6 Best Ukuleles In The Market Today: A Full Buyer’s Guide (2018)

By Monica | Product Reviews

Jan 05
best-ukulele

The ukulele is among the smallest varieties of the guitar family. This said instrument was developed by Portuguese settlers in the island of Hawaii during the exploration period during the 19th century. They crafted this instrument by following the original setup of classic guitars.

Hawaiian-Ukulele-Player

Sooner, ukuleles became widely accepted instruments, not only in Hawaii but throughout the entire world. Many modern players find the instrument attractive, especially when playing bright genres. The tonal characteristic that it has is far different than its bigger counterparts. But these particular nuances make the ukulele a great instrument to invest upon.

I bet that some of you are already into this instrument. After all, you would never look into this page if you are not searching for the best ukulele on the market today. Don't worry. There is nothing about that should make you ashamed. Even seasoned players know that finding a decent ukulele is quite difficult these days. Every music store is teeming with different ukulele brands that are up for grabs. The choosing process can become arduous at some point.

In fact, even mateurs may look for something that can work with their pace and skills. Searching for good beginner ukuleles is a good idea, so that they can start honing their techniques efficiently.

Therefore, if you want to surpass these obstacles, you should understand know how ukuleles work. Furthermore, you should familiarize yourself with the current ukuleles that are leading the market today. I have listed them down below, so all you have to do is to check them out!

More...

Best Ukuleles: Top Recommendations


Pros:

  • Surprisingly affordable
  • Ergonomic and comfortable to play
  • High-quality selection of tonewood and parts
  • Stylish and sleek appearance
  • Tone quality is superb

Cons:

  • No drawbacks

In the past, I usually start my list with the most oozing items that I can find on the market. However, on this list, I will deviate a little. I can't just help myself but get mesmerized by the quality of the Kala KA-15S Mahogany Soprano Ukulele. This one features excellent workmanship and quality. It is fairly affordable, too, which makes it a great choice for starting players and frugal folks.

The tonal quality of the Kala KA-15S is beyond than what I have expected. It can produce extremely articulate sounds with on-point responsiveness and clarity. Honestly, I did anticipate less for this ukulele, but after I tried it, I got an epiphany. It was the sudden thought that this ukulele should be known even more.

With the price tag that it has, it is quite surprising that the Kala KA-15S was able to sport a pure mahogany construction. Therefore, its intonation does not come short. Most of its counterparts in the same category have issues to their builds and finishes. However, the Kala KA-15S does not suffer from any of those. It is practically ergonomic and downright comfortable to play.

It is also notable that the setup of the Kala KA-15S is beginner-friendly. Right from the box, the ukulele can already be played. You also don't have to exert too much force or effort just to get this ukulele functioning. It can strum perfectly, too, thanks to the presence of the Aquila Nylgut strings. The latter is considered as among the most impressive strings for ukuleles today.


Let's take a look at this product...

Sale
Kala KA-15S Mahogany Soprano Ukulele
  • Mahogany body and neck
  • 12 Brass Frets with Fret position Marks at 5th,7th and 10th frets on neck and top of fingerboard
  • Fingerboard: Walnut
  • Satin Finish and Geared tuners
  • Pre-strung with Premium AQUILA NYLGUT Strings


Another fine option for a ukulele is the Cordoba 15CM. If the Kala KA-15S is not around, you should look for this unit immediately. The quality of the Cordoba 15CM is already known in the community. The brand itself is already reputable in some sense, considering the past successes that they have with their previous ukuleles. However, Cordoba dubs the Cordoba 15CM as their best-selling ukulele today. And when I looked at the features of this instrument, that claim is seemingly justified.

The Cordoba 15CM is a concert size ukulele that can be perfect for anyone who wants to play the instrument on live applications. It is a handmade instrument that has been crafted by expert ukulele makers. As far as I know, this ukulele features a pure mahogany construction, just like the Kala KA-15S. From its top down to its sides and back, all are made from authentic mahogany. Therefore, despite being small, the ukulele can still create whole sounds.

Of course, the Cordoba 15CM still has distinctive points that separate it from the entire competition. It comes with a classic satin finish and silver tuners that provide the aesthetic appeal that a ukulele should have. You would certainly notice the presence of the Aquila strings that are augmented in the entire instrument.

Whether you are professional or not, Cordoba 15CM will remain compatible with you. It is among the most playable ukuleles that I have ever tried. It doesn't hurt your hands or body at all. Furthermore, the Cordoba 15CM also have a soprano and tenor counterpart. If you can collect the entire set, you are definitely going to places.


