Baritone ukes are often overshadowed by the more popular, soprano models however, they actually make fantastic instruments to both learn on, and to enjoy as an experienced player. Often, baritone ukuleles are more comfortable to play and pleasing to the ear, compared to other varieties out there.
But with so many versions on the market, how should you know what to look for? Don’t worry, we’re going to help you explore these aspects in a little more depth.
At a Glance: The Best Baritone Ukuleles on the Market
- Caramel CB103
- Kala KA-BG
- Kmise KMU30B
- Kala Mandy Harvey Starter Kit
- Luna Acoustic/Electric
- Oscar Schmidt OU52TAT-A
- Lanikai MAC
- Cordoba 24B
Note: Clicking the above links will take you to further information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Buying Guide – Key Purchasing Considerations
- Product Round-up & Reviews
- So, Which Should I Buy?
You’re probably wondering what all the hype when it comes to baritone ukuleles, so, below we’ve listed some of their most common advantages.
In contrast to soprano ukes, that produce a relatively bright, high pitch tone, baritones provide a rich, bassy sound, which is why they often form an integral part of musical ensembles. Sopranos are often the go-to choice for solo musicians, however, there’s nothing stopping you using a baritone instead. In fact, high-end and even mid-range models can produce a fuller tone, with plenty of warmth, and they often sound smoother than soprano ukes too. So, whether you’re thinking of playing as part of a group or solo, baritones will be a great addition to your musical inventory when it comes to tone.
Whilst soprano ukuleles are often the popular choice among small children, baritone ukes are a better choice for larger builds because of their size. What we mean is, folks with large handspans often find the neck and fret size of sopranos far too small to play comfortably, so opt for baritones for their playability and comfort. Because the neck and nut width is larger, the frets on a baritone are much wider, making them easier for adults to play.
If you can play the guitar, you’ll find it easy to tune a baritone ukulele. Why? Well, firstly, it’s because these things are tuned to DGBE, which is the same as a guitar’s four highest strings. Basically, this means you’re playing the guitar without the two low E and A strings. This is not only easier to get your head around, but it also means you can use the same guitar chords and scales on your instrument, rather than learning a whole set of new uke chords, saving a lot of time learning extra music theory. As well as all this, the baritone uke’s larger size, in comparison to soprano models, means it’s slightly less fiddly to restring and tune too.
Buying Guide – Key Purchasing Considerations
More often than not, ukuleles are acoustic, so the quality of material in their build is really important. Solid wood or laminated wood is often the go-to choice for the bulk of the instrument’s neck, body and fingerboard, so take a look below to find out what to look out for.
A vast array of tonewoods can be used to craft a ukulele. Some of the most common include koa, mahogany, spruce, rosewood and maple, to mention just a few. Seeing as the ukulele originated in Hawaii, plenty of early models are made from the country’s native Koa wood. This tonewood is warm, vibrant and produces plenty of sustain, so is the go-to choice for high-grade ukuleles. Mahogany is probably the most common type of wood used in mid-range ukuleles. This is a popular choice thanks to it’s strong but lightweight structure. Tone-wise, mahogany is slightly less bright than Koa, but still focused, punchy and widely available, so is a great option from a manufacturer’s perspective.
Another common choice when it comes to body wood is spruce, which produces a very loud, crisp tone. Spruce is readily available to manufacturers worldwide, so is often used in entry-level ukes alongside other types, such as cedar.
When it comes to the fingerboard and bridge, many companies opt for rosewood. This is a great choice not only for its beautiful appearance, but also for its smoothness, which enhances playability. Occasionally, you may find an uke with an ebony fingerboard. These instruments are often sold as high-end models, as ebony is denser and more expensive than rosewood. In terms of tone, ebony is super bright and silky smooth to play.
Ukuleles are not always made from solid wood. In fact, a lot of entry-level and even mid-range instruments are made using laminated wood. This means the layer you see on the outer surface doesn’t run the whole way through the body, often disguising a thicker layer or lesser quality wood. So, as you can see, by opting for a laminated uke you may be sacrificing some tone and stability. But, saying that, laminates can still sound great and are fairly durable, for a lower price than a solid bodied version.
As we briefly mentioned earlier, the most common type of baritone ukulele is acoustic, which relies on the tonewood’s resonance to produce the sound you hear. The only other models on the market are electric-acoustic versions, which as well as projecting the sound acoustically, have a pickup installed to receive vibrations from your instrument’s strings, to send the signal to an amplifier. This means you can tune up the volume manually or even add extra effects into your mix if you like. So, perhaps an electro-acoustic would make a great choice for anyone wanting to play loud, with a band or ensemble.
