Time for another long term test review of a ukulele that has been with me for some time. The Makala Dolphin.
I intend to run a number of long term tests on instruments I have kept, as often the long term views can be more illuminating than the initial impressions. (See my REVIEWS PAGE for other long term tests I have done). So for this one - the Makala Dolphin, a uke I first came across nearly three years ago now. You can read my initial review of that instrument HERE. The Dolphin is an absolute entry level soprano ukulele made by Kala. This model featured the one piece moulded plastic back and sides.
So, how has it been? Well, the Dolphin is a cheap starter uke, and as you will see from my reviews I have since owned (or still own) a range of instruments with far bigger price tags since then. But you know what? The Dolphin still gets played on almost a daily basis.
Here is one of my dolphins today (yes, yes I know, it's not red, its purple, but I bought two when I wrote that review, and the red one has been gifted to my young nephew since then - this is the one we kept and gets played - same vintage!).
The reason it gets a lot of play is twofold. First, this kind of became my daughters ukulele. She is between three and four years old, so this uke is almost as old as she is! For that reason it sits in the living room, always on hand, and whenever she gets it out, I end up having a play too. But the second reason is because it really is just so good. In fact picking it up today it never ceases to amaze me how full and loud a sound these things can deliver. In that respect, what I said when I first got one still stands today.
And another plus point. Because this uke has been in the hands of a toddler, it stands to reason that it has been dropped, trodden on and generally abused. It is chipped and dinged in all sorts of places (that Dolphin thick glossy finish does chip easily I have found) but it still plays just fine.
So I will happily find myself still strumming this when at home - perhaps more than I do some of my other instruments. The tone is good, nothing offensive at all. I have even busked and played it publicly. Can't give it a much better endorsement. Friends in the band have also bought them as 'travel ukes' (the sort of instrument you won't shed a tear over breaking or being stolen) and band members have taken these to the far east and Australia last year!
As such, this retains its position as about the best starter ukulele I can recommend to people (for those wanting to spend next to no money). But my advice still comes with a couple of provisos.
1. Buy from a reputable shop. Southern Ukulele Store stock these, but going back to my original review I bought mine from Nigel at Highly Strung in Wantage. Ask him to check the setup - in fact, ask any shop to check the setup) A well setup Dolphin is just great, but at this price there WILL be duds.
2. I am not sure what strings they are now shipping these with, but you really want to try Aquilas on them. I know I don't like preaching about strings, and that you should experiment, but these have quite thick tops and the Aquila power can really drive them to get a good tone and volume.
And that is about that - highly recommended, even after three years. Also childproof!