Top 8 Best Tenor Ukuleles – When Flexibility Matters

Tenor ukuleles are the second largest version of this instrument and one of the most popular choices out there. Today we are going to talk about why these ukes are a great place to start or a good upgrade if you've started on a smaller model. We're going to go through our picks for the top 8 best tenor ukuleles, talk about what makes each worthy of this list and more. Some of our picks are among the best ukuleles on the market at the moment. Later, we'll discuss where tenor ukuleles fit in and why they're worth your time.

Top 8 Best Tenor Ukuleles

PRODUCT

FEATURES

PRODUCT

IMAGE

PRODUCT

FEATURES

Martin-T1K-300x300

AR RATING 99/100

  • A traditional build which features impressive build quality.
  • Good quality koa tonewood makes it authentic.
Lanikai-ACST-300x300

AR RATING 98/100

  • A very traditional looking ukulele.
  • Features great hardware and tonewood.
Oscar-Schmidt-OU6LCE -300x300

AR RATING 98/100

  • Made out of Hawaiian koa tonewood.
  • Great build quality and performance.
Lanikai-FMT-300x300

AR RATING 97/100

  • Good build quality for a mid range model.
  • Features flamed maple construction making it quite unique.
Ibanez-UEWT14E-300x300

AR RATING 93/100

  • One of the best looking budget models on the market.
  • Comes with a few cool accessories.
Enya-EUT-70300x300

AR RATING 91/100

  • One of the bang for the buck champions.
  • Pretty decent build quality all things considered.
Oscar-Schmidt-OU320-T-300x300

AR RATING 88/100

  • A very simple and straightforward design.
  • Made out of Zebra wood.
Cordoba-15TM-Tenor-300x300

AR RATING 87/100

  • Awesome build quality and attention to detail.
  • Features good tonewood, awesome rosette and binding around the fretboard.
Martin-T1K-300x300

AR RATING 99/100

This might come as a surprise to many, but Martin is one of the few brands who know how to put together a good top tier ukulele that isn't overpriced. Since we are looking at tenors today, we have chosen the Martin T1K for this occasion. What it offers is a perfect combination of Martin's experience, quality and traditional materials.

Despite its rather simple look, T1K is a serious piece of gear. This tenor features good quality solid koa wood everywhere, making it about as traditional and authentic as they come. Since this is a Martin uke, you just know that build quality is going to be on point, an it is. Overall, with the sound it offers, it's awesome.

WHAT WE LIKE

  • check
    A traditional build which features impressive build quality.
  • check
    Good quality koa tonewood makes it authentic.
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    Great sound which packs a bunch of range and depth.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    It has a very simplistic look to it.
Lanikai-ACST-300x300

AR RATING 98/100

Lanikai's higher end models are always a pleasant surprise. This brand is right up there with Kala, but lately they seem to be growing an edge over their main competitors. With Lanikai ACST tenor ukulele, you are getting the complete package. By that we mean good build quality, good choice of materials and great sound. Here are the full specks.

What Lanikai went with for this build is solid acacia. This tonewood is quite popular when you move into higher end models. Hardware comes in form of deluxe Grover tuners and NuBone XB for the nut as well as the saddle. The sound all of this produces is truly impressive. ACST not only sounds good but also looks rather amazing.

WHAT WE LIKE

  • check
    A very traditional looking ukulele.
  • check
    Features great hardware and tonewood.
  • check
    Sports amazing aesthetics and top binding all around.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    Factory strings could have been a bit better.
Oscar-Schmidt-OU6LCE -300x300

AR RATING 978100

Despite not being a traditional ukulele brand, Oscar Schmidt is currently offering some of the best tenors you can find on the market. Models such as Oscar Schmidt OU6LCE are really pushing the limits of what you can expect to see. This uke isn't just one of the most cost effective models out there, but it also comes with accessories.

The uke itself features a full Hawaiian koa build. The top is treated with abalone binding and an abalone rosette while the fretboard features a standard white binding. One more cool thing about this tenor is the UK2000 active electronics system. The tone is great, the features are awesome and the accessories really make it a complete package worth getting.

WHAT WE LIKE

  • check
    Made out of Hawaiian koa tonewood.
  • check
    Great build quality and performance.
  • check
    Features a bunch of awesome accessories.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    The kit lacks spare strings.
Lanikai-FMT-300x300

AR RATING 97/100

Our next model shows you just how capable Lanikai is at creating a cost effective solution which also looks pretty good. Lanikai FMT is a very traditional looking tenor that features a few awesome features and comes with a gig bag. When we say traditional, we're mainly talking about the overall impression it left on us. It's worth checking out.

This tenor features flamed maple construction which is truly a rare sight on the market these days. The only actual aesthetic detail is the binding and a dark, simple rosette. The sound it offers is on point. It has that classic uke vibe to it, but also a recognizable tenor depth. If you're after a workhorse, this might be it.

WHAT WE LIKE

  • check
    Good build quality for a mid range model.
  • check
    Features flamed maple construction making it quite unique.
  • check
    Great sound with plenty of depth and detail.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    Factory strings don't do it justice in our opinion.
Ibanez-UEWT14E-300x300

AR RATING 93/100

Ibanez may be one of the giants of the guitar world, but they have a very different reputation when it comes to ukuleles. In this segment of the market, they are known for their unusual designs. One such models is the Ibanez UEWT14E with all of its quirks and features. This is actually a bundle which comes with few accessories.

