So, you’ve been scouring the internet trying to find a ukulele that is great value for money. Maybe you’re looking for a gift for a loved one, or you just want to treat yourself! Either way, I’ve got you covered.
Here’s a list of the very best tenor ukuleles in a variety of price ranges.
Snapshot: The 8 Top Tenor Ukuleles
- Kala 1KOA-T Elite Tenor Ukulele Satin Natural
- Kremona Coco Tenor Ukulele
- MrMai MT-60 Tenor Ukulele Solid Koa wood Gloss Finish
- Kremona Mari Tenor Ukulele – Best Under $1000
- Lava U Carbon Fiber Tenor Ukulele With Pre-Amp – Best Under $500
- Kala KA-8 Mahogany 8-String Tenor – Best Under $300
- Hola! Music HM-427SMM Ukulele – Best Under $200
- The Lohanu LU-T Tenor – Best Under $100
Choosing a Great Tenor Ukulele
Throughout my research of the best tenor ukuleles, I took a couple of things into consideration. First of all, craftsmanship. I wanted to make sure any ukuleles featured were beautifully made with close attention to detail. In my opinion, that is what makes the best ukes.
If you are like me, you’ve probably splashed the cash on a beautiful uke before, only to scare your neighbors when playing. So, I wanted to make sure only the best sounding ukuleles made the cut. Lastly, I know we are not all millionaires here, so I wanted to make sure to add some great affordable options too. Anyway, enough of my babbling.
On with the best tenor ukuleles in a range of budgets…
The Best Tenor Ukuleles in 2020
1. Kala 1KOA-T Elite Tenor Ukulele Satin Natural Review
- Size: TenorTop Solid Hawaiian KoaBack & Sides: Solid Hawaiian KoaFingerboard & Bridge: Indian Rosewood & MahoganyFingerboard Width: 1-1/2"Fret Position Markers: Oval PearlTuners: Kala open gear...
- Kala are using solid Hawaiian koa for all of their current offerings
- They use a modern UV finishing process that brings out the unique appearance of each instrument with incredible clarity
If you are a guitarist looking to get into the world of ukulele’s, the Kala Elite series is the perfect starting place. Or if (like me) you struggle to transition between the guitar and the uke, the Kala 1KOA-T Elite is one of the best ukuleles you will find under $1000.
Believe it or not, Kala 1KOA-T’s neck and string spacing are similar to that of an electric guitar. So, if you’re a guitarist worried about ramming your fingers onto a much smaller fretboard, the Kala 1KAO-T will give you plenty of space to move. On the other hand (excuse the pun), any small-handed readers out there would probably be better off with one of the other ukes on this list. The solid Hawaiian Koa body has a beautiful satin natural finish. Personally, I love a ukulele with a satin finish.
Neck & Hardware
If you’re prone to sweaty palms (we’re all guilty of it on stage, let’s be honest) you’ll find they will stick to a satin neck way less than a glossy one. Just something to keep in mind…
The Kala 1KOA-T Elite features some lovely open geared tuners. Open geared tuners add a little extra something to a ukulele. They are like the cherry on top, in my opinion. They adorn the back of the instrument beautifully and the metallic finish offers a nice contrast to the satinwood. I mean, I could go on about open geared tuners all day, but I won’t bore you with that. On with the review…
The sound this ukulele gives off is definitely what makes it one of the best ukuleles under $1000. After all, that’s why we buy a uke in the first place, right? It is important to note that the Kala 1KOA-T Elite comes with a low wound G string (though you can opt for a high G instead). Now, you might be wondering why the heck you’d do that (I was), but it actually gives off a really pretty soulful sound.
Low wound G’s do have a tendency to drown out the tenors, but you’ll find there’s more than enough volume in the C, E and A strings to compete. Low G aside, the Kala 1KOA-T Elite is really something to hear. Giving off such a gorgeous, deep and warm sound, it’s definitely one for the wish list!
- Body: Solid Hawaiian Koa with a satin finish
- Neck: 37mm at the nut, solid Hawaiian Koa with a satin finish
- Fretboard material: Indian rosewood with mother of pearl inlays – also has side markers
- Bridge: Indian rosewood
Final Thoughts on the Kala 1KOA-T Elite Tenor Ukulele Satin Natural
This is a great ukulele for guitarists thinking about downsizing. If you play both the guitar and the ukulele, the Kala 1KOA-T Elite will make transitioning between the two a lot smoother. Ultimately, this is a really beautiful instrument with a lovely soulful sound.
