What are the best Ukulele Brands in 2021?
Throughout the years, we’ve come across many different ukulele brands – all of them yelled at our faces that they were the best.
This is something that’s, to say the least, common, especially in a world where brands invest more in marketing than in perfecting their products.
Edited by Ukulele Experts!
Best Ukulele Brands – The Basics
However, that comes with some issues you must consider before settling with one:
# 1 – There are hundreds of brands available!
There are so many ukulele brands out there, that we wouldn’t be able to make a list with all of them in here.
# 2 – It’s easier to pick the wrong brand than to pick the right one for you
To be honest, it’s easier to pick the wrong brand if you have no real experience with ukes.
And not just regular experience like “I’ve had three ukes and I loved this brand the most”.
Take us, for example – we tested just over 50 brands on our own before curating our way to the best.
That was before we were trying to help you – now we’ve tried more than a hundred, and we’re yet to try a few more.
That’s the kind of experience that can let you know which ones are good or bad, but finding this out from scratch is very expensive.
We say this mostly because, out of those 150 or so, we personally only liked about 7.
# 3 – The right uke brands satisfy all your needs
Picking the right uke brand gives you a different experience which mediocre brands can’t offer.
We think that the ukulele you pick from a good brand is particularly important because it keeps you on the right way while you’re learning.
Picking a uke from a brand that will disappoint you is, well, harsh on your self-esteem, and can lure you away from this precious instrument.
Our goal with this guide is to show you the top ten brands that can offer you a good uke.
Keep in mind, though, that some of these brands are better than the others, but that’s just how our opinion goes – the final say in what you get is yours.
Let’s get right into it!
Martin – Ukulele Brand
Martin is a brand of historic proportions – with a two-century timestamp that’s unmatched.
Of course, this is not a ukulele brand!
But they’ve applied most of their knowledge to create amazing-sounding ukes.
That places this brand among our favorite to get top-notch pro-level ukes.
Still, aside from saying that their ukes are great, let us explain this brand from a historic viewpoint.
Just like that, you’ll know why their ukes are so excellent and totally worth the investment.
Description & History
They’ve been actively making guitars since 1833 – there’s no way we can fit all that chunk of time here, so we’ll just put what we think is more important.
- They’ve innovated many aspects that are still used in modern guitars, like body designs, and inside patterns that augment projection.
- They’ve applied themselves to improve their products – they’re directly linked to the evolution of guitars!
- They’ve had a guitar in almost every musical milestone in the past two centuries!
- Huge artists that have transcended the limits of time and their art have used their guitars – like John Lennon and Bob Dylan.
All the knowledge that got their guitars to where they are – sharing the spotlight with legendary music – is what they’re pouring into creating their ukes.
- This brand is a walking legendary and historical milestone-maker – musical heroes like Elvis Presley had one.
- They make outstanding-quality ukes that have a near-perfect sound quality and a neat finish.
- The brand is best (of very few) we would personally pick to get a pro-level uke.
- The ukes are indeed expensive.
This is definitively among our top-three favorite guitar brands, and our favorite ukulele brand – although it isn’t actually a ukulele brand.
We love the sound quality, projection, playability, resonance, and materials they use for their ukes.
That’s why it’s at the very top of our pro-level options.
Still, it’s not an affordable brand, and we wouldn’t recommend it for beginners unless they’re absolutely positive they’ll reach the pro-musician level through hard work.
Highly recommended brand!
Oscar Schmidt – Ukulele Brand
Oscar Schmidt is an interesting brand to explore.
This brand sits right in the time frame between the creation of Martin and Fender.
As a brand, Oscar Schmidt (a.k.a. Washburn) creates high-end ukuleles that we personally consider to be among the best mass-produced uke options.
We usually recommend Oscar Schmidt ukes to intermediate and above musicians – only they can take advantage of these top-notch instruments!
Description & History
This brand was officially incorporated in 1911, although they had been operating for forty years before that.
To put it simply, this brand grew along with our country, creating stringed instruments for almost every taste and period.
It’s worth noticing that its success was propelled mostly by immigrants trying to experience the American Dream.
However, it wasn’t until recently that they added ukes into the mix.
Even though that’s the case, their experience creating electric and acoustic guitars, autoharps, banjos, mandolins, and more, was poured into creating ukuleles of outstanding quality.
