When you’re looking for the best electric tenor ukulele, there are a lot of things to consider. The quality of the pickups, acoustic tone, and durability all factor into what makes a ukulele great. Here’s our roundup of the best electric tenor ukuleles on the market today.
Summary: A sturdy acoustic-electric tenor ukulele with excellent plugged-in sound
Best electric tenor ukulele for: Someone looking for a good-sounding acoustic-electric tenor ukulele that won’t break the bank
The Kala KA-TE is from the company’s lower-frills line that focuses on quality without a big price tag. It’s not a flashy or particularly beautiful uke, and in fact looks very plain. But looks don’t affect the quality of the sound, and the KA-TE has that in spades.
The laminate mahogany is durable enough to withstand some knocks and bumps, great for travel or playing out. While laminate has a reputation for losing a bit of tone and volume compared to solid wood, the KA-TE projects quite well. It’s particularly nice for fingerpicking, and has a warm, rich tone that stands up well against pricer ukuleles.
When plugged in, this ukulele produces a wonderfully natural tone. It’s fitted with a Shadow Nanoflex active pickup, one of the nicest pickup/preamp systems available. An on-board tuner is accurate and easy to use even in loud or noisy situations. The preamp gives a strong signal free from noise. Four control knobs for volume, bass, mid, and treble make dialing in the right tone a snap. This system does seem to go through 9 volt batteries quicker than others, so it’s good to keep a spare or two handy.
- Great sound both acoustic and plugged in
- Sturdy construction
- Plain looks
Summary: A unique design gives players unparalleled control over plugged-in tone
Best electric tenor ukulele for: The gigging musician who needs the best sound when plugged in
Godin is known for innovative designs in their guitars, and their foray into ukulele building continues that tradition. The MultiUke looks like a solid-body electric ukulele, but actually has a hollow chamber in its middle, meaning that it acts a lot like an acoustic-electric. There’s no soundhole in an effort to stop feedback, a common problem in acoustic-electric ukuleles. Combined with a great pickup system, this gives the Godin MultiUke an unparalleled plugged-in sound.
Acoustically, it’s a little softer than a traditional acoustic ukulele, in part because there’s no soundhole. It’s still plenty loud enough to work as an acoustic, and can hold its own in smaller jams. The tone is a little hollow, with less warmth and roundness than a traditional ukulele. It’s definitely been designed as a primarily electric ukulele, but its acoustic sound is nothing to sniff at.
The Godin is by far the best electric tenor ukulele on this list when it comes to tone when plugged in. Each individual string gets its own pickup, and the four sliders for bass, mid, treble, and volume give the player a huge amount of control. You can make this uke sound bright, round, soft, jangly, and everything in between thanks to the sensitivity of the sliders. Even moving them a small bit has a huge effect on the sound. The hollow chamber also gives the Godin MultiUke a more natural acoustic sound than many similar solid-body ukuleles.
- Great control over plugged-in sound
- Innovative hybrid design fights feedback
- Acoustic tone somewhat softer and thinner than traditional ukulele
Summary: The Gretsch G9121 updates a classic look with some modern touches for a uke that both looks and sounds great
Best electric tenor ukulele for: Someone looking for louder acoustic projection with a great pickup system
Gretsch has been making instruments since 1883, and their “Roots” series pays tribute to the classic ukuleles they made in the 40s and 50s. The G9121 acoustic-electric ukulele is an updated version of one of those classic ukes, and has some more modern touches like the pickup system and cutaway.
Those classic looks include all-mahogany wood, abalone inlays, and fret markers in the shape of little crosses or snowflakes. The G9121 definitely stands out visually, and the wood grain in particular is beautiful. For the money, you might no be able to find a prettier tenor uke.
It also has a solid mahogany top, which gives it a leg up on a lot of the competition in its price range. Solid wood resonates better than laminate wood and gives ukuleles a louder, richer tone. While the back and sides are still made of laminate, the top is the most important area for tone production. The Gretsch G9121 also has a real bone nut and saddle, giving it great projection. Even unplugged, this is a ukulele that can be heard over a loud jam or across a crowded room.
