Looking for a recommendation for a loud tenor ukulele.

... short on sustain and tone though. But if it's loud you are after this is it!
I had the Kala KA-SSEM-T and it was impossible to get string balance. It would mercilessly howl at a range of frequencies and was dead at others. No string changes could fix it, so I ultimately sold it. (Not here, BTW... CL.)

Was it "loud"? Absolutely.
But no matter which strings I tried, I could not live with the resonances, nulls, and overall unbalanced sound.
The upshot... "loudest" isn't always the best.

<edit> I will add though, wound strings are louder and clearer. On tenor, rounds are doable for low G .028w and C .022w. E and A will be normal unwound. Wounds available: D'Addario Pro-Arte NYL028w and NYL022w.
 
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I've been told that a properly strung Martin stands out in group play and read in an older review that they are definitely loud. Perhaps someone who owns one will chime in.
I agree with @Mike $, my T1K has good volume to it yet remains a sweet sounding uke. I've also got a Style 2 mahogany tenor (purchased used within the OP's price range) that is the loudest of all my ukes, including the KoAlohas. I have other Martins that are not as loud.
 
I will add though, wound strings are louder and clearer. On tenor, rounds are doable for G .028w, C .022w, & E .019*w (*guess, perhaps). The A will have to be a normal unwound. All wound: D'Addario Pro-Arte NYLs.

This is a good point... when I put those La Bella baby baritone strings onto my Pono AT_CR tenor is was instantly twice as loud. They have wound #3 and #4 and they sound(ed) great on that Pono! Playing it gave me a chest massage, the back was moving so strongly. I liked them so much I wore them out. What I replaced them with are not nearly as much fun. I'm probably going back to the BBs next time...

For loudness and good tone, you might want to try these on the tenor you have now. They are pricey... but super fun!

What I just said will probably be controversial though... there is sort of an unwritten rule here on UU called the UAS rule. One UU member is never supposed to talk another member out of buying another ukulele. I'll probably get flagged for doing this...

But those $25 La Bella strings might be enough to stop your shopping around for something else!
 
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  1. Size and Shape: While you're set on a tenor, consider the body's depth and shape, as these can influence volume and tone.
  2. Strings: You've experimented here, but sometimes the right combination of ukulele and strings can surprise you. While you've tried high-tension strings, consider experimenting with different brands or materials.
  3. Setup: A professional setup can also enhance the sound of a ukulele. Sometimes a small adjustment in action or intonation can bring out more volume.

Boy, ain't it weird how things work. Some here mentioned the thinline Kala travel uke which has a narrow body but is loud. And also my Applause soprano with its little fiberglass body that's extraordinarily loud. Tried the Kala before and it is indeed surprisingly loud for its body depth.

Tried Aquila Reds on my Applause, but were much less loud than the D'Adderio Titaniums and Aquila Sugars. Currently has Worth Browns mounted, which aren't as loud as the last two but louder than the Reds...ain't it funny: I think the only way to know these things are to try. Seems like loud ukes are loud, but you really can't predict exactly how the strings will interact with the instrument.
  1. Cordoba 20TM-CE: A solid mahogany top that's known for its loudness and clarity, and it's within your budget.
  2. Fender Montecito Tenor Ukulele: Inspired by Fender's classic guitar designs, it has a solid koa top that delivers a rich, full sound.

My local store carries the Cordobas. I have a 15TM-CE. I'll see it they have the 20TM-CE, but I tend to think my budget allows me to go fo a better sounding uke. I have a pretty serious aversion to the Fenders; just get the feeling you're paying too much for the name.

Thanks for your thoughtful comments!

Go for punchy, resonant woods like cedar, redwood or spruce. Strings can make a huge difference. Aquila reds project extremely well.

Currently I'm leaning towards the brightness of spruce, but we'll see. Do you think 12 fret necks are louder than 14-15 fret necks as it places the bridge more centrally on the body?

This is a bit of a curve-ball idea, but I recently converted a tenor guitar to an octave ukulele.

