Recently, ukuleles (a small Hawaiian guitar), has started to gain popularity all over the world. This instrument is characterized by simple and understandable fingering, which makes it easy to learn how to play it, even for those who are far from being a musician.
In addition, the compactness of the ukulele (some people call them ukes) makes it possible, without problems, to take it with you on hikes and travel. Trying to play ukulele not only beginners dream but also many musicians want to learn it to bring ethnic notes into their compositions and to experiment with the music style.
Best Ukuleles 2019
There’s something about guitars, they’re just so big. And the ukulele is, like, the opposite of overwhelming. Tweet This!
Best Ukulele for the Money No.1: Kala | For budget: under $100 | Concert
Kala is probably some of the most popular ukuleles brand out there. In general, ukuleles from Kala are affordable, built well, look nice, and have a great sound. In my research, I was especially impressed with the Kala LTP concert ukulele. Maybe it’s my personal taste – I prefer the understated, less glitzy stuff in life that has lasting quality and depth to it. And that is exactly what Kala delivers with this ukulele.
The Kala concert ukulele has a great mellow tone and great sound projection. Like all Kala ukuleles, it is easy to play and comes with a basic instruction booklet for those new to playing the ukulele. The price range of this ukulele is perfect to make it accessible to beginners but it is also great for an experienced player or songwriter. Being a concert size makes it a little more versatile and easy to use for anyone. Kala is one of the bestselling and premier brands of ukulele, and their reputation speaks for itself.
Kala LTP ukulele features
- Concert sized – What is a concert ukulele? The size of concert ukulele is right between the soprano and tenor models, which gives it a bit deeper tone and more volume than a soprano but still that characteristic sweetness of the traditional ukulele sound.
- Easy Playability – the larger size of a concert ukulele really makes for an easier time playing – you don’t quite have to contort your fingers as much to get the right positions and this uke, in general, is just a comfortable fit.
- Aquila strings – Aquila makes the best ukulele strings in the industry, hands down. Their strings do take a few plays to “break in” but once broken in they will not continue to stretch out and require frequent re-tuning as many other brands do. I have to say I am surprised that such high-quality strings are included for a ukulele you can usually get for under 100$ on Amazon, but I’m not complaining!
The Kala concert ukulele, just like any other Kala ukuleles, is a great value for your money and for its price, this is definitely the best concert ukulele for under $100. I would definitely recommend it to anyone regardless of skill level for a long-lasting ukulele that they won’t “outgrow.”
- Sounds much better than you’d expect for $100 ukulele
- Keeps in tune very well
- Has a very nice, solid look and feel (doesn’t seem cheap)
- Perfect starter ukulele, you won’t need to upgrade
- Sound almost has a harp-like quality
- Great pitch!
- Looks and plays like ukuleles that are hundreds more
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Best Ukulele for the Money No.2: Kala KA-15T | For budget: under $150 | Tenor
The Kala KA-15T is probably the best selling tenor ukulele in it’s class. The body is made of mahogany and walnut on the fingerboard. These woods give it a beautiful crisp tone and enhanced midrange. People love the way this ukulele sounds! And it’s perfect for a beginner or intermediate player, and the larger tenor size makes it easier for anyone to play.
The included Aquila Super Nylgut strings are high quality and once fully stretched do not go out of tune as much as other ukulele strings. Many instruments don’t even offer this kind of quality strings at a higher price point, so you are definitely getting the best deal there. Also, you will get Austin Bazaar instructional DVD that will help you to get started if you are a brand-new ukulele player.
Kala KA-15T Tenor Ukulele
Oftentimes, when people are wanting to get into the ukulele playing world, it can be tempting to get a low-end instrument. Unfortunately, that sometimes results in an inferior sound and not such a good experience. Many experts recommend spending at least $200 for a starter ukulele, but the beauty of the Kala KA-15T is that for the price of under $150 you will get excellent ukulele with amazing sound. And it won’t break your wallet but instead will reward you with years of playing, high-quality sound, and not to mention the fun times & good memories.
Overall, one of the best things about Kala KA-15T is its versatility. It is perfect for beginners and for intermediate/experienced ukulele players.
