More Ukulele Guides
The ukulele has experienced somewhat of a resurgence in recent years. It’s trademark bouncy and uplifting tone has proven to be an asset to the modern singer-songwriter as well as acoustic focused musicians, and judging by the last few years its prevalence won’t diminish anytime soon.
Because of the boom in popularity the ukulele has enjoyed, musicians the world over have been trying to get their hands on a quality ukulele. With that in mind, anyone looking for an acoustic electric uke isn’t looking for any old instrument. Odds are you’re looking for the best acoustic electric ukulele for your money. Unfortunately, because there are so many options figuring out the best uke for your needs can be a challenge.
- The Best Acoustic Electric Ukuleles
- Want to Buy the Best Acoustic Electric Ukulele? Here’s What You Need to Know
|Epiphone Les Paul||Passive||87||400+||$149|
|Luna High Tide||Active||92||60+||$279|
|Vorson FSUK1 Electric Uke||85||60+||$140|
If you’re looking for some solid acoustic electric ukuleles that won’t break the bank, check out the options below. We’ve combed through hundreds of different instruments to find ukes that offer the best results for their price range. These ukuleles won’t blow an experienced ukulele player away, but they’re all a viable option for most musicians.
Before we get started, every ukulele below has an accompanying video. These videos do a good job of showing off the tonal characteristics of an instrument, but every instrument can sound good if it’s played by a professional and recorded with high-quality equipment. This means that the sound you get from these instruments while playing them may not be exactly what you hear in the videos.
Epiphone Les Paul Acoustic-Electric Ukulele
While the Epiphone Les Paul Acoustic-Electric Ukulele does have a unique body shape, the instrument sounds like any other ukulele in this price tier.
The top of the ukulele is made from a laminated maple and the back and sides are made from mahogany. This instrument has a clear voice, and considering the materials utilized in its construction has a respectable tone.
The only 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.
At a Glance:
The Epiphone Les Paul Acoustic-Electric Ukulele has a unique appearance, though it’s let down by its limited electronics.
Cordoba 15CM-E Concert Acoustic-Electric Ukulele
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.
The uke produces a very warm and rich tone, which isn’t surprising due to its mahogany construction and concert-style body.
Like the Epiphone Les Paul uke, the 15 CM-E does not have active electronics. While this does somewhat limit the gear you can use, 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.
At a Glance:
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.
Luna Guitars Tattoo Concert Mahogany Acoustic-Electric Ukulele
Luna is known for their distinctive designs, but the company also turns out some pretty good sounding instruments.
The Tattoo Concert has a rich and full voicing, and depending on your preferences it may compare pretty well to the acoustic tone of the Cordoba.
The main advantage that the Luna Tattoo Concert has over the Cordoba is that it comes with active electronics.
These electronics control bass, presence (which shapes the high-end frequencies), and volume.
At a Glance:
The Luna Mahogany Series Tattoo Concert has a rich acoustic voicing as well as versatile electronics, making it a great value for the musician looking for a gig-ready ukulele.
Kala KA-CGE Gloss Mahogany Concert Acoustic-Electric Ukulele
The price tier occupied by the Kala KA-CGE ($150+) is where you start to see a significant increase in quality over beginner instruments. This ukulele, like many others on this list, has a very warm tone. However, it’s more resonant and packs a bit more volume.
The uke also comes with an active pickup system as well as an onboard tuner. The preamp unit used in the uke, the Active Shadow Nano-Flex EQ System, has been very well received overall. The electronics are a definite step ahead of those in the sub-$70 range, so if you’re looking to gig with the ukulele consistently the KA-CGE is a just as good of an option as the Cordoba or Luna above.
At a Glance:
The Kala KA-CGE is one of the cheapest ukuleles that would be suitable for regular gigging. It sounds much better than a beginner ukulele, though those who will only play the instrument occasionally likely won’t benefit much from it.
Cordoba 20TM-CE Tenor Cutaway Acoustic-Electric Ukulele
The Cordoba 20TM-CE is the first ukulele with a solid top to grace this list.
