Donner Rising-U Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

22 Oct 2022

Donner Rising-U Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

It's another Donner ukulele this week on Got A Ukulele - a brand that has done reasonably well on here before. This is the Donner Rising-U Concert.

Donner Rising-U Concert Ukulele

You may recall that 'Rising' name as I recently looked that the Donner Rising-U Crystal soprano. Whilst I liked the looks and concept it let me down on tone and a stupidly narrow nut width. This one though, came first and looks like an altogether more serious 'big brother' in concert form.

Similar in modern swoopy double bout shape of the soprano version (yet with a cutaway) this is yet another instrument that used the term 'Carbon Fiber' incorrectly in that it is not made from sheets of CF matting, rather is a composite plastic with carbon in the mix. I am not going to deride Donner for that description any more or less than I would many other brands as they ALL do it.  Irritation aside, it's a swoopy modern design, remincient of the Lava U instruments and made in a similar way to most other plastic ukes (bowl back, back of neck and headstock all one piece with a fingerboard and top dropped on). Like the Enya models this appears to be then coated in some form of hard painted outer 'skin' which comes in black, red, mint green and this white offering. The similarities with the Enya Nova series don't end there either. It has an overall similar feel to the Enya too with a similar shallow body depth, perhaps even a bit more smooth and tactile with absolutely no harsh edges anywhere. I really like the look of it myself!

Donner Rising-U Concert Ukulele body

The bridge is interesting for a plastic ukulele insofar it is not moulded into the top but is a pin bridge made of Richlite HPL - a material used by some very high end guitar and ukulele makers. It's an asymmetric shape and in close up you can see the layers of composite. It's very tidy and holds what looks to be a plastic straight topped saddle. Spacing here is 40mm.

Donner Rising-U Concert Ukulele bridge

There is no other decoration other than a chrome ring around the offset sound hole - also very 'Lava U esque'.

Donner Rising-U Concert Ukulele sound hole

Inside there isn't much to see on account of the construction type. The underside of that top uses a honeycomb pattern to stiffen it which you should be able to make out though.

Donner Rising U Concert Ukulele inside

The neck is a natural extension of the moulding of the body and is finished in the same smooth white outer. The curves where the neck meets the body are extremely smooth and almost organic. It tapers to a fairly flattened profile and an average 35mm (27mm G to A). That is leagues better than the stupidly narrow nut on the Rising-U Crystal soprano.

Topping that is a fingerboard made of the same Richlite HPL meaning it is hard and extremely smooth but NOT plastic. It also tapers at the body end around the edge of the offset sound hole. Also in a standout compared to many other plastic ukuleles this comes with actual metal frets meaning no worries about plastic frets wearing down. They are also semi-hemi ended, another higher end touch we are seeing more and more on ukuleles now, and that means no sharp fret ends at all. This seems like another direct nod to the Enya Nova U Pro which uses the same. There are 18 in total joined at the 15th, but because of the taper you couldn't fully use frets 17 and 18 so those are purely for looks. If I am being picky, despite Richlite usually being smooth there are some scruffy tooling marks around some of the fret ends at the body end of the board. Pearly dot position markers face out  at the 5th, 7th, 10th, double 12th and 15th and i'm glad to see them on the side too.

Donner Rising-U Concert Ukulele neck

Beyond the composite nut is a simple but effective asymmetric headstock shape, carrying the Donner logo in a silver screen print. No complaints here.

Donner Rising-U Concert Ukulele headstock

The tuners are unbranded sealed chrome gears in a kind of gun-metal grey / smoky grey fitted on a stagger. They work ok and look nice too.

Donner Rising-U Concert Ukulele tuners

Finishing things off are a couple of strap buttons (in the same gun metal colour as the tuners), a set of un-named fluoro strings, a nice padded gig bag, strap, a 'supposed' clip on tuner (one didn't arrive in my box), picks and spare strings. Price wise this seems to only be available from Donner direct via Amazon USA  and is currently listed at $119.99. So that's coming in a little less than the Nova U Pro, but then this is a concert and not a tenor. A good fair price in view of the competition.

Donner Rising-U Concert Ukulele extras

So all in all, whilst I know that plastic ukuleles divide opinion (I, personally don't have strong feelings either way), I've not found a great deal wrong here looking over it. They are clearly going more head to head with something like the Nova U Pro, and in giving me no major gripes so far, things could be looking positive.  Setup at the nut here is too high though and with 3mm above the 12th the saddle action is right at the top end of what I would want to see. It feels solid and secure in the hands but that comes at the expense of weight which feels hefty at 780g. It does balance ok though. 

Before we get into playing it proper, one thing that immediately jumped out at me was that the tension of the strings is all wrong and far too loose. I am not sure what gauges they are using here, but the soprano crystal version had the same issue. They REALLY need to take the gauge down to improve that and I wonder whether that may also help with the high action. These are flabby, loose and tubby sounding and are hard to play. 

Donner Rising-U Concert Ukulele back

And that makes it quite hard for me to review as it comes stock because everything is affected by their string choice (and a string change is easy). I usually say that I don't affect uke scores due to string choices, because they are personal choice, but I DO mention it where the string choice is simply all wrong. That's the case here I think. The volume and sustain suffer first of all because there isn't a lot of either and more tension will certainly help that. It just feels like it's crying out to do more.

Underneath that problem, I can sense a rather pleasant tone, but it's masked by a muddiness due to the wrong tension.  I'm not giving it a totally bad 'sound' score because it can be easily sorted, but do bear in mind you will need a string change to do that. I demonstrate that in the video by tuning the uke two steps up to increase the tension and sure enough the volume and sustain is improved immeasurably! There are also some intonation issues too so bear in mind you may also need a bit of setup work to dial that out if yours arrives the same. But it works as a ukulele and the feel of the instrument in the hands is nice and solid - it's just a shame the strings are no good!

So it's a fairly short bit of writing on the tone for that reason which is a shame as I really DO like the ukulele itself in looks and build. I'll let the video do the talking on this one.  I think it does, or rather 'could' sound nice and in fact would be a real contender to the Nova U Pro, but not with these strings! Argggghh!!!


Model: Donner Rising U
Scale: Concert
Body: Composite with carbon in mix
Bridge: Richlite pin bridge
Saddle: Plastic?
Spacing at saddle: 40mm
Finish: Coloured satin outer
Neck: Integral to body
Fingerboard: Richlite
Frets: 18, joined at the 15th, semi-hemi ended metal
Nut: Plastic?
Nut width: 35mm, 27 G to A
Tuners: Sealed gears
Strings: Un-branded Fluorocarbon
Extras: Tuner, strap, picks, spare strings, bag, strap buttons
Country of origin: China
Weight: 780g
Price: $119.99 at time of review


Great looks
Excellent build and finish
Nice use of Richlite
Metal frets
Nice enough volume, sustain and tone under the hood, but... see the cons
Good price


Poor string choice which are strangling the volume, sustain and tone!
Some setup needed too


Looks - 9 out of 10
Fit and finish - 8.5 out of 10
Sound - 7 out of 10
Value for money - 9 out of 10






  1. 780 gm!!! That's a Tank!

  2. Thanks for another fun review!

  3. Hey Thanks. I'll try this with my $25 Donner Uke.

  4. Like your reviews,I am a new player as of this year.are there any sopraninos you can recommend mend or review thanks.

  5. Chalk and cheese - before and after


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