Well, as I earlier mentioned, have been waiting and waiting for the plastic bodied Makala Dolphins to make their way into UK stock. These are highly regarded cheap as chips instruments, that many report got that little bit better since Kala decided to mould the back and sides in one piece polycarbonate.
Highly Strung, Wantage, had them in stock ( Click Here ) and I ordered - arrived today - in red burst finish (red with some sort of black smudgy bits that I do quite like). Before I go on any further, please note - this is a £25 instrument. That's right a £25 instrument - half the price of some video games. Really really cheap. You have seen me rally on before about how cheap instruments can be more of a hindrance to the beginner than anything else. I play instruments in the £150+ bracket - so why would I want one of these? Well I read good things about the Makala, so thought I'd give it a go - if it was playable, it will become by beater, travel uke to sling in the car!
It arrived in lovely condition - no real finish flaws - few marks on the side of the neck, but again, this is a £25 instrument (I am gonna keep repeating that!!!). The finish is very glossy and looks quite deep. Frets are finished in brass colour. Bridge (in a dolphin shape) is a dark rosewood type of wood, as is the fingerboard (which I think is just wood, stained). The top is laminate wood, and has a simple white painted rosette around soundhole. Cant see the join between wood top and plastic sides at all. Neck joint is similarly clean. Really like the look of the back of the uke - the plastic body is slightly bowed out - I like different things like that. Have tried to take a pic (but not too easy to show). Makala logo is on headstock in silver.
Fret markers in faux mother of pearl at the 5th, 7th, and 10th (why oh why, not the 12th, please?) with white painted versions on the top side of the neck (if you are right handed!!)
The tuners are open backed, cheap geared tuners. Note though, they have nice small tuner buttons - something you don't always get on cheap instruments where makers raid the parts bin - they put on guitar tuners which are heavy, and make the uke look like Mickey Mouse. Nice plus that. Tuners are tight and work OK. Nut and bridge appear plastic.
Arrived strung with cheap black nylon strings. These were immediately changed to standard soprano strings from Aquila - the word on the street is that the aquilas really drive the wood top on these ukes well. Why change them? Well, this is a £25 instrument - don't expect miracles on the string provision!!
All strung up, and strings stretched, and away we go. To hold, the uke is nice and balanced, and light. The intonation really is spot on - all over the neck, and I have checked it with a digital tuner - for £25, that is pretty amazing. Really nice harmonic chime if I strum a barre across the 12th and 7th frets - cor! For £25??
Bridge saddle height seems fine, and action is just how I like it. Finish at the nut was a bit scruffy, and I may think about ever so slightly (ever ever so slightly) lowering the nut slots. But honestly - the action is fine, as is the tuning. Cant complain.
Sound is bright and fun - given a more vigorous strum, it really projects quite a bit of volume - not as loud as my Flea, but louder than any other cheap uke I have played. It actually sounds quite sweet too with the aquilas. Very easy to play, fret, hold etc.
Final point - comes with a cloth gig bag - not sure they can really call it a "bag" - more just a bit of cloth. Least said about that the better....
So do I recommend it, and what for?
Well, yes I do - its a well made, accurate good looking instrument that would be perfect for a beginner - the set up and finish on this is not going to work against you if you are starting out. It will never be loud enough to compete with a band, but for a beginner, I think it is just perfect (just be prepared to change strings - it really isn't that hard!)
I would also recommend it to more seasoned players like me as a beater uke for taking places I wouldn't take my expensive instruments (camping for example) - it seems perfect for that.
So give them a look - For £25 (there, I said it again) I really don't think you can afford NOT to buy one!!
Looks - 6
Fit and finish - 7
Sound - 8.5
Value for money - 10
OVERALL - 7.9