11 Feb 2024

Kala KA-CT-SA-BG Contour Baritone Ukulele - REVIEW

It's not often I look at two ukuleles from the same series, but with my desire to give more exposure to baritone ukes on this site, when the invitation to borrow this one from Kala came along, I couldn't say no. This is the Kala KA-CT-SA-BG Baritone from their new 'Contour Series'.

Kala KA-CT-SA-BG Contour Baritone Ukulele

Another mouthful of a name (Kala names are always cumbersome, but do make some sense when you decode), but these are already recoginsable to uke players as the 'Kala Contours' which are a new set of modern shaped ukuleles in tenor and baritone in a variety of wood options. You may recall I looked that the Contour Tenor in mahogany recently and was delighted that Kala had made a leap into a more modern look and spec list at last. It did very well. Then readers asked me to consider looking at a baritone (I am always asked a lot to look at baritones, though distributors tend not to send them as often). Kala then approached me to do the same and when I also saw the striking visual difference of the solid acacia on this one over the mahogany, I was keen to take a look.


Like the Tenor in the same series, this has the same very modern ultra rounded double bout body shape. Whilst the shape of a ukulele can have some impact on tone, part of the attraction is an aesthetic one too, and I had said in the tenor review that because Kala had not changed the shape of 99% of their instruments since inception, I thought they were looking a bit old fashioned. Nothing is further than that here, and in fact I think it really shines best on the baritone scale because of all of that extra real estate. Helping the aesthetics here too is the wood choice as, whilst acacia wood sets will always vary between examples, will always tend to have a lot of grain interest regardless. It's the case here for sure with distinct dark and light wavy stripes in all faces of this book matched instrument together with some curl and flame. The delicate waves in the angled book matching on the top here really draw you in and on the back you get some added sap wood interest down the centre join. It's just lovely. Really lovely.

Kala KA-CT-SA-BG Contour Baritone Ukulele body

The bridge is like the tenor and made from ebony. It's a very low profile bean shaped plate that acts as a 'through bridge' and is incredibly tidy. It's just SO smoothly finished I wondered if it was made of richlite. Sitting in that is a bone topped compensated saddle. Spacing here is 43mm.

Kala KA-CT-SA-BG Contour Baritone Ukulele bridge

Decoration follows the tenor with rosewood binding to the top back and tail stripe with the top binding spreading out into a 'comfort edge' on the lower bout. Again it doesn't detract from the wood and does 'just enough' for me to finish it off. Around the soundhole is the same 'eclipse' wooden inlaid ring made of maple and rosewood. I really fell for it on the tenor for being so simple, yet effective and I think the same here. And again, this is finished in a gloss which is about as good as I have seen from Kala. It's really flawless too.

Kala KA-CT-SA-BG Contour Baritone Ukulele decor

Inside is very tidy with an X braced top, notched linings, regular back braces and no mess. The top is also nice and thin!

Kala KA-CT-SA-BG Contour Baritone Ukulele inside

The neck is made from mahogany in three pieces with a hard to spot headstock joint and a more obvious one in the heel. Like the tenor it's nice to see this is finished in satin and i'm also delighted to see that whilst the profile is a little rounded, the nut width clocks in at 38mm with 30mm from D to E. That's really roomy and will be excellent for guitar players dabbling with ukulele through the baritone. The neck also comes with an adjustable truss rod, but as I always say, i'm never that sure of the need with ukulele tension.

That's topped with more ebony for the fingerboard which, unlike the tenor I looked at has gone through proper QC as it is flawless and smooth. (The golden rule there - be sure you go through the right dealer not a box shipper!) That is edge bound in black hiding the 19 fret ends, joined at the 14th and the dressing of those is impeccable with no sharp edge feel. The same oval pearl position dots face out at the 5th, 7th, 10th and 12th and are paired with side dots too.

Kala KA-CT-SA-BG Contour Baritone Ukulele neck

The headstock is another slot head which I think suits the baritone particularly well. It's very tidy and faced in the same classy piano black glossy face which provides a delightful contrast. The Kala logo in inlaid in pearl.

