Ukulele

Best Ukulele Brands

September 15, 2018
Damilola

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Best Ukulele Brands

When it comes to choosing a ukulele with perfect tone, projection, and volume, it more or less, boils down to the brand. Recently, there has been a great influx of manufacturers going into the making of these unique sounding instruments because a lot of people are picking interest in playing ukes.

That is why it is getting increasingly difficult to really own one that can hold up well and serve your musical passion. So, our duty here is to guide you on how to make the best choice out of the multitude of brands on the market.

We shall consider some important factors to note in determining the best brand and recommend some top-notch ukulele brands.

Our Top 10 Recommended Ukulele Brands

Kala: KA-15S Satin Mahogany Soprano Ukulele

  • Comes with exemplary fretwork
  • The frets are well manicured as such they don’t produce any sensation
  • Its cords ring and project very well
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Ukulele Concert Size Bundle From Lohanu (LU-C)

  • Offers excellent, unmatchable customer service
  • Stays in tune relatively well
  • A beautiful mid-level ukulele with a rich tone
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Caramel CC102A Concert Ukulele

  • Well built with good glue lines and sharp look
  • The fit and finish is fantastic
  • A good ukulele along with an extremely affordable price
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15CM-E Concert Acoustic-Electric Ukulele

  • It is a great uke for both beginners and intermediate players
  • It has an attractive clear warm sound
  • Comes with a solid construction and finish
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Donner DUS-3 Spruce Soprano Ukulele

  • The included tuner is handy because it makes it hold its tune
  • The tuner is easy to use and work perfectly
  • Great uke kit at an incredible price
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With the market flooded with so many ukulele brands, it can be quite confusing getting a high-quality one if not properly guided. Here is our pick of the top brands you can comfortably choose from.

Kala

*Recommended Model: Kala: KA-15S Satin Mahogany Soprano Ukulele

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Kala is one of the most renowned ukulele makers right now in the market. It was founded in 2005 and has its base in Petaluma, California. This brand has become a household name in terms of impressive designs and high quality ukes.

They are very innovative in producing a variety of versatile Ukuleles that always meet the needs of musicians at all levels. They have got a non-exhaustive range of models from standard ukes to more stylish, high-end ones.

Our pick for this brand is the Kala KA-15S Satin Mahogany Soprano Ukulele. It comes in a kind of Mahogany body and neck.

The product is truly one of the best from Kala as it offers perfect voicing and warm tone. Furthermore, it is deemed to offer beginners dependable performance, fantastic sound, and stylishness, all at a very affordable price.

Notable Features:

  • Made of Mahogany body and neck
  • Features Rosewood Fingerboard and bridge
  • Comes with Satin finish and geared tuners
  • It is pre-strung with premium AQUILA NYLGUT strings
  • Sports 12 Brass frets with fret position marks at 5th, 7th and 10th frets on neck and top fingerboard
  • Free app and tuner

Pros:

  • Comes with exemplary fretwork
  • The frets are well manicured as such they don’t produce any sensation
  • Its cords ring and project very well
  • Offers very high ‘dollar per smile ratio’
  • A perfect entry level instrument

Cons:

  • Tuning can be a bit tedious with this uke
  • Portable but not good for bigger hands
  • You will have to pay for lessons in the free app that comes with it.

Kala has become a household name in terms of beautiful designs and high-quality ukulele. The Kala KA-15S Satin Mahogany Soprano Ukulele can be referred as an ambassador of all that Kala stands for.

Lohanu

*Recommended Model: Ukulele Concert Size Bundle From Lohanu (LU-C)

Concert Ukulele From Lohanu

Lohanu is a brand that is based in Canada and this made our list of the best because they always stand by high quality ukes with unique features. One striking feature about this brand is its name.

The ‘Lo’ is from the first two letters in ‘Love’, ‘han’ is derived from the next three letters after the first in ‘Ohana’ while ‘U’ from ‘Unity’.

What actually makes this an outstanding brand is that they usually defend their product with quality and good customer support. It is a brand you can trust as they offer a lifetime warranty on their instruments and accessories.

