5 Best Baritone Ukuleles – Finding Your Big Buddy
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Last Updated: May-08-2019
In our most recent refresh of this baritone ukulele article, we removed two models (including the Oscar Schmidt OU55CE) and then added two models – so it remained a top five! The new additions were the attractive Kala KA-SA-B and Cordoba’s 23B.
We come to the biggest of the ukulele sizes – the baritone uke. It’s certainly not for everyone in terms of sound, tunings or playability. However, for those who like a ukulele with a little more oomph, a baritone may well be what you are looking for.
Table Of Contents
- Top 5 Baritone Ukuleles:
- What Makes a Baritone Ukulele?
- What Does a Baritone Ukulele Sound Like?
- Advantages and Disadvantages of a Baritone Ukulele
- What are the Alternatives?
- The Final Word
It’s said that two men in particular – television star Arthur Godfrey and luthier Hercules ‘Herk’ Favilla – played a major part in the baritone’s development, although no exact details can be verified. However, if you’re interested, here’s an interesting article surrounding the birth of the baritone ukulele.
When buying a baritone ukulele, there are lots of models crying for your attention. So, to help make your decision a little easier, we’ve compiled a short chart highlighting a handful of the top baritone ukuleles currently on the market.
There are many more, but this chart gives you a good look at some of the most popular, most playable, and best value – ranging from just below $100 to those just pushing $500.
Let’s dive into the chart, then stick around for our guide to baritone ukuleles.
Top 5 Baritone Ukuleles:
|Image||Ukuleles / Rating||Summary||Check Price|
Kala KA-SA-B Baritone Ukulele
Total of 4.78/5 [usr 4.78 max='5' ]
For a baritone ukulele that you can call a true beauty, look no further…
Kala KA-SBG Baritone Ukulele
Total of 4.78/5 [usr 4.78 max='5' ]
A delightful baritone uke with super sweet style and sound.
Cordoba 23B Baritone Ukulele
Total of 4.72/5 [usr 4.72 max='5' ]
A beautiful ovangkol baritone ukulele from a renowned maker.
Kala KA-B Baritone Ukulele
Total of 4.70/5 [usr 4.70 max='5' ]
A simple baritone uke in style, showing off good quality and value.
Caramel CB500 Baritone Electro-Acoustic
Total of 4.70/5 [usr 4.70 max='5' ]
Impressive looks for such a budget baritone ukulele.
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Ukulele shopping? It’s sometimes difficult to find enough of a difference between a ‘good’ and a ‘great’ model. That’s not a problem with the Kala KA-SA-B baritone ukulele.
From your very first glance at the luxurious satin finish enrobing a beautiful piece of solid acacia, this uke begs to be picked up and played. A quick warning though – once you DO pick it up and start playing, the smooth playability and incredible tone will make it pretty hard for any true uke aficionado to put down!
But don’t take our word for it (actually, scrap that – yeah, you should!). Check out our full review of the KA-SA-B for more details of this beautiful baritone uke.
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It’s rare you find a ukulele chart without a Kala-branded instrument on it, and this list of baritones is no exception – in fact, we have two! Starting with this beautiful solid spruce-topped KA-SBG, which shows off a timeless design and expert craftsmanship for a baritone ukulele that’s actually very fairly priced.
The elegant design is enhanced with the use of laminated mahogany on the back and sides, for a classic wood pairing and traditional, well-balanced tone – we’ve discussed this more in the complete Kala KA-SBG review.
Although there are no electronics, the hardware on offer is also solid for the price, including closed-gear tuners, and a quality NuBone nut and saddle.
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Choosing the right baritone for you can be a difficult choice, but you can’t go far wrong with a Cordoba uke. Check out our full Cordoba 23B review to find out why this proves one of the best baritone ukuleles around today.
Being a baritone uke means it has a deeper and fuller sound than soprano and concert models, but it’s not just about reaching lower notes. It has to be done with clarity, particularly in the mid-range to low-range.
Cordoba are old pros at putting together beautiful handcrafted instruments and that precision is evident in the tone of the ovangkol 23B. It is distinctive at the bottom end, clear and impeccably articulate in the mid-range, with slightly more subtle highs. Delightful!
