The Best Acoustic Electric Ukuleles up to $300

The Highest Rated Acoustic-Electric Ukuleles

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Thanks to modern pickup and preamp electronics, the ukulele continues to gain prominence in the music world, both on stage and in the studio. And judging by the last few years, its prevalence won’t diminish anytime soon.

This guide features the best of these pickup-equipped ukuleles, based on the most recent reviews and ratings data up to May of 2020, at a price point that even beginners will appreciate. All of which let you better utilize the ukulele's trademark bouncy and uplifting tone from your room, to live performance and recording.

The Best Acoustic Electric Ukuleles

The Best Acoustic Electric Ukuleles

Caramel CS419 Soprano Acoustic-Electric Ukulele

90
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$70
Caramel CS419 Soprano Acoustic-Electric Ukulele

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 price tags.

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, guitar 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 it's price tag.

Specifications

  • Top: Solid Mahogany
  • Body: Solid Mahogany
  • Neck: Not Specified
  • Fingerboard: Walnut
  • Frets: 15
  • Extras: Padded gig bag, guitar 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.

Cordoba 15CM-E Concert Acoustic-Electric Ukulele

97
GEARANK

97 out of 100. Incorporating 275+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$129
Cordoba 15CM-E Acoustic-Electric Concert Ukulele

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

Cordoba’s main focus is nylon string instruments, so 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 gear you can use will be 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

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. Value for money is also a big consideration for those who rate this ukulele highly, and while it does sport a passive pickup, those who have tested it have mostly good things to report. At the time of writing this guide, the Cordoba 15CM-E is currently the best rated acoustic-electric ukulele in the sub $300 price range.

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.

Epiphone Les Paul Acoustic-Electric Ukulele

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 475+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$149
Epiphone Les Paul Acoustic-Electric Ukulele

The Epiphone Les Paul Acoustic-Electric Ukulele easily stands out with its unique body shape, inspired by the iconic electric guitar bearing the name of iconic musician Les Paul. And while it looks different, it does not stray too far from conventional ukulele playability and tone.

The top of the ukulele is made from laminated maple and the back and sides are made from mahogany. This wood combination, along with its compact profile, gives it a clear voice which many appreciate considering its cost.

Specifications

  • Top: Maple
  • Body: Mahogany
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Frets: 19
  • Extras: Gig Bag

Pros

Its distinct look, which appeals to those familiar with electric guitars, is easily its main draw, it also helps that Epiphone is brand known for good quality but affordable instruments. Many describe it as beautiful instrument, and appreciate its build quality. There are plenty of kudos pointing to its tuning stability, which is a common problem in this price range.

Cons

The main drawback of the Epiphone Les Paul Acoustic-Electric Ukulele is that its electronics are passive, so you’re either going to need an aftermarket acoustic preamp or an amp/P.A. that supports passive pickups. This uke also doesn’t have any controls for volume or tone, which somewhat limits its utility. There are also a few reports of inconsistencies in its fret work.

Overall

The Epiphone Les Paul Acoustic-Electric Ukulele is an automatic buy for fans of the Les Paul guitar, but others will also appreciate its solid quality.

Lohanu Spalted Maple Acoustic-Electric Ukulele Concert

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 175+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$185
Lohanu Spalted Maple Acoustic-Electric Ukulele Concert

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

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

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 100+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$200
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, but this is expected given the price.

Overall

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

Ibanez UEW15E Concert Acoustic-Electric Ukulele

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 70+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$230
Ibanez UEW15E Concert Acoustic-Electric Ukulele

With Ibanez's reputation for good build quality, modern electronics, and smooth playability, it's not surprising to find their UEW15E acoustic-electric ukulele rating well in the market.

This one easily stands out with its flamed mahogany top and unique cut-away design, both of which are inspired by their existing acoustic electric guitar designs.

While it does look unique, it doesn't stray too far when it comes to tone, and feel. For plugging in, it comes equipped with Ibanez under-saddle pickup and UK-300T preamp. Additional eye candies include maple fretboard inlay and rosette that matches its bindings.

Specifications

  • Top: Flamed Mahogany
  • Body: Flamed Mahogany
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Fingerboard: Treated New Zealand Pine
  • Frets: 19
  • Extras: None

Pros

Tone and playability are the UEW15E's strengths, often described as great sounding ukulele, with a neck that feels more premium than its price. It also helps that it looks as smooth as how it plays, which is why it is described as a fun and inspiring instrument to play. As expected from Ibanez, it has an impressive plugged in tone, which is reflected in reviews.

Cons

There are a few fretwork related qualms, while others feel that the acoustic sound of the instrument is lacking, which given its size is more of a physical limitation.

Overall

If playability and modern styling ranks high in your list, then this is for you.

Luna Guitars High-Tide Koa Concert Acoustic-Electric Ukulele

94
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$279
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 Guitars High-Tide Koa Concert ukulele is a great choice for the stylish ukulele player.

The Best All Electric Ukulele

Vorson FSUK1BK Style Electric Ukulele

89
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$140
Vorson FSUK1BK Style Electric Ukulele

This Vorson FSUK1 is not your average ukulele, as it is designed to be more akin to electric guitars, but with the scale length and playability of ukuleles.

It features two magnetic single coil pickups which influences the overall tone it produces, giving this ukulele a voicing that's similar to single coil electric guitars.

This means that a ukulele player can utilize electric guitar sounds including effects to a reasonable extent, without having to switch to an actual electric guitar.

The instrument has the familiar chime of single-coil pickups, complete with 3-way pickup switching, tone and volume control.

Specifications

  • Top: Candlenut
  • Body: Candlenut
  • Neck: Candlenut
  • Fingerboard: Maple
  • Frets: 19
  • Extras: Padded Gig Bag, Cable

Pros

The Vorson FSUK1BK really stretches the definition of what a Ukulele should be like, and this novel design makes it appealing to those who want to experiment with other tones while still staying within familiar territory in terms of playability. It is described by many as a fun and cool instrument, validating its eccentric design to be actually good. Build quality also gets a lot of thumbs up.

Cons

Because it sounds similar to an electric guitar it isn’t a good fit if you're looking for traditional sounding ukuleles.

Overall

If you're looking for a fun and cool ukulele, and you're not afraid to go beyond convention, then this is worth checking out.

Want to Buy the Best Acoustic Electric Ukulele? Here’s What You Need to Know...

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 article we’ve focused on the two most versatile ukulele body types: tenor and concert. However, we have described all five of the most commonly found sizes in a separate guide 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.

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 pop up a lot 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 - in this case you will need an acoustic preamp.

Best Acoustic Electric Ukulele Selection Methodology

This guide was first published on June 15, 2017 written by Mason Hoberg and the latest comprehensive update was published on written by Alexander Briones with contributions from Mason.

For this update, we examined the most popular electric ukuleles, priced under $300, available at major online music gear retailers and added the 23 of the most promising to our music gear database for further analysis. We collected information from reviews and comments in forums, online stores and videos, including the most recent ones up to May of 2020 - this totaled to over 1,900 sources. We then processed the information via the Gearank Algorithm to produce the scores out of 100 that you see above. Also new in this update is the inclusion of a solid body electric ukulele, ideal for those who want to take their ukulele sound beyond what's commonly available. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.

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