The Best Ukulele Brands for 2018 and Which to Avoid!

Updated 11/18/18

We have good news and we have bad news. 

The good news is there are a TON of companies making Ukuleles right now.

The bad news is not all of them make a quality instrument.

We are here to separate the two. ​

We know that you don’t want a cheap, poorly made instrument that will be impossible to tune. It’s no fun to have an Ukulele that starts to fall apart in your hands after you play it for a month. So one of the focuses of this ukulele buying guide is building quality. 

At the same time, we know that most people don’t need a high-end, authentic Koa, $1000 Ukulele that other musicians will be jealous of. We also left a few brands, like Oscar Schmidt, off this list because we feel they are more of a guitar brand. That doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t like their ukes, (in fact, there are several beginner ukuleles from Oscar Schmidt on our buying guides based on size of ukulele) but we wanted to focus on popular ukulele brands, not popular musical instrument brands. 

 

What are the Best Ukulele Brands?

Like we said earlier, there are a ton of good brands. Kala, Mahalo, Magic Fluke, Pono, Luna, Lanikai, Martin and Kanilea and more were all considered for this list. Several make a quality product without a gigantic price tag, a few have a good mid-range selection, and for those of you who want to spend a little extra for a great instrument, we got you covered as well. ​

We also wanted to make this list for a wide vairety of skill levels. From beginner ukulele starters to a professional player, from laminated wood to high-end woods construction techniques, from starter kit to top ukuleles on the market, we give you a brand to look at!

There are some amazing Uke makers we left off this list to be honest. Either they had to small a selection, were to hard to find, or simply don’t ship out of Hawaii, we left them out because our average reader wouldn’t have the chance to purchase one if they were interested. ​

 

Kala Ukulele

Kala is one of the best selling Ukulele brands available currently. Unlike many companies that started with a more popular stringed instrument and transitioned to the Ukulele, Kala has always focused on it. 

For beginners, Kala offers it’s Waterman and Makala line. The Waterman is a traveling mans Uke, designed to be durable and water-resistant. The Makala line is a great sounding beginner instrument. Both of these lines can commonly be found offered in a ukulele bundle, which is great to give a new player things like electric tuners and gig bags they otherwise wouldn’t have. 

Kala also makes a rather unique instrument in the Solid body U-bass. The qualities of a bass combined with the size of a Ukulele make for a unique and fun instrument. 

Finally, the Elite line is made with the highest quality standards and is shipped in a slick black alligator hard case. These Ukuleles are made with traditional Hawaiian Koa and are both beautiful and amazing sounding. 

Combine Kala’s huge selection with the reputation for quality and you’re sure to love the instrument you end up with! 

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More About Kala

 

Luna Ukulele

Simply put, Luna makes some of the most interesting, and artistic instruments you’ll ever see. Almost all of their offerings have some sort of design on the top to make them look as good as they sound. 

Much like Kala, the Luna Ukulele line really nails the entry level and intermediate players needs and wants. You can easily get a great sounding, special looking Luna for under $100. 

Luna Tattoo Concert Ukulele

Pictures Courtesy of Amazon

Luna offers a full line of Ukuleles, from Baritone down to Soprano. As a bonus, they offer some of the coolest Pineapple Ukuleles you’ll find, including our favorite, the Tattoo.  One of our favorite ukulele starter kit includes the Luna Tattoo! 

Both Luna and Kala do a great job offering a wide variety of ukulele sizes and shapes. For a new player this can be overwhelming, but if you see your favorite musician playing a particular instrument and you want to emulate them, you can probably get the same type and tone wood from one of these brands. 

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Magic Fluke Ukulele

The Fluke Ukulele was created in 1999 with the goal of creating a great sounding, affordable, USA-made instrument. It is safe to say they succeeded. 

Fluke Ukulele
Pictures Courtesy of Amazon

Fluke Natural Ukulele

 The Fluke Ukulele (top image) was first produced in 1999 

The Flea, on the right, was created in 2003.