Kinda don't want to play something too unusual so that I draw less attention to myself. I have a Weber mandolin I've changed to uke tuning. It's really nice and loud, I use it around campfires sometimes to compete with the guitars, but it would be offputting in the strictly uke group I'm playing in. (I even got a bit of ribbing for showing up with my oversized Pono Nui baritone. It was friendly ribbing, but I could tell it was a bit serious.)

Koaloha and much cheaper Kala SSTU travel ukes have a reputation of being loud.

Thanks, I've already mentioned I've played the Kala and agree. They also have one at my local store so I will give it another listen. However, so many have come back with Koaloha that I am tending in that direction.

I second the Aquila Reds! Very loud strings. They get to be pretty high tension for me at standard tuning, but they have made several quiet ukes louder for me.

I've mentioned it above, but I found D'Adderio Titaniums and Aquilla Sugars to be much louder than the Reds. And, of course, those reds have that pesky snapping problem, which I have experienced. I find the Reds to be really gentle on the fingers and particularly good for beginners though, so I do recommend them at times.

How big is your group and your room? At most jam sessions that I attend, the leaders use amplifiers, especially for the person keeping the beat.

About 12 and a medium-sized class room. I do have a Godin Multiuke solid body electric and a little Fishman and that would work perfectly, but I feel it would attract far too much attention in these particular groups. I'm not the leader for the groups, so I don't want to overstep. (I have lead some other groups and used my electric to good effect, however.)

Thanks to all! I think I'm leaning towards the Koaloha Opios. Mim's has a good price on them and I'd love to send some business her way. I've got all the files and tools to do set up (and do lots of it for beginners so they can be more successful doing unavoidable bar chords---Bb, Bm, D7, etc), but I'm happy to let her do it for me and make some bucks. The only question there is Spruce or Acacia top. Anyone have an opinion on which is louder?
 
Just for conversation, I will mention that a properly built archtop ukulele can be loud and project well. The archtop guitars replaced the banjos in the big bands in the twenties, because they could cut through the horns and a ukulele can have similar properties. Not a lot of builders capable of making them work, but there is no comparison to a good one.
 
Boy, ain't it weird how things work. Some here mentioned the thinline Kala travel uke which has a narrow body but is loud. And also my Applause soprano with its little fiberglass body that's extraordinarily loud. Tried the Kala before and it is indeed surprisingly loud for its body depth.

Tried Aquila Reds on my Applause, but were much less loud than the D'Adderio Titaniums and Aquila Sugars. Currently has Worth Browns mounted, which aren't as loud as the last two but louder than the Reds...ain't it funny: I think the only way to know these things are to try. Seems like loud ukes are loud, but you really can't predict exactly how the strings will interact with the instrument.


My local store carries the Cordobas. I have a 15TM-CE. I'll see it they have the 20TM-CE, but I tend to think my budget allows me to go fo a better sounding uke. I have a pretty serious aversion to the Fenders; just get the feeling you're paying too much for the name.

Thanks for your thoughtful comments!



Currently I'm leaning towards the brightness of spruce, but we'll see. Do you think 12 fret necks are louder than 14-15 fret necks as it places the bridge more centrally on the body?



Kinda don't want to play something too unusual so that I draw less attention to myself. I have a Weber mandolin I've changed to uke tuning. It's really nice and loud, I use it around campfires sometimes to compete with the guitars, but it would be offputting in the strictly uke group I'm playing in. (I even got a bit of ribbing for showing up with my oversized Pono Nui baritone. It was friendly ribbing, but I could tell it was a bit serious.)



Thanks, I've already mentioned I've played the Kala and agree. They also have one at my local store so I will give it another listen. However, so many have come back with Koaloha that I am tending in that direction.



I've mentioned it above, but I found D'Adderio Titaniums and Aquilla Sugars to be much louder than the Reds. And, of course, those reds have that pesky snapping problem, which I have experienced. I find the Reds to be really gentle on the fingers and particularly good for beginners though, so I do recommend them at times.



