Are Hadean Uke Basses a Kala uBass Alternative?

Hadean uBasses look similar to Kala’s Solidbody, but that’s where the comparison ends.

 

Three years ago we told you about Rondo Music, a musical instrument retailer that was (and still is) the sole importer of SX basses and Agile guitars – among other brands – here in the U.S. Back then, they had just begun importing the Hadean brand of Chinese-made acoustic uke basses and were introducing a solidbody version, no doubt to try to cut into the market that was solidly (and still is, not surprisingly) dominated by Kala with its uBass models. That ubass was known then as the Omega Hadean uke bass.

Rondo’s inventory of instruments – particularly SX basses and some Agile guitar models – don’t remain available for long on their web site, selling out almost as quickly as they come in stock. This seems to be the case with the Hadean uke basses as well. Probably because they are inexpensive, but surprisingly good instruments. They sell for about a third of what a new Kala SUB uBass goes for.

As of today, Rondo has three models of the solidbody Hadean uke bass in stock: the UKBE-22 33″ in blue; the UKBE-22 N Fretless in natural and the UKBE-22 Fretless in blue. They’ve dropped the Omega from the name and the headstock, but the Hadean ubasses seem to be the same as when they were introduced.

If you’ve always wanted a uBass, but don’t have the money for a Kala version, the Hadeans are a worthy substitute. Don’t expect them to be a cheaper version of the Kala, because they aren’t. But they are good instruments in their own right.

The fit and finish of the Hadeans are good, but not as meticulous as the Kala uBasses. I wouldn’t hesitate to gig with a Kala. I’m not sure a Hadean would stand up to the rigors of the road for very long. I could be wrong, but they don’t seem as sturdy.

The electronics on the Kala uBasses are superb. Each model has that upright bass sound. The Hadeans do not quite measure up. They sound good for what they are, but they don’t quite have that upright sound. To be fair, it may just be the Aquila Nylgut strings, which I never though sounded as good as the Kala Pahoehoe strings, particularly for that upright sound. The electronics on the Hadean basses sound a bit “scratchy”  and “thin” sometimes. I’ve never found that with the Kala uBasses.

Rondo is selling three models of the Hadean uBass: the UKBE-22, which features a swamp ash body and is a 33″ scale model (which seems to me to kind of negate the reason for a uBass to begin with). Just an inch shy of a typical long-scale bass guitar (which is 34″ scale), it’s more of a medium scale bass than a Uke bass. And two versions of the 30″ scale Hadean, the UKBE22, both fretless, both with Swamp Ash bodies, but one is in blue and one is in natural.

The UKBE-22 Blue model sells for $179.95. The UKBE-22 Natural sells for $169.95 and the UKBE-33, also in blue, sells for $179.95.

If you have some extra bucks lying around (come to think of it, who does these days?), these are good alternatives to the more expensive Kala solidbody uBasses. Just don’t expect them to be able to compete head-to-head with Kala, in any category.

You get what you pay for. But in the case of the Hadean uBasses, you get a lot for little money.

 

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What’s the Difference?

A portion of the uBass Comparison chart put together by Magnus Sjöquist. © PLAY UBASS

A portion of the uBass Comparison chart put together by Magnus Sjöquist. © PLAY UBASS!

Now that Kala has like 1,000 different models of uBass, I bet you’ve often wondered what the difference between them are. Well, wonder no more, because our friend Magnus Sjöquist at PLAY UBASS! has put together a very useful chart explaining the differences between the various models, both Acoustic/Electric and Solidbody.

The chart includes such information as Model Name, Retail Price, whether it’s available in Fretted and/or Fretless, what options are available and the type of strings it comes with.

Take a look at the chart and download one for yourself. It’s a very handy reference guide.

You can download a PDF copy of Magnus’s chart HERE.

Kala vs. the Acoustic Competition

Bass Direct in the U.K. pits the competition against the Kala uBass Standard and Rumbler models.

Bass Direct in the U.K. pits the competition against the Kala uBass Standard and Rumbler models.

 

Ever wonder how the little Kala acoustic uBasses stack up against the competition? Well, this video, posted by U.K. music retailer Bass Direct will give you a good idea.

In the video, Bass Direct pits the Kala uBass Rumbler Mahogany, the Kala Spruce Fretless uBass and the Kala uBass Mahogany Fretless (with both Pahoehoe and Pyramid strings) against the Tanglewood Roadster Travel Bass Fretless, the Countryman Ukulele Bass Fretless, the Aquila Short Bass One Basic Fretless.

Which one sounds the best? Watch the video and decide for yourself. I will say that they all sound good, though I think the Kala uBasses sound more focused and refined. Except the Mahogany Fretless with the Pyramid strings. That one sounds horrible. And it’s not the uBass, it’s the Pyramid strings and the lackluster playing. Among the competitors, I think the Tanglewood sounds the best.

Though, to be fair, the Countryman and the Short Bass One have horrible setups (with string buzzes everywhere), so they don’t sound their best in this clip. Interestingly, the Short Bass One–which looks to have the largest body of all the uBasses–is the quietest. It does not project sound very well.

While it may not be a very “scientific” test of all the uBasses, this video will give you an idea of what they all sound like.

