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Kala Ukuleles are a relatively new ukulele brand, but have made a big impact, particularly within the budget price range.
Kala was set up by Mike Upton, who had previously worked for the Hohner musical instrument company.
As cheaper ukuleles, Kala ukes are mostly laminated rather than solid wood. But they are well made, good sounding ukuleles and very popular (particularly in Hawaii).
Kala have recently launched their ultra-cheap Makala ukuleles which have become a firm favorite in the under $50 price range.
When Aldrine Guerrero picked out a uke for the Ukulele Underground competition, he chose a Kala.
Kala KA-MT Mango Tenor Review
I recently took my first trip to the islands with my wife for our fifth anniversary. I knew before departing that I would be returning with a ukulele, though not which of the many makes and models that are available of the noble instrument. Seriously, i've been bit by the flea! And, in a way not at all unlike when a trip to europe many years ago reminded me of one of our other 'grand designs'; the bicycle, to which my childhood attachment had been lost roughly around the time I was old enough to begin driving an automobile.
Anyway, after a bit of internet scouring, I came across a ukulele dealer/collector/enthusiast by the name of Music Guy Mic, who has both a 'real world' store in Kaneohe, as well as a brisk online business, with a huge contingent of buyers via Ebay. I ended up calling and, eventually, (island time!) spoke with him (Musicguymic@aol.com) directly. He, like so many of the islanders I met in the two and half weeks I was there, was extremely knowledgeable, helpful, and extremely kind, eventually guiding me into my purchase of a KALA KA-MT Mango Tenor.
As a beginner, I decided that I needn't go into debt on buying one of the superior offerings also available by Kala, or the numerous other companies that he had great understanding, as well as inventory, of. And to his testament, he withheld nothing regarding the origin or nature of construction. While a strikingly attractive instrument with the crazed 'burled' mango top sides and back (with contrasting wood binding), they are, apparently, in fact, a laminate or ply. Most purists hold the notion that this is inferior and most pricing of instruments comparatively will wholly illustrate that belief. But one recent 'perspective' that I was given was that laminates and plys often fair well in climate changes, where solid wood tops and sides can dry and split. I had never considered this, but it is somewhat understandable. A compromise of sorts, perhaps, but one that I can definitely favor.
Prior to shipping, the KA-MT received, as do all instruments sold through MusicGuyMic, an individual setup (including fretwork, if necessary from the factory) and stringing with Aquila premium Nylgut strings. To my 'inexperienced' ear, it sounds wonderful with a nice balance of highs and mids, and has, very importantly, spot on intonation. The new strings took a while to settle in, but the sealed gear tuning machines work wonderfully, and similarly to the 'notion' of many of the 'top end' makers, seem to be found on nearly everything considered to be of professional grade/quality/performance.
The instrument I purchased came as part of a 'package', by design, for the beginner who may wish to 'hit the ground running', i.e., accompanied with a hard-case, pitch-pipe, and the brilliant "Discovering The Ukulele" book by Herb Ohta J. & Daniel Ho. All for a price that was $100.00 less than any other resource I had theretofore come across, and, (here's the kicker) free shipping. I was staying in Volcano Village on the big island for the first week, and made arrangements to receive it there during our stay at a bed and breakfast. in lieu of making a 'preemptive' purchase (in ignorance) and lugging it along, I decided it best to make my pilgrimage and see and speak to people who have generations of understanding with the native instrument. With the option available to me to actually travel to Hawaii, the decision was nearly a no-brainer. For anyone else, I would recommend relying on the help of the many knowledgeable and experienced people out there. The internet is an amazing resource, and the ukulele community seem to be all fine and welcoming. I can't believe that it took me 42 years to get into it, but I'm admittedly obsessed.
As I had said in an email to Musicguymic following my return from the islands: "Just wanted to thank you , again, for making my 'island experience' complete. My purchase kept music in my hands (as well as my head) during my two weeks in Hawaii."
