Octopus UK215C Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

6 Mar 2021

Octopus UK215C Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

This week it's a ukulele name that took me right back to some of the earlier reviews on Got A Ukulele. I had always hoped they would move to this scale and they have. This is the Octopus UK215C Concert.

Octopus UK215C Concert Ukulele

The first Octopus ukulele I looked at was back in 2014 when I looked at their re-booted Octopus Soprano Ukulele a brand put out there by a British based distributor. Sure it was very much a beginners ukulele, but it went on to score very well because of how well put together it was for not a lot of money. Back then the budget level ukulele range was plagued with utter trash that would leave new players fighting against the instrument. In those days I would really only recommend the Makala Dolphin as a low value choice, but the Octopus came along and became a firm recommendation from me for the absolute low cost beginner on account of the level above fit and finishing for low money. Of course, that was seven years back and the market has changed considerably for choice. Can they still cut it?

The UK215C is a concert scale instrument from the same people, and something I think they should have offered back then too. Still, patience is a virtue. The UK215 is part of a range of new concert ukuleles from Octopus, but sits at the lower end of their concert offerings. The UK2750 for example comes with a solid top, the UK300 series with a deep gloss finish, and this, UK215, is all laminate Agathis and a more simple affair. It comes in a blue finish, a sunburst or this completely natural look. You can also get one with a pickup.

Octopus UK215C Concert Ukulele body

It's a very standard looking concert ukulele double bout shape with single sheets of laminate on the top, flat back and sides. You will notice that the sides are particularly slim here. It's not quite what I would call a 'thinline', but it's a pleasingly shallow body. When you consider that this will be aimed at kids and first timers, I would say that's a very good idea and it's certainly comfortable to hold.

The bridge is a tie bar style made of walnut and fitted with a straight topped ABS plastic. It's extremely tidy, though I would suggest that for a beginner choice, a slot bridge would be easier for string changes. Still, at least it's not too big. String spacing here is 40mm.

Octopus UK215C Concert Ukulele bridge

There is no other decoration on this version making it very plain to look at. Maybe a sound hole rosette would have been a nice touch to give it something of a lift, but I suppose you have colour choices and the sunburst looks particularly attractive to me if you want some pizzazz.

Inside is very simple, but very neat and tidy. The braces are not overly large though surprisingly there is no edge kerfing at all, telling me the sides will be quite thick. Still, like the body there are no howlers with construction here, no mess and no open joints. It's very tidy inside and out.

Octopus UK215C Concert Ukulele inside



The body is finished in an open pore satin which is not heavily done and shows no sign of flaws or pooling.

The neck is carved from Okoume wood and whilst in three pieces, the joint at the heel and halfway up the back of the neck are next to invisible. I rather like the chunky heel too meaning that the joint here is likely more secure than with some at this price. It tapers to a more usual far eastern profile (it's made in China) which is a little too rounded for me and only an average 35mm wide at the nut (27mm G to A). Though this ukulele is not aimed at 6 foot 4 players like me with big hands, so don't read too much into that. In the hands of a child it will be just right I suspect, and Got A Ukulele caters for all buyers, not just old blokes like me..

Topping the neck is a walnut fingerboard, stained uniformly dark without looking artificial, and certainly not dry or ugly.  Surprisingly it's edge bound too with darker woods or stain hiding the ends of the 18 frets, joined at the 14th, none of which have sharp edges. What is messing with my eyes is that I am sensing a very slight radius to the top of the frets too. That MUST be an optical illusion as for this price I would be staggered, but do let me know if you have one and think the same. Either way, this is very nicely done for the price. Pearly dots face out at the 5th, 7th, 10th and 12th and you also get them on the side too. More boxes ticked.

Octopus UK215C Concert Ukulele neck

Beyond the ABS nut is what has since become the signature look of Octopus ukuleles - that is to say it has the image of an Octopus on it (what else?) in a black screen print. In a bit of whimsy, the shape of the top of the headstock carves around the head of the octopus in what they call their 'Octowave' design. It's a bit of fun and kids will love it.

Octopus UK215C Concert Ukulele headstock

Tuners are basic open gears in chrome, but clearly not too cheap and not too large - whether on the mechanisms themselves or the small black buttons. Unremarkable, but I regularly see MUCH worse. They work.

