With the influence of Jake Shimabukuro and Iz, many more people are getting a tenor ukulele as their first ukulele. If that's your situation, the Kala KA-T is a great place to start for anyone who wants a good quality first ukulele that won't give them any problems, sounds good and will survive for a good while.
As well as the standard mahogany, the KA-T comes in koa (KA-KT), mango (KA-MT), flamed mahogany (KA-TEM) and gloss mahogany (KA-TG). Because this ukulele is laminated (the expensive wood is a thin layer on top of a cheaper wood) the different woods are mainly for show.
Kirk Shimabukuro (no relation to that other Shimabukuro) demonstrates a Kala KA-T.
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Kala KA-MTE-C Review
This was the first mid-range ukulele I bought for myself (the second uke I owned, the first being a gift). At first glance, I loved it! It’s made of mango wood! It felt great in my hands, it was visually spectacular (mango wood has so much variety in the grain that no two ukes look alike) and when I stopped drooling and got around to playing, it sounded great! I put some low G Aquilas on it to up the volume a little. It had a nice full, loud, resonant sound. It has a laminate body and top but don’t let that stop you from at least taking this out for a spin (especially for the price). I loved the cut-out because you can very easily reach the upper frets and when you’re not playing so high on the neck, it is a very comfortable area to place your pinky and ring fingers when you’re picking individual strings for your favorite solo.
As for construction, it has a good feel to it. Nice and heavy (heavier than a Fluke but lighter than a Pono). The neck is a little narrower than I was used to but I found that it was easier to bar chords with it (always a concern for the newbie uke player). The only two things I noticed (and were concerned about) were the wires from the pick-up were visible (not so big a deal since I’m playing it and can’t see into the sound hole myself) and the sound board was sunken in a little. This being my first traditionally-shaped, higher end uke, I didn’t realize it wasn’t supposed to look like that (the back of the uke is curved outwards a little so I thought it just followed the shape of the back). Ah well, it doesn’t change the sound of the uke at all so I don’t mind that very much either.
The only real complaint I have with this uke is the pickup. It works well as far as it goes but for some reason (and no one can explain it to me) it just doesn’t work with the Fender acoustic amps. I’ve tried a few brands of acoustic amps at my fave music store and the Fender’s just don’t put out anything. For my purposes, it doesn’t change my feelings about this lovely instrument but for anyone looking to perform, you might look into replacing the pickup.
This uke has become my main player/carry around uke (well, along with my Fluke). It sounds beautiful, stands up well to daily use, and wasn’t so expensive that I’m afraid of damaging it. One bit of advice: buy the non-electronic version and install a better pickup (if you need it)
Number of years played: 1.5
Price paid: $330 USD – with hard case and Aquila strings.
Review by Roberto
Kala KA-T Review
Construction: Mahogany (laminated) top, back and sides
Fretboard: Rosewood. 18 frets (14 to body)
Tuners: Sealed, geared.