2. Kremona Coco Tenor Ukulele Review
- Solid western red cedar top
- Solid Indian rosewood back and sides
- Hand inlaid wooden purfling and rosette
The Kremona Coco is really a showcase of beautiful craftsmanship. Its finishing is to die for and it plays like a dream. Have I sold you on it yet?
Well, now you understand my love for satin, you’ll be glad to know the Kremona Coco has the same beautiful finish. Sometimes a satin finish can give ukulele’s a bit of an artificial look, don’t worry, there’s enough grain coming through in this case. Something I look for when splashing some cash on a new uke is a little bit of quirk. Does that make me strange?
Probably… But I just love the oval soundhole on the Kremona Coco – it adds a really unique flair. The body is a traditional double bout shape, made of contrasting cedar for the top and Indian rosewood for the back and sides. Why is the Kremona Coco one of the best tenor ukes under $1000 you ask? Well, the contrasting wood and oval soundhole combo really give this ukulele a wow factor you won’t find anywhere else.
Neck & Hardware
The Kremona Coco’s mahogany neck has a nice, chunky C-shaped profile. Like the Kala 1KOA Elite, the Kremona Coco has a great nut-width, giving us guitarists our ever-needed finger space. One of the things that strikes me about this ukulele is its finishing. The strings sit nicely on the bone (not embedded somewhere inside it as you see on a lot of lower-end ukes) and the nickel-silver frets are beautifully finished. They’re really nice and flush, so you won’t scratch yourself as you move up and down the fretboard.
Has this happened to anyone else? Just me? Ok. Moving on…
Okay, here’s the juicy bit. The Kremona Coco is clearly a stunning instrument to look at, but how does it play? This ukulele is packed full of volume, maybe that oval soundhole has something to do with it? It has a beautiful crisp, clear tone. So, if you’re a fan of fingerpicking, you’re on to a winner here.
The separation of the strings on the Kremona Coco is really great, so chords strum really nicely as well. It doesn’t quite have the same chime as some higher-end ukuleles but, unless you’re used to high-end ukes, you’ll hardly notice.
- Body: solid cedar top with Indian rosewood back and sides with a satin finish
- Neck: Mahogany neck with bone nut
- Fretboard material: Indian rosewood with white outfacing inlays
- Bridge: Bone
Final Thoughts on the Kremona Coco Tenor Ukulele
Although a tiny bit more suited to fingerpicking than strumming, the Kremona Coco is an amazing little instrument. It’s playability and unique aesthetic makes it not only one of the best ukuleles under $1000 but one of the best ukuleles on the market, period.
3. MrMai MT-60 Tenor Ukulele Solid Koa wood Gloss Finish Review
- Tenor All solid Koawood Ukulele Gloss Finish
- Headmachine: Light White Pearl+Strings:D’Addario
- Maple Pattern with Colorful wood Inlay Fingerboard and Headstock
This ukulele is visually quite breathtaking. The MrMai MT-60 tenor is a really unique ukulele and would be a lovely addition to your collection.
The MrMai MT-60 is an exquisite looking ukulele. Its body is all solid koa wood in a beautiful gloss finish. I know, I’ve been blabbing on about how much I love satin-finished ukes but there is something really stunning about gloss. Anyway, it’s the attention to detail that makes this ukulele one of the best under $1000. You’ll know by now, I like an instrument that’s a bit extra. The MrMai MT-60 is definitely extra, let me tell you!
It features a colorful asymmetric mother of pearl inlay around the left side of the soundhole and I love it. Another piece of craftsmanship I love about this ukulele is the cutaway. It makes the instrument look really interesting and, in my opinion, cutaways make playing a lot more comfortable. Then, just to top it off, the body is adorned with a beautiful orange mother of pearl leaf – to die for!!
Neck & Hardware
This ukulele’s lovely Okume neck is a little thinner than the last two on this list – you’re welcome my small-handed friends! You might find there’s a tad less space on the fretboard but it shouldn’t be too cramped. The lovely thing about this ukulele is its ebony fretboard. The dark wood contrasts the warm, glossy body beautifully. Plus the fretboard shows off a more of those lovely mother-of-pearl leaves.
Can you tell I’m a fan of the leaves?
Although most of your money is probably going towards the aesthetic, this uke also has a really pretty sound. The MrMai MT-60 has a bit of a brighter sound than the Cala and the Kromona. The strings are spaced really nicely and both strum and pick really well. I have to say though, I prefer the sound of the Kromona just a tad. Swapping out the strings would help with that though.
