Kala KA-15S Ukulele Reviews | MusicRadar
Kala KA-15S ukulele review: what is it?
Kala’s KA-15S is an affordable soprano ukulele aimed directly at gamers and future gamers looking to buy a musical instrument, not a toy.
Kala is a trusted brand among ukulele players, renowned for its wide range of ukuleles. It doesn’t have much of a heritage – it was founded less than 20 years ago in California, not Hawaii – but it’s very focused on making ukuleles and nothing else.
Its core business is solid quality, entry-level to mid-range ukes in the $ 50 to $ 500 price region, with a few US-made models fetching around $ 1,000. It’s a silly but nonetheless useful analogy: if you want the Ferrari of ukuleles go to Hawaiian brands KoAloha, Kamaka and Kanile’a but if you just need a Ford then stick with Kala.
Kala’s KA-15S mahogany series is unabashedly made up of beginner ukulele, the soprano model being the cheapest of the lot. Here we are looking at the plain pork version but it is also available in black, with a spruce top or with a more sophisticated laser engraved decoration.
If you are new to the pleasures of mastering the ukulele, the first thing to note is the KA-15S’s small size. Soprano ukes are tiny, this one is only 21 inches long and seven inches wide at the bottom. On the plus side, that makes them ultra-cute, light, easy to hold, and very portable. The soprano size is also the original, and some would say the best. The small sound box is largely responsible for the familiar sound of the plinky-plingy, high-pitched ukulele that erupted in Hawaii in the 1880s to become a signature sound of jazz, folk, vaudeville, country and even rock. of the whole world.
The KA-15S is almost entirely mahogany, with only the fretboard and bridge in laurel. The scale length is very short but typical of 13.625 inches, and the neck meets the body at the twelfth fret with the fingerboard ending shortly thereafter with a flourish in a stylized chevron. It’s not a bling party, but the KA-15S looks cool with its vintage-style open-ended tuners with plastic mother-of-pearl buttons and a laser-etched sun rosette. It is also quite light at just 13.4 oz (380 g).
Kala KA-15S Ukulele Review: Performance & Vedict
This ukulele may claim Hawaii as its spiritual home, but it was designed in California and born in China. Without a doubt, Far Eastern manufacturing helps explain the low price, but there is little sign of a penny pinch. The KA-15S might be an entry-level uke but it’s a Kala, and it shows.
Where ordinarily on an instrument of this price you would expect to find a plastic nut, here the nice guys and girls at California HQ in Kala specified a Graph Tech Nubone XB nut. Likewise, instead of generic unnamed chains, Kala proudly claims that the KA-15S is donned with Aquila Super Nylgut.
It shows that the Kala team actually cares about what that looks like. The Nubone XB nut is an interesting choice because Graph Tech claims it helps increase volume and low-end overtones, qualities that soprano ukes tend to struggle with.
The mahogany body is of course laminate. Look inside the rosette and there is no grooved liner, but unfortunately there are signs of adhesive and a few rough, chipped edges. This may be normal for an instrument at this price level, but it seems unfortunate to us.
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Outside there are no such signs of a mess. The top, back and sides have been treated with a thin layer of evenly applied satin lacquer, and there are no gaps or traces of capricious glue. The laurel fingerboard is smooth and quick, and the ends of the frets are nicely tamed with no nasty ends waiting to inflict a soft tissue injury.
The intonation on soprano ukes is notoriously awkward due to the scale’s very short length, but the KA-15S performs well in this regard. At the twelfth fret, only the C string was slightly sharp, with the other three strings roughly in place. Frankly, you’re less likely to downplay a soprano’s dusty ending anyway, so a slight aberration isn’t a big deal.
These vintage-style tuners also kept our little KA-15S in tune, even though they were a bit stiff and uneven in operation. We didn’t notice any slippage.
The action on our sample was also comfortably low for a nylon stringed instrument, with no fret hum. It’s worth mentioning that the fret spacing on the sopranos is quite tight, another special feature of the short scale length, so if you have big hands you might want to look at the larger concert models instead or tenor.
How does that sound? For starters, this little uke has a lot more bass than you expect, and volume too. It sounds really pretty loud and full, so maybe the Nubone XB nut and those quality Aquila strings really work their magic. The sustain is also long lasting, even the fretted notes decay relatively slowly for such a small instrument.
If anything is missing, it’s character. The KA-15S unmistakably sounds like a ukulele, but its voice is rather one-dimensional, lacking both the clarity and depth of much more expensive instruments. But hey, let’s not be too critical. For the money, this soprano ukulele looks really nice.
New to ukes? With a limited budget? After a fun instrument that can take a hit or two on family camping trips? The KA-15S is a keeper at a throwaway price.
- Cut: Soprano
- Top, back and sides: Mahogany
- Neck: Mahogany
- To finish: Satin
- Hit: Laurel
- Strings: Aquila Super Nylgut
- Scale length: 13.625 inch
- Number of Frets: 12
- Contact: Kala