Sometimes manufacturers include extra items with their baritone ukuleles. You may think this isn’t so important, however, it can save you quite a bit of time and money if the following are included:
- Big Bags: This basically enables you to carry around your uke in a padded bag or hard carry case. Of course, the hard case is the more protective of the two however, they can be heavy if you’ve got to carry your instrument. Some fabric gig bags don’t actually have any padding, this means your uke won’t be as protected from bumps or knocks, so it may be worth taking that into account too.
- Strap and Strap Buttons – Strap buttons act as attachment sites for the strap. So, if you’re looking to purchase a ukulele you can play whilst standing, you’re going to need something with both of these items included. Just bear in mind, that the quality of ukulele straps can differ, as the materials vary between cotton, plastic and leather, with leather being more durable, so make sure to read the product description before you buy.
- Electronic Tuners – Manufacturers often include a detachable, clip-on tuner with their product. This is handy as it means you won’t have to go to a shop and buy one separately to keep your instrument in tune. Clip-on tuners are also highly portable thanks to their small size, so you’ll be able to carry it with you no problem. Just remember each model’s reliability can vary, so you should check out some reviews before you make a purchase.
Product Round-up & Reviews
So, now you know what to look out for during your search for the perfect baritone uke, we’ve put together a list of our eight favorite models to save you some time.
We’re starting off our reviews by taking a look at the CB103 by Caramel, so what’s so great about this one?
Well, we’d say the best aspect here has to be the electro-acoustic design. This quite a rare find among baritone ukes, but it’s super cool because it means the instrument’s volume can be greatly increased and that the musician can add effects into their mix, for extra sonic diversity.
As well as all this, the tone can be easily controlled by a handy 3 band EQ, which is built into the side of the uke’s body. Another great aspect here is that there’s a battery-powered tuner built into the EQ system, so you can tune anywhere and won’t have to spend any extra cash purchasing a separate one.
In terms of tone, the CB103 sounds pretty decent too. This is mostly thanks to the hand polished, walnut fretboard and bridge, which kicks out plenty of sustain and bright mids. Additionally, the body of the instrument is made from Zebra Wood, which not only looks cool, thanks to its striped grain pattern, but also sounds pretty nice.
Tone-wise, Zebra Wood sounds rich and full, which works well in a baritone ukulele design. The action and overall setup the CB103 comes with is also fairly decent, thanks to the sturdy buffalo bone nut and saddle. Saying that, there’s an adjustable truss rod present inside the neck, so, if you need it, there’s the option of changing the tension to just how you like it.
Overall, due to its ability to work with an amp and effects units, we’d recommend the Caramel for anyone wanting to perform as part of an ensemble or band. Just remember, you’ll need a 10v battery to supply the tuner with before you play.
· Electro/ acoustic – This means you can play louder through an amp.
· Built-in EQ – So you can manipulate your tone with a flick of the dials.
· Looks great – The polished Zebra Wood gives this instrument a really classy aesthetic.
· Action is high – This may not be to some people’s tastes, so you may need to sand down the saddle or take the uke into a shop for a setup.
· Neck is glued on to body – The glue is actually a little sloppy in places and isn’t perfect.
Now we’re going to take a look at the KA-BG by Kala, so what’s so great about this instrument?
Well, the best aspect here has to be the high-quality mahogany and spruce tonewood used in the instrument’s body and neck. The main bulk of this uke is mahogany, which delivers a warm, well-balanced tone. This complements the instrument’s spruce top, which kicks out bright highs with tons of resonance and volume. In fact, this thing is so loud that you could use it to play as part of an acoustic ensemble no problem, or solo busking if you prefer… Either way, you’re going to be heard! But, better still, all the high-quality woods used in the KA-BG are coated with a gloss finish, to preserve the natural grain pattern and to protect it from wear and tear.
Another great thing about this instrument is that the manufacturers have included a set of Die Cast tuners, which allow it to hold a tuning efficiently. This is good news, as you won’t find yourself having to retune after each song you play.
Speaking of playability, this uke’s action is nice and low and its neck is silky smooth, so even players with the most delicate fingers will be able to strum comfortably. In comparison to the CB103 we mentioned above, the KA-BG has an overall better finish, in that, the body is adorned with a tasteful, white binding.
