The 10 Best Kalimbas of 2023 for Sound Quality and Value
The Kalimba is a beautiful instrument that provides pleasant sounds and tones. It’s a very easy and rewarding instrument to learn.
If you are new to it, finding the appropriate model of Kalimba can be challenging and you have to understand features and qualities before you make up your mind. That way you will be able to make a quality purchase and find a great little instrument.
My top recommended kalimba is the Newlam Kalimba. This is a very popular choice and a well-rounded wooden Kalimba with good sound quality.
My second recommended kalimba is the Luvay Kalimba. This is a budget-friendly option for those looking for something more affordable.
The Best Kalimbas (2023) – At a Glance
And now onto the full list:
1. Newlam Kalimba
My top recommended kalimba is the Newlam Kalimba, with its well-rounded design and good sound quality. Besides its competitive price, it has lovely details such as the smooth hand rests on the sides for a more comfortable playing experience.
The sound of the instrument has lots of sustain, which is what you would precisely expect from a decent kalimba. I would not say it is at the top-end of the spectrum, but the sound is beautiful and well-pitched for an affordable beginner instrument.
The entire instrument is handcrafted from Koa wood, known for its acoustic qualities. There is a hand-painted mandala-style decoration around the soundhole which adds to the elegant looks with the natural solid wood color of the instrument.
The package includes a nice portable carry pouch, tuning hammer, instruction booklet, finger covers, cleaning cloth as well as red and green learning stickers.
2. Luvay Kalimba
My budget pick, Luvay Kalimba, is a 17 key kalimba with international C tuning with a trapezoid design. Made from well-seasoned mahogany wood, this kalimba is machine-fabricated with its strengthened steel keys in a curved design.
The mahogany wood provides a solid feel and bright tones along with exceptional durability. Furthermore, this kalimba is relatively lightweight and portable, making it easy to carry around.
Finally, it comes with a good range of accessories, including letter, red and green stickers to help beginners while practicing, a tuning hammer for re-tuning, a cloth bag, a cleaning cloth, a paper box, pair of fingerpicks, and an instruction book to help you play and maintain the instrument.
3. GECKO Kalimba
The best thing about the Gecko Kalimba is its design and style, which are highly appealing compared to other Kalimba models on this particular list. Its attractive design, as well as packaging, will provide you with a luxurious feel.
The main reason for delicacy is due to handmade construction. It comes from high-end mahogany, making the body robust and creating a perfect resonance. At the same time, tines come from ore steel, and these two materials in combination create a bright and clean sound.
The price is moderate when compared with others on this list, and you will get a hard case EVA kalimba box so that you can protect your investment as soon as you start traveling with it.
4. UNOKKI Kalimba
Unokki Kalimba is another budget-friendly yet high-quality kalimba made from fine, solid mahogany wood and ore steel keys. The instruments have a traditional 17-key design tuned traditionally from C to E.
Another significant aspect of this kalimba is its great looks with the handmade carvings around the soundhole. There are also different finish and design options like cherry, light brown, and chocolate brown finishes and the option to have smooth hand rest cutaways on the sides.
Thanks to the fine mahogany wood, the kalimba has a warm, clear, and balanced sound with a good sustain. For the price offered, it is a great instrument.
The keys have the note names engraved on them to make the learning process easier. The package includes a tuning hammer, instructional booklet, silicone finger protectors, color-coded key stickers, polishing cloth, and cloth bag.
5. HONHAND Kalimba
Honhand Kalimba is a 17-key thumb piano for beginner adults and kids. The instrument is made of natural air-dried solid mahogany wood and ore steel bars, known for their bright and clear sound.
The kalimba features a high-gloss finish which looks great on the natural mahogany wood color. Additionally, it has hand-rest curves on the sides along with bending keys, which are ideal for a comfortable playing experience.
The keys are also embossed with letters and notes for beginners to navigate through the notes better. It also comes with a tuning hammer, flannelette bag, finger cover, color, and tune stickers, cleaning cloth, and study instruction booklet.
