The ukulele is a fairly popular string instrument, particularly in Hawaii. Ukes come in four common sizes: soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone.
Since the ukulele is so well known and played, it makes sense that there are plenty of options to choose from on the market. With such a wide variety of ukuleles, knowing the top brands is useful.
Of course, the brand is far from the most important aspect of a ukulele, though it's still worth considering for general knowledge and judgment. In this article, I’ll share my take on the top ukulele brands.
Though obviously subjective and prone to biases, I’ve done my best to list out these brands based on the following metrics (in no particular order):
- Company reputation
- Performance of the ukuleles
- Longevity of the ukuleles
- Variety of ukuleles available
- Accessibility of the ukuleles (how easy they are to find/buy)
- The company must currently be in operation
With all that being said, let’s list out the brands.
The Top 11 Best Ukulele Brands Are:
Let’s get into each of these brands in greater detail and explain why they belong in the top 11 best ukulele brands. I’ll share their country of origin, a bit of history, an example of a notable ukulele, and a link to their official website.
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Mike Upton was living and working in Hawaii in the nineties when he first came across a ukulele. It was love at first sight with the design, sound, and playability of that new, small instrument.
Back at home, in California, the first Kala ukuleles were born with the mission of spreading the word about this amazing instrument. Soon after, bands like Twenty One Pilots and legends like Vance Joy were hitting the biggest stages in the world to play Kala ukuleles in front of big crowds.
Driven by passion and a history spanning many years in the making, Kala ukuleles are always a great affordable choice for musicians at all levels.
Notable ukulele: Kala 3Koa-TG
As a member of the top-notch Elite USA line by Kala, this ukulele represents the pinnacle of ukulele construction in the world. To begin with, like every other instrument in the Elite line, it is a handmade, all-solid instrument. Also, it is made with hand-picked wood sourced from the best material in the world.
Finally, being made of real Hawaiian Koa, this instrument pays homage to the quintessential ukulele tones that have captivated the island and the world for centuries.
If you want the best money can buy, the Elite USA series might be a great place to look.
The idea behind the creation of Mahalo was to offer a musical instrument that could properly be played at the price of an entry-level ukulele. In that sense, what the market offered until that time to aficionados and avid learners was closer to a toy than a real instrument.
This revolutionary approach took Mahalo to be one of the most popular ukulele brands in the world. Indeed, they ship Mahalo ukuleles in all sizes and tiers to every corner of the world, making the brand the top-selling on the planet today.
Notable ukulele: Mahalo Master Series
It took Mahalo over two decades of hard work to go from making the most affordable models in the world to the master series. Indeed, this is an all-solid instrument made with the best wood for a natural, projected, full sound.
Moreover, guitar players will find the combination of solid mahogany in the back and sides and solid red cedar for the top like being home. Furthermore, the electroacoustic model featuring 2-band EQ and a tuner makes this the perfect instrument to hit any stage with.
Mahalo has come a long way in design and craftsmanship; check the ukuleles in the master series out and hear the difference.
The Gipsy Kings, Gogol Bordello, and José Gonzalez are just three of the many discerning musicians who have chosen Cordoba to play shows for crowds around the world. In this vein, it was Tim’s desire when founding the brand to rescue the sound and playability of nylon strings that had been overshadowed by steel-string guitars.
After succeeding in the classical guitar industry, the company decided to branch out to making another nylon-string instrument; ukuleles. Indeed, applying the leverage that makes nylon-string Cordoba guitars the go-to for artists around the world to ukulele design, the company came up with a line of instruments that is ready to take the world by storm.
Try one today; they might surprise you.
Notable ukulele: Cordoba 35T-CE
With a solid acacia top and back, this tenor-size ukulele can be the perfect companion for any singer-songwriter playing solo shows. Moreover, the distinctive design meets top-notch rosewood for the bridge, fretboard, and binding. As a result, this instrument sounds just as awesome as it looks.
Finally, the polyfoam case and LR Baggs electronics are great additions to a great instrument.
Martin has been the go-to option for musicians around the world for close to 2 centuries. Moreover, we could talk about Bob Dylan, John Mayer, Ed Sheeran, John Lennon, Elvis Presley, and Neil Young and say they were all Martin players.
But Martin is not just an outstanding guitar manufacturer; it is the oldest existing ukulele maker in the world. Indeed, the first soprano ukuleles made by Martin date back to 1915. With a century in the making, what you can expect from Martin is top-notch quality and the tone that generations of players have chosen for decades.
Notable ukulele: Martin S1
This instrument represents the stripped-down design that was natural to the ukuleles found in Hawaii in the 1880s. Made of solid mahogany, this small instrument can create big sounds with its resonance box. Indeed, this is the perfect instrument for players in all tiers and can be a lifelong companion in the right hands.
Founded at the end of the 19th century, by the early 1900s, the company had five factories in Europe and one in the USA. Moreover, by the 1920s, they were already making a plethora of stringed instruments, including ukuleles, guitars, banjos, and more.
It was purchased by Washburn in 1978. It continues to make and sell quality, affordable instruments and sell them in every corner of the planet to beginners, fans, and seasoned players alike. If you haven’t already, you should give them a try.
Notable ukulele: Oscar Schmidt OU55CE
Handcrafted from a combination of rosewood, Hawaiian koa, mahogany, and spruce, this instrument oozes tone as much as it oozes looks. Indeed, the Florentine cutaway and the binding make it an excellent baritone ukulele that can complement any playing style.