Pros:

  • Pure mahogany construction with satin matte finish
  • Quality selection of hardware
  • Improved comfort level when playing
  • Intonation and tonal characteristics are desirable
  • Works well for both amateurs and professionals

Cons:

  • Tuning process is not that smooth
  • Placing a capo on it will harm the finish of the fretboard

Let's take a look at this product...

Cordoba 15CM Concert Ukulele
  • Mahogany Top
  • Mahogany back & sides
  • Concert size
  • Satin finish


Not all of us can delve immediately into those expensive ukuleles. After all, we have to accept the fact that sometimes, we can't spend the way we want it. But don't worry, despite your financial limitations, you can still get a functional and well-sounding ukulele. A good proof for this is the Donner Concert Ukulele Mahogany DUC-1. It is an ultra-responsive unit that can produce full sounds without trying too much.

Just like the Cordoba 15CM, the Donner Concert Ukulele has a concert-sized body. It also features a mahogany body and neck, which improves its overall presence in the mix. It is full-sounding and doesn't sound sublime at all. Meanwhile, the default strings installed on this ukulele are standard carbon nylon strings.

Your comfort is always a priority here, as this ukulele features a fingerboard and bridge that are made from rosewood. They are gentle to the skin of your hands. No aches and sores can be felt when using this instrument, even for extended periods. Furthermore, the guitar itself is cleverly designed so that it won't cause discomfort to its user. It is perfectly balanced and optimizes the posture of the player.

With its price, it is quite astonishing that the Donner Concert Ukulele DUC-1 has an accurate and stable tuning. It features proprietary chrome-coated tuners that allow the ukulele stay in tune. These tuners are actually derived from guitars. Therefore, you can rely on their smoothness and accuracy.


Pros:

  • Full-sounding concert-sized ukulele
  • Comfortable and ergonomic design
  • Intonation is clear and responsive
  • Can hold tune properly
  • Comes with a free strap and ukulele bag

Cons:

  • The factory strings may require an upgrade
  • Sound clarity is not as great as the first two ukuleles I have featured

Let's take a look at this product...

Sale
Donner Concert Ukulele Mahogany DUC-1 23 inch with Ukulele Set Strap Nylon String Tuner
  • Traditional Concert Ukulele with mahogany body and four advanced carbon nylon string
  • Mahogany body and neck bring you richer and brighter sound; Rosewood fingerboard and bridge provides a comfortable playing feel
  • Smooth and accurate, Donner patented chrome-plated guitar style tuners to keep your ukulele always in tune
  • 18 Brass Frets with Fret position Marks at 5th, 7th, 10th and 12th frets on neck and top of fingerboard
  • Comes with ukulele bag, ukulele strap, carbon nylon string and digital clip-on tuner as gifts


There is something about the Luna Guitars Tattoo Concert Mahogany Ukulele that makes it as an outstanding option. Aside from its eye-catching tattooed body, the ukulele itself is brimming with quality. It can be used by any skill level without any drawbacks to worry about. Featuring a pure mahogany body construction, the Luna Guitars Tattoo Concert Mahogany Ukulele offers a full-sounding performance.

The ukulele itself is guaranteed to be well-made. It is designed to fit the body of its users properly. Of course, its finish is sleek and attractive as well. The frets and neck of the ukulele have been fully furnished as well. Because of this, your hands will feel an utmost comfort when playing this instrument. By the way, this ukulele has 18 frets.

Right from the box, this Luna ukulele is already playable. There is no need for you to spend too much time on conditioning or tuning the instrument. The Aquila strings that it has are known to have an exceptional responsiveness and playability. Many ukulele manufacturers prefer this string over some ordinary factory counterparts. Of course, this is a huge perk since there is no need for you to invest in a new set of strings right away.

On the other hand, the tone of this ukulele is rich and soothing. The actual sound that it produces is somewhat sweet but varied. It is a flexible choice that you can opt if you want to play a myriad of genres out there. Although I told that this one is a high-end choice, this doesn't mean that its price will kill you. Instead, I am just emphasizing the quality and features that this uke has.


Pros:

  • Most aesthetically appealing ukulele on this list
  • Tonal clarity and articulation are impressive
  • Versatile dynamics and sound production
  • Full-sounding and always responsive
  • Excellent selection of tonewood and hardware

Cons:

  • Some players told that this one has tuning problems (I haven't really experienced it)

Let's take a look at this product...

