From the day the first ukulele was designed on the island of Hawaii, it was very clear that building a good ukulele is no easy feat.
It takes a great deal of time, and skill. Especially if you do everything by hand like they did back in the day.
From the moment the first ukulele was created, up until today, the ukulele has experienced great spikes in popularity. It has also experienced great declines in popularity. At this point in time however, we are in the middle of a large spike in popularity.
Why is this important you ask?
Because the popularity of the market is what determines how many brands will try to establish a foothold. And with this new found interest in the ukulele, more and more brands are jumping on board.
The problem is, not all brands are created equal. Kala however is a top notch brand that has established a very strong foothold in the ukulele market.
When new ukulele brands hit the market, the story goes one of two ways. Either they saturate one particular segment of the market with mediocre instruments, or they do what the Kala brand has done.
Since the Kala brand has come on the scene they have focused on one thing. And that is to create far superior ukuleles, at the best possible prices.
This policy, which they continue to follow till this day, is what has positioned them as one of the best ukulele brands on the market.
When you buy a Kala, you know you are getting a quality product.
With this article we will review the Kala KA-15S. It is one of their top entry level models and it can compete with some of the best ukuleles on the market.
The Kala KA-15S is a great option for both beginners and intermediate players.
Why The Kala Brand and Why The KA-15S?
The way Kala entered the market proved to be quite beneficial for users. They set out to create the best possible alternative to the best ukulele models in their target category.
As you can imagine, doing this is a lot easier said than done. However, thanks to amazing people on their team, they were able to accomplish that goal.
Based in the beautiful city of San Francisco, Kala was able to put together a team of some of the best designers, engineers, and luthiers who helped them accomplish their goal.
These days, the Kala brand is riding high. Not only have they established a strong presence in the ukulele world, but they have also developed a reputation for creating quality instruments.
Kala could easily lower the quality of their ukuleles in order to maximize profits, but they choose not to. They instead have stuck with their original goal and have continued to produce quality products at affordable prices.
Because of their commitment to integrity, they have become one of the hottest brands when it comes to entry level ukuleles.
Right now the Kala KA-15S is one of the most popular, and most affordable, entry level ukuleles on the market.
Let’s dive in and see what it's all about.
Body & Neck
Now that we have laid the foundation, let’s jump in and do a brief review of the Kala KA-15S. First and foremost, this particular ukulele falls into the soprano ukulele category.
This basically means it is the most popular size currently on the market. Soprano ukuleles tend to produce the sound that most people associate with the ukulele.
The wood used on the body and the neck is mahogany. Technically speaking, mahogany is not the ideal wood to use when making a ukulele.
To some people, unless the ukulele is made out of Koa, it's not a real ukulele. However, mahogany is one of the best alternatives to Koa. Mainly because it is much more affordable.
In general mahogany is a great choice for making any type of musical instrument.
The neck of the Kala KA-15S has 12 frets on a 13.625-inch long scale. The rosewood fretboard has the standard inlays on the 5th, 7th, and 10th fret.
This may sound a little crazy. But with one look you are sure to fall in love with this ukulele. The satin finish gives it a very refined look and feel. You also have the rosette which is very attractive.
So as you can see, there aren’t a lot of intricate details. However, that doesn’t necessarily affect the overall appearance of the KA-15S.
We are all of course different. And while I may enjoy the low profile look, there will also be others who would prefer more details.
The build quality is the one thing that truly defines this affordable ukulele. The manufacturing process used by Kala is a little bit different than the process used by other brands.
Yes, all brands mass produce their instruments these days. But not all of them emphasize quality control. The Kala brand does.
Look closely at the way the KA-15S is put together. You will see that their work is very precise.
This is because the Kala brand runs a very tight ship when it comes to the quality of their instruments. Nothing leaves their facility unless it meets their standards.
The one issue you may run into with the KA-15S is with the factory setup. Some ukuleles will arrive perfect and ready to be played, while others will require some adjusting.
When you look at the price tag, you will see that the factory setup is not that big of a deal. You can always just take it to a local music store to have it properly setup.
The hardware on the KA-15S is very basic. If it wasn’t broken, they didn’t try to fix it. They stuck with what has always worked.
Instead of using a cheaper alternative, they instead stuck with the standard rosewood bridge and fretboard. The nut is also made of rosewood.
The tuners are the Kala default tuning machines. And while they aren’t considered the best of the best, their performance is very acceptable.
In all honesty, you probably won’t find better default tuning machines in this price range.
The last piece of hardware are the strings. The KA-15S comes with a set of Aquila Super Nylgut strings. These are great strings. They are durable and won’t need to be changed anytime soon.
When it comes to sound, the KA-15S is very balanced. It may not be the best sounding ukulele on the market, but it does produce a quality sound.
You won’t get the muddy lows, or spikes in treble, that you often get with lower priced ukuleles. The tone is pretty much as flat they come.
But it still has that signature soprano tone which means its a great entry level ukulele.
The one thing that may stand out is the lack of sustain. You also don’t get that richness in sound that you get with other ukuleles.
However, when you consider the price, these things aren’t that big of a deal.
You really have to keep your expectations in check when it comes to the KA-15S. Because for its price, it meets and exceeds all reasonable expectations.
This ukulele can be played as a complete beginner, all the way up to the intermediate level.
If you want to improve the overall sound quality, all you need to do is experiment with different strings. Doing so is a simple way to upgrade the ukulele without breaking the bank.
Pros and Cons
Like with most entry level ukuleles, there are a few compromises that come along with the instrument.
The KA-15S consists of a few compromises that might be a deal breaker for some. But even with the compromises, you can be sure you are getting a great ukulele.
Kala did a great job of balancing the KA-15S. Because of this it is considered one of the best in its price range.
To help you better decide if this is the right ukulele for you, let’s do a quick rundown of some of the pros and cons associated with the Kala KA-15S.
- Uses mahogany tonewood. This is a great choice for the price.
- Great build to be an entry level model.
- The hardware is quite impressive.
- Very attractive appearance.
- Very well priced.
- Might need to be set up. For beginners this can prove to be a bit of a challenge.
- Experienced players may find it to be too flat.
Based on what you have just read, it's clear to see the pros far outweigh the cons. If you are a complete beginner just starting out, the Kala KA-15S is a great ukulele to go with.
If you are someone with a little more experience, you will probably want to go with a more advanced model.
Our Final Thoughts
The Kala brand has a great story. They literally went from an unknown brand to one of the top ukulele brands in the space.
And though their path has sometimes been a bit rocky, they have still managed to come out on top. At this point they have reached a level of popularity that very few brands ever will.
And due to their popularity, they are in a position to have great influence over the ukulele market.
Their commitment to always producing quality products is well respected throughout the music community.
The Kala KA-15S is a great example of this commitment. By offering this type of entry level ukulele, at such a great price, it shows that they really do care about their customer base. It shows that they care more about people, than profits.
This is something that is very rare within the community. So when a brand makes a conscious effort to put people before profits, the community takes note.
To close this out, let’s quickly recap who the KA-15S is best suited for. If you are a complete beginner just starting out, or are buying on a budget, you will benefit greatly from the KA-15S.
And while it is not ideal for advanced players, intermediate players may find it to be a great option for the price.
The KA-15S is not the type of ukulele you will play on a big stage. However, it can easily stand up against some of the more expensive models currently on the market.
So don’t overlook it just because it's affordable. It isn’t just a great beginner ukulele, it is a great overall ukulele period.