Kala 1KOA-TG Elite Tenor Ukulele – Gloss
This Kala Elite gloss tenor was a bit of a grower on me. At first glance there’s nothing to dislike at all. In fact, although there’s no major aesthetic embellishment, it looks perfectly fine – with some nice variation in the grain of the all solid Hawaiian koa that it has been made from. However, this lovely wood aside, it isn’t a show stopper. If there was a catwalk for ukuleles, the Kala 1KOA-TG wouldn’t be on it – though you’d not kick it out bed either. True, the gloss finish is incredibly well done, using the same techniques as Kanile’a Ukulele and Taylor Guitars. It looks nice, but that’s not where its strength lies.
On the playability front, the slightly elongated headstock is a good touch – given that it allows more room for your hand to form more complex shapes down at the low end of the scale. If you’ve ever played G#dim7 you’ll now it can be a bit cramped with your fretting hand. If you’ve never played it, do it no. G#dim7, then C, G#dim7 and then C7… see, you’ve just played Michelle by The Beatles. Anyway, moving on… The graphtech nut is 37mm wide, giving lots of room – and by the time the rosewood fingerboard meets the neck, the width is 50mm. Higher up the scale and it is like an electric guitar neck – making this an ideal ukulele for a guitar convert.
The sound was another thing that I didn’t immediately jump up and down with – but that turned out to be a combination of things, the wound low G that is fitted as standard, and my own playing! Once I stopped hammering on that low G, I realised that the trebles shine and sing perfectly well up against it – actually creating a soft, gentle tone if you give it a chance. Yes, there’s volume. Yes, you can play a melody and clearly hear the high notes. But there’s also a lovely softness about the tone, really suited to a combination of chords and picking. It really can be quite beautiful if you do more than whack out a few chords and think it was a bit boomy – as I did. This Kala 1KOA-TG needs a bit of time to get used to and a bit of love and care to get the best out of it. I think it is an instrument that grows on you and once you’ve got to grips with it, the sound can be really amazing if you’re up to the challenge of using the whole of the neck.
Kala’s own fluorocarbon strings are fitted to this 1KOA-TG, which I am beginning to really like for their mellowness, a roundness that still lets the trebles ring true. Kala’s own open geared Grover-style tuners are fitted and they do the job well. The set up is spot on, saving me having to go near it with any tools should you order one!
We can also convert this into an electro Kala Elite tenor, through the addition here of a Mi-Si Acoustic Trio pickup, a process that takes a few days but really produces a tenor uke to die for. Well, not to die for… maybe to get slightly injured for. The uke also comes with a deluxe hard case.