Best Ukuleles 2017 – The Complete Buyer’s Guide & Reviews

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What is the best ukulele in 2017?

In recent years we have seen a revival in the popularity of the Ukulele. The tiny, four-stringed instrument has been enjoying some well-deserved time in the mainstream spotlight thanks to artists like Jason Mraz and bands like Train.

With renewed interest in this cool little instrument, many people want to start learning how to play it. But buying a new Ukulele and actually getting started can be an overwhelming experience.

There are so many instruments on the market today, and it can be hard to find the right one. This is the guide to help you find the best Ukulele for beginners.

It is also a guide to introduce you to a wider range of Ukuleles. I will show you some good Ukuleles on a tight budget, as well as high-end instruments for those who are interested. This is a guide to help you find the best Ukulele for you.

best ukulele for beginners - 2017 buyer's guide & reviews

The Top 10 Best Ukuleles – Awards and Reviews

Here is a summary of the top 10 best ukuleles available to buy right now.

The size refers to whether the Ukulele is a soprano, concert, alto, or baritone. For those of you who do not know, that is basically just from small to big. Soprano ukuleles are the smallest, and along with concert size is by far the most popular. Alto and baritone sizes are much bigger and sound great but they are not as popular as the smaller sizes.

Whether the instrument has a solid body or not, refers to the wood of the back and sides of the Ukulele. Solid wood instruments tend to have a fuller, richer sound than their plywood counterparts. A solid ukulele is also generally more durable and heavier than one made from plywood.

The pickup is used to amplify the sound. If the Ukulele has a pickup, it means you can connect it to an amplifier and play much louder, like if you want to perform for a large audience or just play along with your band.

Ukulele's NameSizeWoodPickupPrice
Cordoba 20 CMConcertMahoganyYes
Cordoba 15CMConcertMahoganyNo
Kala KA 15SSopranoMahoganyNo
Martin C1-KConcertKoaNo
Luna TattooConcertMahoganyNo
Epiphone/Les Paul UkuleleSopranoMaple/MahoganyYes
Fender Nohea (Editor’s choice 1)TenorKoaYes
Oscar Schmidt OU5 (Ed’s choice 2)ConcertKoa (laminate)No
Kala-KA-ASAC-TTenorAcacia and LacewoodNo
TOM concert ukuleleConcertMahoganyNo

Best ukulele #1: Cordoba 20 CM Concert Ukulele – Best Ukulele Overall

Alright, all personal tastes and prejudices aside.  What do I think is (as objectively as possible) the best Ukulele overall to buy in 2017?

It is Cordoba 20 CM Concert Ukulele

This is an amazing instrument, and it covers just about all of the important bases.  Well built, solid top, good design, reasonable price and a beautiful sound.

This instrument will work for beginners and seasoned musicians alike.

Soprano Ukuleles might be the most iconic regarding how they look, but I find concert size Ukuleles to be much more accessible.  In terms of playability, the Concert Ukulele is slightly bigger than the soprano which gives you much more space on the fretboard.  It is still a Ukulele, though, so despite the fact that it is bigger than the soprano models, it is still very small and very easy to play.

Soprano size ukuleles often have a very sharp sound when it comes to the high-frequency notes.  People sometimes refer to the sound as “plonky or trebly”.  Due to the slightly larger size of the Concert Ukuleles, it is easier to make a warm sounding instrument without having to spend a fortune on the wood.  This is one of the main reasons why I think that it is better to start playing on a concert size than a soprano size.

The Cordoba company has been building high-quality acoustic guitars for a long time.  The standard of their ukuleles is no different.

The 20 CM model is a sized concert instrument with a solid mahogany top.  The sound is very rich and warm, but not without the classic Ukulele high-end frequencies that you would expect from the instrument.

The value for money factor with this instrument is very important.  It is not easy to find an almost professional level, solid body instrument for such a reasonable price.