Both models have been popular from the very start!​

The Fluke and the Flea both had very original, and non-traditional, take on the standard Ukulele shape and construction. The shape is fairly obvious, but the construction is another matter. 

                                              Both Ukuleles use a combination of a solid wood soundboard with a thermoplastic body. This creates a unique,                                                bright, full sounding Ukulele that is more durable than a standard wood model yet produces a much better        

                                              sound than a cheap plastic model. 

One of the few drawbacks of this company is that you won’t find any soprano or baritone ukuleles from them currently. The Flea is manufactured as a Concert Ukulele size, and the Fluke is almost always found in a Tenor size. But, if you are looking for one of those two sizes this brand of ukulele gives you a body and neck design that will set you apart at your local musician gathering! 

Many Ukulele players now swear by this companies instruments and we understand why. No conversation about great Ukulele makers would be complete without mentioning the Magic Fluke Company. 

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More About Magic Fluke

 

Lanikai Ukulele

Lanikai is a brand that does a bit of everything, as long as it has to do with the Ukulele. 

Not only does Lanikai make a full selection of sizes but they have every level of player covered as well. If you’re a beginner you’ll want to check out the LU series, while the experts in the crowd will be pleased with the Legacy or Makau series. Many of these beginner ukuleles feature full mahogany bodies with a beautiful satin finish. 

Similar to Magic Fluke, another thing that Lanikai does extremely well is innovate (although in a completely different way).

The innovation starts somewhat basic. The Kula equipped models come with a three band EQ. These are the best electric ukuleles we feature on this list, and are something advanced players who perform in front of large audiences have shown interest in.  

Want something a bit more cutting edge? The UkeSB series actually has a USB output at the tail of the instrument, allowing you to easily record yourself playing!

Finally, the TunaUke allows players an unlimited amount of customization with movable wedge saddles and specific nuts. 

Regardless of what you’re looking for with your first (or next) Ukulele, we bet Lanikai will have you covered! 

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More About Lanikai

 

Martin​ Ukulele

​Martin is known as one of the truly elite guitar manufacturers. Many probably don’t know that they also make Ukuleles. They do, and they are pretty good at it. While they have ONLY been at making Ukes since 1916 (They started making guitars in 1833), these are some amazing instruments. 

We did try to keep this list mostly ukulele first brands, but the offerings for intermediate, advanced, and professional player levels was something we didn’t want to leave out of this buying guide. 

​Just like the guitars, Martin Ukuleles are all handcrafted using the finest of manufacturing standards and quality control checks. These are possibly the best Ukuleles made today and the building quality is second to none. 

These are probably not going to be in the price range of many beginners, nor will they be able to appreciate the quality. This is a highend ukulele brand for the intermediate and expert players.

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More About Martin

 

Ukulele Brands to Avoid

As more and more instruments are sold online or in large retailers like Target and Walmart, more and more ukulele beginners are left with very poor, cheap instruments. When buying a ukulele make sure it is not made with a basic plastic, these instruments generally have weird vibrations causing sound distortion and an overall lack of that true ukulele sound. 

We are not going to name any specific brands in this article, as many of the brands we’d name are simply heresay or what we’d gathered from reviews online. You are just as capable of that type research!

That being said, we can’t recommend Kala (or Makala) and Luna Ukulele for beginners enough for those who are very price sensitive. Both brands offer ukuleles right around $50 that will far exceed the musical instrument quality that you’ll find at any big box store and shouldn’t cost you much more. 

 

The Final Note

There are hundreds of Ukulele manufacturers out there, but if you stick the five in our ukulele buying guide then you’ll be assured a high quality instrument. 

Kala and Luna are great options for your first instrument with some options for the higher end models, Lanikai and Fluke are great intermediate instruments, and Martin simply can’t be beat. 

We also have specific articles for each of the ukulele sizes, and many that offer deeper looks into each brand. Finally, we have tons of articles to help the novice and intermediate player take their strumming to the next level, check them out!