A particular instrument that carries and sells all that Lohanu represents is the Lohanu LU-C. This model comes with a unique design and quality that far outweigh its price on the market.

It is solidly built for laminated Sapele wood and also features a completely bound body and neck. Its arched body offers a solid, enhanced projection.

Notable Features:

  • Made of laminated Sapele
  • Unconditional lifetime warranty for the uke and all accessories
  • Offers free ukulele video lessons
  • Features wider spaced frets
  • Installed with two strap buttons
  • Comes with other accessories such as strap, tuner, case, 2 picks, pick holder, and an extra set of Aquila strings
  • Designed with Sapele/Mahogany top, Rosewood fingerboard, chrome die cast tuning gears and handmade ABS bindings

Pros:

  • Offers excellent, unmatchable customer service
  • Stays in tune relatively well
  • A beautiful mid-level ukulele with a rich tone
  • A high-quality instrument that is far worth more than the price
  • The tuner is a lifesaver that can be used for any octave ukulele

Cons:

  • Comes with a too thin gig bag that does not protect the instrument very well
  • Some notes on the fretboard are not balanced
  • Intonation up the neck seems off

Summarily, what actually makes Lohanu an outstanding brand is that they usually defend their product with quality and good customer support. And a particular instrument that carries and sells all that Lohanu represents is the Lohanu LU-C.

Caramel

*Recommended Model: Caramel CC102A Concert Ukulele

Caramel CC102A

Caramel is a brand owned and sold by the Rubin Commerce and Trade Co. Ltd. They are based in China and their brands used to be ‘Rubin ukuleles’ before changing it to Caramel.

According to most user reviews, Caramel ukes are traditionally well built with a great tone quality. Some of their instruments are also known to come with electronics just in case a user feel like plugging in.

Here, the Caramel CC102A Concert Ukulele is what passes as an excellent model of a brand that Caramel is known for. It is a perfect concert size uke that is slightly louder with a warmer tone than a soprano size.

Its zebra wood construction gives it a very unique pattern and design. It is also made from laminated wood with a combination of an aesthetic flair.

Notable Features:

  • Has Zebra wood body
  • Comes with Buffalo bone nut and saddle
  • Features open geared tuners
  • Comes with Aquila strings
  • Possesses 18 frets
  • A truss rod is inserted in the neck for neck adjustment

Pros:

  • Well built with good glue lines and sharp look
  • The fit and finish is fantastic
  • A good ukulele along with an extremely affordable price
  • The zebra wood laminate looks attractive and resonates well
  •  It is definitely a fun to play with

Cons:

  • The neck seems to warp easily
  • Some customers complained of poor customer service
  • May not offer the best of sound

Overall, Caramel ukes are traditionally great tone quality. Here, the Caramel CC102A Concert Ukulele is what passes as an excellent model.

Cordoba

*Recommended Model: 15CM-E Concert Acoustic-Electric Ukulele

15CM-E Concert Acoustic-Electric Ukulele

The Cordoba is an innovator as well as a leader in the nylon instrument sector. This brand was founded in 1997 by Tim Micklaucic  and has Pepe Romero Jr. who is a famed classical guitar maker as the designer of its ukulele unit.

Cordoba also specializes in making classical, flamenco guitars, and outstanding ukes. Their signatory quality in making guitars is as in the design of their ukuleles.

A perfect uke under this brand is the Cordoba 15CM-E which is a replica of a mahogany concert sized ukulele. It further features a passive electronics that is good enough to transmit its tone to any device for amplification.

Its concert size and mahogany body are what set this instrument apart as an uke with incredible volume and a warm tone.

