Kiwaya KCU-1 Concert Ukulele
A good way to sum up this concert ukulele from Kiwaya, is 'beauty is in the ear of the beholder'. It looks fine, although very plain and certainly economical of decorative extras. The thing is, is sounds better than many ukuleles at twice or three times the price.
The tone is well balanced, bright and clear with a mellow edge. There's plenty of volume, without ever sounding brash. Although the clarity of the sound is the principal factor, it is backed up with some pleasing warmth and lovely harmonics. For something that looks basic, it gives a sound that suggests a much greater sophistication.
This price level is that of a 'serious beginner' instrument. But to dismiss it as such would be folly as it sounds outstanding, and would do so if you added another £100 to the price tag. Added to that it has a low action, and a great set-up. If it wasn't, I'd do it - but amazingly, this inexpensive Kiwaya comes from the factory in great nick.
Japan is home to Kiwaya, and they're known for excellent laminate instruments. This price level is achieved by their use of a closely supervised factory in China, using their expertise in creating strong, thin and resonant laminate ukes.
The KCU-1 concert has a bone nut and saddle which help the impressive sustain. Good quality Fluorocarbon strings are fitted, and the black walnut fingerboard is smooth and a spacious 36mm at the nut.
I'd go as far as say this Kiwaya KCU-1, and its soprano (KSU-1) and longneck soprano (KSU-1L) versions are the finest sounding instruments I've ever experienced at this price level. They sound superb.
Ok, so what is the catch? Well, the focus has gone on how the ukulele is put together and the materials it has been made from - not so much the finish, which may have tiny defects - the odd glue spot inside, or the the mahogany stain slightly discolouring the side markers. But nothing you wouldn't expect with most other instruments at this price point. If you value sound over looks (and the reverse is fine, it is your money), this could be the uke for you!
Click ‘additional info’ below to hear a Kiwaya KCU-1 Concert Ukulele video demonstration.