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.
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: