Category: Amazon Best Sellers

Kala KA-15S Review (2022 Edition)

Kala’s KA-15S soprano ukulele is one of the most popular budget ukuleles on the market. With over 2,000 5-star reviews on Amazon it’s a clear crowd favorite, but is it the right uke for you?

If you’re in a hurry, check out the review summary below.​ Otherwise, keep reading for my full review of the Kala KA-15S ukulele.

For this review, I purchased a brand new KA-15S online. My impressions are based on an “out of the box” uke with no tweaks or adjustments of any kind. All pictures are of the actual KA-15S I used for this review.

KA-15S Review Summary

Kala KA-15S Review - Full tilted

4,286 Reviews $65.00

​I wasn’t sure what to expect from the KA-15S, but after spending some time with it, I think this uke is a great overall value and a natural choice for any budget-conscious player.

The KA-15S is a well-made entry-level uke that looks good, sounds great, and is easy to play. It’s a good choice for beginners seeking a respectable starter uke, but it’s also a great option for seasoned players in search of an affordable second instrument.

The KA-15S is available in a handful of different styles, including the spruce-topped KA-15S-S and the Hawaiian-themed KA-15S-H1.

Update: KA-15C and KA-15T Concert and Tenor Ukes

Due to the popularity of the KA-15S, Kala has released a concert and tenor version of this model–the KA-15C and KA-15T.

These larger body sizes are going to be louder, fuller, and generally just “bigger” sounding than the soprano-sized KA-15s. Some people may also feel more comfortable playing the longer fingerboards on these larger sizes.

While I haven’t played these models, I don’t see why the build quality would be any different for these two larger sizes.

KA-15S Full Review

Kala KA-15S - Body front angle close-up

Build Quality

Kala has developed a reputation for building great ukuleles at affordable price points, and the KA-15S is no exception.

The KA-15S has a clean look and a tight, solid feel. The build quality is far better than the cheap ukes you’ll find in the $20 to $40 range. In fact, I think the craftsmanship is better than some of the more expensive offerings from other brands.

The KA-15S is a very well-built uke for the money, but it’s important to have realistic expectations for an instrument in this price range. If you buy one expecting flawless craftsmanship you might be disappointed.

It’s not unusual for less expensive ukuleles to have some rough edges, glue squeeze-out, finish imperfections, etc. These are simply the compromises manufacturers have to make to offer an instrument at a price this low.

While the craftsmanship on the KA-15S is surprisingly good for the price, it’s not 100% perfect. The important thing is that it plays well and sounds good, which it does!

Setup and Playability

A common issue with entry-level ukes is that the strings are too high off the neck. This is known as “high action” and is generally a bad thing for a couple reasons:

  • Instruments with high action are harder to play
  • High action can cause notes to bend out of tune, especially when playing near the nut

Based on my experiences with other inexpensive ukuleles, I honestly wasn’t expecting much from the KA-15S–but I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised with how well the uke played right out of the box.

Kala KA-15S Review - Setup and Playability

The action was low and even, making it a dream to play. I usually find myself making some minor adjustments to many ukes when I first get them, but the KA-15S didn’t need any tweaking.

Playability was good up and down the neck, and I didn’t experience any buzzing or high frets.


The KA-15S has a sweet, warm tone that really took me by surprise. Compared to other budget soprano ukes I’ve tried, the KA-15S has a lot more bass, volume, and resonance. In fact, I’ve played much more expensive ukes that didn’t sound this good.

There’s always going to be a limit to how much sound a tiny soprano uke like the KA-15S can produce, but this little uke is very impressive (especially considering the price point).

Many budget ukes have a tone that is thin, weak, and generally “dead.” This is often due to their heavy construction, thick finish, and cheap strings. I think the KA-15S avoids these pitfalls thanks to its light build, minimal finish, and high-quality Aquila strings.


Kala KA-15S Review Finish closeup

The KA-15S has a light matte finish that gives the uke a beautiful natural look. You can see and feel the texture of the wood, but it’s still smooth to the touch. While some might say the finish has a somewhat “raw” appearance, I think it looks great. In my opinion, it’s far better than the thick, plasticky finish found on many other budget ukes.

The light finish also allows the ukulele to resonate more freely, which helps tone. The thick finish on other beginner ukes can dampen the tone and make them sound dead and tinny.

A light sunburst finish on the body, neck, and headstock give the KA-15S some real character. I like how the shading is subtle and doesn’t cover the natural appearance of the wood.

Kala KA-15S rosette and soundhole

The laser engraved rosette is another nice touch. Normally, I’m not crazy about blasting an instrument with lasers, but the minimal rosette looks great and dresses up the uke without going over the top.

Kala KA-15S Mahogany Soprano Ukulele
4,286 Reviews
Kala KA-15S Mahogany Soprano Ukulele
  • Kala’s KA-15S came into the world in 2005 as the answer to a high-quality, affordable, entry-level ukulele and still remains the unrivaled ukulele in its class.
  • The KA-15S is well-suited for classroom use, practicing, and acoustic performance. It is the instrument of choice for schools - More people learn to play on a Kala than any other ukulele brand
  • A very traditional Mahogany Soprano Ukulele in a satin finish with a bright, warm, full-bodied tone.

