Mixed Bass Bag...
The pros: This thing sounds great. It's like a mini-upright, only without much sustain. Acoustically, perfect for playing late at night or in tiny apartments. Plugged in, or through my Vox headphone amp, some pretty major bass from so little space. Run through an Art tube pre-amp into my MacBook, I get a great sound with minimum fuss. And finally, it's just addictive fun to play.
The cons: Build quality is pretty slipshod. On one I got, the body and binding are good; however, the neck and headstock look a bit, well, improvised. The neck is built from several pieces of wood, and the differences in color and grain are fairly blatant. Especially under the headstock veneer, where it looks as though an extra layer was added in under the veneer to bring the headstock to proper thickness. While the fingerboard is decent, several smudges of glue (one complete with fingerprint) mar the edges. Most serious, on close examination I note that the nut (which appears to be wood also) is not glued to the neck for over half of its width. I'm not yet sure what I'll do about that- perhaps carefully add some wood glue to fill the gap.
Unique to this instrument are the polyurethane strings, which take a bit of getting used to. Be prepared to spend at least a month playing a new U-Bass before the strings are fully broken in. Until then, you'll be tuning a lot. A whole lot. You'll also be rewinding the strings on the tuner posts several times as they stretch. While this is fairly simple on the E and A strings, the D and G strings need to be knotted under themselves to prevent slipping. The strings also have plastic bearings which (according to the instructions packaged with them) rest under the bridge plate when the strings are installed. However, Kala often installs the strings without the bearings. The Hipshot tuners work fine.
All in all, this is a unique instrument which is great fun to play, and a sound you may love. But the manufacturing quality seems a bit sketchy for the price. By way of comparison, my other bass is a Fender Kingman acoustic, also made in China, which cost about $90 less than the U-Bass. The build quality of the Fender is excellent, especially the neck and fretwork. I suppose part of the difference is due to the size of the respective companies; but I hope Kala will step up the quality.
I love playing the U-Bass; I just hope it holds together.