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View Full Version : Makala Dolphin - sounded horrible!



SamD
01-18-2010, 01:18 PM
I'm going to put my head on the line here...

I saw some Dolphins for sale in a local music shop and seeing as everyone was raving about them, I thought I'd pop in just to hear if they were as good as everyone says. The one I played sounded terrible!! The sound was ok, but the intonation was bad bad bad.

As a beginner myself, I'm not that interested in amazing sound quality - I'm lucky if I can strum my way through a song in one piece, let alone make it sound nice. But good intonation is a must. My first uke (horrid intonation) gave me little incentive to play, as each time I picked it up it made me wince with pain at how out of tune it was.

Did I just pick up a dud? Is it possible that the Dolphins on the UK market are substandard to those for sale in the US? Does anyone else out there dislike them?

*prepares for barrage of abuse...*

Nuprin
01-18-2010, 01:31 PM
Not sure about others on here, but my Makala Dolphin came from MGM where he sets them up before shipping them out. I've had no intonation problems on mine.

phanzo
01-18-2010, 01:35 PM
Yea, I'm gonna have to say that the reason they are so well represented here on UU is bc most folks get them from either MGM or UkeRepublic. Both of which take time to set their ukes up and makes sure the intonation and everything else is just right before shipping them out. If it just comes out of the box from Kala, there's a good chance it wont sound very good. It will sound...well...like a $35 uke :) The Mikes make them sound much better :D

Ukulele JJ
01-18-2010, 02:27 PM
Right. Makala dolphins are mighty fine and fun ukes... but only if they're properly set up. The only ones I've played were from MGM.

Cheap ukes are notorious for lousy intonation, for some reason. So it's especially important to buy 'em from someone who will make sure you get one that's playable.

JJ

SweetWaterBlue
01-18-2010, 03:00 PM
Right. Makala dolphins are mighty fine and fun ukes... but only if they're properly set up. The only ones I've played were from MGM.

Cheap ukes are notorious for lousy intonation, for some reason. So it's especially important to buy 'em from someone who will make sure you get one that's playable.

JJ

I think the main reason they are famous for lousy intonation is because they are set up with the action way too high, and they have crappy strings. At least that was the reason my Dolphin was a piece of junk until I set it up properly and Aquilized it. When the action is too high and the strings don't have enough tension, pressing down on them stretches them more than it should and they play the note slightly sharp. From what I understand makers make them that way to make really sure they won't buzz. The solution is adjusting the action and putting on decent strings.

Probably the second most occuring problem with cheap ukes I have seen is that the builders don't seem to pay much attention to setting the frets in properly. You would think a machine could be set up in the factory to do this perfectly everytime, but I noticed in the Fluke/Flea factory video posted on YouTube that they pressed the frets into the rosewood fret boards with a manually operated press. If they are doing that in China too, I bet the guys operating that machine for 12 hours a day for their $1 wage don't really care about a few misplaced frets. Its probably hard to pay them more and only charge $30 for the uke. Of course better ukes sometimes have that problem to, as reported here occasionally.

I would advise anybody not adept at using tools and willing to spend some time setting up one to avoid the cheap ukes (including the Dolphin) without set ups included, unless they can try out a dozen at the store to find the good one in the batch.

pdxuke
01-18-2010, 03:14 PM
You MUST buy from someone who sets it up. Just played a Dolphin yesterday at the shop and like SweetWaterBlue said, the action was way high and it had crappy strings. Sounded awful.

I bought mine from MGM. What I hear is, MGM or UkeRepublic on these.

And, oh, I bow down to both Mikes at these shops for taking the time to set up a uke retailing at $35. By the time you factor in their labor, it's gotta be a loss leader.:worship:

SweetWaterBlue
01-18-2010, 03:22 PM
Yeah pdxuke - if I had to charge myself my going hourly rate for setting up my Dolphin correctly it would probably be at least a $200-$400 uke. To be honest, I am still tweaking it, but I consider it cheap tuition for learning how to do it. I really don't see how MGM and UkeRepublic can make any money on a Dolphin if they have to do much setup. At least with my Flea, you get it, open the box, tune it up and start playing - one of the main reasons I chose the dead-accurate plastic fretboard.

afeistyfiesta
01-18-2010, 03:40 PM
how does one lower the action on a cheap uke?

kissing
01-18-2010, 03:44 PM
how does one lower the action on a cheap uke?

I'm no expert, so I'll just be brief.

Basically its a combination of filing the nut slots down a bit with a thin file.
And taking the saddle out then sanding the bottom of it with sand paper.

SweetWaterBlue
01-18-2010, 03:57 PM
Yep kissing pretty well summed it up, although I prefer a thin hacksaw blade. Don't ask me how I know this, but if you go too far, you also get to learn how to build one back up with super glue and shims. Better to do it on a Dolphin than an expensive one - send them to the luthier.

UKISOCIETY
01-18-2010, 04:21 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HiVlRoo5OYU

How does it sound? I got mine from MGM. You be the judge!

pdxuke
01-18-2010, 04:42 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HiVlRoo5OYU

How does it sound? I got mine from MGM. You be the judge!

