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If you have been treading through the internet in the hopes of finding the best ukulele under $500, I am happy to say that you are in the right place.
The ukulele is such a charming instrument and investing in a good quality one can open many doors for your playing.
Whether you are upgrading to a ukulele that can match your playing skills or you are buying your first ukulele, the under-$500 range can get you a truly beautiful instrument. We are here to help you with that process of finding the best deal.
You can rest assured that we have got your back to find the perfect ukulele within your budget!
Quick List: Top 5 Ukuleles Under $500
- Lanikai Quilted Maple Tenor Ukulele – Best Tenor Ukulele
- Kala Solid Acacia Baritone Ukulele– Best Baritone Ukulele
- Kiwaya FS-5G Soprano Ukulele – Best Soprano Ukulele
- LAVA U Carbon Fiber Concert Ukulele – Best Concert Ukulele
- Kala Solid Acacia Tenor Ukulele
Researching Ukuleles Under $500
While we were doing our research, we were looking for the absolute best options at the best prices. We wanted to include a variety of options so we have found the best sopranos, concerts, tenors, and baritones so that you will have ample options to find what you need.
No matter what pitch you are into, we paid close attention to the quality of the instrument. This included looking at the build quality, the material used, and the finish of the ukulele.
Another factor to consider is how comfortable the instrument is to play. Things like whether the neck is too heavy can affect the way the ukulele feels in your arms and therefore how you play.
We also took note of the different sounds and kept a lookout for those beautifully balanced tones with rich sounds and clear notes.
All these things, and more, were considered when we made this list of the best ukulele under $500. If $500 is out of your budget we recommend you take a look at the best ukes under $200 or the best ukes under $100 page.
With the range of options below, you are sure to find what you’re looking for, or at the very least, figure out a solid foundation of exactly what it is that you want from your future ukulele.
The Best Ukulele Under $500 in 2020
1. Lanikai Quilted Maple Tenor Ukulele – Best Tenor Ukulele
Lanikai brought their A-game with this beautifully quilted maple tenor. While the look is quite striking and enough for us to love this instrument already, it is not only the looks that put this guy on our list.
✔️ What we like: Magnificent appearance
❌ What we do not like: Laminate wood
👌 Standout Features:
- Abalone rosette
- Tinted gloss finish
- Fishman Kula preamp system
- Deluxe Grover tuners
- D’Addario EJ88 strings
This Lanikai pushes the boundaries of design with its gorgeous representation of the ocean. The blue-tinted quilted maple is eye-catching and a wonderful homage to the sea. Their creativity does not stop there. They also offer this ukulele in a natural color, which represents sand, and a striking red, which represents the sun. You can have a lot of fun with choosing your color and the alluring appearance makes it difficult to put down.
Beyond just the exterior design, this Lanikai tenor still performs wonderfully. The body is made from laminate quilted maple and the overall sound is well-rounded. Lanikai also did not skimp on the hardware! This tenor is rigged with nothing but the best with Deluxe Grover tuners and D’Addario EJ88 strings. Both of which are highly respected in the industry and add to a good quality instrument.
Furthermore, this model is an acoustic-electric ukulele. It is kitted out with a Fishman Kula preamp system, which is a fantastic addition to an already great instrument. It is exceedingly rare for people to report any issues with a Fishman Kula system which puts this ukulele a head above many of its competitors. You can expect clear sounds through and through, with an overall reliable system.
On top of that, this tenor sports a NuBone XB nut and saddle, giving you longer sustain and better tone. This ukulele has also been designed with playability in mind with its wide neck and nut profile, as well as its cutaway.
If that was not enough, it includes a nylon foam case to keep your ukulele protected at all times. This Lanikai is the whole package with high-quality hardware, clever playability tweaks, and a great sound. This is a perfect ukulele for any beginner or even someone of a higher level!
2. Kala Solid Acacia Baritone Ukulele – Best Baritone Ukulele
Kala has long been one of the leading brands in the industry and with good reason. This Solid Acacia lives up to all our expectations from Kala, and more!