About 12 and a medium-sized class room. I do have a Godin Multiuke solid body electric and a little Fishman and that would work perfectly, but I feel it would attract far too much attention in these particular groups. I'm not the leader for the groups, so I don't want to overstep. (I have lead some other groups and used my electric to good effect, however.)

Thanks to all! I think I'm leaning towards the Koaloha Opios. Mim's has a good price on them and I'd love to send some business her way. I've got all the files and tools to do set up (and do lots of it for beginners so they can be more successful doing unavoidable bar chords---Bb, Bm, D7, etc), but I'm happy to let her do it for me and make some bucks. The only question there is Spruce or Acacia top. Anyone have an opinion on which is louder?
As you well know, all other things are never equal, but I think a well but lightly constructed ukulele with spruce top has a great deal of what I call penetration. I have a KoAloha tenor as well as a Pops Okami tenor (pine back and sides with spruce top). The spruce top rings out above the koa tenor on all four strings. It’s more than volume/sustain, it is the attack and harmonic mix that the spruce provides.
 
I had the Kala KA-SSEM-T and it was impossible to get string balance. It would mercilessly howl at a range of frequencies and was dead at others. No string changes could fix it, so I ultimately sold it. (Not here, BTW... CL.)

Was it "loud"? Absolutely.
But no matter which strings I tried, I could not live with the resonances, nulls, and overall unbalanced sound.
The upshot... "loudest" isn't always the best.

<edit> I will add though, wound strings are louder and clearer. On tenor, rounds are doable for low G .028w and C .022w. E and A will be normal unwound. Wounds available: D'Addario Pro-Arte NYL028w and NYL022w.

My Pono Nui Baritone was weird like that. The low-D string sounded like cardboard and the rest were dandy. I came to the conclusion that the hard tension FC strings and wound D & G were putting too much tension on the top and not letting it ring out. I went back to a low-tension set with only wound D and it pretty much cured it. Doesn't sound like my situation was quite as bad as yours, but it was really weird and disappointing for a while there.

This is a good point... when I put those La Bella baby baritone strings onto my Pono AT_CR tenor is was instantly twice as loud. They have wound #3 and #4 and they sound(ed) great on that Pono! Playing it gave me a chest massage, the back was moving so strongly. I liked them so much I wore them out. What I replaced them with are not nearly as much fun. I'm probably going back to the BBs next time...

Could you clarify this with a link? Are these baritone of tenor strings? I currently use the Uke Logic soft tension strings on my good tenor with the gold smoothwound low G and Tomastik-Infeld flatwound C, so I'm already using wound G and C strings---which I do like, by the way.

What I just said will probably be controversial though... there is sort of an unwritten rule here on UU called the UAS rule. One UU member is never supposed to talk another member out of buying another ukulele. I'll probably get flagged for doing this...

But those $25 La Bella strings might be enough to stop your shopping around for something else!

Worry not, if anything I'll find a sound canon uke and then go back to finding other strings for my Kawika that focus on sound quality. So, I'll almost certainly be buying another uke. I do, however, reject the idea that this is a symptom of UAS, but rather evidence of my ever increasing love of playing the uke and wanting to have sharp knives for all sorts of special uke playing conditions. That's my story and I'm sticking with it. (Says the the owner of 17 ukes currently. Link.)

Just for conversation, I will mention that a properly built archtop ukulele can be loud and project well. The archtop guitars replaced the banjos in the big bands in the twenties, because they could cut through the horns and a ukulele can have similar properties. Not a lot of builders capable of making them work, but there is no comparison to a good one.

Okay now, you are the devil. I can't even count the number of times the jazz uke player in me has searched around drooling over $5000+ custom archtop ukes. Get thee behind me Satan!

