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View Full Version : Kala U-Bass Thoughts



ukestang
06-21-2011, 12:55 PM
Have had my U-Bass about a month and absolutely love it. Took it to Abbey Road on The River Beatles festival over Memorial day weekend to use at the all night jam sessions in the hotel. Quite a few top notch bass players from bands playing at the festival played it and loved it as well, they were waiting in line to get a chance to play it, it was played by others more than me, which was OK because they were all awesome. Everyone who played it wanted to get one until...I told them how much it cost (I have the spruce top model $414 at Sam Ash) Guess my point in all this is to wonder why they do cost so much? Was hoping the new solid body would be a bit more affordable, but no, solid ash body $996. C'mon Kala, this instrument does not need solid wood, make a laminate, for around $200 and sell a million of them.

ukenyc
06-21-2011, 01:35 PM
Am interested in the U Bass as well. Did you get fretted or no frets?

cb56
06-21-2011, 01:46 PM
They've actually raised the price a bit since I bout mine a year ago for $399. Why? Because they sell so fast they can't keep them in the stores. The original Road Toad models (hand made by Owen Holt) sell for $1000+ and are worth it.
I also have the spruce top model . The Top is solid but the sides and back are laminate.
I love mine and use it every weekend practically. Never letting it go.

OldePhart
06-21-2011, 02:28 PM
Yeah, it seems to be a case of what the market will bare. That said, there are some drawbacks to it that you kind of discover after living with it for a while. Almost every bass (and guitar) player seems to fall in love with it instantly, it's only after trying to use it as your main axe for a while that you discover that it has zero sustain and is somewhat difficult to do slides with.

I bought mine when I was having problems with my wrist that made it look like I might have to give up playing bass. It certainly allowed my wrist to recover and I'm keeping it in case I have similar problems in the future, but as a bass player there is no way I'd consider making it my main axe unless health kept me from playing my five-string.

It's a lot of fun, and fine for walking patterns and such, but I do a lot of extended notes and slides in my playing. No amount of compression can get decent sustain out of those silicone strings and sliding is iffy 'cause fingers tend to stick to the strings when you've worked up a sweat.

So, great fun, and I know they're real popular with doghouse players because they don't expect a lot of sustain anyway, but most electric bass players aren't going to switch except for novelty.

John

cb56
06-21-2011, 03:38 PM
I agree with you oldephart. It is what it is. I started a Ubass club over at talkbass last year and one of the first things I posted was "don't expect it to play like and sound like your Fender Jazz" IMO it is a real instrument, not a novelty. It does however have it's own personality and quirks. Folks either love them or are unimpressed with them. I wouldn't buy one to replace a bass guitar though.

jkevinwolfe
06-21-2011, 04:31 PM
Mine is one of the first 12 made and cost $600, so the price actually dropped.

Part of the cost is the hardware. The UBass was designed by Owen Holt at Road Toad, the inventor of the strings. He dictated it had to have top notch parts. It has $100 Hipshot tuners and a $150 Shadow pickup. That's a large part of the cost.

Dougf
06-21-2011, 05:07 PM
This is some footage I shot of Bakithi Kumalo playing Kala UBass (fretless) at NAMM 2011 in Anaheim. Some of you bass aficionados might appreciate this. It sure impressed the hell out of me.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zKCLHjSI9A

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zKCLHjSI9A

kissing
06-21-2011, 05:10 PM
I sort of agree, from the customer's perspective.
I really like the concept of the Ubass, and I really wanted one.

But in the end,I got an Ashbory bass instead, which uses the same strings.
Simply, it was more cost effective.

I had high hopes for the solid body version.. but at $996, I'll just get a good quality bass guitar for less than half that thank you very much!

ichadwick
06-22-2011, 12:50 AM
Funky little bass, but it requires some work to adjust your playing. First the strings have a tendency to roll a bit under pressure, so you need to to be very precise when placing your fingers. Second, I found sliding a bit clumsy, either because of the material or because of the rolling. Finally, if you play bass, you'll overreach until you get used to the scale. Not bad for uke players coming into bass, but I found old riffs I had played in the past and could play in my sleep were now things I had to relearn.

A cool idea, but the acoustic model isn't terribly practical since it has little sound when unplugged. The solid body is much more interesting, but at that price I can buy a good Epiphone bass, plus an inexpensive six-string Ibanez bass, plus a small bass amp, all the taxes, and still have some money left over for straps and cords.

