The Best Acoustic Electric Ukuleles up to $300

The Highest Rated Acoustic-Electric Ukuleles

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Electronic pickup and preamp systems have made it easier to take acoustic instruments like the ukulele on stage. More importantly, these systems are now made more accessible, and come factory installed in many affordable ukuleles of different makes and sizes.

Here we feature the top rated pickup-equipped ukuleles in the sub $300 price range, based on the most recent review and rating data up to March of 2021. For this update, we've decided to re-organize the guide into three main categories based on the most popular ukulele sizes: Soprano, Concert and Tenor.

The Best Acoustic Electric Ukuleles

Author & Contributors

Alexander BrionesAlexander Briones

He's written about and researched music gear for many years, while also serving as a music director at his local church, in addition to teaching guitar, bass and mentoring young musicians.

The Best Soprano Acoustic Electric Ukuleles

Caramel CS419 Soprano Acoustic-Electric Ukulele

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$60
Caramel CS419 Soprano Acoustic-Electric Ukulele

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Soprano Acoustic-Electric Ukulele Under $300.

For the price, the specs of the Caramel CS419 are hard to beat, with solid mahogany wood for the top back and sides, something that's normally only available at premium prices.

On top of its all solid wood design, it also comes with built-in pickup and preamp system, complete with 3-band EQ and tuner.

And if that's not enough, it is bundled with a padded gig bag, picks, strap, wall hanger, bridge pins, cable, and more.

Another standout feature of the CS419 is its slotted headstock, which gives it a premium look that's beyond its price tag.

Specifications

  • Top: Solid Mahogany
  • Body: Solid Mahogany
  • Neck: Not Specified
  • Fingerboard: Walnut
  • Frets: 15
  • Extras: Padded gig bag, picks, strap, wall hanger, bridge pins, cable

Pros

Value for money is the obvious advantage of the Caramel CS419, and this is clearly seen in the many positive ratings that it continues to accumulate. But it's not just about being a great bargain, because people are impressed with its build quality and its tone, especially when plugged in.

Cons

Speaking of tone, there are some who are put-off by its thin acoustic sound, but this is to be expected given its compact size.

Overall

This budget friendly ukulele is definitely a steal, you'll find it hard to find anything close to what it gives you in its price range.

The Best Concert Acoustic Electric Ukuleles

Kmise Solid Spruce Concert Acoustic-Electric Ukulele

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 200+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$60
Kmise Solid Spruce Concert Acoustic-Electric Ukulele

While most makers offer laminate wood body in this price range, the Kmise Hawaii Concert Ukulele comes with a solid spruce top.

And while other makers feature basic preamps, the built-in active electronics of this ukulele comes packed with a 3-band EQ and a nifty tuner, which allows for tone shaping and for easy tuning right on the ukulele.

It is also worth mentioning that the nut and saddle are made of bone instead of plastic, which further ups the value.

Finally, its solid top features artwork designs for better overall visual appeal.

Specifications

  • Top: Solid Spruce
  • Body: Sapele
  • Neck: Okoume
  • Fretboard: Rosewood
  • Frets: 18
  • Extras: Built-in Electronics with 3-Band EQ and Tuner

Pros:

Value for money is the main reason why users rate the Kmise Hawaii Concert highly, it looks good on paper with its solid spruce top, and looks good in person thanks to its top wood artwork. Sound wise, most users are pleased with its overall tone, both when plugged in, or when used without an amp.

Cons:

Keeping strings tuned is troublesome for a few users, to remedy this, some recommend immediately replacing the factory installed strings.

Overall

With its solid spruce top and nice looking top wood graphics, the Kmise Concert is already very easy to recommend.

Cordoba 15CM-E Concert Acoustic-Electric Ukulele

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 325+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$149
Cordoba 15CM-E Concert Acoustic-Electric Ukulele

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Concert Acoustic-Electric Ukulele Under $300.

Cordoba’s main focus is nylon string instruments, and the acoustic tone produced by the 15 CM-E is a step above many instruments in this price tier.

This uke produces a very warm and rich tone, which isn’t surprising due to its mahogany construction and concert-style body.

Note that the it does not have active electronics - this means you'll either need to get an acoustic preamp or an amp that supports passive pickups. Cordoba has a good track record for producing quality electronics. The amount of amplification gear you can use will be slightly limited, but once you find something you can use you’ll get a better tone than you would out of similarly priced ukes.