6. MIFOGE Kalimba
Made from high-quality mahogany and ore steel bars, MIFOGE Kalimba has the traditional bright and clear sound along with its 17-key special design, providing comfort to hands while playing. It comes in the classical mahogany color and has a beautiful finish.
The so-called G5 Upgate design features ıpdate arc angel and hand rest, which provides a great playing experience. Furthermore, the notes and the letters are engraved on the keys for beginners to play the melodies easier.
Another great aspect of this kalimba is the waterproof EVA case which allows you to carry the instrument around safely. The other accessories included in the package are a clean cloth, finger cover, tuning hammer, study instruction booklet, and color stickers.
7. Moozica Kalimba
If you are looking for a premium quality Kalimba to take the playing and sound quality to the next level, Moozica Kalimba might be the ideal choice. Made from Acacia Koa wood, the instrument provides a warmer and deeper tone than mahogany kalimbas.
The keys are made from carbon steel, and they have notes and chords engraved on them for beginner players. Plus, the instrument has a hand rest curve design for more comfort while playing.
There are four different color and wood options in the series if you want different looks or sounds. There is a great-looking deep blue mahogany wood option for players who want a great-looking instrument.
If you want better sonic performance, there is a Koa-Spruce wood combination for enhanced acoustics. Additionally, there are two Koa-wood kalimbas with a natural or high gloss finish along with a natural Mahogany wood option.
With all of the models, you also get the classic Kalimba accessories pack, including a professional kalimba case that protects the instrument from moisture and oxidation as well as possible damages from falls and bumps.
8. Donner Kalimba
The Donner 17-Key Kalimba is a fantastic instrument that comprises solid and durable construction so that you can enjoy it all the way. It is an appealing choice for both beginners and professional players, which is the main reason for its popularity.
First, it is essential to state that you will get a lightweight and compact instrument so that you can move it around with ease. You will also get a transporting bag, which will reduce the hassle during the traveling, and concert plays.
Another selling point of this particular Kalimba is an affordable price tag, which means that you do not have to spare an entire fortune to purchase the first instrument. At the same time, it does not lack the performance and sound quality.
This mahogany kalimba comes with 17 keys, and they are entirely made from high-end carbon steel that will provide you with a combination of superb resonance and beautiful sound.
9. MIAOYIN Kalimba
MIAOYIN Kalimba is one of the entry-level budget-friendly kalimbas, which shines with its three-layer mahogany body. The layered wood makes the instrument more durable and sturdy, making it an ideal gift for kids and players who want to carry the kalimba around often.
The instrument is equipped with matte wax, which makes it both resistant and resonant, while ore steel bars with engraved notes make learning easier and quicker. There is also a matte blue color option for different tastes.
Like other mahogany kalimbas, the sound is crisp, clear, and bright with a good sustain. It is also loud enough to play with other instruments like ukuleles.
The package does not include a solid box or carrying case; instead, a fabric bag which makes the instrument susceptible to damage while carrying it. The rest of the accessories are classic, with a cleaning cloth, tuning hammer, key stickers, and a study guide.
10. Musfunny Kalimba
Musfunny Kalimba is a traditionally-made 17-key thumb piano with a durable design made from Shabili wood. The high-quality natural Shabili provides a balanced sound while providing high toughness and strength.
The instrument features a great value for the price with its box design, delivering a strong and fuller sound with good sustain.
Additionally, it has bending keys for better touch with engraved notes, a hand-rest curve design for more comfort, and beautiful polished color, along with lovely decorations around the soundhole.
It does not come with a solid carry-box but a flannelette bag, which is a drawback, but it is not a dealbreaker when the affordable price is considered. However, it does have all the classical accessories you would need with the kalimba like finger covers, cleaning cloth, tuning hammer, key stickers, and a study booklet.
What is a Kalimba and how does it work?
Kalimba is an African musical instrument from the idiophone family with a soundboard and metal keys. It is played by plucking the steel keys of different lengths with the thumb. Each key is tuned to a different note, which gets amplified by the resonator box or board when plucked.
