BY EDDIE SCHER | FROM THE SUMMER 2023 ISSUE OF UKULELE
Hypothetically speaking, someday your editor might drop off a ukulele to review as you are packing the car for a weeklong camping trip in Joshua Tree National Park. And if that ukulele happens to be a KLOS carbon fiber tenor uke, then you might just be tempted to go ahead and throw it in the car to see how it performs in the elements, baking in the car and freezing in the wind storms, and being strummed enthusiastically by all comers around the campfire.
So how did that KLOS tenor ukulele do? In a word: phenomenally!
The Full Carbon is an upgrade from the KLOS Hybrid series ukulele that I reviewed in the Winter 2019 issue. That instrument, which is still available, combines a wood neck with a carbon fiber body. Both instruments have a fretboard and bridge made of a composite material that is dense and smooth, highly resistant to expansion or contraction from heat or humidity, in a grainy deep black that looks almost exactly like ebony.
The Full Carbon tenor is made from a single piece of carbon fiber that is molded to shape the body, neck, and headstock. Carbon fiber is a space-age material used in Formula 1 race cars and stealth aircraft. Five times stronger than steel, but just one-third the weight, you can think of it as a sheet woven from threads of carbon—you can actually see the design of the strands of carbon in the finish—and coated in epoxy that hardens and holds the woven fibers in shape.
When you tap the body you can hear why someone thought to make a uke out of this stuff. You can hear and feel the loud, resonant response that you want in a musical instrument. KLOS calls the result the “one of the strongest ukuleles in the world” and there’s no reason to doubt that claim.
But ultimately, you will not likely be driving the Full Carbon Tenor at 200 mph or launching it into space. So how does it feel, play, and sound in less extreme conditions? The fit and finish of this ukulele is first class. The neck feels great, a medium C-shape that is consistent up to the 14th fret where it meets the body flush, without any heel. The fretboard extends over the body, ending at the 19th fret. There’s a strap button on the body where the heel would be (on a wood uke) and another at the bottom. (KLOS provides a nice black nylon strap, as well as a padded nylon bag.) The back corner of the ukulele is a gentle curve, and the top corner, where the top meets the side of the body, is a bit sharper of a curve. The body shape and lack of binding, since it is a single piece of molded material, looks and feels great.
The finish is a shiny high gloss—it’s actually a little slippery, but very comfortable to hold and play. My only concern with the ukulele was the possibility of scratching the finish while scrambling around on the coarse-grit sandpaper rocks of Joshua Tree. I did not test the uke to see how it would hold up to that kind of punishment, but I wouldn’t expect any wood or metal to fare any better when put to an unnecessary, unwanted, sandpaper test.
OK, at the campfire, this ukulele did much better than hold its own. It was loud and vibrant with a sound that you could call warm and (dare I say) woody. It had a sweet, cutting tone fingerpicked, and a bright punchy tone when strummed hard. This ukulele never sounded harsh, but instead was always musical no matter how hard it was pushed. It’s not louder than a solid wood ukulele of its size, but neither is it any quieter nor any less dynamic. The carbon fiber material really is a great substitute for the exotic, mostly rare, and sometimes endangered woods that are used in the construction of many traditional ukuleles.
It was a treat for me to get to hear a bunch of different players try out the Full Carbon around the campfire. From the beginners to the more advanced players, all were highly satisfied by the sound and feel. A few remarked on the small headstock, which—other than the material—is the only thing that looks significantly different from a traditional design. The strength of the carbon fiber means that the headstock can be smaller and still provide the stability needed to hold the tuners despite the tension of
the strings. The staggered placement of the Graph Tech Ratio tuners means that the strings travel almost perfectly straight over the nut, which is best for tone and tuning stability.
I came home from my trip and was able to plug the Full Carbon into a small guitar amp, a small PA, and a larger Yamaha PA. In each case the onboard pickup and preamp delivered a trouble-free, warm acoustic tone. The preamp, mounted on the side of the upper bout, features a volume and single tone control. That’s plenty of control to dial in the tone and make adjustments on the fly during a stage performance or for recording. The battery is accessible through the same panel, which I much prefer to batteries accessed inside the soundhole. Finally, I love the built-in tuner, which works equally well in both acoustic and amplified situations.
The KLOS Full Carbon Tenor is a great-sounding, professional-level instrument with the added benefit of being nearly indestructible—a feature that is incredibly valuable to anyone who is going to be traveling with their ukulele, or has experienced the common problem of seeing an instrument warp and change with fluctuating temperatures and humidity.
BODY + NECK: One-piece carbon fiber; 25″ overall length; 12″ body length; 17″ scale length with 19 frets (14 clear); nickel copper alloy frets; gloss epoxy neck finish; flat “composite ebony” fingerboard; Graph Tech Ratio tuners; 1lb. 14 oz weight.
OTHER: Black aluminum strap buttons; KLOS pickup with integrated tuner (on acoustic-electric model only); D’Addario fluorocarbon strings; gig bag; extras: left-handed ($15), side sound port ($90).
DESIGNED AND ASSEMBLED IN: USA
PRICE: $1,439 (acoustic-electric, as tested); $1,299 (acoustic)
The Ukulele Owner’s Manual is the book that belongs in every ukulele player’s instrument case. Each chapter was written by the experts and performers at Ukulele Magazine, with topics ranging from commonsense instrument care to fixing rattles and buzzes to a pictorial history of the instrument. Book owners can also download how-to videos with step-by-step guidance on common set-up and maintenance topics.
Ukulele Basics – Learning and Practicing is a great resource for players just starting out, as well as those looking to build a more solid foundation of knowledge and skills. Get your copy today at store.ukulelemag.com.