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rpeters
12-26-2009, 02:57 PM
Kala ThinLine Travel Tenor

I recently received a Kala ThinLine for Christmas and since its a relatively new model, I figured I would post my initial impressions of the instrument. Remember though, that I am a beginner and have only owned a Lanikai Pineapple.

Construction

It is beautifully made with a smooth finish that's not too shiny, or dull. The back is slightly rounded which contributes to the shaping of its sound which shoots out the thin solid wood spruce top. The solid wood is absolutely flawless, but seems a bit delicate as my finger nail has made a few hardly noticeable scratches in the finish. The back and sides are mahogany plywood, put have a wonderful wood grain, and painted black trim around the outside edges. Check out my youtube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcsZxyisXW8) to get a close up look at the instrument. The tuners are incredible compared to my lanikai, as they are extremely smooth and hold perfectly. The instrument smells slightly of wood glue, as it's probably fresh from the factory and then set up by Music Guy Mike. The neck weighs more than the body so it may feel a bit unbalanced at first, but I'm already getting used to that.

Tuning and Sound

MGM set up the instrument with Aquila standard strings, the sound is astonishing. It is an incredibly loud instrument and easily competes with my brother's dreadnought guitars. In comparison to my lanikai pineapple, the strings have a much higher tension and are a bit harder to bend notes, but that's probably me getting used to the tenor size. The strings are also new, and need to be worked in. The sound is deeper than my pineapple, and has more of a "bite" that I like. The Aquila strings are fairly balanced, I think the the A string could be a bit louder, but I'm sure it will the more I play it and the more the solid top opens up. I will also try Worth low G strings later this month.

I tuned it up with my intelli500 tuner and MGM made it perfectly in tune all the way up the fretboard. My lanikai was impossible to get it this intune! I could not be any happier with MGM's setup and services and am ordering Worth low G strings and humidifiers (since I live in cold Maine) from him soon.

The Case

The case is very high quality and portable. It weighs next to nothing, but offers a lot of protection for small bumps. It won't protect the instrument if someone were to step on it, or if it fell from a height of 3-10 feet (I didn't test it). There is a single pocket inside the case for a tuner, or extra set of strings, but no external pockets. It has a handle to carry it and a wonderful Kala Logo on the front. The case will protect the instrument from rain and wet weather, but it is not waterproof.

Youtube Sound Sample (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcsZxyisXW8)

I posted this quick video showing off the wood, and all of the physical features of the Kala Thinline Tenor and its case. In the background I recorded a sound sample of the instrument, playing random chords and a few melodies. I'm a beginner, but I tried to make it sound decent with a chords.

Complaints

My first complaint is with the finish. It's a beautiful, flawless matte finish, but to me seems really delicate. My finger nail has slightly brushed up against the wood a couple times and caused a couple marks in the finish. You can only see the scratches though if you look at them closely with a light and at a certain angle. These actually could be buffed out eventually if you wanted to refinish the instrument in the future, but it looks beautiful regardless.

My other complaint is a slight buzz on the C string when I play it open. It doesn't happen all the time though, which I then think is because of my picking technique. This could also because the instrument was shipped from Hawaii to Maine in winter, so the instrument may be adjusting. I am getting humidifiers to compensate, so I hope the instrument can hang in there until they get here. I can't wait until the wood opens up even more.


I give this instrument an A!

It is a very unique ukulele, and I recommend it to everyone. It has a loud sound that is both deep and bright (if that makes sense). It has a bite to its sound that I really enjoy. It can still be heard clearly when playing with louder instruments like guitars too! The price for the mahogany model is $150 at MGM's store and it comes with free shipping too! Pick one up and you won't be disappointed. Did I mention it's as light as a feather, you can bring it anywhere!

Let me know if you have any questions or want more sound samples. Again I've been playing with ukuleles for less than a year, so I'm still a novice, but will be willing to provide information that may help others decide if they want the instrument or not. So I hope this review helps!

Ryan

harpdog
12-27-2009, 01:47 AM
I like the sound

rpeters
12-27-2009, 07:25 AM
I also have a tendency to play loud. The tone can also be very sweet if played more gently.

JCUK
12-27-2009, 11:50 AM
Sounds great. Nice playing too. :) Thanks for the review -- I've been thinking about getting one of those, and you've encouraged me to pull the trigger. :D

rpeters
12-27-2009, 01:52 PM
Great! Glad I could help. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

buddhuu
12-31-2009, 10:13 AM
Nice review, and a very handy video.

