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Kmise Ukulele Review: The UK21S Soprano

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Kmise is a young ukulele brand, but as this review will show, they’re doing a lot of things right. Their UK21S is an entry-level soprano ukulele at a great price point. They recently sent one over for me to review, and I’ve enjoyed playing it. It’s not a high-end ukulele, but it plays nicely and sounds good. For the price, I’d definitely recommend it.

Here’s my full review of the Kmise UK21S soprano ukulele!

Note: I was not compensated for this review, but Kmise did send me the ukulele directly for review.

Design

The Kmise UK21S looks more or less like your usual soprano ukulele. Kmise has gone the mostly traditional route, pairing a nice light brown wood grain with the usual figure-eight body. There’s a little braided pattern around the soundhole, which is just enough flair. I’m not a huge fan of some of Kmise’s more intricately etched ukuleles (nothing wrong with them, just not my thing), so I like this look a lot.

The headstock has the Kmise brand name inlaid in what looks like mother of pearl (possibly plastic). That, along with the three-pointed headstock, are again very traditional touches. Cover up the brand name, and you’d be hard-pressed to distinguish this from a lot of other ukuleles, visually. That’s not a knock; in fact, I much prefer the traditional look. Especially for a non-traditional brand like Kmise, it’s nice to think you won’t get odd looks if you brought this out at a jam.

Speaking of that wood grain, while it looks nice, this is not made of solid wood. Instead, like most ukuleles in its price range, it’s made of laminate. Kmise does a pretty good job with this, and the laminate not as thick (and sound-deadening) as other cheaper ukuleles. Laminate does make for a somewhat hardier instrument, so this would be a good travel or knock-around ukulele. It seems sturdy enough to handle some knocks and bumps.

One nice touch that Kmise adds is the two strap buttons, one on the heel of the neck and the other at the base of the body. Traditionalists will no doubt disagree, but I like using a strap. For some people, the ukulele sits nicely in the crook of their arm, no extra support needed. For me, and a lot of other people, it’s awkward. Most players, especially beginners, don’t want to be drilling holes in their ukulele, so it’s nice that the buttons are already installed. If you don’t want to use them, you don’t have to!

Playability and Tuning

For its price range, the Kmise soprano ukulele has excellent playability. Actually, it has excellent playability, period. I’ve read some reviews online that mention high action or sharp frets. Kmise seems to have worked out these issues, because my ukulele is spot-on.

The neck is comfortable, with the standard 1 3/8″ nut width. The action is just about right for me, although that’s really a matter of personal preference. There’s no cutaway, and the neck meets the body at the 12th fret. Up to that point, it is very easy to finger each string at each fret.

Less-expensive ukuleles often fall down when it comes to intonation. Thankfully, this is not the case for the Kmise soprano ukulele. At the 12th fret, the octave is about 10 cents flat. Slightly off, yes, but not really noticeably so. Lower down, intonation is just about perfect. Most people only use the first 5-7 frets regularly, especially beginners, and this ukulele delivers nicely in that range.

The tuners feel a little loose, but otherwise work fine. They’re your standard geared guitar-style tuners, and they hold tune well. After the strings settled in (took about a week), I have not had to do much adjusting every time I pick the ukulele up. One nice touch is that the gears are covered, making it harder for grit and dirt to get inside. They should last longer than the usual open geared tuners on most cheaper ukuleles.

Sound

I would normally throw some Martin, Aquila, or Worth strings on one of my ukuleles after buying it. Usually, the strings that ukes come with just aren’t that good. However, I will review the sound of the UK21S with its included strings, because that’s what you get out of the box.

The good news is, they sound pretty good! Kmise says they’re D’Addarios rather than the generic strings often used in ukes of this price range, so that may be why.

It has a somewhat mellower sound than other soprano ukuleles I’ve played. There’s still that nice jangly tone of a soprano ukulele, but without some of the sharper edges you’ll find in others in its price range.

It’s about middle of the pack volume-wise. I think the mellow tone does hurt the projection somewhat. However, it’s by no means muted, which is nice for a laminate ukulele. As I mentioned before, the soundboard is thin enough to resonate well.

Accessories

Kmise packages this ukulele with the usual strap, gig bag, tuner, and strings. The strings are a personal preference thing; I’ll probably just buy something else, but it’s nice to have some extras. As I mentioned before, I like using a strap, so I’m glad they included one. It’s comfortable and easily adjustable, the two things I look for in a strap. I’m not as wild about the checkered pattern, but hey, whatever floats your boat.

The tuner works well, and is easy to use. I often just keep it clipped to the headstock of the ukulele, ready at a moment’s notice. One word of warning, though, is that I have broken quite a few plastic tuners like this. The LCD display is easily smashed, and the clip is easily snapped off. This one doesn’t feel sturdier or flimsy than any others. Take decent care of it, and you should be OK.

The gig bag fits the ukulele well, and features an understated Kmise logo on the front. There’s a little pocket for holding some accessories, and both a handle on the side and set of backpack straps. The case will do its job, but it feels a little cheap. The straps are just braided nylon with no padding, and the case itself is fairly thin. The inside lining is crinkly. Like I said, it’ll do the job, but it’s not the best case out there. Then again, a better ukulele case will probably cost more than the instrument!

Conclusion

In this price range, ukuleles are usually geared towards the beginner. I would definitely recommend this ukulele to a beginning player. It has a traditional look, nice feel, and a good sound. The included accessories give you everything you need to get started. While it’s not a high-end ukulele, Kmise has made a ukulele that plays and sounds much better than its price point.

That’s not to say that everything is perfect. I wish the included gig bag felt less cheap. This is also not the ukulele to grab if you need volume. It’s not quiet, but it’s not loud either. It doesn’t quite have the projection to compete with bunch of other ukes at a large jam. Those looking for a more visually arresting instrument might be disappointed with its traditional look.

Overall, it’s a fantastic value and well-suited to both beginners and better players. It’s better than most other ukuleles in its price point, and holds its own against much more expensive ukes. Kmise may not be as well-known as some other brands, but I suspect that will change soon.

Published in Buying Guides

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