In short, this is an affordable and versatile instrument for beginners and more advanced players. It is a high quality instrument with a number of unexpected features for its price range.
Pros
  • Concert size is perfect for beginners or players crossing over from other, larger string instruments.
  • Solid top mahogany. Solid top instruments are incredibly difficult to come by in this price range.  It makes a big difference in the durability and sound of the instrument.
  • It has a pickup. Again, this is a feature that is not very common in this price range.  It is not the best quality pickup, but it is decent enough, and for that price, it really is a welcome bonus feature to this already great ukulele.
  • It has a warm sound, while still maintaining all the expected high-frequency ukulele tones.
  • The design and dark mahogany wood is aesthetically stunning. It is a good looking instrument!
  • In terms of the value for money, there is really nothing that compares with the 20CM Ukulele.  A solid body and pickup concert ukulele seldom comes along in this price range.
Cons
  • There has been some criticism about some of the smaller parts of this model. I am referring specifically to the machine heads.  Lower quality machine heads can sometimes disturb the overall good look of the instrument.
  • Personally, I have never experienced this but there are some complaints so I feel I should include it for the sake of fairness.  Some players find that this model tends to go out of tune fairly easily.  This might be due to my previous point; the machine heads.
  • The pickup. This is a tough one. The pickup is not the greatest quality, but then again, normally in this price range there is no pickup included.  I feel that it is a bonus feature, so the quality of the pickup is not that important in this assessment.  That being said, I definitely do not think that it is a bad pickup.  It does the job fine, and the amplified sound will just sound a flatter than the natural sound of the Ukulele.

Best Ukulele #2: Cordoba 15CM – Best Ukulele for Beginners

Yes, another Cordoba instrument so high on our list!  This is Cordoba’s bestselling ukulele.  And it is their bestselling Ukulele for a good reason.

This is also a concert size instrument, but unlike the 20CM it does not have a solid body.  It has the mahogany top, back and sides with a satin finish.

The fact that the body is not solid, makes the instrument more affordable for beginners.  Similar to the previous entry, the slightly bigger concert size also helps in learning the instrument by having more fretboard space than the soprano models.

The action is reasonably low (the action is the distance between the strings and the fretboard) and those first chords you need to press down as a beginner will come out sounding good before you know it.

The importance of playability in beginner instruments should never be minimized.  One of the easiest ways to become dissuaded from keeping up the practicing on a new instrument is if it is too difficult to play.  The easy playability of this model is one of the most important features in ranking it the best Ukulele for beginners.

Affordable, easy to play, easy on the ear, and easy on the eye.  What more could a beginner want!
Pros
  • Concert/Alto size is an excellent size for beginner Ukulele players
  • The quality of this instrument is better than most other entry level ukuleles. This means that if you start getting more serious about playing, you will be able to use your Cordoba 15CM for quite some time still.  It is an affordable ukulele, but it is not a “cheap” instrument at all.
  • Easy to play Ukulele that will help a beginner stay motivated.
Cons
  • Some people might think that it is priced too high for a beginner instrument. But as I explained above, this model goes slightly beyond strictly beginner instrument. You get what you pay for, and with the Cordoba 15 CM you pay slightly more than for another entry level Ukuleles, but it more than makes up for that with quality and longevity.
  • The body is not solid like with the more expensive 20CM model.

Best Ukulele #3 – Kala KA 15S – Best Ukulele For The Money

It is hard to imagine a ukulele that has better value for money than the Kala KA 15 S.  The way this instrument feels and looks does not match the price.

The artistry and tone of this Ukulele are better than average.  Stunning look and sound that far exceed any expectations.

Unlike the previous two ukuleles on our list, this is a soprano size instrument.  That means that it is the smallest and most iconic of ukulele sizes.

The playability of the Kala KA 15 S is great.  The instrument is easy to play and has a sweet feel to it.

The KA 15 S has a mahogany body and sides.  It is not solid, but the satin finish looks really good.

This is by far the best quality value for money soprano Ukulele on the market. It blows any competition out of the water in this regard. If price is your biggest deciding factor, this is the Ukulele for you.
Pros
  • Excellent value for money.
  • Iconic soprano size for those beginners looking for a “typical” ukulele look and sound.
  • Well built. It seems solid enough to feel confident in traveling around with it.
  • Balanced soprano sound.
Cons
  • This ukulele comes with open geared tuners. This means that they rely on the tension from the strings to keep everything in place.  This can cause some difficulty with restringing.
  • This is really related to the first point. The tuning pegs might come off as looking a bit cheap on what is otherwise a really beautiful ukulele.