Good job, mate. :)

I Ukulista
12-31-2009, 10:25 AM
Thanks for the report. Nice to find such a great instrument.I like the Sesame Street tune.


Every one on earth should be issued with a Kala slim line ukulele.

Dilphat
12-31-2009, 10:58 PM
sweet, i was actually debating on whether or not to get one. i might go straight to the shop soon and get me one. lol. thanks....the review and video was quite helpful

Bluke
01-01-2010, 01:41 PM
I'm trying to grasp the concept of need for a 'travel' ukulele. The idea is kind of ridiculous. Ukulele's are already travel sized. Is one inch less going to make a difference? Sure it will. It will choke the instruments ability to project a decent range of tones. Ukes have a short range as designed. The size of the body is crucial to putting out good low end tones. Make it one inch thinner, and the tone goes the same route. I saw one of these (maybe not the same brand) awarded as a prize at a uke fest last year. It was demonstrated, and the experienced uke players in the crowd just looked at each other with that quizical frowned face and said, "why bother?". Clearly another marketing directors bad dream....

Dige
01-01-2010, 03:05 PM
Bluke,

You, my friend, are clearly not into travel or backpacking. I do ridiculous amounts of both, and having a uke that can be slipped into a pack is very useful. A full-sized uke will cost you your carry-on allowance, and does not lend itself well to camping or backpacking. My travel uke has already proved its value well on several camping trips when it was great to have some strings to go along with the harmonica around the campfire. Does this uke replace a more expensive, full-sized uke? No. (But, almost!) It's not supposed to, though. This uke fills its role perfectly--it provides great uke sound in a very, very compact package. Looking forward to adding the lacewood soprano model to my lineup for the ultimate in porta-strum-ability!

Dige

leftovermagic84
01-01-2010, 03:17 PM
a word of advice...:troll:

Thumper
01-01-2010, 03:36 PM
Great review and video - thanks! The uke looks and sounds great - now I gotta find out if they make one in a concert size.

rpeters
01-01-2010, 04:08 PM
I'm trying to grasp the concept of need for a 'travel' ukulele. The idea is kind of ridiculous. Ukulele's are already travel sized. Is one inch less going to make a difference? Sure it will. It will choke the instruments ability to project a decent range of tones. Ukes have a short range as designed. The size of the body is crucial to putting out good low end tones. Make it one inch thinner, and the tone goes the same route. I saw one of these (maybe not the same brand) awarded as a prize at a uke fest last year. It was demonstrated, and the experienced uke players in the crowd just looked at each other with that quizical frowned face and said, "why bother?". Clearly another marketing directors bad dream....

You do have some great points, as the uke is already a very small instrument and easy to take on trips.

This instrument in no way replaces higher end ukes, but instead offers an even more portable instrument to take anywhere, and I mean anywhere. The tenor weighs just about nothing and it really doesn't lose all that much in sound quality. For 150 dollars it produces a beautiful sound. Now if it were a $200+ uke, I don't think it would be worth it as you might as well buy mainland, but there really isn't any solid top ukes with a price that reasonable.

I would say this is a wonderful middle of the line uke that will satisfy almost anyone who buys it.

I also saw in a uke documentary where the uke maker said in regards to making an instrument "what ever you take away, you have to add somewhere else". By this quote I think he was talking about the instruments volume. The thinline is very thin at the top but about a half inch thicker is added at the bottom, this enables the instrument to have a nicer sound. I noticed that the sound resonates most in that bottom area where the instrument is thicker and then shoots out the solid top.

The next step for me of course is to pick up a mainland tenor.



Also Bluke,

Mike from Kala Ukulele himself answers your question in an interview on youtube. He said that the "travel" title is just the way they are marketing the instrument, but Mike wanted to design an instrument not just for travel, but to produce a different sound altogether. It has a different tone than a full body ukulele that many people will like, and some will dislike, but the choice is there.... and I recommend it.

MartinLil
01-01-2010, 04:14 PM
I'm trying to grasp the concept of need for a 'travel' ukulele. The idea is kind of ridiculous. Ukulele's are already travel sized. Is one inch less going to make a difference? Sure it will. It will choke the instruments ability to project a decent range of tones. Ukes have a short range as designed. The size of the body is crucial to putting out good low end tones. Make it one inch thinner, and the tone goes the same route. I saw one of these (maybe not the same brand) awarded as a prize at a uke fest last year. It was demonstrated, and the experienced uke players in the crowd just looked at each other with that quizical frowned face and said, "why bother?". Clearly another marketing directors bad dream....

