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: January 21, 2021
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Do you love ukuleles? I hope so – because this article is all about helping you to find a high-quality, playable, and durable ukulele under $500 – and there’s no reason to sacrifice great sound either. There’s an overwhelming choice when it comes to ukes, and we’re going to make it easier for you to find the right one at an affordable price by looking at the best ukuleles under $500.
We’ve examined more than 20 ukuleles and picked eight of them for this review. On top of our list is the Kala KA-SA-T. We loved its walnut fretboard, and the fact its finish is natural and traditional. Additionally, it comes with Aquila strings, and you have yourself a whole load of ukulele goodness for under five-hundred bucks. If you are searching for something else, take a look at the other seven ukuleles included in this article.
We spent a lot of time looking at a huge number of customer reviews and reading feedback so that we could identify the best-performing ukes and manufacturers out there. We’ve examined many factors in our search for the best ukuleles under $500, too – such as types, colors and finishes, materials used in construction, and even the number of frets and how that affects the playing experience. Along with that detailed review section, later in the article, you’ll find a buying guide, and that’s going to talk you through a lot of the features you’ll need to learn about in order to make your own informed ukulele choice. All of this is designed to help you make the best choice possible when you buy your next, or your first uke – so read on!
First up on our list of the best eight ukuleles buyable for under $500 is the excellent Kala KA-SA-T ukulele, and this is a piece of musical kit that is going to tick all of the boxes for a high number of potential buyers out there.
That’s because the Kala KA-SA-T is supplied with a very high specification level, and you get a solid wood acacia top, which contrasts nicely with other parts. The overall standard of the finishing on the Kala KA-SA-T is best described as exquisite, and that’s before you even take in the delights of maple bindings, a beautiful, deep mahogany neck, and an absolutely stunning walnut fretboard. In terms of the sound from all that high-quality timber, and the appearance of this wonderfully made musical instrument, it’s no surprise that the manufacturer boasts about having a high number of traditional Hawaiian ukulele players among its customers.
Add to that package the Aquila strings supplied as standard, and you just found one very lovely ukulele that will sound amazing and last for many, many years to come. All in all, the Kala KA-SA-T is a stunning piece of craftsmanship and would grace a stage anywhere. There is an only a minor drawback that you’ll need to buy your own case. Make it a good one, because this instrument deserves some decent protection.
On the second place of our competitive list is the very contemporary Lanikai Quilted Maple Blue Stain Concert Ukulele, and this is another ukulele that is going to attract the attention and admiring glances of listeners.
Fancy yourself as a heavy metal ukulele hero? Well, you just found your ideal instrument because this semi-acoustic uke comes with an extended cutaway so that you can really get it singing!
Even if you intend to keep the musical offerings more sedate and laid back, the Lanikai Quilted Maple Blue Stain Concert Ukulele is supplied with some desirable features. Not least of which is the finish that will turn dozens of heads. The Lanikai Quilted Maple Blue Stain Concert Ukulele comes in a range of stunning colors, including red (sun), natural (sand), and blue (surf) – we reviewed the blue model, and it’s a pleasure to behold. All colors come is a high-gloss stain that will really wow an audience. However, the customer service could be more responsive.
Add open-back tuners, chrome strap buttons, sturdy, solid build, and a nylon foam case, and you have a uke that will top the list of a lot of musicians.
Making it into third place on this chart is the very capable little Luna Uke Dolphin Concert Flame Top A/E – Trans Blue. This ukulele fully deserves to get in the top-three instruments we reviewed as part of this article, and it looks great too!
The first thing you’ll notice when you pick up this little ukulele is that the build quality feels right. The uke has a maple body that’s been put together really well, and the neck here is mahogany – which does not hurt the weight and structure of this uke.
We loved the flame finish of the Luna, and it will really look the part during any performance. The patterns on this thing are incredibly eye-catching.
There’s a walnut fretboard here, and you get nineteen frets to play. Also, there is the all-important preamp, and this instrument is going to sound greater with it – at any volume and in any acoustic space.
Overall, many players pick this beautiful uke with bright sound and impressive design.
What we liked:
Walnut fretboard with 19 frets
What could be better:
Sounds better through amplifier than played acoustically
Ok, so we’re around the halfway mark on our list, and next to appear is the excellent little Kremona Mari Tenor Ukulele. This model is a more traditional looking instrument when compared to many other ukes, and it will appeal to many players for several reasons.
Don’t let looks fool you into thinking that the Kremona Mari Tenor Ukulele is a tame instrument, and indeed, there is much here to shout about. The Kremona Mari Tenor Ukulele is a very well-manufactured musical instrument. The mahogany in this thing gives it an incredibly mellow tone and this little ukulele will sing out loud for a long time. Everything here is mahogany, except the fretboard, bridge, and overlay – as you’d expect. For those parts, you get rosewood, adding to the tones and appearance of this uke. The tuner machines here are gold, and the manufacturer even throws in a high-quality wooden hard-shell case.
This uke is a hard one to walk away from, and your audience will very likely feel the same way. We wish that the price tag was a bit lower, but you get what you pay for with this instrument.
