While the ukulele is an instrument often associated with the lower end of the market (i.e. you can actually pick up something pretty good for under $100!, cheaper ukuleles don’t always cut it with experienced, serious musicians.
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Of course, there are a handful of ukuleles that span into the region of $1,000 to $1,500, but the majority of the premium ukes in today’s market can be found for around $500 or under.
Naturally, there is a good range to consider, but our chart below looks at five excellent high-end ukuleles that prove the most popular, focusing on at least one from each soprano, concert, tenor and baritone size categories – a good snapshot of the current market.
|Image||Ukuleles / Rating||Summary||Check Price|
|+ -|| Lanikai TunaUke SMTU-C Concert Ukulele |
Total of 4.83/5
An innovative concert uke allowing instant intonation adjustment.
|+ -|| Cordoba 32T Tenor Ukulele |
Total of 4.83/5
Excellent tonewoods and craftsmanship combine on this high-end uke.
|+ -|| Lanikai LK-SEU UkeSB Soprano Ukulele |
Total of 4.80/5
Plug n’ play this gorgeous soprano uke in any device!
|+ -|| Kala KA-ASAC-B Baritone Ukulele |
Total of 4.78/5
Hard to fault this all-round solid baritone uke from Kala.
|+ -|| Fender Mino’Aka CE Concert Ukulele |
Total of 4.67/5
An impressive mid-range electro-acoustic uke from Fender.
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There’s a reason this striking SMTU-C concert ukulele from Lanikai features so highly on our list – the mix of beauty, practicality, tone and innovation combine to deliver a premium uke that will appeal to musicians and songwriters across the spectrum. The non-cutaway body is made with solid Hawaiian Mango on the top, and a laminated version of the wood on the back and sides. The hand-oiled mahogany neck is incredibly playable, and sports a rosewood fretboard with a total of 19 frets. As we explore in more detail in the full review of the SMTU-C, this ukulele features Lanikai’s TunaUke technology, which allows for quick intonation adjustments, resulting in an incredibly versatile and clear-sounding instrument.
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Cordoba is a name associated with premium classical instruments, and this handmade tenor ukulele from their 30 Series is certainly one of the more high-end we feature on this chart. The brand use Spanish building methods to produce a very fine ukulele indeed. Solid dark Indian rosewood on the back and sides complement the lighter solid Sitka spruce on the top of the body, giving this uke striking visuals and a rich, well-balanced tone. The mahogany neck comes with a rosewood fretboard, with a total of 18 frets and slightly wider nut width – perfect for those with bigger hands. You can check out more on this delightful ukulele in our full review of the Cordoba 32T.
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With the LK-SEU UkeSB we see another innovative Lanikai on our chart – this time in the electronics department. Thanks to the USB output that sits next to your regular ¼” output jack, this uke offers endless plug n’ play connectivity with devices, and superb compatibility with recording software. On top of this, the LK-SEU is a great-looking soprano ukulele, with a body made from laminated koa and decorated with some exquisite detailing, including mother-of-pearl purfling and gold-plated Grover tuners. It also has a hugely playable mahogany neck and rosewood fretboard, with 12 frets. As we look at in further detail in the Lanikai LK-SEU’s full review, it’s fitted with versatile Fishman electronics, which includes a built-in digital tuner.
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From the build to the hardware, quality is the name of the game with this delightful baritone ukulele from uke masters Kala. As we mention in the full review of KA-ASAC-B it features an all-solid acacia body (similar to koa in its look and tone), with some attractive detailing, such as herringbone purfling and swirling pearl inlays. Combined with the superior playability from the satin-finished mahogany neck, the KA-ASAC-B certainly justifies its higher-end price tag. Overall the tone of this uke is warm and deep, and – with the large baritone body, solid woods, and an arched back – it projects incredibly well. Perfect, because this is one sweet-sounding uke that you will want people to hear you play!