Soprano Body Size

There are three primary ukuleles sizes: soprano, concert, and tenor. The KA-15S is a soprano-sized ukulele, which is the smallest of the three sizes at only 21″ in length.

Different ukulele sizes comparison diagram

Soprano ukes are compact and more affordable than the larger sizes, but their tone tends to be a bit more “tinkly” and treble-focused compared to bigger ukes.

This doesn’t mean that soprano ukes sound bad. As I mentioned earlier, the KA-15S has a great tone for a budget-priced soprano uke. However, soprano ukes generally have less bass, sustain, and volume than the larger sizes, so if you want a more robust tone you may want to consider a concert or tenor.

Soprano ukuleles can also be a little harder to play for folks with big hands or thick fingers. This is because the frets (metal bars on the neck) are closer together, so there’s less room to maneuver on the fretboard. That being said, many players with large hands adapt to the smaller fingerboard and can play them just as easily as the bigger sizes.

If you think you might need a larger size, check out the larger KA-15C (concert) or KA-15T (tenor) models.

Aquila Nylgut Strings

Kala KA-15S - Body front rotated

Like all Kala ukuleles, the KA-15S comes from the factory with Aquila Nylgut strings.

Many ukulele players agree that Aquila Nylgut strings are among the best-sounding ukulele strings you can get. They have a warm, sweet, harp-like tone and will improve the sound of nearly any instrument.


The KA-15S comes with basic open-gear tuners. They’re tight and accurate, which is all you really need from a tuning machine.

Kala KA-15S tuning machines

Many ukes in this price range have tuners with cheap plastic washers around the tuner posts that are ugly and tend to rattle around. The metal washers (more commonly known as grommets) on the KA-15S are another nice touch that you don’t usually see on a budget uke.

When reading customer reviews of the KA-15S, you may come across complaints that the uke won’t stay in tune. These comments drive me crazy because it has nothing to do with the tuners–it’s actually the strings!

Ukulele strings are, by design, very soft and stretchy. They have a long “settling in” period where the strings will need to be tuned over and over until they stabilize. You can learn more about this in my article on why a new ukulele won’t stay in tune.

NuBone Nut and Saddle

The KA-15S has a nut and saddle made from a material called NuBone. This is a synthetic material that is hard and dense, which is ideal for stringed instruments.

Kala KA-15S saddle

Many inexpensive ukuleles have plastic nuts and saddles. Plastic is cheap, but it’s relatively soft and doesn’t do a good job of transferring string vibration to the top of the instrument.

This is one area where Kala probably could have “cheaped out” without many people noticing. In my opinion, the fact that they chose quality over making an extra couple bucks says a lot.

GraphTech, the company that produces NuBone, also supplies nuts and saddles to top companies like Martin, Taylor, Gibson, Godin, and more.


Considering the price tag, the KA-15’s fret work is very good. The frets were finished nicely and didn’t stick out past the fretboard, which can be an issue with less expensive ukes. I also didn’t notice any high or low frets​, another common problem with entry-level instruments.

Kala KA-15S Frets

The frets on a KA-15S are brass. While brass is a poor material for guitar frets, the strings on a ukulele are so soft that it would probably take years before you’d notice any kind of fret wear.

Kala KA-15S vs. KA-S vs. Makala MK-S

Kala produces two other soprano ukes that are very similar to the KA-15S: the KA-S and the Makala MK-S.

I own all three models, and they’re all great beginner ukes. Still, I feel the KA-15S is the best overall value. Here’s why:

  • The KA-S costs about $20 more than the KA-15S and doesn’t add much beyond the white binding on the edges of the body.
  • The MK-S is about $5 less than the KA-15S, but I don’t think it’s worth saving that money due to the downgraded tuners and the cheap plastic nut and saddle.

Here are Amazon links if you want to learn more:

Final Thoughts

Kala KA-15S Headstock logo

Those shopping for a quality beginner uke at a reasonable price point will have a hard time finding a better ​choice than the KA-15S. The build quality, playability, and tone are better than many other ukes I’ve tried at this price point.

While I can recommend the KA-15S without hesitation, players in search of a bigger tone or slightly easier playability may want to consider the larger KA-15C (concert) or KA-15T (tenor) models.

More Resources

Lohanu Ukulele Review (2022 Edition)

In this review, I’ll be taking a look at Lohanu’s three top models: the LU-T tenor, LU-C concert, and LU-S soprano.

Lohanu makes some of the best-selling, best-rated ukuleles on Amazon, but do they live up to the hype?

A few quick notes:

  • This review is based on my impressions of the tenor-sized LU-T, but most of the information should apply to the smaller LU-C (concert) and LU-S (soprano) sizes
  • I purchased a new LU-T for this review on Amazon using my own funds. The ukulele in the pictures is the actual instrument I received
  • This review is part of a series on Amazon’s top-selling ukuleles

Lohanu Ukulele Review Summary

Lohanu ukulele review full body image

7,809 Reviews $79.97

My tenor-sized Lohanu LU-T is a nicely built ukulele that plays well and sounds great. After spending some time the uke, I feel it’s a very good value and for the most part deserves its place as one of the top-ranked ukes for sale on Amazon.