Specifications

  • Top: Laminate Mahogany
  • Body: Laminate Mahogany
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Fretboard: Rosewood
  • Frets: 19
  • Extras: None

Pros

The Cordoba 15CM-E continues to secure the top spot in 2021 as the highest rated acoustic-electric ukulele in the sub $300 price range. Coming from Cordoba, the 15CM-E gets a lot of thumbs up for its build quality, which many feel is much better than what they expect for the price - and this factors in to why many consider this a great buy. While it does sport a passive pickup, those who have tested it have mostly good things to report. Students and teachers alike give this ukulele their thumbs up.

Cons

The main point of contention is its lack of accessories, which can be a downer when compared to others in this price range. There are also a few who report tuning issues, thankfully most of them say that it gets better as you play the instrument more, or after replacing the strings.

Overall

The Cordoba 15CM-E is a great sounding instrument for the price, and while it does use a passive pickup the amplified tone is comparable to that of more expensive instruments.

Lohanu Spalted Maple Acoustic-Electric Ukulele Concert

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 225+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$165
Lohanu Spalted Maple Acoustic-Electric Ukulele Concert

Here's another ukulele that's pleasing to the eyes, thanks to its spalted maple top. It's also easy on your right arm with its beveled armrest, which also adds to its aesthetic appeal.

The back and sides also feature spalted maple, with the back having an arched profile that adds a bit more resonance to the sound.

Other features include slotted headstock, rosewood fingerboard, and built-in strap buttons.

Specifications

  • Top: Spalted Maple
  • Body: Spalted Maple
  • Neck: Spalted Maple
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Frets: 18
  • Extras: Built-in Strap Buttons, Strap, Tuner, Case, 2 Plastic Picks, Paracord Hanger, Extra Set of Aquila Strings, One Leather Pick

Pros

Owners of the Lohanu Spalted Maple Ukulele are pleased with its overall quality, from its eye candy glossy finish to its playability and tone. Even those who have more expensive ukuleles find themselves impressed, many of whom go so far as recommending it over more expensive alternatives. Its plugged in tone is also well appreciated, both by beginners and experienced players.

Cons

Fret buzz is mentioned a few times, along with other qualms about fretwork. There are also a few who aren't that happy with some of the accessories.

Overall

With its combination of high ratings and good value accessories, it's hard to go wrong with the Lohanu Spalted Maple acoustic-electric ukulele.

Fender Grace VanderWaal Signature Ukulele

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$220
Fender Grace VanderWaal Signature Ukulele

The main distinction of this ukulele is its Tele inspired headstock, which can be good or bad depending on how you like the original Telecaster's design.

Another important feature is the inclusion of Fishman Kula electronics, which is a step up compared to the usual generic preamp pickup systems used by other acoustic-electric ukuleles in this price range.

Other features include sapele for the top, back and sides, nato neck, walnut fingerboard and bridge, and sealed nickel tuning machines.

Specifications

  • Top: Sapele
  • Body: Sapele
  • Neck: Nato
  • Fingerboard: Walnut
  • Frets: 16
  • Extras: Gig Bag

Pros

Most of the positive comments point to the Fender Grace VanderWaaal Signature's plugged in tone as its best feature. Even those who are not happy with its unplugged tone, are pleased when it's plugged into an amp or PA system. Build quality and playability also gets a lot of kudos, both from students who own this ukulele, and from the parents who bought it for them. There are also many who are pleased with its tuning stability and intonation.

Cons

Not many complaints, other than a few who aren't too pleased with its lack of punch when played unplugged.

Overall

You don't have to be a Grace VanderWaal or Fender Telecaster fan to appreciate this ukulele.

Luna High-Tide Koa Concert Acoustic-Electric Ukulele

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 125+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$299
Luna Guitars High-Tide Koa Concert Acoustic-Electric Ukulele

Koa is a tonewood that has both aesthetic appeal and tone that suits ukuleles nicely. And Luna effectively utilized its strength in the High-Tide Koa, with extra cosmetic details that you won't find elsewhere.

Speaking of cosmetic details, this ukulele has plenty, most notable of which is its abalone rosette, abalone wave fret markers, and multiply maple/walnut binding.

It also comes with active electronics which include a piezo pickup, and a preamp with 3-band EQ.

Specifications

  • Top: Solid Koa
  • Body: Koa (Not Specified If It’s Laminate or Solid)
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Fretboard: Rosewood
  • Frets: 20
  • Extras: Gig Bag

Pros

One thing that’s for certain is that this uke is a good value instrument, with virtually every reviewer appreciating its warm and traditional acoustic tone. Many are also impressed with its overall workmanship, which also translates to good playability. Its amplified sound also gets plenty of kudos.

