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Kala U-Bass vs. ABG

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by YosemiteSam, Dec 14, 2016.

  1. YosemiteSam


    Jun 8, 2005
    Chatham, MA
    Let me start by saying I've never been terribly impressed with the Kala. I've plunked at a few, and have a hard time getting past those strings. The small factor isn't that big a deal, but they don't do a whole lot for me.

    I currently have a cheapo ABG, a Samick AB-2, that has a problem with the truss rod. It plays OK, has a microphone pickup as well as a piezo, but the former is useless because all it does is create feedback. The truss rod clanks and clatters when I play, and it is subject to excessive string noise. I paid $200 for it, so it's not really worth fixing.

    A music store in my town is having a going out of business sale, and happens to have two Kalas in stock: A fully electric fretless (Sub U-Bass, maybe? Though I don't remember the upper horn body being as dramatic as what's shown on Kala's site), and an acoustic/electric U-Bass. Prices are very good, sub $300 for either.

    I really just use my ABG for couch playing, though I did take it to a gig last night (of all things, a uke jam...). It would cost me at least as much to replace my ABG with a used one (found an Ovation locally for $200). I'm wondering if, despite my initial reluctance, take a chance on the Kala as something to replace my current ABG.

    The alternative in my mind is to save up some scratch and get a decent ABG that would actually be performance quality, and use it both at home and on stage in appropriate applications.

    Thoughts? And yes, this is an extension of my thread the other day about hollow/semi-hollow basses and such. Still dreaming, still beating the bushes for input.
  2. mp40smg

    mp40smg Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2010
    Worcester, Ma.
    I had a Ubass. It was really nice. really cool. I just never used it and sold it.

    I have yet to come across an ABG that sounded any good not plugged in (playing with others). With the possible exception being the Klein. And I never played it WITH other people. It sounded nice but not enough volume when played with others was my assessment.

    So, if you are going in with the idea that you are going to have to plug it in anyways except when playing on your couch, I would opt for the Ubass.
  3. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    The U-bass sounds like double bass when plugged in, most ABGs
    do not sound particularly acoustic when plugged in to my ears.
    fretlessguy, JLY and YosemiteSam like this.
  4. YosemiteSam


    Jun 8, 2005
    Chatham, MA
    Oh, I wanted to mention that I play double, too, if that's not obvious from the avatar. So yeah, part of the appeal it is the sound, and some part of me likes the idea of having a "little tiny bass" to compliment my "big ass bass".

    Then again, I just watched a U-Bass demo and was not terribly impressed with the player or sound they chose. I'll go over and play the thing again, see what it's really like.
  5. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    New England
    I have tried a Kala Uke bass several times lately.
    I dig the sound but cannot get use to the strings.
    I did try a Breedlove ABG that played and sounded very nice.
    If I was playing more i would bite the bullet and go Rob Allen.
    tfer and rujulian like this.
  6. katysax


    Nov 5, 2012
    I play uBass regularly with four different ukulele groups. I also play a short scale bass in other contexts. With the ukulele groups the uBass is pretty much required. My current uBass stable includes a Kala Mahogany ubass, a solid body SUB ubass, a fretted solid body California uBass and a fretless California. I also have a ShortBass One, an acoustic Hadean (Rondo Music) and a Luna tuned an octave higher. In my case I was plying ukulele in ukulele groups and hearing bass lines in my head. In order to keep the theme of the groups ukulele based, I started using a bass ukulele.

    The acoustic solid Mahogany Kala has a sound somewhat, loosely, kinda sorta, like a double bass when amplified. It is far from my favorite to play because I find the frets to be a bit noisy and it is prone to feedback. The SUB is kind of cheap feeling; I've strung it with steel wound strings and it makes it kind of cool to play, and it feels more like a super short scale bass.

    If what your store is selling for under $300 is a Kala Rumbler or an SUB, I don't think the quality of those is any better than what you can get for $180 or less from Rondo. It also won't sound much like a double bass.

    While I love my ubasses for what they are, I totally "get" why some people don't like them at all. They are kind of their own thing and different from other basses. The really short scale and the floppy strings give them entirely different characteristics. However, I am also not a big fan of big acoustic basses; I currently have a Takamini. For playing on my couch I usually play the Shortbass One because it is a bit louder, but the construction of it is really crummy and the frets are horrible. Sometimes I'll practice patterns over and over for hours on end, and even I can't stand to hear it through an amp after a while. The rubber strings also tire my hands out less.

    If you want a ubass that kinda sorta sounds like a double bass, then you need to get the Kala acoustic model with Pahoeoe (black) strings.
  7. rujulian

    rujulian Guest

    Apr 24, 2014
    Breedlove makes the nicest Acoustic bass I've played. I don't know the exact model name and it isn't cheap.
    tfer likes this.
  8. YosemiteSam


    Jun 8, 2005
    Chatham, MA
    Update: The Kala (it was a Rumbler) was already sold. It had $265 on it when I last saw it.
    The solid body I saw was not a Kala, but a Gold Tone. I tried it, but have to say that's a big "no" for me, even though it was fretless. The strings and the scale are just too distracting, takes me out of the headspace of playing. It felt like a toy, and was still $280.