Kalimbas feature a small wooden box with a single set of steel or metal tines, keys on the top. These tines feature different lengths and pitches to produce different notes when plucked. Most kalimbas are tuned to the international standard C tuning, but it is possible to tune them to other keys or find different pre-tuned key kalimbas.
How many keys does a Kalimba have?
Kalimbas have different amounts of keys or tines, starting from 5, going up to 34. The main ones have 17 keys, suitable for beginners and intermediate players. The 7 or 8 key kalimbas are also easy to play. Experienced players can purchase 21 or 34 key chromatic kalimbas.
The 7 or 8 key kalimbas are on the pentatonic scale and are limited compared to kalimbas with more keys. They are mainly used for relaxation, and improvised playing as most popular songs can not be played with them. These kalimbas are easy to play and are beginner-level.
Intermediate-level players, as well as beginners who want to learn popular songs and have a more comprehensive musical instrument, should go with the standard kalimbas with 17 keys. These kalimbas are mainly in the C major key, but different versions are available. Most popular songs can be played with these traditional-style kalimbas.
Advanced musicians and kalimba players can prefer kalimbas with more keys like 21 to 34-key instruments in a chromatic scale. Like an acoustic piano, these kalimbas have all the notes in western music, which means you have to be familiar with scales, keys, and some musical theory to play them properly.
Is the Kalimba Easy to learn?
Traditional kalimbas are easy to learn as they have a limited number of notes, and the keys are tuned to a specific scale. That means kalimbas do not have out-of-scale notes. As the playing techniques are also straightforward, kalimbas are some of the easiest musical instruments to learn.
So, every improvised melody on kalimbas will sound good, and you do not have to know any music theory to play them. However, if you have a chromatic kalimba with all the notes possible, like an acoustic piano instead of notes of a specific scale, you will have to know some music theory to play the instrument.
What’s the difference between a Kalimba and a Mbira?
Kalimbas and Mbiras are similar instruments from the idiophone family. The only differences are the number and alignment of tines and the tuning. Kalimbas have 5 to 21 keys mainly tuned to major scales, while Mbiras have double sets of tines with more keys and are tuned to different non-western scales.
The sound of both instruments is very similar, but Mbiras produce a buzzing sound while playing. As they feature more keys, Mbiras are harder to play and more professional instruments than kalimbas.
Things to keep in mind when buying a Kalimba
You probably know that you can find numerous types and models of Kalimbas that will appeal to your needs and requirements. Therefore, it is vital to find the one that will provide you with the style that you want.
It does not matter if you are entering the music business for the first time, or you had previous experiences with Kalimba, you will need to consider a few things.
Sound holes are an excellent and convenient feature that you should consider when buying Kalimba because they will allow you to modulate and control the dynamics of the sound. You can do it by covering holes with your fingers or thumbs and moving them back and away.
You should understand that when it comes to tuning, there are two aspects you should remember. The first one is essential because your Kalimba will slip out of tune after prolonged use, and the second one is experimental because it is based on your style. Most brands will include a tuning hammer as well as a chart that will help you tune properly.
Learn how to tune it with this video:
Even though the color will not affect the quality of sound, it will play a role in playability. Therefore, when you have painted tines, you will have points of reference during the performance, which is not the case if all tins are the same.
You can find Kalimbas in different types of woods. The most popular choice is African hardwood Kiaat since it comes in a wide range of colors and styles. Apart from that, they are also made from Sapwood, which is blond, but it can be red and black.
As you can see from everything I have mentioned above, it is challenging to determine which Kalimba is the best for your particular requirements. That is why you should check its features, learn more about Kalimbas and how they function because the more you know, the better purchase you will make and that is a fact you should remember.
My top kalimba pick is the Newlam Kalimba for those looking for an all-in-one product. The overall quality of this kalimba is great and the value-for-price ratio is off the charts!
My budget kalimba pick is the Luvay Kalimba. If you want to spare your pockets but still have a decent kalimba, then this is the one for you.
Featured image credit: The original uploader was １３２人目 at Japanese Wikipedia. [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)]