Cons:

This uke has been received very positively, though there is some confusion as to whether or not it has a solid top, or if it is purely laminate. The Amazon storefront says “Solid Koa”, the website doesn’t state one way or another, and this forum features a post by a user who reportedly spoke with a representative of Luna who said that the ukulele was made entirely from laminated wood

Overall

The Luna High-Tide Koa Concert ukulele is a great choice for the stylish ukulele player.

The Best Tenor Acoustic Electric Ukuleles

Cordoba 25T-CE Tenor Cutaway Acoustic-Electric Ukulele

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 30+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$269
Cordoba 25T-CE Tenor Cutaway Acoustic-Electric Ukulele

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Tenor Acoustic-Electric Ukulele Under $300.

The main distinguishing feature of the Cordoba 25T-CE Tenor is the use of solid acacia wood for the top, which give this ukulele a premium look that matches its tone.

Figured acacia is used for the back and sides, and this tonewood is being marketed as a close relative to koa. While many do hear similarities in tone when comparing acacia with koa, not everyone agrees to this.

Speaking of looks, it also comes with maple/ebony rope-style top binding, and it matches the design of the rosette and tie-block. The neck is crafted from mahogany and is topped by an 18-fret rosewood fingerboard.

For plugging-in, it comes with a built-in active preamp and pickup system, with basic 2-band EQ and volume control.

Finally, both the nut and saddle are crafted from real bone material.

Specifications

  • Top: Solid Acacia
  • Body: Figured Acacia
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Fretboard: Rosewood
  • Frets: 18
  • Extras: None

Pros

Beautiful, amazing and pretty are just a few of the many positive ways that owners use to describe the Cordoba 25T-CE. Users mostly appreciate its looks, with commendations for minor details that include wood grain to those that love how it looks all in all. Tone is also well received, which many describe as lively and articulate. Cordoba is also known for playability, and this instrument upholds their reputation.

Cons:

There are a few complaints about fretboard related quality control issues. There are also some who gave slightly lower ratings because they feel that they should get some extras for the price, like more preamp controls and free accessories.

Overall

With its impressive specs and quality, this is an acoustic-electric tenor ukulele that will not disappoint.

Things to Consider When Buying an Acoustic-Electric Ukulele

There are many factors that affect the overall quality and performance of acoustic-electric ukuleles, but for this guide, we narrow it down to three essentials, size, tonewood and pickup/preamp type.

Size

For this update, we feature three of the most popular ukulele body types: soprano, concert and tenor. The general rule is that the smaller the size is, the brighter or trebly it sounds. This means that soprano, is the brightest sounding of the group, while tenor being the biggest has more low-end than the other two. Finally, concert size ukes are expected to have a tone sits in the middle. For further details on all five of the most commonly found sizes, you can visit our dedicated guide about sizes titled: The Different Ukulele Sizes Explained. That way if you choose to purchase a ukulele that’s not on this list you’ll know the pros and cons of each body type.

Scale Length

Also under size is scale length, which is the distance between the nut and the bridge - it basically describes the length of the strings. It impacts both the tone of the strings and the force required to play them. The longer the scale length the more the top resonates (which increases volume), though a longer scale length can somewhat reduce warmth. Long scale length also means more space for bigger fingers, while short scale is ideal for younger players with small hands.

The scale lengths for the main body styles are as follows:

  • Soprano/Pineapple: 13-14 in.
  • Concert: 15-16 in..
  • Tenor: 17-18 in..
  • Baritone: 19-20.in

Tonewood

One of the most important things to consider when looking at a ukulele is the wood it’s made from, as the acoustic tone of a ukulele is heavily influenced by the woods used in its construction. Most affordable ukuleles are made from mahogany, but should you choose to upgrade at some point in the future you should be aware of the pros and cons of different tonewoods.

The tonewoods below are commonly used in ukuleles, but it should be noted that there’s a variety of woods used by manufacturers and luthiers. So, if a uke is made from a wood you don’t recognize, look up the properties of the tonewood in question before you make your purchase. Note that the effect of wood on tone is not exact science, but the information provided below will help shed light on how each wood is generally perceived to sound.

Koa

Ukuleles have traditionally been made from koa. Because of this, if you’re looking for the quintessential ukulele tone you’ll most likely be pleased with an instrument made from koa.

The sound is considered to be very direct, with less overtones than other woods. It emphasizes mid-range frequencies. Koa is also regarded as one of the most aesthetically pleasing tonewoods, though this is of course a matter of personal preference.

Mahogany

Mahogany has a similar response to koa, though it’s regarded to have more warmth. While mahogany may not be as attractive as koa, some of the best ukuleles in the world are made from mahogany. A notable example of a high-end ukuleles made from mahogany would be those manufactured by Martin.