Best Ukulele #4: Martin C1 K Concert Ukulele – Best high-end Ukulele

For those looking to spend a bit extra, this is an amazing instrument.  The Martin company makes state of the art acoustic guitars, and their Ukuleles seem to be no exception.

The first thing that you will notice when you see the Martin C1 K is the beautiful natural look of it.  But it’s not just the look.

This Ukulele has a solid Hawaiian Koa top, back, and sides.  The instrument feels thick and stable.

Martin acoustic instruments always have impressive resonance.  This ukulele totally lives up to that expectation.  Rich warm sound that fills a room surprisingly well for such a small instrument.

Top rate, high quality beautiful instrument.
Pros
  • This model comes with a gig bag!
  • Beautiful design
  • Solid body
  • Unbeatable resonate sound
Cons
  • It is usually preferable to buy higher end instruments in a shop where you can feel and try them out. The Martin reputation and high standard, however, goes a long way in ensuring a certain level of guaranteed excellence.
  • Not a lot of padding in the gig bag.

Best Ukulele #5: Luna Tattoo Concert – Best Sounding Ukulele

At the end of the day, music comes down to sound.  For this category, I wanted to focus specifically on the Ukulele with the most authentic, most beautiful sound, without paying too much attention to some of the other features.

This is not a solid top guitar, but you would never guess that from the full-bodied sound of the instrument.  It is very light and comfortable to hold, but the big sound it has will totally surprise most people playing it for the first time.

The popularity and low price also play a big part in why I wanted to include it on this list.  For the low price you pay for it, the sound is really great.  There are, however, on the expensive end of the price range better sounding Ukuleles.  The Martin in at #4 would be an example of this.

This is a very affordable Ukulele, with a great big sound for such a small price.
Pros
  • Noticeable tattoo design. Some might find it tacky, but it really makes the instrument stand out.
  • Big rounded sound for an inexpensive entry level Ukulele.
Cons
  • As mentioned on the other side, if the tattoo design is not in your taste, it might put you off the look of the Ukulele entirely.
  • The build of the instrument, especially if you look closely at the inside, is not as well done as some of the other Ukuleles in a similar price range.
  • The body is not solid, so the build can sometimes feel quite flimsy.

Best ukulele #6: Epiphone/Les Paul Ukulele – Best Electric Ukulele

If you are a fan of the Les Paul guitar shape and design, you will love the look of this Ukulele.  It is basically a miniature version of the classic Gibson design, complete with the sunburst maple top.

The Ukulele also comes with a very good quality piezo film under-saddle pickup, so you can plug in and play through an amplifier.

Despite the unique design and added pickup, this is still an entry level instrument.  It is very affordable and is definitely a strong contender for a good beginner Ukulele, especially if the electric quality (pickup) is important to you.

This is a soprano size instrument.

This is the top quality entry level soprano Ukulele with classic Les Paul design, sunburst finish, pickup and gig bag.
Pros
  • Excellent look for those of us who are fans of the Les Paul shape
  • Comes with a good quality pickup which enables you to plug in and play through an amplifier.
  • Very affordable instrument for an acoustic/electric combo
Cons
  • This particular design is only available in soprano size. It would have been great to be able to have the option of this in concert and tenor as well – especially for all the guitar crossover ukulele players out there.
  • The quality of the pickup is not the best.  It works great, but the tone sounds much flatter than the acoustic tone of the instrument.  Then again, for the price of the instrument you really can’t expect that much from the pickup quality.

Best Ukulele #7: Fender Nohea

Ok, I must admit this; I am a sucker for fender products.  I have been playing fender guitars all my life, and I love them.  The telecaster headstock looks great on the Ukulele, and with a brand like Fender you always have a certain quality guarantee.  This is especially true when it comes to the small details like the bridge and the machine heads.

This is a tenor size ukulele, so it is really great for those of us who are used to playing guitar but want to try out the Ukulele.

The body is not solid Koa, but rather laminate.  This means that the instrument is pretty light and easy to carry around.  The laminate body also means it is a slightly cheaper guitar, that is why this is a middle of the range instrument in terms of pricing.  Solid bodies are more common with professional models.

