Best Ukuleles in 2018 – reviewed right here!
There’s no shortage of fun and awesome-sounding models competing for the title of best ukulele. The growing number of ukulele players and uke models around the world shows that ukulele-playing isn’t just a fad. The uke is here to stay, and we’re here to help you choose the best.
We know that everyone has different tastes, plus budgets may differ as well. No matter – we’ve selected 9 of the very best ukulele models, from the ultra-affordable to pro-priced ukes. All of these are brimming with quality, so you can surely find the best ukulele that ticks your boxes.
Our Top Ukulele Picks
|Kala KA-15S ukulele||The Kala KA-15S is one of the best ukuleles you can get for a low price. This soprano size uke has received rave reviews because of its quality craftsmanship and beautiful tone. It even comes in a best-value package that includes a ukulele strap, clip-on chromatic tuner, an extra set of strings and a gig bag.|
|Cordoba 20TM-CE Ukulele||Musicians look up to the Cordoba brand because of the superior quality of its instruments. The Cordoba 20TM-CE is definitely a ukulele you would be proud to own with its beautifully handcrafted body made of mahogany. A cutaway makes access to the higher frets a lot easier, and the built-in electronics lets you plug and play to your heart’s content.|
|Yamaha GL1 Guitalele||It looks like a baritone ukulele but it has six strings - it’s a guitalele! The Yamaha GL1 is a fantastic instrument for guitar players who like the sound of the ukulele but still like the feel of playing six strings and familiar chords. The Yamaha GL1 Guitalele is also a good instrument to travel with thanks to its portable size.|
|Martin C1K Ukulele||This Martin offering is a concert size ukulele that is made from solid Hawaiian koa. The hand-rubbed satin lacquer finish on the body give the uke a nice clean look. For its size it has an impressive volume and full-bodied voice. The Martin C1K is truly one of the best ukuleles around with its quality craftsmanship and superior tone.|
|Oscar Schmidt OU57 Ukulele||The Oscar Schmidt OU57 is a baritone size ukulele made from spalted mango wood. This baritone uke is a great option for guitar players interested in playing the ukulele because it has the same tuning as the first four strings of the guitar. The OU57 ukulele has a wonderful tone and no two are alike, thanks to the spalted wood.|
|Kala Elite 3KOA Ukulele||Another fantastic model on our list of best ukuleles is the Kala Elite 3KOA-CG, a concert size uke that packs plenty of visual and sonic punch. This little beauty is constructed from solid Hawaiian koa and features a high-quality UV-cured gloss finish that brings out the beauty of the wood. This ukulele has a bright and rich tone you’ll love.|
|Fender Montecito Ukulele||If ukuleles were celebrities, the Fender Montecito would be the darling of the press with its photogenic looks and charming voice. This tenor-size uke from one of the leading guitar makers boasts a solid koa construction, an iconic Tele headstock complete with vintage-style tuners and a rich, mellow sound that makes it worth a whole lot more.|
|Luna High Tide Exotic Ukulele||A list of best ukuleles would be incomplete without a Luna. For this list, we’ve chosen the Luna High Tide Exotic Mahogany soprano ukulele. It has a mahogany body and neck and a walnut fingerboard with uniquely designed abalone inlays. This is a beautiful-sounding and gorgeous-looking little uke that’s perfect for beginners of all ages and advanced players alike.|
|Ohana TK-35G Ukulele||Another tenor uke on our list of best ukuleles is the Ohana TK-35G. This ukulele features a solid mahogany body with a gloss finish. There are other classy appointments such as a wood rosette and rosewood binding - the attention to detail is amazing. This uke has a very full and warm sound and is very fun and easy to play.|
Kala makes it easy for aspiring ukulele players to get started with its Kala KA-15S uke. This soprano size ukulele features a laminate mahogany body (top, back and sides) with a satin finish, which makes it resilient against changes in humidity and temperature.
Small and lightweight, it makes for a great companion for the road and a wonderful first ukulele for kids. The KA-15S has an overall length of just 20.875 inches. The width of the fingerboard at the nut is just 1.375 inches, widening at the neck/body joint to 1.625 inches. Very kid-friendly!