Based on my hands-on impressions and the reviews of other customers, I think most players would be satisfied with a Lohanu. The good quality and low price point make it ideal for beginners who want a nice starter uke or seasoned players in search of a good backup or travel instrument.

What I Like

  • Fit and finish are great
  • Playability is good right out of the box
  • Sounds nice
  • Lifetime warranty and responsive, Canada-based customer service

Potential Drawbacks

  • Gig bag is just OK
  • Included plastic picks are pointless

Build Quality

The LU-T’s construction is tight and clean. Fit, finish, and attention to detail are shockingly good considering the price of the uke. The uke’s light satin finish is evenly applied, and looks/feels great. I couldn’t find any glaring issues.

Lohanu ukulele rosette closeup

The quality of my Lohanu is much, much better than many of the super-cheap ukes I’ve tried over the years. It’s incredible what a difference an extra $50 can make!

My only minor gripe is that a couple of my tuning machines had “tight” spots where I could feel a bit of resistance as I tuned up the uke. Not a dealbreaker by any means, but still worth mentioning.

Lohanu ukulele back - angled

Some touches and features that jumped out at me:

  • Braceless arched back provides structural support while improving tone
  • The top, back, and neck are all bound, meaning they have a decorative white strip of material (probably plastic) running along the edges. This little feature gives the uke a bit more of a refined look and is something you don’t always see on ukes in this price range
  • Nut and saddle appear to be made out of TUSQ, a composite material that simulates bone. TUSQ is harder and denser than the cheap plastic pieces used on many budget ukes, and it transfers more of the string’s vibrational energy into the body of the uke for a better tone.
  • I liked the laser-engraved headstock logo and simple rosette. I also thought it was neat how the “label” inside the soundhole is actually a laser-engraved piece of wood.
  • Strap buttons come pre-installed. Many players don’t use a strap so this isn’t a huge deal, but if you ever decide to use a strap it’s nice to have strap buttons already in place.

Lohanu ukulele heel - closeup

Some Amazon reviewers have complained about minor construction issues or imperfections. While I understand their frustration, it’s not unusual for mass-produced ukuleles in the price range to have the occasional flaw or blemish.

Lohanu has a great customer service track record, so if you receive a ukulele with an issue just contact them and see what they can do. In the age of Amazon, smart companies will do everything they can to avoid those negative reviews!


I really like the sound of my Lohanu. It’s warm, sweet, and harp-like. I attribute this to its light, tight construction and minimal finish.

Lohanu ukulele bridge

While it doesn’t have the rich, resonant voice of a $1,000+ solid koa ukulele, it’s not reasonable to expect that from a beginner ukulele. Considering the price, I have no complaints about how the LU-T sounds.

I’d guess that the smaller LU-C and LU-S models will have similar tonal qualities, but with a bit less bass and volume than the LU-T. Players looking for a ukulele with a brighter, more delicate tone may want to consider one of these smaller sizes.

If you want to learn more about uke sizes, I’ve written a whole article on the subject.


My Lohanu was comfortable to play right out of the box. The action (string height) was at a nice middle-of-the-road height, so it was easy to play without any fret buzz.

Frets were smooth and even. Notes rang out cleanly up and down the neck.

Lohanu headstock - front and back

At some point I’ll probably lower the action slightly at the nut by deepening the slots a bit, but that’s just a personal preference.

Gig Bag

Lohanu ukulele gig bag - full

All Lohanu ukuleles include a padded gig bag with a pocket and a single shoulder strap.

The bag is well made but has minimal padding. It’s certainly better than the wimpy fabric covers included with many cheaper ukes, but if you expect to do any major traveling you might want to invest in a heavy-duty bag or hard case).

Lohanu ukulele gig bag - closeup

Accessories & Extras

Lohanu’s ukuleles all come with a handful of accessories, including a strap, extra strings, a tuner, and some picks.

  • The strap is simple but well made. As I said before, many uke players don’t use a strap, but it’s still nice to have the option.
  • The extra set of Aquila Nylgut strings is a nice add-on because at some point you’ll need to change strings. I also think Aquilas are some of the best strings you can get. My one complaint is that the strings aren’t marked with tags or color coding, which might make things a little harder when it comes time to install them.
  • The digital clip-on tuner is easy to use and works well. A battery is included.
  • The plastic picks are a little silly since almost nobody uses this kind of pick on a ukulele. A felt pick would have made more sense, but most people just use their fingers (which is what I suggest doing).

Customer Service & Lifetime Warranty

As I mentioned earlier, Lohanu has an excellent record when it comes to customer service. The Canadian-based company seems legitimately committed to making every customer happy, especially in situations where a ukulele is shipped with problems or defects.

All Lohanu ukuleles have a lifetime warranty against issues related to craftsmanship and materials. There isn’t a whole lot that can go wrong with a basic uke in this price range, but it’s nice to know you’re protected if something were to happen down the road.

Lohanu Ukulele Customer Reviews and Pricing

Donner Ukulele Review (2022 Edition)

In this review, I’ll be looking at Donner’s top-selling ukuleles: the DUS-1 sopranoDUC-1 concert, and DUT-1 tenor.

