Comparison and Test of 12 Ukuleles

I get often asked by newcomers which ukulele they should buy. Usually I was a bit helpless, because many of the ukuleles I own and know are not or no longer available on the market.

There has been quite some progress in the ukulele market — popularity of the uke still seems to be rising. So, there are now many new interesting instruments available which I’ve never seen or held in my hand.

Therefore, I decided to check out a bunch of recent ukuleles.

Please bear in mind that this test is NOT a market review! I just gathered up a bunch of ukuleles which looked to be reasonable, and some of them were generously borrowed by some merchants and manufacturers — that’s all. Of course there are a lot more beautiful and great ukuleles out there, and most certainly the “best newcomer ukulele” in existance is NOT covered by this test.

I hope you enjoy it anyway.

Here’s the summarizing sound comparison video:

Here come the 12 individual review videos:

Glyph Custom Sopran

Built to my specification by Dave Means. His web page is:

+ awesome in all regards
- no longer orderable (Dave Means doesn’t accept any more orders.)

This instrument is in this comparison just to show the difference to a hi-end instrument. It’s representative for luthier built instruments. Usually such instruments are customized to the needs of a player, and are built with great care and attention to detail. They are relatively expensive, and you will have to wait a long time until you can hold it in your hands. However you will be rewarded with a great instrument of highest quality which is customized to your needs.

Ohana SK-10S

Jan Westphal from Mauna Kea Ukulele borrowed it to me for this test. The web site of  Mauna Kea Ukulele is:

+ affordable
+ plays well
- somewhat plain, laminated top

Bottom line: Recommended for newcomers on a budget.

Brüko No. 6

One of the most popular models of Brüko. I have my Brüko No. 6 since a long time now, and Brüko has upgraded their ukuleles in some details since then. Though I think that the basic values are still the same. Workmanship and quality of the used woods is still excellent. Brüko ukuleles are by far the most durable quality ukuleles I know.

+ great workmanship
+ unique concept and sound
+ very sturdy
(-) simple construction

Bottom line: Simple, but good. Other ukuleles are coming and going, but a Brüko is built to last for a lifetime. Recommendable — also for newcomers.

Ukumele Akazie Sopran II

Guido from borrowed it to me for this test. His web site is:

+ amazing sound
+ amazing action
+ nice wood
- fret ends not smooth

Bottom line: An ukulele for the more experienced player, who is looking for a beautiful instrument with excellent sound. Personally I’d post process the frets, however there seem to be other players as well who wouldn’t consider this to be necessary.

Uluru I

Andreas David borrowed it to me for this test. His web site is:

+ great workmanship
+light and elegant
+ high-quality in all respects

Bottom line: Not cheap, but a beautiful ukulele. Also recommended for ambitious newcomers.

Baton Rouge V1 “Goth”

Baton Rouge borrowed it to me for this test. The web site of this company is:

+ affordable
+ good playability
+ good sound
- some minor flaws

Bottom line: The few minor flaws are not too bad, but should not be overlooked. The price-performance ratio is excellent though. If you want an instrument which is perfect in every respect, you should probably look for a more expensive model. However, if you just want an affordable, good sounding and well playable ukulele, and can overlook a few minor glitches, you should take a look.

Korala UKS-30-PU

I bought it in a music store some months ago.

+ cheap
+ good playability
- bad workmanship
- not the greatest sound

Bottom line: It really doesn’t look too pretty, and the sound is not the greatest as well. But playability is surprisingly good. If you’re just looking for a really cheap and humble uke, why not. However, you should pay attention to get a good one in the shop. Production spread is probably noticeable. By all means, I’ve seen better and poorer ones in the shop.

Makapili Sopran

It was built by Thomas Macomson. I own it since a few years now, and I’m really happy with it. It’s too bad that Thomas Macomson ceased building ukuleles.

+ masterful instrument
- no longer available

This ukulele is somewhat representative for high-quality luthier built low volume production instruments. You should always bear in mind that these are a great alternative to big brands. There are many luthiers around who offer instruments.

Paulele KBUS-C

I obtained it in an exchange some time ago.

+ unique concept
- not the best playability

Bottom line: Interesting instrument, but I wouldn’t recommend it for newcomers.

Mahimahi MS-7G

This is a loan ukulele of the 1. deutschen Ukulelenclub. I borrowed it for this test. The web page of the 1. deutschen Ukulelenclubs is:

+ decent instrument in many respects
+ cute dolphin inlay ;-)
- fret ends not smooth

Bottom line: A nice instrument. It can be recommended, but better is the enemy of good… ;) So: It’s nice, but not my first recommendation.

Baton Rouge UR 4-S

Baton Rouge borrowed it to me for this test. The web site of this company is:

+ great sound
+ good playability
- high gloss finish a bit thick

Bottom line: Great! A nice (if you like high gloss finish), great sounding, well playable ukulele for an affordable price. A clear recommendation, also for newcomers!

Kiwaya KS-0

I bought it because it had the reputation to be a great beginner’s instrument. I wanted to find out.

+ great playability
+ makes playing easier for beginners
+ good workmanship
- not cheap for a laminated wood ukulele

Bottom line: Clearly recommended for newcomers, who are looking for an instrument with great playability. The string spacing is a bit wider as usual, which is great news for players with big fingers.


There’s an overwhelming number of great ukuleles on the market. The situation has improved a lot in the last years — I still remember when in many music stores nobody knew about ukuleles. Nowadays it’s no problem to get ukuleles at all these places.

There’s no really bad ukulele in this test — I still remember the times when there were expensive, but absolutely unplayable pieces of junk in some music stores…

So which ukulele would I now recommend to a newcomer?

A good question, as it’s always dependent on the budget and personal preferences. Actually even a newcomer could choose any of the ukuleles in this test if it really attracts him. However always pay attention to get a good one — don’t forget about production spread.

So the bottom line is: I don’t elect a single “winner” for this comparison. The ukuleles are too different, and the for different players important aspects are too difficult to reconcile.

Recommendet ukuleles for newcomers

These recommendations should be regarded as equivalent. In order to emphasize this, they are arranged alphabetically.

  • Baton Rouge UR 4-S — good sound and playability, affordable
  • Brüko No. 6 — great workmanship, durable
  • Kiwaya KS-0 — for newcomers who appreciate wide string spacing
  • Ohana SK-10S — for newcomers on a budget
  • Uluru I — high-quality, elegant instrument