Best Cheap Ukuleles in 2020 – Buyer’s Guide

It can be a little overwhelming if you are on a tight budget, and you want to start playing a musical instrument. Lucky for you, ukuleles are not expensive, and there are a lot of great options to choose from without spending a lot of money. 

In this guide, we will be talking to you about the best budget ukuleles that you can find in 2020 and what to look for and what to avoid when buying a new instrument. We will also answer some of the most common questions a lot of beginners need to find their answers. 

Hopefully, by the end of the guide, you will be able to find the best cheap ukulele that’s satisfying for you. 

Comparison Table:

UkuleleBody MaterialFretBoard MaterialStringsTunersType
Cordoba 15CMMahoganyRosewoodAquila NylgutChrome tuners with Pearl ButtonsConcert
Luna TattooMahoganyWalnutAquila StringsOpen gearConcert
Caramel CB103ZebrawoodWalnutAquila StringsClose gear tunerBaritone
Kala KA-15SMahoganyRosewoodAquila Super NylgutOpen gear tunersSoprano
Kala KA- 15TMahoganyRosewoodAquila Super NylgutDie-Cast ChromeTenor
Diamond Head DU- 150MapleDark-Stained HardwoodAquila New NylgutNickel-plated geared guitar style tunersSoprano
Fender SeasideMahoganyWalnutAquila Nylgut stringsSilver geared tunersSoprano

The 7 Best Budget Ukuleles in 2020

1. Cordoba 15CM Concert Ukulele

Cordoba 15CM

Cordoba 15CM easily wins the hearts of the players and the audience. It is rigid, sounds brilliant. 

Build and Body Features 

The instrument is mainly made of Mahogany, which contributes to its great sound. It has a solid Ivoroid binding, which makes it more durable. The neck is made of Mahogany as well as the bridge, and the fingerboard is made of Rosewood. 

The ukulele is concert size, which lies between the smaller soprano size and the larger tenor size ukes. It has beautiful chrome tuning machines with pearly buttons, and the strings are Aquila Nylgut. 

Sound 

Cordoba is known for its instruments’ excellent sound quality. The size of the uke makes it less likely to fall out of tune. Although it can’t deliver the traditional ukulele sound that Hawaiian Koa ukuleles deliver, it offers an impressive quality that other cheap mix woods instruments can’t deliver.

Playability  

It has a total of 18 frets. The Rosewood used in making the fretboard makes fretting easier the attack stronger than other instruments of the same price range. Because the bridge saddle is made of Rosewood, the strings don’t rattle against the fret. 

Pros: 

  • Loud sound with warm tones 
  • Attractive design with a satin finish 
  • Lightweight 
  • Solid and durable  
  • Easy to hold and strumming is comfortable 

Cons: 

  • Only available in a figure 8 shape 
  • Sounds a lot like a guitar

Final Verdict

Cordoba is one of the best cheap concert ukuleles that you can buy without breaking a bank, and at the same time, you won’t compromise getting a durable instrument that sounds good.  

2. Luna Tattoo Concert 

Luna Tattoo Concert

Luna Tattoo Concert ukulele is an excellent option for beginners who are just starting their music career and an excellent gift as well. 

Build and Body Features

It has the traditional ornamentation of the Hawaiian ukulele body. The top, sides, and back are made of laminated mahogany. The tattoo on the majestic mahogany body with the natural satin finish gives the instrument an attractive appearance. 

The concert size makes the instrument easy to hold and play. 

Sound

This ukulele is popular for its sweet and mellow sound. There is a deep bass tone with a perfect treble that makes it sound bright and happy. 

Playability 

Luna Tattoo has 18 frets, and the scale is 15 inches. This gives the player more space between the frets and makes it easier to play the right tunes. 

It has a C-shaped mahogany neck and features pearl shark teeth shaped fret markers. 

The action is comfortable and perfect for beginners. Because the strings are made of nylon, it won’t stay in tune at first. However, once they are stretched out, you won’t have to tune them again. 

Pros: 

  • Beautiful Hawaiian design 
  • A loud and sweet sound 
  • Comfortable neck 

Cons: 

  • Fret bars may not be rolled down 
  • Some buzzing may occur 
  • Made of laminated wood

Final Verdict

Luna Tattoo Concert is one of the best ukuleles under $100. With its attractive design and beautiful sound, it is a great bargain. 

3. Caramel CB103 

Caramel CB103

Build and Body Features 

Caramel CB103 is a baritone ukulele with a Zebrawood body. Zebrawood gives the instrument its attractive and elegant appearance while keeping an excellent capturing sound. 

To sum up, things, while the only thing special about the instrument is its durability and volume. 