- Body: Solid Koa wood with mother of pearl embellishments
- Neck: Okume
- Fretboard material: Ebony with nickel-silver frets and mother of pearl
- Bridge: Bone
Final Thoughts on the Mr Mai MT-60
This glossy beauty would be a lovely addition to a collection of ukuleles. It’s really very stunning and would be really eye-catching on stage. Although, if you are going for the wow factor, I’d take the Kremona Coco over the Mr Mai MT-60. There’s just something about it!
4. Kremona Mari Tenor Ukulele Review – Best Under $1000
- Solid mahogany top
- solid mahogany back and sides
- Authentic bone nut and saddle
Yup, another Kremona made it into the best Ukuleles under $1000. They must be doing something right! The Mari is handcrafted and made of all solid wood like the Coco, but trust me, it has a completely different sound.
The Mari’s body is made of all solid mahogany, giving it a completely different look to the Coco. It is a really classic looking ukulele without any contrasting colours. But, you’ll be happy to know, the Mari still has that lovely oval-shaped soundhole. So, although it’s really classic looking compared to the Coco, there’s still something quite unique about it.
The Mari’s body is simple without any inlays or binding. Something you’ll love about this ukulele is that although it’s maybe not as eye-catching as some on this list, it’s clear a lot of time and effort has gone into crafting the Mari.
Neck & Hardware
The Mari’s neck is hand-shaped and really comfortable to play. It’s 36mm at the nut, so anyone with sausage fingers will be just fine too. You can tell how much effort has gone into crafting this ukulele when you take a look at the neck. The frets are finished just as beautifully as seen on the Coco, which makes for some really smooth playing! Okay, here’s my favorite part.
Remember how I mentioned the sweaty hand problem us, ukulele players, often get?
Well here’s the solution – a matte finish. Just perfect. You’ll be less likely to have that heart-sinking feeling when your lovely new ukulele drops to the floor. You don’t want that. Trust me. It’s heartbreaking.
I just love the way the Mari sounds. It’s got that traditional, mellow ukulele sound. If you’re really into ukes, the Mari is honestly a must-have. It sounds almost like a harp when strummed. The clarity of the notes when fingerpicking is unbelievable as well. If you can’t tell already, the Mari is a personal favorite of mine. Play it once and I bet you’ll feel the same.
- Body: Mahogany with a matte finish
- Neck: Mahogany
- Fretboard: Rosewood fretboard with nickel-silver frets and mother of pearl inlays
- Bridge: Bone
Final Thoughts on the Kremona Mari
The Kremona Mari is a classic ukulele, both in the way it looks and the way it sounds. Its craftsmanship is second to none. The Mari is the best ukulele under $1000 – an all-round winner in my books.
5. Lava U Carbon Fiber Tenor Ukulele With Pre-Amp Review – Best Under $500
- Riches Up Your Tone: We invented a new way to let the structure to grew by itself. It uses mechanical simulation and algorithm to create a pattern has up to 142 units bionic structure. It also...
- Play with Effects without Plugging In: The FreeBoost technology that lets you change the sound with one finger. The L2 mini developed by LAVA & Double acoustics. It enables you to play with superior...
- Works on Different Conditions: With our patent pending carbon fiber composited AirSonic, you could now bring your LAVA U to anywhere from desert to Iceland. It’s well adapted from Temperature -4°F...
The Lava U has a one-piece molded body which is so sleek and really comfortable to play. It also has a lovely off-set irregular oval soundhole, which is a really nice touch. It’s really artfully made. The ukulele has a beautiful minimalist design and is utterly unique. If you take your uke traveling you will absolutely love the Lava U. It’s resistant to both extreme temperatures and temperature changes. So, if you’re planning on going from the Sahara Desert to the North Pole any time soon, you’ll be happy to know your uke can come too.
Neck & Hardware
I know, I know… I said I loved open-geared tuners. But, I’m sorry there’s just something about the Lava-U’s screwless machine head. It adds to the minimalist aesthetic of the ukulele and is so sleek. The volume control pegs on the outside of the uke give it a kind of space-like vibe which I really like too. All in all, you’re going to fall in love with the Lava U as soon as you see it.
The Lava U has a lovely warm sound, even without the backup. But, with the backup… Oh. My. What a sound! It almost echoes through the room, I’ve never heard a ukulele that sounds like the Lava U. It is completely unique. If you play on stage often, this is the best ukulele you’ll find under $300.
