Octopus Soprano Ukulele - REVIEW | GOT A UKULELE - Learn Ukulele, beginners tips and reviews

22 Apr 2014

Octopus Soprano Ukulele - REVIEW

Ukulele review time again! I have had a few people say to me recently that I am hard on ukes at the cheap end of the scale. That really isn't the case, and anyone who reads this blog knows I regularly recommend cheap ukes like the Makala Dolphin. Then the Octopus Soprano came my way - do we have a Dolphin killer?

Octopus Soprano Ukulele

The Octopus retails at under £20, and puts it slap bang in the minefield territory of ukes - where your chances of getting total junk are high. But it was explained to me that this is a re-issue of an earlier Octopus, and that the brand went back to make several improvements to the instrument whilst retaining a very low price.

It's an all laminate uke, and thick laminate at that, which is not unexpected at this price. But the body is put together remarkably well. It is finished in a satin stain, and the one with me for test is in a rather unattractive brown colour.  Thankfully, a look at the full range shows a range of bright colours, some with glittery sparkles so there is bound to be something you will like. But the satin finish feels very nice, and I can't find any flaws at all.

Octopus Soprano Ukulele back

The bridge looks like rosewood and is a tie bar design, screwed to the top of the uke. The saddle is white plastic. Up to the sound hole and we have a simple rosette design applied as a transfer.

And overall it feels solid. The back is flat, and is otherwise a traditional ukulele shape. Looking into the sound hole and it all looks very neat and tidy. I also notice that it is unbraced - something presumably considered unnecessary on account of the thick laminate build. Will this affect the tone and volume?

Octopus Soprano Ukulele body

Moving on to the neck, and we have a three piece wooden neck, with joints at the heel and headstock. Nothing unusual. I really don't like how much wood there is at the heel which is incredibly chunky. New players may not be troubled with playing that high up the fingerboard, but I noticed it. Thankfully the profile and finish at the lower frets is very nice and makes for comfortable play. When I moved on to the fingerboard however I was quite blown away. The 12 nickel silver frets are finished flawlessly and better than I have seen on ukes costing hundreds of pounds. And the rosewood fingerboard itself is wonderful. On inspection, they have sanded / rolled the fingerboards meaning there are no sharp edges on the wood. That is remarkable and something you will not find unless you spend considerably more. It really is a highlight of the instrument, and far better than the neck and fingerboard on the Makala Dolphin. Far  far better.

Octopus Soprano Ukulele fingerboard

We have fingerboard markers at the 5th, 7th and 10th spaces in inlaid plastic looking pearl. Sadly there are no markers on the side for the player.

Past the plastic nut, we have a standard Martin style crown headstock shape and the Octopus logo applied in silk screen or decal in white. I like the dual logos too.

Octopus Soprano Ukulele headstock

The tuners are unbranded silver open gears, and I found one or two of them a little sticky with a bit of grind when turned. That said, they hold just fine. The tuner buttons are also delightful, with a  kind of rubberised black coating that makes them feel great.

Octopus Soprano Ukulele tuners

The whole package is completed with a zippered thin gig bag, and strings that may look like Aquila, but are Octopus brand white synthetic gut (whatever that means). What I will say though, is the strings are quick to get in tune and stay there, and feel nice on the fingers with none of the roughness of Aquila brand.

So overall I am rather impressed. There are one or two issues, but it feels great to play and that neck is incredible for the money. How does it sound though?

Well - it sounds like a boxy laminate uke, I didn't expect anything else. There is nothing complex about the tone, and it is a little one dimensional. But then so is the Dolphin. I actually think though this has a brighter and a more traditional uke sound than the Dolphin has. I often think that whilst the Dolphin has great volume, it can sound a little muddy. To my ears the Octopus matches the Dolphin for volume, but has a slightly sweeter, more percussive sound. It's really quite pleasant to both play and listen to for my ears.

The setup needs adjusting at the saddle (hardly a big job) but otherwise the intonation is pretty damn accurate too.