Beautiful looking, affordable instrument that is great for Ukulele beginners and those who are used to playing guitar.
Pros
  • Classic Fender telecaster headstock
  • Beautiful laminate finish
  • Comfortable tenor size which makes it a perfect crossover instrument for those of us use to guitar
Cons
  • If you dislike the telecaster headstock (let’s face it – it’s controversial) the design will definitely not be for you.
  • It is a pretty pricey for a laminate non-solid body instrument.

Best Ukulele #8: Oscar Schmidt OU5

In my opinion, this is the perfect intermediate Ukulele.  Gorgeous instrument to look at, and beautifully rich tone.

Oscar Schmidt is actually a division of Washburn, so they have been in the guitar making business for quite some time.

The Koa wood on this model is only a laminate and not solid.  This means that the instrument is quite light, but that generally goes hand in hand with it being much more affordable than a solid body of the same wood.

Intermediate price range, for an above average instrument.

Pros
  • This is a middle of the range instrument and you know exactly what to expect.
  • Beautiful laminate finish
  • Mellow, but bright sound
  • Comes with Grover chrome tuners and a lifetime warranty.
  • Abalone binding looks amazing around the edges of the ukulele.
Cons
  • Buyers from some countries (Singapore is one example) have issues registering their warrantee.
  • Some people are put off by the bright tone. I personally like it, but there are definitely players who prefer is flatter, rounder tone.

Best Ukulele #9: Kala KA-ASAC-T – Best Tenor Ukulele

I love this Ukulele.  It has a solid acacia top with lacewood sides and back.  All this gives the instrument a solid, heavy set feel and a thick natural look.

All that wood also translates into the tone of the instrument.  The solid body combined with the larger tenor size gives this Ukulele an unusually rich and full sound.  There is hardly any piercing or “twangy” tones to speak of.

This is a slightly more expensive model than some of the others on this list, but I think that the few extra dollars will go a long way.

Beautiful looking, affordable instrument that is great for Ukulele beginners and those who are used to playing guitar.
Pros
  • Unbeatable full sound
  • Solid body
  • Beautiful finish and design
Cons
  • Expensive compared to entry level Ukuleles
  • Acacia and Lacewood are not traditional woods used on Ukuleles.

Best Ukulele #10: TOM Concert Ukulele TUC-200, African Mahogany Top with Gig Bag, Spare Aquila Strings, Tuner, Pick and Belt – Best Ukulele Package Deal

This is a package deal.  This is for those of us who want to buy once and then be done with it.  I know the feeling.

This entry level, concert sized TOM ukulele comes with a bag, spare strings, a tuner, a pick and a strap.  Those are basically all of the accessories you will need when you start playing the ukulele.  This package is, therefore, great for beginners.  It contains all you need and more.

The ukulele itself is a mahogany wood, concert ukulele with a decent sound and good playability.  The design is surprisingly detailed.

This is a good looking, decent sounding and very affordable instrument that comes with a bunch of accessories that will be essential for any beginner ukulele player.

Pros
  • Comes with all extras that a beginner Ukulele player will have to buy anyway
  • Beautiful rosewood neck with attractive inlays.
Cons
  • Not a solid body.
  • The tone might sometimes be abrasive, especially in the higher register.

Things to consider when choosing the best ukulele for beginners

  • Size. Soprano, concert, tenor or baritone.  The bigger the Ukulele the rounder the sound, but that also means they generally get more expensive.  Soprano is the most common, but I personally think that the concert is the best size to start out on.
  • Your level. Pick an instrument and a price range that suits your playing level.  Entry level instruments generally cater well for the needs of beginners.
  • Solid, or laminated. Solid bodied instruments are more expensive, but they are also more durable and have better resonance.
  • Tone (Sound). Look for the instrument that has the sound that you like.  Pay attention to how warm or bright the sound is that you are looking for.  Ukuleles generally tend to have quite flat, high-end tones.
  • Pick a ukulele that you love to look at.  One that motivates you to practice and make it sound as good as it looks!

The Final Thought

With this guide, I tried to give you as much information as you could need to make an informed decision on buying a Ukulele.

I hope that you feel confident in what will be the perfect instrument for YOU.

If you like this article, please like and share.  Also please let us know what your favorite ukulele is.  Did we leave it out?  Why do you like it?  Let us know!

Till next time.

Keep up the practicing!

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