The Lava U has some really great features. Its pickup is USB rechargeable, which is amazing when you’re on the go. Thanks to the Lava U’s FreeBoost technology, you can actually play with superior sound quality (as well as effects like reverb, delay and chorus) without even plugging it in. The internal mic receives both more natural sound and percussive playing. This uke is definitely a favorite of mine that’s for sure.
- Body: Carbon fiber, matte finish (comes in black, blue, red, champagne, pink, purple)
- Neck: Carbon fiber
- Fretboard: Carbon fiber
- Bridge: Black carbon fiver
- Electronics: FreeBoost™ pickup with internal mic
Final Thoughts on the Lava U Carbon Fiber
A really stylish ukulele, perfect if you’re on stage a lot or like to travel. If I’m being completely honest, the Lava U is already in my Amazon basket – lol. I absolutely love it. It’s perfectly crafted and one of the most unique ukuleles I’ve ever seen. In fact, I can’t really believe it’s under $500 if I’m honest.
6. Kala KA-8 Mahogany 8-String Tenor Review – Best Under $300
- Mahogany Body
- 18 Silver Nickel Frets
- Rosewood Fretboard and Bridge
I love 8 string ukuleles. They’re really fun to play around with and give off a really beautiful sound. Don’t worry, it still plays the same as a normal 4 stringed ukulele, so you won’t have to teach yourself something new.
The Kala KA-8 has a beautiful mahogany body with a gloss finish. Of course, the 8 strings are rather eyecatching, but what stands out most to me is the rosette and binding. The Kala KA-8 has a beautiful cream binding that matches its rosette perfectly. When it comes to a uke that’s all one wood, you still want it to be unique, right? So, the cream binding contrasts with the warm mahogany, bringing out the ukes colouring. The Kala KA-8 certainly catches my eye anyway.
Neck & Hardware
Okay, so we’ve established that I like a bit of quirk about a uke. The Kala KA-8’s open slot headstock is what my dreams are made of. Seriously. You can see the gold tuners shining through from a mile away, it’s a really nice touch. The pearl tuning heads are stunning too. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you definitely will with the Kala KA-8.
The way the Kala KA-8 sings is easily what makes it the best tenor ukulele under $300. You’re probably wondering what an 8-string sounds like if you usually shy away from them. So, I’ll do my best to describe it for ya. The Kala KA-8 has a much fuller sound compared to 4-stringed ukes, as you can probably imagine. But, one thing you’re going to love about this uke is how soulful it sounds. So, If you’re into fingerpicking you’ll have a lot of fun with it.
- Body: Mahogany with a gloss finish
- Neck: Mahogany
- Fretboard material: walnut
- Bridge: bone
Final Thoughts on the Kala KA-8 Mahogany 8-String Tenor
The Kala KA-8 is easily the best ukulele you can get your hands on for under $300. Its fuller sound will transport you straight to Hawaii and make you want to Hula. Eyecatching, yet classic, this ukulele is a must-have for your collection. However, I will say, if you’re a beginner stick to the 4 stringers for now. You can always try out the Kala KA-8 when you’re a bit more confident.
7. Hola! Music HM-427SMM Ukulele Review – Best Under $200
- Hola! Music HM-427SMM+ Limited Edition Professional Tenor Ukulele Bundle, SOLID Mahogany Top, Mahogany Back & Sides, Beveled Arm Rest with Aquila Strings, Padded Gig Bag, Strap and Picks - Satin...
- Built to perfection using the best materials, this ukulele is the best gift you can buy for yourself or your loved one!
- HM-427SMM+ Tenor Ukulele features: Solid Mahogany top with beveled armrest, Mahogany back, sides and neck, Rosewood fingerboard and bridge.
The Hola! Music HM-427SMM’s body is a beautiful mahogany. It features a really lovely bevelled armrest for extra comfort when playing. Sometimes armrests can look a little clunky on ukuleles but this one actually adds a nice embellishment to the overall look. The uke also features an inlaid abalone rosette, which is great at this price.
Neck & Hardware
Something I love about the HM-427SMM is its classical guitar headstock. It has a similar look to the Kala K-8 with the open slots, so it definitely looks expensive – if that’s what you’re going for. The gold tuning pegs also add to its high-end look. Plus, they’re actually really nice, precise tuners. The neck has a satin finish, which we all know I absolutely love. The frets are finished nicely and the fingerboard’s binding shows some great craftsmanship.