- The finish is nice, it looks great and the tone is nice and bright
- Intonation is spot on and it has no problems staying in tune
- Good value, nice feel, plenty of volumes
- Affordable while staying in tune, having good volume and sounds great!
- A solid little workhorse
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Oscar Schmidt by Washburn OU7T Long Neck Tenor Ukulele
When I started doing my research on ukuleles, I was pretty surprised at how many people kept talking about this ukulele. I think it is really eye-catching with its spalted mango wood body – it is simply stunning. It also has classy Grover tuners and ebonite buttons, with abalone binding and rosette. Truly, this ukulele is a piece of art.
On the practical end, the Oscar Schmidt OU7 is made to sing as beautifully as it looks. The included Aquila strings give this ukulele a very clear and good sound. A quick strum of the strings gives back a sweet sound. The tenor size makes it easier to use for anyone with larger hands but is still a comfortable fit for someone with smaller hands.
Oscar Schmidt OU7T features
- Gloss finish – A gloss finish on a ukulele helps protect the wood from moisture as you play, and also makes it easier to play by decreasing friction on shirtsleeves and whatnot. It also helps the appearance and really brings out the grain of the wood.
- Deluxe Grover chrome tuners with ebonite buttons – Grover makes some of the most well-made machine heads and has a great reputation for uncompromising quality in their products. Ebonite buttons are sturdy and crack-resistant which make them very long-lasting.
- Tenor size – Tenor ukuleles are a very popular version of this instrument, played by famous musicians such as Israel Kamakawiwo’ole and James Hill. They are the third largest ukulele, which gives them a little deeper and richer tone than a Soprano ukulele which is the “standard” ukulele. Due to their larger size, they are also a lot easier for people with bigger hands to play.
- Handcrafted quality – Handcrafted speaks for itself. Mass-run, factory produced items of any sort are never the same quality as when you have an artisan craft it themselves. The OU7T is handmade and so has a much higher level of quality than a cheap machine-made ukulele.
- Spalted Mango top, back & sides – Spalted wood is a result of the first stages of decomposition in certain woods that produces a beautifully colored and patterned wood. You would think it isn’t as sturdy because of how it is made, but it is in quite very hardy and long-lasting. Spalted wood and particularly spalted mango are always in very high demand for woodworking. Mango especially tends to make somewhat of a “curly” wood grain pattern in light & dark browns, yellows, pinks and black.
- Synthetic bone nut & saddle – Synthetic bone is much sturdier and long-lasting than plastic or wood counterparts. Using synthetic bone imparts most of the qualities of using real bone without additional costs. It makes a big difference in the tone and resonance of the ukulele, vs. ukes that use wood or plastic.
- Abalone binding & rosette – Real abalone shell accents the binding and the rosette, bring a little bit of sheen to the uke without being too glitzy or distracting from the beautiful finish of the spalted mango wood.
- Aquila strings
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Best Ukulele for the Money No.4: Oscar Schmidt OU5 | Concert
Oscar Schmidt (Washburn) has a fantastic reputation in the music industry, and my brother owned a guitar by them so I was pretty excited to start reviewing their ukulele.
The Oscar Schmidt OU5 ukulele has a beautiful Hawaiian Koa top, back, and sides with a natural gloss finish. It features a 16-fret rosewood fretboard and Grover chrome tuners. Abalone binding and rosette finish it off for a truly striking instrument.
Better than the appearance, however, is the sound quality. Oscar Schmidt (Washburn) is famous for their quality musical instruments and their ukuleles are no exception. It has great tone and sustains, and even better projection.
Oscar Schmidt features
- Concert sized – What is a concert size? The concert is right between the soprano and tenor models, which gives it a bit deeper tone and more volume than a soprano but still that characteristic sweetness of the traditional ukulele sound.
- Select Hawaiian Koa top, back & sides – Hawaiian Koa is one of the premier woods for making ukuleles. It gives a vibrant tone and is similar in quality to mahogany. George Leonard Chaney said in 1879 “The koa is the Hawaiian mahogany. It takes a polish like gold or diamonds. In the hands of foreign workmen, it might be made as ornamental as precious marble.”
- Nyatoh neck – Nyatoh is a tropical hardwood that is similar to Teak with a cherry-ish finish.
