Kala Acacia Pocket Ukulele Review

Kala Pocket Ukulele ReviewIf you’re anything like me you’ll often hear, “Wow, I didn’t know they could be that small. Does it even work?” And I expect I’ll hear it even more often now I’ve bought a Kala Pocket Uke.

The Pocket Ukulele is Kala’s sopranino size ukulele (although they do the smart thing market-wise and avoid the term ‘sopranino’). And it’s certainly tiny. Here’s a photo of it next to a standard soprano.

It has obvious gimmick appeal. But with a significant price tag (MGM currently has them for $279) they have to go beyond that to make them a worthwhile purchase.

Stats

Size: Sopranino (scale length: 11 inches)
Construction: Solid Acacia
Fretboard: Rosewood.
Frets: 12
Tuners: Friction

Strum Test

Music: Sister Kate

All the examples are played in E-tuning (four frets up from standard tuning).

Picking Test

 
MP3

Music: Staten Island Slide – Craig Robertson.

Intonation Test

 
MP3

12th fret harmonic followed by 12th fretted on each string.

Sustain Test

 
MP3

3rd string open,1st string 3rd fret, 1st string 10th fret.

The Good Stuff

Novelty Value: The big appeal of it certainly is the cute-factor. And there’s a lot of fun to be had playing it. I couldn’t resist pulling out some of the old music hall tricks on it.

Strumming: With some fast paced strumming it sounds great. ‘Primitive’ is the word I’d use (and I certainly don’t mean that in a bad way). And it’s louder than I would have expected.

Transportability: It fits comfortably length-ways in a laptop bag. The gigbag is very sturdy too (although significantly bigger than it needs to be).

Smell: Strong, almost burnt smell to it. I like it. (I don’t know how this became an official category for judgment, but it is.)

The Not So Good Stuff

Playability: Even with my tiny lady-hands it’s difficult to play. Fretting accurately is very difficult (even Bartt has trouble keeping it in tune). The intonation test is a bit misleading really. I had to fret incredibly carefully to make the test fair. In real playing you won’t be able to fret accurately further up the neck.

Tone: Compared to a standard solid wood ukulele, there’s not much tone there. Unless you’re giving it some welly, it’s very lacking. And I’d avoid any single-note playing on it.

Friction Tuners: They didn’t have any choice but to use friction tuners on here. They’re decent enough but they’re always going to be more of a pain to work with than geared tuners.

Overall

The Kala Pocket Ukulele is a soprano ukulele turned up to 11. All the things you love about the soprano are amplified. And so are the annoying things about them.

There’s certainly a place for it. I think it’s best use would be adding an extra tonal layer in a group. The sound is distinct from other ukuleles and it does what it’s good at very well. But don’t buy it as an all-purpose ukulele.

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25 Comments

  1. J-Hob May 26th, 2010 9:22 pm

    The ohana sopranino is definitely worth considering if you’re in the market for an ultra wee uke. In size it looks like it’s between the pocket uke and a soprano. I love the tone of mine, really biting and cutting, very classic.

    My only real criticism would be that the headstock looks out of proportion and that smaller frets could have been used.

  2. Howlin' Hobbit May 27th, 2010 5:32 am

    The bridge on the pocket uke is way too low on the lower bout. I’m surprised you’re getting good volume on it. It’s all about efficiently moving the top and that placement isn’t so efficient.

    I also find it esthetically hinky.

    (Actually, the bridge on your comparison soprano seems a skosh too close to the butt of the uke too, but I’m not an expert. I just play one on TV. Or not.)

    The Ohana ‘nino is a trifle larger (11&7/8″ scale length) and has the bridge more towards the center of the lower bout. It has MONSTER volume. It also has a less plinky tone, even though I’ve tuned mine all the way up to F tuning (a fourth higher than the standard C tuning which is in turn a fourth higher than standard guitar tuning).

    The Ohana also lists at $169.

    The choice is somewhat of a no-brainer to me.

    (The traditional full disclosure thang: Yes, Ohana has sponsored me to a certain degree. But they did that because I spoke the truth — as I see it — about their ‘nino long before that relationship came about. No, I don’t get any extra bonus for talking them up, and further, they didn’t even require me to talk them up when they sent me my nice main busking uke. I just really think they’re a fab uke for a teensy price.)

  3. Woodshed May 27th, 2010 8:49 am

    J-Hob: I was considering the Ohana as well. Looks like I should have gone for it.

    Hobbit: Volume definitely isn’t one of my complaints with this one (or the soprano for that matter). Although the tone is definitely on the plinky side.

  4. zym May 27th, 2010 9:50 am

    haha – i love that you’re including important information like smell.

    Did you get it from MGM? When i got my KoAloha from him, it came a smell that was a mixture of wood, varnish, smoke, and just a hint of body oder.

  5. Rob NY May 27th, 2010 2:06 pm

    If it smells bad don’t play it. Excellent review!

  6. L.bo Marie May 27th, 2010 2:45 pm

    the smell factor left me giggling (again)

    I’ll have to look back, I can’t remember if you’ve got a review of the Ohana sopranino or not… how would the two compare?

    I’ve a few friends who swear by their tiny Ohanas… and I’ve been eying one for myself for awhile.. I’m just afraid I’ll set it down and forget it somewhere!

