7 Best Ukuleles Under $500 – Outstanding Competition In The Premium Segment

Top tier ukuleles are often times a custom built instrument made by some of the well known luthiers mostly in Hawaii. If you don't want to commit to such an elite instrument, the next best thing would be to look for something in the $500 range. That is exactly what we are going to talk about today. We've prepared our picks for the top 7 best ukuleles under $500 and we want to share them with you. Some of this are solid workhorses while some are easily among the best ukuleles you can find on the market at the moment

Top 7 Best Ukuleles Under $500

PRODUCT

FEATURES

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PRODUCT

FEATURES

Lanikai-FBCETT-300x300

AR RATING 99/100

  • Impressive build quality across the range.
  • Features a good set of on board electronics.
Kala-KA-SA-B-300x300

AR RATING 98/100

  • Awesome Kala build quality ensures good performance.
  • Features great sound with plenty of range.
Lanikai-ACST-300x300

AR RATING 98/100

  • Rock solid build quality as expected from Lanikai.
  • Great hardware as well as tonewood selection.
Lanikai-S-TEK-300x300

AR RATING 97/100

  • A proper workhorse which won’t let you down.
  • Great choice of materials and hardware.
Martin-110XKUKE-300x300

AR RATING 95/100

  • Good build quality and attention to detail.
  • Features good sound and playability.
Kohala Akamai AK-C-300x300

AR RATING 94/100

  • A great bundle for the money.
  • Features good hardware and good strings.
Kala-KA-ATP-CTG-300x300

AR RATING 94/100

  • Impressive build quality across the board.
  • Features a great set of hardware.
Lanikai-FBCETT-300x300

AR RATING 99/100

At the very top of our list is one awesome Lanikai tenor ukulele. Just one look at this bad boy is enough to realize that this is no ordinary tenor. On the contrary, this is a thin body ukulele which comes packed with a built in preamp. Due to its lack of acoustic volume, that preamp is pretty much necessary.

However, that doesn't mean that Lanikai FBCETT is a bad uke. On the contrary, this thing's made out of figured bocote and it actually has enough power for acoustic use. Once you decide to plug it in, it becomes a very decent piece of kit. Overall, this uke is a perfect choice for someone who does home or studio recording.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    Impressive build quality across the range.
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    Features a good set of on board electronics.
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    Made out of Bocote tonewood.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    It is a thin body ukulele.
Kala-KA-SA-B-300x300

AR RATING 98/100

Starting the list is a Kala baritone. It is definitely one of the best models they offer currently. Yes, baritones are not the hottest type of ukulele at the moment, but this one definitely has quality to it. Kala went with a very good selection of tonewood and did a good job putting the whole thing together. It's rock solid.

The wood in this case is acacia, which is fairly exotic in the world of ukuleles. Despite that, it delivers a very refined tone and packs a lot of depth. Actually, that also has to do with the fact that baritones are deep sounding in general. Overall, you are getting a good combination of materials, build quality and reasonable price.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    Awesome Kala build quality ensures good performance.
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    Features great sound with plenty of range.
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    Good amount of volume and plenty of projection.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    Factory strings don't do it justice.
Lanikai-ACST-300x300

AR RATING 98/100

ACST is another awesome Lanikai uke which offers an impressive bang for the buck. These are pretty traditional in all ways that matter. Lanikai, being one of the most popular and most trusted brands on the market right now, obviously wanted to produce something neutral yet functional. That is pretty much what ACST is. It's a great high range uke.

What you get with this package is an acacia body paired with Grover tuners and NuBone XB nut and saddle. In other words, the hardware is on point. The sound reflects this quite well. There's plenty of saturation across the range and you are getting that classic uke sound. If you wanted a higher end starter uke, this is it.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    Rock solid build quality as expected from Lanikai.
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    Great hardware as well as tonewood selection.
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    Full, well saturated sound which is full of range.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    A bit too simple looking for this price range.
Lanikai-S-TEK-300x300

AR RATING 97/100

Lanikai S-TEK is all about nailing the perfect balance of price, performance and overall looks. It's a workhorse tenor, but one which looks quite awesome. If we had to recommend a good higher tier starter for someone who's interested in learning how to play, this is the model we would suggest. It’s just that good, and definitely worth checking out.

Here is what the whole thing is about. You are getting a spruce top and mahogany body paired with Fishman Kula electronics and good hardware. As you can probably tell, it’s has a lot of qualities you often see in good acoustic guitars. The sound, due to the spruce top, is pretty mellow but ultimately very traditional which is surprising.

WHAT WE LIKE

  • check
    A proper workhorse which won’t let you down.
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    Great choice of materials and hardware.
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    Awesome sound which is both mellow and traditional.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    Factory strings aren’t all that great.
Martin-110XKUKE-300x300

AR RATING 95/100

If there’s one name we didn’t expect to run into, it is Martin. This giant of acoustic guitars needs no special introduction, however they aren’t exactly known for making ukuleles of any kind. Martin 110XKUKE might just change that. This is a minimalist soprano which offers quite a bit in terms of performance. Unfortunately, there are also a few flaws.