These models are among the most affordable and highest-rated ukuleles for sale on Amazon. I was anxious to try one myself and see if I agreed with everybody else!

A Few Quick Notes

  • This article is based on my impressions of concert-sized DUC-1, but most of the information will apply to the DUT-1 tenor and DUS-1 soprano.
  • For this review, I purchased a new DUC-1 concert model using my own funds. The ukulele in the photos is the actual uke I purchased directly from Amazon
  • This post is part of a series on Amazon’s top-selling ukuleles


8,713 Reviews $55.99

The Donner DU-1 series are surprisingly good ukuleles for the price. I honestly wasn’t expecting this level of craftsmanship, playability, and tone from a mass-produced budget uke.

Based on my experience with the DUC-1, I think this brand’s glowing customer reviews are accurate and reflect the high quality of the instrument. This is definitely a brand to put on your short list when shopping for a good beginner ukulele.

Current prices and Amazon customer reviews are shown below. If you purchase through one of these links I earn a small commission.

What I Liked

  • Simple, no-frills design
  • Tight construction with excellent fit and finish
  • Decent accessories
  • Loud, full tone

Possible Drawbacks

  • The fluorocarbon strings that came on the uke sound good, but I prefer Aquila Nylgut strings. This is just a personal preference–your mileage may vary!
  • The see-through tuning machines work well but the tiny “window” on one of my tuners fell out after lugging the uke around for a couple days. Not a problem functionally (many ukes have open-geared tuners) but still noticeable

Build Quality

Donner ukulele front and rosette close-up

Donner ukulele back and heel close-up

The construction on my DUC-1 is tight and clean. Attention to detail is excellent. For the price, I’m genuinely impressed with the fit and finish on this uke.

The instrument is also very light, and in the world of acoustic instruments that’s a good thing. Lower quality ukes are often heavily built, and this often results in a thin, lifeless tone. A lighter build allows the ukulele to resonate more freely, which leads to a bigger, warmer tone.

Some highlights:

  • I’m a fan of Donner’s minimal, no-frills design, including the unbound body and fingerboard (no white strips on the edges)
  • The wooden rosette features a design similar to the “rope” pattern found on many traditional Hawaiian ukuleles. I thought this was a nice touch.
  • The uke has strap buttons already installed. A lot of people don’t use a strap so it’s not a huge deal, but it’s nice to have the option if you ever want to try using a strap
  • The top is X-braced, which is typically only found on higher-end ukes from Martin, Kamaka, etc. I’m not sure how much it helps improve the tone, but it was a neat little touch and I thought it was worth mentioning
  • The nut looks like TUSQ (a synthetic material) and I think the saddle is bone. These materials are harder and denser than the soft plastic pieces used on many budget ukes, and they improve tone by transferring more of the string’s vibrational energy into the body of the uke


I really like the way my Donner uke sounds. It has a loud, full tone with a nice low end. Great projection for a concert. Sounds good strummed and when playing fingerstyle.

It loses a little warmth as you move up the neck, but that’s normal for a uke made from laminated wood.

As you may know, the size of a uke also impacts the tone. The soprano-sized DUS-1 will be a little more bright and treble-focused, while the tenor-size DUT-1 will have more bass and volume.

I think this uke would sound even better in low-G tuning, so that’s my plan for this one after I finish the review.


Very comfortable to play right out of the box. Action (string height) is nice and low. On budget ukes I often find I need to adjust the action, but I don’t think I’ll need to tweak my DUC-1.

Notes ring out clearly up and down the neck. No high frets or buzzing.

Gig Bag

The gig bag isn’t very heavy duty, but it’s more than I’d expect from uke at this price point.

It seems well made and has enough padding to protect the uke during light use. The shoulder straps and large pocket are nice touches.

It’s a perfect bag for day-to-day stuff, but I’d recommend a hard case or heavier bag for major travel.

Donner ukulele review - included gig bag

Donner ukulele gig bag close-up

Accessories & Extras

All Donner ukuleles include a few accessories. They’re not top-tier products, but they work and are nice extras considering the price.

  • The strap is lightweight but reasonably good quality. It attaches securely to the strap buttons.
  • An extra set of strings are always good to have
  • The clip-on tuner works well and is easy to operate. I only need the chromatic mode not all the other options (banjo, violin, bass) but that’s a minor complaint.
  • The plastic guitar picks are a little silly since almost nobody uses this kind of pick on a uke. A felt pick would have made more sense, but most people just use their fingers (which is what I suggest doing).
My Donner uke came in a nice, heavy-duty cardboard box and the accessories were individually packed in little Donner-branded boxes. The overall presentation was nicely done and I think might make Donner’s ukes a bit more “giftable” than some other brands.

Customer Service & Warranty

Donner offers a 30-day return policy. I couldn’t find anything about a warranty online or in the packaging.

It doesn’t look like many people had issues, but I’m not sure what would happen if you have a problem beyond 30 days.

So far, the best warranty I’ve come across on a beginner ukes is the Lohanu brand, which has an unconditional lifetime warranty.

Donner Ukulele Customer Reviews and Pricing

Hricane Ukulele Review (2022 Edition)

In this Hricane ukulele review, I’ll be covering three of the company’s top models: the UKS-3 tenor, UKS-2 concert, and UKS-1 soprano.