As stated in the tonewood section below, solid wood substantially increases the tone quality of an instrument, so the Cordoba 20TM-CE is going to have a stronger acoustic voice than ukuleles above.
It will also be louder, which will come in handy if you want to play along with other musicians unamplified. Another thing to keep in mind is that this uke is a tenor style, so you’ll have access to both the traditional ukulele tuning as well as low-G.
The 20TM-CE also comes with an active pickup system, a 2-band EQ (which controls bass and treble), and a volume control.
At a Glance:
The Cordoba 20TM-CE has a better acoustic tone than the ukuleles above. Because this uke is more expensive than others on this list we would only recommend purchasing it if you plan on playing a lot. If not, you’d probably be just as happy with one of the cheaper ukuleles.
Luna Guitars High-Tide Koa Concert Acoustic-Electric Ukulele
This uke has been received very positively, though there is some confusion as to whether or not it has a solid top, is all solid, 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.
While the ukulele’s construction is unclear, one thing that’s for certain is that this uke is a good value instrument. Regardless of what wood was used, virtually every review states that the uke has a really warm and traditional tone when played acoustically. The uke’s active pickup system offers a 2-band EQ as well as a volume control.
At a Glance:
The Luna Guitars High-Tide Koa Concert ukulele is a great value for the dedicated ukulele player. It has an active pickup system, and it may be made from solid wood (the description is unclear). Though, like other instruments in this price range, if you’re only going to be playing occasionally you should go with a cheaper option.
This is where we sometimes present additional items that didn't quite fit into our main set of recommendations but which some people will find helpful. In this case it's a fully Electric Ukulele.
Vorson FSUK1 Style Electric Ukulele
This Vorson FSUK1 is unique in that it sounds like an electric guitar while feeling like a ukulele.
This uke offers a lot to musicians who already play the ukulele, because it allows you to get the tone of an electric guitar without having to learn a new instrument. However, because the sound is closer to that of an electric guitar it may not appeal to those of you who want a traditional ukulele tone.
The instrument has the trademark chime of single-coil pickups, though the reentrant tuning used by the ukulele gives it a different tonality to that of a standard electric guitar.
At a Glance:
Vorson’s electric ukulele is both affordable and unique, though because it sounds similar to an electric guitar it isn’t a good fit for those of you looking for a traditional ukulele sound.
Want to Buy the Best Acoustic Electric Ukulele? Here’s What You Need to Know
To find the best electric ukulele there is a ton of information you’re going to need to know. Things like tonewood, size, and the type of pickup used all have an impact on your tone. So, don’t make a blind purchase. Take the time to read through this section, because the information it contains will give you the tools you need to find the best acoustic electric ukulele for your situation.
For this article we’ve focused on the two most versatile ukulele body types: tenor and concert. However, we have describe 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 is the distance between the nut and the bridge - it basically describes the length of the strngs. 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
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.
Before we really get into discussing tonewoods, it should be stated that the characteristics of different tonewoods are up for debate. Just as importantly, they only influence the tone of an instrument; they don’t decide it. Knowing the effect of different tonewoods is good information to have, but don’t assume that just because an instrument is made from one wood or another it’s going to have a certain sound.
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 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 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 power supply 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
The purpose of this article is to list affordable acoustic electric ukuleles that will appeal to musicians in a variety of situations. We’re trying to appeal to musicians who are looking for the best electric ukulele to use as a main stage instrument, as well as those who are looking to use the ukulele in a limited capacity during live performances. Even if you’re not sure if you want to hit the stage with your uke, it’s worth looking at acoustic electric options so that if you choose to perform you’re all set to do so. We’ve also omitted high-end ukuleles so that this list is populated with options that are viable for those of you who are unable to drop hundreds (or potentially even thousands) of dollars on a ukulele.
We examined the most popular options available at major online music gear retailers and added the 17 most promising to our music gear database for further analysis. We collected information from reviews and comments in forums, online stores and videos and we processed that information with the Gearank Algorithm to produce the scores out of 100 that you see above. For more information about this process see How Gearank Works.