Makala MK-S Review Summary

The MK-S is part of Kala’s budget brand, Makala, and is one of the company’s most affordable soprano sized ukuleles.

It’s a well-built uke that sounds good and is comfortable to play. For the money it’s an excellent starter uke and is far better than many cheap ukuleles that aren’t a whole lot less expensive.

That being said, I’d recommend beginner uke shopper also take a look at the Kala KA-15S (my review, Amazon link). It has a handful of upgrades over the MK-S that I feel are worth the extra few bucks.

Keep reading for the full review, or check the price and read customer reviews the MK-S on Amazon.

Full Review of the MK-S

For this review, I purchased a brand new Makala MK-S with my own money. The photos are of the actual uke reviewed.

Makala MK-S body front angled

About Makala

The Makala brand is simply Kala’s budget line of ukuleles. In my opinion, the build quality of Makala products is pretty close to Kala’s standard lineup.

Most of the differences are found in cosmetic features, materials, and hardware. By making a few economizing tweaks here and there, Kala can offer their Makala ukes at a price point that is more appealing to some buyers.

From working in a music store and selling hundreds of ukuleles, I can attest to the consistency of Kala’s ukuleles. However, any mass-produced instrument in this price range will vary a bit from item to item, so your experience with the MK-S might be slightly different.
Makala MK-S fingerboard and body closeup

Build Quality

The MK-S is very well built, especially considering the price. Overall craftsmanship is tight, clean, and sharp. No gaps or open joints.

While you shouldn’t expect an instrument in this price range to be flawless, I was impressed with the build quality and couldn’t find anything worth complaining about.

Playability

The MK-S I purchased played well right out of the box. The strings weren’t too high, and the notes rang out clearly all the way up the neck.

While I like my strings to be a bit lower, this is just my preference. If you have a repair shop in your area, they can most likely drop the action for a small fee.

I’ve found that the string height (action) of ukes in this price range can be somewhat inconsistent, so your mileage may vary.
Makala MK-S body back angled

Size

The MK-S is a soprano size uke, the smallest of the four primary ukulele body sizes. Many people love the traditional look and  “tinkly” tone of a soprano uke, while other players may prefer the extra bass, volume, and sustain offered by the larger concert and tenor sizes.

Some folks with larger hands or fat fingers may find the short fingerboard and close frets of a soprano a little tricky to navigate. This is something most players can adapt to with time, but a larger size could ultimately be the more comfortable option.

Players interested in a larger version of the MK-S should check out the MK-C (concert) or the MK-T (tenor). These ukes are identical to the MK-S except for their body size.

You can learn more about ukulele body sizes in my in-depth article on the topic.
Makala MK-S strings and soundhole closeup

Tone

In my experience, many of the ukes in the $25 to $50 price range have a thin, tinny sound without much warmth or resonance. Luckily, the MK-S doesn’t suffer from these issues.

My MK-S is lively and full with great projection. For the money, I think it’s a great-sounding instrument. However, when playing it side-by-side against my KA-15S, I think it comes up a bit short. The difference is subtle, but to my ears the KA-15S is a slightly louder and warmer.

I can’t point to a particular feature of the KA-15S that would account for this difference, but it could be the upgraded nut and saddle (covered below).

As mentioned above, a ukulele with a larger body size produces a warmer, louder, fuller tone.  The concert-sized MK-C or the tenor-sized MK-T are good starting points if you’re considering a bigger uke.
Makala MK-S headstock and tuners - front and back

Tuners

The tuners on the MK-S work fine, and as far as I can tell they’re identical to the tuners on the KA-15S except for the buttons.

While the tuners do their job, I’m not crazy about the loose plastic grommets around the shafts. They aren’t held on by anything and I think they look kind of cheesy. I like the fixed metal grommets on the KA-15S far better.

If your new uke won’t stay in tune, it’s almost never an issue with the tuners. Click here to read my article about keeping your uke in tune.

Nut & Saddle

Makala MK-S nut and frets

The MK-S’s nut and saddle are plastic–pretty standard for ukes in this price range.

I only mention this because Kala’s slightly more expensive models like the KA-S and KA-15S come with a Graph Tech “NuBone” nut and saddle. NuBone is a harder, denser material than plastic and will (in theory) transmit more of the strings’ vibration to the body of the uke.

As I mentioned in the Tone section above, I thought my KA-15S sounded a bit better than my MK-S. It’s hard to say for sure, but it could be because of the upgraded nut/saddle combination.

Makala MK-S gig bag slip cover

Case

The MK-S includes a lightweight slip cover. While it’s better than nothing, the cover is made of a thin, flimsy material and won’t protect your uke from much more than dust.

If you’re serious about protecting your uke, I’d recommend investing in a gig bag or hard case.

Makala MK-S bridge and saddle

Final Thoughts

The Makala MK-S (Amazon link) is a great uke for the money and is far better than the cheap $25 models that are seemingly everywhere these days. For the price, I don’t think many people would be disappointed with this ukulele.

Still, I’d suggest taking a look at the Kala KA-15S (my review, Amazon link) before making a final decision. The KA-15S is marginally more expensive than the MK-SS and offers a few nice upgrades such as the NuBone nut and saddle, metal tuner grommets, and laser-etched rosette.

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