Notable Features:

  • Features mahogany top, back, and sides
  • Cordoba pickup with discrete soundhole controls
  • Sports abalone-style rosette
  • Modern edge burst finish
  • Comes with ivoroid body and fingerboard binding
  • Silver tuners with pearl buttons
  • Premium Aquila strings

Pros:

  • It is a great uke for both beginners and intermediate players
  • It has an attractive clear warm sound
  • Comes with a solid construction and finish
  • The abalone inset is flawless
  • The fretboard is smooth and the frets are placed nicely

Cons:

  • It is not easily tuned
  • The action may be just a little bit high
  • Not delivered to some customers with protective case

In conclusion, the Cordoba is an innovator as well as a leader in the nylon instrument sector. Their signatory quality in making guitars is in the design of their ukuleles. A perfect uke under this brand is the Cordoba 15CM-E which is a replica of a mahogany concert sized ukulele.

Donner

*Recommended Model: Donner DUS-3 Spruce Soprano Ukulele

DUS-3 Spruce Soprano Ukulele

Donner made it to this list as one of the younger brands that was founded in 2012. According to the company’s goal, its priority is to offer users with new experiences in music and performance. It also makes quality, innovation and top of the line performance its focus while creating its instruments.

Donner is best known for consistently producing unbelievable, affordable guitar effects mini-pedals. They have likewise replicated the same level of quality in the ukes they make.

A good example of Donner’s ukes that fit into this list is the Donner DUS-3 Spruce Soprano Ukulele. It features a spruce top that is popular for its bright and high-pitched voice.

It boasts of a balanced tone as enabled by its all-mahogany back and sides. In addition, it sports a guitar-style tuner that keeps the uke in tune better than ukes in its category.

Notable Features:

  • Comes in mahogany back and sides
  • Spruce top for excellent sound
  • Features Rosewood fingerboard and bridge
  • Comes with patented chrome-plated guitar style tuners
  • Sports auspicious clouds and the top mark Sun logo
  • Includes ukulele bag, strap, carbon nylon string and digital
  •  Clip-on tuner

Pros:

  • The included tuner is handy because it makes it hold its tune
  • The tuner is easy to use and work perfectly
  • Great uke kit at an incredible price
  • It is well constructed and the frets are really smooth
  • Comes with outstanding accessories that work perfectly

Cons:

  • It could be really too loud for some users
  • The strap is not top design quality
  • The action seems way too far off the fretboard

Overall, Donner consistently produces unbelievable, affordable guitar effects mini-pedals. Moreover, they have likewise replicated the same level of quality in the ukes they make. A good example of Donner’s ukes that fit into this list is the Donner DUS-3 Spruce Soprano Ukulele.

Lanikai

*Recommended Model: LU-21 Soprano Ukulele

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Lanikai can best be seen to be a brand that hits the marks when it comes to anything ukulele. They surely have a wide range of ukuleles to offer all players at different levels in terms of sizes and versatility.

Lanikai is a brand that thrives to offer quality instruments to meet every budget. A beginner will normally find the LU series ideal, while the advanced players may choose between Makau and Legacy series.

Our top pick for a model under this brand is the Lanikai LU-21 Soprano Ukulele. The reason being that it is an extremely popular soprano uke fondly used by the majority of beginners and mid-level players.

It features an easy-to-use clip-on tuner that enables users to keep it in tune. Its top back and sides are handcrafted from Nato wood also known as Eastern Mahogany.

Notable Features:

  • Features Rosewood fretboard with 12 frets
  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • Made of Nato top, back and sides
  • Has chrome die-cast tuning machines
  • Comes in a soprano size
  • Includes an Austin Bazaar polishing cloth
  • Has a gig bag
  • Comes with an Austin Bazaar instructional DVD

Pros:

  • Has beautiful sound and very easy to play
  • Highly portable and great for traveling
  • Its case feels safe and strong with plenty of useful pockets for accessories
  • Offers a great bundle for a great price
  • Optimum quality and very durable

Cons:

  • Seems a little too small
  • Some users believe the strings are terrible and will need replacement
  • It may come with a couple of dents

Surely, Lanikai has a wide range of ukuleles to offer all players at different levels in terms of sizes and versatility. Therefore, our top pick of a model under this brand is the Lanikai LU-21 Soprano Ukulele.