- Oscar Schmidt is in the high-halls of music history – just because they raised entire generations with their musical instruments.
- Even though it’s not a ukulele brand, their luthier experience is wide, which allows them to reach a high standard of ukuleles.
- They have tried to improved their processes to be eco-friendlier and more sustainable, which always deserves some claps.
- It’s a pricey brand – totally worth it for intermediate and above musicians, though.
- They don’t have a wide selection of ukes.
Oscar Schmidt certainly deserves a spot in the halls of fame of instrument companies – if there is such a thing.
We think highly of this brand, mostly because we have tasted their ukuleles – and they’re pure quality.
The only downside, though, is that there aren’t many ukes to pick from – the existing ones are amazing, though.
Also, the ukes are not affordable, but there’s nothing we can do about it; quality has a price worth paying!
Fender – Ukulele Brand
Fender is a rather young brand when compared to Martin – but still, both brands have fought the decay of time, and won so far.
We’re not saying that Fender is as near-perfect as Martin might be, but it does have some excellent traits that keep the brand relevant.
They’ve found a formula to make awesome-looking, great-sounding, and affordable products – that’s their winning formula.
Among those products, you can find guitars, basses, and amplifiers.
As for their ukes, there’s not a lot to say, just that they’re great for musicians at an intermediate or advanced level – just like their guitars.
Description & History
As we said, Fender has plenty of history, right from their establishment in 1946.
They’ve made just as many legendary guitars as Martin, and those guitars were also played by legendary hands.
Artists like Jimmy Hendrix, Bob Dylan, bands like the Ramones, Nirvana, and more have played Fenders.
Still, what makes Fender an amazing brand is that they make products of amazing quality, but keep them affordable.
That’s why, when we’re asked for a brand to get an intermediate or advanced level uke, we usually refer people to Fender’s ukulele line.
- All the prestige and recognizability of Martin, but at a more affordable price, and with a better range of products.
- Their ukes are a viable option for intermediate and advanced players – though we wouldn’t include pros in that list.
- Their main focus is not the uke – which means they might not have the best experience creating them.
- There are just a handful of uke models available when compared to other brands.
Fender is a legendary brand – though we mustn’t confuse the legendary electric guitar brand with a legendary ukulele brand.
We don’t mean to put down Fender, but still, we know they’re not the best uke makers you can find.
Even so, their ukes are more than great for intermediate and advanced players, and we wouldn’t say that if we didn’t believe it.
Cordoba – Ukulele Brand
Córdoba is a very interesting brand that we like very much – they offer top-notch quality ukes at affordable prices.
Additionally, they have a decent range of ukulele options available, as well as a wider range of classic acoustic guitars that are also excellent.
Within their ukulele selection, you’ll find anything from beginner-level ukes to advanced level instruments that are born from pure attention to detail.
We like the fact that most of them come with details reminiscent of the quality of Spanish luthiers – which of course, are expert craftspeople.
Last, but not least, is their wide range of accessories, which often goes unnoticed.
That doesn’t mean they offer poor quality – just that there are better, more specialized brands in making such accessories.
For us, this is a great brand and one of our favorites.
Description and History
Although this brand is surrounded by prestige – you can almost feel it while playing their ukes – they don’t have a lengthy history.
They’ve been in the market for very long, though.
One of their biggest successes was their influence to introduce nylon string guitars back in 1997.
Back then, guitars were made with more natural, and hardly sustainable horse-hair strings.
Córdoba then achieved a marked influence introducing the nylon-string guitar – perfecting their guitars along the way.
In later years, they’ve decided to innovate into the world of ukes, using all their amassed experience since their foundation.
- Amazing ukes.
- They have a wide range of affordable ukes for all kinds of players from beginner to advanced.
- They’ve been endorsed by several pro musicians that are big in the Spanish and Latin American scene.
- They also have a wide range of accessories that are affordable and offer good quality.
- Their accessories are not that good when compared to specialized brands – they’re more than decent, though.
Córdoba is a very seasoned brand, that has expert luthiers who can create instruments in different price ranges.
Of course, not all of their products are handmade, but you can expect the process to be influenced by their great luthiers all the way.
Additionally, with just this brand, you’ll have access to ukes for beginners and up to advanced-level ukes.
Finally, you can also find bundled products that offer all their good-enough accessory solutions affordably.
