Top 7: Best Ukulele For The Money

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 Ukulele For The Money

Model Size Rating Price $UK Price £

1. Lanikai LU-21C

Concert 8.5/10 Check it out Check it out

2. Lanikai LU-21T

Tenor 8.4/10 Check it out Check it out

3. Oscar Schmidt OU7T

Tenor 7.9/10 Check it out Check it out

4. OSCAR SCHMIDT OU5

Concert 9.1/10 Check it out Check it out

5. KALA MAKALA MK-S

Soprano 9.0/10 Check it out Check it out

6. Kala KAA-15B

Baritone 7.4/10 Check it out Check it out

7. Kala MK-T Makala

Tenor 7.9/10 Check it out Check it out


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: Lanikai LU-21C | Price: under $100 | Concert

 

Best Concert Ukulele: Lanikai LU-21C

 

Lanikai is probably some of the most popular ukuleles brand out there.  In general, ukes from Lanikai are affordable, built well, look nice, and have a great sound.  In my research, I was especially impressed with the LU-21C 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 Lanikai delivers with this ukulele.

The Lanikai LU-21C has a great mellow tone and great sound projection. Like all Lanikai 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 concert size makes it a little more versatile and easy to use for anyone. Lanikai is one of the bestselling and premier brands of ukulele, and their reputation speaks for itself.

Lanikai LU-21C 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.
  • 18 Frets – Most Concert ukuleles have 14-17 frets, and so this one having 18 gives you just that little edge of extra versatility and sound capability.
  • 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.
  • Chrome Die-Cast Tuners & Hardware – die casting produces a very durable part that won’t crack yet is still an affordable option for tuners and ukulele hardware.  Chrome finish adds a little pizazz that isn’t flashy.
  • Rosewood fretboard – Rosewood 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.
  • 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 like 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!
  • Natural 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.  Not only that but hey – it looks great!

Verdict

The Lanikai LU-21C, just like any other Lanikai 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.”

PROS:
  • 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

CONS:

Where to buy Lanikai LU-21C ukulele?

The Lanikai LU-21C retails at $150.00 but as always, I have found that Amazon has a good price.

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Best Ukulele for the Money No.2: Lanikai LU-21T | Price: under $150 | Tenor

 

Best Ukulele for the Money No.2: Lanikai LU-21T

 

The Lanikai LU-21T is probably the best selling tenor ukulele in it’s class. The body is made of eastern mahogany (Nato wood) laminate and rosewood on the fingerboard.  These woods give it a beautiful crisp tone and enhanced midrange.  People love the way this ukulele sounds!  It is perfect for a beginner or intermediate player, and the larger tenor size makes it easier for anyone to play.

The included Aquila 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.  Not only that but Mary Lou Dempler, a famous ukulele teacher, has written an included instruction booklet to get you started if you are a brand-new ukulele player.  Her instructions are easy to follow and will get you on your way to those late night bonfire jam sessions on the beach!

Lanikai LU-21T features

  • Tenor Sized – 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.
  • Nato wood top, back, and sides – Nato is a great wood to use for a ukulele.  It is a type of Eastern Mahogany, and therefore it gives the same qualities as regular mahogany.  Mahoganies generally give rich mid-range tones and have a warm, almost “sprightly” sound to them.  The beauty of Nato wood is that it has those same qualities but is quite a bit easier on the wallet than traditional mahogany.
  • 18 Frets – Traditionally, ukuleles only had about 12 frets but musicians preferred having more for a little wider playing ability.  18 frets give you a greater variety of possible notes which, simply put, gives you the ability to play more complex tunes.
  • Easy Playability – This ukulele is often cited as one of the easier ones to play, which is probably due to the tenor size.  Tenor ukuleles are two steps up from the soprano size, which means you don’t have to contort your fingers nearly as much to be able to play it successfully.
  • Aquila strings are included.
  • Die Cast Tuners – die casting produces a very durable part that won’t crack yet is still an affordable option for tuners and ukulele hardware.
  • Limited Lifetime Warranty – Lanikai guarantees their ukuleles against defects in materials and workmanship for your lifetime!  The only exception is the tuning hardware, which is guaranteed for a year.  This is a great warranty!  Just remember to submit your registration card within 30 days, and keep your sales receipt on hand.
  • Rosewood fretboard and bridge – Rosewood 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.

