Designed in consort with Owen Holt of Road Toad Music, the Kala uBass ($500 street) is a baritone-sized ukulele strung with thick polyurethane strings and equipped with an undersaddle piezoelectric pickup system. For review, Kala submitted both fretted and fretless uBasses.
Despite its small size, the uBass’s guitar-like body felt familiar; my arm rested comfortably on its upper bout, and my hands seemed to fall into place naturally. Both basses felt well built, though the fretted tester had some rough fret edges. The uBass’s short 20" scale and rubbery strings took some getting used to, but it didn’t take long to really start digging that combination. On the fretless uBass, notes had a smoky, woody attack and great sustain, and the thick strings made it easy to adjust when I missed my mark.
The uBass’s acoustic voice is sweet, if subdued; it had ample acoustic oomph for a two- or three-person jam session, but would require amplification to compete with a bigger band. The Kala’s passive peizo pickup system could sound a bit brittle, but it beefed up quite nicely with a bit of amp equalization.
It’s no surprise the uBass is an early hit with pros like Bakithi Kumalo and Hutch Hutchinson. But aside from the uBass’s playability and sound, perhaps its best feature is its portability, which will enable more people to BYOB (bring your own bass) to barbecues, open mics, jam sessions, and other get-togethers. For its small footprint, high fun factor, and huge potential, the uBass earns a Bass Player Editor Award.
Softshell case Included
Made in China