Review: Aklot AKS21 Solid Mahogany Top Soprano Ukulele

Farkvam

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An unsponsored review.
I recently sold my first ukulele, a $60 Hilo, and was looking for an upgrade. I was willing to spend $200 CAD and reached out to a local ukulele teacher and dealer for recommendations. They immediately recommended the $69 Aklot on Amazon. A bit surprised and extremely skeptical (almost 6000 mostly positive reviews), I went to a brick and mortar Long and McQuade instead. After a few weeks and not much success, I decided to order an Ohana SK-25 sight unseen from another dealer. It would be a month wait and being without uke, I finally caved in and ordered the Aklot for the time being as a waiting period/travel/beach uke.

$69 CAD minus an $8 Amazon coupon offer for a solid mahogany top with bone nut and saddle, Aquila SuperNylgut strings and a multitude of accessories: gig bag, digital clip-on tuner, extra set of strings, shoulder strap, two picks, a how-to guide and a chord directory.

It arrived in two days (thanks Amazon Prime) and all looked surprisingly good. It wasn't tuned but a couple moments fixed that and it held its tune, no settling in period for the strings.

Now to look at the body. The solid top is in two pieces, the neck in three with a joint at the heel and the headstock. The laminate back and sides are both in two pieces. Features a pull through bridge which conceals the string ends. It's a standard soprano size at 21 inches. Satin, open pore finish.

Nice features: rounded edges where the top meets the sides for comfort, laser etched logo and rosette, bone nut and compensated saddle, nice reddish mahogany hue, awesome unbranded copper 18:1 tuners that have the perfect amount of tension and turn like butter. Decent bracing and notched kerfing inside, strap buttons, full rounded neck profile (which not everyone loves but I do). A slightly more generous nut width than most Chinese offerings at 36mm. And the gig bag is padded with a front zip pocket, much nicer than some reviews rate. The back is slightly arched affording nice projection and there are side fret markets at the 3rd, 5th and 10th.

What's not great: despite smooth fret ends promised by the ad, almost all were sharp and needed filing. The bridge and fretboard are a rough wood, painted black which I never love. I prefer natural wood. The compensated saddle appears to be hand hewn and looks a bit hack. There are a bit of glue blobs inside but otherwise fine.

How does it sound? There isn't great sustain, but overall the sound is bright, clear and punchy without being brittle. The intonation is quite good despite becoming a bit sharp at the 12th. All in all, it's actually quite amazing, I almost don't want to admit it. In my experience it definitely outperformed another entry level, the Kala KA-S, in every regard. I had the Kala in my possession for a couple weeks before returning it to Long and McQuade, where it retails for over double the price of the Aklot.

4/5 for its price range. I normally prefer brick and mortar mom and pop shops, and brands with a story. But I would honestly recommend the Aklot to any beginner or someone looking for a travel uke that they can also bring to the beach or camping.

Edit April 28th: I just read a Kmise review (same brand as Aklot) by a well-known ukulele reviewer that this brand uses questionable marketing tactics and lied about their product to him. I am only recommending this instrument based on my experiences with it, not necessarily the company behind it. Hearing about this brand having questionable integrity may understandably be a turn-off for some prospective buyers. I bought this particular instrument based on personal recommendation from some people in the ukulele community and haven't had any unsavory experiences, but I can't comment on the brand.
 

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John Colter

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That's a good, helpful review, Farkvam. Your experience of these cheap, laminate bodied ukes, is much like mine. Except that I bought mine direct from China. I have bought five different brands, some from the AliExpress website, and two directly from Aiersi's own site. They all have a strong family resemblance, as though they are produced at the same factory, with only superficial cosmetic changes to distinguish them. All of mine were made from laminate material (HPL) for front, sides and back. As such, they were much cheaper than yours, with the solid wooden front, but I accept that buying from a distant country, sight unseen, is an act of faith.

All six ukes (I bought two identical Aiersi Pineapples) were well put together, played well and sounded good, with just minor variations of volume and tone. The Aiersis are particularly good examples of the type. For the purposes you describe, they are very good value for money.

John Colter
 

Farkvam

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Thank you, John. I'll have to check out the Aiersi out of curiosity. I've never ordered from AliExpress but know people who have found some great products at amazing prices there as well.
Cheers!
 