Kala – Ukulele Brand
If we can resume our view of Kala, it would be something like this:
Ever since the company was created, most people that get into the world of the uke today, start with a Kala ukulele.
But that doesn’t do any justice to what Kala has become.
Most people see this brand as an affordable uke brand – which is true to some extent.
However, we see it as a breathtaking brand that’s made the impossible possible – to put a ukulele in as many hands all over the world.
Of course, their ukes are not perfect, but they are still better than many other brands out there.
Kala is one of the few brands that’s achieved a balance between quality, and affordability, effectively shining a light on our beloved instrument.
And, for that, we only have gratitude.
Description & History
There’s not a lot to say about Kala – mostly because they’ve kept themselves under the radar.
They’re based in Petaluma, CA., in the Sonoma wine country.
The company had an important systematic influence because of the local environment, which has shaped their business approach.
It’s worth noticing that they’ve had marked exponential growth as a brand since it was created by Michael Upton, back in 2005.
In the beginning, they satisfied the needs of many by achieving a balance between good quality and affordability.
But also, they create new products periodically to satisfy more segments of the market.
They’ve effectively surpassed their quality over the years, too.
That only means they’ve been taking all the right turns in their path – that’s the reason why it’s among the most used brands!
- Kala has a wide range of affordable ukes – and a few options worthy of intermediate and advanced players.
- They make ukes with good, durable materials, that stand the passage of time really well.
- The more expensive lines are great!
- And they also offer good bundles with their ukes and third-party accessories.
- The ukes are not always perfect – there’s always a small percentage of people complaining about quality control and manufacturing issues.
This is a pretty good brand worth exploring, especially if you’re a beginner, intermediate, or an advanced player looking for an inexpensive uke.
Kala doesn’t disappoint with its products.
Still, there’s always some concern about their quality control, since there have been people who receive poorly finished ukes.
There’s some improving ground yet ahead of Kala.
Even though that’s the case, this is an excellent brand that we personally respect because of what they’ve achieved.
Luna – Ukulele Brand
Luna has had an interesting approach to creating ukes that not many other brands apply – it’s a unique brand in that and other senses.
This brand is similar to Lanikai; both create aesthetically pleasant ukuleles – although we prefer Luna’s ukes.
The only difference is that Luna does invest more in quality, so it’s not just appealing designs.
Their ukes, which have a strong influence from nature, culture, and art, sound amazingly well for their price range.
Of course, they’ve created ukes for different price and skill ranges, but even the cheapest ones meet that standard.
We’d say you can use this brand to get your ukes up to an advanced level!
Description & History
Luna Guitars was created in 2005 by Yvonne de Villiers, a stained-glass artist – so no wonder why they look so good.
They were at first a guitar-only company, focusing on creating lighter guitar solutions for female musicians.
The unique attention to detail regarding craftsmanship and the great quality of the guitars gave Luna exponential growth.
Eventually, the company took a few turns towards creating more instruments, which interestingly includes percussion instruments, and of course, ukuleles.
Now, Luna is a leading brand that goes toe to toe with Kala.
- Luna makes the most beautiful but affordable ukes.
- It offers a wide range of ukes in different price tiers, and up to advanced musician level.
- The ukes are unique, with details reminiscent of Hawaiian culture; the sea, the moon, nature, and more alike.
- Its range only reaches advanced musician level – pros are off of that equation.
Luna Guitars is definitely a unique brand that creates unique instruments.
It’s among our favorites because it creates beautifully crafted ukes that sound just as good as they look.
It’s worth mentioning that their price ranges are affordable – even the most expensive ukes don’t go above the $400-mark.
We highly recommend this brand for beginners and up to advanced musicians.
Although pros are off of the equation, some pros enjoy and appreciate Luna’s ukes because of their quality!
Lanikai – Ukulele Brand
The Lanikai brand is close to Kala in that they make affordable ukes that don’t sacrifice a lot in quality – they’re pretty good.
We like the Lanikai, and probably you would too, because of the appearance of their designs.
That, along with their good-quality ukes, makes for a very pleasant playing experience – both sound-wise and aesthetically.
This is a very interesting brand that, we consider, is great to get ukes if you want something in the beginner or intermediate range.
Other than that, pros that are serious about their craft are better off with Martin, Oscar Schmidt, or custom-made ukes.
