The best 8-string ukuleles combine a uniquely full tone with powerful volume. They’re popular at ukulele jams and traditional kanikapila, where they add a different sound to the mix. Hawaiians have been playing so-called “taropatch ukuleles” for over a century, and more and more people are discovering why.
Here’s our guide to the best 8-string ukuleles on the market today.
Luna High Tide Series 8-String Ukulele
Summary: A ukulele with a signature look and a good sound both acoustically and plugged-in
Best for: Someone who wants visual flash to go along with good sound
Luna is known for ukes with signature looks, and their High Tide 8-string ukulele is no exception. The fretboard is decorated with abalone waves and a full moon inlay on the top fret, in keeping with the tidal theme. There’s also an abalone ring around the soundhole. It’s a stunning look, and immediately sets the Luna apart from the rest.
The whole body is made of all laminate mahogany, and feels quite sturdy. Luna ukuleles do have a tendency of being somewhat “overbuilt,” made of thicker wood that doesn’t resonate quite as well. This 8-string ukulele doesn’t have that problem, although it’s quieter than some of the others on this list. This would be a great choice for anyone who isn’t looking for an overpowering sound, since the tone is still quite warm and round. There’s also a cutaway, useful for reaching the highest notes at the base of the fretboard.
Luna outfitted this with an active pickup system that performs quite well. The signal is a little weaker than similar active systems, with a bit of noise coming it when the gain is turned up. But the tone still sounds natural, and the treble, bass, and volume sliders are sensitive enough to give good control over the tone. Some similar systems have a built-in tuner, which this uke lacks, but that’s nitpicking on my part.
- Beautiful looks
- Warm tone
- A little quieter than others
- Preamp noisier than others
Kala KA-ASAC-T8 Solid Acacia 8-String Ukulele
Summary: A stunning uke, both in looks and sound
Best for: Someone who wants the absolute best acoustic sound
Acacia is a higher-end wood that really delivers sonically in this ukulele. The solid wood combined with the 8 strings make a powerful shimmering tone. This is the loudest of the ukuleles on this list, and is perfect for loud jams or live performances. And unlike laminate wood, solid wood has a tendency to get better with age, meaning that the tone will open up even more over the years.
There’s no manufacturer option for a pickup on this, which means that you’ll either have to install one yourself or use an external pickup. The acoustic sound is so good, though, that a microphone might be the better option, or something like the iRig Acoustic Stage.
The fit and finish is superb, and much like the Luna this is a uke that looks as good as it sounds. The fretboard has swirling vine inlays, and there’s a white binding around the edges. The acacia wood itself has a grain that ranges from dark to light brown, and creates swirls and stripes of color. The side effect of looking this good is that you’ll definitely want to baby this uke more than the rest on this list. A hard case and tender care is a must!
- Solid wood has a strong, shimmering tone
- Beautiful looks
- No pickup option
- More delicate than laminate ukes
Oscar Schmidt OU28TE
Summary: A solid acoustic-electric 8 string ukulele for a bargain-basement price
Best for: Someone who wants to experiment with the 8-string ukulele sound
The OU28TE is by far the least expensive ukulele on this list, and yet still has a lot of the same features and a great tone. The cost savings mainly come in the materials department, as this is made out of laminate mahogany, with a fairly plain finish. It’s not as visually stunning as some of the others on this list, but of course looks matter less than sound.
Like Luna ukes, Oscar Schmidts have a tendency to be a bit overbuilt and muffled. The OU28TE doesn’t suffer too much in this regard, but it’s noticeably quieter than other 8-string ukuleles. It’s still loud compared to a 4 string uke, with a sweet tone that shines when playing with other instruments. This would be a great compliment to a uke collection for someone looking for a different sound.
The OU28TE is an acoustic-electric 8 string ukulele, and actually has a cousin without the pickup system installed, the OU28T. I debated putting that model on this list, but the price difference is quite small between the two, which makes the acoustic-electric version a fantastic deal. If you absolutely do not need to plug in, the OU28T will save you a bit of money, but it’s great to have that option for not much more cash.
Speaking of which, the OU28TE is fitted with an active pickup system. It produces a pretty strong tone with only a small amount of noise, and fairly accurately reproduces the natural sound of the ukulele. The control sliders for treble, bass, and volume help dial in the right sound and are fairly sensitive.
- Good plugged-in tone
- On the quiet side
- Plain looks
Summary: Kala’s budget-friendly 8-string still sounds great, with fewer frills
Best for: Someone who is more concerned with sound than looks
The Kata KA-8 is part of Kala’s lower-priced KA line, which strips out a lot of the extras in its higher-end ukes and focuses on tone. The result is a plain, generic-looking uke that still sounds great. If you’re looking for visual flash or something to hang on the wall, you’ll have to look elsewhere. But it retains a lot of the characteristics that make the more expensive Kalas great.
The wood used, laminate mahogany, is standard for this price point. But the KA-8 manages to wring more volume out of that wood, and retain a round tone that never sounds thin or jangly. A lot of that shimmer found in the more expensive solid acacia is still there, although it’s not quite as loud or full as that uke. The KA-8 also feels quite sturdy, and will stand up to the knocks and bumps that come with travel and playing out. That and the lower price point mean that this is a great ukulele to take out when you want to save wear and tear on a more expensive uke.
The same ukulele is also available with a Shadow active pickup system, model KA-8E. It’s got a fairly basic preamp, with two dials for tone and volume, but it sounds very good plugged in. The “tone” dial isn’t the most sensitive or precise control out there, but gives a pretty good range from bassy to jangly. If you’re looking to gig with this ukulele, the KA-8E is a great option for less than it would cost to outfit the same pickup after the fact.
- Louder than similar laminate 8-string ukuleles
- Plain looks
Summary: Lanikai gets the basics right with a very traditional ukulele
Best for: Someone looking for a traditional-looking and sounding 8 string ukulele
Lanikai mostly goes basic on this ukulele, but throws in some nice extras for the low price point. The slotted headstock is a feature you’ll usually find on more expensive ukes like the solid acacia Kala above. That headstock combined with striped grain of the (laminate) mahogany helps lend this uke a traditional look, like something from a century ago. It also features a real bone nut and saddle, again features usually associated with higher-end ukuleles.
Those features help give this a warm, loud tone that stands it own against its competitors. It’s not the loudest or the quietest, it’s not the sweetest or the gruffest, but it sits comfortably in the middle ground. If you’re looking for a traditional, standard 8-string ukulele sound, this will deliver.
The one area that it departs from tradition is having strap buttons come standard. Some people don’t like straps, but I am a big fan of using one. Not having to drill extra holes to put strap buttons on is a plus in my book, and anyone who doesn’t like straps doesn’t have to use them! Always better to have the option than not.
- Traditional look and tone
- Strap buttons come standard
- Not the loudest uke