Oscar Schmidt

*Recommended Model: OU5 Concert Ukulele

Oscar Schmidt is a brand that resonates naturally among those who are familiar with acoustic guitars. They are also notable for producing top of the line quality instruments at very affordable prices when compared with those of the competitors.

Having an Oscar Schmidt uke among your musical instruments is always an appealing choice. Moreover, this brand has made it a priority to consistently deliver solid and sleek ukuleles to its growing customer base.

When considering the value and unique propositions Oscar Schmidt stands for, our choice of a model under this brand is the Oscar Schmidt OU5 Concert Ukulele.

In addition, it is made completely of koa with its neck being of a Nyatoh design. It also features abalone binding across the body together with the neck.

Notable Features:

  • Features a select Hawaiian Koa top, back and sides
  • Sports Rosewood fretboard with 16 feet.
  • Has abalone binding and rosette on top
  • Also features Nyatoh neck, Rosewood fingerboard and bridge
  • Lifetime manufacturer warranty
  • Comes with Grover chrome tuners

Pros:

  • The tuners can hold tune very well
  • Best ukulele for beginners
  • The sound quality is fabulous
  • Has an excellent speech
  • A beautiful uke at a reasonable price

Cons:

  • The finish isn’t quite bright
  • Produces not a great sound
  • Frets are too low

In summary, Oscar Schmidt brand has made it a priority to consistently deliver solid and sleek ukuleles to its growing customer base just as obtainable in its acoustic guitars. When considering the value and unique propositions Oscar Schmidt stands for, our choice of a model under this brand is the Oscar Schmidt OU5 Concert Ukulele.

Mahalo

*Recommended Model: MK1TBR Kahiko Series Soprano Ukulele

Mahalo is a brand that many experienced players today must have handled when starting out as a beginner. They always put the best effort into designing and building awesome beginner ukuleles.

Another important feature of this brand is that at a very ridiculous price. You can get a well built and high-quality ukuleles that gives you the best of sound.

Moreover, Mahalo is also famous for making extremely designed ukes that will completely blow your mind. Some of their exceptional models include Rock, Smiley Face, and Surf ukes.

One particular Mahalo model that catches our attention is the MK1TBR Kahiko Series Soprano uke. In addition, the design of this instrument was inspired by the ancient dance of the Hawaiian people known as the Kahiko dance.

Furthermore, it sports a fingerboard and a bridge that is completely from mahogany while the frets are of brass material. This soprano uke is also available to users in four distinctive, characteristic, transparent finishes.

Notable Features:

  • Comes in semi-gloss finishes
  • Features mahogany fingerboard and bridge
  • The extra thin carrying bag is included
  • Frets are made of brass
  • Available in four unique, semi-gloss, transparent finishes

Pros:

  • Good quality at an unbeatable price
  • The neck is very solid and does not feel flimsy
  • It is super good looking
  • Has wonderful understated finish
  • Very easy to learn with

Cons:

  • Tuning can be very repetitive and tasking initially
  • The strings seem are cut too short
  • Not suitable for a more experienced player

Above all, Mahalo always put the best effort into designing and building awesome beginner ukuleles. One particular Mahalo model that catches our attention is the MK1TBR Kahiko Series Soprano uke.

ADM

*Recommended Model: Mahogany Concert Professional Ukulele

ADM as a company does not only deal in musical instruments, it also handles tools for home improvement. But when it comes to making high quality ukes they are not in any way a push over. They also offer a long line of fairly affordable instruments as well as top of the line ukulele packs.

Moreover, All-day Music Inc. is truly a dependable brand in the musical instrument industry. Paying attention to details is the hallmark of all they do. For this reason, many players continue to make their ukes a top choice.

In addition, a perfect model of this brand is the ADM Mahogany Concert Professional Ukulele. It is a professional uke that sports a body of zebrawood with a sumptuous satin mahogany finish.

Also, its fingerboard and bridge are of sturdy rosewood construction. All these features work together to make this ADM ukulele perfect for beginners as well as professionals at all levels.

