In addition to being a private violin teacher, Alecia started writing music-related articles 3 years ago and has been enjoying this experience greatly. Loves quilting and scrapbooking in her free time.
Marcus has a vast experience in digital audio and sound design. Thanks to his knowledge, he actively helps musicians with technical problems, improving their audio quality and even promoting their tracks so that thousands of listeners could enjoy some really good music.
Last updated: December 10, 2020
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Ukuleles come in a wide array, and when you finally step out to buy one, you hope to pick a premium brand like Kala. Choosing from a specific brand is easier, but the variety of Kala ukuleles available is nonetheless large. This means that finding the right ukulele can quickly become a mirage. And that’s where we step in. We’ll help you pick the best Kala ukulele for your playing level.
We have played 24 ukuleles, sampling the different sounds of sopranos, concerts, tenors and baritones. Out of all these instruments, we’ve identified Kala KA-EBY-T to be the best uke overall, and for this, it earns our Editor’s Choice medal. Superb build, remarkable tone, and uncommon tunability are some of the outstanding qualities you get in this model. Read more about this gem of an instrument, and see how other products compare in our Product Reviews section.
Our findings are based on thorough testing and analysis of features like the type and size of ukulele, tonewood, scale length, and neck material. Each of these features has unique properties that impact the ukulele’s tone quality and ease of play. In the Buying Guide segment of the review, we’ll dive more into the details about each feature, its importance, and what to look for when evaluating a Kala uke for purchase. To make it easy for you to follow along, we’ve included a comparison table, in-detail reviews of each product, and a detailed buying guide that includes a couple of FAQs.
Made in a beautiful ebony laminate with satin finish, the Kala KA-EBY-T has the appearance of a high-end ukulele, except it is considerably affordable. The dark and pale wood surface contrasts in a lovely stripy dance that is elegant and easy on the eye. Maple binding is used to join the front to the sides and sides to the back.
The fingerboard is made from walnut, with Kala opting not to stain it dark to match the rest of the instrument. Throw in the mahogany neck and the result is a natural-looking contrast of light and dark wood, with the pale walnut sandwiched between a dark headstock and body. It has 18 frets which attach to the body at the 14th fret. The fingerboard edges are rolled over, tucking the ends of the frets underneath to give a smooth, neat look. There are 4 marker dots along the fingerboard, with these imprinted again on the sides so you can quickly see where your fingers should go without having to peer at the fingerboard.
This Kala tenor ukulele has a GraphTech NuBone® nut and saddle, which comes with excellent tuning stability and resonance. At the back you have tuners with open gears, and these are made from sturdy metal and well installed. They will not be coming loose or breaking anytime soon.
The strings produce a bright, crisp sound, and the volume is remarkably loud.
A solid cedar top is the first thing you spot as soon as you lay eyes on the Kala KA-ABP-CTG. The natural wood look is fashionably classic, and this uke comes with all the resident benefits of cedar material, the most crucial being its lightweight and non-warping, non-cracking nature. Its design is nothing short of exquisite, with an eye-catching, red Padauk binding adding fancy trimming around the sound hole, and setting off the light-colored top and the darker laminate acacia back and sides. Gloss finish completes the catchy look.
This uke has a rosewood fingerboard and bridge, a mahogany neck, and a headstock that matches the sides and back. It’s a combination of strong, durable wood varieties that is hard to beat, and for this, you can expect your ukulele to last for decades.
Grover chrome tuners in vintage open-hole design add a funky personality to the headstock, which is shaped in the standard headstock design seen in all Kala ukuleles.
It has 19 frets and comes with Nylgut (nylon and plastic) B, E strings and steel D and G strings. The quality of the strings is wanting, so this may be one of the things you replace in the ukulele. Still, this Kala baritone ukulele has great sustain and the sound quality is stellar. What you get is a rich baritone, which, although not overly loud, is well balanced and pleasant to hear.
Kala KA-C is a fine instrument and the best performing Kala concert ukulele you can get right now. Perhaps Kala will introduce an even better uke that will dislodge the KA-C but as things stand, this hugely popular model is your best bet for exceptional sound. Part of it has to do with the high-quality Aquila Super Nylgut strings that stay in tune all through and the geared, chrome die-cast tuners that keep the uke in tune. It also has something to do with the synthetic GraphTech NuBone® nut and saddle which gives excellent tunability and closely mimics the sound of real bone.
Finger positions are well marked both on the main fingerboard surface and on the sides. 18 nickel frets and a scale length of 14.8″ makes this Kala uke mid-sized. The tonal quality of this ukulele is impressive; we’re talking great projection and a full sound.
This uke has an understated clean look and is made from mahogany. The fingerboard is carved out of walnut. You’re looking at an excellent choice of materials here, ones that will remain in good shape for a decade or more. Cream binding softly contrasts the golden brown wood look, and satin finish adds a classic matte texture while giving the instrument the protective seal it needs to maintain its pristine look. The build, too, is top quality, with the exception of the fret edges which stick out in places, creating a rugged, non-polished look.