Description & History
There’s not a lot of history to share about Lanikai, mostly because it’s a brand that popped up out of nowhere.
They satisfy the need for an aesthetically pleasant uke that’s more inclined to attract eyes than to attract ears.
Still, they’ve garnered the support of big industry names, like Jason Mraz – we love you wherever you are, Jason.
The downside of this brand is rather obvious – they’re really cute, but they don’t sound as good as, say, a Kala.
Aside from that, we think this is a decent brand, and that they’re still much better than others, like Donner.
- Lanikai makes aesthetically pleasant ukes – they’re truly beautiful!
- The ukes are also of good quality, so you can expect them to have a decent lifespan.
- They’re also pretty affordable!
- It’s not the worst-but-decent brand you can get – that spot goes to Donner.
- They’re not the best ukes you can get – Kala’s ukes are better.
You like pretty ukes? Lanikai can get you the best modern-looking uke that sounds good.
You want the best uke? Look for something else.
If it sounds a bit harsh, it’s because we wouldn’t pick the most beautiful uke over the uke with the most beautiful sound.
That’s just our humble opinion!
Mahalo – Ukulele Brand
Now, if we’ve talked about legendary guitar brands, it’s time to talk about Mahalo, which is arguably the only legendary ukulele brand.
Currently, they make great ukes that have the same essence as Kala’s ukes: affordability, good quality sound, and an overall good product.
Before we start talking about history, we’d like you to know that we love this brand.
When we started, only Mahalo’s ukes were available – to put it mildly, you could say it helped us fell in love with the uke.
So, yeah, we’re totally biased while writing this, and you’ll learn why below.
Description & History
Back in 1999, Mahalo was born as a concept in Japan, executed into existence in China, and sold across the world.
The resulting ukes were regarded as the first high-quality mass-produced ukuleles.
So, when we were starting, Mahalo gave us what we needed to follow our passion.
The brand has come a long, long way from that time, aging like a properly preserved wine.
However, we recognize a fact:
Mahalo has been displaced by Kala as the go-to affordable brand for good ukes – a spot the latter has earned rightfully.
Still, we also recognize the fact that, without Mahalo paving the way, Kala, Luna, Lanikai, Donner, and other brands wouldn’t even exist.
That’s the reason behind our bias!
- Mahalo is the only legendary uke brand – it was the precursory company that passed the torch to most brands available today.
- Their ukes are great for beginner-level players.
- Although it’s not as famous in the US, the brand is recognized as top-notch in foreign countries.
- The brand offers good quality at affordable prices – even their priciest ukes are economic.
- They’re not as famous as they should in the US because their products are made in Indonesia.
Mahalo is an amazing brand that doesn’t have the praise it deserves – so we’re kind of taking justice into our own hands here.
All you have to know is that their ukes are comparable to Kala’s ukes in terms of quality, and actually, the whole brand is.
Still, they’re not made in the US, which takes strength away from our claim.
We stand by Mahalo though – it’s a great brand to get your first uke from!
Lohanu – Ukulele Brand
Lohanu is one of those brands that popped out of nowhere – we couldn’t even find a lot about it, aside from its products, and its rather improvised website.
However, we do know something about the brand:
They made the claim of providing a high-quality product for a low price, along with the best customer service they could provide.
And then… they actually did it and blew us away.
We have nothing but great things to say about Lohanu.
It’s definitively one of the best beginner-friendly brands – we’d say they’re better than Kala in that regard.
Why? Because their ukes are cheap, well made, and come with a lifetime warranty that’s really hard to ignore!
Description & History
As we said above, there’s not a lot of things to say about Lohanu.
It’s a Canadian-based company that provides the best-sold affordable ukuleles on Amazon today.
If you know a little bit about Amazon, then you know there must be something excellent about this brand.
You’re getting started and need a bundle with everything you need to learn and master the uke?
Lohanu has your back!
- This brand is the definition of the trope “best bang for your buck”.
- The customer service is impeccable and they do what they say they’ll do.
- The quality of the ukes is more-than-good, which is a lot to say when considering their prices.
- They even make good electroacoustic ukes, leather picks, and all four standard uke sizes.
- They’re the best affordable option for beginners – not intermediate, advanced, or pros.
If you came here looking for a brand to invest your money properly in a beginner uke that is not that crappy, Lohanu is the one for you.
And, well… that’s it.