Plus, the UK2000 active preamp and EQ work wonders on stage. This ukulele is a great choice for the demanding player on a budget.
Yvonne de Villiers is not an engineer or world-class musician; instead, she is a glass artist inspired by a bass player mom who decided to make affordable, great-sounding instruments with a visual touch.
Hence, what you can expect from every Luna guitar and ukulele is the perfect blend of impeccable craftsmanship, impressive looks, and great tone.
Try a Luna ukulele before buying; they are a great option, especially if you are hitting the stage.
Notable ukulele: Luna Uke High Tide Concert Koa
This concert-sized ukulele is a perfect example of what Luna can do. Indeed, the entire instrument is crafted from exotic, tropical hardwoods and ornamented with great-looking abalone.
Moreover, the instrument's design represents the full rising of the moon that can be seen on the fretboard. Finally, the included gig bag and electronics make it perfect for the gigging and travelling musician.
The three pillars that Ohana bases the entire company on are Quality, Playability, and Value. These three main characteristics describe every Ohana ukulele coming out of the factory. Most models are made in China but inspected and set up in sunny California.
If you are in search of a well-made, good-sounding, affordable ukulele to build your playing skills on, Ohana needs to be on your list.
Notable ukulele: Ohana All-Solid 35G Series
The all-solid line of Ohana ukuleles is the core of the brand and also the perfect representation of the craftsmanship quality the company can achieve. On the one hand, the solid mahogany back, sides, and top make it resonant and rich with round lows and sparkling highs.
Also, the bone nut adds character to the tone as well as the bone saddle. Finally, the cutaway and electronics make it a perfect choice for gigging and advanced players.
Kamaka’s history in ukulele-making has recently turned 100 years old, and the reason behind the brand’s longevity is nothing but a commitment to excellence and relentless innovation. It was Kamaka that created and patented the “pineapple ukulele,” widely played and sold around the world since.
Adding to that fact, George Harrison used to favour Kamaka ukuleles. Also, Kamaka was among the first companies in the world to employ disabled people to make musical instruments in 1955.
Every ukulele Kamaka makes is a piece of history waiting for a lucky player to pick it up. Check one today and feel the difference the true Hawaiian sound legacy can make.
Notable ukulele: Kamaka HP-1
The distinct, mellow sound of the pineapple ukulele sets it apart from all the ukuleles on the market today. Indeed, the model patented by the company in 1928 revolutionized the ukulele world since the bigger body offers more resonance, a “bigger” sound and more volume and definition.
The Kamaka HP-1 is the quintessential pineapple ukulele design made with modern manufacturing techniques. If you haven’t already, try one today and feel the difference.
The Souza family is involved with the origins of the ukulele in Hawaii. Indeed, five generations ago, they took the “braguinha,” which is the ukulele predecessor, to the shores of Hawaii.
By 1990, Joe Souza was enjoying the leverage of generations of woodworkers and learning to master the instrument when the opportunity arose to start an apprenticeship with Peter Bermudez, a master luthier.
Today, over two decades after starting his shop in the basement of his house, Kanile'a ukuleles are not only well-known and utterly respected on the island but also are the only Hawaiian ukulele brands that process all wood pieces in-house. If you haven’t already, you have to check a Kanile'a ukulele before buying anything else.
Notable ukulele: Kanile'a Oha Concert Premium
Every instrument Kanile'a makes is a one-off. This is because it is handcrafted by master luthiers from the highest-quality wood available in Hawaii. This combination of artisan’s hands with organic, premium-grade tonewoods gives the player the uniqueness of having almost a custom shop instrument at the price level of a factory-made one.
To hear the difference, you need to play one today. That being said, be warned that you might not be able to put it down again.
Hohner is a German company that has grown and branched out of its initial scope to supply the world with elite-level instruments for over a century and a half. That leverage allowed them to create a state-of-the-art company known as Lanikai, capable of manufacturing perfect-sounding Hawaiian-style ukuleles to ship to every corner of the planet.
Hence, what you can expect from a Lanikai ukulele is the perfect mixture of state-of-the-art, world-class manufacturing techniques and the quintessential ukulele tones made in Hawaii.
Notable ukulele: Lanikai Ziricote Concert A/E Ukulele
From the Fishman Kula preamp and tuner to the D’Addario EJ88 strings it ships with to the solid walnut fingerboard and bridge, this is one serious ukulele for serious players.
Moreover, the laminated ziricote it is made with is a very exotic, rich, dark wood that exudes beauty with an unusual grain and fantastic tone. Finally, the NuBone XB nut and saddle allow maximum sustain and tone.
Apart from making the best-selling guitar of all time, being a visionary with the Precision Bass and giving artists like Jimi Hendrix, Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, Keith Richards, and so many others the best instrument to serve as a vessel for their art, Fender also makes great-sounding ukuleles.
Indeed, the same passion for design, sound, and innovation that took the company to the top of the world is applied to every ukulele leaving the factory. Fender is a synonym for craftsmanship, endurance, great tones, and beautiful designs; that is exactly what you can expect from every Fender ukulele.
Notable ukulele: Fender Seaside Soprano Ukulele V2
With the quintessential telecaster headstock, golden tuners, a thin “C” shape neck profile, and the depth in the tone that only mahogany can offer, this is the perfect ukulele for players wanting a good instrument to build their skills on.
Furthermore, the no-tie bridge and size make it suitable for gigging musicians who need to change strings in a breeze and continue the performance. Finally, the Fender logo on the headstock is a synonym with the highest quality standards in the world.