Kala MK-SD-LBBURST Makala Dolphin is a popular Kala soprano ukulele, thanks to its playability. Its action is low enough for most people to play with ease, and this alone makes it beginner friendly. If you prefer high action you can adjust this, which should be easy to do for an experienced player, although you can also have it done at a music store.
This particular one comes in light blue. It features a kauri tonewood, a mahogany neck and top, and a rosewood fingerboard. The exception is the sides and back, which are made from a heavy composite material. The Dolphin has a dull, hollow sound, which is likely because of the material used on the back. For a warmer and fuller sound, you may want to check out the Kala KA-S, which has lots of similarities with the Dolphin but costs about $10 more.
For this model, Kala uses a plastic nut and saddle, and you’ll quickly notice that it has limited resonance and doesn’t hold tune for long. However, the open geared tuners are of good quality and with some retuning, your Dolphin should stay in tune longer. To get the best experience, always tune the uke before playing.
It comes with a range of accessories, including an extra set of strings, a tuner, a soft case, a microfiber polishing cloth, and an instructional DVD.
If you’re just starting to learn how to play the ukulele, Kala KALA-LTP-T Starter Kit is what you want to get. The LTP stands for Learn-to-Play, and as the name implies, this uke is perfect for beginners; the size, playability, and action are all beginner-friendly. 12 frets and a bridge that’s nearer to the lower bout give you better reach and comfort during play. The strings are easy to strike, and you won’t strain to strum the ukulele. In addition, Kala adds position markers facing out and on the side of the fingerboard to help with finger placement so you can train yourself on how to correctly work your fingers.
This ukulele sounds a lot like the Kala KA-T (smooth, warm, full, and high volume) so if this is the sound you’re going for, you have the right instrument. Like most Kala ukuleles, it’s made from laminate mahogany with a satin finish and has a walnut fingerboard. It comes with a Polynesian Shark Teeth laser-etched rosette and Aquila Nylgut strings. Open geared tuners and GraphTech NuBone® nut and saddle give it a boost in resonance and tunability. It takes about a week for the strings to stretch fully and get tuned, but you’ll need to retune them frequently as they also get off tune quite a bit.
The LTP Starter Kit is designed for use with an app tuner, which isn’t as precise as a clip-on tuner. Beginners may find it a little difficult to work with.
What we liked:
GraphTech NuBone® nut and saddle
What could be better:
App tuner tricky to use for beginners
Things to Сonsider
Let’s now dig deeper into what makes a good ukulele and identify the best Kala ukuleles by their features.
Why choose Kala brand ukuleles?
Kala ukuleles have outstanding build quality. They are well-designed and polished, with most of them sporting a satin or glossy wood finish. Wood varieties and laminates used to make Kala ukuleles are durable, lightweight, and produce great tone.
Variety in size and color is another reason that makes Kala a good brand choice. They have everything from beginner ukuleles for kids and beginner adults to professional-level ukuleles. The wide color choice makes it easy to find an instrument that appeals to your design and style preference.
How does the pricing sound?
Kala ukuleles in the entry-level and mid-level category are largely affordable. Most are made using laminates and synthetic materials for the nut instead of real bone, and this helps in keeping the cost low. They have models selling for under $60, with the price for models like Kala KALA-LTP-T and Kala MK-SD-LBBURST ranging between $60 and $100. The highest-priced among the ukes we’ve reviewed, Kala KA-ABP-CTG, goes for about $300, which is reasonable by music instrument standards.
Consider the following features to find the best Kala ukulele
Let’s now analyze the specific features that matter in the ukulele and the role each plays in determining the instrument’s playability.
Consider uke type
The main differentiator in the 4 types of ukuleles is size.
Soprano – The smallest ukulele and the best choice for beginners. Usually has 12-15 frets and comes in standard tuning. It produces a bright sound. An example of a soprano ukulele is Kala MK-SD-LBBURST.
Concert – Bigger than a soprano ukulele. Has at least 15-20 frets and standard tuning. It produces a fuller sound in a wider range of notes than the soprano. An example of a concert ukulele is Kala KA-C.
Tenor – The second largest ukulele. Has a wider range of notes and a smooth, fuller, and louder sound than the concert? Like a concert ukulele, it has 18-20 frets and is tuned to GCEA. Examples of tenor ukuleles include Kala KA-EBY-T and Kala KALA-LTP-T.
Baritone – The largest ukulele. Produces a deep, rich, full sound and is perfect for hitting those deep lows. It is tuned to DGBE. An example of a baritone ukulele is Kala KA-ABP-CTG.
Weight and size
Weight changes for each ukulele type, increasing as you move from the soprano, with baritone ukuleles being the heaviest. The smaller, lighter sopranos and concerts are ideal for beginners because they’re easier to handle. As the player becomes competent, they can then move to the heavier ukes.
Size dimensions are measured in 2 ways: full length from top to bottom, and scale length from nut to bridge. The latter is the most important size measurement as it affects the tunability of the instrument. On average, sopranos have a 13-inch scale, concerts 14-15 inches, tenors 17 inches, and baritones 19-20 inches.