Martin has this thing where they like to use HPL instead of wood. HPL is high quality laminate which can go against certain tonewoods, but it’s still a laminate. In case of Martin 110XKUKE they went with a Koa HPL. Even though both looks and sound are both on point, lack of actual tonewood takes away from the entire experience.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    Good build quality and attention to detail.
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    Features good sound and playability.
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    Minimalist look makes it fairly attractive.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    Laminate wood isn’t all that hot in this price range.
Kohala Akamai AK-C-300x300

AR RATING 94/100

Bundles aren’t necessarily a thing in the upper end segment of the market. However you can still find a few. Since this is a competitive segment, most of these bundles are quite awesome. Kohala Akamai AK-C is definitely one such model. It is a concert body that comes with great accessories which include a polyfoam case, a tuner and more.

The uke itself is made out of Eastern mahogany all around, except for the fingerboard. Hardware is pretty great all things considered while Kohala ships these with Aquila strings. In terms of looks, Akamai AK-C is on point. Sound wise, you’re looking at a very good combination of detail, projection and that traditional ukulele tone. At this price it rocks.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    A great bundle for the money.
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    Features good hardware and good strings.
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    Sound that is very much worthy of this segment.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    It looks a bit too simple despite white binding.
Kala-KA-ATP-CTG-300x300

AR RATING 94/100

Last but not least we’ve another Kala model for you. This time around it’s Kala KA-ATP-CTG and it offers a very traditional and respectable performance for the money. Kala did a good job a tenor ukulele that’s not loaded with useless features. Here’s the thing, this tenor isn’t like the others. If you look closely, it has 5 strings.

That means that you will need to adapt a little, but it also means that you get more maneuvering room. The uke features a solid cedar top and acacia back and sides. In terms of hardware, they went with NuBone set which is becoming the standard across the industry. Lastly, you have the awesome Aquila Super Nylgut set of strings.

WHAT WE LIKE

  • check
    Impressive build quality across the board.
  • check
    Features a great set of hardware.
  • check
    Good sound thanks to pretty unorthodox choice of tonewood.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    Takes some getting used to due to the extra string.

What Does a $500 Ukulele Have To Offer? 

As we have mentioned before, investing in a $500 ukulele is a serious commitment for most people. If you find yourself in this situation, chances are that you plan on playing ukulele for quite some time and that you appreciate a good quality instrument. The question that many ask is whether or not a $500 ukulele is such an upgrade compared to say $200 model? The answer is yes. With that said, once you go past the $300 price range, you are getting diminishing returns on your investments. 

In other word, the gap between a $300 model and a $500 model won't be as large as the gap between a $100 ukulele and a $300 model. Naturally, there are far more expensive ukes out there than the one we have shown you today. If you go to a luthier and have them custom build you a uke, be prepared to pay quite a bit of money for that experience. We feel that $500 price range deserve the title of a top tier uke nonetheless. Now, lets take a look at some features you can expect to find in this price range.

What Makes a Good Uke In This Price Range? 

For starters you are going to run into much more diversity in this price range. Models offered for this kind of many feature a variety of different tonewood used. There are straight up mahogany models, full koa models and then a few models which really take a dive into the exotic section of wood. Naturally, each of these has their unique sonic footprint although most are staying fairly true to the traditional ukulele sound.

What really makes a good uke in this price range will depend on what you are looking for. Generally speaking, chances are very slim that you will end up with an uke which will disappoint you. In most cases, you are going to get a rock solid performer which can keep up with your skill level no matter what. A good thing to look for is electronics. If you need to record your music a preamp and a pickup will go a long way. Also, the types of preamps available in this price range make the whole thing so much better. Brands are actually investing quite a bit of effort into creating something that will translate the acoustic sound well over the speakers. You have to respect that.

Electronics 

Electronics on ukuleles is fairly straight forward. These systems are comparable to the stuff you find in acoustic guitars these days. In other words, we are talking about a tuner, three band EQ and that is usually it. These simple features are more than enough to dial in a good ukulele tone. Also, even though preamps found ukuleles are purpose made, you will still run into a number of popular brands which are known for their preamps. Anyone from Fishman to uke brands themselves are making preamps. Truth be told, most of them are doing a good job regardless who made them. On the other hand, sticking with proven brands is always a good thing.

Conclusion 

Investing in a $500 ukulele may be a scary proposition for some. After all, unless you are fully committed to playing ukulele, you really won't get your moneys worth of performance. In case you do want to play ukulele seriously, any one of these ukes will prove to be a great tool. We chose models which we found to be both attractive and good performers. No matter which one you go with, chances are that you will love the sound it offers and the performance you are getting. Fortunately for you and us, the choices in this segment are numerous.

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