Lichty-Archtop-Tenor-Ukulele-U179-19.jpg


Luchty-Ukulele-U177-3.jpg


ko_olau_archtop_spruce-maple.jpg.jpg


314884883_558060072794390_3539306899906537081_n.jpg




🥺
 
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This is the one. Nothing louder that I've ever heard. I call mine the Fogcutter. I play it in class with 20 students all playing at the same time and it rises above them all... I have an SSTU-t and an EMTU-t. The plywood topped EMTU is pretty loud as well but the SSTU beats it. That solid top is as thin as a potato chip and really puts out. Punchy and crunchy for playing rhythm parts... short on sustain and tone though. But if it's loud you are after this is it! I have those thick Worth Flouros with a low g and that makes it bark even louder! Other strings make it sound richer but this one is set up to ROAR!!!

Do you have a wound low G? Do you happen to have the exact model number handy? Are these browns or clears? Part of me is leaning toward the Koaloha Opio spruce top tenor, but the SSTU-T is a third the price and, from the sound of it, possibly louder. Might be silly to use the Koaloha when the Kala would be functionally superior and not put such a big dent in my wallet.

(I don't have a banjolele yet, and the Kala would let me get to that sooner.)
 
It is not clear if you want to be loud as in volume or just establish a presence in the group and cut through. To increase volume, you should consider amplification. To establish presence, you need to focus on the high frequencies. Fiddles and mandolins are preferred solo instruments not because they have volume but because their frequencies stand out to the human ear. That's why baritone and low G tenors tend to get lost in group settings. Get a quality re-entrant concert or soprano and you should be all set.
 
Do you have a wound low G? Do you happen to have the exact model number handy? Are these browns or clears? Part of me is leaning toward the Koaloha Opio spruce top tenor, but the SSTU-T is a third the price and, from the sound of it, possibly louder. Might be silly to use the Koaloha when the Kala would be functionally superior and not put such a big dent in my wallet.

(I don't have a banjolele yet, and the Kala would let me get to that sooner.)
It's called a Kala KA-SSTU-t... new they are around $250 and come with a really nice custom fit soft padded case. Mine would probably benefit from some set-up work, but it's fine. I have Worth Clears solid Flourocarbon strings with a solid low g. I like these strings a lot... they are thick and heavy and really get the air moving!

BTW: The La Bella baby baritone strings are tenor length strings that allow you to tune a tenor as a baritone. The first time I strummed my such equipped Pono I couldn't believe my ears. It was transformed!
 
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My vote goes for Romero Creations Grand Tenor. Box is bigger...more volume for sure...I blow away those around me when practicing!!! Love it!
 
Just for your information, the base price for one of my archtop tenors is $900. I have developed a design that cuts both the material and labor time considerably. Here are some pictures of a prototype strung up in the white.

IMG_5625.jpegIMG_5626.jpeg
 
It is not clear if you want to be loud as in volume or just establish a presence in the group and cut through. To increase volume, you should consider amplification. To establish presence, you need to focus on the high frequencies.

You're points are well-taken, and just showing up with an amp and one of my ukes with pickups in them would solve my problem.

And you're right, if I really wanted to establish a presence going with a high-G relatively loud uke would do the trick. And I have played my Lanikai tenor with high-G with this group before...but it really doesn't get me where I want to go.

I like a low-G in this case because I do want to represent voice movements in the tune. A low-G gives me a little more opportunity to make chords paying some attention to the lower voice movement. Not that I can replace a bass---and we do often have a bass in this particular group---but if I can portray a solid and richer (wider) set of voice movements I can be a better rhythm section making the song sound more like it's characteristic self. Reentrant tuning gives you a good shot at tight chord-melody type playing, but there is a guy who does melodic improvisation in this group and I don't want to compete with him. So, again, an amp would solve my problem, but...

I'm not the group leader, and the group politic as a whole is one where we all really want to play our rolls without taking overt control and leave plenty of room for the group as a whole to cooperatively create something new on the spot. Quite a few fairly good players in the group, but a fair few noobs as well, so we have an unspoken ethic of being very approachable and leaving room for all to play. So, I think the solution for me is a nice loud low-G uke that lets me punch out a solid groove, but also lets me lay off when others are carrying the rhythmic load.

