Best Ukulele Reviews 2018

Ukuleles are lovely instruments that inspire a sense of tropical fun and excitement. All you need to do is sit back, listen, and picture yourself on some lovely beach somewhere. However, when you decide that you want to play the ukulele, you find yourself in a very different situation which begins with the confusion of not knowing what type and brand of ukulele to choose. We understand this challenge, and so we’ve done some in-depth research and found five top brands that make some of the best ukuleles. From the many models that these five brands have (which you can of course check out), we have selected one from each. We will therefore be reviewing five top products to help you choose that perfect ukulele.
Overview
PROS
CONS
SPECS
Type/Size
Material
Frets
String info
Extras
Our Top Choice
Cordoba Guitars 15CM Concert Ukulele
Cordoba is committed to the continuous evolution of string instruments. It seeks to achieve this by combining modern techniques with the traditional craftsmanship of early masters.
It has a bold and bright tone, accurate intonation, a well-built body that’s both beautiful and solid, and it’s easy to play.
It may, however, require frequent tuning.
Concert
Mahogany
19 (14 to body)
Premium Aquila strings
None
Best Value
Oscar Schmidt OU2 Mahogany Ukulele
The Oscar Schmidt Company is known for its tradition of providing instruments made with premium wood and quality hardware at affordable prices.
It has a great tone, doesn’t require frequent tuning, is lightweight but solid, is beautifully finished in satin, and comes with an instructional video and other extras.
The included tuner is, however, not of the best quality.
Concert
Mahogany
17 (12 to body)
Info not provided
Tuner, instructional DVD
Gretsch Standard Ukulele with Gig Bag
Gretsch has been manufacturing musical instruments for over 130 years now. Today, the company has grown stronger and continues to produce instruments that are top-quality.
It’s easy to play, has a warm, vibrant tone, is beautifully finished, and comes with high-quality strings that stay in tune for a long time.
The included gig bag may not offer enough protection.
Tenor
Laminated mahogany
19 (14 to body)
Aquila Nylgut strings
Gig bag
Luna Mahogany Series Concert Ukulele
Luna Guitars offers a line of exotic string instruments for musicians of any age. It’s committed to helping you attain your artistic goals with ukuleles that fuel your passion.
It's beautifully made with high-quality materials, stays in tune, has a great tone, is a great starter instrument, and comes with a gig bag.
The tuning heads are not of the best quality.
Concert
Mahogany
18 (14 to body)
Info not provided
Gig bag
Kala Satin Mahogany Ukulele
Kala Brand Music Co. has been at the fore of revolutionary breakthroughs in the music world. It promises to give ukulele lovers more reasons to keep loving Kala ukuleles.
It has a great fretwork, and is dynamic, resonant, and projects well. It stays in tune for a long time, has exceptional playability, and is durable.
Tuning machine may slip from time to time, making tuning tedious.
Soprano
Mahogany
12 to body
Aquila Super Nylgut
None

(Updated )
Related Reviews
Best Harmonica
Best Acoustic Electric Bass Guitar
Best Saxophone
Best Guitar Strings
Watch Our Ukulele Review

How Do I Choose the Best Ukulele?

Israel Kamakawiwo'ole was a Hawaiian musician who is said to have largely inspired the resurgence of the popularity of the ukulele. His renditions of Over the Rainbow and What a Wonderful World currently have a combined YouTube view number of over 312 million.

In the 1920s, American songwriters started writing Hawaiian-themed songs, increasing the popularity of the instrument in the states. This continued until it started declining in the late 1960s. Having made a come-back in the 1990s, courtesy of Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, it appears not to have any plans of declining in popularity again. In fact, that you’re reading this is proof of this.

Having watched the likes of Israel Kamakawiwo'ole and Jake Shimabukuro, many have fallen in love with the instrument and now want to get one for themselves. This guide is here simply to help you choose your ideal ukulele.