Sale
Luna Tattoo Concert Mahogany Ukulele with Gig Bag, Satin Natural
  • Laser Hawaiian Tattoo Design
  • Mahogany Flat Top and Neck
  • Rosewood Fretboard
  • Open Gear Tuners
  • Gig Bag Included


A concert ukulele is a great ukulele variety when we are talking about tonal balance and clarity. It can deliver deep and slightly voluminous tones, without losing its sweetness. In fact, concert ukuleles can be considered as the quintessential form of ukulele, and I don't have the right to argue about that. Just try the Oscar Schmidt OU5 Concert Ukulele, and you will know what I am talking about.

This one is one of the best ukuleles that you can get in its price category. It features an authentic Hawaiian Koa body. You can always feel the authenticity of its sounds because of the presence of this tonewood. It also has a tropical ambiance, thanks to its natural gloss finish. Meanwhile, the abalone rosette and binding of this ukulele ensure that its aesthetics is as beautiful as it sounds.

Meanwhile, the Grover tuning machines of the Oscar Schmidt OU5 ensures that the instrument will remain in tune. The entire system is insanely stable and functional, which further improves the playability of this ukulele. This ukulele has a Nyatoh neck, too, that houses the rosewood fretboard. The latter contains sixteen frets, which provides the instrument with maximum versatility.

Both professionals and amateurs will gladly have the Oscar Schmidt OU5 on their decks. For an entry-level concert ukulele, the caliber of the Oscar Schmidt OU5 is something that you should revere already. From the construction down to its ergonomics, this one does not lag a bit.


Pros:

  • Premium tonewood selection
  • Hardware are carefully selected
  • Sound production is never murky
  • Capable of producing full and articulate tones
  • Works well in recording sessions and live gigs

Cons:

  • Tuning problems can still be encountered (especially if the instrument is still new)

Let's take a look at this product...

Oscar Schmidt OU5 Concert Ukulele
  • It features select Hawaiian Koa body and top with gloss finish
  • It has Abalone binding and rosette on top
  • It features Nyatoh neck, rosewood fingerboard and bridge
  • It has Grover chrome tuners
  • It has lifetime warranty


The Lanikai LU-21 is an excellent option for those who are just learning how to use the ukulele. This one has a nice ergonomic design that enables comfortable playing. It has well-designed parts that make it functional and reliable. It is not too heavy and only contains twelve frets only. These features make the ukulele a recommended choice for beginners and players with small hands.

Unlike most of the ukulele here, the Lanikai LU-21 is using Nato wood as its tonewood. Specifically, Nato is said to be the next big thing, following mahogany. In fact, this tonewood is called as the Eastern Mahogany because of its similarities to the original mahogany. The top, sides, and back of this ukulele are crafted from the said material.

The fullness of the Lanikai LU-21 is eventually matched with a rosewood fingerboard. As a result, the ukulele becomes capable of producing mellow tones with improved mid frequencies. Most of its counterparts (on the similar price level) are lacking on their midrange dynamics. This is the main line that separates the Lanikai LU-21 from the rest. Also, you should be glad that this ukulele has been entrusted with die-cast tuning machines. Tuning issues are not so apparent with this instrument


Pros:

  • Suitable choice for beginners and practicing players
  • Enhanced mid-range emphasis
  • Versatile sound dynamics
  • Sound is full, rich, and deep
  • User-friendly ergonomics

Cons:

  • The factory strings are pretty cheap
  • Noticeable buzzing on its third string

Let's take a look at this product...

Lanikai LU-21 Soprano Ukulele with Gig Bag
  • Soprano-sized ukulele--great for first-time players and multi-instrumentalists looking to expand range
  • Constructed of reddish nato wood for bright, bassy sound
  • Accented with white binding
  • Rosewood fretboard with 12 frets; 14-inch scale length


Variations of Ukulele

Ukuleles can be categorized by its size. Specifically, there are four classifications for it. They are the baritone, tenor, concert, and soprano. Of course, each of these ukuleles has unique nuances. And understanding their differences will guide you to which kind of ukulele should you get.

