Kai KTI-700 Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

1 Dec 2019

Kai KTI-700 Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

A first for this brand on Got A Ukulele and one I have been really excited to take a closer look at. This is the Kai KTI-700 Tenor Ukulele.

Kai KTI-700 Tenor Ukulele

That excitement for me comes down to a couple of factors. First, Kai  are now distributed by Stones Music in the UK who kindly loaned me this one. I've reviewed a number of ukuleles in the Stones stable, and one thing i've learned is they have a knack of picking quality brands. Risa, Magic Fluke, Kiwaya, Baton Rouge... need I say more?  I'm usually also encouraged when I see a brand appearing in the true specialist ukulele stores. Whilst I don't always agree with their product lineups, it's a decent gauge that they are on to something that isn't junk. These are carried by both Southern Ukulele Store and World of Ukes. In fact SUS included this Kai in their top 10 'off the shelf' models.  A promising start, but I need to have a closer look

Kai are actually an EU company owned by the Reinhardt musical instrument distributors that also carry the likes of Baton Rouge, Cole Clark and many others. A decent pedigree for sure. The label doesn't say where it is made, but I suspect China on account of the price point. Their ukulele range is quite extensive, starting at the more basic all laminate models, through fancier laminates and up to an all solid acacia offering at the top end. The KTI-700 is not quite top end with a mix of both solid woods and laminates.

Kai KTI-700 Tenor Ukulele body

Its' a standard scaled and shaped double bout tenor ukulele that really is quite the looker. For the 'solid' part of the build we have a solid cedar top. It's a tone wood that I both like the look and sound of and this looks to be decent quality wood. It's in two pieces. For the back and sides we switch to laminate and a choice of a 'showstopper' wood in bocote. It's a chocolatey brown, swirly stripy wood that is just gorgeous. Just scroll down to see what I mean. WOW. The back and sides are also in pairs and nicely book-matched too. The two woods pair together on looks really nicely and create a real head turner. A cracker really!

The bridge is a tie bar style and traditionally styled. It's made of macassar ebony and the dark wood against the coffee coloured cedar looks great. It's really thin and delicate and clearly finished properly. That is fitted with a what looks like a bone saddle which is straigh topped.

Kai KTI-700 Tenor Ukulele bridge

The body comes with one or two other features. First you get a side sound port. They are not something I have a strong opinion on either way, but they don't offend me. The top and back are edge bound in red padauk which looks great and around the sound hole is an abalone ring. My first (and only) gripe in the body really as I prefer matching decoration, but that's just me. The body is then finished in a superb looking mirror finish gloss which really helps set off the colours in the binding and the patterning in the bocote really well. It's beautiful. And of course, with the top being a soft wood like cedar, the gloss is also offering you an important level of protection too. Finally, you also get a tail strap button which is a nice addition for those who worry about drilling.

Kai KTI-700 Tenor Ukulele decoration

Looking inside and it is extremley tidy. We have notched linings, the braces are thin and the top is cross braced. I can't find any mess at all.

Kai KTI-700 Tenor Ukulele inside

The neck is made of nato wood in three pieces with fairly well hidden joints in the normal places.  I would like the nut a bit wider myself on a tenor, coming in at 35/36mm and just under 30mm G to A. That's not unplayable by any stretch, and its helped by the slightly flattened rear profile, but... you know.. that's just me.

Topping that is an ebony freboard which is wonerfuly dark, bound down the sides in more padauk. You get a farily standard 18 frets with 14 the top of the body. Because of the binding, there are no sharp edges at all which adds to comfort. You get outward dot markers at the 5th , 7th, and 10th, with a flower inlay just below where the 12th would be. I don't go in for those myself, but at least it is not too distracting. You also get side dots which gives you the actual 12th too so not too much of an issue.

Kai KTI-700 Tenor Ukulele neck

The headstock is assymetrical in shape and faced with more of the bocote and gloss. The Kai logo sits  at the top inlaid in pearl (the third decoration material here...  sorry to labour the point). Still it looks pretty and reminds me of Pono finishing.

Kai KTI-700 Tenor Ukulele headstock

Tuners are unbranded sealed gears in chrome which, having tested them, don't display the grinding or non-uniform tensions that so many do. These are fine.

Kai KTI-700 Tenor Ukulele tuners

And completeing the pack are a set of unspecificed strings. They have a purple tinge and feel hard, so I am suspecting D'Addario Titaniums, but happy to stand corrected. you also get a very good quality gig bag with strong zips and a neck support. You may be thinking this will come in with a premium price as the appointments here are so good. But you can pick these up in the UK for £199. Wow. Not just a head turner on looks then.

As you will glean from the above, the build here is extremely good. Sure, some of the decor mixes mess with my OCD and I would like the neck a 'touch' wider, but this is really very good. Out of the box setup was excellent (but then I know that Mark at Stones ensures ALL his instruments reach dealers that way). It's also not overly heavy and well balanced too. It feels great.

The first thing that will strike you here is the terrific volume. This really can punch if you want it to. It's superb on that front. And it's not just forward projection of course, the sound port is also directing sound up to you too. Wonderful. Resonance is also excellent and the whole instrument vibrates not only into your chest when playing but in your fretting hand too. A good sign, and of course that translates into decent sustain too. Things are looking good here.