It's called a Kala KA-SSTU-t... new they are around $250 and come with a really nice custom fit soft padded case. Mine would probably benefit from some set-up work, but it's fine. I have Worth Clears solid Flourocarbon strings with a solid low g. I like these strings a lot... they are thick and heavy and really get the air moving!

BTW: The La Bella baby baritone strings are tenor length strings that allow you to tune a tenor as a baritone. The first time I strummed my such equipped Pono I couldn't believe my ears. It was transformed!

At this point I am sold on the Kala KA-SSTU-T. I do have a tiny bit of experience with them, and in fact two of the folks in this group have them and play them from time to time in this group. I've ordered some Worth Clear low-G tenor sting sets:

1 x​
Worth Ukulele Strings Clear Fluoro-Carbon Tenor Low-G CT-LG 63 inch (CT-LG)
$16.99​
1 x​
Worth Ukulele Strings Clear Fluoro-Carbon Heavy Low-G, CH-LG 63 inch (CH-LG)
$16.99​
1 x​
Worth Ukulele Strings Clear Fluoro-Carbon Fat Low-G CF-LG 63 inch (CF-LG)
$16.99​

Is what you're using one of those sets? I'm looking forward to playing around with these strings. It'll be the first time I've tried a non-wound low-G string. I do, by the way, have all the tools and experience to widen and lower the nut grooves, so I'm cool with fitting these fatter strings on the uke.

My vote goes for Romero Creations Grand Tenor. Box is bigger...more volume for sure...I blow away those around me when practicing!!! Love it!

Ooh, lovely, just checked it out on Hawaiian Music Supply's site....but I've settled on saving myself some money with the Kala on this one.
Just for your information, the base price for one of my archtop tenors is $900. I have developed a design that cuts both the material and labor time considerably. Here are some pictures of a prototype strung up in the white.

Very cool! I've just found and lurked around your site, some very sweet looking ukes in your gallery. Will you be using a radiused fretboard on the archtop? I've followed you so I'll be keeping an eye out on your progress. Best of luck to you!
 
First, have you tried to strum with all four fingers instead of just your index? You can get a lot more volume by brushing all the fingers across the strings at a slight angle in the strum. (Either Alisair Wood of UkuleleHunt.com, or Brett McQueen of UkuleleTricks.com recommends this for a more powerful sound.)

Second, are you looking for a stronger low end, high end, or midrange projection? Willie K. played a Kanile'a 6-string super tenor with a wound Low-G, High-g and a wound C-string. He could really blast that when he wanted to. It seems that you are looking for what is commonly called a "cannon." In general, spruce sound boards will give you greater. projection and a brighter sound than the other soft woods or solid wood tops. Though I have a Mike Pereira Solid Black Walnut "Cali" tenor that is quite loud with an emphasis on the low end yet has a woody, warmer sound.

Some of Pete Howlett's tenors with spruce tops were quite loud, yet had a very balanced voice. His early Revelators had thin-ish bodies and can be played loud. Arch top tenors are often called Jazz tenors because they are patterned after the Jazz guitars. Some of the Macaferri Style tenors with the large "D" shaped sound holes such as Luis Feu de Mesquita's LFdM Tenors have big, bold voices. While Pepe Romero's tenors have a classical guitar voice that are designed for Low-G and have great projection.

I have a friend that has a MyaMoe Koa tenor Resonator that has a reso sound tempered by the solid Koa body. Listen to some of Lil'Rev's music on the Koa MyaMoe tenor and bari he used to play. Check out Zachary Taylor's ZT spruce top ukuleles. There is a lot of punch to them.

Bigger body usually gives you more low end. Thinner body more high end. Some tone woods are brighter, others warmer. Brighter is perceived to be louder. But mids are important too. You're already investigating strings. Nylons are more of the traditional Hawaiian sound. Fluoros are more guitar-ish. But lots of variations in both camps. Such as Titanium, Reds, Clear, Brown, Grey, Wound Plain, etc Check out Stringsbymail.com and StringsandBeyond.com for their descriptions of the strings they carry. They are also very willing to advise you over the phone and recommend strings for the uke and what sound you are looking for.