When you’re buying a more inexpensive ukulele, it’s important to look at the details to make sure you’re still getting a great sounding instrument. But don’t worry, I’ve done all of that so you don’t have to. The HM-427SMM’s compensated saddle and bone nut give it a lovely intonation. The uke has a really nice, mellow sound which I absolutely love. Remember, solid woods sound better and better over time. So, if you like how it sounds at first, you’ll love it a couple of months down the line!
- Body: Mahogany, satin finish
- Neck: Mahogany
- Fretboard material: walnut with nickel-silver frets and high precision, golden machine heads & tuners
- Bridge: Walnut
Final Thoughts on the Hola! Music HM-427SMM Ukulele
You won’t find another ukulele this well crafted under $300. The attention to detail is really lovely and this uke sounds great. It would actually make the perfect gift for someone who is just getting into ukuleles.
8. The Lohanu LU-T Tenor Review – Best Under $100
- BEST VALUE & BEST CHOICE! Soprano (21 in) is suitable for adults with small hands & children age 8 & under. Concert (24 in) is MOST POPULAR & has wider spaced frets. Concert is recommended for most...
- EXCLUSIVE ARCHED BACK Almost Professional Sounding Instrument, produces a Deeper, Louder, Longer Sustained & Fuller sound than a flat back or a cheap solid wood ukulele! BEAUTIFUL DESIGN Sapele Wood,...
- BEST & MOST COMPLETE ACCESSORIES! Includes 2 strap buttons installed, tuner, padded case, picks, extra Super Aquila Nylgut strings. EXCLUSIVE Leather Pick & Uke hanger! All accessories easily $40-50...
The Lohanu LU-T is the perfect affordable uke. Whether you’re just starting out with a ukulele or you’re looking for a gift, this one is for you.
So, let’s get into the nitty-gritty. Again, when you’re buying a lower end uke you’re going to want to look at all of the little details to ensure it sounds great. The Lohanu LU-T is made of laminate wood. I know you want to smash your screen now, right? Laminate wood doesn’t carry the same sound as solid wood, and it also doesn’t really change with time.
The Lohanu LU-T has an arched back actually makes up for that though. Plus, the strings themselves will sound better as they stretch. Laminate wood also doesn’t scratch like, at all. So that’s a huge bonus, especially for younger and percussive players. Also, you don’t have to worry about temperature changes or humidity the same as you would with solid wood ukes.
Neck & Hardware
The Lohanu LU-T has a really beautiful neck (did that sound weird to you too?) that features lovely white binding. Usually lighter coloured bindings are limited to the body but, I think, adding it to the neck is a really nice touch. The frets are finished really nicely too – something you should definitely think about if you’re buying for a child.
Okay, so here’s where it gets interesting. You might have wanted to stop reading this as soon as I mentioned laminate wood. But, bear with me. Due to the LU-T’s lovely arched back (again, sounds weird, right?) the sound quality it gives off is really great. The arch directs sound towards the middle of the uke and gives off a much fuller, deeper and longer sustained sound. I mean, it’s not quite as crisp sounding as the solid wood ukes on this list, but it’s really nice and balanced.
- Body: Sapele laminated wood
- Neck: Sapele laminated wood
- Fretboard material: Sapele wood with nickel-silver frets and chrome tuners
- Bridge: Sapele wood
Final Thoughts on the Lohanu LU-T
This is a really well-crafted uke, especially for the price. It looks good and sounds great, what more could you ask for? It’s perfect for practicing, maybe if you want to try out a more percussive style of playing. It’s an all-round great tenor ukulele and 100% the best one you’ll find for under $100.
Tenors for every budget!
So, I hope you’ve found the best tenor ukulele for both your budget and your playing style. As you may have guessed, I’m a huge fan of high-end, solid wood ukes. What can I say, I’ve got expensive taste!
My favorite ukulele of all time is the Kremona Mari. She is just beautiful. But, I’m not here to make you break the bank. There’s a huge variety of tenor ukuleles out there, so I hope my making this list of the best tenor ukuleles has given you some clarity.
Ultimately, if you’re looking for a really nice high-end uke, go for the Mari. If your budget falls in in the midway category, I’d hugely recommend the Lava U. It is just breathtaking (mine should arrive any day now lol). But, if you’re on a tight budget, stick with the Lohanu LU-T.
You won’t regret it!
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Fiona is a musician and writer. When she’s not working, she’s either playing the ukulele or finding another instrument to add to her collection.