The only downside is that there are no strap buttons included in the design, so make sure to take this into consideration if you were hoping to perform standing up.
· Quality tonewood – The mahogany and spruce body mean this thing is really loud.
· Die-Cast Tuners – These help to keep the strings in tune for long periods of time.
· Low Action – This makes chords and scales easier to play and comfortable on fingers.
· No strap buttons – This means you’ll have to play sitting down, rather than standing.
· Not electro-acoustic – This isn’t really a bad thing, as the KA-BG already gets pretty loud on its own.
Now we’re going to take a look at the KMU30B by Kmise, so what’s so cool about this entry-level uke?
Well, the best aspect here really has to be the tonewood used in the instrument’s body. You may be thinking, ‘hmmm but isn’t this laminate’? Well yes, but the manufacturers have used high-quality mahogany in the top, back and sides to ensure it looks elegant and has great tone. This means the sound the KMU30B produces is actually really warm, with plenty of resonance. Reassuringly, the mahogany is also coated in a satin finish, for extra protection and a stylish, natural look.
Another great feature here is the set of premium metallic and nylon strings, which are soft on fingers and help to enhance the instrument’s natural warmth. This makes it perfect for even children to play without experiencing any soreness. It’s worth mentioning that the strings come already set up, to intentionally reduce string buzz, so you won’t have to spend any extra cash going to a shop to sort it out either.
The tuners that come with this uke are a set of 18:1 geared pegs, which manage to hold a tuning really well, even with new strings. With that in mind, the overall playability of the KMU30B is pretty decent too. This is mostly thanks to Kmise’s clever craftsmanship in designing a smooth walnut fretboard, a low action walnut bridge and tidy, silver/ nickel fret wires.
Overall, thanks to its fantastic tone and playability, we’d recommend this uke for children or any beginner musicians out there. The strings are soft and the fingerboard is nice and smooth, so you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable playing it from day one.
· Great for kids – This uke is comfortable to hold and play, as well as being kind to fingertips.
· Tone – The mahogany and walnut used here give the instrument a pleasantly warm, resonant sound.
· Holds tuning well – The geared tuners will help to keep your strings in tune from the get-go.
· Entry level – This is great to learn on or for kids to play, but can’t go as loud as the two models we mentioned above.
· Laminate – Although the tone isn’t sacrificed too much here, the laminate wood means this thing isn’t as durable as most models.
Kala Mandy Harvey Starter Kit
Interestingly, this uke has designed in light of the artist Mandy Harvey, a famous singer/ songwriter who, despite becoming deaf at 19, pursued her dream to win the ‘golden buzzer’ from Simon Cowell during America’s Got Talent. This is really inspiring stuff, but what’s so great about the uke itself?
Well, this instrument is probably the best looking we’ve seen so far, thanks to the 1800s style, Swiss folk art adorned on the body. Incredibly, the floral vine pattern was designed by Mandy’s sister, making it pretty special!
The tonewood used here is similar to the KMU30B we mentioned above, with the uke comprising of satin finished, mahogany body and a walnut fingerboard, which give out a nice warm tone. But, the second-best thing about the Mandy Harvey uke, has to be the set of Aquila Super Nyglut strings that Kala have installed. These are super soft and comfortable to play, so even complete beginners should feel comfortable pressing them.
As well as all this, the nut and saddle are made from durable, Graphtech NuBone too, so you can be sure your strings will stay in tune well. The kit itself provides some fantastic resources, in that, it comes with free online lessons, taught by Harvey herself, a learning app for smartphones, as well as some free songs, a handy clip-on tuner and a protective gig bag. So, as you can see, you really do get a lot for your dollar.
So, thanks to all the learning tools provided here, we’d say this uke is a great option for anyone wanting to learn from home, using a beautiful, full-sounding instrument. The only downside is that there are no strap buttons, so you don’t get the option of standing up to perform, unfortunately.
· Looks great – The 1800s swiss vine theme looks stunning across the instrument’s body.
· Learning tools – There’s a smartphone app and free online lessons included with this kit.
· Aquila Strings – These are super soft and pliable, so your fingers won’t have a hard time pressing them.
· Needs a setup – Whilst you get a lot for your money here, you’ll probably have to take this thing to a shop to get the action set properly.
· No strap pegs – This means you’ll have to play sitting down, rather than standing.
Now we’re going to take a look at the second electro-acoustic baritone uke on our list, except this time it’s a vintage design by Luna. So, what’s so good about this instrument?
