Klos Guitars Carbon Fiber Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

27 Jan 2019

Klos Guitars Carbon Fiber Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

Well, late 2018 and early 2019 seems to be a period of Got A Ukulele featuring instruments that have been creating quite the buzz in the ukulele world pre-release. And so it is with this weeks review of the Klos Guitars Carbon Fibre Tenor Ukulele.

Klos Carbon Fibre Tenor Ukulele

Klos are a brand hailing from Salt Lake City in the USA who are not new to the carbon fibre (UK spelling, I'm British - it sets off my OCD trying to type in the US spelling...) world of instruments. They actually started out with a very well received carbon fibre guitar launched through a Kickstarter campaign in 2015 which went on to be a great success. They decided to stick to this concept with an Indiegogo campaign for a ukulele version in 2018 which is now nearing conclusion and has garnered a heap of interest. It's a brand set up by Adam and Ian Klosowiak with co-founder Jacob Sheffield to create instruments that will stand up to the cold dry climates of Utah. Based on those parameters and their experience with their guitar, the Klos ukulele was born. I won't go into the full story of the ukulele as pretty much everyone who is everyone in the ukulele world will know of their marketing campaign - including the videos of them having concrete blocks dropped on them, hitting them with hamers and cars driving over them. You will find all that on their website link below, but needless to say they are going big on the durability angle! Well, it IS carbon fibre.

The Klos Ukulele uses the same design idea from their guitar and delivers a tenor ukulele scale instrument from the same super strong carbon fibre. That is to say, it's those super strong, super light carbon fibres in a resin much used widely in the automotive and sporting worlds to create lightweight and ultra strong products. It's not actually the first time that carbon fibre has been used to create a ukulele, and Blackbird guitars got their first with their own offering, but in the same way as there is more than one mahogany ukulele on the market, having more than one carbon fibre uke is good news for the customer as far as I am concerned. Choice is a good thing, and besides. Blackbird don't make them any longer. This one is put together in the USA.

Much like the Blackbird eKoa insturments the body on this is made from just two pieces with the back and sides being a single moulded dish shape with a carbon fibre top dropped onto it to create the sound chamber. The top carbon fibre sheet actually differs from the body as it is made of a sandwich of two carbon fibre sheets holding a lower density core in the middle, which they say they created to make it sound and perform more like wood. The back and sides are straight up carbon fibre. For all of the use of carbon fibre though, the outer finish is exactly how it comes out of the mould - meaning it is not sanded, glossed or painted. That means it LOOKS like carbon fibre and feels like it too. You can see and feel some minor imperfections in the outer finish which are the actual fibres themselves. That's not a bad thing to me considering how it looks like the raw material and isn't trying to hide anything. It feels glossy and tactile too.

Klos Carbon Fibre Tenor Ukulele body

The bridge is made of blackwood with a Nubone saddle which is straight topped. It's a slotted design which is something I think changed quite a bit during the Indiegogo phase as I have seen pictures of through body designs, but this seems to be what you get now. It comes with no other decoration to the body, but, you know... when your ukulele looks like a carbon fibre brake disc from a Formula One car.. does it really NEED any decor? I'd say not. You are already holding a talking point.

Klos Carbon Fibre Tenor Ukulele  bridge


Inside is difficult to comment on as it is black and dark. I can't see any back bracing or linings, but that is on account of the one piece bowl shape. I can see what looks like a carbon fibre top brace though. You also spy that the top is actually quite thick as ukuleles go. I am not going to judge it on this though as it's not wood and still feels very resonant. Must be a design feature of the carbon fibre I suppose.

The neck is not made of carbon fibre, but rather is a mahogany neck joined to the body and fitted with (optional I think) carbon fibre stiffening rods along its length to avoid neck warp. I believe the guitar neck is removeable to allow for more compact travelling but that is not the case here.  It is completed with a black gloss paint finish which means that I have no idea how many pieces it is constructed from. The profile is semi rounded but just flattened enough for my liking though at the nut it is a little stingy at around 36mm with 27mm from G to A. That isn't overly narrow I guess, but i've seen tenors much wider.

Topping this is a blackwood fingerboard (incidentally, blackwood is part of the Acacia family) which appears to be edge bound in black and holds  19 frets with 14 to the body joint. They are dressed really well. For postition markers you get pearl dots facing out at the 5th, 7th 10th, 12th and 15th with the 12th being an attractive double.  Thankfully you also get side facing dots in white inlaid into the edge binding. Great.

Klos Carbon Fibre Tenor Ukulele fingerboard

Beyond the plastic nut is the first design cue that just doesn't really do it for me - the headstock. I'm not sure if there was a technical design reason for it, but it just looks FAR too small for me, like something you would fit on a travel guitar trying to save space. But if space is being saved it's really minor. Sure, I don't think there is much reason for regular headstocks to be the sizes they usually are, but to my eyes this just looks... well.. odd. The Klos logo looks like a pearl inlay under a glossy finish.

Klos Carbon Fibre Tenor Ukulele headstock

Tuners are generic chrome sealed gears with pearloid white buttons. They work well and whilst I don't think they are overly large in themselves, the diminutive headstock makes them look too big for me. Sure, that's an optical illusion though is more another point of concern about the headstock rather than the tuners themselves.