Sound 

The instrument sounds good enough for any beginner to find it satisfying and professionals to bring out a vibrant sound. It’s not the best it can be, but that’s because Caramel decided to spend more time on the playability of the ukulele to make it more suitable for beginners. 

Playability 

As mentioned above, this is where the instrument stands out. It has a very sleek neck, which makes it comfortable to hold and play. Because the size of the uke is large, fretting is quite fantastic, and you will make progress quite fast. 

Pros:

  • The tune is amazing 
  • Elegant design with an impressive finish 
  • High-quality electronics 

Cons: 

  • The action is too high 
  • Some will find it a little slippery because of the sleek finish 
  • Buzzes sometimes 
  • Electric-acoustic version is costly 

Final Verdict 

Caramel CB103 is an underestimated instrument. It can do a lot for its price. It is well constructed, has a good sound, and is one of the best budget ukuleles for beginners.

4. Kala KA-15S 

Kala KA-15S

Build and Body Features 

This ukulele is soprano size, built-in Mahogany with a Rosewood fretboard. The instrument has a satin finish that makes it more refined while keeping its simple but attractive appearance. 

The tuners are more or less standard. They are not the best you can get, but considering the price of the uke, they are more than just acceptable. In fact, they are much better than a lot of other uke brands at the same price range. 

Sound  

When it comes to the sound, you will be surprised by how flat this uke is. You might expect some spikes in trebles or muddy lows from other models, but this one will only offer you a rich soprano sound. 

All in all, it exceeds all your reasonable expectations. 

Playability

The neck features twelve frets, and the scale is about 13.625-inch long. The playability is good up and down the neck, although some struggle with the high fret action. 

Pros:

  • Outstanding build quality 
  • Attractive appearance 
  • Quality tuners
  • Included gig bag 

Cons:

  • Laminated wood isn’t the best option but the affordable one

Final Verdict 

Kala KA15S is an excellent cheap soprano ukulele. You will be stuck with the basics, so it’s considered an entry-level instrument. 

5. Kala KA- 15T

Kala KA- 15T

Kala KA-15T has a lot in common with the KA-15S model we talked about earlier. However, besides the obvious difference in size, there are a couple of more differences that we will discuss with you. 

Build and Body Features 

Kala KA-15T is made of laminated Mahogany wood with a solid rosewood fretboard. Being a tenor sized uke makes it much more playable than the small soprano size. 

Sound 

This model is louder than its soprano counterpart with balanced tones and resonates louder than other tenor ukuleles. 

One thing that you will appreciate is the lack of “wolf notes,” which annoy most of the players. This means that there aren’t any certain notes that resonate louder than others, and the integrity of the notes will impress you. 

Playability 

Being bigger than the soprano model gave the chance to make the strings well-spaced without any high actions or buzzes. The intonation is good, and it is both easy and fast to move your fingers on the neck. 

Pros: 

  • Comes with a gig bag 
  • Comes with an easy to use digital tuner 
  • Stays in tune for a long time 

Cons:

  • The decorative finish sometimes results in some noise around the tuning pegs 

Final Verdict 

Kala is an excellent ukulele brand and gets good reviews everywhere. This model will allow you to start learning how to play the ukulele at ease without breaking a bank. 

6. Diamond Head DU- 150 

Diamond Head DU- 150

Build and Body Features 

At first glance, you might think that the instrument is made of Mahogany. However, this is not true. It is actually made of maple that has a dark finish mimicking Mahogany; meanwhile, the fretboard and the bridge are designed in a way that makes them look like Rosewood. 

Unfortunately, the design of the uke isn’t its best features, and you may get the sense it is rather a toy. Yet, this is true for most budget instruments and doesn’t necessarily mean the instrument won’t sound good, especially in this case.

Sound 

Surprisingly, the sound of Diamond Head DU-150 is pretty decent. The instrument is entirely devoid of any complicated details, yet it is put together pretty well. We wouldn’t expect more, especially that it is one of the best ukuleles under $50, and in comparison to other models of the same price range, it sounds just stunning. 

Playability

Although the strings have high action, they are playable. One thing that you will notice is that the high action of the strings differs between different instruments of the same model. 

Pros:

  • Incredibly affordable 
  • Simple design 
  • A very solid body which makes it durable
  • Decent sound 

Cons:

  • Strings quality is awful 
  • Cheap tonewood
  • The tone can be dull sometimes 

Final Verdict 

We don’t consider Diamond Head DU-150 a good option for professional players who are looking to upgrade to something that is pocket-friendly yet sounds good. However, let’s be realistic; the capabilities of the instruments are beyond its price, so we can’t ask for more.