Choosing the right ukulele involves a combination of personal preference and proficiency level. Ukuleles are divided into four major types – soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. The main difference among these is size, with the soprano being the smallest and the baritone being the biggest. This is the first decision you will need to make.

Ukulele’s also come in three basic shapes. The most common is the figure-8 shape, similar to the regular guitar. There is also the pineapple-shaped ukulele and the paddle-shaped ukulele. These are mostly aesthetic features which you will also need to decide on.

Another thing you will need to decide on is what kind of material you prefer – mahogany, koa, cedar, etc. You’ll also want to ask yourself if you want one that comes alone or bundled with a gig bag and other extras such as instructional videos (you know, so you can learn to play in time for the next family picnic). Lastly, you will of course need to decide how much you’re willing to spend. Needless to say, the more features you want, the more you should be ready and willing to pay.

Having gotten your ukulele, you may find that you require additional accessories like a tuner, especially if you’re new to ukuleles or string instruments in general. With this guide, you’ll be able to identify what’s important to you and what is not. Choosing your ukulele will then be a lot easier, and you’ll be one step closer to strumming songs at the beach.
Price
One of the major factors that you’ll need to really consider is the cost of your ukulele of choice. All ukuleles are not made equal. A combination of quality materials and craftsmanship will determine how much one will cost. Considering all these, we selected products within a price range that offer excellent value for money.

From our research, we found that you can get a good ukulele for between $75 and $200. With this budget, you can own your own ukulele and be proud of it. Each product will surely have differences that explain the disparity in price. However, each of the chosen products will deliver value for that price. To ensure this, we ignored any cheap ukulele we found that offered absolutely no value, for whatever price at which it was offered.
Features
Choosing the right ukulele requires that you consider some important factors. These are common factors that will help you choose the instrument that is most suitable for you:
  • Type of ukulele – soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone
  • Shape – regular guitar shape (figure 8), pineapple shape, or paddle shape
  • Material used
  • Kind of top –solid wood or laminate wood
  • Acoustic or electric acoustic
  • Quality of tuning machine
  • Quality of strings
These are the very basic things to consider. More advanced users will also consider things like nut, fretboard, bridge and neck, and more.
Construction and Design
The very first consideration that has to be made when choosing a new ukulele is the type you want. The type here also refers to the size. Below is a bullet list of types and their corresponding sizes. You just need to choose a size that’s most comfortable for you.
  • Soprano- 21 inches with a scale length of 13 inches
  • Concert Version- 23 inches with a scale length of 15 inches
  • Tenor- 26 inches with a scale length of 19 inches
  • Baritone- 30 inches with a scale length of 19 inches
The choice of shape is largely an aesthetic one. Just go with your taste. This is, however, not so with the material used, as this affects the sound of the instrument. The common woods used include:
  • Koa- gives a balanced tone
  • Mahogany- gives a dark, warmer tone
  • Spruce- gives a loud, bright tone
  • Cedar- gives a more rounded and mellow tone
  • Redwood- gives a balance between bright and mellow tones
  • Rosewood and Maple- used for fretboards and bridges
So, it’s really all about your personal taste.

You will usually find descriptions such as – mahogany top, body, and side. This is so because some ukulele manufacturers focus on the top wood which is what really influences the sound of the uke. They could use laminate wood for the side and body, but use a good quality tone wood like those listed above for the top. Once again, we can see that this is more an issue of personal preference.
Performance and Ease of Use
One very important thing to check for is playability. This is affected by different factors, starting from the feel of the instrument as you hold it. If you have thick fingers and you choose the soprano uke, you may find it more difficult to play with ease.

If you’re going to be playing before a large audience, you may prefer to get an electric acoustic so you do not have to try to compensate by strumming too hard. You could hurt your fingers or cut the strings. Which brings us to the issue of the strings. The quality of strings you have on the uke will affect the sound and how long it will stay tuned. Good quality strings coupled with good quality tuning machines will make tuning easier and longer lasting.