✔️ What we like: High-quality workmanship
❌ What we do not like: Lack of electronics
👌 Standout Features:
- Graph Tech NuBone
- Aquila Super Nylgut strings
- Solid Acacia body
- Slotted headstock
Kala has done it again and impressed us with an all-round fantastic instrument. This model is made from solid Acacia for the top, back, and sides. Acacia is remarkably similar to Koa and this can be seen in the beautiful grain pattern. As much as it can be fun for companies to play around with the finish and tints to give us incredible colors and textures, sometimes it is nicer to keep it simple. Kala does a great job of showing off the natural beauty of the wood by not dressy it up too much, and rather letting the class of the instrument shine through.
What is more, is that the solid wood of the ukulele gives a wonderfully rich and full sound that cannot quite be replicated with even a good laminate. Another benefit of the solid wood is that the sound will only improve over time as the ukulele is broken in. The only catch is that you will need to take extra care of your ukulele since the solid wood is more prone to damage from weather changes.
While Kala has kept the main design of the ukulele simple, they have given it some personality with its herringbone purfling and rosette. They have also spruced up the fretboard with unique designs for each fret inlay, instead of your typical dot.
Kala has also kept the high standard with the hardware as well. This baritone is rigged with Aquila Super Nylgut strings and a Graph Tech NuBone nut and saddle, which are both fantastic choices. No complaints here. The only thing that would have made this setup better is having some electronics. At this price, one may miss the electric capabilities but if that is not essential to you, this Solid Acacia is still nothing short of an exceptional option.
3. Kiwaya FS-5G Soprano Ukulele – Best Soprano Ukulele
Kiwaya is a Japanese brand that you may not have heard of before. They are also known as the brand Famous in countries outside of Japan, and despite their small name internationally, they come in swinging with this wonderful FS-5G.
✔️ What we like: Extremely high-quality laminate
❌ What we do not like: Lack of information about the strings
👌 Standout Features:
- Laminate Koa body
- Rosewood fretboard
Sometimes as consumers, we tend to categorize certain aspects of an instrument as good or bad when that is not necessarily the case. This Kiwaya soprano is a perfect example of how a laminate wood can perform miles ahead of what would be expected from a laminate. The FS-5G is made with Koa laminate but when we say it is good quality laminate, we don’t just mean above average, we mean that this type of quality will blow any of your preconceptions of laminate out of the water.
The material used for this instrument is exceptionally thin, making the ukulele noticeably lighter than its competitors. The benefit of the laminate, in this case, is that the strength gained from using laminate instead of solid wood means that the body can be made very thin without it breaking. This incredible thinness results in astounding volume and impeccable sustain. The sound from this soprano is so impressive that it is a bit of a reset in terms of our preconceived ideas about laminate and the sound it can produce. It is a nice reminder that there is not anything inherently bad about laminate, it simply depends on the quality.
Coupled with the high-end material is high-quality craftsmanship. This ukulele has been made with excellent workmanship, with almost flawless finishes and fantastic alignment. This is the kind of ukulele that will be ready for you to play straight out the box, no need for adjustments.
It may not have electric capabilities and the price is high for a laminate but when the overall product is tested, it scores way above what is expected. There also seems to be some uncertainty about what strings this ukulele comes with. However, besides those small factors, this is an incredible ukulele that would make any owner proud.
4. LAVA U Carbon Fiber Concert Ukulele – Best Concert Ukulele
While everyone else is improving the classic ukulele design, LAVA U is thinking outside the box and re-thinking all the options. If you are looking for something totally unique, this is perfect for you!
✔️ What we like: Unique take on a ukulele
❌ What we do not like: Strap button is exclusive, and the strap is not included
👌 Standout Features:
- Bionic structure carbon fiber body
- Unplugged effects available
- Metal frets
- Weather- resistant
If you were ever getting bored of the same old ukulele design, we are happy to introduce you to a ukulele that breaks all the rules. This LAVA U is made from a special carbon fiber composite that they are naming AirSonic, which is safe for temperatures ranging from -4° F to 140° F and humidity 10% to 90%. This is quite an impressive range, especially given the fact that many high-end ukuleles will include solid wood in their design which is sensitive to weather changes. This opens many doors for where you can take your ukulele and it allows you to be more relaxed about any potential weather-related damages.
The main stand-out feature on this ukulele is that it allows you to add effects to your playing without even needing to plug it in. This means that you can play around with tones and individualize your sound without the need for an amp!
Beyond all the features and exciting design choices, this ukulele still plays very nicely. The tone has a lovely depth to it and is nicely balanced. It may not pack a huge punch in terms of volume, but the sound is quite wonderful.