7. Hola! HM-21 BU

HM-21 BU

Build and Body Features

The Mahogany body produces a sweet yet bright tone that everyone admires. It is a soprano ukulele with a Walnut fretboard, which contributes to its portability and lightweight. 

The tuners look pretty nice, but like most ukuleles, you will have to tune the instrument a couple of times before you can get the strings to stretch enough and stay in tune. 

Sound 

The model has a clean tone. We wouldn’t say it is as clear as an expensive instrument; however, it is pretty good considering that the ukulele is that cheap. Lucky for you, the strings that come with the instrument do justice to its sound, and they are durable, so it will be a while before you start to worry about changing them. 

Playability 

You wouldn’t ask for more. With its lightweight and high build quality, we can say that it is playable and feels comfortable. Just like any soprano ukulele, it won’t be so playable if you have large hands. 

Also, some players say they find the fret edges a little sharp. 

Pros: 

  • Available in a variety of colors 
  • Good quality considering its price
  • Comes with a bundle pack including a strap and three pics with other functional accessories 

Cons:

  • Sharp fret bars edges 

Final Verdict

Hola! HM-21 BU is an excellent choice for beginners on a budget. It is a good value with your money, and it is available in 6 different colors for you to choose what you like best. 

What to Expect From a Budget Ukulele

Unfortunately, there is no right answer to this question. It will depend on the price and the manufacturer of the instrument. Generally speaking, almost all budget ukuleles are made of laminated wood. This is not necessarily a bad thing; however, you shouldn’t expect it to sound as clear and bright as solid wood like Koa. 

So, to cut things short, once you set a budget, you should start looking into the specs of the different instruments that you can afford to buy and get the most durable one while making sure it has a good sound. 

Another thing that helps is going through different reviews of the instrument or seeing review videos to know what to expect from each instrument before buying it.

What to Look For in a Cheap Ukulele 

1. Body Size 

Before buying a ukulele, you should know which size you should be getting. Let’s go through the different sizes briefly. 

There are four different sizes of ukuleles, namely, Soprano, Concert, Tenor, and Baritone. 

The soprano is the smallest and the one most available because it is considered the traditional uke size. 

A soprano uke can only have 12 to 15 frets. It is the best option if you want something that sounds original, and even if you are on a budget, a Soprano uke will sound more like a traditional uke when compared to other sizes. 

The only concern is, the size is too small for people with large hands, so if that’s the case, then you might want to consider the next best option. 

Concert ukes come next and can handle up to 20 frets. They have excellent playability thanks to their long necks. 

Tenor ukuleles follow with a size that can go up to 26 inches. Tenors are known for their warm and sweet sounds. 

Lastly, we see Baritones that may reach 30 inches. Baritones sound more like guitars and are close to them in size as well. They generally have a deep rich sound. Although they are the best option for people who have large hands, you should know they lack one of the most attractive ukulele features, which is portability. 

2. Tuners 

It is crucial to check the tuners of your instrument before you buy it. Most budget ukuleles come with geared tuners. Make sure they are all working and can tighten the strings. If one tuner is loose, the whole ukulele will be unplayable. 

3. Head and Fretboard 

Because some budget ukuleles don’t have a good build quality, it is important to make sure that the neck is straight and the fretboard is fixed.

You should contact every fret and make sure that none of them is buzzing or causing a noise. Also, the fretboard should be smooth. 

One thing that is quite common with budget ukuleles is the sharp fret edge because of the metal bars. 

4. Strings 

Although it is not a significant thing to consider when you are buying the instrument, I mean, you will change them sooner or later. However, getting good quality strings can make your instrument sound dramatically better. 

Frequently Asked Questions: 

How Much Should I Spend on a Ukulele?

Let’s be honest; if you can afford a nice and fancy instrument and you are a previous musician who’s keen to learn to play more instruments, then you should get a decent expensive instrument. However, for a beginner who is willing to experiment with it and isn’t familiar with the basics, then you are better getting an instrument anywhere between $50 and $150. 

How Do I Make a Cheap Ukulele Sound better? 

The number one and most important step to make your uke sound better is to change the strings. As mentioned above, it can dramatically improve the sound of your instrument. 

Another thing that you can try is oiling the front and the fretboard of the uke. 

Furthermore, tuning your ukulele will guarantee it always sounds the best it can.

Lastly, just enjoy and have fun; it leaves a far better impression. 

Final Verdict 

Buying a new budget ukulele is overwhelming. Most of the models within the same price range have similar features. 

To help ease things, know the flows in each instrument to see what you can put up with and what you will cross off your list. Once you are left with few options, see which offers more value for your money, and that should buy. I hope you can now find the best cheap ukulele that will satisfy you. 

About Noah Theodor

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