When I first started collecting Ukuleles way back in the mists of time, I was in SUS buying the Stagg Strat and chatting to the chap that runs it, (this was before they moved and the stock was in another unit to the showroom. He had sent the boy off to get one from stock and we were waiting for him to come back), He was showing me, and Miss Moo, who was with me at the time some of the other Ukuleles and having gone through the standard sizes he showed me the small ones, first the Ohana sk21 and then he said "even smaller" and got out a mahogany Kala Pocket. As I say it was way back in the beginning and it was the first time I had seen one. He picked it up and noddled a bit, (showing he is a very good Ukulele player), then hit a couple of bum chords, told me it was "very difficult to play" and then went on to teach me how to play Tequila, (well the rhythm bit which is D and E). I thought the pocket was a bit of a novelty item at the time and though interesting, was not for a novice like me unless it was a real bargain. Miss Moo loved it though, and even today when she sees a Kala Pocket she has a go on it.
Well a long time has passed and a lot of Ukuleles have come to live at Ukulele Corner including the Ohana sk21 Sopranino and the Tiny Tangi which is a lot smaller and more novelty (and more expensive!). When I looked into the Kala Pockets I saw the have the "exotic woods" range as well as the mahogany and I'd said to myself, (and on the coming soon pages of this site at one time), if I was going to pay retail for one it would be one of the other woods. Well I got the chance on a nearly new golden acacia pocket at a bargain price and took it, (so the coming soon prediction came true - and I will have the John D'Angelico Tiple at the corner one day too)
So the Pocket arrived, pretty much in new condition, not a mark on it with Aquila Nygut strings, the soft case they retail with had been lost but mine came in a nice blue semi-hard Violin case, (much better that the soft case which is really too big for the Pocket? but then so it this and the wrong shape for anything else to fit - its a nice case though) and being a better player than I was then and having noodled about with it for a bit myself I can now do a full review of it
My Ukulele was made for Kala in China in 2011. The body is all solid acacia with a matching acacia veneer on the headstock over a fairly fat mahogany neck. The fretboard and bridge are rosewood and the nut and saddle are plastic. The fretboard is 12 frets long, with three MOP fret markers at 5, 7 and 10 with matching white dots on the right hand side and meets the body at the twelfth fret. The finish is a very nice even satin and the bookmarking of the top and bottom is beautifully done, really nicely showing off the grain. The Ukulele is a fraction over 16 in (41cm) long with an 11 in (28cm) scale length and the neck width is on the narrow side for Ukuleles though it looks wide in perspective, given the small stature of the overall package. The tuners are good quality friction ones but are a bit big for the Ukulele meaning they can get in the way of each other when tuning; and when playing too. The bridge is an odd stringing arrangement where the strings double back under the saddle, this is good for space but does make the saddle sit high above the soundboard. Overall the build quality appears excellent and my only criticism is the large tuners, and the nut are possibly a bit large for the size of instrument too, but this doesn't matter that much
When playing it, the first and biggest issue is, (and it has been said before - lots of times by lots of people), this is a difficult Ukulele to play. This can be said for all Sopraninos but with the Pocket the small size of the neck and the closeness of the tuners is added too by the bridge being very close to the bottom of the Ukulele. This makes it difficult to hold without your strumming arm deadening the strings at the bridge end. When I first got it I found this really annoying and was going to be very critical of it but as I have noodled more I have found the technique is to hold your arm at more of an angle and strum lower down the neck that you would normally; it works but is a fiddle when swapping between this Ukulele and a bigger one.
Tone wise, as with all Sopraninos, its size means it doesn't have a lot of depth, or a lot of sustain and its very quiet. The volume is not helped by the thickness of the saddle or the lack of lower bout to generate volume, (maybe Brüko were on to something with the Stumpy?) Sustain wise, its certainly not helped if you arm does deaden the strings at the bridge end. But when you do get it all to work properly it is a pleasant sweet treble tone. The Aquilas it comes with do seem a bit heavy and don't work very well on a C tuning or even a D one. The person who had it before me used an F tuning! and while I haven't been quite so drastic I am using a E one, (this adds to the treble-ness), I may try some lighter strings on it later?
Build wise it is all very solid and really feels it, the neck is quite chunky the bracing is full on and it weighs more than some of my Sopranos. I really do think this one will last well including the finish - but that is partly because this is never going to be one of those Ukuleles that is played a lot. Its too quiet and too fiddly for any sort of gig, even taking to impromptu picnics. Its too quiet and too fiddly for anything really except having in a collection and pulling out occasionally to show people. It comes back to my first thoughts when I first saw one - its a novelty - OK for a collector when they already have enough "playing" Ukes but very limited beyond that. Would I get one again if I lost it? Yes, especially now Kala have discontinued it, I think its quite pretty as an object and fun to own. It wouldn't be top of the list to replace but if I know I was going to build up a big collection again I would want another one.
To summarise - its a nice object but not a great working Ukulele and definitely NOT for beginners