Best Cheap Beginners Ukulele

By Rob Millard, Sept 2012

When buying a cheap beginner's ukulele, there are a few key things to look for:

  • A reputable retailer. At this price point most ukuleles are mass manufactured, so if there's a defect or something wrong you want a retailer that you know takes returns. Amazon accept returns on musical instruments within 30 days of purchase through their Online Returns Center, so I've used them for the sake of this review.
  • Geared tuning pegs. Some of the cheaper ukuleles have straight through plastic tuning pegs which don't hold tune very well as they can simply unwind. They are also quite difficult to fine tune because there is no gearing ratio which can help with small adjustments. Geared pegs typically hold their tuning much better and are worth paying an few pounds for.
  • Decent materials. Some cheap ukuleles are plastic, which tend to sound terrible. Woods like mahogany and spruce are available even at the bottom of the price range and should sound reasonably good.
  • Accessories. Some beginner packs come with a few extra bits and bobs - at very least you'd expect a gig bag for storing and transporting your uke.

So which is the best? I've picked the Vintage VUK20N which you can buy from Amazon as part of a pack that includes a gig bag, tuning pipes and a felt plectrum, all for £22.58

In addition, it's user review scores are good, averaging a 4.5 star rating. It also has a fairly significant number of reviews (57 at the time of publishing) which adds more assurance that it is of good quality. It's made from decent wood with a mahogany body, and a number of user reviews reference the excellent finish given the value for money. It's available in a natural finish as seen above, or in Hula Blue as well.

All in all, I think that this makes it the best deal compared to other ukes in this price range.

If you've got a little more budget and are more serious about playing uke, you could consider paying £34.75 for the upgraded version of the VUK20N. It still comes with a bag and pitch pipes, but has also been checked over by a technician which means the build quality will likely be better, and it has been fitted with Aquila strings. Strings are the best way to make a budget ukulele sound significantly better, so this is likely to be a good upgrade if you can spare the extra £10.

Are there any other options? Ashton produce a similarly priced uke with similar features at £18.99, but user reviews seem less favourable and it doesn't include the number of accessories that come with the Vintage.

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