Kimosabe
06-22-2011, 06:55 AM
As you may have read, Owen Holt originals are valuable. I have a beautiful semi hollow that cost $600. Owen made it for me. I haven't used it much. I spend my time on my tenor. Anyone interested? I live in Oakland, CA.

cb56
06-22-2011, 07:11 AM
Mine is one of the first 12 made and cost $600, so the price actually dropped.

Part of the cost is the hardware. The UBass was designed by Owen Holt at Road Toad, the inventor of the strings. He dictated it had to have top notch parts. It has $100 Hipshot tuners and a $150 Shadow pickup. That's a large part of the cost.

Bet yours is an all mahogany model? They were more expensive than the spruce top.

Kimosabe
06-22-2011, 08:20 AM
No, it's not mahogany. It's a beautiful Brazilian wood that I unfortunately forgot the name of. I have pictures of course.

ukestang
06-22-2011, 11:13 AM
One thing I did not mention in my original post is that I also had my Epi Les Paul Uke at the festival, several guitarists played it as well, when asked which they thought cost more, the Epi, or Kala U-bass, they all said the Epi without hesitation.

cb56
06-22-2011, 12:39 PM
No, it's not mahogany. It's a beautiful Brazilian wood that I unfortunately forgot the name of. I have pictures of course.

Is it a Kala or an Owen Holt Road Toad? Owen Holt's models are hand made ( He invented the strings and the instrument) and sell for over $1000
Kala got the rights from Owen Holt to make the production model (UBass) and Originally made them In Mahogany (Originally priced at$499), acacia (Most expensive one at the time $599) and then the lesser priced spruce/laminate mahogany version which was first priced $399.

Uke2ch
06-23-2011, 06:44 PM
I just picked up a new "Kala U Bass". It's the solid mahogany fretted one. Paid 469.00 +tax from Sam Ash. They found one in one of their stores and priced matched the NStuff Music's advertised online price. Ouch, but I love it. I played bass in rock and top 40 bands for many years as a teenager to my early 20's and bought a five string fretless Padulla Pentabuzz ten years ago but haven't played it much since I took up the Ukulele. Now I've found the perfect match. A Ukulele sized bass. It's fantastic! It will take a little time getting used the somewhat sticky rubber-like strings. I look forward to getting my chops back.

Kimosabe
06-23-2011, 07:37 PM
Is it a Kala or an Owen Holt Road Toad? Owen Holt's models are hand made ( He invented the strings and the instrument) and sell for over $1000
Kala got the rights from Owen Holt to make the production model (UBass) and Originally made them In Mahogany (Originally priced at$499), acacia (Most expensive one at the time $599) and then the lesser priced spruce/laminate mahogany version which was first priced $399.

I ordered it from Owen and it took over six months for him to finish it. I picked it up at his home in San Jose, CA. It is a Brazilian wood, very beautiful.

Uke2ch
06-23-2011, 08:31 PM
Any Pics? I've always wanted an original. I'm interested!
Thanks

iDavid
07-25-2011, 04:19 PM
Is there a difference in the tuner on the acoustic ubass models? I hear the sound of the spruce/laminate and mahogany is about the same.

Artista
08-12-2011, 03:24 PM
Seems i came back to UU at the right time. Hi all , I just bought the fretted acoustic Kala U-BASS tonight from a uke friend. I agree with 'Ichadwick's posting-"...it requires some work to adjust your playing. First the strings have a tendency to roll a bit under pressure, so you need to to be very precise when placing your fingers. Second, I found sliding a bit clumsy, either because of the material or because of the rolling."

No matter how i apply pressure to the frets, I get a bit of that annoying vibrato 'noise' coming especially from the E & A strings. Im wondering if I can put on a different type of strings other than the polyurethanes. If so, what type? I do love this Kala.

lookingforcurly
08-12-2011, 04:49 PM
There have been a few threads in the past on the Ubass. Sorry to be the dissenting voice here. I had one of the early mahogany tops and I was not impressed. I felt it was way overpriced for the quality of the materials and workmanship. I seriously considered replacing the Shadow pickup with a K&K for $68. The strings seemed to never stop stretching and monthly I would rewind the string and cut about 2" of stretch off the end. The tuners were plastic and when the strings would bind on the posts they broke easily. This was a common problem and is evidenced by the early video Kala posted on repairing broken tuners. While the Ubass is a neat idea, I did not think it worked well or sounded good in a group. As much as I liked the idea of carrying around a much lighter bass, I could not gain satisfaction playing it, so sold it and went back to my Carvin.

The cost of the solid body seems absurd to me also.