Wednesday, August 13, 2014

2013 Kala KA-SMHT Tenor Ukulele Review


Over the past three years quite a few ukuleles have come through the studio, but not many of them stuck around. Some did not sound very good, and some were just physically unattractive. Two that made the cut were the Kala SMHS and SMHT, which are both great instruments and good values. So, when my wife needed a ukulele for a players' group / club, it made sense to pick up one of the newly designed Kala SMHT instruments.

The SMHT moniker is a good indicator of what you get with this ukulele. The SM means that this instrument is constructed of solid mahogany, not a laminate, which is a huge plus. The T stands for tenor size, and I have no idea what the H stands for. Maybe it means "hogany."

It is a classy-looking uke with a clear satin poly finish and faux tortoiseshell body binding and black & white purfling. This binding goes around both the top and back and it joins with another piece across the end seam of the body. I love that look! The purfling and rosette are new for this year.

The neck is also shaped from mahogany and it is capped with a nicely-grained rosewood fretboard. The craftsmanship of the 19 silver-nickel frets on this one is very good, but I have seen some newer Kala instruments with rough fret ends and damaged fretboards, so be sure you pick a good one. If you choose to buy online, make sure that there is a good return policy.

The most noticeable differences on these newer SMHT instruments are the slotted headstock and die-cast geared tuners. Not only do these changes make the uke look up-market, but the tuners also work very well. The inlaid bridge is made of rosewood and the saddle and nut are both made of synthetic bone.

This Kala is a well-made instrument, with an even finish, nice joints and a great action right out of the box. The routing for the newly-added purfling and headstock are flawless, which is nice to see at this low price point. And, I appreciate the fact that it looks like a classic uke, with no odd cutaways, inappropriate F-holes or bizarre features.

It also sounds very good! This solid wood tenor has a warm and full mid-range tone that is nothing like the tinny jangle that comes out of entry-level laminated instruments (I am very partial to mahogany ukes). If you are stepping up from a cheap uke, or even if you are just taking up the instrument, this is a great choice. You will only want something better if you are going pro or if you hit the lotto -- it is that good.

The best part about the new Kala SMHT is that it is a great value. It is dirt cheap (because it is imported), with an MSRP of $350, and a street price of around $250. Shop around online and you might even be able to get them to throw in a case and tuner for free. Try one and see what you think!


No comments:

Post a Comment