While electric guitars have been popularized by rock stars for about half a century, there are many other musical instruments that can benefit greatly from the same principle of using electronic amplifiers to make them sound better and stronger.
A good example for this is the electric ukulele. This instrument is designed as a counterpart to more commonly known acoustic ukuleles which are built similarly to guitars, but use only four nylon strings. Electric ukuleles are commonly available as built by numerous well-known manufacturers, including Kala, Cordoba and Luna.
How Does An Electric Ukulele Work?
Solid-body electric ukuleles produce a very faint sound that can’t be heard properly from more than a few feet away. This is why, as in the case of electric guitars, an electric amplifier is used to boost the signal and make it audible when played in a grand hall.
Some electric ukuleles use single-coil magnetic pickups, while others are designed exclusively with nylon strings and passive pickups. Unlike in the case of the latter, single-coil magnetic pickups require metal strings. On the other hand, there are also electric-acoustic ukes that do not require metallic strings, and can be played just as well acoustically as electrically.
The acoustic and electric tones differ in the case of each electric ukulele, and in some cases, electric-acoustic designs are built to enhance the amplified sound at the expense of the acoustic quality.
Less common designs also exist, such as the electric lap steel ukulele. This instrument is essentially a smaller version of the lap steel guitar, featuring four strings that are raised about its small solid body. Instead of being pressed down on the fret board, the strings are played with the help of a steel slide.
The greatest advantage in using these musical instrument is that artists and sound technicians have a far better degree of freedom in amplifying the sound. This is good news for professional uke players, who can make use of the instrument’s naturally sweet and intimate tone, while customizing the amplification according to their own preference without the use of a microphone.
Since neither electric nor acoustic ukuleles are strictly acoustic in design, the use of high quality wood is of lesser importance when it comes to the quality of the sound and more important in keeping the structure of the body resilient and aesthetically appealing. Spruce is the most commonly used type of wood in building these type of instruments, especially around mid pricing ranges.
The quality of pickups and amplifiers used also plays an integral role in influencing the value of the overall product. Fortunately, the amplifiers, as well as the passive and active pickups that are used today, are mostly built using high grade electronic components. This, of course, isn’t the status quo, since some artists may choose an older pickup in order to get a specific quality of sound that newer designs aren’t able to mimic.
Kala KA-SE Mahogany Series Soprano
When it comes down to considering the best electric ukuleles available on the market at a reasonable price, we can’t ignore the Kala brand. As with many of its models, the Kala KA-SE is a superior quality ukulele built using refined mahogany wood. The superior quality rosewood fingerboard and the premium Aquilla nylon strings also attest to the high value of the instrument.
The soprano size is an inspired choice for beginners and people who prefer smaller instruments. The quality of the sound doesn’t falter if you switch from electric to acoustic, and in fact, most of those who have bought this instrument claim that it plays beautifully both ways.
Cordoba 20TM-CE Acoustic Electric Tenor
This tenor acoustic electric uke is ideal if you’re looking for a lightweight, stage-ready ukulele that you can tune and play without much technical experience. It features a solid mahogany top, a rosewood bridge, Aquilla nylon strings and Cordoba’s superior quality 2Band EQ pickup.
The attention to detail in the satin finish and the remarkably refined sound quality draw even more attention when you remember that this instrument was completely hand-crafted. Also, the uke only weighs a meager 2.1 lbs, which makes it one of the most lightweight choices for this type of instrument.
Kmise Soild Spruce
The natural matte finish and artistic design of the Kmise’s solid spruce body will make you feel that you’re holding an actual showpiece. The rosewood fret board also attests to the brand’s superior quality, and the fact that the Kmise solid spruce uke only weighs 2.3 lbs definitely weighs in a lot as well.
As for the sound quality, it’s clear evidence as to why many manufacturers prefer to opt for a spruce body. The easy to use tuner will get the tone to stay ideally tuned even if you don’t use it all the time, and the overall ease of use of this ukulele is rated high by most beginners who were inspired to start learning as soon as they bought it.
Epiphone Les Paul Acoustic
At the higher end we have a quality uke built by Epiphone on the classic Les Paul profile. The instrument features an AAA-grade maple top and a 15-inch scale that, together with the solid hardware and rosewood saddle, will help you play some truly refined tunes.
The most unique feature of the Epiphone ukulele is the high end piezo film pickup found under the saddle. The conveniently mounted ¼ inch output jack can be plugged into any amplifier, and you can get professional stage-quality sound at a short notice.
Luna Mahogany Series Tattoo Concert Acoustic
Luna has always been right at the top when it comes to creating unique and aesthetically pleasing ukulele bodies that actually contribute a great deal to the sound quality. The appearance of this mahogany series is based on traditional Hawaiian tattoo patterns, and the “pearloid” tuners further add to the instrument’s aesthetic appeal.
According to many of those who have tried the Luna, this is one of the most pleasant and easy to use designs they have come across. Perfect for playing soft music at the campfire or on the beach, it is intuitively built, and can be used by beginners to learn the basics of playing the ukulele within the shortest time possible.