Two words: KoAloha Sceptre.

Clearly not a travel uke. Clearly an exceptional instrument. It's got a thin body and, to my ears at least, is louder than the other concert body KoAlohas out there. the sound of a Sceptre is loud, bright, crisp, complex, sweet, and they're the best sounding ukes that I've ever played. The sustain is endless and you'd never believe how much sound comes out of that body.

Saying a thin uke will sound bad is like saying a flamenco guitar will sound bad and a classical is the only way to go. For one to say such a statement would be incredibly incorrect. The sounds produced by these two guitars, when the instruments have been made and are played correctly, are different. But, the flamenco should always sound raspy, crisp and quick. The classical should sound deeper, rounder and the sounds should slowly build rather than be produced quickly like the flamenco. One is not better than the other. Different sounds will be produced and when played with proper technique on can produce the sound of the other. This does not make the thinner flamenco sound less amazing compared to a thicker-bodied classical or vise versa. I would challenge a sceptre to a full, traditional bodied uke any day. I bet the Kala travel uke would stand up to a full bodied Kala as well.

Paul December
01-01-2010, 04:47 PM
I've found a decent (Kala) laminate soprano is truly the ultimate travel uke...
...small, not really affected by humidity, and cheap. I've got a pineapple (painted as such too) and it is pretty much bullet proof.

uke552
01-03-2010, 06:00 PM
rpeters,
Great review, thanks for this. I played one last month and was very happy / surprised with the sound. Kala is putting out some great stuff!

ukuleleprodigy
01-04-2010, 04:25 PM
i agree Dige, i just got this instrument. and its just plain portable! the case helps providing protection, but not too heavy. overall a great uke

greyfox
01-04-2010, 06:45 PM
i agree Dige, i just got this instrument. and its just plain portable! the case helps providing protection, but not too heavy. overall a great uke

Me too... got mine for Christmas! And I love it!

Will

afeistyfiesta
01-05-2010, 11:35 AM
I don't own one, but I went to guitar center a couple weeks ago, and this was by far the best sounding uke that they had for under $300 dollars. I have been jonsing for one ever since I played it...

mds725
01-08-2010, 02:38 PM
Great review and video - thanks! The uke looks and sounds great - now I gotta find out if they make one in a concert size.

Kala just announced that it will be selling a travel ukulele in concert scale (spruce top with mahogany body) as part of its 2010 catalogue.
http://kalaukulele.com/Kala%20Ukulele%20Travel%20Uke.html

duster bunny
01-09-2010, 07:41 AM
I was surprised by the volume, tone, and projection of the thin body, but what I really liked was the comfort. Sometimes the edge of the lower bout of my Bushman tenor cuts into my forearm.
The thin Kala travel tenor sits closer to my body and is way more comfortable.

nobby8126
03-10-2010, 02:58 AM
I had a little play instore today. want one want one want one

nobby8126
03-17-2010, 04:41 AM
I had a little play instore today. want one want one want one
got one got one got one.

luke'nlele
03-22-2010, 04:51 PM
Kala just announced that it will be selling a travel ukulele in concert scale (spruce top with mahogany body) as part of its 2010 catalogue.
http://kalaukulele.com/Kala%20Ukulele%20Travel%20Uke.html

We travel frequently and are considering a tenor and a concert travel uke. We prefer the tone of mahogany which seems deeper and richer to us. Our question is about the spruce top. For ukes made from different woods, we've read that it's the top that is most important to the tone. So, how does the tone of the spruce top work with the mahogany body? Is it more or less mellow than the mahogany alone? What is the advantage of ukes made from two different kinds of wood e.g. spruce top/ mahogany body vs all mahogany?

mds725
05-01-2010, 07:42 PM
We travel frequently and are considering a tenor and a concert travel uke. We prefer the tone of mahogany which seems deeper and richer to us. Our question is about the spruce top. For ukes made from different woods, we've read that it's the top that is most important to the tone. So, how does the tone of the spruce top work with the mahogany body? Is it more or less mellow than the mahogany alone? What is the advantage of ukes made from two different kinds of wood e.g. spruce top/ mahogany body vs all mahogany?

I now have a Kala thinline ukulele in each scale (soprano, concert, tenor). As a group, they sound brighter than my Kala solid mahogany concert and my Kala solid acacia tenor. I think the spruce top has some influence on the sound (although I'd be interested in comparing them to the Kala thinline lacewood ukulele). I also think the tone is affected by the shape of the body itself, which is supposed to be designed and shaped to project sound louder to compensate for the thinness of the body. The thinline ukuleles also sound different from each other, though. The soprano sounds more like other sopranos, the concert sounds more like other concerts, and the tenor sounds more like other tenors. For an instrument that can be put into a backpack without taking up much room, they sound great and they're loud enough for me.

allanr
05-17-2010, 09:48 AM
I have the soprano model. It also has a surprisingly rich and full sound for such a tiny instrument... plus it looks beautiful!