Up next on our list is the very lovely Martin 0X Bamboo Natural Ukulele. We loved the aesthetics of this elegant, little instrument. With its red finish and simple, minimalistic headstock, this ukulele will appeal to many a musician out there.
There’s a traditional dovetail neck joint, and the primary component is bamboo. That material gives the Martin 0X Bamboo Natural Ukulele a relatively unique soprano sound and does nothing to take away from the comfort you’ll feel when you need to carry this instrument around or hold it for more extended periods during performances.
There is a rosewood fingerboard on the Martin 0X Bamboo Natural Ukulele, and the bridge is made of the same tree species. This ukulele is a really great option for those of you out there who don’t want to spend a fortune but still need to have a playable, durable instrument. By the way, the gig bag is also supplied by the manufacturer. In fact, there’s not a lot not to like about this versatile little uke. However, the tuners could be a bit better.
There are some stellar ukuleles on this list, and the Deering Goodtime Banjo Concert Scale Ukulele is no exception to that fact. This uke is the first hybrid model today, and what you get here is a banjo-ukulele crossover.
The Deering Goodtime Banjo Concert Scale Ukulele is a professional grade instrument, and it comes with 17 Frets. This instrument is USA-made and largely fashioned of maple.
In terms of the sound, this thing will produce, expect a wide range of warm tones, not least of all because this uke comes supplied with Aquila strings. The Deering Goodtime Banjo Concert Scale Ukulele also looks excellent. Combining the traditional shape and aesthetic of old-school banjo construction with a modernized theme, you’ll have them rocking in the aisles – or dancing around the barn, at least with this lovely instrument.
Unfortunately, you will have to pay a bit extra in order to get a gig bag since it isn’t included to the package.
Next on our list of the eight best buys for ukuleles under the $500 mark is the excellent Gold Tone Resouke uke. This uke is our first departure from all-wood construction, and you’re looking at a brass-bodied ukulele here.
You will notice when you set eyes on the Gold Tone Resouke uke is that this isn’t a traditionally styled instrument. There is much of the 20th-century jazz guitar in the build of this model, and that’s not necessarily going to be a negative for those musicians out there who would like something to help them stand out from the ukulele crowd.
This instrument comes supplied with Aquila strings, sounds like a dream, and plays very well across the entire fretboard. There isn’t a great deal not to like about the Gold Tone Resouke, and it is finished to a very high standard too.
All in all, the Gold Tone Resouke won’t be uke for the traditionalists out there, but it will occupy a place in the hearts of all musicians out there who appreciate the non-conventional instruments.
Last, but certainly not least on our list is the Cordoba 30T ukulele. It’s stylish, yet traditional appearance will appeal to many musicians.
Nothing was compromised about build quality when the manufacturer set out to create what is obviously an excellent budget instrument. The Cordoba 30T ukulele is made from solid mahogany on the top, the back, and the sides, and that will be very evident in every tone it produces.
The bridge here is made from the rosewood, as is the fretboard. The instrument features a beautiful abalone rosette, and its design ultimately set the whole thing off, in terms of the overall aesthetic. The finish on the Cordoba 30T ukulele is much as the entire instrument, in that it is simple but highly effective.
Unfortunately, some people reported that they had received an instrument of poor quality. However, this happened quite rare.
All in all, there is nothing to grumble too much about here, and you even get a case and Aquila strings with the instrument.
What we liked:
Mahogany and rosewood build
What could be better:
Quality control issues
Things to Consider
Picking the premium ukulele for you is all about knowing what you are going to need from the instrument. Making a list of your expectations can be a great place to start shopping for a new musical instrument, and it can set you up for years of enjoyment with your new purchase. Here, we’re going to look at some of the attributes and features that make up different types of ukuleles.
Features to consider when buying a premium ukulele under $500
Depending on your level of experience and your expectations, you’re going to need to prioritize the different features in this guide to differing degrees. Here, we are going to take a closer look at the types of ukuleles and the materials used during the construction. We will discuss some important parts of the instruments as fretboards and tuners and will mention other useful features. Try to stick to the things you really need when you’re making your decision.
Type of the ukuleles
There are many types of ukulele out there, although many look the same at first glance. Depending on how you want your uke to sound, you might stick to looking at just tenor ukuleles or baritone ukuleles for a deeper sound or seek out the best soprano ukulele under $500 if you’d rather find an instrument with a high-pitched tone.
Hybrid instruments are widely available these days, and many people seek out banjoleles, which offer some of the benefits of both banjos and ukes – as the name suggests. The Deering Goodtime Banjo Concert Scale Ukulele is a perfect example of a banjolele.
Those who wish to use a uke to practice at home, but also regularly perform music in a band or solo may look to the broad range of semi-acoustic instruments out there. A semi-acoustic uke can be played via an amplifier or used as an acoustic instrument. Some ukes, such as the Luna Uke Dolphin Concert Flame Top A/E – Trans Blue, have a built-in preamp.