Donner – Ukulele Brand
Donner is the last entry for a reason – it kind of sucks, so take this brand as the comic relief of this article.
We don’t even have any prejudice towards the fact that the ukes are made in China – but, come on, Donner, seriously put in some more effort!
Even though those first two lines speak terribly of Donner as a brand, keep in mind this: It’s not the worst one you can get.
Donner actually is in the lowest tier of good, but not below it – their ukes are not even that crappy.
However, what puts this shady brand on this list is the fact that they’re actually among the best-selling ukes on Amazon.
Why? Because they offer bundles with everything you need to get started – a gig bag, chord books, picks, strings, polishing cloths, straps, and so on, all under the $100-mark.
They’re even cheaper than Lohanu’s ukes!
Now that’s hard to beat.
Description & History
There’s not a lot of history available about this brand.
All we found is that it was created in 2012 and that its business boomed in 2018 with a tide of new ukulele enthusiasts looking for deals.
Still, those same ukulele enthusiasts found out the truth about this brand: its customer service also sucks.
Of course, we wouldn’t recommend this brand if it were too bad – it’s just the least amount of bad you can find before hitting rock bottom.
- This is the least mediocre brand you can get.
- Buy a cheaper uke and it will disintegrate with the shipping – the Donner will at least arrive complete!
- It’s the only option under the $100 mark that can get you everything you need to get started if you’re on a budget.
- This brand is the least bad you can get – buying a playdough uke is the only option below it.
Do you need the cheapest bundled uke that comes with everything you need to start learning how to play?
Buy a Lohanu bundle. Can’t afford it? Save some more bucks. Still can’t afford it?
Buy a Donner bundle.
Custom Builders – Ukulele Brand
Custom builders are on another plane of existence when compared to anything on this brand list.
The most expensive uke we’ve reviewed so far is not over the $500-mark.
On the other hand, some custom ukuleles that are hand-carved from the best resonating woods available are worth anything in the tens of thousands range.
It’s easy to shy away when you first hear that – but a custom-built uke can bring you back with its beautiful and unique details, not to mention the noticeably improved sound quality.
Some master luthiers that only make a handful of ukes per year charge, well, unimaginable prices.
At this level of craftsmanship, seemingly small aspects of the design increase the value of a uke.
However, just as we keep saying throughout, quality has a price that’s worth paying.
In the case of custom builders, that price is usually above the $1000 mark.
Frequently Asked Questions – Ukulele Brands
For us, the top four brands in this article are the best; Martin, Oscar Schmidt, Fender, and Córdoba in that specific order.
We usually recommend, from best to worst, Kala, Luna, Lanikai, Mahalo, and Lohanu.
If you can’t afford any of them, then Donner would be the most affordable brand.
Our preferred brands among them are Mahalo and Lohanu, since they’re the most beginner-friendly, affordable, and you don’t have to sacrifice quality.
It depends, but usually, the answer is straight yes if you’re counting custom builders.
However, unless you have a well-developed ear or pay extra attention, you won’t really notice how good is the best mass-produced uke vs. an excellent custom uke.
Yes! We love, defend, and stand by cheap ukuleles.
Why? Because they give access to music to people with little to no budget room – and that’s the true value of cheap ukuleles.
Well, after a pretty long article based on judging, we wanted to tell you that any of them is great if you want to get a valuable ukulele.
Read again each brand description to know just how valuable.
We think that, even though there are some bad brands out there, the least mediocre brands like Donner exist as an option.
Donner is better than no uke at all, and that’s its true value.
Of course, you have other options that you can consider depending on your level:
- If you’re just getting started, we’d recommend Mahalo, Lanikai, Kala, and Luna’s entry-level ukes.
- If you’re an intermediate player, we recommend you pick from Kala, Luna, Córdoba, and Fender.
- If you’re an advanced or professional musician, we recommend you pick Kala, Luna, Oscar Schmidt, Córdoba, and Martin.
Still, you must know that there is always a better sounding, better looking, and way pricier uke that’s closer to perfection – and those are usually custom made.
But, guess what?
Nothing beats the sentimental value of your first ukulele.
The one that hurt your fingertips, cramped your hands, or maybe even had bad playability while you practiced.
And yet, at the same time, it gave you the best time of your life – because you discovered a new passion!
So, which is your favorite ukulele brand?