It can be tough to compare Makala vs Kala ukuleles, especially when they seem so similar! In fact, they’re both made by the same company, and some of the designs are essentially the same. However, Makala ukuleles tend to have cheaper materials and components than their Kala cousins. This can make for a very different playing experience and sound. Here’s a rundown of some of the main differences, and some advice towards choosing the right brand for you!
Makala vs. Kala: Two Brands, One Company
Makala is essentially the budget brand for Kala. Most Makala ukes are targeted towards beginners, while most of Kala’s ukuleles are more mid-range instruments, with some higher-end lines. That doesn’t mean that Kala ukuleles are expensive, and they’re a brand well-known for producing quality affordable instruments. But overall, you’re going to pay more for a similar Kala ukulele.
This doesn’t mean that you’re just paying for the Kala brand name, though. There’s a lot that goes into making a good ukulele, and some decisions you can make along the way to keep costs down. Since they’re designed with the beginner in mind, Makala ukuleles often sacrifice a bit of tone by using cheaper woods and materials, but are still quite easy to play. Most players do end up buying another uke (or five!) once they’ve gotten more comfortable with the instrument, but the Makalas are a great place to start. They’re also known for being great travel, camping, and knockaround ukuleles, built to take a beating when you don’t want to bring more expensive ukuleles at home.
Makala MK vs Kala KA Ukuleles
One of the best ways to compare the two brands is to look at the MK and KA lines. They’re almost identical in design, and it can be confusing if you’re trying to decide which one is better. But a deeper look into the materials shows some big differences. For one, the MK ukuleles are made of laminate agathis, a less expensive wood than the mahogany the KA series is made from. Some people actually prefer agathis, but it’s telling that many high-end ukuleles are made from mahogany, while few are made from agathis.
Another important factor is the material of the nut and saddle, the primary parts of the ukulele that come into contact with the strings. Vibrations travel through these two points of contact to the soundboard and body. This means that both the saddle and nut have a huge impact on tone. The KA series uses NuBone, a synthetic material meant to imitate bone. Bone is the traditional material used on historic and high-end ukuleles. The MK series uses plastic, which still works well, but the NuBone definitely has an edge.
Other key differences are in the tuners and frets. Both are made of cheaper materials on the MK line. The brass frets used on the Makalas are more likely to corrode over time than the nickel used in the Kalas, and the Kalas’ all-metal tuners are built to last longer than the metal and plastic Makala tuners.
Here’s a rundown of the features on the tenor ukuleles in both lines:
|Kala KA-T||Makala MK-T|
|Front, back and sides||Mahogany||Agathis|
|Binding||White/cream along edges||None|
|Tuners||Nickel||Nickel and plastic|
|Nut and saddle||Nubone||Plastic|
|Included strings||Aquila Super Nylgut||Aquila Super Nylgut|
|Optional pickup system||Active Shadow NANO-FLEX system (on the KA-TE)||Passive PS-900 system (on the Makala MK-TE)|
|Find it on Amazon||Kala KA-T and KA-TE||Makala MK-T and MK-TE|
Besides the MK line, Makala only really has one other kind of ukulele: the Dolphin/Shark. These are very popular beginner ukes, thanks to their low price, bright colors, and great sound. They are made with a plastic back and sides and a laminate agathis top, the same wood as the MK ukuleles. While the Sharks and Dolphins are technically two separate lines, the only difference is the shape of the bridge. Pick whichever matches your personality!
On the other hand, Kala has a huge range of ukes, going from the budget-friendly KA line to the high-end Elite line. From laminate to solid wood, standard soprano down to the relatively new bass ukuleles, Kala has tons of options. It can be daunting for a beginner to figure out exactly what they want. Chances are, you’re going to have to play a lot of different ukuleles and read a lot of reviews in order to find the best one for you. Going simple at first is a great way to learn the basics.
If it’s your first time buying a ukulele, or you’re looking for a great uke on a budget, Makala is a fantastic brand. They combine great value with good playability and sound. But once you’re looking for an upgrade, Kala is the way to go. With a range of ukuleles that are still quite affordable, Kala has something for everyone (and every budget). Whatever you decide, you’ll be sure to love it!
Also published on Medium.