Kala KA-ASLAS Lacewood and Spruce Soprano Review

I bought myself a Kala lacewood soprano ukulele as a reward for finally finishing the How to Play Ukulele Strums ebook. So were the endless hours of sweet and tears worth it? Here’s my review:

The Lowdown

Wood: Kala seem to make a bigger deal of the lacewood but the part that matters, the top, is solid sitka spruce. Everything else (back, sides, body, neck) are all solid lacewood.
Fretboard: Rosewood. 12 frets.
Tuners: Sealed, Geared.
Made in: China

The Good Stuff

- The Strumming Sound: I love strumming out on this ukulele. It’s bright, loud and punchy. As you would expect from a uke with a spruce top. It has just the sort of tone I love. You don’t get the force of it on the MP3, but here it is anyway.

Strum Test (MP3) (Sister Kate chords)

- Looks: The leopard-spot grain of the lacewood is gorgeous. The uke is very cleanly put together. There are some fancy-Dan fret markers. And, as a well documented lover of pink, I’m a fan of the purfling.

- Construction: It’s sturdily built (handy when you’re as clumsy as I am) and well put together (no flaws worth mentioning). And the intonation is good.

- Smell: Oh, am I the only who likes to give the soundhole of a new uke a good sniff?

The Not So Good Stuff

- Fingerpicking: I knew when I bought that it would more suited to strumming than picking. I always find my fingers falling over each other when fingerpicking a soprano. And the uke loses a lot of its bite when picked (unless you really give it some hammer).

Judging by the video, David Beckingham does a much better job than me of picking this uke. But here’s my picking test.

Picking Test (MP3) (Larry O’Gaff tab

- Geared Tuners: I don’t have anything against geared tuners in general, but they always feel wrong on a soprano. They throw it off balance. I understand the need for them on cheap ukes, but on more expensive ukes a good set of friction tuners would be very nice.

Conclusion

This one is definitely a keeper. I have a lot of fun playing it. I bought it because I wanted a quality soprano (rather the el-cheapo bashers I had before) for strumming and it certainly fits that purpose. I’d certainly recommend it to anyone with similar requirements. I like the spruce/sexy wood combination so much I’ve now got my eye on an Ohana spruce/maple CK-70G.

Southern Ukulele Store Review

When I bought the ukulele I promised feedback on the UK’s new uke seller: The Southern Ukulele Store. I can tell you they certainly pass muster. They’re friendly and helpful, the uke arrived very quickly (although the strings I ordered at the same time took a few weeks) and everything was very well packaged.

The only downside was the ordering system. I went through their own site rather than eBay and the checkout looked very unprofessional. And once I’d paid I had an error message telling me I’d paid the wrong amount. A quick email to them sorted it all out.

But I’ll definitely be using them again in the future. I’ll be going through eBay, though.

View Comments

14 Comments

  1. Nelson August 26th, 2009 7:00 pm

    A review is always appreciated…thanks alot!

    ….is it bad if I’m laughing at your smell comment?

  2. Chris August 26th, 2009 7:56 pm

    Ha ha, you’re not the only one who likes to smell new ukes! I agree that the spruce top gives the uke a nice punchy sound (I’ve got a different spruce top tenor). I’ve got one of the Lacewood Tenor ukes on order and can’t wait to play it. Thanks for the review.

  3. byjimini August 26th, 2009 8:37 pm

    I used Southern Ukulele Store back before they re-branded. Flawless customer service on my broken Eleuke, gave me a refund and then emailed me when they got some back in stock, which I took up.

    I really want that uke, but in concert size. Going to Leeds in October to Hobgobblin to try it out for myself.

  4. todd August 26th, 2009 10:32 pm

    - Smell: Oh, am I the only who likes to give the soundhole of a new uke a good sniff?

    er, um, no…..i confess….i do that as well….

    mmmmm glue….wood….whiff whiff….

    congrats Al, good stuff….

  5. Jake August 27th, 2009 12:29 am

    Everyone smells their instruments… whether they want to or not! I always do archaeological studies on instruments when they come in… you can tell a cigar or cigarette smoker right away as opposed to a pipe smoker… and the weirdest smells are instruments that smell like garlic or onions. Left in the kitchen?

    Although my favorite uke-specific smell is the faint eucalyptisy-pine smell of a bit of sanded koa when I’m trying to figure out what kind of wood adorns the top of a vintage instrument (sometimes those finishes are awfully dark).

  6. +one August 27th, 2009 4:23 am

    I’ve got the travel version of this soprano lacewood Kala uke – I love it – the sound is great, loud and punchy. Strumming is heaps of fun on it, I play finger picking style a bit too but tend to leave most of that for my Cole Clark (beautiful tone, superb ukulele).

    I know there are some schools of thought that say a travel uke is a contradiction in terms, but I really like the thin body, fits nicely into a backpack, necessary for the limited space on my motorbike.

    got to agree with you about the geared tuners, they make it top heavy but I can live with that, can always put frictions on if I feel inclined.

    My only issue with my particular uke is the E string when fretted on the first fret, seems all out of tune but when I check it with a tuner its perfectly ok. I think the action might be just a tad too high at the nut end. I bought it from Ukulele World who were about US$40 cheaper than Music Guy Mike – would highly recommend Ukulele World, very fast delivery from Texas (I’m in Australia) and friendly service. The only drawback with it is that I can’t pop into the shop to see about the E string.

    Other than that, I smell this uke often, oh, and I rub her all over sometimes ;), she’s got a lovely arched back…

  7. Ken Middleton August 27th, 2009 7:11 am

    I afraid I too like to sniff the soundholes of ukes and guitars. Maple and cedar are my favourite woods. the smell of some woods, like cedar, is still strong even years after you buy it.

  8. cardboardfrog August 27th, 2009 9:23 am

    haha i think all the secret uke sniffers can unite around this review, mind you if you sniff the soundhole on some new cheap ukes you can get sawdust up your nose.

  9. Melissa August 27th, 2009 1:09 pm

    This is the Kala I bought — except mine’s a concert. I love it! It’s pretty and spritely. Welcome to the Kala Lacewood club!

  10. Woodshed August 27th, 2009 4:19 pm

    Nelson: Yes it is! It looks like I’m in the majority.

    Chris: I’d be interested in giving a spruce tenor a go.

    byjimini: They’re definitely good blokes.

    todd: Weirdo!

    Jake: Good to get a professional opinion on uke smells.

    +one: Thanks for the review. Haven’t had any problems like that with mine.

    Ken: I love the smell of cedar. I’ve even got a stock of cedar shower gel.

    cbf: It certainly looks like a previously hidden section of the uke world has just outed itself.

    Melissa: Good to be part of the gang.

  11. Tamster August 28th, 2009 2:57 am

    The Lacewood looks great.
    As far as sniffing my ukes goes, I have a cedar top uke and after a year it still smells quite strong.

  12. Tribal Surf August 28th, 2009 10:19 pm

    For anyone that has the tenor of this lacewood uke, did you find the action a bit high? I’m just a beginner so I’m not sure I would know any better but it just seems high to me.

  13. Erik December 8th, 2012 1:23 pm

    I just found this review. But I just got this Uke. And the new ones have friction tuners! I guess they heard your concerns

  14. Woodshed December 9th, 2012 8:15 am

    Erik: Thanks very much for the update. Hope you’re enjoying it.

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