The Kala KA-15S also has a mahogany neck, which is topped with a 12-fret walnut fingerboard. This uke has a GraphTech Nubone nut and saddle and is fitted with Aquila Super Nylgut strings. The gear tuners are decent and keep the uke in tune. However, there are some reports that the ukulele doesn’t stay in tune for long. We recommend giving the new strings a couple of weeks to fully stretch and they should hold their tuning for longer.
For the price, the Kala KA-15S with its beautiful tone and easy-to-play build is one of the best ukes you can find.
- Ukulele bundle comes with a gig bag, accessories and instructional DVD
- Has a good volume and tone for a laminate-wood uke
- Great for beginners and kids
- Ideal for travel
- Doesn’t stay in tune for a long time
- Gig bag is thin
Cordoba started building its ukuleles in Portugal and incorporated Portuguese guitar-making designs and methods into its instruments. This is why Cordoba ukes have that classic appeal, and why they have become some of the best ukuleles in the world today. For this list, we’ve chosen the Cordoba 20TM-CE, a tenor size ukulele that is entirely made by hand and comes with electronics.
The Cordoba 20TM-CE features a rich-sounding solid mahogany top and sturdy mahogany back and sides with a satin finish. Part of the 20 Series of Cordoba ukes, the 20TM-CE also features a nice cutaway so you can more easily form chords at the upper frets.
This Cordoba acoustic-electric ukulele has a fan bracing pattern to keep the top strong and allow the soundboard to vibrate sufficiently, producing a resonant and warm tone. The Cordoba 20TM-CE has an overall length of 26 inches, a comfortable size for both young beginners and adult players.
This mahogany-bodied tenor uke also has a mahogany neck, a rosewood fingerboard and bridge, Aquila Nylgut strings and chrome tuning machines. The 20TM-CE comes equipped with a Cordoba UK2000 Active Piezo pickup with a 2-band EQ that lets you easily plug in your uke for amplification.
- Comes with a standard Cordoba gig gag
- Sounds great both acoustic and plugged in
- Simple but beautiful design
- Some spots in the finish can feel rough to the touch
- String action needs adjustment to improve playability
The guitalele is a cross between a baritone ukulele and a classical acoustic guitar. The Yamaha GL1 guitalele combines the best of both – it has the ukulele size and sound with a playing feel of a guitar.
The tuning of the GL1 is pitched up to A and tuned to ADGCEA. Playing it is like putting a capo on the 5th fret of an acoustic, making this instrument a popular choice among guitar players keen on getting into ukulele. If you know your scales and notes, you can easily play the GL1 guitalele. With this instrument, you can achieve the portability and sound of the ukulele without having to learn new fingering.
The Yamaha GL1 features a spruce top and meranti back and sides. The neck is made of nato while the fingerboard and bridge are made of sonokeling, which is botanically identical with Indian rosewood.
The sound of the GL1 guitalele sits somewhere between a baritone ukulele and a classical guitar. For its size, it has a nice volume – loud enough to be heard in small venues. It performs well and would be great as a travel guitar in ADGCEA tuning. A fun instrument to add to your collection!
- Guitalele comes with a soft case gig bag
- Sturdy build and great sound for the price
- Also great as a travel guitar
- Some issues on the finish
- Headstock rather too large for the instrument
- Factory-installed strings aren’t the best
Martin has always been known for crafting quality instruments and the Martin C1K ukulele is no exception. The C1K concert uke is the company’s most affordable all-solid koa ukulele. Though it has a simple and understated design, it shines because of its expert craftsmanship, easy playability and wonderful ukulele tone desired by ukulele players all over the world.
The top, back and sides of the Martin C1K are all crafted of solid Hawaiian koa and are hand-rubbed with a high-quality satin lacquer finish. The solid koa body produces a warm and rich tone with a lot of resonance. The C1K also has an impressive projection and volume for its size.
The satin-finished neck is made of select hardwood while the fingerboard is made of solid morado, also known as pau ferro, which is similar to rosewood and has a warm tone. Using alternative materials and minimizing cosmetic appointments allow Martin to keep the cost down and offer the CK1 at a lower price than its more higher-end ukuleles.
Other features of the Martin CK1 include nickel open-geared tuners with white knobs, solid Sitka spruce bracing, Tusq nut and saddle and dot fingerboard inlays.
