What is the top quality ukulele
Ukulele Brands: Which Manufacturers Are Really Good
There are so many brands of ukulele that, especially as a beginner, you don't even know where to start researching. For all ukuleles you can find someone who absolutely wants to recommend them to you. All brands have their fan base and that's a good thing.
However, I would have liked to have had an overview like this at the beginning. At that time I first ordered a Lanikai, then a PONO and finally a Kanile’a, which I then decided with all my heart. From a brand that I had never heard of before.
And that is the biggest problem: You cannot know all of these ukulele brands, especially in the higher quality range, if you are not familiar with the market. You just don't come into contact with them if you go through the usual online shops for music supplies (luckily that has improved a bit since then). Which is also due to the fact that there are few retailers where you can get them anyway. Because many have to be imported directly from Hawaii.
However, it is worthwhile to deal intensively with the brands. In this post you will get an overview and a classification in the different quality categories, if that was possible. This is of course purely subjective, but it also reflects where the brands position themselves and where they are commonly seen.
By far the best ukulele brands
If you want to start right away with a professional instrument that is beyond all doubt and certainly enables a good start, you can choose the best ukulele brands available on the market. And especially for the second or third ukulele, this segment is very interesting if the passion has already grabbed you and you would now like to climb the next level. The choices are:
- Kanile’a (from approx. € 1,000): Kanile’a is one of the famous 4K, i.e. the four most well-known ukulele manufacturers in Hawaii. They make ukuleles of outstanding quality, all of which have a common sound regardless of price. The typical Kanile’a sound - it couldn't be more Hawaiian. The manufacturing process is very advanced and perfectionist.
- KoAloha (from approx. 850 €): KoAloha is also one of the 4K in Hawaii. They produce ukuleles of the highest quality and are world-famous above all due to their rustic managing director Alvin Okami. Ukuleles from KoAloha are characterized by punch and volume, they are usually delivered with low-G strings.
- Kamaka (starting at around $ 1,000): Kamaka is one of the Hwaiian 4K. The ukuleles of this brand are of very high quality and are played by Jake Shimabukuro, among others. In Germany, however, they hardly seem to be available.
- Ko’olau (from approx. € 3,000): As one of the 4K, Ko’olau is also committed to the highest quality. A lot of attention to detail goes into these ukuleles. Ko’olau are played by Bruno Mars, among others. Unfortunately only very rare in this country.
- Blackbird (from approx. 1,500 €): The ukuleles from Blackbird from San Francisco are not made of classic wood, but of an in-house development called Ekoa. This is a composite material that has the advantage over wood that it can easily cope with even large temperature differences. In terms of sound, however, it does not have to hide from the other high-priced ukuleles.
- Dupont (from approx. 800 €): Very high quality instruments also come from France. Dupont ukuleles are known for their intense and loud sound. They are immediately recognizable by their unusual design.
- Maestro (from approx. € 950): This manufacturer from Singapore shows that everything that comes from Asia is by no means bad. On the contrary, Maestro stands for the highest level of craftsmanship and is constantly developing their ukuleles. They convince with a high penetration power and great sound.
- Martin (from approx. $ 2,000): Martin ukuleles are not only of high quality and correspondingly expensive, they also have an astonishingly long history. Because Martin has not only recently started making ukuleles, they are closely linked to the company history of this well-known guitar maker.
The prices in this category vary from around € 800 to an open top. We have manufacturers like 4K, i.e. the classic Hawaiian providers who are generally of high quality and of course have a lot of experience. We have modern ukulele brands like Maestro or Blackbird that are definitely worth a look.
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Custom made ukuleles
In addition to the usual suspects, there is also a selection of instrument makers who make your ukulele according to your wishes. These instruments are by no means "unaffordable". If you are interested in high-quality ukuleles, you should take a look at the instrument makers in the following list. It is not uncommon for them to offer better quality at a fairer price.
- Tom Ziegenspeck (from approx. 850 €): You can hardly get past the goat bacon ukuleles in Germany. Anyone who thinks custom-made ukuleles always come from Hawaii is wrong. The custom ukuleles from master instrument maker Tom Ziegenspeck are not only very sophisticated and differentiated in terms of sound, they are also real eye-catchers. If you are looking for something very special, you might even find it in his extraordinary harp ukulele. (E-ukes from approx. 850 €, acoustic ukuleles from approx. 1,300 €)
- Eric DeVine (from approx. $ 4,000): Ukuleles from DeVine are exactly what you want and what you want. They also have their price for that. DeVine is one of the best-known manufacturers of custom-made ukuleles - almost anything is possible here. Unfortunately, there is also a very long waiting list - but you have to expect that from all instrument makers who manufacture to measure.
- Moore Bettah (from around $ 3,500): Another very well-known manufacturer of custom ukuleles is Moore Bettah. Don't be fooled by the sometimes cheesy exterior, the ukuleles are first class in their quality. And you will be noticed in any case.