Notable Features:

  • Comes with 4 premium Italian Aquila Nylgut strings
  • Includes dustproof die-cast tuners
  • Comes in mahogany body and neck
  • Has rosewood fingerboard and bridge
  • A protective gig bag is included
  • Contains adjustable strap, finger sand bell hammer, two picks, and polish cloth
  • Features 18 brass frets

Pros:

  • Very comfortable to play
  • Has a nice satin finish and a lovely shell rosette
  • Looks and sound great
  • It has a great resonance
  • Good for beginners as well as professional players

Cons:

  • It takes time for the strings to optimize
  • The gig bag is too thin to protect the uke
  • The quality of included accessories seems not good enough

In conclusion, AMD offers a long line of fairly affordable instruments as well as the top of the line ukulele packs. However, a perfect model of this brand is the ADM Mahogany Concert Professional Ukulele.

Diamond Head

*Recommended Model: DU-150 Soprano Ukulele

Diamond Head boast of being one of the most popular brands in the ukulele market. Their products have designs with beautiful colors that easily catch the eyes.

The company also ensures that the ukes they produce are not only flashy but are of high quality with affordability in mind. Furthermore, we feel this brand is worth considering in this caliber of top brands because of their touch of perfection on their products.

Some of the best products from Diamond Head include Mahogany Soprano, Maple Soprano, Mahogany Concert uke, and Mahogany Pineapple.

But a particular model we want to consider here is the winning Diamond Head DU-150 Soprano Ukulele. Moreover, this classically-fashioned mahogany soprano uke is basically a budget one that is capable of meeting the needs of both beginners and seasoned musicians.

In addition, it sports a high-quality maple body and neck with an appealing white hardware set. Furthermore, it features unique geared guitar tuners that ensure this uke stays in tune all the time.

Notable Features:

  • Features an easy to play 3 chord chart
  • Comes in solid maple body and neck
  • Equipped with geared guitar style tuners
  • Contains black gig bag for easy storage and transport
  • Its fingerboard and bridge are hardwood
  • White ABS nut and saddle

Pros:

  • It is quite fantastic for the price
  • The low action makes it very easy to play
  • This uke looks beautiful with the brown wood finish and color strings
  • It is a solid instrument without a bunch of useless accessories
  • The craftsmanship is very awesome

Cons:

  • It comes with plastic strings that stretch rather too easily
  • The case is of low-quality material that doesn’t last very long
  • It doesn’t hold a tune for long

Finally, Diamond Head’s products usually have beautiful colors that easily catch the eyes. The company also ensures that the ukes they produce are not only flashy but are of high quality with affordability in mind. But a particular model we have considered here is the winning Diamond Head DU-150 Soprano Ukulele.

Key Considerations When Buying a Ukulele Brand

As a lover of music and stringed instruments like ukes, getting the best brand will always want to be your major priority. But that does not come easy often.

There are certain factors you must consider in order to be able to eventually own that ukulele of your dream. Some of these factors are below:

  • Size – Size is usually one of the prime factors that you should consider. Most brands do offer models in basically four sizes. These sizes are Soprano, Concert, Tenor, and Baritone. The smallest and most traditional among them all is the Soprano. Moreover, if you are a student or a beginner, your best pick might just be a brand that has reputation for top quality soprano models.
  • Budget – There is a great need to proceed with caution when it comes to choosing a brand with affordability in view. So, you need to maintain a balance between quality and economic undertone. There are also many brands offering super cheap ukes on the market today but are cheaply made. Moreover, you must know that an extra $10 is worth spending on a high quality and performing instrument.
  • Tone Wood – As long as there is no accurate answer to the question of which tone wood is the best, a ukulele that features a sturdy wood construction will surely perform well. Koa is the most popular tonewood for ukuleles. It is also the conventional wood used in making the ancient ukes in Hawaii where the instrument was invented. That is why when people mention ukes, Koa is always the default wood that comes to mind of most advanced players. Moreover, a similar wood in terms of tonal features and density, which is also common is mahogany. Nowadays, cedar and spruce have taken the lead when it comes to softer tone wood.
  • Building Quality – Quality of your ukulele will definitely influence your playing experience and tone projection. That is why this factor must always be at the back of your mind when shopping for a uke. Moreover, another thing you need to note about building quality is that brands run overseas factories are often of lesser quality than the handmade ones that are considerably costlier but better and more consistent in tuning.
  • Designs – What also comes to play when deciding a ukulele that appeals to your sense of beauty, is the design and appearance. Actually, ukuleles abound in a variety of colors, designs, and construction. Also, some players prefer the natural wood appearance while others will fancy brands that come in flamboyant colors with ornamental patterns. Overall, players tend to fall in love more with beautifully designed instruments with a perfect style.

