damage from happening. Consider purchasing a case for your ukulele to place when you are not playing it at home and when you are traveling.
Still, the KA-15S’s brass frets are less likely to see wear and tear compared to alternative materials.
Who Is It Best For?
The Kala KA-15S is best for kids and entry-level musicians, but it is a more than viable option for all ages and skill levels. Its convenient size gives it excellent portability, making it suitable for musicians who like to play in all kinds of environments.
Who Is It Not Best For?
Overall, the Kala KA-15S is a great purchase. That being said, it is not without its limitations. Musicians with big hands or problems overlapping their fingers might find this model a tricky one to play. Moreover, professional musicians would best stick to higher-quality options or customized models for optimal sound and overall performance.
What Is the Kala KA-15S?
The Kala KA-15S is a portable and snug ukulele available online between $65 and $69. It is a soprano ukulele, meaning its 13-inch scale will be best for beginners and smaller musicians. This model uses Aquila Super Nylgut strings and does not have any binding.
Kala is a universally recognizable brand that produces popular ukuleles of many shapes and bodies. The KA-15S is the most popular mahogany soprano product the company has for sale, with Kala boasting that it is its flagship mahogany product.
Alternative Models To the Kala KA-15S
Two of the best alternatives for the Kala KA-15S include the Mitchell MU40 Soprano and the Martin S1. Both instruments have pros and cons when comparing them with the Kala K-15S.
Mitchell MU40 Soprano
The Mitchell MU40 is another affordable soprano ukulele, featuring Lindenwood instead of mahogany. Lindenwood is a softer material that some musicians may prefer. The instrument has open-gear vintage-style tuners and, like the KA-15S, has 12 frets.
Both the Kala and the MU40 are soprano ukes of similar sizes. Please note that California has issued a warning that the MU40 could expose you to benzene, which can cause cancers and reproductive issues in extreme cases.
The Martin S1 is an expensive, professional-sounding soprano ukulele of similar size and proportion as the KA-15S. It also possesses a traditional figure 8 body. The instrument has a 24 to 60-month coverage option for an additional fee.
This ukulele comes with a white plastic fingerboard, a multi-strip rosette, and nickel peg turners. The body is also made of mahogany and has a hand-rubbed finish.
Kala KA-15S Review, Final Thoughts
Overall, the Kala KA-15S is one of the best-performing instruments in its class. Soprano ukuleles are easy to get used to and set up. For its price, you are getting much more than you would expect at first glance. It is an inexpensive instrument with a beautiful sound and polish.
Do you have any questions about our Kala Ka 15S review or have you used the instrument? Leave a comment below to let us know what you think!