If you play the guitar, the Oscar Schmidt OU57 is your ticket to fun ukulele playing. This baritone ukulele has a standard tuning that is the same as the top four strings of your guitar – DGBE. It also has a deeper and lower-pitched sound than other ukulele sizes if a mellow sound is more to your liking.
If you would like to tune the Oscar Schmidt OU57 in standard ukulele tuning (GCEA), this is also possible with the right strings. There are strings made specifically to create notes in standard tuning for a baritone ukulele. These strings would basically convert your baritone uke into a tenor uke. Note, however, that these conversion strings are not included in the purchase of the ukulele.
The top, back and sides of the Oscar Schmidt OU57 are made from spalted mango, making each uke one of a kind because of the variety of the spalted pattern. The spalted mango wood is very sturdy and produces a rich and deep sound. The ukulele has a classy gloss finish.
This uke also has a synthetic bone nut and saddle, abalone binding and an abalone rosette, and is equipped with deluxe Grover chrome tuners with ebonite buttons.
- Spalted mango has a striking unique look and has a bright sound
- Comfortable neck and smooth frets
- Wonderful tone
- Stays in tune after the strings stabilize
- Ukulele case not included in purchase
- Some reports of string buzz
Another concert size uke on our list of best ukulele models is the Kala Elite 3KOA. There’s a lot to love in this little beauty, from its build to its sound. For its top, back and sides Kala used a strikingly figured premium-grade solid Hawaiian koa and gave it a UV gloss finish. The wood produces a bright and rich tone with a great dynamic range and articulation.
The UV gloss finish is sprayed on the ukulele in very thin coats. Because there is less material used, the wood is able to vibrate and resonate more. The finish also makes the figuring in the koa really pop out.
The neck is made of sturdy Honduran mahogany and is given a smooth satin finish. The fingerboard, bridge, headstock overlay and the heel cap are made of ebony. The impressive specs don’t stop there, as the this concert ukulele also has a genuine bone saddle and a GraphTech NuBone nut. It’s also equipped with Kala closed-gear gold tuners with acacia buttons as well as mother-of-pearl fretboard and headstock inlays. The ukulele comes pre-stringed with Kala Elite fluorocarbon strings.
The Kala Elite 3KOA is overall a gorgeous uke with clean, clear and beautiful tone.
Fender doesn’t make that many ukuleles, but what the company has come up with so far are all amazing instruments. Take the Fender Montecito tenor ukulele for example.
The top, back and sides of the Montecito ukulele are all made from koa, giving it a lot of midrange warmth and top-end brightness. It has just the right balance of richness and sparkle. The top is also solid, giving the uke plenty of resonance and sustain. The back and sides are made of laminated koa for added strength and resilience.
The Montecito has a nato neck and a rosewood fingerboard. The uke also features sealed nickel tuning machines and a no-tie sonokeling bridge that makes changing strings fast and easy.
The Fender Montecito has a refined look thanks to the eye-catching blue-green abalone top binding as well as the abalone rosette around the soundhole. The back and the fretboard are also bound. What really makes the Montecito a Fender is its headstock, which faithfully replicates the headstock shape of the much-loved Telecaster.
The Fender Montecito tenor ukulele is proof that the company isn’t just great at making acoustic and electric guitars and basses but ukuleles as well. Highly recommended!
Our next pick for the best ukulele is this offering from Luna. Part of the High Tide Series, the Luna High Tide Exotic Soprano Ukulele is crafted from exotic mahogany. Yep, the top, sides and back all feature the beautiful wood, which produces a full and vibrant tone.
In fact, all of the models in the High Tide Series are made from tropical hardwoods and feature a stunning abalone rosette around the soundhole. The ukuleles also have specially designed fret markers, which reflect the waves as they rise toward the pull of the moon. You can clearly see the wave inlays rising from low tide to high tide as they move up the fingerboard.
The neck of the High Tide Exotic Mahogany Soprano is made of mahogany, making the uke more sturdy and giving it more warmth and resonance. The fretboard and bridge are made of walnut for tonal clarity and a lasting sustain. This ukulele also features pearloid open-gear tuners and multi-ply maple and walnut binding. A smooth natural satin finish completes the look.