Changing Strings? Try Metal.

The packaging for Kala's new metal round wounds uBass strings.

The packaging for Kala’s new metal round wounds uBass strings.

 

Let’s face it. Sometimes you just need to change things up. You need to try something different. Well, if you’re about to change the strings on your uBass, or are getting bored with your Pahoehoes, why not try Kala’s new metal round wound strings.

The strings are constructed with a nylon core with silver plated windings. In a video touting the new strings, Mike Upton says while the strings are “boomy” like the Pahoehoes, they do tend to offer a bit more treble than the other strings. So if you want your uBass to sound more like an electric/acoustic bass and less like a double bass, these may be the strings for you.

“These round wound strings provide a warm booming sound that the U-Bass is known for,” Kala notes. “They feature lower tension compared to traditional built bass strings, making them easy on the fingers with a great overall feel.”

The new strings feature the following:

  • Nylon core with Silver-plated windings
  • Specifically constructed for use with the Kala U-Bass
  • Provides player with extreme playability
  • Warm, powerful sound with clear note articulation
  • String construction and gauging gives player very accurate intonation

The new strings are very responsive and very articulate, according to Mike Upton. They still feature the “boomy” sound the uBass is known for, but with a bit more clarity and top end.

These new strings should not be confused with Kala’s Silver Rumbler strings made by Aquila. The Silver Rumblers feature Nylgut and a proprietary formula and are not metal strings.

Check out a video with Mike demoing a set of the strings HERE.

Happy Fifth Birthday to Our Little uBass

USA Redwood Exotic Soldibody uBass. Photo © and Courtesy of Kala Brand Music Co.

USA Redwood Exotic Soldibody uBass.
Photo © and Courtesy of Kala Brand Music Co.

Our little uBass is turning five years old. Where has the time gone?

Kala is celebrating the uBass’s birthday with a bunch of new models, including the Redwood Exotic you see here.

As Kala notes:

The acoustic electric models are available in finely crafted figured Hawaiian Koa or flame maple finishes. The solid body designs feature a variety of exotic wood tops that include koa, redwood, myrtle, and walnut.

The uBass is now available in more than 30 models, including acoustic-electric and solid body versions, both fretted and fretless. Kala even offers six different types of strings for the uBass, including the original Pahoehoe polyurethane strings.

As Mike Upton noted in a statement:

I was absolutely floored by the deep tone of the little bass when I first plugged it in. Five years later we are proud to say that players all over the world have experienced the same reaction.

Indeed they have Mike.

The Toad vs. The Lizard: Which One Wins?

Ortega RLIZARD-BS Ukulele Bass

Ortega RLIZARD-BS Ukulele Bass

As you probably know, there are a number of competitors out there to Kala’s uBass. I guess it was inevitable. If you have a winning product, someone is bound to copy it. Some  of these competitors are true competition for the uBass and some are not.

One of the higher quality competitors of the uBass is the Ortega RLIZARD-BS uBass. Ortega, a musical instrument manufacturer based in Germany, is probably better know for its Spanish-style acoustic guitars.

Apparently the RLIZARD uBass is becoming more and more popular.

According to Ortega, the RLIZARD features the following:

  • Wood, top: Dao
  • Finish, top: Satin
  • Wood, back: Dao
  • Finish, back: Satin
  • Wood, neck: Mahogany
  • Wood, fretboard: Rosewood
  • Tuner: Custom Designed, Gloss Black
  • Electronic: Shadow SH-UK-T/NFX Nanoflex With Integrated Tuner
  • Fret: 15
  • Scale Length: 510 mm (20″)
  • Size, body: Bass
  • Depth, body: 80 mm (3.1″)
  • Rosette: Laser Cut Lizard Design

The RLIZARD also features Aquila strings and comes with a “croco-style” luxury hard case. While it’s hard to find a retailer in the U.S. that carries it, the Ortega is widely available in the U.K. and Europe and can be bought on the Amazon U.K. site. It sells for about $680.00.

So who wins the showdown–The Toad or The Lizard? It’s hard to say.

Check out these videos and judge for yourself:

Here’s Andrew “The Bullet” Lauer playing an RLIZARD.

And Here’s Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” on an RLIZARD.

Kala to Debut New uBass Model at Winter NAMM

Kala Brand Music Co. plans to unveil it’s newest uBass model at the Winter NAMM show

The Rumbler. Photo © and courtesy of Kala Brand. Music Co.

The Rumbler. Photo courtesy of and © Kala Brand Music Co.

next week.

Called The Rumbler, the new uBass sports Silver Rumbler strings, a Mahogany laminate body and a built-in active EQ with tuner.

According to Kala:

The Rumbler design integrates a specially designed Kala electronic system with a Piezo pickup and is equipped with an active EQ with built in tuner. Each bass is strung with Kala Silver Rumbler Strings™ which are proprietary U-BASS strings designed and manufactured exclusively for Kala Brand Music by Aquila strings.

The new uBass also features die-cast uBass tuners, a Mahogany neck, Rosewood fretboard and bridge. It’ll come with a padded gig bag.

And the best part is it’ll sell for $399US.