Hricane’s ukes are some of the top-selling, best-rated ukuleles on Amazon. Do they live up to the hype? Read my full Hricane ukulele review to find out what I think.

A Few Quick Notes

  • This review is based on my impressions of Hricane’s tenor-sized UKS-3. The smaller UKS-2 (concert) and UKS-1 (soprano) are identical except for the body size, so most of my remarks should apply to these models as well
  • For this review, I purchased a brand new UKS-3 from Amazon using my own funds. The uke in the pictures is the actual instrument I received
  • This review is part of a series on Amazon’s top-selling ukuleles


Hricane ukulele - full body front

772 Reviews $67.99

I think the Hricane UKS-3 is a well-built ukulele and a good value for the money.

The UKS-3 is a priced a little lower than other ukes in its class. However, its tone, playability, and build quality were on par with most of the other good starter ukes I’ve reviewed.

The included gig bag was one of the best I’ve seen in a budget ukulele package. However, the UKS-3 doesn’t include a clip-on tuner, which is really useful for beginning players. Luckily, you can get a great uke tuner for less than $10.

I think the UKS-3, UKS-2, and UKS-1 are all good candidates for people seeking a good entry-level ukulele

Oddly, the label on my UKS-3 reads UK-26, which I’m assuming is because it’s a 26-inch tenor ukulele. Similarly, the Hricane concert and soprano ukes are labeled UK-23 and UK-21.

Other Hricane Ukulele Models

Hricane offers a handful of other interesting ukuleles, such as a koa concert with faux-pearl inlay or a solid-spruce top model.

I haven’t played these models, but I thought they were worth highlighting.

Build Quality & Materials

Hricane ukulele - fretboard and neck joint closeup

The Hricane UKS-3 I received is very nicely built. Lines are sharp and clean, and all joints are tight and solid. Nice fit and finish, especially at this price. Overall I’m impressed with the build quality and can’t find anything worth complaining about.

This uke is also nice and light, and that’s a good thing. A light instrument provides less resistance to vibration when the strings are plucked, and more vibration results in a bigger, richer tone.


The UKS-3 has a laminated Sapele top, back, and sides. Sapele is similar to mahogany, but since this is a laminated ukulele, the “tonewood” used doesn’t affect the tone (in my opinion).

The fingerboard and bridge are walnut, which is a nice-looking hardwood that I’m starting to see on more high-end instruments.

Hricane ukulele - bridge and saddle closeup

Nut & Saddle

I was surprised to discover that the UKS-3 has a bone nut and saddle. Bone is a material you usually only find on more expensive instruments. Some people feel that bone is the best material for these parts due to its hardness and density.

Many good-quality ukes in this price range use Tusq, which is a synthetic bone-like material. I can’t tell the difference between real bone and Tusq. They both sound fine to me, and either material is much better than the soft plastic nuts and saddles found on very cheap ukes.


The body has black-and-white plastic binding on the top and back. Many ukes in this price range don’t have any binding at all, so it was a nice feature to have.

The quality of binding work on budget ukes can be rough, but the Hricane’s binding was crisp, even, and smooth.

In addition to protecting the edges of the body from nicks and dings, binding helps the uke “pop” a little more by visually defining the edges.

Finish & Decoration

The UKS series of Hricane ukuleles have a light satin finish. I think it looks great and feels nice during play. I prefer this style of finish to the thick, plasticky finishes on some other entry-level ukes, which I feel look cheap and deaden the tone.

A laser-engraved rosette and headstock logo are the only real decorations on this uke. The laser work is nice and sharp, and it adds a little flair to the ukulele without bumping up the cost. However, I kind of wish Hricane used a simpler rosette pattern–but that’s just a personal opinion!

Hricane ukulele - rosette and soundhole closeup


I really like the tone of my UKS-3. It’s warm, sweet, and had good sustain. Overall I’m really happy with the way it sounds.

Since I was playing on a tenor size, I got plenty of volume. The smaller concert and soprano body sizes won’t project as much.

Hricane ukulele - heel and neck joint closeup

The uke has a nice low end, but it gets a little thin on really high notes. Of course, this is pretty standard for a laminated ukulele. Nearly all of the laminated ukes I’ve played are a bit weak in the higher registers, so I can’t hold it against the UKS-3.

For the money, I think this is a great-sounding ukulele. Of course, it’s not going to sound as rich and full as a high-end solid wood ukulele from builders like Kamaka or Martin. But, at this price point, I think it’s very good.


My Hricane uke plays well and had reasonably low action (string height) right out of the box. The neck was straight and I didn’t detect any buzzes or rattles as I played up and down the neck.

I might have preferred slightly lower action from the factory. Still, I don’t think most players would have any major issues with the string height.

Variation in Entry-Level Instruments

As I’ve mentioned in other reviews of beginner ukuleles, instruments in the entry-level price range usually have some variation in string height. If you order a UKS-3, it’s possible your uke’s action will be slightly higher or lower than the one I got.

A bit of variance is normal for instruments in this price range. However, if you receive a uke that seems unusually high or low, you should definitely contact the seller with your concerns.

The Importance of Action

In the world of acoustic instruments, “action” simply refers to how high the strings are in relation to the fingerboard.