Types of Ukuleles

As noted above, ukes are widely available in different sizes like the acoustic guitars. They are usually described in terms of their sizes.

Interestingly, the size of a uke is what often determines its projection, tone, and volume. There are fundamentally four types of ukuleles. These include:

  • Soprano – This is the smallest of all the four types of ukulele. It is an instrument worth around 20 inches in size. It sounds crispy with less of bass. Moreover, sopranos usually have a very low action meaning a minimal tension is required to fret the strings. They are also the perfect choice for beginners and young kids. Additionally, there is a smaller variant known as sopranissimo that is about 16 inches.
  • Concert – This is kind of bigger than soprano ukes. A distinctive feature of concert ukuleles is their long neck that makes their frets well spaced out. Moreover, it is a feature that sets them apart as being easier to play than their soprano counterparts. Concert models usually have a size of about 23 inches and seem a bit louder than sopranos.
  • Tenor – The next in line to concert models are the tenors. They are also gradually becoming more popular and accepted among professional players due to their bigger size. They also have a larger body and a longer neck which combine well to offer them a warmer tone. In addition, tenors basically have a size of around 26 inches and their lowest string are often tuned to D.
  • Baritone – These ukes seem to be of a rarity. They also have a size that is almost like that of a standard traditional guitar with a very similar sound. Majority of players don’t really like these types because of their bogus size and less unique voice that is atypical of ukuleles. Furthermore, They are about 30 inches in size which may not be ideal for players who are just starting out.

Ukulele vs Guitar: Any Difference?

It is often tempting to easily confuse a ukulele for being a smaller version of a guitar. In whatever guise, uke usually possesses some major parts like a guitar. It will surely sport a neck, a body, a headstock, a fretboard together with a bridge, nut, saddle, tuners, and strings.

However, there are some conspicuous dissimilarities. A typical guitar has six strings while a uke will come with just four with fewer frets. Also, standard guitars generally have 19 to 24 frets but ukuleles have somewhere between 12 and 21 frets. Overall, ukes do have a brighter and happier sound than guitars.

How Much Does a Good Ukulele Cost?

Surprisingly, ukuleles are one of the most affordable musical instruments. As a beginner, you can get a decent uke as low as $30. Due to high competition among the major brands in the industry, ukes’ prices have become very competitive.

Notwithstanding, there are some high-end ukes that range from $200 to $300. It generally depends on your level of skill and other personal preferences, there is usually a uke for every budget.

Note that some brands are famous for offering high-quality models at considerably low prices. Thus, we shall endeavor to consider some of these brands you can trust to give you the best value for your money.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, if getting the top performing ukes is your priority as a beginner or an advanced player, then brand should take its place in the list of consideration. There are four types. The most ubiquitous and smallest among them is soprano and people often recommend this for beginners.

Moreover, the baritone ukuleles are on the extreme end with a larger body, long neck, and a deeper voice. Also, other factors that you should consider are tonewood, budget, and designs.

In the end, it is a well-established fact that buyers should always maintain a balance between quality and affordability. This is because ukes that are overly cheap may not be of decent material.

Damilola

Damilolai has been writing about music for the past 7 years before joining musicgroupies.com team. When he's not working he loves going to the park with his two Jack Russell Terrier's Joe and Bells.
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