The first thing you'll notice about it is its Ovangkol build. This tonewood is pretty exotic by all standards, however it has proven to work well in this application. Another cool feature is the Ibanez UK-300T preamp and electronics package which comes with this model. The tone it offers is quite unique but generally within the standards of classic ukes.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    One of the best looking budget models on the market.
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    Comes with a few cool accessories.
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    Sounds pretty good considering its tonewood and design.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    A change of strings can really benefit its sound.
Enya-EUT-70300x300

AR RATING 91/100

Enya is nowhere near as popular as some of the brands on this list. However, they definitely make some of the best ukuleles in the lower price ranges. For example, the Enya EUT-70 bundle represents a true bang for the buck champion in the affordable segment of the market. Because of that, we feel that it's too good to ignore.

What you get with this kit is a koa tenor uke, which features a nice rosette on top of its great finish. Its made of laminate wood but it performs quite well all things considered. The rest of the kit includes anything and everything from a gig bag, a clip on tuner, to a capo and a few spare picks.

WHAT WE LIKE

  • check
    One of the bang for the buck champions.
  • check
    Pretty decent build quality all things considered.
  • check
    Comes loaded with awesome accessories.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    Factory strings simply aren't that great.
Oscar-Schmidt-OU320-T-300x300

AR RATING 88/100

Next we have another Oscar Schmidt model. This one is nowhere near as refined as the one we have previously talked about, but it is a much better representation of what this company is capable of producing. It's a simple tenor that is priced quite competitively. Where things get crazy is when you realize just how well made these are.

Oscar Schmidt went with Zebra wood, which is quite an interesting choice for sure. Ukulele itself is simple but it feels very solid. The neck is very playable and the whole thing just flows well together. The sound you can expect to get is great for this price. You could say that it punches above its weight class a little.

WHAT WE LIKE

  • check
    A very simple and straightforward design.
  • check
    Made out of Zebra wood.
  • check
    Features good hardware and overall great sound.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    Factory strings are nothing to write home about.
Cordoba-15TM-Tenor-300x300

AR RATING 87/100

Last but not the least we have a Cordoba tenor that completely rewrites the rules when it comes to bang for the buck performance. Cordoba is known for going a step or two further than necessary and that policy is very obvious with this model. What you get with this bad boy is great tonewood, solid construction and good sound.

Cordoba went with a mahogany build which puts the 15TM right up there with the best in its segment. The finish is a satin one and adds to the simplicity. However, Cordoba has included a very detailed rosette to the mix, making the whole package quite attractive. When you add the awesome sound, it becomes apparent how good these are.

WHAT WE LIKE

  • check
    Awesome build quality and attention to detail.
  • check
    Features good tonewood, awesome rosette and binding around the fretboard .
  • check
    Sound that makes it a bang for the buck choice.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    Factory strings need to be changed for sure.

Why Are Tenor Ukuleles A Great Choice? 

When most people imagine a ukulele, they are imagining a soprano ukulele of some kind. This is just the fact of the matter. Tenors are significantly larger, which is why a good amount of beginners are avoiding using them altogether. Needless to say, they are missing out. We say this from a standpoint of numerous professionals. That's right, tenors are the most popular type of uke among professional players. With that said, why is there such a discrepancy between what pros and beginners choose? 

The reasons are quite simple, really. Some are obvious, others not so much. If you think about it, 95% of beginners are looking for something affordable to start learning. Coincidentally, there aren't really all that many affordable tenors. Instead, sopranos and concert ukes are dominating the beginner segment of the market. The other main reason has to do with the sound an average tenor delivers.

The Difference In Sound 

Tenors are fairly larger compared to your standard soprano. If you were to put the two side by side, the difference would be tangible. Naturally, the larger the instrument is, you get more depth. What depth of sound does to ukulele is quite interesting. The larger you go with ukes, the closer you get to that traditional classical guitar sound. While it is not as obvious or dramatic with tenors as it is with baritones, this effect is very much present.

Flexibility Of Tenor Design 

Another reason why many are choosing tenor over anything else is its inherent flexibility. For starers, that extra fretboard makes it great for those who like to experiment and walk all over their necks. On the other hand, tenors represent the most compact ukulele where you can install a low G string. As you probably know, soprano and concert ukes only have a high G string and don't really play well with low G variants. Having those two G strings gives you a whole lot of room for experimentation and expression.

Limitations Associated With Tenor Ukuleles 

The main drawback of this design is the depth of tone. Even though you are still getting that traditional ukulele sound, it is deeper and has a lot of that classical guitar vibe to it. To some, that is a huge turn off. However, the pros, such as the extra scale on the fretboard, makes up for this. This is also why so many pros are joining the tenor camp. In our opinion, this size of ukulele is perfect for just about everything. Sopranos tend to be a bit too small depending on what you need to do, while baritones are just too large and too close to actual classical guitars. A tenor represents a happy medium solution. These may take a bit of getting used to, but once you do, you will notice just how easy it is to play a tenor compared to soprano.

Conclusion

Tenors are slowly becoming more and more popular among casual and professional players alike. That's great considering that tenors are right there in the middle no matter which parameter you look at. They offer the best bang for the buck compared to other categories. The models we have listed above are definitely among the best you can get at the moment. We have selected our picks from various price categories so that you can find something for yourself no matter how limited or permissive your budget is. No matter which one you go for, you won't regret it for sure.

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