Kala U-Bass Review: Bass, Island Style

A good acoustic bass guitar is essential for any unplugged session. It adds character, fullness, and an entirely new rhythmic element to the music that can take an otherwise lackluster (and, let's face it, sometimes unwanted) performance to the next level. If you want to instantly shift the vibes from "anyway, here's Wonderwall" to Stevie Wonder, an acoustic bass is a must-have.

But what do you do if you want a bass to tour or record with, but you're hard-pressed for space, spending money, or time to learn good technique?

I've found the most unlikely solution to all of those issues, and it's packed into a tiny, affordable package.

Introducing the Kala U-Bass: A ukulele-sized bass guitar that works acoustically or electronically. I'll admit – I was highly skeptical of this bass at first; after all, it's small enough to blend in with mini-sized novelty instruments. And, frankly, we've heard of baritone ukuleles, but a ukulele bass? Come on.

But the reality is, this is an extremely capable acoustic bass guitar in its own right, and it delivers a unique tone that can absolutely help bring your tracks to life – not to mention the fact that it can come in pretty handy in an off-the-cuff jam session. Bust out the cajon and let your freak flag fly!

Let's go over the main pros and cons of the Kala U-Bass and then look at some comparable products to see how it stacks up.

Kala U-Bass: Product Overview

Kala U Bass


  • 4 polyurethane strings
  • Mahogany top, back, and sides
  • Mahogany neck
  • Satin finish
  • Laurel fingerboard
  • Custom black die-cast tuning machines
  • Custom Kala active electronics w/ tuner, volume, and 3-band EQ controls

Why I like it

  • Extremely portable and convenient
  • Onboard tuner is super useful
  • Fun to play and easy on your fingers

What I think could be improved

  • Not all bass parts will be playable because of the short scale
  • Fret buzz can occur without proper technique
  • Not a perfect replacement for a conventional bass guitar

Portability & Convenience 5/5

The remarkable portability of this U-bass is the first thing most people will notice about it (and by "most people," I mean "everyone"). Sleek, stylish, and compact as they come, this bass makes a perfect travel instrument or backup bass for your arsenal.

I also appreciate that it comes with a Kala logo gig bag to sweeten the deal even more. I get excited just thinking about pulling up to a jam session with this insanely tiny instrument, and rocking it just the same as everybody else with their full-sized instruments.

There's just something so novel about having this much versatility and convenience with your instrument (especially with something as game-changing as a bass guitar).

Sure, it comes with some concessions compared to a standard bass (which we'll cover in the next section), but I literally can't think of a more convenient way to lay down a bassline.

And since it's only around $200, it's also a low investment. It makes a great gift for your musician friends – or for yourself!

Playability 4/5

Kala U Bass

The Kala U-Bass presents a highly unique offering when it comes to playability. In some sense, it's extremely playable, and in another sense, its playability suffers due to its size.

Let's get the negative out of the way first. Since it's a short-scale bass (only 16 frets), certain bass parts simply aren't going to be playable. But fortunately, you'll still be able to play the vast majority of bass parts out there even with the reduced scale length.

Now let's discuss the benefits that the small size brings to the bass's playability. Firstly, the polyurethane strings are easy on your fingers, so you'll be able to play for long periods of time without getting calloused or worn out.

The strings are quite thick, so some fret buzz can occur if you play with too much force. The flip side of this is that they're quite responsive to your dynamics, so you can easily perform hammer-ons and pull-offs to really spice up your playing.

Even slap bass is a breeze with this little guy. You don't need much force behind your playing, so you can play technically demanding bass lines for hours with maximum comfort. This really is a fun little instrument to play!

Electronics 5/5

It sounds great so far, but we haven't even delved into my favorite aspect of this bass: its electronics. As an acoustic-electric bass, it can hold its own in an acoustic jam or through a bass amp for a fully amped-up show. One thing's for sure: In terms of performance, this U-bass is always punching way above its weight class.

The custom-made Kala electronic component includes a volume knob, 3-band EQ, and onboard tuner, which is particularly useful for a bass guitar. Bass frequencies are notoriously hard for clip-on tuners to discern quickly, so having a tuner that works perfectly with the instrument really is a nice touch.

