In these difficult times it's nice to be looking at a home grown ukulele business again, and this is a soon to be launched new model from a brand I've looked at before. This is the new all carbon series tenor ukulele from Klōs Guitars.
Klōs are the buisness of Adam and Ian Klōsowiak and Jacob Sheffield in Utah USA and I looked at the first entry in to the world of carbon fibre ukuleles back in January 2019. I really liked it and despite one or two cosmetic niggles for me, it scored well because it played and sounded great. Looking back I then did see a few people query the whole carbon fibre thing because the original was only carbon fibre in the body - the neck was mahogany. Whilst I didn't knock the ukulele score down for that, I suppose I have to accept that if you are making claims about ukes being capable of being run over by a truck, you'd be feeling glum if the neck was run over! The answer is coming soon in this new ALL carbon fibre model - currently on a Kickstarter and then in due course will be avalailable for general sale. It seems like a sensible next step for Klōs and allows them to be a fully carbon fibre brand. Please note from the outset - as this is in Kickstarter phase the one featured in this review is a close to final prototype. As such some minor elements may change on launch.
This model keeps the same body shape and construction - that is to say it's a double bout tenor ukulele with a one piece moulded back and sides, and a separate drop top. Unlike the various faux carbon fibre models brought to market recently which are really just plastic with some carbon strands in the mix, this is full on, proper carbon fibre. You can see the criss cross matting of the construction, which does, I think, look very cool. The whole thing is finished in a gloss which really adds to the 'quality' feel and look. I prefer it to the original Klōs for the full gloss as it feels more 'complete'.
The bridge is made from what they call 'composite ebony', but looking at it, I think that means a Richlite variant - a high pressure paper composite. It's a through body style fitted with a straight toppped black TUSQ saddle. I think it looks great and a big improvement on the orignal, paler bridge. It's stealthy!
There is no other decoration, and the only other things adorning the body are strap buttons in the base and upper shoulder and, on this example, an optional pickup system by Fishman. You know I don't like these systems, but I think the control plate on this actually suits the futuristic body material. If I wanted a pickup in something like this I'd also rather it was pre-fitted as I wouldn't feel confident cutting carbon fibre myself.
Inside there is nothing to see bar the label and the pickup wires on this example. There is no kerfing or even bracing I can see. This IS carbon fibre though! Because there is nothing to see I am not bothering with a picture on this review - it was just all black!!
Up to the neck and this is the big departure from the original Out goes the black painted mahogany neck and in comes an integral carbon fibre neck sprouting out of the top of the body. Not only does it look much better than the original, but the ruggedness element is also now much improved. Sadly, for a tenor the nut width is a let down for me. I made the same complaint about the original at 36mm wide at the nut, but bizarrely they made this one even narrower. This comes in at 35mm and 28.5mm G to A, which is odd, because it's narrower than the original, but a slighty wider string spacing. Hmmmm.
Topping the neck is a composite fingerboard, edge bound to hide the ends of the 19 frets joined at the 14th. It's gorgeously smooth and dark in colour. To orientate yourself you get outward facing pearl dots at the 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th and 15th and thankfully these are repeated with small dots on the side.
Beyond the TUSQ nut is the same tiny Klōs headstock. I still don't like the look of it, but I guess it has now become their 'thing'.. I still think it looks weird, but to be fair looks better in carbon fibre than gloss black paint. The Klōs logo is inlaid in pearl.
The tuners here though are much improved over the stock originals. These are Graphtec Ratio Tuners in all black and they look superb. What's clever about these is that they have different turning ratios for different strings as different gauges of string are more sensitive than others to pitch changes. Very clever and VERY smooth to operate. They ooze quality.
Completing the package are D'Addario Fluorocarbon strings and an excellent branded gig bag with a cool integral rain cover and a Klōs branded strap. Pricing depends on whether you go with the optional pickup system, but the core ukulele is $999 and the electric version is $1139. A serious price, certainly more than the original Klōs (though not massively so when you compare to the deluxe orginal with the same tuners), though still not eye watering compared to other high end 'different' ukes like those from Blackbird. Let's have a play.
In the hands this one feels really substantial. Not super heavy, but not really anything like a regular wooden tenor. There's something re-assuring about that though. It's also perfectly balanced and the finish is really tactile on the hands. I like it a lot. I will also say that despite me not liking the nut width for comfort, the string spacing does work for me and I didn't trip over myself.
Volume is absolutely superb with a great projection that will never leave you lost in the crowd. This packs a great punch. Sustain too is also very good. Not the longest I've ever heard, but really very good and enough to add some expression into fingerpicked melodies.
The tone here is similar to the original Klōs but with what I sense is quite a bit more roundness and balance across the range. From memory I found the original very bright and zingy, and whilst you can still get some zing out of this, particularly fingerpicked, it's a more considered and warmer sound overall. I find that strange considering the body is essentially the same and wonder if there is another construction change 'under the hood'. I prefer the soun of this model though. Because there is more balance across the range you get more greater harmonics going on between the strings which creates shimmers in your strummnig. Everything is stand out clear and not at all muddy. You get the lows, you get the highs and you get the mids.
And, no, it doesn't sound like a wooden uke, but equally it doesn't sound artificial or plastic either. It just sounds.. well.. terrific.. I absolutely love the tone of this. Like the tuners, it oozes a higher end characterful tone.
Sure they are asking a bigger ticket price now, I still don't like that headstock and the narrower nut irritates me. But the positives such as the terrific tuners, the much improved use of the Richlite type materials and the wonderful all over gloss construction do counteract those.
And then you play it and realise there is nothing letting me down on the sound.... well... I think Klōs really did improve here... Very highly recommended.