Octopus All Solid Mahogany Soprano - REVIEW

8 Jan 2023

Octopus All Solid Mahogany Soprano - REVIEW

Back with a new ukulele from a brand featured a couple of times before. This is the All Solid Mahogany Soprano from Octopus.

Octopus all solid mahogany soprano ukulele


Octopus are a British based company specialising largely at the beginner end of the scale (complete with a focus on education) who first impressed me as long ago as 2014. Back then they had been making cheap basic sopranos with mixed feedback and decided to re-focus on the quality control side of things. What they delivered then in that entry level soprano of theirs was the first eye opener I had seen in the entry level uke world since the Makala Dolphin. Generally speaking at that point if you bought the ultra cheap sopranos you would end up with junk toys, but they really got something right with that one (and have continued to do so). Since then they've expanded the range a bit including the Octopus concert I looked at in 2021, but have now gone that bit further again. The more recent developments at Octopus have included a range of more exotic wood choices, a set of solid topped instruments and this one, part of a new line of ALL solid instruments available in soprano through to tenor. It's nice to see a brand developing their line-up in that way whilst still focussing on that beginner / educator side of their core business.

So this one looks like a very traditional soprano instrument in a regular double bout shape and is made from all solid mahogany (the concert and tenor are solid acacia). I think that is exactly the right choice as for me, mahogany is the best wood choice for a soprano. Due to the soprano size, they are already naturally bright in tone and I find that the brighter tone woods can make the soprano just a bit too zingy, whereas mahogany has a darker woody tone. (Hey, if it's ok for vintage Martin's...). So solid wood it is, which is quite the departure for Octopus. Being mahogany it's not that striking, but it 'is what it is' and hardly offensive.

Octopus all solid mahogany soprano ukulele body



The bridge is a tie bar style made from an unspecified wood (likely stained). It's similar to those on other Octopus ukes though comes with a bit of extra detailing which is always nice. I will say though, a simple plain slot style bridge is all I really need on a soprano and think going tie bar is adding a level of complexity to a brand aimed at the beginner end of the market. For the saddle they move to NuBone rather than just plastic with a straight top. Spacing here is 40mm.

Octopus all solid mahogany soprano ukulele bridge



Being a more premium model, decoration comes into play here. Around the top and back edges is a strip of black edge binding with what looks like a thin wooden purfling strip on the top. That's coupled with an abalone pearl ring around the sound hole which, unlike some abalone, is not too blingy and bright and kind of blends into the instrument. I think it's just enough decor and works well. The body is then finished in a satin coat which is extremely smooth and in pretty decent shape.

Octopus all solid mahogany soprano ukulele decor



Inside is very tidy. The braces are delicate, the linings are notched and I can see no mess. 


Octopus all solid mahogany soprano ukulele inside


The neck wood is not specified but seems to be in either two pieces or has a very well hidden joint at the headstock. It's finished with the same satin finish of the body and the heel is capped in black to match the binding. Like other far eastern sopranos it tapers to an average 35mm nut width with 27mm G to A, but the rear profile is not overly chunky.

Topping that is a board which again isn't specified, but for all intents and purposes looks like rosewood. It's in largely decent condition, but has some colour variation in it. The end is nicely shaped as are the edges which, like other Octopus ukes, have a slight chamfer for comfort. It's edge bound in black too hiding the end of the very standard 12 frets to the body, none of which are sharp. Simple position dots face out at the 5th, 7th and 10th and these are repeated on the side.

Octopus all solid mahogany soprano ukulele neck



Beyond the NuBone nut is the usual Octopus headstock shape. That bulge on the top (which they call the 'Octo-wave' is the shape of the head of the octopus they print on their cheaper models, but they've repeated it here as a nod despite going with the more classy looking simple octopus name, no doubt in keeping with the more serious construction. All very nice.

Octopus all solid mahogany soprano ukulele headstock



The tuners are open gears in chrome which are unbranded but look to be very good quality in the metalwork. Subjectivity alert!!! You KNOW that I don't like gears on soprano ukuleles, so I don't like the look of these, and particularly not because of the large vintage shaped buttons. I get that is a totally personal thing and a great many readers have no issue with gears on sopranos, but I know a lot of soprano players who wouldn't touch one that came with them or would swap them out. Still, these work ok, just not for me on looks.