  7. S.U.S May 27th, 2010 4:05 pm

    We have these back in stock.
    £169.99 for the Mahogany
    £234.99 for the Acacia
    £6.99 P+P for mainland U.K

  8. Kristin May 27th, 2010 11:06 pm

    I had been eyeing the Pocket since I first saw a prototype of it, but I decided I couldn’t wait until the middle of the year to buy a tiny uke so I went with the Ohana. I’m glad I did.

    The spacing between the frets of the Ohana seems far more comfortable than what I can see from the Kala, and even fingerpicking sounds pretty solid. The Ohana’s tone is terrific, too (I have mine tuned in standard tuning even though most folks I know with ‘em have ‘em tuned at least to D).

    I’m not too keen on the twanginess I hear from your Pocket Uke, but part of it might just be the wood’s sound I don’t like.

    Thanks for the review! You’ve put my impulses to rest and saved me a couple weeks’ worth of starving (had I instantly dished out the cash for the Kala).

  9. todd May 29th, 2010 4:19 am

    well….you made it sound good…i thought :)

  10. L.bo Marie May 31st, 2010 4:51 am

    so, apparently I wrote without reading all the comments (sorry Hobbit)..

    this is completely unrelated to the above, I just watched the strum test again… ok, how on earth do you play the cutest little instrument and not even crack a smile?

  11. Woodshed May 31st, 2010 9:37 am

    zym: I got it from the Southern Ukulele Store. Less hassle.

    RobNY: Words to live by.

    L.bo: Haven’t tried the Ohana sopranino. Tempted to though.

    Kristin: Glad you’re happy with your Ohana.

    todd: Thanks. It does sound good at what it’s best at. It’s just not very versatile.

    L.bo again: By being a thoroughly miserable bastard.

  12. Kazimir R. June 1st, 2010 4:21 pm

    my fluke smells like black powder and peanut butter…
    wonderful in-depth review. i only ever need 12 frets to play anything, but the overwhelming novelty factor is not enough for me to drop cash on it.
    thanks,
    Kaz.

  13. Woodshed June 6th, 2010 12:14 pm

    Kazimir: I can quite understand that.

  14. Ambient Doughnut January 12th, 2011 11:17 am

    Well I’ve just given in and ordered a spalted maple pocket uke from MGM. I made the mistake of looking at it online and it was just far too pretty. My second uke this year, guess I’m coming down with acute UAS! Will post thoughts when it arrives.

  15. Woodshed January 16th, 2011 10:55 am

    Ambient: Look forward to hearing what you make of it.

  16. Ambient Doughnut January 26th, 2011 2:04 pm

    It’s here and very pretty (http://www.flickr.com/photos/20974160@N05/5390368422/) but at work so can’t really play with it yet!

    Before I start my experiments can I ask your thoughts on tuning? You say you’re 4 frets up, so that’s B E G# C# yes? Just wondering as mine arrived tuned up to G ie + 7 frets. It does seem a bit extreme?

  17. Woodshed January 28th, 2011 10:13 am

    Ambient: Yes, that sounds right. G does seem a bit high. F seems like a popular way to tune.

  18. Ambient Doughnut February 3rd, 2011 4:29 pm

    Well, I’ve spent a week with it and I’m still a bit undecided. Sometime I pick it up and it just feels like a silly thing; difficult to play and with a silly plinky sound. Other times I can’t put it down. I think it sounds best not tuned too high – CFAD max. Beyond that it I can hardly here it and it’s probably upsetting neighbourhood dogs! I goes as low as A D F# B without too much fuss as well, but that’s probably the limit.
    Perversely I quite like finger picking on it and clawhammer in particular. Not that I’m any good at it but the thin sound seems to suit it. The tone is improving as the strings settle in so it probably hasn’t reached it best yet. I’m not sure what it smells of at the moment as I’ve got a bit of a cold but will rectify this omission as soon as my sense of smell returns!

  19. Ambient Doughnut March 10th, 2011 11:27 am

    I like it a lot more now. These aquilas really do take a while to settle in properly and sound there best. I’ve generally settled in D# tuning but sometimes tweak it up as high as G#. Never dared go any higher than that!

  20. Woodshed March 12th, 2011 12:30 pm

    Ambient: Glad to hear they’re working for you. I wouldn’t dare go as high as G#. Not without eye protection.

  21. bdawf April 25th, 2011 3:15 pm

    i got one and its perfect i love it. its easy to tune and i got no problems just happines

  22. Woodshed April 30th, 2011 9:41 am

    bdawf: Glad to hear it. I love it too. But yet to do anything very musical with it.

  23. Alexander August 1st, 2013 3:12 pm

    Would you mind to share tabs of this strumming test passage? even in the form of chords would be useful. Thanks in advance.

  24. Woodshed August 2nd, 2013 10:27 am

    Alexander: There’s a link to it under the video.

  25. Alexander August 5th, 2013 9:28 am

    Thanks, Al, for the link to chords. Also, could you explain notes (4 or 5 as I can recognize) you perform in the middle on the C-string when you stretch it up? It’s not quite easy to get from the vidoe (you’re fast ;-). And the final thing — the diagram/rhythm of your strumming? Thanks.

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