Top 5 Bass Ukuleles ­ A Completely Different Beast


Ukuleles have spiked back into mainstream fairly recently. While that attracted more attention to this awesome instrument, it has also revealed some of ukuleles lesser known cousins. To be more specific, we’re talking about bass ukuleles. Today we are going to show you our top 5 picks for this category and spend some time discussing what bass ukuleles are all about. If you are a fan of that classic uke sound, chances are you’ll love the bass oriented version as well. With that said, lets go over some of the best bass ukuleles and get this show on the road.

5 Best Bass Ukuleles

ImageUkuleles / RatingSummaryCheck Price
+ - Kala U Bass Kala U Bass

Total of 4.80/5  

Awesome looks combined with functional design and performance that's hard to match.

+ - Oscar Schmidt Comfort Oscar Schmidt Comfort

Total of 4.70/5  

Awesome bass uke coming from a brand that is quickly establishing itself.

+ - Luna Guitars Bass Ukulele Luna Guitars Bass Ukulele

Total of 4.65/5  

A somewhat unusual but ultimately awesome bass ukulele with plenty to offer.

+ - Hadean UKB­23 Hadean UKB­23

Total of 4.58/5  

One of the proven best budget options on the market right now.

+ - Donner Ubass DUB­1 Donner Ubass DUB­1

Total of 4.55/5  

A true hidden gem found in the affordable segment of the market.

Kala U Bass

Kala U Bass

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When you go out there to get yourself a ukulele, Kala is one of the few names that will jump at your from everywhere. Their reputation is impressive and for a good reason.

This brand simply knows how to make a good uke without completely breaking your bank account. They also make less conventional versions of this instrument. Meet Kala U Bass. We're looking at a full mahogany build that packs a set of on board electronics.

Not only does it look good, but it sounds even better. Kala has managed to turn a ukulele chassis into something that produces a proper bass tone. Compared to most of its immediate competition, U Bass offers the best value for the money.

Oscar Schmidt Comfort

Oscar Schmidt Comfort

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For quite some time now, Oscar Schmidt has been a brand that filled in a very niche role. Their ability to deliver awesome bang for the buck instruments is impressive to say the least.

As it turns out, this role also extends to bass ukeleles. Even though Oscar Schmidt isn't really a brand often associated with ukes, they have proven their abilities numerous times by now. Oscar Schmidt Comfort Series bass uke features a solid spruce top over kao shell, a well balanced on board preamp and a great set of hardware.

On paper, it looks pretty good. However, once you handle it for the first time, whatever second thoughts you might have had will tend to disappear rather quickly.

Luna Guitars Bass Ukulele

Luna Guitars Bass Ukulele

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If you are familiar with the ukulele market, you've probably heard of Luna. It's that quirky brand that has a quite unique way of decorating their instruments. Their Luna Bass Ukulele features all of that quirkiness, but also some tangible potential.

With a spruce top, koa back and sides, it brings a pretty balanced tone profile to the table. This is only confirmed when you start playing it. On top of that, they have also included a rather decent built in preamp that allows you to experience the full potential of this bass uke in a plugged in setting.

As always, Luna delivered that trademark bang for the buck value which you won't generally find that often with other brands.

Hadean UKB­23

Hadean UKB­23

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If you are trying to find a good bass ukulele on a budget, your options won't be that diverse. One of the proven choices out there comes in form of Hadean UKB­23. This bass has a lot going for it, especially if you insist on doing moderate tone shaping.

Everything starts with a great walnut body that really accentuates those lows. Add to this a great set of hardware and you have an instrument that is extremely reliable. Tone wise, Hadean's use of walnut gives UKB­23 a pretty unique tone signature.

The built in preamp with a three­ band EQ does a great job at capturing the authentic sound of the instrument, but also allows for plenty of organic tone shaping.

Donner Ubass DUB­1

Donner Ubass DUB­1

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Digging deep into the affordable bass ukulele market, we tend to find a whole bunch of mediocre models. However, there are some hidden gems out there which will reward your time and effort. Donner DUB­1 is absolutely one of them.

You are looking at a mahogany bass ukulele that features great hardware, versatile on board electronics, and most importantly, a reallygood tone. Donner has really done a lot to make this bass as a attractive as possible.

After spending even an hour with it, you will realize that they have indeed achieve that goal. This is an awesome model for anyone looking to get into bass ukuleles, but also for those who want a decent instrument on a budget.

What Are Bass Ukuleles And Where Did They Come From?

If you are wondering why you have never heard of bass ukes before, there might be a good reason. The fact is that this instrument is really new. Compared to a traditional ukulele, it is still in its early infancy. The whole thing started back in early 2000s when a small company wanted to do something different. They wanted to keep the compact form factor of a ukulele, but give it some girth in the lower end. Not long after that idea was born, this company actually managed to do it.