The only qualm with this game-changing design is that LAVA U has only installed one strap button which is supposedly all that is needed for their own strap design. However, the strap is not included, which leaves many players who will not be able to attach their own straps to the ukulele and will have to spend more money just for a strap. While this is not the kindest business move on the part of LAVA U, it is a small aspect of the ukulele. All in all, this is one heck of a stand-out ukulele with some interesting features and a wonderful sound.
5. Kala Solid Acacia Tenor Ukulele
This Solid Acacia series from Kala has already proven to be a force to be reckoned with. You will find that this beautiful tenor is no exception.
✔️ What we like: Solid wood body
❌ What we do not like: Lack of electronics
👌 Standout Features:
- Excellent craftsmanship
- Satin finish
- Slotted headstock
- Graph Tech NuBone hardware
This range of ukuleles is rigged with some great hardware! The Solid Acacia tenor is kitted out with Aquila Super Nylgut strings which give a nice bright tone. The nut and saddle are made from Graph Tech NuBone to improve intonation and carry the sound. Another design choice to note is the slotted headstock. This will make the ukulele lighter overall and more comfortable to play.
One of the best parts of this ukulele is its material. This tenor has solid Acacia for its top, back, and sides, giving it a wonderfully rich sound. Acacia is in the same wood family as Koa which means it has a similar density and grain pattern. This makes Acacia a fantastic choice if you are looking for an alternative to Koa due to its price and scarcity. The satin finish is also beautiful on this wood and really brings out the natural charm.
One of the things that you can count on from Kala is the exceptional workmanship. You can expect the build quality to be impeccable which is something that will affect not only the feel of the instrument but also the way it plays and how long it lasts. The finish also matches the price and gives that high-end feel to the ukulele, which you would expect when you are paying a high-end price.
Overall, the look of this tenor is sleek. Kala has kept it simple while still adding some flair on the fretboard with unique designs for each fret inlay, instead of the usual dot.
The only addition that we would have liked to have seen is some electronics. While it is understandable that the solid wood ramps up the price, for what you are paying, it is still rather disappointing that there are no electronics. However, it is still a fantastic ukulele!
A Guide to Choosing a Ukulele Under $500
In this price range, you are going to be looking at materials that are in a new league of quality. Whether it is solid wood, a fantastic laminate, or even carbon fiber, you can expect particularly good quality. You may tend to see fewer combinations of laminate and solid wood which means there are fewer options for in-between designs. Try to decide what material you are looking for so that you have a clear focus on finding the best quality of that chosen material.
The build quality of a ukulele can impact the sound, the feel, and even the look of the instrument. At the under-$500 mark, the build quality is usually particularly good. There is usually some consistency of good build quality with certain brands but do not take it as a definite. If you are paying up to $500 for a ukulele, it is fair to expect the build quality to be close to perfect. Any sign of a shoddy build is a good indication that you should probably look elsewhere.
Sometimes extra features can improve the whole experience of the instrument. They can be an awesome addition, but they are by no means the focus of a great ukulele. Extra features are also usually accompanied by a price increase. So, it is important to focus on features that you are looking for so that you can make the best price decisions for what you personally want.
The tone will be unique to every design as well as to every material used. However, if you can, try your best to avoid ones that sound dull and shallow with cheap laminates. In is this price bracket you want to aim for ukuleles that give you richer and more balanced tones, which will usually contain more solid wood. However, you can still find ukuleles made from laminates that sound incredible.
The strings in this price range are usually very good but not necessarily anything ground-breaking. If you can find a ukulele with fantastic strings, then that is an awesome bonus. However, if the strings are not exactly what you want, but you can easily change them, so it is not the end of the world.
In this price bracket, you should expect good quality hardware. Keep a lookout for the hardware to make sure you are getting your money’s worth.
Choosing Your High-End Ukulele
Searching for a high-end ukulele can be stressful but it is more exciting than it is anything else. The perfect ukulele for you may not be the perfect ukulele for someone else because of both opinion and style.
We have tried to include a wide range of different ukuleles so that you have more than enough to choose from.
From this list, you are sure to find a ukulele that you love.
We are confident that with this information you will be able to choose the best ukulele under $500 that suits you and your playing style perfectly.