Octopus all solid mahogany soprano ukulele tuners



Finishing things off are a set of Aquila strings and a rather nice branded gig bag in a suede-ette velour outer. And the RRP on these sits at £160 though Octopus are selling them direct at £144. That's a leap above those entry level prices, but as you have probably noted I've really not found much wrong here so far. And for a solid wood soprano with a bit of decor it seems to be on the money (same 'sort' of price as the Ohana all solid hog soprano and quite a bit cheaper than instruments like Martins). A fair deal I would say.

Octopus all solid mahogany soprano ukulele back


So very well made and finished with only a couple of gripes for me which are on the subjective side. It's nice and light at 420g and balances well. Setup on this example is good too.

As I always say with soprano, my main requirement is for a punchy barky sound that helps with the natural percussive purpose of the instrument. And there is no complaint for me on the bark and volume here - it's a direct powerful little bomb of an instrument. Sustain is usually lacking in sopranos with many being extremely staccato. Whilst I wouldn't place this in the bracket of the likes of Japanese Kiwaya's on that score the sustain is not too shabby here either.

Strummed and this has a very pleasing jangle that still has clarity to the notes in the mix. It allows for a great rhythmical percussive bouncy sound that suits old timey rags and jazzy patterns very well. There's good brightness here which is sometimes lacking in mahogany sopranos that go with Aquila strings so I may leave these alone rather than go to my usual recommendation of Martin fluoro strings which I think suit these instruments very well. It's nice as it is. That's not to say I am talking spruce levels of brightness, as there is some warmth too, but it's certainly a chimey sound.

Picking is extremely pleasant and chimey too and, importantly, it continues that right up the neck without much issue with intonation or volume drop off. Again, I am pretty impressed. No, I am not getting ahead of myself and suggesting this is like a Kamaka, but it's one hundred and forty quid, not a thousand. I suppose the tone is a touch one dimensional and doesn't have a signature character to it as such, but it's really still very pleasant and not shabby at all. A solid wood ukulele for the 'sake of it' this is not, in fact I think it actually punches ABOVE it's price on sound and certainly on build and finish easily beating the Ohana alternative in my book.

All in all it seems a little unfair to just call this a 'good regular soprano', even though that is what it is. As I say, I think it rises a little above that in various departments, Great build, great finish and a perfectly acceptable tone that is fun to play and listen to for not a lot of money. Another one on the recommended pile for Octopus.. I mean, really, what's not to like?



UKULELE SPECS ROUNDUP

Model: Octopus all solid mahogany
Scale: Soprano
Body: Solid mahogany
Bridge: Unspecified tie bar
Saddle: NuBone
Saddle spacing: 40mm
Neck: Unspecified
Fingerboard: Unspecified
Frets: 12
Nut: NuBone
Nut width: 35mm, 27mm G to A
Tuners: Unbranded open gears
Strings: Aquila 
Extras: Gig bag
Country of origin: China
Weight: 420g
Price: £144

UKULELE PROS

Great build and finish
Classy looks
Nicely finished neck
Good quality tuners (if not my style choice)
Good volume
Passable sustain
Bright peppy jangly tone
Not a lot of money for what it is 

UKULELE CONS

Would prefer slot bridge
Would prefer wider nut
Would prefer rear facing tuners

UKULELE SCORES

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

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 8.6 out of 10

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5 comments :

  1. I also appreciate the sound and construction that you’ve noted. I personally have a bias toward non-Chinese made products, but you’ve said that this is a British company, so that helps my bias. Thank you for a trusted review.

    ReplyDelete
  2. A tie bar bridge, in my experience with beginners, is not hard to learn. While I do like the minimal look of a slot bridge, many times it is hard to get a big enough knot tied correctly to not slip through the slots. Aquila strings work well, but the thinner fluorocarbon G and A strings seem to be a bit harder to get to hold. Many times the slots are cut too big, or all the same for all four strings. I believe Kiwaya cuts the slot widths accordingly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For a slot bridge it's not so much about the ease (though that does come into it) but about how much real estate they use on the top. Slots have worked fine for Martin for 100 years on sopranos

      Delete
  3. Happy new year and thanks for a great first review of the year! That’s really quite nice. If it had popped up a couple of years ago I’d probably have gone for that.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for that! Now I’m in a quandary. I’d kind of settled on the Anuenue US10 soprano based on the reviews of the tenor/concert sizes but, seeing you’ve actually reviewed this, it’s a thrown a spanner in the works. Ho hum. ☺️

    ReplyDelete

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