Beginner – may know 1 or 2 chords. Usually in the process of learning basic chords, basic hand movements when strumming, and how to move from one chord to another.
Intermediate – can play all the basic chords and read simple tablature, smoothly transition from chord to chord, and perform a few complex strumming patterns.
Advanced – can play all the chords/scales/notes on the fingerboard, can strum or pick in tune to any song, and has excellent timing.
Professional/Expert – does all the above perfectly.
Tonewood and finishes
The tonewood refers to the type of wood used to make the ukulele with regard to how they affect the sound the uke produces. The most common tonewoods used to make ukes are:
Mahogany – best for mid-range tones and produces a heavy and warm sound.
Rosewood – gives a bright, balanced sound. Great for both highs and lows.
Cedar – gives a warm and controlled sound. Great for fingerpricking technique where you want to produce a range of sounds.
Spruce – best for deep low, bassy tones and an aggressive style of strumming.
Koa – best for mid-range tones and produces a warm, balanced, and mellow sound.
While solid wood is the preferred material for most ukulele players because it gives a fuller, denser sound, it’s also expensive. To counter the cost challenge, ukulele makers often use laminates, particularly for entry-level ukes. A unique advantage laminates have over solid wood is that they’re more durable and resistant to the elements.
Uke finishes include gloss, which adequately protects the wood beneath it; satin, a natural-looking, non-shiny finish that protects the wood beneath without obscuring the beauty of the wood; and paint, less commonly used, effectively protects the wood, and offers countless color options.
The average ukulele comes with 4 strings that are worked to standard tuning (GCEA). The strings are systematically arranged by thickness, with the thickest one (G, has the lowest pitch) at the top and the thinnest one (A, has the highest pitch) sitting at the bottom.
Except for the Gloss Koa line, all Kala ukuleles come with Aquila Super Nylgut strings. These are high quality strings made from a nylon-plastic material that does not put tension on the ukulele.
You can replace these nylon strings with any other strings you prefer. Just make sure that the strings match your ukulele and tuning to avoid damaging the uke and voiding your warranty. It’s also possible to add a low G string to your ukulele, and you can buy these from Kala as well.
The neck is the portion of the ukulele sandwiched between the headstock and the body, and sitting right beneath the fingerboard. The player cups the upper portion of the neck (right below the headstock) with one hand while strumming with the other hand. The neck should be strong enough to bear the tension of the strings, and is therefore usually made from solid wood. In Kala ukuleles, the neck is mostly made out of mahogany.
Accessories like a tuner, polishing cloth, string lubricant, humidifiers, and storage bags enhance the performance of your ukulele and help in its maintenance. Unfortunately, many Kala ukuleles do not come bundled with the necessary accessories. A notable exception is Kala MK-SD-LBBURST Soprano Ukulele, which comes with a lot of these accessories. Luckily, all these accessories are affordable and readily available, so you can buy them from your favorite music store if they’re not offered with the ukulele model you want.
Kala ukuleles come with a 1-year guarantee for models made in China. Models made in USA have a 2-year warranty. The warranty is only applicable when you buy directly from Kala or from authorized Kala dealers and covers instruments bought in the US and Canada only.
Kala also has a 30-day return policy. Some dealers may offer additional guarantees, for example price protection policies and longer return periods.
How to tune a ukulele
When tuning your ukulele, the aim is to tune it to itself, and always to standard tuning, GCEA (also referred to as C tuning).
Start by tuning String Number 3 to C, then play C to tune String Number 2 (E), play E to tune String Number 4 (G), and finally play G to tune String Number 1 (A).
Use a tuner to help guide you in pitching to the right note. When you turn on the tuner and play the string, the tuner will indicate what note the uke is playing. You will then adjust the respective tuning knob accordingly. Tighten the tuning knob to raise the pitch, and loosen the knob to lower the pitch.
Kala has both USA-made ukuleles and China-made ukuleles. Kala ukes that are made in the US are usually more expensive, with prices starting at $800 and up. They also tend to be professional-level instruments, which explains the higher quality and price. Most of the entry-level and low to mid-priced Kala ukuleles are made in China.
Yes. Kala has a wide variety of ukuleles that are suitable for beginners. Kala KALA-LTP-T and Kala MK-SD-LBBURST are good examples. Such ukuleles are smaller in build to ensure that the learner is comfortable holding the instrument. They also have great playability and quality tuners.
The Kala KA-EBY-T is our Editor’s Choice. The tone and sound quality are great, with components such as the GraphTech NuBone® nut and saddle added to ensure the tone quality isn’t compromised. Build quality is excellent, the choice of materials is good, and the satin finish adds just the right amount of smoothness to its look.
Our second-best Kala uke is the Kala KA-ABP-CTG, a gorgeous uke made using choice materials. From laminate acacia to cedar and rosewood, all the materials are durable and naturally appeasing to the eye. The rich bassy tone it gives adds to this uke’s attractiveness.
Our third best Kala ukulele is the Kala KALA-LTP-T. Excellent playability, great sound, and tunability all count towards making this one of the best beginners ukes in the market. We also like that you can tune it through the app instead of using a clip-on tuner.