It’s important, however, to know that most strings need some time to break-in. This usually explains why they seem to go out of tune easily when they’re still very new. After they’ve stretched and contracted for some time, they are broken in and you suddenly discover that they stay in-tune for longer periods.

Finally, if you’re new to ukulele, you may consider investing in a good tuner to help you tune your instrument since you’ll likely be tuning it very often for the first few days.

The uke is a special instrument that requires that you get it and hold it. That is the final check you need to perform after doing all other checks. You will know if it’s right for you when you hold it in your hands. So it’s important that you buy from an online store that has a good return policy.

What is the Best Ukulele?

Choosing the best ukulele is totally based on personal preferences and taste. From the different features you’ve read about, you should begin to pick out the ones that are most important to you. Once you can do this, finding the right ukulele will be an easier task. With your preferences hopefully sorted out, let us now go ahead to review our top five selection.
Our Top Choice
Cordoba’s 15CM Concert Ukulele is a top-selling model that’s great for those new to the Ukulele. It’s handmade with mahogany top, back, and sides, comes with premium Aquila strings, and is beautifully finished in sleek satin. Do you need a bigger model? Go for the Cordoba 20CM Concert Ukulele. It’s bigger and has a solid mahogany top.
Cordoba Guitars 15CM Concert Ukulele – Available in 4 Styles

Cordoba Guitars Ukulele 15CM Ukulele – Concert Natural


Features
Established in 1997, Cordoba is committed to the continuous evolution of string instruments. It seeks to achieve this by combining modern techniques with the traditional craftsmanship of early masters. Today, every instrument from Cordoba is responsive, lightweight, and incorporates modern innovations while retaining the essentials of its Spanish heritage.

The 15CM Concert Ukulele from Cordoba (Selling at $99.00 - recommended selling price) is one of the brand’s top-selling models, and is great for those just starting out. This concert ukulele is handmade with mahogany top, back, and sides. It comes with premium Aquila strings, and has a beautiful satin finish. Its full features include:
  • Handmade concert ukulele
  • Mahogany top, back, and sides
  • Abalone style rosette
  • Ivoroid body and fingerboard binding
  • Sleek satin finish
  • Silver tuners with pearl buttons
  • Premium Aquila strings
It's also available in soprano (15SM) and tenor (15TM) sizes.
Best Value
The OU2 Mahogany Concert Ukulele is easy to play and ideal as a starter instrument. It has a lively body with clear highs and warm lows. It’s a good quality instrument that offers an affordable introduction to ukuleles. If you don’t want one made from mahogany, you can go for the Oscar Schmidt OU5 Koa Concert Ukulele which has a Hawaiian Koa top, back, and sides.
Oscar Schmidt OU2 Mahogany Ukulele Bundle with Gig Bag, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, Clip-On Tuner, and Polishing Cloth – Available in 3 Sizes

Oscar Schmidt Ukulele OU2C - Concert


Features
With over 140 years of experience producing stringed instruments, The Oscar Schmidt Company has continued in its tradition of providing instruments made with premium wood and quality hardware at affordable prices. Every instrument from Oscar Schmidt is crafted to have smooth fret ends, precision low action, and a resonant sound quality.

The OU2 Mahogany Concert Ukulele from Oscar Schmidt (Selling at $89.99 - recommended selling price) is an easy-to-play ukulele that’s ideal as a starter instrument. It has a lively full body that produces clear highs and warm lows. This is a good quality instrument that offers an affordable entry into the world of ukuleles. Its features include the following:
  • Handmade quality
  • Mahogany top, back, and sides
  • Rosewood bridge
  • Satin finish
  • Chrome tuning pegs
  • Gig Bag
  • Clip-On Tuner
  • Polishing cloth
  • Limited Lifetime warranty
It also comes with an Austin Bazaar instructional DVD.
The G9120 Tenor Ukulele from Gretsch is one of the classic best sellers from the brand. It’s made with top-quality materials, has a wonderful tone quality, and is offered at an affordable price. If you would rather have a soprano uke, then go for the Gretsch G9100 Ukulele.
Gretsch Tenor Standard Ukulele with Gig Bag - Vintage Mahogany Stain

Gretsch Ukulele G9120


Features
Gretsch, a company that manufactures musical instruments, was founded over 130 years ago by a 27-year-old German immigrant named Friedrich Gretsch. Today, the company has grown stronger and continues to produce instruments that are top-quality.