Lanikai LU-21T 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 Lanikai LU21T is that for the price of under $150 this baby is the excellent choice. 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 the Lanikai LU-21T is its versatility. It is perfect for the beginner ukulele player or the intermediate/experienced, and it is a great value for the money.

PROS:
  • 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

CONS:

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Best Ukulele for the Money No.3: Oscar Schmidt by Washburn OU7T | Price: under $200 | Tenor

 

Best Ukulele for the Money No.3: Oscar Schmidt by Washburn OU7T 

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 loud but sweet sound with no muffling or muted sound like many ukuleles. 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 the 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

Summary

One of my biggest impressions of this ukulele is really just how they seemed to pull out the stops a bit for a ukulele at this price point. When I do research, I really do research into each little feature and when you combine the fact that this uke is handmade from a high-demand spalted wood, with the best-in-the-industry strings and tuners, I am surprised that you can get it for under $200.

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Best Ukulele for the Money No.4: Oscar Schmidt OU5 | Price: under $200 | Concert

 

Best Ukulele for the Money: Oscar Schmidt OU5

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.

Verdict

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 uke that has great sound and is perfect for a beginner or intermediate player. Features aside, though, all anyone wants is a nice uke that has great sound, right?  So let’s check it out!

There aren’t many ukuleles are offer a bigger bang for your buck than Washburn. And to top it off, they have 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. I’ve gotta say as well… I love the fact that they took one of their more “beginner” model ukulele and guessed it up with the Hawaiian Koa wood – Nice move, guys! Overall, this ukulele is very good for its price of under $200.

PROS:
  • 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.
  • 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

CONS:

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Best Ukulele for the Money No.5: Kala Makala MK-S | Price: under $100 | Soprano

 

Best Ukulele for the Money No.5: Kala Makala MK-S

 

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 consumer and is a really great balance of quality and economy. 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!

Verdict

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.

PROS:
  • Excellent for beginners on a budget
  • Sturdy feel
  • Love the geared tuners
  • Easy to tune
  • Strings hold their tune well once stretched
  • Nice sweet 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

CONS:
  • 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 KAA-15B | Price: under $200 | Baritone

Best Ukulele for the Money No.6: Kala KAA-15B

The Kala ukuleles are extremely popular among the ukulele lovers and this Kala KAA-15B 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 ( a beginners guide). 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.

Customer reviews for this ukulele are extremely good and current rating of this uke is 4.6 out of 5.0. 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 KAA-15B is what you are looking for. Sadly, but the Kala KAA-15B bundle is available for the US only. But for the United Kingdom residents there good alternative – Kala kab-ukulele it comes without a tuner, case and DVD but it has good quality and Aquila Nylgut strings.

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Best Ukulele for the Money No.7: Kala MK-T | Price: under $100 | Tenor

Best Ukulele for the Money No.7: Kala MK-T

Another great choice from famous ukulele brand Kala. This ukulele is a tenor size and like the ukulele from above comes in a good bundle with everything you need so less headache! Like all the Kala ukes this one has outstanding quality, the great sound comes with the best Aquila Nylgut strings (according to customer reviews) and available for the price of under $100. 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

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If you want to buy your fist beginner soprano ukulele then Hola! Music HM-21BK is the best choice. This ukulele has a good price, good sound and highly rated by customers and has more than 1000+ reviews right now. Hola! Music HM-21BK comes with canvas tote bag, strap and picks which is good for beginners.  Also, this ukulele has Aquila Nylgut strings which are the best strings.

And another good thing about Hola! Music 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!

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  1. UkuleleLover November 13, 2016 at 11:10 pm

    I think Kala-S Soprano Mahogany Ukulele is best for beginners coz I have one .

  2. John March 19, 2017 at 12:58 pm

    Oscar Schmidt OU5 has excellent quality for the money! Looks and plays great. I also own two Oscar Schmidt acoustic guitars and they are the best!

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