Kala KA-CT-SA-BG Contour Baritone Ukulele headstock

The tuners are the same black and gold open gears which I said were comparable to those on Flight ukuleles and they work just as well. Really nice tuners.

Kala KA-CT-SA-BG Contour Baritone Ukulele tuners

Finishing it off are a set of Aquila strings on the 1st and 2nd, with wound strings on the 3rd and 4th. It also comes with a similar (just larger!) branded padded bag which is also great to see on Kala ukes now - something they've long been behind the curve on. And the price was a pleasant surprise too as I am seeing these sold in reputable Kala dealers today at £479. Whilst that is not pocket money pricing I started thinking about other very popular serious baritones that sell like hot cakes. The Snail S60B for example, which is also solid acactia with a comfrort edge, sells for more than £100 more than this. Then I thought of the Flight Fireball which, whilst  coming with a pickup, is more than the Snail let alone the Kala. I think this price is excellent and will have some brands looking over their shoulders. 

Kala KA-CT-SA-BG Contour Baritone Ukulele eclipse

So far, as I think you can tell, I have found little wrong here and I absolutely adore how it looks. The build and finish are impeccable and it's well priced. It's a big old thing of course and comes in at 1.025kg but doesn't feel uncomfrotable to hold and balances very well too. Setup on this example is also just how I would like it.

Kala KA-CT-SA-BG Contour Baritone Ukulele back

I said the the tenor that I found the projection a little subdued, but of course here we have different woods and a much larger body. Volume wise this does well, though still not the punchiest baritone I have played. So it also has a touch of the 'laid back', but much less so than the tenor I reviewed. This is perfectly acceptable on volume though and i'm probably only making this comment because of how I reviewed the tenor. Sustain is absolutely stellar -wonderful, long, shimmery, warbly. Just wonderful. Sure, you are always going to get good sustain on a large bodied baritone with a couple of wound strings, but this is excellent all the same.

Tone wise I'd expect more range from acacia and you certainly get that here. There is a lot going on right across the tonal range yet it hangs together clearly and doesn't get confused. To be honest with you I don't think any baritone does wonderfully well at first position strumming, even the high end stuff and there is a bit of boom and echo here in the same way (easily countered by playing softer) but that's not a criticism - just a result of lower notes on a very resonant instrument. Still there is bags of character played this way and I found it very pleasing particularly if you venture higher up the neck. It's a touch bassy I guess, but they I find most baritones are on account of the tuning. Don't expect chimey concert like notes from any bari is what i'm saying!

Kala KA-CT-SA-BG Contour Baritone Ukulele comfort edge

It really shines fingerpicked, or strummed higher up helped by the longing sustain and character. This is where you can get more treble out of it and it really shows off some pretty character up the neck which works brilliantly with the range you are getting from the lower notes. I'm a guitar player in the main (an average strummer, admittedly) but think this would make a great companion instrument for this kind of noodling with a bit of strumming to flesh it out. In fact, I became baritone curious towards the end of last year and bought one before I knew these were coming. With apologies to that brand, if I was buying today, i'd get this one as I love it. No, it's not high end Hawaiian baritone in punch or tone, but you know what? It's not far off. Really not far off at all and all the baritone most people would ever need.

And I think that probably sums up my thoughts here. The looks are killer to my tastes, and the build and finish spot on. Couple that with a pleasant sounding baritone sound and a very competitive price, and... what's not to like here? I'm really pleased to be giving Kala such a good score with this because i'm in love with it! Where has this been all my life?

Very highly recommended. This is wonderful.


Model: Kala KA-CT-SA-BG Contour
Scale: Baritone
Body: Solid Acacia
Bridge: Ebony, through bridge
Saddle: Bone
Spacing at saddle: 43mm
Finish: Gloss
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Ebony
Frets: 19, 14 to body
Nut: Bone
Nut width: 38mm, 30mm D to E
Tuners: Unbranded open gears
Strings: Aquila with wound D and G
Weight: 1.025kg
Country of origin: China
Price: £479 in dealers 


Wonderful modern look
Great wood grain
Excellent finish throughout
Good volume
Stellar sustain
Great range to the tone
Very competitive price


Nothing much that is bothering me.. at all...


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








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