It's nice to have Kala brand back on the Got A Ukulele reviews bench, and this time we wheel out the big guns in the form of a baritone scale ukulele. The Kala KA-ABP-CTG.
This one certainly is a looker as you can probably see from the pictures. We have a standard baritone scale ukulele with a double bout shape. It's actually quite a narrow almost elongated lower bout that gives it the look of folky parlour guitars that I really like. The top of this one is made from solid cedar, whilst the two piece sides and slightly arched back are made from laminate acacia. It's a contrasting combination that works really well, and a far cry from the endless runs of spruce tops and laminate zebrawood backs that seem to be pouring out of other Chinese factories in massive numbers these days. Instead, it's a classy contrast with an acacia wood on the pale side working well with the top.
We have decoration very reminiscent of the Comfort Edge series I looked at in Padauk wood with thin black edging. This edges the top, back and a piece in the tail together with the sound hole rosette. It's a pinky red coloured wood that I think looks rather wonderful. Finishing off the body is a gloss coat that is typically Kala, in that it is very nicely applied, and mirror finish. No pooling and no
flaws. Really nice.
At the bridge we have a tie bar style mounting in rosewood with some detailed inlay, and this is fitted with a nubone saddle piece. Nothing much more to say about this! Very standard.
A look inside shows a build that is very tidy which is typical for Kala. We have notched kerfing linings and delicate looking bracing. Also interesting is that you will spy a hex nut which marks the end of the truss rod in the neck. This is the first Kala I have seen with a truss rod. I have never found the need to adjust a truss rod on a ukulele like I do on a guitar, but there you go. It will, I guess, give you confort that in the long term, if the strings have started to pull the neck that you will be able to compensate for it.
Up to the neck itself, this is made of mahogany and glossed in the same way as the body. It's in three pieces with a joint at the heel and one at the headstock. It's quite a chunky neck, particularly at the nut end with a round C shaped profile. I have large hands, but this feels a little too chunky for me. Perhaps it's that chunky in order to house the truss rod. Minor critisism. We are at about 38mm across at the nut.
Topping this is a rosewood fingerboard in good condition. The edges of this are bound with more Padauk wood which is a nice touch and works well. We have 19 nickel silver frets with 14 to the body which I would say is normal, unlike the recently reviewed Ohana BK-70 Baritone which came with one less. They are dressed well with no sharp edges, not that you see the edges because of the binding. We have circular pearloid position markers at the 5th, 7th, 10th and 12th and these are repeated in small dots on the side. The end of the fretboard curves around the top of the sound hole as you can see. All very nice.
Past the nubone nut we have one of the standout features of this ukulele in the slotted headstock. I am always drawn to these, but this one is even more special on account of the edge detailing in black and white stripe that shows through the slots. It's absolutely lovely. At the three pointed crown end we have the Kala logo in black which I think is engraved or stamped and stained.
Even more good news at the headstock end are the tuners. These are excellent Grover open gears in chrome with vintage shaped buttons. Much nicer than the rather disappointing tuners on the Ohana BK-70 in my opinion. Top marks here.
Completing the deal are Aquila strings on the 1st and 2nd and wound strings on the 3rd and 4th. To the best of my knowledge, Aquila don't make wound strings, so not sure who made these ones. Either way, wound strings are not my preference and I would be swapping them out regardless. And all of that is coming in at about £270 in the UK, which I don't think is a bad price for a baritone at all. It will certainly be there up against something like the Ohana BK-70 which is quite a bit less, though still a solid top / laminate back instrument. You can compare the scoring of these two though on this site to see which I prefer and why!
So you can probably tell I like the looks of this one. It's also pretty light for a baritone, but very (and only very) slightly body heavy in the balance. Nothing that would bother me though and a pleasant instrument to hold.
Rather like the Ohana, it's not the loudest baritone I have played, but still is no slouch compared to other scales of ukulele. I suspect a bigger lower bout would have increased the volume, but it's not a major critisism as I really do like the body shape as it is.
What it does have in spades is sustain. Tons of it. It's incrediby satisfying to fingerpick for that reason allowing you to really have notes running into each other, and deploy vibrato quite easily. It's a very nice woody tone too that is rounded and rich and reminds me of cedar topped guitars I have owned in the past. Very satisfying.
Strumming really shows off the bassy nature of a baritone and this does just that. But it's never overly strident or brash. Certainly not muddy either. All well balanced really.
All in all, I think this one should certainly be on your list of considerations if you are in the market for a baritone. It's got some nice details that surpass similar models in the price range, such as the edge detailing and the great tuners and headstock. But the sound is great too. Yet again, Kala don't disappoint.
Great construction and finish
Warm rounded tone
Slightly chunky neck
Slightly body heavy
Looks - 9 out of 10
Fit and finish - 8.5 out of 10
Sound - 9 out of 10
Value for money - 9 out of 10
OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 8.9 out of 10
UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW
© Barry Maz