Here is a review of my newest ukulele, the Kala KA-T. It is a laminate mahogany tenor ukulele that sells for about $120. My go to ukulele is a Pono solid wood mahogany tenor, but the hassle of keeping that instrument in a case with humidifier during the cold and dry New England winters got me down, and I found myself in the market for a less expensive laminate ukulele that I could keep hanging on the wall all winter long. While it sounds a little more plasticky than solid wood, laminate is tough stuff. I expect this ukulele will be fine without being humidified during the winter. If you’re like me and do a lot of your playing in quick 5 minute spurts between other activities, having a ukulele at hand without fuss is key. I also won’t fret as much taking this ukulele outdoors by the pool in the summer time. The Kala KA-T is my “beater” ukulele, for lack of a better term.
Kala makes a great ukulele at this price, and I’ll save you the trouble of reading this whole post by giving it my highest recommendation for a relatively inexpensive laminate ukulele. If you’re interested in all the details, read on.
- Standard tenor scale with 18 frets
- Laminate mahogany top, back and sides
- Mahogany neck
- Rosewood fingerboard and bridge
- Chrome die-cast sealed geared tuners
I’m happy to report that this Kala KA-T plays very much like my Pono tenor. It has a nice fast neck, the strings are comfortably spaced and the action is good with no buzzing. Intonation is good right up the neck.
The KA-T is an attractive enough ukulele, but it won’t win oohs and aahs from onlookers. It’s a nice simple instrument, and the white binding gives it just the right amount of bling, in my opinion. I do find it looks better in person than it does in most of the photos I’ve seen online. The wood is lighter and not nearly as cardboard-brown as it looks in photos. Laminate doesn’t look any different – it looks just like solid mahogany.
The tone is balanced, meaning that there aren’t certain notes that resonate louder than others. Folks call these “wolf notes” and they drive me nuts. Unfortunately it’s common to have certain frequencies resonate louder than others in less expensive acoustic instruments, so I was very pleased to find this Kala so well-balanced.
My style of playing has lots of single notes, so any frequencies that are muddy quickly reveal themselves. Up and down the neck, notes ring clear. Sustain is what I’d expect at this price point: decent but not great.
Here’s a video of me playing a tune on this ukulele, Hilo March from Mark Nelson’s book Learn To Play Fingerstyle Solos for Ukulele.