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You won’t be surprised to see a Fender model on this premium list, and the Mino’Aka electro-acoustic concert ukulele – complete with that distinctive Telecaster headstock – is well-worthy of its inclusion. The top, back and sides of the body are made from laminated koa, with an eye-catching abalone acrylic rosette, glossy finish, and aged body binding. It also features a small single-cutaway, which gives good access to the very playable three-piece mahogany neck and 19 frets. Sound-wise, it’s a happy and bright acoustic uke, but through the Fishman Kula pickup/preamp system it’s impressive – clear and very versatile. Be sure to check out our full review of Fender’s Mino’Aka for all the details of this cool little concert uke.
Perhaps a better question – who doesn’t!?
However, the more expensive ukuleles tend to be favored by the more serious ukulelist, whether that’s an experienced player or a professional musician. These players can appreciate the intricacies and qualities of a premium uke, and would benefit from the advanced technology and better tonewoods on offer.
That’s not to say someone with no experience or intermediate player wouldn’t enjoy a premium uke. In fact, given the right ukulele, it would be an advantage for a complete newbie to play on a ukulele that felt smooth as butter, with a perfect tone and beautiful looks. It would help them practice and improve quicker than learning on something that cost twenty bucks, that’s for sure.
However, some of the advanced features on these high-end instruments – whether that’s electronics or adjustable intonation – are just not necessary at lower levels of playing. If you are just starting, you’d probably be better off with something that features in our guide to buying a ukulele, which offers advice as well as a chart on the best ukuleles for beginners.
As we arrive in the premium category, you can demand a lot more from your ukulele. For example, on an entry-level ukulele, you can forgive plastic components, rough finishes, and a sharp fret here and there. If you’re paying up to $500 for a uke, there’s little room for error from the manufacturer.
Ultimately, when spending a good chunk of dough, you want a ukulele that plays smoothly, sounds exceptional, feels flawless in construction, and has the wow factor – whether that’s a soprano, concert, tenor or baritone. In a nutshell, it should look and sound near perfect.
When it comes to the wow factor, this is usually down to the interestingly grained woods and decorations, like rosettes, purflings, and inlays. Of course, more standard tonewoods like mahogany and spruce are used in body construction, but you’ll also see some more exotic woods in use. Koa is more popular in this range – with its wonderfully warm tone and luxurious grain – as are woods like Hawaiian Mango and Monkeypod. Needless to say, you’ll also find more use of solid woods in the bodies, although some all-laminate models still appear.
Like lower-priced categories, having electronics on your uke will still depend on your aspirations. Are you performing? Are you recording? If so, the pickup and preamp systems on ukes in this range should be top notch, with 3-band EQ, built-in tuners, and – in some cases – have digital connectivity capabilities.
Across this site, whether buying an electric, an acoustic, a classical or a bass guitar, we always advise that buying used instruments can have great benefits – if you are careful. And buying a used ukulele in the sub-$500 price range is no different.
You can find a used model for a couple of hundred bucks less that you’d pay for it new, depending on the age and wear of the instrument. You can even find some great value genuine vintage instruments, if that floats your boat. Bargains are to be had when buying used.
However, if this is the route you go, make sure that you are able to thoroughly test the ukulele before buying – both playing it, to ensure it sounds as you’d expect, as well as inspecting it for any damage. This is particularly important if electronics are involved, as you’ll want to plug it into an amp for testing.
If you can’t test the ukulele for any reason, make sure you purchase from a reputable online store, such as Amazon or Guitar Center, where fair returns policies are clearly outlined.
Buying a ukulele, especially if you are an experienced player, shouldn’t be too difficult. But when dropping up to half a grand on a single instrument, you want something that will not let you down – whether recording or playing on stage, or just relaxing at home.
So make sure you don’t rush your decision. Create a shortlist of your favorites, read plenty of reviews, watch videos, and – if possible – test out your potential ukuleles in a local guitar store.
Your perfect premium uke is out there – good luck!