Kiwaya U-Trip-01 Sopranino Ukulele - REVIEW

8 Oct 2023

Kiwaya U-Trip-01 Sopranino Ukulele - REVIEW

It's been a little while since Got A Ukulele looked at the REALLY little guns. Time to set that straight with a look at the Kiwaya U-Trip-01 Sopranino.

Kiwaya U-Trip-01 Sopranino Ukulele

Kiwaya are the Japanese based brand that I have long admired with some of their instruments falling into the 'pretty much perfect' category of ukuleles. A few years back they broke with tradition and introduced a set of entry level, made in China instruments under their watch called their 'Student Series'. I think it was a clever move as even the laminate Japanese Kiwaya instruments (under the name Famous) can be on the higher priced side, reflecting the cost of production in Japan. Building in China of course means far lower costs and whilst that can also mean lower quality, it is possible to employ a level of quality control to overcome that. Kiwaya largely did that with other student line instruments I have looked at, but I've never looked at one this small from them. It's been around for a couple of years but taken me a while to buy one to take a look at.


The U-Trip series comes in a couple of flavours - either the 01 model which is a double bout shape or the 02 which is a pineapple. Both are smaller than Soprano in scale (at about 11.75 inches as opposed to the 13 or just above you will see on most sopranos - there is a picture further down the review of it side by side with a regular soprano) and are made from all laminate mahogany. I have no idea what the 'Trip' means in the name, perhaps it signifies ease of travel. Like their other student line laminates the instrument is very much 'down to basics' with no real decoration to speak of, just well put together laminate pieces. It's the same here, with a deep reddish brown stain to the body and a smooth open pore satin finish for protection. It's not a totally flat colour and there is some grain striping and even a bit of shimmer on the back, but it's still basic. Simple but some may prefer more decor interest going on.

Kiwaya U-Trip-01 Sopranino Ukulele body

The bridge is made from black walnut and is a simple, small slot style that is very tidily finished with some end shaping rather than just being a rectangular block. It's naturally nice to see a slot bridge as the idea of sticking a tie bar or pins on a sopranino is ludicrous. That holds a straight topped bone saddle with pleasing end carving to match the slightly sloped sides of the bridge. Spacing here clocks in at 41mm.

Kiwaya U-Trip-01 Sopranino Ukulele bridge

Decor, as I say is absent and the only real thing to speak of is the satin coat which is even and not too thick. As there is no edge binding you can see the laminate in cross section which doesn't concern me too much and also shows that, like other Kiwaya laminate instruments, it's not a piece of thick plywood.

Kiwaya U-Trip-01 Sopranino Ukulele finish

Inside is simple with notched linings and thin braces and largely tidy bar a bit of glue seepage around the tail block (i've seen worse). The images here suggest the top is thick, but I think that is deceptive due to the size of the body - it's as thin a set of laminate as you will find on other Kiwaya instruments.

Kiwaya U-Trip-01 Sopranino Ukulele inside

The neck is made from mahogany with obvious heel and headstock joints. Being a sopranino the heel looks a bit out of proportion to the rest of the uke, but I don't find it obtrusive. That too is finished in satin and tapers down to an average rounded profile and 35mm nut with 27mm spacing. Whilst I prefer wider nut instruments I am conscious that this is smaller than a soprano so understand that most (not all) are narrower. This is kind of regular soprano width and a touch wider than the Ohana sopranino's which is a good thing. Saying all of that, there is no reason why it couldn't be wider still, though perhaps you need to go the luthier route to find that with something like the DJ Morgan Mini Pineapple

The Fingerboard is made of more black walnut and seems to be in great condition. I can't work out if it is edge bound or the frets are just very well fitted in slots that don't reach the end. Either way it means you don't see them or feel them. You have 12 of those, and any more would be unplayable overkill! As a further plus the edges of the board are rolled back meaning no sharp angles and more comfort. That's a nice boon! It comes with pearl position dots at the 5th, 7th and 10th and they are paired on the side.

Kiwaya U-Trip-01 Sopranino Ukulele neck

The headstock is the usual Kiwaya crown shape and whilst it's a similar size to their other sopranos strangely I don't find it too big like I do on sopraninos from some other brands You don't get a Kiwaya logo on the top which I think is a shame but instead a stylised uke graphic in a screen print under the satin. It's a little too 'twee' for me, but it's very small and wouldn't put me off buying it. I'd still like to see the Kiwaya logo too though, quite simply because it's a logo i've always liked and don't see why it can't have both.

