Kala Sparkle Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

18 Dec 2021

Kala Sparkle Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

Well, hey ukulele players, it's Christmas.. So what better than something glitzy and shiny for the festive season? This week i'm looking at the Kala Sparkle Concert Ukulele.

Kala Sparkle Concert Ukulele

Naturally, I need to cut to the chase early with this review as regular readers will know that 'Baz don't like bling'. And I don't think you can get more 'bling' than with glitter. No, this is not my cup of tea to look at, but then this instrument isn't aimed at someone like me and I know a great many will love the fun aspect to it. And, of course, I do try to approach all reviews as impartially as I can and point out what is a subjective view where appropriate.

Introduced in 2020, this is a concert scale ukulele in a standard double bout shape and is, essentially, a glitzed up version of a basic laminate instrument.  That is to say it's a laminate basswood top (an extremely cheap basic instrument wood also called Linden or Lime and the sort used in the absolute cheapest ukuleles you will find) and laminate mahogany back and sides. Because of the finish, I can't tell if there are one or two pieces for each of these, but I suspect it doesn't greatly matter. Why basswood laminate for the top and not mahogany all round also confuses me.

Kala Sparkle Concert Ukulele body

The bridge is a standard style for Kala, made of walnut and screwed in place. It's a tie bar and pretty dry and scruffy on the facing. Sitting in that is a straight topped NuBone saddle made by Graphtech. All very standard. String spacing here is 42mm. What I will say is, whilst this is the standard Kala bridge it kind of looks out of place on a glitzy ukulele for reasons I can't quite put my finger on. I think it's the paler brown colour that looks odd and would certainly prefer it to match the fingerboard.

Kala Sparkle Concert Ukulele bridge

Decoration is obviously led by the glitter finish, but there is also the addition of cream edge binding around the top and back which I think works well with the glitter. You get a choice of four glitter colours in the range, Ritzy Red, Pink Champagne, Rhapsody in Blue or this one, Stardust Gold. As I say, they are not for me but I do think the shades they have chosen are quite nice and thankfully they didn't go full on neon colours. That glitter finish is (thankfully!) under a gloss coating so there is no rough feel or the chance of the glitter working it's way off onto your hands. Sadly, in places the application of the glitter is rather uneven and on this example there are very obvious bare patches showing on the top that really stand out. I appreciate glitter application is always going to be random, but you at least need to make it even. To add to my complaint, the gloss over the top is not that smooth insofar as it is kind of rippled in places. I suspect it has been over applied. Mirror finish it is not.

Kala Sparkle Concert Ukulele decor

Inside is basic and only reasonably tidy with some glue seepage and wood shavings on show. The linings are notched and the braces not overly big.

Kala Sparkle Concert Ukulele inside

The neck is made of mahogany and because of the glitter I have no idea how it is constructed (three pieces is my guess).  It's very typical Kala in dimensions tapering to an overly round nut profile and a width of 35mm (27mm G to A). I am sensing that the market is starting to 'get' that not everybody likes this sort of profile with many changing their spec in this regard towards a more Hawaiian neck. Kala have stood still though. But of course, your mileage may vary, but this neck is not for me.

Topping that is a walnut fingerboard which is in pretty poor shape. I am not talking about it needing conditioning, but rather the outer finish is rough in several places with obvious gouges and is missing some staining at the sound hole end. It is edge bound in cream to hide the fret ends which, at a glance suits it well, but looking up close, this is messy too with lots of black staining marks around the fret ends and some sort of gloop. You get  19 of those, joined at the 14th and thankfully none of them are sharp. Position dots face out at the 5th, 7th, 10th and double 12th and these are repeated on the side. These too are messy around the edges with the 5th and 7th marker noticeable a different colour to the others, most likely due to being covered in wood stain. The whole fingerboard finish is lazy and scruffy and I try to show that off more in the video.

Kala Sparkle Concert Ukulele neck

Beyond the NuBone nut is the usual Kala crown headstock holding the Kala logo in a white screen print on the top edge. I find it's lost against the gold on this example, though it may stand out better on the darker colours. Sadly the glitter is uneven here too with some black bare patches around the edges which look ugly.

Kala Sparkle Concert Ukulele headstock

The tuners seem to be an improvement compared to those I have seen on other value Kala's over my time. They are unbranded open gears with cream buttons, but the gearing mechanism clearly looks far better quality than some others that use this style. They work well too.

Kala Sparkle Concert Ukulele tuners

Finishing off the deal are a set of Aquila strings, a tail strap button and.... nothing else. I've said it before and I will say it again - Kala are being left behind compared to what other brands include. I mean, the least they could do is throw in a bag. Even Luna do that! Though in a more positive development these don't seem to be overpriced with a current RRP on the Kala site of $129, translating to about £110 in the UK. I'm thankful they have done that rather than totally overprice the RRP like they did on their 'Novelty series ukulele' which had an RRP of $150 for a soprano at the point I reviewed it. (They have, sensibly cut that price in half since). $129 is reachable for many, though of course it does throw it against lots of other competition .