The G9120 Tenor Ukulele from Gretsch ( Selling at $209 – recommended selling price) is one of the classic best sellers from the brand. It’s made with top-quality materials and hardware, and has an incomparable tone quality. What's more, it is offered at a very affordable price. Following are some of its other features:
  • Laminated Mahogany top, body, and sides
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • Rosewood bridge
  • Real bone nut and saddle
  • Friction tuning pegs
  • Aquila Nylgut strings
  • 17-inch scale length
  • Fitted gig bag
Designed to imitate traditional Hawaiian body art, the Tattoo Concert Uke is a collectors' piece. With its lovely natural island design, it also has a rich tone that emanates from its mahogany design and concert body. If you prefer a soprano uke, then go for the Luna Mahogany Series Tattoo Soprano Pineapple Ukulele. This is a pineapple-shaped soprano ukulele.
Luna 23 Inch Mahogany Series Tattoo Concert Ukulele

Luna Ukulele UKETCMAH


Features
Luna Guitars offers a line of exotic string instruments. These instruments are made for musicians of any age, and are masterfully built to captivate the mind and inspire talent. Luna Guitars is committed to helping you attain your artistic goals with ukuleles and guitars that fuel your passion.

Here are some of its other features:
  • 23-inch concert body
  • Solid spruce top
  • Mahogany back, side, and neck
  • Laser Hawaiian tattoo design
  • Rosewood fretboard
  • Rosewood bridge
  • Satin natural finish
  • Open gear tuners
It also comes with a gig bag.
The KA-15S from Kala is a soprano uke that combines three important factors - a great sound, great playability, and affordable prices. It has a traditional design that’s perfect for creating tropical atmospheres anywhere. Would you love to have some instructional material with your soprano uke? If so, go for the Kala MK-S Makala Soprano Ukulele Bundle. This comes with instructional DVD, a gig bag, and other extras.
Kala Satin Mahogany Ukulele – Available in 8 Styles

Kala Ukulele KA-15S - Soprano


Features
Kala Brand Music Co. has been at the fore of revolutionary breakthroughs in the music world, especially with the release of its U-Bass in 2007. It’s excited at the impact its elite series is having in the ukulele world and has promised to give ukulele lovers more reasons to keep loving their ukuleles.

The KA-15S Kala Mahogany Soprano Ukulele (Selling at $78.99 - Recommended selling price) is a good instrument to bring some tropical fun into any space. It has a great sound and playability, and an affordable price. The great sound and playability come from the quality of materials and craftsmanship employed in the design and production of the instrument. The affordability comes from the brand’s desire to make quality ukuleles available to all who desire to own one. Following are some other features of the KA-15S:
  • Soprano ukulele
  • Mahogany body and neck
  • Rosewood fingerboard and bridge
  • 12 frets
  • Geared tuners
  • Satin Finish
  • GraphTech NuBone nut and saddle
  • Standard headstock
  • Premium Aquila Nylgut strings

Get the Best Ukulele of 2018!

Thank you for taking the time to read through this guide and review. We sincerely hope that we’ve provided you with enough information to help you choose that perfect ukulele. Having come this far, simply go right ahead and place your order so you can begin to enjoy the tropical sounds of the ukulele.

Our Top Choice
Cordoba Guitars 15CM Concert Ukulele
Best Value
Oscar Schmidt OU2 Mahogany Ukulele
Gretsch Standard Ukulele with Gig Bag
Luna Mahogany Series Concert Ukulele
Kala Satin Mahogany Ukulele