Review by Jason
KALA Kiwi Review
The Kala Kiwi is a member of the Kala Novelty series, and is essentially the 'sister' model to the Pineapple Uke. Aside from being cute as a neon green ukulele could possibly be, it is seriously fun to play. The Kiwi is a soprano sized Uke, measuring in at a petite 21 inches. It comes with geared chrome tuners with pearly white knobs, and a rosewood fingerboard. The fret wires are finished smoothly, and did not require any fine tuning with a file to make them less 'catchy' and more functional. The Kiwi's finish is a glossy nearly neon kiwi green, with a rather neat silk screen of the interior of a kiwi. Where the white center would be rests the sound hole. Pearly green binding completes the rather neat design.
This Uke is just plain fun to play. It attracts people, and will draw many comments before you even strum a note. Once you begin to play, you can appreciate the rather decent sound it puts out. The Kiwi sounds best at moderate volume-- I've noticed that if you go too loudly, there is a generalized buzz. The stock GHS strings have a pleasant sound, but make sure to look at how they're attached before you initially tune the instrument. Unfortunately, my A string was attached incorrectly at the tuner and popped out during my initial tuning. On a brighter note, this Ukulele is incredibly easy to string (I managed to do it in under 10 minutes after I got some replacement strings, and I never did it before on any stringed instrument). The Kiwi stays in tune rather well, from what I've read about other Ukuleles daily re-tunings are the norm, but this model will take some rather harsh playing without dropping out of tune. The tuners are in a fairly standard position for geared tuners, but I tend to notice they seem to get in the way while attempting some chords. Odds are this is due to my inexperience, but its really nothing that can't be fixed by changing the position of your hand by a few millimeters. The Kiwi's finish is very, VERY glossy and slick, a firm grasp is important if you're standing as this Uke can slide around on you if you're not careful. I've remedied this by putting a small square of foam tape on the bottom of the Kiwi.
As for durability, I will let the reader know, I am a klutz-- I admit it, I've dropped my Kiwi. Aside from a teensy little dent up near the tuning pegs (it actually got the dent when I tried to catch it and ended up slamming into a wooden kitchen chair between the tuning pegs), it survived without injury. Other minor bumps have not dented or dulled the Kiwi. This instrument is indeed klutz friendly.
The Kiwi is a reasonably priced Uke, retailing for between $73 and $78 on E-Bay. I'd recommend this Uke for other beginners, as it is a fun, cute, and easy to play. For the advanced Ukeist, this is an awesome addition worthy of any collection.
Review by Barbara.
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.
Other ukuleles owned: Pono PKT2, Kala KA-AFMT, Tenor Surf Fluke (and a handful of Mahalo soprano ukes)
Review by Roberto
Kala KA-T Ukulele Video Review
Review by Donald C.
Kala Ukulele Review
I have just recently purchased a Kala solid mahagony electric/acoustic concert Ukulele with cutaway and it is glorious. The tone is bright like a Uke should be but it has a warmth to it that is rare in the few ukes I have played.
It came with ghs strings that for the time being sound quite lovely, I have been recommended the Aquila strings and would love to read if anyone has feed back on those.
The factory set up for this particular Kala is fantastic the action makes playing up the fretboard smooth and easy and yet there is no fret buzz to speak of. All in all a terrific buy and a beautiful matte finish makes the wood stand out. It has faux tortoise shell accents and I got a great 1920's looking tweed hard case from Ukulele World to keep it protected.
I have been in transit since I bought this Uke and have not had a chance to really plug it in and "rock out" but the electronics work very well for recording purposes on my Mac. It could put out more sound unplugged but that might mess with the lovely tone so for me I would rather sacrifice some noise for some beauty.
Anyway that is my review I know it's glowing but I am so happy with the Kala Ukulele and it is a great solid instrument for the price.
Review by Denny Paschall.