The only issue is that being a small manufacturer crippled bass ukuleles future right from the start. Limited production capabilities meant higher prices for an instrument that hasn’t even been properly field tested. Fortunately for all of us, they turned to Kala for help. For those of you who are new to ukuleles in general, Kala is at the very top of the market along with several other brands. Their instruments are considered to be some of the best ukuleles you can find on the market. With Kala’s help, the entire project was finally ready to get off the ground. And boy did it. Bass ukuleles went from being this completely new thing one day, to being the next best thing since sliced bread the other.

The end result is that some 10 years after Kala got involved, we have a fully formed market for bass ukuleles and they come in all shapes, formats and flavors.

How Exactly Does A Bass Ukulele Work?

One of the more interesting questions that gets asked quite often is how do these instruments work exactly? If you think about it, getting low, deep sound requires either a large resonator box or a fairly long scale. Neither of those two things can be found on the bass ukulele. This is where we see one of the best examples of thinking outside of the box in recent history of musical instrument design.

In order to get a deep tone out of a ukulele body, they went ahead and invented a whole new type of strings. The deciding factor was the density of the strings. Standard steel bass strings simply couldn’t cut it. Instead of turning to metals, Kala went with a synthetic design that adds enough density without completely changing the feel of the strings nor their dynamics. What you get in the end is a string that can produce the desired frequency range of sound, all while keeping the cost of the instrument at reasonable levels. There are different designs, though. This is something we will touch upon a bit later.

However, there is a small issue here. Even with high density synthetic strings, you still can’t get too much volume out of a bass ukulele. This is why most of them come with some sort of built in preamp. Unlike it is the case with acoustic electric guitars, the preamp on bass ukes is not there for added versatility but out of necessity.

Strings

Before we go any further, lets touch upon strings for a moment. We have already mentioned that bass ukes use completely different type of strings. Therein lies the problem. While polyurethane strings definitely have the necessary density, they feel very weird and rubbery. It is almost like playing stretchy strings. There is an alternative. It comes in form of synthetic core strings that features a copper wound shell. In terms of feedback and playing sensation, these hybrids are about as close as it gets to standard bass strings.

There are downsides, though. Seeing how the entire instrument more or less revolves around the strings, it is only expected for replacement pack to cost quite a bit. If you think a high end set of standard bass strings are doing a number on your bank account, bass uke strings will make that look like child’s play.

Another thing to look out for is the break in period. Internet is full of forum posts where people are reporting poor performance of their newly acquired bass uke. The reason for this is that bass uke strings take a very long time to break in. you are looking at 15 days or so for best effect. It is highly recommended to apply patience when dealing with string replacement or breaking in a new instrument. If you are wondering how durable bass ukulele strings are, you will find them pretty rugged in nature.

What Does A Bass Ukulele Sound Like?

This is where things get really interesting. Everything we have talked about so far paints a pretty unusual picture. On one hand, seeing that ukulele body brings your mind directly to a smooth, soft soprano ukulele sound. On the other hand, those thick strings tell a completely different story. The truth is somewhere in between. Inmost basic terms we can describe the sound of bass ukes as that of a slightly limited upright bass.

While there is a resonator box, it is not big enough to give you much volume. This is where those pramps come into play even more. So far, the absolute best way to experience a bass uke is to plug it in. Simple as that. Keep in mind that ‘best’ doesn’t equate to only way of experiencing this instrument. In an unplugged setting, your average bass ukulele will be able to carry its own weight quite nicely. It is definitely an acquired taste but the whole new layer of tone, functionality and playability makes it worth the effort.

How To Pick The Best Bass Ukulele For You?

Not so long ago, choosing a bass ukulele was very simple. You either chose one of the several expensive ones that were available, or you didn’t get one at all. Today things are very different. For starters, there is a much wider range of models to choose from. Not only that, but we have price gradients with well defined categories. If you wish to, you can go after the high end models but you also have the choice of getting an affordable one as well.

The most important thing is to be able to differentiate baritone ukes from bass ukuleles. These two are fairly similar in appearance to those who are just getting into this. One of the sure fire ways to figure which is which is to look at the strings. Bass uke strings are much thicker than those found on a baritone ukulele.

The next big thing is to find something that has a decent preamp. If you take a look at our list above, you will see that all of those basses have pretty decent preamps. Some feature a full three­ band EQ while others don’t. Tone shaping controls don’t necessarily dictate how good or bad a preamp is. Instead, it is important to find a model that gives you a good, authentic default tone. If you can find that, any tone shaping is only a plus.

Difference In Technique

As expected there is going to be a slight difference in technique when it comes to playing bass ukuleles. Standard fingerpicking definitely works and is used by many. However, there is an argument to be made for jumping to standard bass technique right away. You will find it to be more natural in the long run, and it fits the profile of the instrument fairly well. The hardest thing to do will be finding a decent hand position that allows you to keep the instrument stable while playing. Since this is all new, experimentation is a large part of the process.

Conclusion

Bass ukuleles may be a very recent instrument but they have proven that there is some potential in there. Taking the plunge and getting into bass ukes takes some courage, but it is definitely worth it in the long run. The models we have shown you represent some of the best you can find on the market. We have included the original Kala Ubass, but also a number of other less expensive models that are great as well. It might take you some time to get used to playing a bass ukulele, however it will grow on you rather quickly.


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