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View Full Version : Kala pocket uke review! Bornagainjeeper style



bornagainjeeper
08-27-2010, 01:26 PM
Hey Y'all, I've gotten alot of positive feedback about my other reviews, which I appreciate very much. As a result i will do a few other reviews, including an in depth mainland concert and tenor review and a ohana sopranino review, and likely an (scathing) applause soprano review...anyhow, onto the POCKET UKE

DOES SIZE MATTER?
MAHOGANY KALA POCKET UKE
Intro and odds and ends: My pocket uke arrived today, from Alan (ukisociety) ....much thanks! Well packaged. There will be a video review associated with this text by tomorrow at the latest..This particular size is referred to as a sopranissimo scale...those of you who know latin or Italian would recognize that ending meaning, issimo, means "The most" as in "the Most Small"... its purdy durn small.....

Appearance (all scales are 1-10) 6
Overall the appearance in my opinion leaves a little to be desired. It its in what I would call a classic kamaka aesthetic, very traditional; no rosette or purfiling or binding... just plain wood. Not my favorite. The Grain however is very beautiful for mahogany, which is usually fairly dull overall, it a nice holographic quality, and a matte or satin finish. I'll take this opportunity to comment on the other two models, the Maple and Acacia version. As you can see in any pictures, the maple version is SPECTACULAR, with beautiful spalting stains and flame rippling. The Acacia version is also very beautiful with a contrasted blonde and caramel oval like pattern.
So back to the Mahogany (and all models for that matter) The body is relatively small for the size of the neck, and the body has a chunky, nearly geometric quality to it. I suppose that is one reason it looks so small, the body being smaller than it should be for the size of the neck. Enough about appearance...look at a stinkin picture.

Sound 5
I mean...lets be realistic here. Its tiny...it doesn't sound as good as a full size soprano or concert....but as i will say a few times, the phrase "For its size!" comes to mind here...for its size its a 15...i can't believe how good it sounds considering the size. I bought it, regardless of its sound, just cuz its so blinking small...but was blown away when i got it all tuned up and ready. I had heard it was "quiet" from some people, but when tuned dGBE like a baritone (about the highest recommended tuning) it really barks, nearly as loud as the Ohana sopranino, which is notoriously loud. It resonates much more than expected, with a really decent amount of sustain. The mahogany wood is of a very high quality, if you talk next to it with your face, you can feel the uke vibrate in sympathy with your sound. As i mentioned it sounds very small, nearly "toylike" which is a phrase we all fear as uke players..."UKE IS A REAL INSTRUMENT!" but just as toy piano makes its way into indie music these days, this uke has a spirited and sprightly sound which really warms the soul. I expected a percussive banjoesque sound out of this uke, but instead found a delicate sound like that of a twinkling star. It would be difficult for pull off "melancholy" while playing it...practice your Jigs and Squaredance.

Intonation:10
You ever notice , all your bass players out there especially, that lower notes, such as on a full piano, seem to stay in tune better, or you don't notice the pain of out of tune as much. When was the last time you heard an out of tune bass....and when the the last time a piccolo made you consider taking of bridge jumping. High notes appear to more frequently be out of tune largely because, as the pitch goes up the scale, there are fewer MHz between notes. This means that we don't have to make big changes to fret position to have huge problems. That and the human ear is really pretty good at hearing in the human voice range (i.e. Uke...not tuba) .....Anyhow, enough babbling about physics i barely understand....
I expected this uke to be pretty bad in the intonation dept (how well it stays in tune as you play up the neck) BUT EVERY SINGLE STRING IS 100% perfect all the way to the 7th fret...(that's out of 12 frets mind you) i mean not more than a 1cent deflection of pitch from open note to 3rd, 5th, 7th fret. Making the most accurate uke i have. I couldn't believe it. Maybe they built it like a high priced uke after all? more on that later....WOO HOO...thats all.

Feel in the hands: 5
I can see some downfalls here...but again...FOR ITS SIZE they are to be expected. Its top heavy...as i saw someone say before, that is likely because the tuners, as small as they are, out weigh the body of the uke...and there isn't alot you can do for that. A note here about friction tuners...I hate them. Like... Really. These, however, are really really nice ones, with some fancy bushings and stuff in them, i don't know what brand they are, just trust me, they arn't THAT bad, for friction tuners. They may have been able to cut down on the head weight by using simple peg in hole tuners, but i'm glad they didn't. The darn uke is so light, i don't spoze it really matters that it is head heavy its not too difficult to hold up one handed...try it, its fun. Someone also mentioned to me that their arm hit the saddle and muted the strings the way she was holding it. I haven't experienced that, i must just hold it differently, but that could be an issue for some people. One thing it has going for it, is that the body is very very thick only half an inch thinner than my Mainland Concert. This thickness not only boosts the sound, but gives you a little more chunk to hold onto, (like those pencils i had to use in grade school cuz i was dumb)
Another concern people likely have is HOW DO I PLAY IT!? my fingers wont fit...ect...I probably have some advantage with alot of experience playing my ohana sopranino (SK21) which has a 12 frets in a scale of 11 3/4 inches, where this kala is 12 frets at 11 inches....about 1 fret worth shorter. It isn't THAT hard to play. With a little practice, (i've had 3 hours) i have almost no problems hitting normal chord shapes, All the major chords with the exception of E maj, are plenty easy, some of the weird chords, like Dm7 2213 which isn't easy on regular soprano, is very tough on this uke, but not impossible. The neck is really pretty thick, which gives it the feel of being so much larger than it actually is in the left hand (fingering hand)
Overall I gave it a 5, because its easier to play a tenor, but don't let that dissuade you, its a blast to play, and worth the challenge...like riding a unicycle, but not as hard...its a ukicycle.