Uncle Rod Higuchi
05-17-2010, 11:12 AM
I also have a soprano Travel Uke. I take it with me all the time. It's sitting in a bag next to me as I'm typing this at work.

I hope I'll have enough saved up to get a concert Travel Uke this summer. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Keep uke-in',

Howie1947
05-19-2010, 05:33 AM
Uncle Rod..................Are you thinking about getting your new uke in Honolulu this July??? If so, I would love tag along with you while you shop. Going in uke shops in Waikiki is like going into a candy store for me !

didgeridoo2
07-01-2010, 01:38 PM
Yesterday, I switched out the heavy (although nice) geared tuners on my travel soprano, with some very nice friction tuners from Mainland. Worked like a charm. I didn't need to modify anything to make them fit. They fit perfectly. The geared tuners left some holes where the screws were, but they don't really bother me and I could wood fill them if they do. I wish I had done this 6 months ago. The uke is well balanced and looks great. I chose the amber buttons and it matches the headstock. And it still fits in the gig bag. If anyone wished that their travel soprano had better balance, get the friction tuners from Mainland. You won't be sorry.

Ahnko Honu
07-01-2010, 02:17 PM
Yesterday, I switched out the heavy (although nice) geared tuners on my travel soprano, with some very nice friction tuners from Mainland. Worked like a charm. I didn't need to modify anything to make them fit. They fit perfectly. The geared tuners left some holes where the screws were, but they don't really bother me and I could wood fill them if they do. I wish I had done this 6 months ago. The uke is well balanced and looks great. I chose the amber buttons and it matches the headstock. And it still fits in the gig bag. If anyone wished that their travel soprano had better balance, get the friction tuners from Mainland. You won't be sorry.

BIG improvement both in looks and balance. KALA should have done this at the factory. I hope Mike Upton is listening. From your local hardware store you can get wax based wood fillers in various matching wood colors to fill those screw holes. They look like crayons and all you do is rub the hole with it until filled and wipe off excess with a clean cloth.
Ouila! instand color matched fix with no damage to existing finish. ;)

didgeridoo2
07-01-2010, 02:26 PM
Thanks for the suggestion on the filler, AH. Much easier than sawdust and glue and then some sort of color matching stain. I'll check it out.

mm stan
07-01-2010, 08:38 PM
Aloha Ryan,
Thanks for the in depth review, now I want one...
Everybody's always have nice things to say about them!!
MM Stan....

Raygf
07-02-2010, 01:30 AM
Yesterday, I switched out the heavy (although nice) geared tuners on my travel soprano, with some very nice friction tuners from Mainland. Worked like a charm. I didn't need to modify anything to make them fit. They fit perfectly. The geared tuners left some holes where the screws were, but they don't really bother me and I could wood fill them if they do. I wish I had done this 6 months ago. The uke is well balanced and looks great. I chose the amber buttons and it matches the headstock. And it still fits in the gig bag. If anyone wished that their travel soprano had better balance, get the friction tuners from Mainland. You won't be sorry.

I have a Lanikai soprano with mediocre geared tuners that do not hold tuning well and was thinking about replacing them with friction tuners. Glad to hear it was so easy to do. I guess I'll add some frictions tuners to my accessories order at Mainland.

I was just going to post that I restrung my Kala Travel Tenor with Freemont Black Line Low G strings and am loving it. It was time to dedicate one tenor to low G. I took some time a week or so ago and walked around playing several tenors. The Kala had a richer, deeper, for lack of a better word "throatier," tone quality that I thought would lend itself well to low G. It sounds great.
Regards,
Ray

MissJonib
07-18-2010, 07:21 AM
You know, I am pondering the same question. I think I'd be more likely to invest in a hardy flea or fluke, though they take up more room. I'd be less concerned about a plastic uke getting damaged than a thin sprucetop. Plus, I'd rather not sacrifice the sound!

Gmoney
07-19-2010, 05:00 PM
Kala just announced that it will be selling a travel ukulele in concert scale (spruce top with mahogany body) as part of its 2010 catalogue.
http://kalaukulele.com/Kala%20Ukulele%20Travel%20Uke.html

I just bought one of these concert's & it lives up to my expectations. It's smaller than my other Kala & thus a bit easier to pack, etc. & has a great tone beyond its smaller soundbox. (... and satisfies this week's UAS nicely!)

