Islander AC-4 Concert Ukulele

3 Sept 2023

Islander AC-4 Concert Ukulele

Got A Ukulele returns after the summer break with a look at a brand that's always done quite well on the review bench. This is the Islander AC-4 Concert Ukulele.

Islander AC-4 Concert Ukulele

Islander are the far eastern budget line of the much revered Kanile'a Ukulele company in Hawaii and were introduced to give those on a budget something of the looks and feel of their USA made instruments with the usual concessions. They are designed by Kanile'a and made to their own designs and specs and have proved popular for many people for precisely those reasons. Whilst they are not in the league of the Hawaiian instruments I've yet to find anything terribly wrong with them considering the prices.


The AC-4 is the concert version of a series that represents their absolute entry level. And as such we are not talking solid woods here or lots of decoration. The AC-4 is built from laminate acacia in the body with two pieces for the top back and sides. Being an undecorated instruments this laminate choice lifts the overall look with a fair amount of stripe and even a touch of flaming in places meaning it's not just totally plain. It's still a simple instrument though and I think even for someone like me who likes plain ukes, it needs something else. The overall body shape is a modern double bout akin to that on the ukes from the parent company.

Islander AC-4 Concert Ukulele body

The bridge screams Kanile'a and whilst it is not quite as smartly finished as the USA models it's not far off. Naturally, it's a pin bridge and is made from walnut and is all very tidy. The saddle is straight topped and made from NuBone, like the USA models. Spacing here is 44mm.

Islander AC-4 Concert Ukulele bridge

There is no other decoration here but as I say above the wood partly makes up for that. The finish is a satin which is very nicely done and slightly open pore. Many will still consider it overly plain though. Even a simple sound hole rosette would lift it.

Islander AC-4 Concert Ukulele decor

Inside departs from the USA instruments as you are not getting Tru-R bracing here, rather regular braces and linings. Still, it's all very tidy to be fair. Looking at the edge of the top around the body I can also see that this laminate is not overly thick either. 

Islander AC-4 Ukulele inside

The neck is made from mahogany in three pieces and finished in satin. I will say that the colour of the wood here looks odd to my eyes and kind of jars agains the body wood. The joints are really obvious too. On the plus side we have more Kanile'a influence with a roomy 37mm nut  with 30mm spacing from G to A. It's more rounded on the back than USA models, but the width counts in its favour with my hands. I also like the slight volute carving at the top of the neck which acts as a stopper. This is just shaping as a volute is usually created as part of a scarf joint, but the joint is actually further down here.  A nice neck indeed.

Islander AC-4 Concert Ukulele neck

That is topped with more walnut for the fingerboard which is in good condition. It's edge bound in black, though rather industrially so at the sound-hole end. This hides the fret ends, but there is nothing sharp about them in any case. We have 19 of those with a 14th body joint. Pearly dots face out at the 5th, 7th, 10th and 12th and they are paired with small side markers in the black binding.

Beyond the NuBone nut is the trademark Kanile'a headstock which i've always been a fan of. A crown that's not a crown! It's faced in more acacia and carries the Islander logo as a screen print under the satin. I've always said I find the logo a touch naive, but i've seen worse. This one arrived with the tiniest ding in the top of the head that I can hardly see with the naked eye, but was revealed by a macro photograph. That may be down to the store who sold this though.

Islander AC-4 Concert Ukulele headstock

The tuners are open gears, though unbranded and more budget level with small white plastic buttons.  They work ok though but are a touch stiff, probably needing a drop of oil.

Islander AC-4 Concert Ukulele tuners

It comes with a set of Aquila strings and nothing else. I think at this beginner level that lack of even a basic bag is now showing its age as it is with one or two other household name brands. And the price is about £160 in the UK and £219 list in the USA. That's certainly in the reach of many though I do think that considering what else is on the market these days (like Kai, Snail, Uma, Enya) it feels a touch expensive for something so plain. If you can find one that is... Whilst I bought this from a regular music store, at the time of this review I'm finding them hard to see on places other than box shippers. I hope that changes and I am sure it will as they are still clearly listed on the Islander website. I still think it should come with a bag though!

So - no frills but also no real issues I can see. In fact there isn't much to complain about here so far. Some may say it's a bit too simple looking, but Islander offer more decorated instruments if you increase the asking price. For me this is akin in both looks and build quality to the Kiwaya student ukuleles, also from China. Simple but very tidy.

Islander AC-4 Concert Ukulele back

Set up here looks largely ok to the eye, but sadly there is a buzz on the A string and that action needs lifting or the string changing. It's easily fixed, but it's not right. It's not heavy to hold either at 535g and balances ok too.

The volume here is good as is the sustain. Neither are out of the park but both are decent and will not be a let down.

Tone wise, I never expect too much from any laminate and certainly don't buy that belief that laminate woods have tonal character of the solid wood veneer. What we have here though is a very crisp clear tone that is on the brighter side, but with more depth to it. The string buzz is really noticeable though, but as I said, easily fixed. Ignoring that the strummed tone is bouncy and rhythmical and rather pretty.

The picked tone is nice too (buzz aside) with a clear bell like tone all over the neck. All in all the tone here is not stellar, but certainly on a par with other instruments of this sort of spec and price. Not a huge amount of character, but a nice sound nonetheless.

So it's largely positive here with some irritations. The setup buzz is annoying as hell though easily fixed and clearly could be a 'one-off'. The build and finish is great, but is likely to simplistic for some. Tone wise it delivers well enough for a laminate and is certainly more enjoyable to play than many of the 'Amazon specials'. I think though that the pricing and lack of extras makes it now a little long in the tooth compared to what else is out there. Again, easily remedied by Kanile'a, but until then...

Still, I enjoyed this one and still think it's a decent beginner instrument with some nice Hawaiian backing that shows in the build.

[STOP PRESS - the string buzz was down to a bad string. Swapped the string out - buzz gone.. still not right to arrive like that though!]


Model: Islander AC-4
Scale: Concert
Body: Laminate acacia
Bridge: Walnut, pin bridge
Saddle: NuBone
Spacing at saddle: 44mm
Finish: Satin
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Walnut
Frets: 19, joined at 14th
Nut: NuBone
Nut width: 37mm, 30mm G to A
Tuners: Unbranded open gears
Strings: Aquila
Extras: None
Weight: 535g
Country of origin: China
Price: Circa £160


Clean tidy build
Good even finish
Good volume and sustain
Crisp clear tone
Nice neck


A bit plain?
Some setup issues
A touch expensive these days considering no extras?


Looks - 8 out of 10
Fit and finish - 8 out of 10
Sound - 8.5 out of 10
Value for money 8 out of 10









  1. I have an older AT-4 amd if I could only keep 1, it's the one I'd pick, and I have a Martin. I put an "abalone" sticker around the sound hole, and with the nice grain shimmer looks and plays better than some HI koa ukes I've owned at a fraction of the price.


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