Klos Carbon Fibre Tenor Ukulele tuners

The final deal depends on the version you plump for and to be honest I find it quite confusing in terms of what you get and what you pay. At the moment it is still available via their Indiegogo on pre-order with a good discount. Pricing for that is as follows:  In standard spec they call it the 'acoustic' which will be $439. You can move to the electro acoustic (which is what this one is) which comes with a Fishman saddle strip and sound hole mounted controls of their 'Sonitone' system for $499 or the 'Deluxe' electro acoustic at $649 which adds a Fishman Kula pickup system with side mounted controls but also upgraded black Graphtech tuners, black Tusq at the nut and bridge, black strap pins and a change in strings. On the cheaper two models you get D'Addario Nylon and on the Deluxe you get D'Addario Fluorocarbon. Each comes with a padded gig bag. To add to the confusion, their pricing on their Indigogo will stop and will revert to orders from their website which are quite different and make things like the bag and the stiffening rods look like optional extras. In that case it looks like the straight up Acoustic will be $499 with no extras. A quick word on those differences in the Indiegogo pricing. Readers will know that I don't like active pickup systems so I am not sure I would, myself, go for either model with the Kula or Sonitone pickups, not least because of the ugly side controls on the former - I would just want a simple passive strip and nothing more. I do however like the upgrade to the saddle and nut and strap buttons are always a boon, but you can only get them if you get the pickup option on the Deluxe. That's a shame and something I hope they open up a little in the ordering process allowing buyers to be more flexible in choices. The string difference between models confuses me too, and I'd never want nylon AT ALL. As you will know, I don't mark reviews down for string choices unless totally useless, (people will change them to what they like), so that is not a biggie, but I would still like the choice on all models. One thing is for sure though, the pricing and option choices could make my job harder on the scores, so lets just be clear.... This review is based on the core acoustic at $499...


Klos Carbon Fibre Tenor Ukulele gig bag

Phew...

Let's take a closer look. First the build is excellent in all departments with no issues or flaws that I can spot. I love the tactile feel of the instrument and the difference between the glossier finished back and sides and the matte top. The instrument is heavier than I would have expected for carbon fibre, but not actually a heavy instrument at all. It's also nicely balanced. It's a nice thing to hold. Setup is also spot on and the action at both the nut and saddle on this example are just where I would want them

The first thing that struck me was the excellent volume and projection. This is a forceful ukulele and one you will not be worried about being lost with in a group. Like all good volume ukuleles though it also plays well quietly which means it's not a one trick pony. Sustain is good, not excellent, but still good for a tenor which makes for nice satisfying fingerpicking.

Klos Carbon Fibre Tenor Ukulele sound hole

I really don't know what I expected tonally from carbon fibre, but this has a bright and chimey voice reminiscent to me of the bright tones you find with instruments like the eKoa ukes from Blackbird. It's not something that I would call artificial, but isn't woody either. It's actually very rounded for a synthetic material and not 'lunchboxy' or plastic sounding at all. The notes when strummed together sit clearly and distinctly in the mix and with the right attack can create a very pleasing harmonic shimmer which is very pretty indeed. Fingerpicking is particularly chimey and bright with notes greating a real zing. If anything I'd certainly want to experiment on this one with a low G to almost tone it down a little. All in all the sound character, volume and tone are all impressing me greatly here.

The pickup - sure, yes I plugged it in. Yes it works in that it makes the whole thing louder, but meh.... I'd still want a passive strip I can shape the tone of off the uke. Plus it would mean you lose the 9V battery that has to sit inside this thing inside a fabric pouch. Personally, I'd just buy the acoustic version.

Klos Carbon Fibre Tenor Ukulele back

Still, all in all, despite one or two idiosyncracies this is a great playing and great sounding ukulele. Whether you would ever really 'need' that extreme toughness is up for debate I suppose, and I do find the pricing and packages a touch confusing. Still, if you look at this as a $500 acoustic made from carbon fibre it's actually very good value for money to. I'll give them a bye on the confusion though as I am sure they are still working out their market and finding their feet.

I hope this does well and that allows them to offer clearer options because I think they are well worth a look. Very much recommended!

https://klosguitars.com

UKULELE PROS

Great 'alternative' looks
Excellent build quality
Excellent volume and projection
Very good sustain
Nice bright chiming tone and shimmery harmonics
Good price (when you can break through the pricing!)

UKULELE CONS

Don't like the tiny headstock
Neck a touch narrow
Would just prefer a passive pickup
Needs more clarity on pricing and options


UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 9 out of 10
Fit and finish - 9 out of 10
Sound - 9 out of 10
Value for money - 9 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 9 out of 10

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THANKS!

6 comments :

  1. I got one of these and have changed out the strings. I was surprised to find that even though it has a slotted bridge, they still drilled through the body and tied off the strings inside. I liked that feature as now pulling tension from the strings is on the body vs. directly on the bridge itself.

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  2. I can't believe, with all those other options, you can only get a slotted bridge made of wood. I realize it's nitpicky, but to me, it's ugly, looks rough and unfinished.
    For that kind of money, I'd way rather have the neck made from carbon fibre too. I dislike painted necks, the sandpaper would come out if it were mine.
    True, the headstock does look a bit funny.
    I'd rather have a passive pickup too, don't like batteries in my uke.
    Good review, Baz

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Baz, I got mine through Indigogo about three weeks ago, and it is all the good things you say it is. I absolutely love the chiming tone. With regards to the pricing, I signed up for the basic acoustic model, but when the it got close to fulfilment, KLŌS contacted me about options. I ended up with fluorocarbon strings, black tusq nut and saddle, black ratio tuners, and my name engraved on the neck. It was another hundred bucks, but when you are investing that much, you want it right! I am thrilled to bits with the result.

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    Replies
    1. Nice! Looks good,sounds good. It would be a great working uke to take on the road. Being made of CF, it should be up to the bangs and bumps, and abuse that happens in transport. A great little road warrior!

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  4. I'm hoping for a tenor guitar or Baritone ukulele
    19 or 20 inch scale
    D.G.B.E Tuning.

    ReplyDelete

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