NUD: One man's lightly used is another gal's treasure

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I was able to grab this beauty from @Jedininja before anyone else could, a 2019 Kala Elite Honduran Mahogany Doghair Tenor. I fell in love with the Kala Elite line after being able to try one of the Emi Sunshine Limited ones at Elderly Music during my vacation this summer. I was slightly nervous this version might not have the sound I was looking for since the Emi Sunshine Limited costs 4x the MSRP of this one. While they are different, the Kala Elite sound is definitely here and I LOVE it. This review isn't comprehensive, but rather talking about the stuff that stood out to me.

Sound: Big, open, dry, woody, bold
Looks: I usually don't think Mahogany is all that pretty, but I really do like the doghair dark grain fill and the feel to the finish on this instrument. Smoother than gloss but not satiny. Perhaps a bit sticky if you get sweaty hands, but not that bad.


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I've never really looked at the Kala logo very much. I believe these are ivroid inlays, but I think it looks really gorgeous in the white against the mahogany with dark grain fill. Classy imo.


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I've seen complaints about the large tuning pegs on Kala Elites in the forums, but this is one of my favorite parts of the instrument. The neck is thick and chunky with a D shape. Lots to hold on to and more comfortable for barring for me at least. The headstock is thin and light with extra tall tuning pegs. This allows them to be placed further back on the headstock while maintaining a not too intense break angle, moving the tuners back and leaving plenty of room for your hand to move around and not accidentally bump them.

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The Kala branded tuners are interesting. Comparing them to the grover geared tuners from my Martin, I would say they are on par.



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Kala uses x bracing and has interesting back bracing too.

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Truss rod in the neck

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Just showing off the beautiful grain. This had a bone saddle as well. My first time using real bone. I like it, though can't tell if it makes too much of a difference really.

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Sound samples to follow!
 

clear

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Nice! Congrats!

Is there a flat spot on Kala's neck? (you mentioned D shape). I kind of remember a thick C shape; but I've never owned a uke from their Elite line.
 
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Nice! Congrats!

Is there a flat spot on Kala's neck? (you mentioned D shape). I kind of remember a thick C shape; but I've never owned a uke from their Elite line.
I have some lower tier kala's as well and the necks are different. The cheaper ones are more of a C shape. There aren't really any flat spots of the Elite neck. It's probably the same thickness as my Kala Baritone neck, but with the D shaped taper instead of a C, which makes it feel chunkier in my opinion.

@Peter Frary wrote an excellent overall review of the instrument that sold me on it even further. I agree with him that the chunky neck is really comfortable
 

Ukecaster

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I've had two of these. My current one is a prototype from 2019, presumably when they were switching from the earlier fan bracing to the X-bracing. The only other differences were that my prototype came with top binding, ebony fingerboard and bridge, and Graphtech Ratio rear facing tuners.

Between the 2 bracing styles, I feel the X sounds slightly crisper and clearer, although both sound great. That said, with their big, woody & slightly middier tone, they seem better suited for low-G fingerstyle/chord melody styles, not my mostly reentrant strumming. I've sometimes thought of attempting a trade for an Elite koa tenor.
 
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Sporky

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Congrats! Glad you're happy with it. It's fun to see it for sale and then in NUD. Nice photos 😊
 

rainbow21

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Nice acquisition. I have read so many good reports in this forum about their elite line. Perhaps I will be able to try one in the near future (I am only two hours drive from Kala but never had the desire to visit... maybe this will prompt me to go).

Edit addition: I just visited the Kala website. I was surprised that their Koa Elites that they list are as expensive as the K's.
 
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clear

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Edit addition: I just visited the Kala website. I was surprised that their Koa Elites that they list are as expensive as the K's.

You have to use street prices instead of MSRP.

I just went to Kala site and got these prices:

Kala 1KAO-C = $850
Kala 1KAO-T = $900

The cheapest Hawaiian Koa ukes (from HMS, which generally have excellent pricing):

KoAloha KCM-00 = $1100
Kanile'a K-1T = $1355

So, Kala, is 40-50% cheaper than comparable Hawaiian ukes and is a good deal.
 

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I played the K brands back to back with the Kala elite at Elderly instruments. While I enjoyed them and they were all excellent instruments, Kala Elite felt best for me in the neck and balance and was my preferred sound for how I play. Once you get above a certain price I feel like they are all excellent and it's just a matter of your personal preference.
 

rainbow21

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You have to use street prices instead of MSRP.

I just went to Kala site and got these prices:

Kala 1KAO-C = $850
Kala 1KAO-T = $900

The cheapest Hawaiian Koa ukes (from HMS, which generally have excellent pricing):

KoAloha KCM-00 = $1100
Kanile'a K-1T = $1355

So, Kala, is 40-50% cheaper than comparable Hawaiian ukes and is a good deal.
Another pricing surprise after reading your post. The satin concert elite is $849, BUT the gloss koa is $1499. Fancier appointments, but a satin KoAloha concert (pikake) is around $925 maybe.
 

Cadia

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Congrats! I was awfully tempted on that one, but didn't really have the extra funds. I'm happy it went to someone who obviously appreciates it. It sounds great! Enjoy!
 

M3Ukulele

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Congrats, these are beautiful ukuleles and they sound fantastic. I love the string thru bridge and grain of the dog hair. I didn’t see this one come up otherwise I would have been tempted. You are very lucky to own it. This is my kind of NUD thread complete with comments and great pics. Thanks for sharing and enjoy!
 

VegasGeorge

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Undoubtedly a lovely instrument! I've never had a chance to play a Kala Elite. I've looked at them online, but could never justify the price in my mind. I hesitate to buy an expensive Uke from a maker that has models selling for $69.00. Perhaps an irrational prejudice, but it's how I think. I do own and enjoy a number of Kalas in their regular, mid price range. I'm assuming you got this one at a reasonable price. I wish you many happy years with it! 🙂