Kala 1KOA-C Elite Concert Ukulele – Natural
Hello! This 1KOA-C Elite Series concert ukulele from Kala is an all solid koa wonder. In 2014 I was talking to Mike Upton, the head of Kala, at the Ukulele Festival of Great Britain. He asked me what I’d like to see from the company. I suggested they make their own ukuleles on North America, to a really high standard, and call them ‘Elite’. Now, I’m not saying Mike hadn’t had the idea already, he’s a clever guy after all, but when I hold this 1KOA-C in my hands I can’t help thinking it was a good idea – the uke is stunning to listen to, it really is! As for the ‘Elite’ name, well… maybe I earned the nice ‘Kala Elite Authorized Dealer’ display board in the World of Ukes store. I’ll even ignore the American spelling of ‘Authorised’, because I’m good like that.
The solid Hawaiian koa used to make this Kala Elite concert ukulele is a work of art. In fact, the grain looks like it has been applied by an artist’s brush, such is the fantastic curl and variation between light and dark. There’s a mother of pearl inlaid Kala logo and pleasant, large oval pearl fretboard markers too. But after that, it is all about the wood – in a completely unfussy package. No binding or soundhole rosette, just lovely wood and that is it.
This ukulele is fitted with ‘Kala Custom Tuners’, which are neat, light and effective. I’d say they were Grover models with Kala stamped on – apparently if you order enough you can get that done – but that’s not to say it is a bad thing, they’re an industry standard now. The strings are Kala’s own clear fluorocarbon brand, which are bold and powerful, with plenty of sustain.
The tone of the Kala 1KOA-C Elite concert ukulele is very impressive, ably handling chords with a precise, balanced sound – but to be honest, aching to be picked. Here, the clarity of the strings and solid koa really comes to the fore, with bell-like boldness and complex harmonics combining to stunning effect.
The volume and sustain this Elite ukulele delivers is more on a par with a tenor size instrument, and the playability is tenor-esque too. The nut width is 37mm and the neck profile is pretty thick, making it feel more like a shorter-scale tenor neck. No chance of your fingers getting crowed on this uke – there’s plenty of room to go around.
Really, these Elite ukuleles had to be good. If you’re Kala you’re staking your reputation on them. The very name ‘Elite’ is going to fall flat if they’re not good. Thankfully they are good. Very, very good. They maintain the feel of a small workshop-built ukulele, with a vintage voice, together with the know-how of the world’s biggest (serious) ukulele brand.
If you like, we can add a Mi-Si Acoustic Trio pickup to this ukulele, given a few extra days to do so. Add a fantastic pre-amp and pickup like that and you’ll have a truly professional instrument in your hands. With or without that option, the 1KOA-C ukulele will be delivered in a quality hard case.