Kala KA-ABP-CTG Baritone Ukulele - REVIEW

19 Mar 2017

Kala KA-ABP-CTG Baritone Ukulele - REVIEW

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.

Kala KA-ABP-CTG Baritone Ukulele

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.

Kala KA-ABP-CTG Baritone Ukulele body

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.

Kala KA-ABP-CTG Baritone Ukulele bridge

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.

Kala KA-ABP-CTG Baritone Ukulele fingerboard


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.

Kala KA-ABP-CTG Baritone Ukulele headstock


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.

Kala KA-ABP-CTG Baritone Ukulele tuners

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.

Kala KA-ABP-CTG Baritone Ukulele back


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.

Kala KA-ABP-CTG Baritone Ukulele tail


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.

Recommended

https://kalabrand.com

UKULELE PROS

Classy looks
Great construction and finish
Wonderful headstock
Superb tuners
Looooong sustain
Warm rounded tone

UKULELE CONS

Slightly chunky neck
Slightly body heavy


UKULELE SCORES

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




7 comments :

  1. I play a Mahalo baritone uke which is okay as an entry level baritone uke but prefer playing my Kala KA-GTR tenor guitar which I've restrung as a baritone uke (I can't get to grips with 6 strings on a guitar). Must have a look at the Kala baritone uke someday. I much prefer the sound of a baritone to a standard uke.

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  2. I have just brought this model i love it i had a blind test alongside a pono which was £100 dearer and I preferred the more mellow sound from the kala..the photos do not to it justice. It is easy to hold not to heavy the action is slightly higher than my last cheapo baritone but I don't knock a cheapo it's what got me started in the wonderful baritone ..

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  3. I bought one of these last year,(for £210), great sounding instrument, really warm & mellow tone. The 20.25" scale is a stretch for my hands, but I mainly pick melody lines, so it's OK. I can use it without a strap quite comfortably. I don't like wound strings, so immediately changed them for Living Water flourocarbons - I think this is the best uke I have tone wise. Really pleased with mine. :)

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  4. James / Pirate Jim (UU)10:25 am, March 20, 2017

    Hi Baz, on the subject of Aquila and wound strings they do make (or at least provide) wound strings as they make full classical guitar sets. I have a set of Aquila baritone strings at home that are two wound, two nylgut and the Cordoba Mini set I use has three wound, three nylgut. I hope that clears that up! Thanks for the review - I do like a cedar top, would like to try this baritone at some point.

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  5. Thanks for the review. Can you recommend a set of strings you would put on this instrument?
    Thanks.
    Trevor

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  6. i couldn't I'm afraid Trevor - Strings are just TOO personal. Some people hate some brands that others like and vice versa - yet they are all right. Your playing style and your own ears have too much say in what strings work. What works for me may not work for you

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  7. I've been torn between getting a classical guitar again and getting a baritone uke. The cedar top really sways me to the bari. Almost seems best of both worlds.

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