What is the best Electric Ukulele?
The electric ukulele is a charming, fun instrument that’s easy to learn. There are many different brands of electric ukulele on the market. I decided to write up a buyer’s guide to help you find the best electric ukulele to fit your needs.
Our Top 5 Electric Ukuleles
Electric Ukulele Buyers Guide
What to look for when choosing an Electric Ukulele
In this section, I’ll go over some of the key attributes to keep in mind as you shop for an electric ukulele. I want you to benefit from my research into what matters for sound and feel. Some of what I discuss is personal preference, so getting your hands on a variety of instruments to try out is really important.
Unlike guitars, electric ukuleles vary in size. They fall into four main size categories. The smallest is the soprano. It is about 21 inches long. A soprano is generally too small for an adult to play comfortably. They produce a bright, inviting sound. The next size up is concert, which is 23 inches long. This size is my favorite because it fits my hands and I love the sound. As the size increases, the sound of the ukulele gets deeper and warmer.
At 26 inches long, the tenor ukulele has a long fretboard that is comfortable for people with large hands. At this point, the ukuleles become a little harder to transport. The largest size is the baritone ukulele. It is 30 inches long. Baritone ukes have a special tuning. The natural tuning for a baritone ukulele is the same as the four highest strings on a guitar, DGBE. That makes it an easy entry point if you have acoustic guitar experience. In contrast, the other three types are tuned GCEA.
The ukulele relies more on its acoustic sound than the guitar because it has a unique and wonderful tone. That means many electric ukes have a hollow body. A hollow body allows the instrument to resonate and project sound acoustically.
Choosing between a hollow-body model and a solid one comes down to what type of sound you want to create. A hollow electric model is a middle ground. The electric sound from the amp combines with the acoustic tone for a unique sound. A solid-body uke will make almost no sound without an amp. Personally, I prefer ukuleles with hollow bodies because that is where you can really hear the difference between the ukulele and guitar.
The construction and materials for the ukulele also vary based on its body type. For example, the tonewoods that make up the body will have a large impact on acoustic sound. However, the effect on amplified sound is small. Likewise, larger ukes tend to have deeper acoustic sound. This effect is less pronounced for a solid-body instrument.
You should consider that a hollow-body electric ukulele is more portable. You can play it without an amp. Notable tonewoods include koa for a warm sound or rosewood for more brightness. Try them out in-person if you can, because different woods can sound completely different through the whole range of notes.
Many elements combine to create the sound of each electric ukulele. Some of them are inherent to the instrument and can’t be changed, like the wood in the body and neck. But others are easy to alter. The pickups have a huge impact on the tone, depth, and coloration of the ukulele’s sound. Changing them for a different set is not hard- a music or guitar store can help, and you can even learn to do it yourself. Strings have an impact on sound as well, and they are very easy to swap out.
When you look for ukulele models, concentrate on the aspects of the instrument that you can’t alter. For example, pickups influence the sound more than wood, but because you can always get a new set of pickups, you should pay more attention to the wood. Remember that the amp you choose will also affect the sound, plus any tone pedals you choose to add.
I recommend that you try to learn about brands, materials, and construction techniques. These signal the quality of the instrument. It is a good idea to take a new or used ukulele to a music store for a tuneup and inspection when you buy it. It will probably be out of tune. Check the feel of the strings as well. Strings are easy to replace. I prefer heavier strings, so I always keep a few sets of my favorites around. You should know that it will take a week or two for the strings to stretch out to their normal extent. Until that happens, they will detune quickly.
Familiarize yourself with some key design options for ukes. For example, if the manufacturer connected the neck and body together with an inferior joint, that will hurt the resonance and sustain of the ukulele over time. In my ukulele reviews later in this post, I will discuss the build quality of each one.
The Best Electric Ukuleles Reviews
Epiphone’s Les Paul is one of the most iconic electric guitar designs. The company now has a ukulele that uses the same build. It’s a concert model. The fretboard is 15 inches long. The pickup is a Piezo design that Epiphone builds in-house. It is located under the saddle. There, it can absorb the sound from the strings as well as resonance from the interior of the body.
The design philosophy of the Les Paul is centered around the acoustic sound. There’s no onboard electronics aside from the pickup and wiring- no preamp or tone knobs. If you love the classic ukulele sound like me, then the Les Paul is an excellent way to get it. It is priced at the lower end of the market. The Les Paul delivers excellent value thanks to mahogany construction and metal frets. The Les Paul body shape works well for a ukulele. The frets are easy to reach with the cutout near the neck. The contours of the body feel comfortable and natural.