And I really don't know how they do it for the price (it's also quite a bit cheaper than a Dolphin). Sure, it's a cheap uke, and my readers know that I always try to recommend getting something more serious as a first uke, but I appreciate that many people need to stick at this level money wise. And in the contest of the Dolphin vs the Octopus..... well, the Octopus wins.

Read the scores below and take a look at the video review at the end of this review.


Looks - 7
Fit and Finish - 8
Sound - 8.5
Value For Money - 10

Overall - 8.4 out of 10

To understand my review scoring and see this result in context - visit my review page at



  1. I'm eyeing up one of these sopranos for my daughter, and the Southern Ukulele Store has them in pink (which D would love :-) ). On their site, I noticed that SUS also stocks Octopus concert models for £30. I've sometimes thought I'd like a "budget"-but-reasonable concert uke, and that price is practically in "impulse-buy" territory, especially if the concert model shares the "how do they manage it for that price?" quality of the soprano. Have you any experience of the Octopus concert, or if not, any educated guesses? Many thanks :-)

  2. I haven't played the concert. But speaking to the guys who put these together, they have worked hard on quality elements. The original Octopus that was out in 2013 was actually a bit of a dog, and they rectified it. Would be surprised therefore if they didn't apply same controls to the concert you would have thought?

  3. Bought one of these sopranos from Surrey Ukulele Store on the strength of your review Barry and it was delivered very promptly today. The printed box it comes in says it has Aquila Nylgut strings as does the usual Aquila label attached to the neck. Mine had a little whiskery roughness on the bottom edge of the soundhole and a fracture of the internal bracing strip at the waist on one side but I realise one can't expect perfection from a £20 instrument . Doesn't seem to buzz and sounds good to my unpractised ears. I'll probably sand down the saddle to lower the rather high action and maybe do a little at the nut as well without going too far. I also have a Deviser concert uke but haven't been able to find any reviews for that model. Incidentally I'm an 82 yr old absolute beginner so grateful for all the help and information available from your site and others

  4. Bernard - I think you bought one of the original Octopus ukes - afraid there are still a few knocking about in stores. The new ones definitely DONT use Aquila any more.

  5. Does that mean the ones in SUS aren't the new ones? It says they are the new ones but it also says they come with Aquilas. I'm confused.

  6. Not sure to be honest Martin. They 'should' be new ones. But I'd ask them. Maybe a octopus reverted to Aquilas since I wrote this?

  7. just bought one of SUS and there is a table saying aquila strings, bit disappointed actually as it will not stay in tune :-(

  8. Probably nothing more than the strings stretching. It's normal. Just keep playing and tuning up. They will hold in time.

  9. Is the eBay Tiger model the same?


  10. No, it most certainly isn't!

  11. What´s the difference between the old and the new one? How can I distinguish them? Thanks.

  12. The necks have changed - the new necks are really high quality. That and the fact that the new ones come with strings that look like Aquilas

  13. Looking for a concert uke and the octopus sounds interesting. Is there a model number I can check to make sure I get the new, improved version?

  14. Not sure I know the answer to that - sorry - Choose a good dealer and am sure they will be able to tell you - one thing though - the Octopus is not a concert ukulele!

  15. I'm going to buy one of these Octopus Uke's as a present for someone. Could you recommend a tuner for them please, and would I be best buying some Aquila Strigs for it or are the ones supplied as good? Many Thanks.

  16. My daughter turned up with a ukulele at Christmas (an Ibanez soprano on later enquiry) which sounded great, but she is very musically talented, I don't expect to sound as good at any stage. I decided to have a try, I do play bass recorder, have had a go at guitar in the past but found it rather hard work. I was immediately drawn to the Luna great wave, I have always loved the picture, in concert size, but decided it was a bit too expensive for a starter. I found your site and you didn't like the Luna tattoo very much, so I started looking for something else. On the strength of this revue I decided on the Octopus concert AND found a very local shop stocking Octopus sopranos. I would like to commend Penwarden Music in Milnthorpe, Cumbria, who went to the trouble of finding me a concert and checking it over. It is the rather unappealing brown, but I am in my 60s and don't want to draw too much attention to myself and my lack of musical talent. I love it, it's well made, it plays as well as I need and I'm having great fun with it. Thank you.


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