Phil Doleman reviews the Kala KA-ASAC-TE/C

Every now and again we send Phil Doleman a Ukulele to get his perspective on what they might offer a player. Here is what he had to say about the SUS exclusive Kala KA-ASAC-TE/C.

Kala ukes have been one of the most popular brands for quite a while now, and it’s hardly surprising given the sheer range of ukes they produce (especially if you add in the budget Makala and the high-end Kala USA models). Pretty much every wood combination, size and price point is covered.

This particular model is interesting in that it is exclusive to Southern Ukulele Store.

The rather long name of this model indicates that it is all solid acacia wood, it’s a tenor with a pickup and a cutaway. It also has a slotted headstock, rather pretty binding (front and back) and herringbone purfling and rosette. Combine this with grain of the acacia and it’s a very nice looking instrument indeed.

As you look closer, the attention to detail really does impress; the swirly fingerboard inlays are very well executed, and the headstock not only has a koa faceplate, but under it are 3 layers of veneer (dark/light/dark) that give a really classy pinstripe look, and serve to make the sloping edges of the headstock slots quite striking.

The neck is made of 3 pieces of wood (the headstock and heel are joined on to the main part of the neck). I really don’t have a problem with multi-piece necks personally, as it saves wood, and it has been done so neatly that the headstock join almost slipped past me, even after careful examination! Regardless, the neck is comfortably shaped and well finished (as is the whole uke) in a satin finish. A standard tie bridge secures the strings, and they pass over an ebony saddle and nut. As we’ve come to expect from Kala, the build quality is excellent, inside and out.

Wood choices have been an issue recently, and not just in the uke world. Fingerboards and bridges on guitars as well are often made of rosewood, which due to CITES regulations is now much harder to import and export. Many makers are looking at alternatives to these, and whether it’s because of this or not, the Kala sports a walnut fingerboard and bridge. They are a little less ‘black’ than rosewood, and I think all the better for it in terms of looks, much less stark.

The Kala arrived perfectly setup for me, with spot on intonation, and it plays very nicely. The nut is a tiny bit narrower than I’m used to, but certainly not an issue, and there are no sharp frets ends to catch your fingers on (the edges of the fingerboard are bound in walnut and rounded off, very comfy!). Tuning is taken care of by Grover geared pegs which are smooth and The cutaway gives plenty of access to the top frets and is a very pleasing shape too.

On to the sound, and with this uke I’ll have to split that in two, as it has a pickup fitted. Acoustically, there’s a sweet tone, not particularly complex but pleasing and warm, and the string balance is good. However, it isn’t particularly loud; not quiet, certainly, and it does respond well to being played a bit harder, but combined with the warmer tone it made me want to dig in a little bit more than usual. Maybe because acacia is a relative of koa I was expecting something a little brighter and snappier.

On to the pickup; it’s an undersaddle piezo by Shadow, wired to a small volume/tone/battery unit on the side of the uke and then to the endpin jack socket (full marks for this! I cringe when I see jack sockets fitted to the thin sides of ukes rather than through the end block. It only takes someone to step on your cable and you can easily crack the side of the uke). Plugging in, the pickup works well. The string balance (often a problem with undersaddle pickups) is spot on, and the tone control gives a wide range of sounds without getting too extreme. As many of you may be aware, I’m not a big fan of undersaddle pickups, but there are situations where the volume level dictates that only a pickup will do, and this one puts out a solid, usable tone with no nasty crackles or thumps. If you’re into using effects or loopers, this is the ideal system.

Overall this is a well thought out, well executed and great looking uke that’d be ideal for a gigging player.

You can see and hear this uke at

All the best,
Phil
www.phildoleman.co.uk

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