Cedar and Redwood

Cedar and redwood are both warmer than mahogany, though some consider this tone wood to be less focused. This means that they’re great for strumming, but they may not be the best choice for those of you looking to play more complicated music.

Another thing to be aware of is that ukuleles made from cedar or redwood won’t cut through a mix as well as those made from a tonewood with a more focused tone, so if you plan on playing in an ensemble you may want to look at ukes made from mahogany, koa, or rosewood, unless you are using an amplifier.

Rosewood/Ovangkol

Rosewood and ovangkol are closely related woods that offer a rich and clear tone. The woods are considered to produce very glassy (not piercing) highs and full-bodied yet articulate lows.

Rosewood and ovangkol have the potential to sound brittle when used in smaller instruments, depending on the construction. So be sure to play a rosewood/ovangkol ukulele before you buy it (or at least look up sound samples) to decide whether you’re going to like the focused tone of an instrument made from one of these woods.

Laminate vs. Solid Wood

A solid wood instrument is exactly what it sounds like: an instrument made from a solid piece of wood. Laminated wood instruments are made from thin sheets of wood that are glued and then pressed together. Solid wood instruments resonate more than their laminate counterparts, which results in a louder and more harmonically rich instrument. Solid wood instruments also reflect the properties of the wood used to a greater degree than laminated instruments.

While laminate instruments may not sound as rich as those made from solid wood, they are more affordable. Laminate instruments are also more durable, which makes them a good fit for beginning musicians who may not yet know how to properly care for an instrument.

Type of Pickups

The two main types of acoustic pickups you’re going to encounter are: piezos and soundboard transducers. Piezo pickups are cheap to produce, though they do have a tendency to produce a quaky-honking tone unless they’re carefully EQ’d. Soundboard transducers create a more natural sounding tone, but they tend to be more expensive.

Both transducers and piezo pickups have their strengths. Piezo pickups have the capability to sound great while still being affordable, and while transducer pickups may offer a more organic tone the difference between a good transducer and a good piezo (that’s properly EQ’d, of course) is negligible during a live performance.

Active vs. Passive Pickups

Two terms that you’re going to see while looking for an acoustic electric ukulele are: active pickup and passive pickup. Put in layman’s terms, passive pickups produce a weak electric signal while an active pickup produces a stronger one.

A passive pickup needs an external boost in order to produce a signal that’s strong enough for live applications, while an active pickup already has a power supply (a battery). Passive pickups can be plugged directly in to a P.A. or amplifier, but the results will depend on the features of the amp or P.A. in question. Passive pickups produce an anemic and flat tone when the signal isn’t boosted. Some amps do take passive pickups into account, though because many don’t you’re more limited. If you use an instrument with passive pickups - you will need an acoustic preamp unless it already sounds good through your PA or acoustic amp.

Best Acoustic Electric Ukulele Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in 2017 and the latest edition was published on March 17, 2021.

We examined the most popular sub $300 acoustic-electric ukuleles that can be bought from major online music gear retailers, and we ended up shortlisting 27 of the most promising ones for further analysis - you can see them in the Music Gear Database. We then collected and analyzed relevant information from reviews and comments in forums, online stores and videos, including the most recent user feedback up to March of 2021 - which added up to over 3,500 sources. We then processed the information via the Gearank Algorithm to produce the rating scores out of 100 that you see above. And for this 2021 update, instead of doing a single list, we decided to group the best rated ukuleles into three main categories based on popular Ukulele sizes: Soprano, Concert and Tenor. And to keep this guide focused on acoustic-electrics, we dropped the feature on solidbody electric ukuleles. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.

About the Author and Contributors

Here are the key people and sources involved in this guide's production - click on linked names for information about their music industry backgrounds.

Lead Author & Researcher

Alexander BrionesAlexander Briones

He's written about and researched music gear for many years, while also serving as a music director at his local church, in addition to teaching guitar, bass and mentoring young musicians.

Drawing from his experience in performing and recording, he teaches guitar and bass and mentors young artists to be better musicians. And when he is not busy playing or tinkering with musical gear, he puts on his entrepreneurial hat, which helps fund his passion for collecting guitars, mecha figures and Gunpla kits.

Contributors

Mason Hoberg: Supplemental writing.
Jason Horton: Editing and Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: Created by Gearank.com using photographs of the Caramel CS419, Luna High-Tide Koa, Kmise Solid Spruce Concert, Cordoba 15CM-E and Fender Grace VanderWaal.

The individual product images were sourced from websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation provided by their respective manufacturers.

The videos above have been embedded in accordance with YouTube's Terms of Service.

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