Well, we’d say the best aspect here has to be the built-in Luna UK-TW pre-amp and tuner. This lets you adjust your tone to exactly how you like it when it comes out through an amplifier, and to tune your instrument without buying a separate tuner.
The second-best thing here is the rich, warm, vintage tone that is produced by the quality mahogany body/ neck and walnut fretboard. We should probably mention that the neck itself is a comfortable, C shape and professionally set, so will be able to withstand any knocks and bangs with ease. As well as all this, there’s even a set of tough, geared tuners, so you’ll never have to worry about your strings slipping out of tune.
Speaking of strings, here Luna have included a set of two Aquila and two steel versions, so you get a nice balance of twang and softness cutting through your tone when you strum.
In terms of aesthetics, this uke really does live up to its vintage description, thanks to the tasteful, laser-etched rosette design surrounding the dark, mahogany sound hole. Classier still, Luna have even included triangular pearl inlays and a natural satin finish, to show off the mahogany’s natural grain. The only downside is that there are no strap buttons, so you’ll have to play this uke sat down. Overall, we’d say Luna’s Electro/Acoustic Baritone is the perfect choice for any musician looking for vintage tone and looks, with the ability to play through an amp. Just don’t forget to grab a battery for the tuner!
· Built-in Tuner – This saves you a little extra cash and is convenient too.
· Output jack – This means you can play as loud as you like, or as part of a band.
· Looks great – The pearl inlays and vintage rosette design really are eye-catching.
· No strap buttons – This means you won’t be able to stand whilst performing.
· Preamp/ Tuner requires batteries – This isn’t really a downside, but it can be annoying when you forget to pack a spare.
Oscar Schmidt OU52TAT-A
Now we’re going to take a look at the OU52TAT-A baritone uke, by Oscar Schmidt, so what’s so great about this model?
Well, one of the best aspects here has to be the instrument’s aesthetic. This thing has a cool engraving across its top, which has been specially designed to resemble a traditional, Hawaiian tribal tattoo, hence the ‘TAT’ part of its name. So, you’re guaranteed to be noticed by your audience when you perform with this instrument.
In terms of tone, it delivers a warm, rich sound, thanks to the hand-crafted mahogany tonewood used in the instrument’s top, back and sides. But as well as all this, Oscar Schmidt have designed the OU52TAT-A to kick out tons of resonance too and have even included a Rosetek fingerboard and bridge, to bring some sparkling, bright highs into the mix.
All this quality wood has been coated in a satin finish to enhance its natural grain and to protect it from wear and tear. Saying that, the Die-Cast tuners that Oscar Schmidt have chosen are pretty durable too, seeing as they’re made from tough, chrome material, which guarantees your strings won’t slip. In fact, the manufacturers are so sure the OU52TAT-A will stand the test of time, they’ve included a lifetime warranty, for your peace of mind. As well as all this, the strings that come with this model are made from soft, nylon, so your fingers won’t take a beating either!
Overall, we’d recommend this uke to anyone looking for something that’s built to last, with a lively tone. If that’s you, the OU52TAT will not disappoint. Just remember that once again, there are no strap buttons included here, so you’ll need to be happy to play sitting down. There are also no additional goodies included with this item, so you’ll have to factor a gig bag and tuner into the cost.
· Cool design – The OU52TAT features a unique tribal tattoo engraving across its top.
· Tone – This thing kicks out plenty of warm tones, but with some bright highs too.
· Lifetime warranty – So you can rest assured this instrument is built to last.
· No extras included – You’ll need to buy a separate gig bag and tuner, if you don’t already have one.
· No strap buttons – This isn’t the end of the world, but can be annoying if you want to play standing up.
Now we’re going to take a look at Lanikai’s MAC Ukulele, so what’s the best aspect here?
Well, we found that the neck and headstock are this instrument’s greatest features. In particular, the headstock is nice and light, with a set of sturdy chrome, open back tuners, to ensure your strings stay in tune well. As well as this, the neck is nice and wide, with a silky-smooth, walnut fingerboard for extra comfort and playability.
The MAC’s action is also nice and low, thanks to the NuBone XB nut and saddle and the durable walnut bridge. This is really handy, as it means you don’t need to spend any extra cash taking the uke in for a professional set up at a music shop. The bridge also features a convenient, no tie, string change system, to make it easier to replace the set after they’ve worn down. With that in mind, the strings the MAC comes with are D’Addario EJ88’s, which are soft to the touch and provide a punchy, traditional ukulele tone.
