Is the Makala MK-S, a relatively inexpensive ukulele any good?
We have put it to the test to find out.
Whilst generally the Makala MK-S we reviewed was a solid Ukulele, we have highlighted a later model which could be worth the extra investment if you have the budget.
We discuss more about this later, but for now now lets take a look at what we liked in our Makala MK-S review.
- 1 Entry-Level Ukulele
- 2 Makala MK-S Improvements
- 3 Kala KA-15S
- 4 Materials
- 5 Nut, Saddle, And Tuners
- 6 Strings
- 7 Tone
- 8 Playability
- 9 4 Sizes Of Ukuleles
- 10 Dimensions
- 11 What Are You Looking For?
- 12 String Action
- 13 Intonation
- 14 MK-S Vs. Lanikai LU21 Vs. Ohana SK-10
- 15 Is the MK-S Better?
- 16 Makala Soprano Pack
- 17 Summary
The Makala MK-S is one of the best entry-level soprano ukuleles you can find on the market.
What does this mean?
It means that it is a very well made ukulele that is very inexpensive and is the perfect choice for someone who wants his or her children to start learning music, or simply wants to dive into the world of music without having to break the bank.
Makala MK-S Improvements
Before describing the Makala MK-S it is very important to mention that for a few years now, Kala (which is the brand that makes them) decided to improve the quality of their MK-S’, therefore it is very important that you make sure that the specs we are about to mention are included in the description of the page where you would buy it, if and when you choose to.
Don’t worry; we’ll make sure you understand what the improvements are below.
As we briefly mentioned at the beginning of the article there is one relatively comparative model with some marked improvements over the Makala MK-S and that is Kala KA 15S. (Amazon link)
For example, the nut and saddle are made out of NuBone instead of plastic. NuBone is a synthetic material that is harder and denser, therefore it lasts longer and helps maintain the intonation of the strings and their sustain.
We highlight some of the other differences as we discuss highlight each component of the ukulele
With a body and neck made out of mahogany, a fingerboard made out of laurel, and with a smooth satin finish, the MK-S has a fantastic sound with a vintage look, making it very attractive to the eye. The main difference in regards to older models is that those were made out of agathis wood, which is a cheaper wood. It can still sound fairly well, but it definitely does not beat mahogany.
Nut, Saddle, And Tuners
The nut and saddle are made of plastic (this is one of the specs that would improve if you were to buy the KA-15S (Amazon link) with turning pegs made out of perloid and open-geared tuners. The only disadvantage that open-geared tuners have vs. close-geared tuners is that things like dust, sand or dog hair could get stuck, but in reality, this is highly unlikely and does not hold enough reason to spend more.
One of the things that Kala really upped their game with is that they started replacing the cheap strings they came with (one of the improvements we mentioned in the beginning). Now, the MK-S is equipped with Aquila Super Nylgut Strings. Aquila strings are the industry standard and are fantastic strings with a full, warm sound.
Because of the mentioned improvements, the MK-S has is a very full-toned ukulele. Usually, cheap ukuleles sound thin and plastic-y, but the MK-S holds its ground.
Now if you were to purchase the KA-15S, the tone would become slightly richer and warmer. Is it a super-noticeable difference?
No, but for a few more bucks it might be a good idea to improve your sound.
In all honesty, playability is the absolute most important thing you should always consider first when buying not just a ukulele, but also any instrument you ever purchase. You can compare a $5000 Martin Ukulele to a $50 Makala and it ultimately comes down to “Does it feel good to play? Is it comfortable? Is there a $4950 difference of conformability? By that point, it is all up to your own taste.
Now, if we are to discuss playability and feel, we have to talk about two things: ukulele size and string action.
Let us discuss size first.
4 Sizes Of Ukuleles
In general, ukuleles are split into 4 kinds: the soprano ukulele, the concert, the tenor ukulele, and the baritone ukulele. The sopranissimo ukulele, which is even smaller than the soprano, has gained some popularity and might be a good choice for a very young kid to begin playing music, but is not considered as popular as these other four.
As we mentioned before, the MK-S is a soprano ukulele and it is the most traditional size at 20 inches (51 cm). The concert ukulele has a bigger body and the neck is longer with more room between frets, making it easier to handle. It is sized at 23 inches (58 cm). The tenor ukulele is the most popular one and it is sized at 26 inches (66cm). Its sound changes a bit and goes closer to the one of a classical guitar but it is very easy to handle, especially for adults. The baritone ukulele goes even further; perhaps a bit too far in terms of sound, making it is the least popular of all. It is usually sized at 30 inches (76 cm) and has a different tuning.
What Are You Looking For?
Essentially, if you were to put aside cost (the other models can be $25-$35 more expensive) what you should be looking out for is for a ukulele that fits you well. This video will help you understand better and find the one that fits best.
As for the Makala MK-S, since it’s the most conventional size, it is a fantastic choice for everyone. And again, for its price, we can confidently say it is a great deal for you!
In most entry-level and cheap ukuleles, string action is one of the most prominent issues you will find. The higher the strings are in relation to the fingerboard, the more difficult it is to play and to keep intonation (we’ll talk about intonation in a bit).
Fortunately, the Makala MK-S does not have that issue. Having spent a little bit more time refining their process, Kala has made sure that all of their ukuleles have fairly low action. This will ensure it is easy to play while also avoiding any sort of buzz from the strings being to close to the frets.
Intonation is a close second in terms of issues, especially with stringed instruments. The best way to figure out if a ukulele has good intonation is by playing higher and higher up the fingerboard and making sure it maintains itself in tune. Most cheap ukuleles will not. The MK-S will definitely hold its ground, so kudos to them.
MK-S Vs. Lanikai LU21 Vs. Ohana SK-10
The first thing we’ll mention is their similarities. They are all made out of laminate mahogany with rosewood fingerboards. They all use open-geared tuners as well. Essentially, they are all solid beginner ukuleles in the same price range. You wouldn’t go wrong with any of them.
Is the MK-S Better?
After doing extensive shootouts and proper research on all three of them, we would say yes. The reason? Tone. Out of the three of them, the Lanikai is the brightest, maybe a bit too bright. The Ohana has less power to it, therefore less volume.
The MK-S has a good balance between the brightness of the Lanikai and has more resonance than the Ohana. Not to mention the MK-S is the only one that has position markers both in the fingerboard and the side. Small details, but in the end detail is always a good thing.
Makala Soprano Pack
By adding just $20 more, you can get a bundle that includes a clip-on tuner and a lightweight slipcover. The tuner is quite essential and you should most likely think of getting one. The gig bag? It doesn’t really protect the ukulele from anything other than dust. If you were to be serious about protecting your ukulele, we would recommend you getting a gig bag or a hard case.
Then again, if you’re not looking for anything else than having a ukulele to play around now and then, the slipcover will do just fine.
Learn To Play DVD
The second bungle you can find actually includes an instructional DVD from Kala’s “dealer of the year”, Austin Bazaar. It might be helpful to you to have a DVD that teaches you the basics of how to learn ukulele, although all of that can also be found on the Internet. This one depends more on your personal preference.
The MK-S is definitely one of the best, is not the best entry-level ukulele. It is very well made and it sounds very good, compared to other cheap ukuleles. If you think that you might really get into playing the ukulele, we probably recommend the Kala KA-15S, since it has some improvements that will make it worthy over time.
Either option is a fantastic one, so good luck and keep on rockin’!