- Ideal value for an introductory electric ukulele
- Pure, classic sound
- Easy to upgrade the electronics if you want a preamp or other modification
- Colors on the sunburst design could be coordinated better
Like Epiphone, Cordoba is a major player in stringed instruments. Their 15CM-E is based on an existing acoustic ukulele, the 15CM. Cordoba designed their own pickup to accompany the instrument. The top is a satin sunburst that fits beautifully with the mahogany build. The tuners are silver, which gives it extra visual appeal. The whole instrument evokes the classic tradition of Spanish strings with its natural finish and expressive tone.
The sound is a clear, pure tone that attains a deeper, warmer level than the typical ukulele. This conveys a more serious and dramatic flair. The 15CM-E makes a good choice for someone who has played the acoustic guitar. The body shape is the figure eight, which resembles a dreadnought acoustic guitar.
- Comes with a beautiful sound that comes from Cordoba’s history of high-quality instrument construction
- Easy to play with a well-designed fretboard
- Build is a little inconsistent and some buyers reported uneven quality due to raised frets that caused buzzing
Cordoba’s second entry on this list is similar to the 15CM-E. It shares a design with an existing Cordoba acoustic ukulele, the 20TM. It is a size category larger than the 15CM-E as a tenor, which means a longer scale length and therefore a richer sound.
The 20TM-CE has an onboard dual-band equalizer. This is a significant boost to your control over the tone. Scooping out the mids or shaping the highs is easy. The equalizer does require batteries. When they need to be replaced, there is a low-battery light on the console that glows. Cordoba has several acoustic electric ukuleles. However, only the 20TM-CE has a herringbone inlay across the bridge and around the sound hole.
The tuning machines are gold and pearl in appearance, adding some shine that looks great against the dark headstock. As with the other Cordoba model, the 20TM-CE has a mahogany body. Despite the inclusion of all of these extras, the 20TM-CE is still priced at a reasonable level.
- Fantastic design that draws on Cordoba’s Spanish roots
- Onboard equalizer allows for quick tone control with 2 bands- treble and bass
- Some units have problems with buzzing at the upper frets
As the name implies, the Kmise brings us back down to the concert size. The Kmise is made with spruce throughout the body. This is in contrast to the other entries on this list, which have tended to use mahogany. Spruce excels in bass notes compared to mahogany, a midrange-favored wood.
The Kmise is a step up in terms of electronics. It comes with its own 3-band equalizer and preamp. Additionally, it has its own digital tuner built into the console. This is a great convenience because you won’t need to carry a tuner around with you.The design has a large, resonant body that can generate a high volume of sound with acoustic play.
- Advanced onboard electronics with 3 bands of control
- Striking design that adds a natural theme to the underlying spruce
- No cutaways near the neck means those frets are hard to reach
The Luna Tattoo ukulele really takes the Hawaiian origin of the instrument to heart. The striking design features tribal-inspired tattoo art. The Luna uses this pattern in all three of its designs, which are mahogany, spruce, and satin. To go along with that theme, the inlay on the fingerboard is a set of arrows aligned to the tattoo pattern. The fingerboard is made of rosewood and the tuners are pearloid. A branded highlight with a moon shape on the headstock completes the look.
The Luna has a 2-band preamp with a battery light. The body has a single cutaway at the neck for access to the top frets. In terms of sound, the Luna is a joy to play. It is clear, consistent, and balanced. Moreover, the Luna has a large enough body for comfortable acoustic play if you do not have an amp. Playing plugged in is superior, however, thanks to the equalizer.
- Unique tattooed wood design on the body and headstock
- Great balance between material quality and price
- Some units have problems with the neck joint being loose or wobbly
Final Thoughts – The best Electric Ukulele
These five ukes are all capable of electric as well as acoustic play at a reasonable price. The best electric ukulele for you depends on a few things. First, consider what kind of electronics you want. An onboard preamp or equalizer adds a lot of versatility. You need to keep up with the batteries, but the ability to shape the tone is invaluable. The design matters too. The Cordoba line is clearly Spanish-inspired, while Luna and Kmise are more flamboyant.
Based on my research, the best instrument on this list is the Cordoba 20TM-CE. It has a 2-band equalizer and a beautiful traditional look. As a tenor, it can project a lot of sound due to its larger resonating space. If you want something closer to the Hawaiian spirit, then the Luna Tattoo may be a better fit. Each instrument on this list is a great first ukulele. They work just as well for veteran players.