The size and light weight of this ukulele make it an ideal choice for beginners, especially kids and teens.
The Ohana TK-35G is an all-solid tenor ukulele with a durable and beautiful gloss finish. This uke is made of mahogany all throughout: the top, back and sides are all made of solid mahogany. The neck and headstock are made of mahogany as well and are finished with the same high gloss. The use of mahogany results in a mellow yet full-bodied and clear tone with lots of sustain.
The fingerboard, bridge as well as the headstock plate are made of rosewood. The Ohana TK-35G also has bone saddle and nut, rosewood binding with white purfling, pearloid fret markers, a wood rosette and deluxe open-geared tuners. It comes pre-fitted with Aquila strings.
The overall construction, from the wood used and finish to the components and binding, is exceptional and resulted in a very nice-looking ukulele with a classic feel. It’s pretty but not overly showy; the gloss is just enough to let the grain of the wood show.
The Ohana TK-35G would make a very fine ukulele for beginners. The price may seem a bit high for a first instrument, but it’s an investment you are not likely to regret. This uke is definitely a keeper.
Best Ukulele Buying Tips
A ukulele for every player
And there you have it, the our top picks for the best ukuleles you can get today. We’ve made our list as comprehensive yet concise as possible to include different kinds of ukes, from beginner-friendly models to professional-level instruments equipped with electronics. We’ve also selected the best ukulele models from different price categories so no matter your budget, you’re sure to find the perfect fit!
Which size is best for you?
Ukuleles come in four main sizes: soprano is the smallest, followed by concert, tenor and baritone. Soprano is the size that often comes to mind when talking about the ukulele. The tenor and baritone sizes are often mistaken for travel guitars when viewed from afar because they are very similar in size.
The size of the ukulele influences its sound. The soprano has that classic tinkly ukulele sound. The pitch or tone of the uke becomes deeper as the bigger you go, which means the baritone uke has the deepest tone of all. In addition, since the tuning of the baritone is similar to that of an acoustic guitar, it also has a similar sound.
So how do you choose?
Some players choose the size of their ukulele based on the tonal output they want. If they want to have the classic ukulele sound, they go for the soprano or the concert, which is just a bit louder than the soprano because of its slightly bigger body. If a player wants a deeper sound that can be likened to the sound of a classical guitar, they can go for a tenor or a baritone.
You can also choose the size of your ukulele based on your playing comfort. Some musicians find the soprano too small and difficult to play at first, while others find it to be just right. Family members looking for a ukulele to give to a child often choose a soprano or concert ukulele because of their kid-friendly size.
Guitar players who want to play the uke may want to choose a baritone-size ukulele because it offers a familiar size and tuning, or they may also go for a guitalele, which allows them to play chords they already know.
If there’s a music store near you, we highly recommend giving it a visit and trying out different ukulele sizes. That way, you would already be able to determine the size that you find the most comfortable to play and the tone that sounds like heaven to your ears. It will help you narrow down your options the next time you do your research on which ukulele would be the best for you.
What accessories do you need?
Every ukulele player needs to have some accessories that can help them play better and keep their instrument in good condition. Here are the basic accessories you’ll need:
● Ukulele case or gig bag – it’s important to make sure your ukulele is not exposed to extreme changes in humidity and temperature and that it doesn’t suffer damage. A gig bag or better yet, a hardshell case will not only keep your uke from bumps and scratches but also provide it with a controlled environment for safe storage. Tip: Learn when to use a humidifier or dehumidifier!
● Electronic tuner – the first couple of weeks after getting your new ukulele or changing strings, the ukulele would need to be tuned constantly until the strings settle or stabilize. You would need an electronic tuner handy to make the task easier.
● Extra strings – broken strings are a fact of life if you play a string instrument like the ukulele, so make sure you have an extra set with you so you can change the strings when needed. A good set of replacement strings is also recommended if the strings your ukulele comes with don’t quite sound as bright as they should. Do some research about which strings are compatible with your ukulele and which can give you the best tone.
Those are the absolute basic accessories you’ll need when you start playing the ukulele. Other accessories, such as straps, picks and pickups can come later on.
We hope you find the perfect ukulele for you in this list. Have fun playing!