    I'll probably just save my money and replace my ABG with another one someday. Possibly a Breedlove, maybe a Carvin AC40 type thing.

    Thanks folks!
  9. Did you any of guys try a fretless uke versus a fretted? I'm wondering if it the nuance of a fretless comes across at such a short scale w/ the rubber strings.
  10. lug

    lug Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2005
    League City, Tx
    Secret to using a Ubass......baby power!
  11. katysax


    Nov 5, 2012
    I have both a fretted and fretless California. They are definitely different. You don't get the mwah sound. I prefer to play the fretless but in some situations I cannot count on my intonation being good enough so then I use the fretted.
  12. Thanks! I'm not too worried about bass guitar style mwah, but I'd like a string attack and envelope closer to the upright.. I just wasn't sure if that kind of thing even comes across at such a low string length. I'll look for a fretless to try.
  13. mp40smg

    mp40smg Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2010
    Worcester, Ma.
    The Ubass and the Ashbury and all of the surgical tubing instruments sound very much like an upright.
  14. jd56hawk


    Sep 12, 2011
    The Garden State
    Once you find the right acoustic bass, there's no need to consider anything else. Tacoma Thunderchief, everyone knows how good they are, Warwick Alien, sure, another nice one, Guild this or Fender that, yeah, I guess so.
    Wouldn't trade mine for any of them, though.
    Incredible plugged-in tone...the secret is in the preamp, Aphex circuitry with Aural Exciter and Big-Bottom sound. Only two other acoustic basses come with preamps anywhere near this good and they both cost over $1,000.

    I use a Planet Waves rubber soundhole plug to get rid of feedback and with the switches set to enhance and out of phase I get a tone I simply can't get out of any bass I've ever played.
    More compliments for the Dean than either G&L.
    Bought the Exotica for $250 with a nice ABS case from Guitar Center...new they go for $399 and if I find a nice black one, I'll definitely buy it.
    Comes in fretless, too.
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2016
    SwitchGear and wintremute like this.
  15. There are u-basses with metal roundwound strings.
  16. iiipopes

    iiipopes Supporting Member

    May 4, 2009
    I have both. Among other gigs for each, I take my ABG to Mexico for my band's annual trip to have for both plug-in gigs and informal jams. I use the U-bass to support the local ukulele clubs in their concerts. It is well received in that context.

    There is a place for each in its context. That's why I have both.

    As far as the individual instruments, My ABG is a 32 inch scale rather than the full 34, for a little bit more travel room, a little less tension on the strings (32 inch scale is essentially like a 34 tuned to Eb then capo'ed at the first fret), and a little easier feel.

    My U-Bass is the bubinga model, which just like electric basses made of bubinga, has, to me, a little bit more clarity and definition than the mahogany, koa or spruce models.
  17. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Unplugged? Keep in mind an ABG will bury the Kala in terms of low end and volume just as a DB will bury an ABG.

    Into an amp, the Kala sounds more like a DB due to the strings, but the volume issue goes away.

    As someone who plays both BG and DB I find the super short scale and small body of the Kala hard to adapt to (I have borrowed one for gigs). The fingerings of each are radically different and I don't find a uke body comfortable when sitting, but that's just IMHO.
    madbanjoman likes this.
  18. HaphAsSard


    Dec 1, 2013
    In my Youtube video watching experience, it does not. The attack and general tone is vaguely reminiscent of those of an upright, enough to work in some appropriate contexts, but as far as envelope, never heard them do the note bloom thing, regardless of strings used (Pahoehoes, Aquilas, let alone roundwounds).

    EDIT: also, why do YT reviewers seem to be scared of the E string? For some reason the number of times they hit it can usually be counted in one hand! Is it because deep inside they think it sucks? (I've no opinion myself, mostly because I couldn't form one...)
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2016
  19. Yeah I'm not hearing a huge difference in tone with the fretless on youtube but its hard to find many guys playing jazz on them. I play upright so I'm not too worried about it sounding just like a real bass but it might be nice to take to doubling gigs if upright isn't going to be a big part of the job. The type of string seems to make a much bigger difference in the sound than whether or not it is fretless.
    HaphAsSard likes this.
  20. YosemiteSam


    Jun 8, 2005
    Chatham, MA
    To me, the rubber-stringed things don't really sound like an upright, just like rubber strings. They have less attack and sustain than a bass guitar, but the character of the upright tone is much more complex (to me) than just those factors. I played both fretted and fretless uke-sized instruments and didn't find the fretless to be any better sounding or playing; in fact, I'd second the comment about the frets helping in the ultra-short scale world.

    Thanks for the tips, I'll keep my eye out for the right ABG.

    -- Sam
    ColdEye likes this.
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