Kala Travel Soprano (KA-SSTU) Full Review14
February 9, 2011 by Tim
When I travel I take a ukulele with me everywhere, usually it is one I am reviewing. I find the uke a great instrument to travel with since it is so small, so that begs the question; a travel uke? Really? Isn’t it small enough? And I would say yes, but……It could be smaller.
I had to convince Kala to let me review this uke. I have been lusting after one since I played my friend Alex’s when I went to Ukin’ in the woods last October. As a side note, Alex had the one with a working compass in the head. But really this is a thing of wonder to play and I feel that people should know about it. Of all the ukes that Kala makes, this is the one that sets them apart from all others. And so I don’t get slammed, yes I know they make the pocket uke, and it is cute, but not nearly as playable as the travel ukes.
Read the review and feel free to tell me what you think in the comments below.
Soprano : 12 Fret (Most have 14)
Tuners: Machine Tuners with Black Buttons
Nut & saddle: Bone
Top: Paper Thin Solid Spruce
Sides: Laminate Mahogany
Back: Arched Laminate Mahogany
Neck: Mahogany with a Rosewood fret board
String Attachment: Tie
Case: Fitted and Padded Gig Bag
First look: (5) From far away you will wonder what you are seeing. When you get up close you will think it is a joke, a really well made and pretty joke. Then you play it and know that Kala is not kidding. It looks like a high end uke that someone mis-measured the sides and went with it.
Fit and Finish: (5) I get wet when I see an arched back with no bracing. The crazy part is that it is not the most sexy part. The top is about half as thick as any uke I have ever seen. Also it has binding everywhere (Body, neck, bridge, and butt). Also the matte finish still brings out the mahogany on the sides and back. The last thing is that no matter how hard you look it has no glue marks. I don’t know who makes these for them in China, but man they have great quality control.
Sound Type: LOUD and clear. Don’t let the size fool you. If you buy one so you can play at
night while your wife sleeps you will never play it. It is louder than many “regular” ukes I have played.
Intonation: (4) It tunes fine and is dead on at the 12th fret, the nut is a little high so playing and A or F can go weird since the strings go sharp when you press all the way down to the fret board.
Volume: (5) Loud is a word that comes to mind. It is thin but the arched back and paper thin top make this thing a beast.
Sustain: (5) Long and nice. The thin top really helps to let it ring.
String Height: (medium) The Nut could be lowered and it would help the intonation.
Neck Radius Depth: (5/8″) C shape. May be the only thing with a normal thickness.
Frets: (5) I have said this before, And I will say it again, a bound fretboard is the way to go. Period
Tuning: (5) I use to be all down on machine tuners, but these are really nice and small and do the job really well. I think friction tuners would be weird since it would make the head thicker than the body.
Comfort: (4) Very light and all the edges are rounded like they should be. My issues are in holding it. Since it is thin and the bridge is pushed back a bit to make it shorter there is not as much room to hold it with your arm. I find myself having to prop it on my belly and having my arm come up from the bottom so I don’t mute the strings with my forearm. Beyond that it is great.
Sound Hole Smell: Glue, sorry
The winning combination of a solid spruce top and laminate sides make this ukulele one of my top 5 ukes that I tell people to buy, and not just as a travel uke. Kala is one of the few companies that have made the ukulele their focus and they have so many great ukes to choose from. The U-bass is amazing but the travel ukes are just as innovative.
It is easy for me to write good reviews, I can make them very flowery and nice, but I truly feel this is the real deal. Sure you can get other solid tops for less but you would be hard pressed to find one of this quality and that sounds this good. Enough of my gushing, just buy one and you will love it.
All Rating on a scale of 1-5
Click here for an explanation of reviews
|Fit and Finish||5|
|Sound Type||LOUD and clear|
|Neck Radius Depth||5/8″|
|Sound Hole Smell||Glue|
Places to buy on the web:
Bananas at Large (Never heard of them) $129
HD Audio Sample:
I have one of theses in soprano and I like it, but it is head heavy with these tuners. I wish there was a micro friction tuner available. I know they went with geared so that it can have an extremely thin profile. I love the fitted case- 1/2 the reason I bought mine!
You gave me an idea – to bring the Uke while you travel! However, on the plane and with the very strick security existing, will they allow us to handcarry the Uke?
this is something ive been wondering about for a while myself…
i travelled alot with my guitar, and it was never a problem to just take it with me on the plane, i even played guitar on flights.. i guess uke won’t be a problem, only australian customs are pretty rough on wooden instruments
great review. i love the 2 videos. the second one, with the comparisons one sound vs the other r great!! i’m sold.
as for taking the uke on a plane -i’d put it on the belt before my carry on so i could walk thru and check out what they’re doing with my prized uke. this uke seems to have been made for backpackin’.
Wow! That’s an amazingly thin uke without compromising sound. Also a great price. I would love to own one of these if I travelled regularly (which I don’t, unfortunately).
The compass is such a creative feature. Great idea for hiking camp outs.
I own both the Kala travel soprano & the Kala travel concert, & I feel that the travel concert is the superior instrument as far as sound goes. The soprano is fine, about average as the sopranos I’ve tried go, but the travel concert has a superior tone. Of course, it is a bit bigger, but I regularly travel with concerts & have had no problem at all fitting them (including the regular-thickness concerts) through security & into overhead bins.
Just to clarify a few things, since Carly, my travel uke, is my main ukulele and I’ve backpacked with her for months on the other side of the world 😉
Plane: Yes, in fact small musical instruments (and this one counts) usually “go free” – it varies from airline to airline, but Air New Zealand’s policy of allowing hand luggage + EITHER a laptop OR a small musical instrument, I would imagine is fairly typical.
Tuners: I actually asked for geared tuners and got friction tuners. At first I was like “Oh no” (never had frictions before) but actually I wouldn’t change them. Not only do them make Carly PERFECTLY balanced, she’s so light and evenly weighted, they also don’t look ridiculous at all – the effect is that if you put your uke down on a table, the fretboard ends up flat. The friction tuners are like a stand that make both ends of the uke the same width. Incidentally, people go on about how hard friction tuners are to use – but now I’ve got them, I have to disagree. I like ’em.
Anyway, by and large I agree that I have to say, I absolutely ADORE my travel uke ❤ She's the best. ^_^
Big coincidence 🙂 This is my very first uke! I really enjoy it and you’re spot on in what you say. Great review Tim… You made a lot of effort in putting it all together, it’s commendable. A very comprehensive unbiased break down of it all, plus samples. Very nice, very true. I posted a picture of my Kala Travel Soprano on instagram, can send it to you if you like… It’s a really good instrument and I’m happy it’s so lovely *grin*
Ning from Singapore
I bought a Kala soprano travel uke recently and I really love it. It was much louder and clearer than the other, non-travel, ukes I tried at the store and it is really well-made for the price. I have small hands and I find this ukulele easier to play than some others (I have heard Kala’s necks tend to be less broad than some other brands and that works out well for me).
It also comes with a really nice soft case – not like the flimsy gig bags with 1/4″ padding (or none at all) that are included with some other ukes I’ve purchased, but a study case with about 1/2″ worth of padding all around and double zippers. I just wish it had a longer strap in addition to the single handle.
Suprisingly good! 🙂
Can I put a button on my little travel soprano?
I would say yes. Has an end block.
Thanks for the input. I’m going to risk it today!