Finally, there is always the amplified option. An acoustic tenor with a pickup and an amp can give you whatever presence you need—on demand.
 
First, wow. You are such a considerate player. Your group is fortunate to have you.
Second, as a bari player, you've touched on a sore spot. Most Bari's have a hard time being heard in a group. Sometimes I can't even hear myself play. I recently added a side port for this reason.
And third, forgive me for asking as for some it is heresy, but . . . is there any way to use a pick? It sounds like your style of playing might have to be altered, but the volume would be there.
 
First, have you tried to strum with all four fingers instead of just your index? You can get a lot more volume by brushing all the fingers across the strings at a slight angle in the strum. (Either Alisair Wood of UkuleleHunt.com, or Brett McQueen of UkuleleTricks.com recommends this for a more powerful sound.)

I've developed my own method of using my middle and ring finger on the down stroke, and my thumb on the upstroke. I can really snap my fingers in both directions and since I'm using my nails can play really hard without hurting my fingers. I played classical guitar as a kid, so I've experimented with a pretty wide variety of strums and plucks, but I've not found any way of playing louder.

Second, ...Mike Pereira Solid Black Walnut "Cali" tenor .....Pete Howlett's tenors with spruce tops were quite loud, ...Luis Feu de Mesquita's LFdM Tenors have big, bold voices. While Pepe Romero's tenors ...MyaMoe Koa tenor Resonator ...Zachary Taylor's ZT spruce top ukuleles.

Thanks for the rabbit hole...that was fun!

Nylons are more of the traditional Hawaiian sound. Fluoros are more guitar-ish. But lots of variations in both camps. Such as Titanium, Reds, Clear, Brown, Grey, Wound Plain, etc Check out Stringsbymail.com and StringsandBeyond.com for their descriptions of the strings they carry. They are also very willing to advise you over the phone and recommend strings for the uke and what sound you are looking for.

This whole string thing is weird. I does seem like it's a case-by-case basis where each uke, with it's particular set-up, will interact with the strings differently enough that blanket statements about this or that string being loud is not universally true. So I've got some Worth clears coming in to play with.

One pet peave though is so many people saying things like "Aquillas are loud" makes me crazy...which Aquillas!? They make a wide range of strings, damik. 😖

First, wow. You are such a considerate player. Your group is fortunate to have you.

Aw geez...thanks. Though I'm just one of many that make this particular group great fun. It's pretty much all the best uke players in Bozeman Montana, and we play at the rest home here. The audience is super appreciative of all the old tunes we play. We do play a variety, but the group leader, who is in his 70s now, was the son of a band leader way back in the day, and he started playing ukulele and singing in front of the band as a small boy---5 or 6 years old as I racall. The guy knows ALL the od '20s and Tin Pan Ally tunes and just flashes through the changes like there's no tomorrow. Everything is "at tempo" and the second time through "Five Foot Two" the pace is blistering! It's great fun. Usually we have about 10-12 folks show up and I'd say half are solid intermediate and advanced players, but half are advanced beginners stretching their uke muscles. We meet twice a month and it's great fun!
And third, forgive me for asking as for some it is heresy, but . . . is there any way to use a pick? It sounds like your style of playing might have to be altered, but the volume would be there.

Being an aspiring jazz player (I can comp the chords pretty well, but my improv skills are basically zero) I spent years playing with both my fingers and a thick jazz pick. I ended up more comfortable strumming with my fingers and playing the melody with the pick. The problem was I began to feel like switching between the two multiple time mid-song was clumsy. Also, it was hard to have a nuanced control of loudness and expression using the pick on nylon strings compared to steel strings. So, I decided to drop the pick and lean on my classical guitar experience plucking out melodies. I'm pretty comfortable with the decision.
 
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