You’ll see many types of woods and materials on our list of the best ukuleles for under $500, including maple, rosewood, mahogany, bamboo and brass. Some musicians swear by natural materials when it comes to music and sound. The truth is, you’ll have your own ideas about what sounds and feels great. In general, if you’re using wood, hardwoods offer more durability and strength than softwoods.
Even the most expertly-crafted uke won’t last too long if it’s made from inferior quality materials, so it’s always worth paying attention to what the manufacturer has selected to fashion your uke from.
The number of frets on a uke will influence the range of the instrument. The more frets, the wider the range of notes available, and professional players will look for ukes with enough frets to give a broad range. Materials are also important when it comes to fretboards. You’ll find them made from different materials, such as walnut in the case of the excellent Kala KA-SA-T and the beautiful Luna Uke Dolphin Concert Flame Top, or rosewood in the case of the Martin 0X Bamboo Natural Ukulele.
Tuners can have a massive influence on how good or bad a uke sounds when you play it. To sound great, you really need to stay in tune, and the effectiveness of a tuner will depend on how it has been made. Some ukes on the market employ solid tuners, which are stronger and more accurate in terms of adjustments than their counterparts, which are manufactured of flimsier or hollow materials. The Cordoba 30T is an excellent example of a ukulele with a solid tuning system, and it doesn’t cost the earth. Other ukes on the market feature open-back tuners, and a good example of this is the Lanikai Quilted Maple Blue Stain Concert Ukulele.
Open-back tuners are widely regarded as being finer and more accurate than other types.
If you intend to be seen often in public with your new uke, you may want to give the finish and color of the instrument some thoughts. Some manufacturers go to great lengths to design and build them to look very cool on stage. Color can have a massive impact on an audience and really make for a memorable performance.
When it comes to finish types, ukuleles offer some truly stunning options. Take the Kala KA-SA-T, for example. That’s a more traditional looking instrument that wouldn’t look out of place at a folk gig, with its hues of polished acacia, mahogany, walnut, and maple – that uke looks natural and attractive.
If you’d rather go for more of a contemporary look – and why not – the excellent Lanikai Ukulele comes in a surf-style blue finish that will really catch the eye of anyone that sees it. You can even go retro and buy something like the Gold Tone Resouke, which has a brushed aluminum color and a very old-school appearance.
What else should I look at?
You’ll need to consider the vast array of extras and accessories out there when you are looking to buy a uke for yourself. Some of the items available are only really needed if you’re a gigging musician, or someone who intends to travel often with their uke, or even just wants to go to a friend’s place for practice. Think about getting an instrument with a gig bag or hard case.
In terms of additional accessories, some are essential. Quality strings significantly affect the sound of an instrument, and you may want to upgrade them immediately as the package arrives.
Strings are something you will need to consider at some point, as they can break or just become dull during normal use. It’s recommended to have a set of extra strings at hand.
Whatever you are buying, it’s always worth taking a look at the warranty offered. A decent warranty often signals quality, and it’s great to have some insurance for when things go wrong. In fact, for some, the best uke under $500 might be the one they can afford to repair.
It’s possible to go out and buy extremely cheap ukuleles, however, where musical instruments of any kind are involved, you really do get pretty much what you pay for. The truth is that rushing out and buying the lowest priced ukulele on the market will present you with some problems when it comes to playing the instrument. Materials are often of the inferior quality, even though sometimes the ukulele will be attractive to the eye.
Instruments within the price band approaching $500 will be manufactured from higher quality materials and far more playable. They’ll also be sufficiently built to last you a number of years, and for that reason, they’ll represent a better overall investment. As with most musical equipment, in order to achieve a sound that’s pleasing to the ear, materials are key. Ukuleles in the cost bracket we’re reviewing in this article will offer more sustain and a far more pleasant sound than cheaper versions. While you don’t need to spend a fortune on a ukulele, it’s a good idea to spend enough to make it a wise buy.
These days, it’s possible to find and buy almost anything secondhand on the internet – and ukuleles are no different. However, just as when you’re buying a used car, caution is required when buying a used musical instrument. A look at the item might not be sufficient to describe the sort of life it has had. Instruments are prone to wear, which can affect the sound. You’ll also be forfeiting the right to recourse in the event of a fault when you buy secondhand. We recommend strongly that musical instruments are bought from a known source, and that purchasing new is highly advisable.
This is going to depend on the instrument you eventually decide to go out and buy. Some ukuleles come with high-quality strings straight out of the box, while other manufacturers look to save some costs by fitting cheaper strings at the point of sale. No matter which ukulele you buy, however, all strings eventually need replacing, and that’s a standard maintenance task with any string instrument. Choosing a ukulele with decent strings will save you the worry initially, though.
So, we’ve taken a long look at some of the outstanding ukuleles on the market. That included a wide range of amazing instruments.
The ukulele that topped our chart was the excellent Kala KA-SA-T. We really loved the exquisite finish of the instrument, as well as the materials picked by the manufacturer. It offers great rich sound every time you play it.
Making it into the second slot here was the formidable Lanikai Quilted Maple Blue Stain Concert Ukulele. This semi-acoustic instrument will appeal to many experienced and novice musicians. It’s hard to beat this ukulele in terms of design and color.