Farkvam

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I should mention that the only thing that could make the Aklot a bad choice for travel, camping and the like is the solid top, but even if cracks developed from humidity and temperature changes, in my mind it's not a big deal as the cost makes it easy to replace. I'd just buy another!
 

badhabits

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pretty much the same experience with $50 laminate kmise (the one with geared tuners with clear window on back and orange-brown buttons)
 

Farkvam

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Good to know, I saw Kmise on Amazon and wondered about them. How do these brands do it now? My $60 Hilo was bought fifteen years ago and is just a toy in comparison to what you can get now for the same price.
 
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John Colter

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One of my six ukes (mentioned above) was a K-mise. It was very good. I gave it to one of my son's friends.

John Colter
 

Ms Bean

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I have bought few Kmise ukes. I agree with badhabits; the basic plain looking models with the rope rosette and the transparent closed gears are excellent for the money.
Here's the tenor: https://www.kmise.com/goods-18725.html

They also come in soprano KMU21S, concert KMU23C, and baritone KMU30B (this is the only baritone I have). I would recommend these basic Kmise ukes, and I am interested in buying their guitalele MODEL: KMU30G.

I have bought two other Kmise concerts as presents. Both have solid spruce tops and more decorative elements: MODEL MI2068 and MODEL MI0714. They look more attractive, but when it comes to finish, they aren't as nice as the plain Jane model. Soundwise they are okay, but my husband's MI2068 still has the stock strings (then Aquila) on it. I wonder if (and hope that) the trebles will come out better once I put flourocarbon strings on.

Still, for the price all of these function as musical instruments. They aren't toys.
 

Farkvam

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Thanks John Colter and Ms Bean. The Kmise is another contender it sounds like! Although I am very impressed and happy with the sound of the Aklot, it could rival some $200ish CAD ukes I've tried. Ms Bean mentions that the Kmise was just ok sound wise?
 
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Ms Bean

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Thanks John Colter and Ms Bean. The Kmise is another contender it sounds like! Although I am very impressed and happy with the sound of the Aklot, it could rival some $200ish CAD ukes I've tried. Ms Bean mentions that the Kmise was just ok sound wise?

My laminate Kmise baritone is actually rather nice with a warm and mellow sound. That is one of the plain looking ones llike badhabit's (fifth post in the thread).
My husband's concert uke with a spruce top is loud when strumming chords in first position. It is not the best uke for playing chord melody arrangements as I find the A string too weak to bring out the melody line. I like fluorocarbon strings, and I think they might suit that uke better. When the stock Aquilas need replacing, I'll be able to compare. I must admit that I prefer the tenor scale and a wider nut width, so I don't play this Kmise often.

Kmise and Aklot are the same company: Aklot is a bit more expensive, Kmise is the budget line.
 

Farkvam

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Thanks for elaborating Ms Bean. And also for the info, I didn't realize Kmise and Aklot are the same company.
 

LarryS

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Interesting, that sounds like amazing quality for such a low price! I wonder how the intonation and action is...
 

badhabits

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My concerts sounded nice with stock aquilas (gave away both), son's soprano with the replacement fluorocarbon strings that come with sounds great with good sustain, amazing considering the price.
 

Farkvam

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Interesting, that sounds like amazing quality for such a low price! I wonder how the intonation and action is...
The intonation is actually pretty good, minus a bit of sharpness at the 12th.
The action is fine at the saddle, but admittedly a bit high at the nut. I would like to have it lowered but am not sure it's worth it to have it done at this price point ha ha. I've never done a setup myself and have heard lowering the nut is more of an art than lowering the saddle...
 

Kenn2018

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Nice review. Very thoughtful and thorough. It seems you got a decent instrument for the price.
 

Litakend

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Interestingly, your description of the ukulele is very similar to mine. Thanks for the detailed review, you wrote it very competently. I have been playing ukulele for 4 years now and I want to become more famous among my acquaintance's thanks to the Internet
 
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v30

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Keep an eye on the aklots on amazon. They often have several promotions on the go. I just purchased a solid top 5 string tenor and an aklot harmonica for $40 cdn. Added it to my cart and it was about $104, but after promotions, $40
 

v30

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Keep an eye on the aklots on amazon. They often have several promotions on the go. I just purchased a solid top 5 string tenor and an aklot harmonica for $40 cdn. Added it to my cart and it was about $104, but after promotions, $40

Got the discount code on vipon....
Anyway it arrived today. Solid top, Looks quite good, decent closed tuners. Sounds good. Fret ends just a hair rough but not enough that Ill bother with it. Action height good, good intonation. Has a truss rod. I got the uke and harmonica for $40. For that amount it was a no brainer. Even if I payed $100 Id be happy with it. Not a fan of stringing it up through the body though but its a minor inconvenience.