Wednesday, February 11, 2009
The Kala Giraffe
A while ago I saw some Ohana tenor-neck soprano ukuleles for sale by musicguymic and was pretty intrigued by it. Some time later, I saw a similar ukulele made by Kala that had a solid spruce top and laminated mahogany back and sides at Elderly Instruments at a very good price ($110), so I decided to check it out.
This ukulele has a soprano body with a tenor scale neck, which makes it a very unusual ukulele. There are plenty of "super-sopranos" around with a soprano body and concert scale neck combination, but as far as I know, only Ohana and Kala makes soprano models with tenor scale necks.
For a budget instrument, it has a lot of nice features. Here's a run down on the specs:
-Solid spruce top
-Laminated mahogany back & sides
-Sealed geared tuners
-1-3/8" nut width (plastic nut)
-Rosewood fingerboard with black plastic binding & position dots on top and side
-Black plastic body bindings
-Rosewood bridge w/plastic saddle
Most Kalas I've seen doesn't have side position markers or bound fingerboards, so these are nice features on this ukulele. The workmanship is pretty good, the insides look pretty clean, and everything looks to be well put together. It definitely feels pretty well made.
When I strummed it for the first time, I was surprised by the amount of sustain it had. It sounded better than I had expected. I guess the long tenor strings probably gave it the longer sustain it has. The volume is about average. Not particularly loud but not quiet either. The tone is decent. It's not the greatest sounding ukulele (keep in mind that I usually play some pretty high end tenors), but I think it's not bad, especially for the price. Compared to a normal soprano scaled ukulele, I would say that it sounds like a soprano with longer than normal sustain. It has a bit of a twang and the typical soprano "bark". Hear it for yourself from the soundfile at the end of this review.
I'm not sure if Elderly had set it up, but it arrived in pretty good playing shape. I did not find it necessary to lower the action and there are no buzzes. I forgot what strings came with it, but I eventually settled on a set of Aquilas all-plain tenor strings. Despite the strange proportions of this ukulele, holding it is no problem. Because of the small body, most will probably end up strumming clear of the body, which is a good thing as you avoid scratching up the soundboard that way (as I usually do).
Overall, this is a nice little uke for the money. You won't get KoAloha beating sound or Kanile'a workmanship (although the workmanship is actually not too far off), but it is definitely not bad at all. This probably isn't going to be the primary ukulele for most people, but if you want something different to compliment your soprano or tenor ukulele, this could fit the bill nicely.
Here's a soundfile of Blue Roses Falling (the official Ukulele Ghetto demo song) played on this ukulele.