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Another Kala on our chart, this time part of the brand’s flagship Satin Mahogany series, which falls into the affordable sub-$200 price range. With a traditional body, the looks aren’t particularly striking, but there’s plenty of playability and quality on offer.
The body – top, back and sides – are made from satin-finished laminated mahogany. Joining the body at the 14th fret, there also a mahogany neck, a rosewood fretboard (although this may be walnut, depending on the marketplace) and a total of 18 frets.
The hardware is good for the price, and it sounds lovely too – leaning to the warm side of things. Everything you need to know about the Kala KA-B can be found in the full review.
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Looking for a budget baritone? It’s hard to look past the super-affordable Caramel CB500, which comes in at well under $100.
There’s lots going on with the design, which gives it a very unique look, including a multi-soundhole and wooden leaf rosette which sits on a laminated rosewood body.On the neck sits a rosewood fretboard and 18 frets (joined at the 14th), while inside is a truss-rod.
We look at the Caramel CB500 in more detail in the full review , but know that – even in this budget price range – this uke offers a basic pickup and preamp system, featuring 3-band EQ controls, allowing you to amplify the naturally warm tone. Great value.
What Makes a Baritone Ukulele?
A baritone ukulele is the biggest of all the ukulele sizes, with a typical total length of around 29” (that’s a scale length of around 19”). With its extended length, a baritone uke will have around 18 to 21 frets, which is close to what a guitar would have.
But the guitar similarities don’t end there. Instead of the G-C-E-A you may be familiar with on soprano, concert, and tenor ukuleles, a baritone features a different tuning. In fact, the four strings are tuned exactly like the highest four strings of a guitar: D-G-B E.
What Does a Baritone Ukulele Sound Like?
A baritone uke has quite a distinctive sound. It doesn’t quite sound like a ukulele… but then, neither does it sound like a guitar!
Here’s a good example:
While the materials used in the ukulele’s construction will play a part in the overall tone of the instrument (for example, maple bodies will be brighter while the use of mahogany is always much warmer), all baritones share some qualities.
Because of the bigger body and soundhole, all baritones are acoustically louder than their smaller-sized counterparts. They also offer a deeper, richer tone with more warmth than soprano and concert sized ukes. This is partly down to the size, partly because of the lower tuning.
Advantages and Disadvantages of a Baritone Ukulele
Baritones have their cons, but there is a lot going for this wonderful ukulele size. We’ve already highlighted the deeper, richer sound, which some ukulelists – jazz players in particular – prefer.
A baritone is also easy to play – depending on the player as an individual. For example, if you are a guitarist, you’ll be able to play the baritone ukulele with no further instruction as it’s essentially the same experience, albeit without the lowest two strings of the guitar. This means notes and chords are the same. The string spacing and fretboard room is more generous too, so bigger-handed players will find a baritone easy to maneuver around.
However, beginners to the ukulele should steer clear of baritones for the simple reason that learning from traditional ukulele chord sheets and song books – even online videos – will be difficult due to different tunings.
Another slight negative is that there is generally less choice when it comes to baritone models. That’s not to say they can’t be found. However, when compared to the smaller sizes, you’re limited on choice – especially in the budget categories, where baritone models are few and far between. Having said that, as our chart proves, you can find a good budget baritone if you know where to look!
What are the Alternatives?
As we’ve established, a baritone ukulele is a wonderful instrument – but it’s not for everyone.
For complete beginners, we always recommend a concert ukulele, as these are a great all-rounder – offering the typical ukulele sound, standard ukulele tuning, and a decent sized fretboard to get to grips with.
The Final Word
There we have it – baritone ukuleles discussed and digested! If you’re ready to try one out, you’ll need to get your hands on one.
Watching videos online, reading reviews, and – where possible – trying out a range of ukuleles is the best way to know which model is right for you. Although if you start with the five on our chart, you’ll see what the benchmark of a good baritone ukulele is.
Good luck with your search for your ideal baritone ukulele!