- Abalone Binding and Rosette – Real abalone shell accent the binding and the rosette, bring a little bit of sheen to the uke without being too glitzy or distracting from the beautiful finish of the Hawaiian Koa wood.
- 16 Frets – 16 frets gives you a little wider range of sound and ability as opposed to the Soprano ukulele that generally has only 12-14. Most Concert ukuleles have 14-17 frets.
- ABS Nut & Saddle – ABS plastic is a recycled plastic that is sturdy, long-lasting and very hard. It makes for a durable, high-quality nut & saddle that won’t crack or fall apart with age. ABS is also BPA-free.
- Natural Gloss Finish – A gloss finish helps protect the wood from moisture as you play, and also makes it easier to play by decreasing friction on shirtsleeves and whatnot. It also helps the appearance and really brings out the grain of the wood.
- Tuners: Grover Chrome – Grover makes some of the most well-made machine heads and has a great reputation for uncompromising quality in their products.
- Lifetime warranty – Washburn warranty against defective materials and workmanship for the lifetime of the uke. Just keep your proof of purchase on hand! This is a great warranty, most ukes are only warranted for about 5 years.
My initial impression of this ukulele was that it’s a nice, good quality basic instrument. No, it doesn’t have tons of fancy features (although they did splurge on the Hawaiian koa!) but it is a solidly built ukulele that has great sound. There aren’t many ukuleles are offer a bigger bang for your buck than Washburn. And they provide a lifetime warranty (which is quite unusual) and checked in the USA by a technician for smooth fret ends, precision low action, and resonant sound quality.
- Frets are well-placed for beginners and/or someone used to play guitar – you can easily see them which is harder on a smaller uke.
- A prominent sound in the lower sound range, not high pitched or tiny
- Comes with a ukulele-shaped box which can be used as a non-portable ukulele case for home storage
- Holds up well under frequent playing over the long-term
- It plays just like a solid wood instrument
- This one is high enough quality that it works for beginners and professionals, you may never need to upgrade unless you want a different size.
- Really easy to play compared to a guitar
- The sound is worlds better than the cheap toy ukes that most beginners get
- Easy to tune with precision
- Sounds better than many ukes that are more expensive, especially if you upgrade to Aquila strings
- Has a beautiful soft mellow tone, much better than the bright harsh sound of most ukes under $100
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Best Ukulele for the Money No.5: Kala Makala MK-S | For budget: under $100 | Soprano
People often say that if you want one of the best quality soprano ukuleles for a cheap that will last forever, go with a Kala ukulele. The Makala line, specifically, is their answer to the budget-conscious consumers and their budget ukuleles provide a really great sound.
The Kala Makala MK-S is probably the best soprano ukulele among beginners. It is affordably priced with a retail price under 100$ or even under 50$ (without a case, tuner, and bonus DVD), made from quality materials, and is a true representation of what a traditional ukulele should be.
Kala Makala MK-S Specs:
- The Size – the Makala MK-S is a soprano ukulele. The soprano is the smallest and the traditional ukulele size, measuring a mere 21 inches long.
Soprano ukes are the traditional size and definitely have that characteristic sweet and punchy ukulele sound that you expect to hear, as opposed to the bigger models that start sounding more guitar-rescue.
- The Body – I love the rich, reddish color of the Agathis wood body.
It’s made of Agathis wood laminated top, back & sides. Agathis wood is a budget-friendly South American wood that has similar properties as Mahogany, with a warm and rich tone. It is dense yet lightweight, and it won’t dry out and shrink like many budget kinds of wood tend to do.
- Satin Stain Finish – This uke is finished with a satin stain that protects the wood and gives it a natural look and feel. It also doesn’t show smudges and fingerprints like a glossy finish does, which keeps it looking nice and sharp.
One person, I mentioned said that it was perfect for stickers, so if you want to decorate your uke, that would work really well. Oh, and a quick tip – don’t use guitar polish to clean the satin stain… it’ll ruin the finish. A soft damp cloth will work just fine.
- Fingerboard & Bridge – They used Rosewood for the fingerboard & bridge. Rosewood is an interesting wood – it has a particular kind of oil in the wood which helps it “give” just enough to adjust to the way you play, and gives the tone a warm and lush sound. It is generally considered to be one of the better woods to use on a fretboard.