The Gretsch G9121 has the same Fishman Kula active pickup/preamp system as the Kala KA-TE. It includes an on-board tuner, which is quite accurate even in noisy situations. The preamp helps produce a clear, strong signal without much noise. The preamp has control knobs for volume, bass, mid, and treble, making it easy to dial in the right sound. Again, the only issue I had was with the battery life; it’s a little shorter than most other active systems. Keep an extra battery in your case, though, and it’s very easy to switch out if needed.
- Beautiful looks
- Solid mahogany top
- Short battery life
Vorson Electric Tenor Ukulele
Summary: Steel strings and a classic look give the Vorson the look and sound of an electric guitar
Best electric tenor ukulele for: Someone who wants to channel their inner rock guitar god on the ukulele
The Vorson solid body electric tenor ukulele has one key feature that sets it apart from the rest: steel strings. Most ukuleles use nylon strings, and cannot handle the higher tension that steel strings put on the neck and body. With a solid body and a reinforced neck, the Vorson can, and it opens up a whole new sound.
With steel strings, the Vorson can use the same magnetic pickups found in electric guitars. Plugged into an amp, it’s hard to tell the difference between an electric guitar capoed up and this ukulele. This is a big plus for any fans of classic rock or even heavy metal. Want to sound like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, or James Hetfield on the ukulele? The Vorson is going to get you closer (but you’ll still need to practice!).
The pickups provide a clean signal, with only a very low hum common in magnetic pickups. Like many electric guitars, there’s the option to switch between the two pickups or blend them together. You also get the standard tone and volume knobs, again mimicking the options on an electric guitar. One thing to note is that since the pickups are magnetic, they rely on steel strings to make a sound. You can try putting nylon strings on the Vorson uke, but it will be silent.
Since it’s a solid body electric ukulele, it has almost no volume when plugged out. This would work very well as a practice uke for playing without disturbing anyone. The steel strings are also rougher on the fingers than the usual nylon. While your fretting fingers will just have to develop some calluses, it’s worth using a pick or fingerpicks to save your strumming/picking hand.
- Unique guitar-like sound
- Solid build quality
- Steel strings harder on players’ hands
- Won’t work with regular ukulele strings
Summary: A no-frills acoustic-electric tenor ukulele that still delivers
Best electric tenor ukulele for: Someone who wants to get a good acoustic-electric tenor ukulele on a budget
Makala is the lower-priced sister brand of Kala, and in many ways this uke is a more stripped-down version of the Kala KA-TE. It shares many of the same features, but with generally less expensive components or materials. One great thing about this ukulele is the sturdiness of the construction. Combined with the inexpensive price, this is the perfect knockaround uke that can save wear on more expensive ukuleles.
Like its cousin, the Makala MK-TE is made out of all-laminate wood. The wood used, agathis, is similar to mahogany, and often used on less expensive instruments. It’s darker than the mahogany used on the KA-TE, but otherwise the uke looks and feels very similar. The tuners feel cheaper, and are a little harder to use, but they hold tune fine once the strings settle in. Acoustically, it has a duller sound than the KA-TE, with a bit less volume. It’s not a huge difference, but it is noticeable, and anyone who wants to primarily play acoustically should definitely consider the upgrade to the KA-TE.
The Makala MK-TE has a passive pickup system, meaning that there is no on-board preamp. There’s still a control panel on the side, with a slider each for tone and volume. The “tone” slider is a lot less precise than the 3 dials on the Kala KA-TE, but still gives a pretty good range from a bassier, rounder sound to a more trebly and jangly one. The fact that it’s a passive system means that no batteries are required. It also means that the signal is weaker and a bit noisier. It sounds good coming through an amp, but plugging into a preamp or DI box would get the best sound out of this uke.
- Sturdy construction
- Weak signal from passive pickup
- Less volume
- Plain looks
Also published on Medium.