View Full Version : Ubass -- worth buying or not?

02-03-2017, 10:29 PM
Before yesterday I had never heard of a ubass and now I'm considering buying one. There are no stores near me which carry them so I will have to rely on people's comments and opinions.

I have been working on ukulele for two weeks now and am very much enjoying learning it and playing it (I've been professionally involved in music all my working life).

I have long thought about buying an acoustic electric guitar for those times when using an electric is overkill but the concept of a ubass is very intriguing due to the size/portability issue as well as the descriptions I've read at Sweetwater and other web-sites which seem to say that it has "tones extremely close to the sound of an upright bass." That is a quote from Sweetwater's description of the Kala solid bubinga ubass.

The price is very reasonable and I find the build quality of my Kala tenor uke to be excellent, which is part of why I'm intrigues with the ubass.

I would very much appreciate hearing from people who either own or have tried the ubass, to learn whether the sound really is as close to the sound of an upright bass as Sweetwater's description says.

Is the ubass's very short scale length an impediment?

Thanks in advance for any insights people care to share.

02-03-2017, 11:35 PM
I think the first question you should ask yourself is this: Will I be playing with other people? A bass instrument really isn't something that sounds good on its own. It's meant to compliment other instruments in a band setting. It's a cool instrument, but if I was playing by myself, I would see little point in having a U-bass.

02-03-2017, 11:47 PM
I have a Kala U-Bass from the first batch, and I enjoy it immensely. Mine is not a thinbody electric, but the hollow electric-accoustic model. It can be heard unplugged, but in order to play along with other instruments, it really needs to be amplified. But yes, I think it sounds closer to an upright bass than any other bass guitar.

I think the sound has a lot to do with the Polyurethane strings. They are very fat and feel rubbery. Not to everyone's liking, but I find them comfortable. They may take some getting used to, though. There are now several string options available for the Kala U-Bass, even some different steel strings, so it's definitely a very versatile instrument, and you can always try to find the sound and feel you prefer with different strings.

The short scale (21") is not a problem, just the opposite: much easier for a non-trained bass player like myself.

Next to the Kala U-Bass, there are many blunt copies from other brands (some of which are probably just as good, just not "the original"). There are two small basses that I know of which are not just copies, but designed to accomodate steel strings in the first place: The Ohana OBU-22 and the Taylor GS Mini Bass. They are a bit more like a "regular" bass guitar, just smaller (23-24" scale).

02-04-2017, 12:36 PM
Check out all the posts in the Bass forum, but I'm an avid bass ukulele user and have been playing bass with my 50 strong uke group the last few years. I have fourteen (see my signature), three acoustic and five solid body bass ukes with poly strings and piezo pickups, plus eight modified or custom solid body mini electric basses with steel strings and magnetic pickups. Many people here consider me an authority on bass ukes and mini basses.

When I first decided to play bass, I looked at the various choices, Kala the most obvious, but I didn't like the configuration. After a little research I decided to go wth a Gold Tone GT MicroBass 23" scale for just under $400. I also found the white Aquila Thundergut strings to be too sticky and noisy so I changed them to Road Toad Pahoehoe from Owen Holt (who licensed his U-bass design to Kala). My bass ukes have the Pahoehoe strings, except one that has a Kala nylon core steel wound set, and another with a set of Aquila Thunder Reds.

Since then I discovered Rondomusic.com who imports Chinese made acoustic and solid body bass ukes labelled Hadean that in my opinion are the best choice for anyone who wants to start using a bass uke. They range from $140 to $190 US and are well worth the price. The Kala is certainly not three times better than the Rondo.

They definitely need to be amplified to play with other people, but I practice with my acoustic models at home all the time without an amp. All my amps are battery capable, I use a Phil Jones Double Four for rehearsals and small gigs ($450), a Carvin MB15 combo for big gigs with an extension 115MBE for outdoor gigs ($800). I also just got a very small Blackstar Fly 3 Bass Kit that hangs over my shoulder when doing a wandering hospital gig.

02-05-2017, 12:23 AM
Thank you everybody who has responded. What you all have said echoes my thoughts on this issue and I plan to get either a Kala ubass or a Gold Tone m bass sometime soon.

Regarding amplification, I have the Roland BA330 (battery-powered or plug-in) amp through which I have my students run their guitars and basses and it has incredible tone so I'm all set regarding amplification. And it will run for over 8 hours on a set of 8 rechargeable AA batteries, so I can bring my amplification anywhere it's needed.

So now the question is whether I go with the Kala 21" scale or the Gold Tone 23" or 25" scale instruments. I appreciate the recommendation of the Hadean imports and I will investigate those as well. One aspect of this that I'm looking at is the portability and ease of playing with others (my wife is a violinist/fiddler). The longer scales seem to accompany slightly larger bodies which seem to sound good (at least in the demos) when played acoustically while they all sound great when amplified.

I will also check out the bass forum -- I actually hadn't noticed that there was one before this so I'll head there right now and check out the threads.

Thanks for all the help with this! This is a great forum!