Gmoney
07-19-2010, 06:37 PM
Yesterday, I switched out the heavy (although nice) geared tuners on my travel soprano, with some very nice friction tuners from Mainland.

I LOVE this modification - might have to do the same w/my travel concert, because it does feel a little neck heavy.

didgeridoo2
07-19-2010, 06:49 PM
I LOVE this modification - might have to do the same w/my travel concert, because it does feel a little neck heavy.

I'd first check to see if they use the same sealed gear tuners on the concert that they used on the soprano. Just to be sure the hole drilled is the same size. I was pleasantly surprised that the Mainland tuners were a good fit.

Otherwise, you should do it.

exiledislander
10-22-2010, 10:52 AM
Yesterday, I switched out the heavy (although nice) geared tuners on my travel soprano, with some very nice friction tuners from Mainland. Worked like a charm. I didn't need to modify anything to make them fit. They fit perfectly. The geared tuners left some holes where the screws were, but they don't really bother me and I could wood fill them if they do. I wish I had done this 6 months ago. The uke is well balanced and looks great. I chose the amber buttons and it matches the headstock. And it still fits in the gig bag. If anyone wished that their travel soprano had better balance, get the friction tuners from Mainland. You won't be sorry.

I just ordered a soprano travel and have heard issues with the headstock being heavy. I look forward in doing the same mod; it looks even more slimline. Thanks for the recommendation.

pondweed
02-11-2011, 11:21 PM
any thoughts on whether the Travel Tenor is going to be a good bet for restringing down to DGBE? I'm unsure of the soundbox physical volume - and whether that would suggest sticking to a conventional body like the KA-ST instead?

Paul Cote
02-12-2011, 01:19 AM
I don't own one, but I went to guitar center a couple weeks ago, and this was by far the best sounding uke that they had for under $300 dollars. I have been jonsing for one ever since I played it... Does Guitar Center have Kala now?

Paul December
02-12-2011, 07:50 AM
Yesterday, I switched out the heavy (although nice) geared tuners on my travel soprano, with some very nice friction tuners from Mainland. Worked like a charm. I didn't need to modify anything to make them fit. They fit perfectly. The geared tuners left some holes where the screws were, but they don't really bother me and I could wood fill them if they do. I wish I had done this 6 months ago. The uke is well balanced and looks great. I chose the amber buttons and it matches the headstock. And it still fits in the gig bag. If anyone wished that their travel soprano had better balance, get the friction tuners from Mainland. You won't be sorry.

Looks great. Could you just put the original screws back in, to fill the holes? Probably simpler and would look better than filling them.

dakine96
04-03-2011, 09:31 AM
I like the one I just got. Was planning on a KA-T to sit beside my LU-8 but this one happened along. I still plan on buying another tenor (4 or 6-string). Because I play mostly for fun, I can see this one going into my flightbag or to the office for more playtime. Satisfying my guitar needs I have a Martin Backpacker that plays nice but sounds pitched(?). Fortunately, here you get a playable uke that happens to sound good, which I really appreciate. For fun, a friend used a stick on pickup and it sounded pretty good through the amp. While I've just started playing, this is a keeper that will be part of my uke collection.

MarvoGing
06-20-2011, 05:08 AM
I bought a Kala thinline travel tenor primarily because i liked the tone, but also because i thought it looked very pretty. It has a bright sound with considerable sustain. The soundbox is responsive even to squeeks of fingers on (Aquilla) strings. Other Ukes exhibit more of a plinkety-plink response that i personally find less agreeable. It is nicely made and as a bonus it also represents good value.

gibel
04-04-2013, 07:55 AM
I am super impressed with the Kala Travel Tenor and plan to make it my next Uke. My first chance to try one was in Hawaii where I had stopped in couple of stores mostly to play Kamaka tenors because my wife will never let me spend that kind of money to own one. Surprisingly out of the Kamaka, Kanile, and other tenors I tried, the Kala Travel Tenor sounded the best and felt the most comfortable to hold! Excellent tone and volume. The spruce top probably has the most to do with it, I didn’t compare to other spruce Ukes. There is a reason why the majority of guitars are spruce top. Even 2 Kanile reps I talked to recommended spruce for best sound.

ecki
08-21-2013, 01:06 PM
just ordered mine after reading this thread.... Can't wait playing it