View Full Version : On the fence.

01-18-2011, 11:59 AM
I've had my Kala Archtop Jazz uke since may. I won't knock the uke as surely is a great piece of instrument. However I find myself questioning whether its the uke for me.

My qualms with it are as follows.

First of all, the sound. Not so much the plugged sound as that's quite fine. I just can't help but to think that I'm unhappy with its acoustic tone. To me, it doesn't project very well, which is something I should've expected I suppose. My Makala tenor has more of the resonant sound that I covet acoustically.

Second, I do get a buzz when I attack the strings a bit harder. Again, my Makala Tenor does not give me this same buzz.

I don't mean to compare the Archtop with the Makala, but they are the only ukes I own. There are many things that the Kala has going for it over the Makala. Most obvious is the fit and finish. I get the feeling that for the price I paid, the Archtop should surpass the Makala on all fronts.

I guess my question would be, could you guys recommend me a A/E Tenor uke that might fulfill my needs with out me having to spend much more than I could get for the Kala? I've kind of had my eye on the Boulder Creek Riptide series. Are they worth a go?

Also, are the Archtops being produced anymore? I don't see them at MGMs ebay store.

01-18-2011, 05:05 PM
I have only tried the Kala Archtop and I didn't care for the acoustic sound either. You have to remember that the strings vibrate the soundboard and that moves the air to produce the sound. I'm not sure if that is tougher to do with an archtop.

I do know that there are few acoustic archtop guitars, but tons of acoustic flat tops.


01-18-2011, 07:08 PM
I don't like mine much either. It feels nice to play, but it's deader than a doornail. That would be fine if the electronics were good, but they're not, at least on mine. And can I get something better installed? I doubt it. :(

01-18-2011, 09:20 PM
The archtop is laminated and won't produce as much volume as a solid-top or solid-wood instrument. That explains the volume. If you want something A/E in the way of a uke, try the Ohana TK-20CE which has laminated mahogany back and sides, solid mahogany top, and the UK-2000 pickup. It is a great uke for recording and live performance.

01-18-2011, 09:22 PM
Glad to see I'm not the only who was disappointed. Anyone have any suggestions?

01-18-2011, 09:35 PM
As I like the feel of my archtop, I'd be pretty happy if it were possible to install something better in there. :(

But for you, Pippin's suggestion is good. Or you can go with a solidbody type like an Eleuke. Click the sunburst uke in my signature below to embiggen.

01-18-2011, 11:07 PM
Didn't see your suggestion at first pippin, I'll definitely check it out.

As for the eleuke, I'd prefer to stick to hollowbodied joes. Thanks anyway though

Bonnie C.
07-19-2011, 12:23 PM
Got my Kala Archtop a few weeks ago. It looks cooler than a cucumber, but has all the unplugged resonance of a dead opossum. Plugged into my Marshall AS100D amp? Yeah, baby! On the downside, I did have an issue with the Kala Archtop recently that freaked me out: the strings were suddenly all buzzing. I traced the buzz to the bridge. By shining a flashlight in one of the F-holes and looking through the other F-hole, I saw a thin wire that goes from the tail jack straight up into the bridge, and another that goes to the controls. The slack to these wires had settled upward, touching the top of the uke, hence causing the bummer-inducing buzz. The fix? I stuck a pencil through the F-hole and gently pushed the wiring downward, away from the uke top. Voila; no more buzz. Final thoughts? This is not a uke to buy if you want to play it unplugged. It's too quiet for song circles. But it feels great and sounds great amplified. Moreover, it is definitely the coolest looking uke I've played, and I look forward to playing more jazz on it as my skills increase. Here is the video that helped me decide to buy the archtop: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSYG0H-9zKQ
Lucky for me, the archtop fit okay in the $40 black hardshell tenor case I already had bought @ music123.com for another uke (I had been told by one uke seller the archtop would be too thick to fit, but if anything there was more than enough room in that music123 case for the archtop.) All in all, the Kala Archtop is a great little uke for a person who plans to play it plugged in.

07-20-2011, 02:15 AM
The archtop is laminated and won't produce as much volume as a solid-top or solid-wood instrument. That explains the volume. If you want something A/E in the way of a uke, try the Ohana TK-20CE which has laminated mahogany back and sides, solid mahogany top, and the UK-2000 pickup. It is a great uke for recording and live performance.

I disagree with the assumption that the archtop doesn't sound loud because it is laminate.

In practice, this simply isn't true, with plenty of examples to prove it. Laminate ukes can be plenty loud.
Something as cheap as my Makala laminate mahogany pineapple is louder than most solid-top and all-solid top ukes in stores.
A well made laminate designed for good acoustic output will sound very loud and almost indistinguishable from a solid.

A solid certainly has the potential to be a louder instrument than a laminate. "Potential" being the keyword here.
Yes, a single layer of wood has a physical advantage to vibrating more freely for a louder sound. However, in practice, not necessarily always the case.
It comes down to other factors, including how the uke is made, what wood, thickness of top, saddle and bridge material, etc.

The Kala Archtop sounds a bit quiet acoustically because its laminated top is very thick.
To keep the instrument durable, while having that arched top, I guess they had to use a thick laminate.
It was inspired by archtop jazz guitars, which also have quite heavy tops and low acoustic output. The intention here being that the hollow body gives a warmer, richer electric output that an all-solid-body electric can't achieve. Archtop guitars are electric guitars, and the whole point of the hollow body is not for playing acoustically, but for achieving a particular sound through amplifiers. It has steel strings and magnetic pickups, which (i'm sorry to say) are a lot more practical on an electric instrument than nylon strings are.

With the Kala archtop, the only thing they got right is the aesthetics. It looks remarkable. I used to have one, and I was always mesmerised by its beauty.
What they got wrong are either the acoustics or the electronics. We could forgive it being a mediocre acoustic instrument if the electronics were somehow superior to most other acoustic-electrics. We could forgive its average pickup system if it was a spectacular acoustic instrument. It is neither..

In the end, the Kala Archtop uke is just a fancy looking acoustic-electric with average piezo electronics and crap acoustics.
It truly is a uke that you gotta value for its looks. And for many people out there, it simply is enough. All they need is a good quality Jazz-themed uke for plugging in to get it to sound like a normal uke. And I have seen some performers do very well on stage with it.

For me personally, I did like its sound.
It had a nice, gentle sound that was mellow and pleasant. However, I ended up selling it off because the volume wasn't loud enough to be practical.
Would I get one again if I had the chance?

Strangely enough, Yes! I have a soft-spot for semi-acoustic and jazz styled instruments. I can appreciate the Kala Jazz uke for what it is, and would have a lot of fun playing it and adoring its looks.