Octopus UK215C Concert Ukulele tuners

Finishing it off are a set of Aquila strings and a thin branded 'bag' which is more of a dust cover. And that is available for the extremely low RRP of £35, but more easily found under £30. Extremely low priced, though of course do bear in mind what I say in the intro. When their first soprano arrived it was something of a revelation, but these days cheap ukuleles are ten a penny on Amazon. However... what stood out about the Octopus in 2014 was the attention to detail on finishing and QC. QC consistency is STILL a problem these days when picking up the 'who are they' names on Amazon that reach you direct from the factory with no checks. Octopus were ahead of the curve back then, and I must say that based on this example, the fit and finishing is still pretty spot on all over.  Sure, it's very plain to look at but as I say above, I am not finding the usual tell-tale signs of a very cheap uke with no care and attention.

Octopus UK215C Concert Ukulele bag

It's light at only 490g and balances nicely in the hand too. That slim body is certainly easy to hold in the arm, and whilst i'd like the nut a bit wider, the feel of the neck is otherwise smooth and comfortable. Set up too is not bad, and whilst I would take the saddle down a touch myself, the nut is fine and both are within playable limits.

Sound wise I need to ensure I don't get ahead of myself because this is, after all, a £30 ukulele, not a Kamaka. Firstly the volume here is good and you will certainly be heard. The sustain is not bad either and it's anything but totally staccato as some can be at this point. No, it's not the liveliest uke on the block, but I have played much worse at this price point (and above!).

The tone too is very pleasant. It's clear and has a crispness which helps and you can easily get a bit of pleasing jangle going when strumming which shows it is harmonising with itself. Yes, it's a touch one dimensional in tone, but what would you expect for £30, and it doesn't suffer from that common constrained or boxy sound many laminates can give you that leave them a bit dead sounding. It's more open than that and really not unpleasant at all. Fingerpicking loses a bit of the character, but the clarity is still there and it has a pretty chimey tone played this way. All in all I rather like it and that shallow body isn't hampering the sound at all.

It must be said, with any review of an instrument that is loaned to me, I am fully aware that it's likely they will send me a good example (and this is certainly that - I can't find much wrong with the quality control). But it's worth bearing in mind that these are not 'Amazon only' and drop shipped from the factory, but rather are also available in actual stores, including some uke specialists. That means something and also tells you there is a good chance the dealer (good ones at least) will at least open the box and check them over. So where you miss out on a free tuner or strap, you gain with something else important.

Octopus UK215C Concert Ukulele back

All in all, sure, this is a very simple beginner level ukulele. Where Octopus once stood out in a far less congested market when they first released their soprano, times are tougher these days with a dizzying array of entry level ukuleles flooding the likes of Amazon. Yet, what is important here to me here is the same thing that impressed me all those years back with the Octopus Soprano. Yes, it's simple, but it's been put together very well, and has a focus on the key elements that will work FOR the beginner player not against. This is a sound little instrument for next to no money.  New players will still be swayed by the 'we've included the kitchen sink' ukuleles on Amazon of course, but they should remember - there is no such thing as a free lunch. I'd rather that saving was put into ensuring an instrument is tidy and plays ok from the off. This is why if you are looking at ukes on a very limited budget I am more than happy to once again recommend that you look at Octopus. Good stuff!



UKULELE SPECS ROUNDUP

Model: Octopus UK215C
Scale: Concert
Body: Laminate Agathis
Bridge: Walnut Tie Bar
Saddle: ABS
Spacing at saddle: 40mm
Neck: Okoume
Fingerboard: Walnut
Frets: 18, 14 to body
Nut: ABS
Nut Width: 35mm, 27mm G to A
Tuners: Unbranded open gears
Strings: Aquila
Weight: 490g
Country of Origin: China
Price: Circa £30


UKULELE PROS

Sound overall build, finish and QC
Nice slimline body
Nicely dressed neck and frets
Good volume and sustain
Not laminate boxy in tone
Great price

UKULELE CONS

Very plain looks in this variety
Slot bridge would be more sensible for beginners
This reviewer likes wider necks


UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 7 out of 10
Fit and finish - 9 out of 10
Sound - 8 out of 10
Value for money - 9.5 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 8.4 out of 10

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