Here's another important quality of Kala's electronics: They open the door for DI recording (aka direct input). Now you can use your U-bass to lay down bass tracks for your demos or fully produced tracks. If you don't already have access to a bass for recording, then this makes a HUGE difference.

So it's a capable bass acoustically or electronically, but how does it sound? We'll answer that question in the following section.

Tone 4/5

Kala U Bass

The Kala U-Bass is available with steel bass strings, flatwound strings, or polyurethane strings. We've been discussing the polyurethane strings today because they're the most unique to this particular model of bass.

These strings may be short, but they actually provide a meaty tone with a nice balance between lows, mids, and highs. Depending on your playing style, you can get these strings to approximate a few different popular bass tones.

The first is a standup bass sound (with a lot of air, breathing room, and natural characteristics of the tonewoods). You can also achieve a serviceable slap bass tone without having to actually slap that hard, since the strings are very responsive to the touch.

Finally, you can use muting to create a nice funky bass tone, rich in low-frequency information but not too much high-end sound. This can be useful in funk, dub, reggae, and any songs where the bass is being used as a simple rhythmic driving force.

Again, since it's an acoustic-electric, it's even more versatile than other comparable instruments (although the Kala U-Bass is so unique that I wouldn't say too many instruments are even comparable!).

Try recording this bass directly into your DAW and applying some effects in post. You'll be able to achieve all sorts of cool tones for your mix, and no one will be able to tell that the bass line was recorded on such a tiny instrument!

Alternatives to the Kala U-Bass

While there aren't too many bass guitars out there that fill the same role as the Kala U-Bass, I was able to find a couple other mini basses that are worth looking into if you're looking for a smaller instrument, but one that's more conventional than the admittedly eccentric U-Bass.

Here are two of the best alternatives to Kala's U-Bass.

Fender Kingman

Fender Kingman

This bass is far larger than the Kala U-Bass, but at 20 frets, it still qualifies as a "mini bass." That said, it's far closer to a conventional acoustic-electric bass than the Kala is.

The Fender Kingman has a spruce top with Sapele back and sides, a perfect combination for loud natural projection. It also has a walnut fingerboard that makes for great playability with almost no fret buzz.

Unlike the Kala U-Bass, the Fender Kingman could feasibly serve the role of a conventional bass. It looks and sounds fairly close to a Fender P-bass, which is arguably the most tried and true model of bass guitar in all of rock music.

It comes at around 3 times the price of the Kala, but given its impeccable craftsmanship and killer tone, this price point is understandable.

Try out the Fender Kingman if you want a versatile and stylish bass that is still slightly smaller than a full-scale one.

Taylor GS Mini

Taylor GS Mini

When it comes to this category of instruments, the Taylor GS Mini E-Bass is for those who want to take it to the next level.

Taylor Guitars have long been renowned for their top-of-the-line craftsmanship, and the GS Mini E-Bass is certainly no exception. This bass sounds amazing amped up or unplugged, and it's all thanks to the near-perfect fine-tuning that's gone into every aspect of the instrument.

The spruce top with Sapele back and sides are perfectly shaped to provide a natural compression to your playing, reducing the dynamic range between the loudest and quietest parts of your playing. This helps your bass line sit well in the mix, whether it is a live show, acoustic jam sesh, or recorded track.

And of course, the electronics are top-notch as well. If it's in the budget, then the Taylor GS Mini is perhaps the best short-scale acoustic-electric bass you can buy.

In Conclusion

Kala U Bass

I hope you've enjoyed my review of the Kala U-Bass, an overall fantastic mini bass guitar, especially given its impressive value.

Another benefit of this guitar's small size is that you could fill your cart with multiple Kala U-Basses and your shipping costs would still be lower than they'd be for most other instruments. Sometimes good things really do come in small packages!

I highly recommend giving the Kala U-Bass a try if you love the bass guitar and want a way to bust out your bass lines anywhere you go, in the most convenient fashion possible.

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