  • Soprano - The soprano ukulele somehow represents the term "standard" when it comes to ukuleles. Among all the ukuleles out there, the soprano is the smallest. Therefore, it can provide bright tones that people expect from a ukulele. Since they are small, the soprano ukulele is an excellent choice for women and kids. These demographics typically have small hands. Specifically, the length of a soprano ukulele is around 21 inches and contains approximately 12 frets.
  • Concert - It is a notable fact that concert ukuleles are for adults and full-grown players. Because they are slightly bigger than soprano ukuleles, they tend to be more comfortable to hold for individuals that have big hands. Usually, a concert ukulele has 15 to 18 frets and has a standard length of 23 inches.
  • Tenor - This one is a step-up version of the concert ukulele. Therefore, its sound is more focused on the lower frequencies. But amusingly, you can match a tenor ukulele with its baritone and concert counterparts. The typical size of a tenor ukulele is around 26 inches. Meanwhile, it features 17 to 19 frets.
  • Baritone - The baritone is the biggest kid in the yard. It has the deepest sound and sports similar tonal characteristics as an acoustic guitar. It is natural for a player to tune a baritone ukulele on its fifth lower because of its inherent voicing trait. The standard length of the baritone is around 29 inches and contains 21 frets at maximum.

Important Terms To Understand

It pays to be an educated buyer. Even for items like ukuleles, there are some technical jargons that you need to understand first before buying. In this way, you can get the best ukulele that meets your requirements or needs. When choosing a ukulele, here are some terms that you can encounter:

Solid Construction - If a particular ukulele tells you that it has a solid top or back, it indicates that the particular part is crafted from solid wood instead of laminate. Any seasoned player will testify that a solid wood can produce better and fuller tones than laminates.

Of course, you should pick a ukulele with solid wood parts. After all, its sound production is heavily dependent on its body. If it is made of a tonewood like mahogany, you can guarantee that it can create articulate and full sounds. Another perk of having a ukulele with a solid wood body is its longevity. The longer you use it, the better the sounds that it can generate. Specifically, time will further improve the quality of the ukulele.

Acoustic/ Electric - I am not referring to the individual electric and acoustic ukuleles here. Just like guitars, some ukuleles are labeled as acoustic/ electric. Obviously, the unit offers the best of both worlds. Usually, it provides a pickup that enables you to amplify it.

For those who want to play live or in gigs, it is reasonable to invest in acoustic/ electric ukuleles. They are your most practical option for this type of application. Just use a guitar cable and plug it into a PA system or guitar amp and you are ready to play. Also, let me emphasize to you that the ukulele should be amplified when you are performing live. Otherwise, it will be overwhelmed by other instruments that included in the mix.

Is the Best Ukulele Expensive?

The price of an instrument can determine its overall quality. You can say that a high-end musical gear sounds better than its entry-level counterparts. However, there are always loopholes here that you should always consider, especially when we are talking about ukuleles.

If you are just a layman, you would never identify the sound quality between a fine ukulele and an ordinary one. After all, we have to admit that ukuleles don't get too much attention compared to guitars or other musical instruments. In the mainstream media today, it is very hard to find a hit song that highlights the use of a ukulele. As a result, people usually assume that all ukuleles are the same, even if they are not.

pug-dog-ukulele

Fortunately, ukuleles are not expensive instruments. Unlike guitars that can reach more than a thousand of bucks, ukuleles don't. You can get a decent unit without spending more than $100. But for those who want a professional unit on their arsenals, spending at least $200 would open the doors to a myriad of options.

An excellent ukulele, with great craftsmanship and sound versatility, can be found around $300 to $400, based on my last assessment on the market. At first, you might find this expensive. But once you realize the value and longevity that a ukulele can offer, the price won't become an issue anymore.

Final Verdict

Finding the best ukulele on the market today is quite an ordeal, especially if you are oblivious to the fundamentals that surround this instrument. The guide that I have given here is just a basic introduction on how to choose a ukulele for you. Later on, you will be able to discover new concepts that can enhance your affinity towards the instrument.

All of the ukuleles that I have listed here are great. But among them, I have to highlight the capabilities of Kala KA-15S Mahogany Soprano Ukulele. With its meager price, the ukulele can offer you great ergonomics, control, and playability. It doesn't suffer from tuning problems, plus it has a great sound, too. A ukulele like this should never be ignored!

But to be on the safe side, better check all the options that I have recommended here.

Was this article helpful? If you have some questions or suggestions, feel free to ask me in the comment section below!

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About the Author

Hi everyone! Im Monica and I am an avid lover of guitars and everything in-between. My current profession is not really music-related. It is quite discouraging but I just don't want to drop my zeal--especially not to guitars! I created GuitarTrance.Com so that I can keep up with my hobby. Of course, I want to engage with the community as well! Hope we can all get along!