In terms of the overall sound, it sustains well and produces a full, warm tone, due to the quality mahogany tonewood used to craft its body. It’s worth mentioning, that all this beautiful wood is preserved in a satin finish, which shows off its natural grain nicely. Better still, the MAC even comes with two strong, chrome strap buttons, so you’ll be able to stand up to perform if you prefer. This is great news, as most the baritones we’ve looked at don’t have anything like this installed. Lanikai have been pretty generous here, as you also get a protective, padded gig bag with the instrument, so you’ll be saving a little money not having to purchase one separately.
Overall, we’d recommend this ukulele to anyone looking for a value for money, mid-range instrument. The tone and craftsmanship here is not going to disappoint.
· Strap Buttons – So you can play standing up, as well as sat down.
· Playability – The walnut fingerboard is super smooth and the D’Addario strings, super soft, so playing this thing isn’t going to be a struggle.
· Bridge – This features a no tie system, to make changing strings super easy.
· No electronics – This isn’t really an issue; just remember you can’t run it through an amp.
· No strap included – Yes there’s a set of strap buttons, but you’ll need to purchase a strap separately.
Last but not least, we’re taking a look at our premium choice, the 24B Baritone, by Cordoba. So, what makes this worth the extra dollar?
Well, it has to be the variety of tonewoods used in its body, neck and fretboard. The back and sides are made from spalted maple, which brings some tasteful, shimmering highs into the mix. Then there’s the solid cedar wood top, the mahogany neck and the rosewood fingerboard, all of which provide the uke with full, rich, warm tones, that complement the highs from the maple nicely.
It’s worth pointing out that spalted maple is a visually unique wood, with eye-catching grain lines. So, you’ll definitely turn some heads when you perform with this instrument. The next best thing here has to be the set of soft, pliable Aquila Nyglut 21U strings. These are super easy to press down, so even folks without finger callusing will manage to strum this uke with ease. With that in mind, the tuners are pretty sturdy too, thanks to the manufacturers choosing a set of tough, geared metal versions. This is great news, as geared tuners will be sure to keep the strings in tune and prevent any slipping.
As well as all this, Cordoba have included a polish cloth, a uke stand and a clip-on tuner, so you get quite a lot of handy equipment for your money. The only real downside here, is that there are no strap buttons built into the instrument’s body, which we kind of expected for the price. But, saying that, we’d still recommend this uke to any experienced players, looking for high-quality craftsmanship and tone, in a convenient package.
· Tone – The mixture of cedar, maple, rosewood and mahogany give this baritone the most unique tone of all the models we’ve reviewed.
· Aquila Strings – This set is extremely soft on fingers, to enhance playability.
· Geared tuners – This means you won’t get any annoying string slipping whilst you play.
· Price – This is a little more expensive than most mid-range baritones, however, you get some really high-quality craftsmanship for your dollar.
· No strap buttons – So you’ll have to play sitting down, rather than standing.
So, Which Should I Buy?
We hope you’ve enjoyed this article and feel that you’ve learned something new about baritone ukuleles. There are loads of models on the market and all have different features, so it can be confusing trying to find the best option. Remember, there’s no perfect choice, it more so depends on what you need as a musician.
For example, if you’re looking to play as part of a group or ensemble, Caramel’s CB103 would make a great choice, as it can be amped up to compete with other instruments. If, on the other hand, you need something with fantastic playability, then opt for either Kala’s KA-BG or Lanikai’s MAC. The KA-BG has a nice low action and a smooth neck, and the MAC has a set of soft D’Addario strings, which are kind to fingertips.
Perhaps you’re looking for an instrument that’s great for kids to play? If so, Kmise’s KMU30B is small enough for young children to play comfortably, and comes with a set of super soft strings, perfect for little fingers.
Maybe you’re a complete beginner and hoping to learn from home? If that’s you, then Kala’s Mandy Harvey will make a fantastic choice, seeing as it comes with a free learning app and online lessons.
If you prefer the sound of vintage baritone ukuleles, then try out either Luna’s Electro-Acoustic, or Oscar Schmidt’s OU5TAT. Both produce an authentic Hawaiian tone and have a cool aesthetic.
Perhaps you’re a more experienced player looking for a high-quality instrument? If so, then the Cordoba 24B will not disappoint. This uke is made from several different types of high-grade tonewoods, which gives it a completely unique, well-balanced tone.