Kala Sparkle Concert Ukulele strap button

So, a value instrument for sure, but you can see where the corners have been cut to make the price work. None of the finish gripes I mention are life and death, though they are noticeable and irritating - not least because the glitter really draws you and and then you notice them more. On the more positive side, the core construction, as usual with Kala feels solid and sound and I can't see any structural issues. The setup isn't great though with a height above the 12th of just above 3.5mm. I tend to work on the basis that 3mm is absolute top for what should be sent out, so this needs work. The nut too is too high on this example. Sigh..

It's not heavy at 550g and balances ok in the hands. I don't like the feel of the neck, but the feel of the rest of the instrument is just fine. Volume is very good too (though I often find with even basic laminate ukes, volume isn't something they struggle with). Sustain is distinctly average though.

Tone wise it's really exactly what I expected when I saw the body materials. It 'works' as a core ukulele insofar as it plays largely in tune and projects. But it's very one dimensional whether strummed or picked. Strummed it has that trait that a lot of more basic laminates have to my ears in that it has an echoey aspect to the sound that gets in the way of the actual notes. Rather like playing a uke into a wooden box. Fingerpicking is a little better (which it usually is with these) and the volume stays decent up the neck. It seems to punch notes out clearly and brightly when played this way even if there isn't much character and just left me feeling rather un-moved. It's just rather bland. In summary, I think the tone is 'of the money', but that's not to say it can't be beaten - it easily can.

Kala Sparkle Concert Ukulele back

But with all those comments about tone, maybe I am missing something. This is clearly not meant to be a high end serious ukulele, it's a party ukulele or a ukulele for a showy performance - a bit of fun. That's not written as a means to let this off the hook for the sound but I suspect the bigger picture is that it's probably the secondary point. Now, that's reason enough that this is not a uke for me (sound always comes first), but that's not to say it's not the 'right thing' for others who may have a performance reason for a uke that looks like this. I mean, it plays passably as a ukulele and 'works' even if it doesn't have great character to the tone. It's not trying to be a high end sound, and it's certainly way above some of the uber-cheap instruments I have looked at. Though, then again, it's not 'uber' cheap in itself either - and when I think of instruments you can get from Flight or Baton Rouge for similar money then... well it's easily beaten on that front. If you like the looks then perhaps it's for you. But I can't avoid the fact that the core uke is very basic and the finishing is poor.

To sum up I have to recognise that in a market of 'all so similar' instruments and at a time where we are understandably glum there is even a place for my cold heart to recognise a bit of fun, glitz and glamour.  I really didn't like the 'fun' of their Novelty Series, but I kind of get why this model will have a market for performers or club players. It still falls down for me on some other subjective points like the neck dimensions, but also on some very objective ones like the shoddy finishing and poor setup. The sound is one dimensional and basic, but then I expected it to be. I think this is more about a performance statement rather than as an instrument to record with. For the gregarious performers out there there is much that will attract here just on looks alone. So perhaps you can ignore this old curmudgeon and if you want to let your glam side out, well why not? If, of course, the sparkles don't matter to you, then.. this really doesn't stack up for over £100 considering what else is out there.

So, I guess the question is whether you have the spangly pants to do it justice?


Model: Kala Sparkle (KA-SPRK)
Scale: Concert
Body: Laminate basswood top, laminate mahogany back and sides
Bridge: Walnut, tie bar
Saddle: NuBone
Spacing at saddle: 42mm
Decor: Glitter finish under gloss with cream binding
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Walnut
Frets: 19, 14 to body
Nut: NuBone
Nut width: 35mm, 27mm G to A
Tuners: Unbranded open gears
Extras: Strap button
Strings: Aquila
Weight: 550g
Country of origin: China
Price RRP $129


Looks will be divisive, but certainly a head turner if they are your thing
Core build seems sound
Decent tuners
Good volume
Clear fingerpicked up the neck


Finish flaws on body
Really scruffy fingerboard
Neck width not for me (personally)
Average sustain
Not a lot of character to the echoey tone
Poor setup
No extras


Looks (subjective warning!) - 7.5 out of 10
Fit and finish - 7.5 out of 10
Sound - 7.5 out of 10
Value for money - 8 out of 10









  1. 35mm nut I can deal with, 27mm string spread, not so much, but most Kalas (except Elites) have these specs. For that reason, I'll never buy them again. It's a pity, as the solid cedar top KA-ATP-CTG I once had gave up a wonderful tone, and I would have gladly kept it forever. I wish Kala would dispense with the edge of fretboard bindings, take the frets out to unbound edges, which would allow wider string spacing at the nut, either from the factory, or by modding it yourself.


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