Kala U•Bass Artist Bakithi Kumalo at Bass Player LIVE! 2017

History of the U•BASS®

Kala Celebrates 15 Years of U•BASS®

The Kala U•BASS®, the original short scale bass, was designed by Owen Holt from San Jose, California. Owen and Kala founder Mike Upton formed a friendship in 2007 and together brought the Kala U•BASS® to the masses in 2009. Known for its immense low end, the compact U•BASS® packs a thunderous punch and is suited for any genre of music or style of play. The portable U•BASS® makes a great addition to any bassist’s arsenal. 

With the evolution of both the player and the instrument, Kala strives for an equal balance between innovation and tradition in support of your musical journey. Fifteen years after the introduction of the original U•BASS® marks a year of both celebration and reflection for this wonderful and unique instrument—read on to see what's coming for 2024!


Kala owner Mike Upton meets U•BASS® architect Owen Holt at a luthiers convention.

Owen Holt and Mike Upton at The NAMM Show 2019 (Photo Courtesy of Magnus Sjöquist)


Mike and Owen develop and finalize the definitive design of the original U•BASS®


The fretted Solid Mahogany U•BASS® debuts at Summer NAMM. The fretless Solid Mahogany U•BASS follows soon after, debuting at Bass Player LIVE!


The fretted Solid Acacia U•BASS® and the Solid Spruce Mahogany U•BASS in fretted and fretless models are added at Winter NAMM. The first left-handed U•BASS hits the market.


At Winter NAMM, the Hutch Hutchinson Signature U•BASS® is introduced. In the spring, the USA-made California Series U•BASS arrives, featuring fretted and fretless 4-string and 5-string Solid Body models. The 4-string SUB Solid Body U•BASS follows at Summer NAMM.


Fretted Exotic Wood U•BASS® models, including Exotic Mahogany and Spalted Maple models, are presented at Winter NAMM. The U•BASS is celebrated at the Musicians Institute with a workshop featuring Abraham Laboriel Sr., Bakithi Kumalo, and Stuart Hamm, and at U•BASS Day at Berklee College with Hutch Hutchinson accompanying Abraham and Bakithi.


The fretted Rumbler Mahogany U•BASS® is released at Winter NAMM along with Silver Rumbler strings. Exotic Top Solid Body 4-string and 5-string models join the California Series at Summer NAMM, featuring Koa, Walnut, and Maple tops. A custom-designed Shadow® pickup system with EQ and built-in tuner becomes standard on each imported U•BASS.


On the 5th Anniversary of the debut of the original U•BASS®, the Bakithi Kumalo Signature U•BASS is announced at Winter NAMM. The California Series adds Solid Koa and Maple Acoustic-Electric models equipped with an exclusively designed LR Baggs® pickup and preamp system, which becomes standard for every California Series Solid Body U•BASS. Bass Player LIVE! hosts a U•BASS clinic featuring Abraham, Bakithi, and Hutch.


The 5-string SUB Solid Body U•BASS® along with the fretless Rumbler Mahogany U•BASS are introduced at Winter NAMM. The Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, CA features a U•BASS in their exhibit “LOW: The Power & Beauty of Bass.”


At Winter NAMM, the fretted Bubinga U•BASS® and the fretted Exotic Mahogany U•BASS with Round Wound strings are released.


The redesigned California Series with updated neck, body, and string alignment are shown at Winter NAMM. The 4-string Nik West Signature Purple U•BASS® debuts in August and is followed by the 5-string model at Bass Player LIVE! The Musical Instrument Museum begins displaying a 2012 Solid Spruce Mahogany U•BASS.


At Winter NAMM, the Wanderer, Passenger, and Journeyman are introduced along with the Striped Ebony U•BASS® in multiple options. The Exotic Mahogany is upgraded and expanded to include Fretless and Left-handed models, and the Rumbler and Solid Mahogany, and Solid Spruce Top lines also receive aesthetic upgrades. At Summer NAMM, Red and Black Journeyman models with Round Wound strings debut.

A Kala U•BASS® built from Exotic Mahogany wood, leaning agains a green bicycle and a brightly lit window.
One of many 2018 U•BASS® advancements, the Left Handed Exotic Mahogany U•BASS®

The Flame Maple U•BASS® and Solid Cedar Top Pau Ferro U•BASS are introduced at Summer NAMM. The Wanderer, Passenger, and Journeyman were updated and now all come equipped with a GraphTech TUSQ® nut.


New U•BASS® designs for 2020 include a Burled Tamo Ash, Spalted Maple, Solid Bamboo, and the Nomad, all in fretted models. The Wanderer and Journeyman models now come with Kala Round Wounds.

Kala U•BASS® Built with Spalte Maple Wood, leaning against a wood-top patio table with white metal legs on artificial grass; a white patio chair is in the background
The Spalted Maple U•BASS®


Exclusive partnership and design with Fishman results in a new Fishman EQ for U•BASS® coming standard on all higher-end basses $399 and up.


2022 marks the introduction of the Bakithi Kumalo Signature Acoustic-Electric U•BASS®, as well as the Fretless Scout U•BASS® ­— both offering bassists tremendous value.

A collage of two images: on the left, Bakithi Kumal, wearing a hat, plays a mahogany U•BASS® with a black pickguard in a warehouse; right image shows the same U•BASS® leaning against a black gig bag with U•BASS® logo and Zulu shield silikscreened in white in front of the Kala tradeshow booth.
Bakithi Kumalo plays his Signature Acoustic-Electric U•BASS® at Kala Headquarters


Three new Exotic wood models are added to the Acoustic-Electric offerings. Released in fall, the highly anticipated Solid Body U•BASS® arrives to immediate praise earning a 2023 Product Excellence Award from Music Inc. and numerous favorable reviews from publications and musicians alike. The Solid Body U•BASS® launches with three color options (Jet Black, Sunburst, and Candy Apple Red) and one fretless model.

A collage of  3 images side-by-side each showing a different person seated, playing the Kala Solid Body U•BASS® in front to Kala's tradeshow booth.
Musicians preview the Solid Body U•BASS® at The NAMM Show 2023


Celebrating the 15th anniversary of the original U•BASS® debut, Kala’s private stock of Koa wood is hand-selected for production of two limited edition Acoustic-Electric U•BASS® models. Continuing the success of the Solid Body U•BASS®, the collection expands with two left-handed 4-string, three new 4-string colors options (Sweet Cream, Powder Blue, Pale Pink), and the addition of fretted and fretless 5-string models in two colors (Sunburst, Jet Black), plus a second option 4-string fretless color option.

A man (Mike Upton) holds a Koa U•BASS® with Abalone rosette in front of a greyish green background
Watch for more U•BASS innovations yet to come!

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