Yep. That's the DOLPHIN I know and love. Well done!

kalmario
01-18-2010, 04:47 PM
if the strings are new they will sound horrible till they settle down, mine took maybe a week until they stopped needing minor adjustments.

also purchased mine from a reputable local store, so it may have woork done to it.

Cliff

HoldinCoffee
01-18-2010, 05:26 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HiVlRoo5OYU

How does it sound? I got mine from MGM. You be the judge!

Ok, but to be fair, give Alan a good uke, a banana, and have him play the same song... it'd be a LOT better.

fleadermaus
01-18-2010, 05:51 PM
I also tried the Makala dolphin in a music store and was not impressed by its intonation and tone. Thing is, the store also had cheapo Lanikais and Kalas which sounded fine after I tuned them. I know a good setup will help, but if I were looking for a cheap uke right now I would personally spend a few more dollars to get the Kala KA-S or whatever the Lanikai equivalent is.

kenikas
01-18-2010, 06:46 PM
Nice video Alan! My granddaughter loved it and want's to learn to play it now. I agree with fleadermaus, you can get better ukes for not much more, but the Dolphins are great especially to introduce kids to making music. But the setup and strings are crucial to getting good sound from them, at the price they are hard to beat.

luvdat
01-18-2010, 09:59 PM
I also tried the Makala dolphin in a music store and was not impressed by its intonation and tone. Thing is, the store also had cheapo Lanikais and Kalas which sounded fine after I tuned them. I know a good setup will help, but if I were looking for a cheap uke right now I would personally spend a few more dollars to get the Kala KA-S or whatever the Lanikai equivalent is.

Or the Kala 15-S which not many talk about. I got mine for $43...no need for set up. I own 2 of them.

buddhuu
01-18-2010, 10:24 PM
The Makalas we get in the UK are fine.

I have bought several, for myself and for others, and I have set up others owned by friends. They have been consistent and fine. I've probably played and set up a dozen all told. Not a dud amongst them. However, if I were to pick one up in a store and play it I would expect it to sound pretty bad.

Makala Dolphins are what they are. A real, playable, cheap, laminate ukulele with amusing styling and pretty good sound. BUT THEY NEED A SET-UP AND GOOD STRINGS FIRST.

Expecting a pro set-up on a 20 uke is unrealistic. People in the US are certainly well advised to buy from one of those rare dealers who do offer such outstanding value service. In the UK I doubt you'll find it.

A set of Aquiilas and a set-up is all that is holding those "bad" Dolphins back.

Setting up a ukulele is so easy that I really don't understand why more people don't do it on a DIY basis. Once you're comfortable with the process you will be able to set the action on all your ukes and possibly most of your other string instruments.

With ukuleles, if you get a couple of spare nuts and saddles you risk nothing. Do the set-up with the new parts and keep the old ones to put back on if your experiments don't work out.

Dolphins are good cheap (and above all FUN) ukes which are waiting for decent strings and final adjustment.

buddhuu
01-18-2010, 10:29 PM
Just to add, my main uke is a 160 Kala solid mahogany tenor, which I also had to set up myself. I do know how the Dolphins compare to other modest priced ukes.

Blrfl
01-19-2010, 04:10 AM
I really don't see how MGM and UkeRepublic can make any money on a Dolphin if they have to do much setup.

I won't presume to speak for Mike, but I imagine he's done thousands of setups, and after awhile it becomes a quick process. Mike also probably gets a lot of repeat business because he sets his instruments up correctly. I haven't spent a huge amount with Mike, but the setup in the two instruments I've bought has made him my go-to guy for anything I want that he carries.


At least with my Flea, you get it, open the box, tune it up and start playing - one of the main reasons I chose the dead-accurate plastic fretboard.

Even with the plastic fretboard, there's a lot going on at the bridge that can make a difference. I'm sure Fleas get set up at the factory, too.

--Mark

afeistyfiesta
01-19-2010, 08:21 AM
I'm no expert, so I'll just be brief.

Basically its a combination of filing the nut slots down a bit with a thin file.
And taking the saddle out then sanding the bottom of it with sand paper.

How can you file down the nut slot? Wouldn't you have to remove it all (glue and all)...then what would you glue it back with?

RevWill
01-19-2010, 08:30 AM
How can you file down the nut slot? Wouldn't you have to remove it all (glue and all)...then what would you glue it back with?

I have filed nut slots down without removing the nut by using an old wound guitar string. Some use very small files, like those found on a torch tip cleaning kit (very cheap at Lowe's, Home Depot, etc.)

You can remove the nut and sand some of the bottom off, but it's often easier just to file away at the individual slots.

thisnthat
01-19-2010, 09:50 AM
I also tried the Makala dolphin in a music store and was not impressed by its intonation and tone. Thing is, the store also had cheapo Lanikais and Kalas which sounded fine after I tuned them. I know a good setup will help, but if I were looking for a cheap uke right now I would personally spend a few more dollars to get the Kala KA-S or whatever the Lanikai equivalent is.
I've played around with my daughter's Makala and I think the Dolphin has its charms but I agree with you. The tone on my cheapy Lanikai is fuller. The Makala is a sweet sound and the intonation seems ok on the one we have but, well you can tell you are playing a plastic uke.
The overall finish on the Dolphin looks better than my Lanikai and the different colours are appealing but if I was starting over I'd still choose the Lanikai.