Ukuleles with very high action are harder to play but less likely to have string buzz. Ukuleles with very low action are easier to play but more prone to buzzing.

Building an affordable instrument with comfortable action that doesn’t buzz is actually quite difficult. It requires tight manufacturing tolerances and is complicated by the fact that wood doesn’t behave like metal or plastic.


The UKS-3 has closed gear tuners with a subtle gold finish. The plastic buttons had a nice satiny look with what felt like a rubberized coating.

I’m a fan of the tuners on this ukulele. They were very responsive with a smooth, tight feel that made tuning a breeze. The buttons were easy to grip and comfortable to use.

Hricane ukulele - headstock front and back

Tuners are often a weak point on budget-priced ukuleles. Many manufacturers cheap out on the tuners, resulting in tuning machines that feel loose and sloppy, with a bit of “play” before the gears start to engage. These tuners are often poorly machined and have a rough, gritty feel that makes them unpleasant to use.

Fortunately, the Hricane UKS-3 doesn’t have any of these issues. I think these are some of the better tuners I’ve seen on a budget-priced ukulele.

Gig Bag

I was impressed with the gig bag that came with the UKS-3’s is impressive. It’s well made and seems very tough. I think it’s the best bag of all the beginner uke packages I’ve reviewed so far.

Hricane ukulele - gig bag

The bag’s outer fabric is a heavy woven Cordura-type fabric. It’s similar to what you might find on a nice backpack.

The padding is thick and dense. It’s very heavy duty and will easily protect the uke from most minor impacts.

Hricane ukulele - gig bag closeup

Other things I liked:

  • Zippers big and smooth
  • Good-sized pocked
  • Heavily-stitched handle with good reinforcement

Accessories & Extras

The Hricane UKS-3 I purchased included an extra set of strings and a cleaning cloth. Some users mentioned that they received a capo as well, but mine didn’t have one. Not a big deal for me, since I rarely use a capo.

Unlike many other beginner ukulele packages, it doesn’t include a tuner, picks, or strap. A tuner is nice to have, so I’d recommend purchasing a good clip-on tuner to go along with this uke (or use a free/cheap app on your phone).

I didn’t care about the picks or strap since I don’t use either.

Some might be put off by the UKS-3’s lack of extras, but to be fair this uke is cheaper than many other similar uke packages I’ve reviewed.

Warranty & Customer Service

Hricane offers a 30-day money-back guarantee and a 12-month warranty against defects in materials and craftsmanship.

This isn’t as good as Lohanu’s unconditional lifetime guarantee, but it’s better than some manufacturers who only offer a 30-day warranty.

Customers who needed help seemed happy with Hricane’s customer service. In the few instances I could find where reviewers had to interact with customer service, they reported that Hricane was responsive and quickly resolved the issue.

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Luna Tattoo Ukulele Review (2022 Edition)

In this review, I’ll be taking a look at the Luna Tattoo ukulele. This uke features a unique Hawaiian “tattoo” on the front. It’s an eye-catching design, but is this ukulele any good? Keep reading to find out.

A Few Quick Notes

  • For this review, I purchased a brand new ukulele from Amazon using my own funds. The uke in the pictures is the actual instrument I received
  • My impressions are based on a Luna Tattoo Concert Mahogany. Luna also makes a tenor Tattoo ukulele that is identical except for the body size, so most of my remarks should apply to that model as well
  • This review is part of a series on Amazon’s top-selling ukuleles


Luna Tattoo ukulele - full body vertical

1,488 Reviews $99.00

The Luna Tattoo is a good ukulele. It’s well built and plays reasonably well, and I was especially impressed with the tone.

I wasn’t a fan of the tuners, and the included gig bag wasn’t very good. Otherwise, I felt this uke was a good quality instrument considering the price.

This Luna Tattoo isn’t a bad choice for beginners, but there are certainly better choices when it comes to overall value. Many beginner uke packages for sale online these days come with more and cost less.

Bottom Line: If you love the laser-engraved tattoo design and don’t mind paying a bit more, there’s no reason not to get this ukulele. If you want to get a little more bang for your buck, check out my breakdown of the best beginner ukuleles

Other Luna Tattoo Models

In addition to the concert model featured in this review, Luna makes a few other versions of this uke, including a tenor size version and an acoustic-electric ukulele with a cutaway.

I haven’t played these models, but I would assume the quality and tone are similar to the one I reviewed.

Build Quality & Materials

Luna Tattoo ukulele soundhole and rosette closeup

The Luna ukulele I purchased for this review is nicely crafted, with no obvious flaws or defects. The joints and seams were all tight, and the craftsmanship was clean and crisp. Given the price, I couldn’t find anything to complain about.

It’s nice and light, which is a quality I look for in any ukulele. In the world of acoustic instruments,  light is good because it means there’s less resistance to vibration when you pluck the strings. The result is a more resonant, lively instrument with a better tone.


The top, back, and sides of this Luna concert ukulele are laminated mahogany. As I’ve mentioned in other ukulele reviews, I don’t think laminated wood has an impact on the tone in the way that solid wood does. In my opinion, laminated mahogany sounds very similar to laminated Sapele, laminated koa, and so on.