Kai KTI-700 Tenor Ukulele back

The tone itself is somewhat surprising I thought. It's far brighter and crisper than I would expect solid cedar to be, with a real chimey brightness. This is no bad thing, and  those wanting a darker, or woodier sounding instrument might look elsewhere. But it's not all bright to be fair. There is still a depth of tone going on here and you are not felt wanting for more range in the tone. And that crispness delivers positives in other ways of course, providing a very clear and precise tone. Strummed those notes stay clear and harmonise into a very pleasant jangly sound which I am really taken with.

Fingerpicked of course it's very dreamy with notes that will cut through in whatever jam session you are playing in. No, it's not a uber high end complex tone, but then it's not a uber high end insturment. It's a two hundred quid one with part laminate construction. What it does deliver though is a tone that punches well above it's price point. Well above.

To sum up, I can do no better than talk about my playing experience here.  Regular readers will realise that I have a VERY busy schedule with ukuleles, but my policy is to have instruments no less than two weeks before a review to give me time to play them properly. With some, it's a chore and I hate picking them up (but pick them up I must). With this one I have hated putting down! This is not only a very beautiful instrument but one that plays well and sounds great too. And for THAT price. Well... wow..  I can see exactly why the specialist stores recommend them. And I do too. What this brings to mind to me is a Pono or higher end Kala build, but for a LOT less money. And what's not to like about that?  Top notch.

Stones Music


Name: Kai KTI-700
Scale: Tenor
Body: Solid cedar top, laminate bocote back and sides
Bridge: Massacar ebony
Saddle: Bone
Decor: Padauk binding, abalone soundhole ring, side port
Neck: Nato
Fingerboard: Massacar ebony
Frets: 18, 14 to the body
Nut: Bone
Nut Width: 36mm (30mm G to A)
Tuners: Sealed chrome gears
Strings: D'Addario Titanium?
Extras: Branded padded gig bag
Price: £200


Beautiful looks and wood contrast
Excellent build and finish
Great volume and sustain
Rich, crisp tone
Terrific price


Not much, would prefer slightly more neck width
Mixed decor elements


Looks: 9 out of 10
Fit and finish: 8.5 out of 10
Sound: 9 out of 10
Value for money: 9.5 out of 10






  1. Thanks Barry. I picked up the KTI-7000 model in October, solid acacia throughout and a gorgeous slotted headstock. The high gloss finish on the acacia is jaw-dropping and the voicing is fantastic all the way up the fretboard. I hope you get a chance to try one out, they're delicious.

    1. Hi Ben.This ukulele is really nice but like you I want to take a step further and buy a 5000. Sounds very Hawaii almost Kanilea. I'll take your advice and get a 5000.

  2. Thank you for the review! I got a J&D electric uke as a fun starter uke a while back (it was intended for someone with a ton of gear for electric guitars), but since he did not like it, I picked up the instrument. And while I have loved learning the ukulele, I have not loved the J&D. Tinny sound and action at the saddle being way too high made it rather difficult / not fun for a beginner to learn on. Hence, I decided to get myself this Kai once I had spent enough time practicing. And what a joy it is to play! As far as my noobie eyes can tell, the factory set-up is way better than the J&D's set-up was. I don't get blisters after 30 minutes and my fretting hand is not nearly as cramped since the action is just a lot better. This has massively improved my learning speed. Not to mention the sound - I am following a course to learn how to compose pieces for solo ukulele, and the sound is just so sweet.

    Obviously, I will try to fix the action on the J&D myself, and this issue could have been prevented if I had purchased it at a reputable store. However, given my complete inexperience with stringed instruments and the lack of good ukulele vendors in my neck of the woods, the Kai KTI-700 has been a much better purchase.

  3. As soon as I sell a couple of ukes, I’m gonna get me a KTI 700. Great review. Beautiful tenor. Since I’m OCD, might not even wait.

  4. Thanks Baza, fantastic review. Been binging your YouTube. Always wanted to learn how to play an instrument. I have invested in the KTI 700 tenor, and can't wait for it to arrive and get stuck into learning to play a ukulele.

  5. Read this review and took a pint in the KTI5000 full body acacia being even better. It arrives tomorrow and I'm pretty excited. It's my first ukele, I'll post an update of how it is.

  6. Hi Baz. This is a really nice instrument but I'd like you to do a review on the Kai Kti 5000. It's a solid acacia front back and sides and works out at 222€ incl.postage on the Thomann site. I said Thomann because I live in Spain and asking SUS would set me back more.

  7. Hi Baz finally made it to the SUS store and what a great experience. After trying a few ukuleles I decided on the KTI 700 although I was initially interested in the 5000. They quickly set it up to my preference which is something that I couldn't have judged if I hadn't been able to try it. Somehow it was just the sound I was looking for (guess that's just a personal thing). Thanks for the great review

  8. Lovely uke finish is superb plays a dream may be the end of my search for the holy grail L O L

    1. I know sound is very subjective but I was at the point of buying a KTI 5000 and then asked if I could try the KTI 700. I much preferred the 700 so ended up buying it. That was a few months ago and haven't bought another tenor since!!


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