Quality 10
I'll keep this short, but suffice to say, not a single flaw in any way, clean glue inside and tight gap free everything else.

Value 6
Here is the FOR ITS SIZE works against it. This darn thing is wayyy over priced. It retails for USD$299 for mahogany (350 for maple and 399 for Acacia) For what? not alot of uke. (The maple one by the way, is spruce, with a beautiful veneer of maple, for 350 i think they could have spared a board/ft of fancy wood. I also feel spruce would be too bright for an already bright-as-can-be uke) Anyhow. I think the retail price is a little steep, ALOT steep. I wouldn't pay it even as much as i like this thing. You could get a really nice tenor for 399. I understand the price is high because of R&D and novelty, but like the Ubass, I feel too high. THAT being said, they ACTUALLY sell for about 33% less on the interwebs THANK YOU TECHNOLOGY. The mahogany model is 209ish most places online...MGM, Mim, and other three letter M words. And the others fall in about 249 for maple, and 279 for acacia. When this uke was on its way my expectations were fairly low but the build quality was perfect, and the intonation and volume really blew me away. Its well worth the $209 price, still a little high for the size, (the ohana goes for 129 some places online, 169 retail. also solid mahogany, and while it is fun, mine has fairly poor intonation)...But at these lower price points...I think it is worth it, if still not a "GREAT DEAL" in my book.

OVERALL 9

This is where i just get to express the joy for this thing....Its amazing. For smile factor alone it would get a 10+ only marked down for value in my book. As I mentioned before sound and feel in the hands were low because it isn't a full size uke. "FOR ITS SIZE" it goes beyond expectation. If you need a 3rd or 4th uke, I highly recommend it, (it makes a Dozen for me). Its just good old fashion stupid fun, like dynamite fishing and demo derby. I don't expect they will make them forever, so get one while they are hot, they seem to be in fairly good supply, as i imagine the price and mystery (which i am trying to dispel) keeps people from making the leap. This is a perfect uke for a picnic, office, or any other situation where intimacy and fun are in vogue. It is NOT appropriate for any real performance situations, as it just wouldn't mic well, (i've tried with my sopranino, and it didn't work, this would be worse) Ii have already entertained the idea of a pickup in it, because it would have great shock value on stage. This uke already holds and incredible place in my heart...and its gunna get me so many chicks. It is, after all..."How you use it."

Love
Alex

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIpxLSyqpAU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIpxLSyqpAU

mctrmt
09-03-2010, 08:23 AM
Great review, Alex. You had me at "y'all".
Now I am seriously thinking about getting one of these...

I Ukulista
09-03-2010, 10:33 AM
Brilliant. Do Kala make a slim line travel size version? Only kidding...

UKISOCIETY
09-03-2010, 11:02 AM
You gots the UAS bad, Alex. Awesome review. How many do you have now?

The Ohana sounds better tuned higher too.

EDIT: Oh, you just said: 12


12!!!??? :O

J_Tay81
01-01-2011, 07:21 PM
Awesome, thorough review. The near-perfect intonation would almost justify the up tick in price compared to the Ohana for me.

John

Tor
01-01-2011, 09:45 PM
I think I need one of these. Great review!
(p.s. you wrote MHz up there in the review somewhere.. you said you tuned your sopranissimo higher than standard tuning, but probably not _that_ high.. ;)

wwelti
01-02-2011, 05:00 AM
Thanks for the very nice review! I'm a sucker for sopranino, already got manini, ukette, and a thüring. This one sure looks really cool too :drool:

Tor
01-03-2011, 05:55 AM
Just ordered one from MGM. I blame bornagainjeeper.. :)
There will be things I can't do on this ukulele with my fingers (there's a reason I prefer tenor necks..) but then again there's still stuff I can do.. and if I can't bring this one with me on any flight I can think of then it'll be back to traveling with just a blues harp! :)

Update 2011-01-13: Package arrived from MGM, now slowly introducing the package to room temperature (via a below-room temperature area) due to it being way below freezing outside (where the package has been sitting) before opening it. So, in a few hours I should be able to take a look at my new Kala Pocket Ukulele! :)

J_Tay81
01-15-2011, 01:44 PM
Just ordered one from MGM. I blame bornagainjeeper.. :)
There will be things I can't do on this ukulele with my fingers (there's a reason I prefer tenor necks..) but then again there's still stuff I can do.. and if I can't bring this one with me on any flight I can think of then it'll be back to traveling with just a blues harp! :)

Update 2011-01-13: Package arrived from MGM, now slowly introducing the package to room temperature (via a below-room temperature area) due to it being way below freezing outside (where the package has been sitting) before opening it. So, in a few hours I should be able to take a look at my new Kala Pocket Ukulele! :)

So how did you end up liking your Kala Pocket Uke?