The fingerboard and bridge are walnut, which is a durable hardwood that I’ve now seen on several high-end instruments.

Luna Tattoo ukulele heel and back closeup

Nut & Saddle

On Luna’s webpage for the Tattoo ukulele, they state the nut and saddle are graphite. It looks and feels just like TUSQ, which is a manmade material designed to simulate the properties of bone.

I can’t tell for sure what the nut and saddle are made from, but it feels very hard and tough. It’s much better than the plastic parts often found on very cheap ukuleles.


No issues here. The frets on my Luna concert uke were smooth, level, and even. I didn’t have any fret ends sticking out, which can sometimes be a problem with budget ukes.

Luna Tattoo Design

Luna Tattoo ukulele tattoo engraving

This ukulele’s most unique design feature is the large tattoo pattern on the front.

The laser-engraved pattern is based on traditional Hawaiian and Polynesian tattoo styles. Apparently, it’s inspired by a Hawaiian turtle design, although to be honest I don’t really see it.

Still, I think it’s a cool design that is tastefully done. The pattern is subtle and doesn’t overpower the rest of the uke, which is fairly light on decorations.

The laser engraving is very crisp and looks surprisingly natural. When looking closely, you can see that the engraving process exposes the grain of the mahogany top, which I thought was kind of neat.

I did notice some random light flecks inside the laser-engraved areas. It wasn’t too obvious and didn’t bother me, but I still wanted to point it out.


Tonally, my Luna Tattoo is very open, airy, and sweet. It has great volume and lots of sustain. Overall I’m really happy with the way this ukulele sounds, especially considering the price tag.

It has a nice, rich low end, but the trebles are also very strong. The treble register is often the weak point of a budget ukulele’s tone due to the laminated wood construction.

Thankfully, this uke doesn’t suffer as much from that issue. I think this is partly due to its slightly oversized concert body. I checked it against a Lohanu LU-C concert ukulele I own, and the Luna was slightly bigger all around.

I actually thought the Luna Tattoo I ordered was a tenor when I unpacked it, but it’s clearly designated as a concert size uke on Luna’s website.


My Luna Tattoo came with decent action (string height) from the factory and was easy to play without adjusting anything.

The neck was perfectly straight, and the frets were even and level. I didn’t detect any high or low spots that would cause buzzing and rattling.

About Action & Beginner Ukuleles

As is often the case with beginner ukuleles, I would have preferred for the action (string height) to be a little lower from the factory.

However, it’s important to have realistic expectations of an entry-level instrument like this Luna concert uke.

Some Variation Is Normal

As I’ve mentioned in other reviews, entry-level ukuleles usually have some variation in string height. If you order a Luna uke, it’s possible your action will be slightly higher or lower than mine.

A bit of variance is normal for instruments in this price range. However, if you receive a uke that feels unusually high or low, you should contact the seller with your concerns.


The tuners were good, but not great. The tuning action was a little gritty, and a couple of the tuners had small tight spots.

Many of the other entry ukuleles I’ve played and reviewed had far better tuners than the ones that came on my Luna.

Still, they got the job done, and I don’t anticipate them having any major issues. One nice thing was that they didn’t have too much slack before the gears engage, which is something that drives me nuts.

Gig Bag

The included gig bag is just OK. It’s pretty thin and has minimal no padding.

Compared to the awesome bag that came with the Hricane UKS-3 I just reviewed, the Luna’s bag seems cheap and flimsy.

It’ll guard the uke against light scratches and dings, but if you want more serious protection, I’d consider investing in something more substantial.

Luna Tattoo ukulele gig bag - closeup

Accessories & Extras

This Luna concert ukulele doesn’t include any extras or accessories, which is a little disappointing. There are lots of great beginner ukes that cost less than the Luna but include a tuner, strap, and extra strings.

There are sellers on Amazon who package this model with a tuner and heavy-duty case, but these items aren’t standard from Luna.

Warranty & Customer Service

Luna offers a lifetime warranty on all of their instruments, which is a good thing on its face.

However, the warranty claim process looks it’s a bit of a hassle. From what I understand, you have to find an authorized Luna dealer then pay the shipping to and from Luna. This process will likely cost as more than what you paid for the uke in the first place, so it kind of defeats the point.

If you buy through Amazon, you’ll have the usual 30 days. After that I’m not sure what the support is like.

The truth is that mass-produced, entry-level instruments can have issues or can develop issues over time. The only way to guard against this is with a customer-focused warranty that doesn’t cost you anything if something goes wrong.

I still think it’s tough to beat Lohanu’s rock-solid warranty and insanely good customer service. To learn more, check out my full Lohanu ukulele review.

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Kmise Ukulele Review (2022 Edition)

In this review, I’ll be taking a look at the Kmise concert ukulele kit. This model is one of the top-selling beginner ukuleles on Amazon, but is it any good?

793 Reviews $57.99

A Few Quick Notes

  • This article is based on my impressions of the concert-sized Kmise ukulele package, but most of the information will apply to the soprano and tenor models as well.
  • For this review, I purchased a new Kmise concert ukulele using my own funds. The ukulele in the photos is the actual uke I purchased directly from Amazon
  • This post is part of a series on Amazon’s top-selling ukuleles

Kmise Ukulele Review Summary

Kmise Ukulele - Body Front

793 Reviews $57.99

After spending some time with my Kmise ukulele, I can safely say it’s one of the best beginner ukuleles on the market.