- Pat Megowan (from approx. $ 3,000): Pat Megowan is one of the most renowned instrument makers, his ukuleles are not only visually attractive, but also offer a first-class sound. With him you can tell that all of his passion goes into building these instruments.
Top category ukuleles are best for those who consider the ukulele a serious instrument. Even in the premium segment, the ukulele is extremely inexpensive compared to other instruments: A guitar of the same quality can quickly cost four to five times as much and does not involve as much manual work.
The good middle class
If the top category cuts too deeply into the budget, you will still find very high-quality ukuleles in the middle price segment, which are usually made entirely of solid wood.
- Ko’olau PONO (from approx. 350 €): PONO is the inexpensive series from the Hawaiian manufacturer Ko’olau. The instruments are already completely made of solid wood and therefore stand out clearly from the entry-level culeles. Here you can also find mango wood ukuleles, for example. They come from Singapore, but are made according to Hawaiian know-how.
- KoAloha Opio (from approx. 450 €): The Opio are among the best ukuleles in the middle price segment and are highly praised everywhere. KoAloha seems to have hit the bull's eye with her budget line here. They're a bit more expensive than the PONO, but the extra charge might be worth it. It is said that they can hardly be distinguished from the “real” KoAlohas.
- Martin (from approx. $ 450): There are also somewhat cheaper Martin ukuleles, which do not necessarily have to be less recommendable than the more expensive models, which are usually several thousand euros. This could be your cheap entry into the world of Martin.
PONO and Opio are certainly the most well-known ukulele brands here, as they come from extremely well-known Hawaiian manufacturers. Even if they are not made on site, there is a know-how in these ukuleles that cheap sellers, who sometimes venture into this price range, simply cannot keep up.
The cheap brands as an inexpensive entry
Even in the lower price segment you can get ukuleles that are sufficient to get you started. Unfortunately, these are mostly offered by brands that are also strongly represented in the cheap sector and are therefore not very clearly positioned as a ukulele brand.
- KALA: KALA is the mass supplier among ukulele manufacturers. That doesn't necessarily mean something bad, but it's difficult to classify this brand. On the one hand, it has absolutely recommendable instruments in the range of around € 200 to € 400, which are well suited to getting started. On the other hand, there are also models under € 50 that are more suitable as wall decorations. You have to be careful here, but sometimes you can get a great instrument at an unbeatable price.
- Lanikai: Lanikai cannot quite be assigned to one category either. On the one hand, they have better models on offer, which can sometimes cost € 400. On the other hand, they are also known for their ukuleles for € 50, which you can hardly recommend to start with.
- Cordoba: The guitar manufacturer Cordoba has quite reasonable ukuleles on offer, they are mostly around 200 to 300 € and are solid.
- Ortega: Actually a guitar manufacturer, Ortega also offers ukuleles. Here it can go up to around € 350, but it can also start at € 60.
With the cheaper brands you have to be careful not to hit the junk category. But that doesn't mean that the more expensive models are no good because of it. If it goes over € 250, then you should consider whether you would rather go for the Opio or PONO, as these offer a better price-performance ratio in case of doubt.
There are also a lot of other labels that are not described in detail for good reason. Ukulele brands like Luna, Makala, Mahalo, Harley Benton, Waterman, and many more. are not bad per se, but they mostly offer products that cannot be called a real ukulele. They are toys that definitely have their target group and can certainly create a mood at a party. But that's not something I can recommend if you want to take the ukulele even a little bit seriously as an instrument and actually want to learn it. Children are also strongly advised against this, as they are far too difficult for them to play on.
Which ukulele brand is right for me?
It can be difficult, especially at the beginning, to choose the right one for you from this overwhelming range of brands and products. Because you can hardly know these brands from other industries from which you could derive quality. The classic guitar manufacturers in particular disappoint almost across the board with their ukuleles, even though they sometimes pay a steep price.
It is hardly possible to single out individual ukulele brands, as none can be particularly emphasized in the upper and middle segments. They all have their strengths and weaknesses and, above all, shine through their peculiarities. This is particularly about the sound, the personal taste - the workmanship is impeccable practically everywhere.
Caution is advised in the lower price segment. Slipping into price ranges that are too low here can end up being expensive. Because cheap ukuleles not only sound awful, they are also difficult to play on. In my opinion, you should invest at least around 200-250 € if you don't want to buy a toy. For models in this price category, however, you can generally strike from all of these manufacturers. Since there is usually already a solid wood ceiling for this money, the personal sound perception is the main factor.
It helps to understand what a good ukulele costs and why it makes sense to spend at least a little more money on it. At least as long as the budget allows.
Sources of the images used (in order of their placement):
- shutterstock.com / TaraPatta (ID: 624365552)
- unsplash.com / Alexander Andrews (@alex_andrews)
- unsplash.com / Lidya Nada (@lidyanada)
- unsplash.com / Erwan Hesry (@erwanhesry)
- unsplash.com / Tristan Colangelo (@tcrawlers)
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