- The Neck – The neck is made from Mahogany, which is a preferred wood for ukulele necks. It is a nice hardwood that won’t warp and gives a rich sustained tone.
- Geared Tuners – The tuners are geared, not friction tuners. What this means to you is – it’s easy to tune! Basically, when you tune the instrument, the leverage of the gears allow you to have much more control of the tuning. Friction tuners are more difficult because the smallest turn of the knob can make for too much of a pitching change.
- 12 Frets – True to standard, this soprano ukulele has 12 frets. This is the standard number of frets which will allow you to play all the traditional ukulele songs.
- The Strings – Makala ukuleles come with black nylon strings and play pretty well considering they aren’t a name brand. But if you want the best strings for your ukulele then buy Aquila Nylgut strings.
- The Starter Pack – Given that this ukulele is really geared towards beginners, I would recommend that if you do buy it, you get it in a starter pack.
The best starter pack I’ve found is here on Amazon – it includes the Kala Makala MK-S ukulele, a nice gig bag made from Black Cordura material with an accessory pocket and adjustable strap, and a clip on Tuner to help you to tune your uke. And all of this for under $100. Check the current price for the starter pack!
All in all, the Kala Makala MK-S is a fantastic ukulele at a fantastic price. It is such a good deal and it will give you plenty of good music and fun times for a long, long time. So here’s my thing – I only want to recommend ukuleles to people that will be a quality instrument worth their money.
This little soprano ukulele definitely fits the bill. It’s perfect for any beginner ukulele player, or kids wanting to have a new instrument to try out. Having said that, at the price you pay, it’s a really nice little ukulele that will give you lots of enjoyment for years to come.
- Excellent for beginners on a budget
- Sturdy feel
- Love the geared tuners
- Easy to tune
- Strings hold their tune well once stretched
- A nice sound that isn’t too bright
- Sturdy neck
- Tuning pegs & gears don’t slip
- Lots of fun to play
- Beautiful and easy to use
- Doesn’t look cheap
- It can take a while for included strings to stretch, up to two weeks.
- The generic strings should be replaced with Aquila to have a really great sound.
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Best Ukulele for the Money No.6: Kala KA-B | For budget: under $200 | Baritone
The Kala ukuleles are extremely popular among the ukulele players and the Kala KA-B is no exception. This ukulele sold as a bundle so for the price you will get everything you need to start – ukulele itself, clip-on tuner, storage/transportation bag, soft polish cloth and the Austin Bazaar DVD (good for beginners).
This ukulele has Mahogany body and neck and comes with the best Aquila Nylgut strings. So you will get perfect ukulele “out of the box” and you don’t need to look for better string or a case.
The quality of this baritone ukulele is great and the sound is good and loud. So, if you are looking for a top baritone ukulele then the Kala KA-B is what you are looking for.View at Amazon
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Best Ukulele for the Money No.7: Kala MK-T | Tenor
Another great choice from the famous ukulele brand Kala. This ukulele is a tenor size and like the aforementioned ukulele, this one comes in a good bundle with everything you need to start. Like all the Kala ukes this one has outstanding quality. It has a great sound and the Kala MK-T comes with the Aquila Nylgut strings (according to customer reviews).
The Kala MK-T tenor ukulele is the great value for your money and you can’t go wrong with this one. But keep in mind that in the UK this ukulele is not available in a bundle but despite that fact it is still the best inexpensive tenor ukulele.
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Best Ukulele for the Money No.8: Hola! Music HM-21BK | Price: under $50 | Soprano
If you want to buy a budget soprano ukulele for a beginner then the Hola! Music HM-21BK is the best choice. This ukulele has a good price, good sound and it’s highly rated by reviewers and it has more than 1500 reviews right now.
The Hola! Music HM-21BK comes with a canvas tote bag, strap, and picks which is good for beginners. Also, the Hola HM-21BK comes with the Aquila Nylgut strings which are the best strings for ukulele.
And another good thing about the Hola! HM-21BK it is available in different colors: black, zebrawood, blue, green, mahogany, natural color, purple, red, light blue, orange and there is even a pink ukulele and other colors!View at Amazon