This ukulele is surprisingly well-made, and it has a great tone to match. There aren’t many ukes available at this price point that offer so much bang for the buck.

What I Liked

  • Traditional design with minimal bells and whistles
  • Excellent build quality with very good fit and finish
  • Accessories and gig bag are better than I expected for the price
  • Warm, rich tone with great volume and projection

Possible Drawbacks

  • The “windowed” tuners work well, but I’m not crazy about how they look

Build Quality

Kmise Ukulele - Soundhole and Rosette

The Kmise ukulele is beautifully built, especially considering the low price point. The craftsmanship was tight and clean, and I wasn’t able to find any construction issues or flaws.

It’s also a very lightweight ukulele, which is a good thing. In the world of acoustic instruments, a light build is almost always a good thing. Lower quality ukes are often heavily built, and this can result in a thin, dead tone. A light, open build allows the instrument to vibrate and resonate more freely, which produces a bigger, warmer sound.

Frankly, I’m amazed that Kmise can offer this level of build quality on such an affordable ukulele. I’ve seen ukes that cost two or three times as much that weren’t as nicely made.


The top, back, and sides are laminated mahogany, which is common on beginner ukes.

Kmise has opted to maintain the natural color of the mahogany rather than applying a dark red or brown stain like many other manufacturers. I actually prefer this since it highlights the natural character of the wood.

Traditional Design

One of my favorite things about this Kmise ukulele is the traditional look.

Features like a simple rectangular bridge, subtle rope rosette, and pointed fingerboard overhang remind me of vintage ukes I’ve seen and played over the years.

As much as I can appreciate the beauty of fancy ukuleles with lots of ornamentation, I’m more a fan of simple, understated designs.


Kmise Ukulele - Body Back

My Kmise concert has a sweet, mellow tone with excellent projection and sustain. It’s very light and airy with a nice harp-like quality.

It’s one the better-sounding budget ukes I’ve ever heard, and frankly, it beats some all-solid ukes I’ve played that were in the $300+ range. I can’t imagine anybody being disappointed with the tone of this uke.

Keep in mind that I have the concert-sized Kmise uke. The tenor will likely sound a little warmer and fuller, while the soprano will probably be a bit quieter and more treble-focused.

Kmise Ukulele - Heel Back


Kmise Ukulele - Neck and Fingerboard

The action (string height) on my Kmise ukulele was very good right out of the box. The C and E strings were just a hair higher than I’d normally like to see, but overall I have no complaints.

Notes sounded clean and clear as I played up the neck. I couldn’t find any buzzing or rattling on any of the frets.

Nut & Saddle

Kmise Ukulele - Bridge

I was surprised to learn that Kmise uses ox bone for the nut and saddle on this ukulele.

Many acoustic instrument players feel that bone is the best material to use for an instrument’s nut/saddle due to its hardness and density. However, bone is a somewhat difficult material to work with, so you don’t usually see it on instruments in this price range.

Compensated Saddle

Another nice touch is the compensation on the saddle. If you look closely at the top edge of the saddle, you’ll see that parts of it are shifted forward or backward. This can help with intonation, which is how well a stringed instrument stays in tune as you move up the neck.

Intonation isn’t really something beginners need to worry about, but it’s nice to see this kind of care being given to the small details.


Kmise Ukulele Review - Headstock and Tuners

The tuning machines worked well. They were smooth and even, allowing for fast, precise tuning.

Many ukes in this price range have poor-quality tuners that have a lot of play or feel rough and gritty. It was nice to see that Kmise didn’t cheap out here.

I will admit that I’m not crazy about the see-through “windows” on the backs of the tuners. This is purely a personal preference–I just happen to like the more traditional open-gear style tuners.

Gig Bag

Kmise Ukulele - Gig Bag

The gig bag included with my Kmise concert ukulele was decent. It’s not super heavy-duty, but it’ll protect the uke from scratches and dings.

Considering the Kmise’s bargain price, the gig bag is as good as anyone could reasonably expect. Many ukes in this price range don’t come with any sort of bag at all.

Accessories & Extras

The Kmise ukulele pack includes a strap, clip-on tuner, and an extra set of D’Addario strings.

The tuner works well enough. It’s fine for getting started, but at some point, you may want to consider getting a better clip-on tuner that’s faster and more accurate.

Getting Started Book and Chord Chart

One nice surprise was the excellent “getting started” booklet and chord chart.

I’ve purchased a lot of beginner uke packs for my collection of ukulele reviews, and the instructional materials are usually poorly done and lacking in quality content.

Fortunately, this isn’t the case with the Kmise. The quick start guide is a high-quality, 24-page booklet that covers just about everything beginners need to know to get started. It covers ukulele sizes, how to hold your uke, strumming, fingerpicking, and more. It’s really impressive.

The chord chart is also the best I’ve ever seen with a budget uke. It’s clear, easy-to-read, and has a good selection of basic chords every uke player should eventually learn.

793 Reviews $57.99

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