Kiwaya U-Trip-01 Sopranino Ukulele headstock

The tuners are entry level open gears in chrome with small black buttons. A small instrument like this is just crying out for rear facing friction pegs to lose the 'ears look' so I immediately don't like them myself. Saying that, whilst they are entry level the mechanisms look good enough and they work ok.

Kiwaya U-Trip-01 Sopranino Ukulele tuners

And it comes with a set of un-named clear fluoro strings and a basic black gig bag for the very reasonable price of only £110 or thereabouts in UK stores. Saying that, it's quite hard to price check it. The Ohana Sopranino instruments cost more, but are all solid woods. The Ortega Keiki K1 is quite a bit less, but then I thought it was distinctly average.

Kiwaya U-Trip-01 Sopranino Ukulele size comparison

So, all in all, nothing really 'wrong' here at all, with some nice touches such as a very tidy bridge, slightly wider than average nut and the rolled fingerboard edges. It is very simple of course, but that is what the student series are about. I have no issues with the build or finish. It's very light at only 325g and balances nicely too.

Kiwaya U-Trip-01 Sopranino Ukulele back

Tone wise a word first about tuning. These come with strings that will take GCEA tuning, but as I have often said about smaller than soprano instruments I think you should experiment with higher tunings to see if they get more response from the small body (they usually do). For the review I have had this tuned up to D tuning as in GCEA I found the strings a bit flabby otherwise. I think I'd possibly consider a touch higher still as even in D i'd like a bit more bite, but that may require a slight string gauge change and I wanted to review it with what it came with. The point here - don't be afraid to experiment - and in fact that goes for ALL ukuleles!

Basics first, being a small instrument a lot (but not all) of sub soprano instruments can suffer on volume. This is not the quietest I have heard but you would hardly call it a boom box. Passable only on this element for me. Sustain is usually similarly hampered, but here it's surprisingly good, beating some cheap laminate sopranos I have played. This doesn't surprise me though as there is one thing I find Kiwaya tend to do well and that's create instruments with some life to them. The intonation on all sopraninos can be a bit finicky and it's the case here. You need to tune them very precisely, but also play them lightly on the fretting. If you notice some discord in the video I can assure you that is my shonky playing with fat fingers on a small neck as the intonation is actually dialled in nicely here.

As for the overall sound, well as I say above it certainly benefits to my ears being tuned up a little, but  has a bright zingy chimey tone. Of course, sopraninos have a thinner tone and that is the case here but what is nice is how clear the notes are without sounding muddy or confused. Strummed this is peppy, jangly and bouncy and very much in soprano territory. Picking is surprisingly pretty too with decent response further up the neck. I'd struggle to play it this way on some of the ultra thin neck sopraninos, but can just about manage here. Bell like and sweet. Of course, saying all that about the tone, you have to bear in mind that this is a step away from either the soprano sound. Yet it has a purpose and as I say, they are a very popular scale choice, but they are not for everyone.

Summing things up I think this is a fun little instrument. Of course there is always a certain element of 'novelty' to the sub soprano sizes, but it's a plain fact that a great many ukulele players love them and many have one in the collection. No, this is not a solid wood uke and you can get cheaper laminate sopraninos if you go looking, but I think this easily stands up to  the Ohana offerings for considerably less money. That is if you are happy with the plain look of course, which is very subjective. The build and finish though are great though with a nice neck for a sopranino. Perhaps it's a bit of an impulse purchase just for fun rather than serious play, but if you are building a uke collection and wanting to include a sopranino in your mix, this seems a no brainer for the asking price and core build quality. I say, why not?


Model: Kiwaya U-Trip-01
Scale: Sopranino
Body: Laminate mahogany
Bridge: Black walnut
Saddle: Bone
Spacing at saddle: 41mm
Finish: Satin
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Black walnut
Frets: 12
Nut: Bone
Nut width: 35mm, 27mm G to A
Tuners: Unbranded open gears
Strings: Un-named clear fluorocarbon
Extras: Gig bag
Weight: 325g
Country of origin: China
Price: £110


Sound build and finish
Nice bridge
Nice fingerboard feel
Decent sustain for the size
Crisp clear tone


Too plain for some? 
Geared ear tuners!


Looks - 8.5 out of 10
Fit and finish - 9 out of 10
Sound - 8 out of 10
Value for money - 9 out of 10









  1. Nice review. Seems more and more makers are cranking out sub sopranos. When you have time (haha) please take a look at the Kmise Travel 17 inch uke and tell us what you think. Thanks.


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