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View Full Version : The Dolphin hype?



bbycrts
10-28-2013, 08:58 AM
I don't know...

I have a custom but wanted something cheap to kick around and enjoy in harsher environments. So I got a dolphin, mostly based on things I've read around here.

My thoughts? Well...I tried new strings, tweaked the tuners, polished the frets and the thing still sounds like a cheap plastic uke.

Any ideas?

hoosierhiver
10-28-2013, 09:00 AM
Build yourself a Cigar Box Uke.

Telperion
10-28-2013, 09:06 AM
The only thing I like about the dolphin, is that I gave one to my three year old twins (actually when they turned two years old), and they have yet to find a way to break it. It has really taken a beating, and only has a couple minor cosmetic marks to show. Otherwise, it's just ok. I bought it from Uke Republic, so it was set-up properly, but it still just doesn't do it for me. In my opinion, a Flea is a better choice for lower cost, durable, but still playable ukulele.

-Steve

Shazzbot
10-28-2013, 09:28 AM
If you can afford a custom, you can afford a Flea.
Mine has been with me all over the world.
Sounds good, plays easy and it's darn sturdy.

strumsilly
10-28-2013, 09:28 AM
it is a cheap plastic uke. well is has a laminate top. they are mostly playable and near industrictable. with the right strings and a little tweaking, mostly lowering the action at the nut and or saddle, they don't sound half bad and better than most $40 instruments.

bnolsen
10-28-2013, 09:28 AM
Having played "plastic ukes" the dolphin doesn't sound plasticky. That being said: a dolphin *can* sound okay. I won't say it *will* sound okay. ukerepublic sent me a serious serious lemon when I bought mine. I doubt they will put much effort into a bottom end ukulele. perhaps quality control was bad that day or just on vacation. I had to move the bridge 1/4" closer to the nut and it currently sounds about like my 3yro son's mahalo...playable but not great. On the other hand I was extremely fortunate with a butler music lu-21p which has been excellent for me.

Ambient Doughnut
10-28-2013, 09:29 AM
I think they're very good for the money. On the other hand I've helped friends choose a bottom of the range Mahalo (sub £20) and they've played very nicely too.

Nothing like a uke costing 10 times as much but then why should they be? Some of them even have pretty decent strings these days.

RichM
10-28-2013, 09:38 AM
I've played a lot of Dolphins and never quite gotten the point either. With that being said, I have played some sub-$50 ukes that were quite playable and intonated correctly, which is all I really expect at that price point. I suppose like anything else that is mass-produced, you're bound to find good ones and bad ones. I doubt you'll find many great ones, though.

kmac66
10-28-2013, 09:46 AM
I agree. I bought one after reading all the positive reviews and haven't been very impressed. Mine wasn't professionally set up. I've changed the strings and worked with the bridge. I wasnt expecting it to sound spectacular, but hoping for something better than how it sounds.

janeray1940
10-28-2013, 10:04 AM
My experience with them is pretty limited, but when I bought a Dolphin for a friend's kid a couple years ago, the shop I went in probably had a good 25 or 30 on display. I tried Every. Single. One. of them and only one passed my criteria for playability and tone. I took it home, strung it up with Aquilas, and my friend's kid ended up with a pretty decent uke. Had I bought it sight unseen, I doubt that this would have been the case - the other 20+ Dolphins sounded awful (the shop in question, for the record, does not do setups).

That being said - my cheap kick-around uke of choice is the Kiwaya KS-0P travel uke. The MSRP doesn't quite fit my criteria for "cheap" but they come up on eBay and Craigslist occasionally for half that. I think I've had mine for 3 years and it's spent a lot of time in my car trunk, on the beach, and on hikes, and is still going strong. And it's actually a pleasure to play.

bildio
10-28-2013, 10:16 AM
I got mine setup by Uke Republic with Aquila strings and it plays nicely.

bazmaz
10-28-2013, 10:51 AM
Of course it sounds cheap. It is cheap.

I am one of those people who regularly plug a well setup dolphin - but I don't do that to people with $200 to spend - I do it people who are insistent they are only buying a $40 uke as in that price range (having played dozens of brands), I think they are hard to beat.

iamesperambient
10-28-2013, 10:56 AM
I don't know...

I have a custom but wanted something cheap to kick around and enjoy in harsher environments. So I got a dolphin, mostly based on things I've read around here.

My thoughts? Well...I tried new strings, tweaked the tuners, polished the frets and the thing still sounds like a cheap plastic uke.

Any ideas?

I never played one but they always looked like cheap toy pieces of crap. I would say the lanikai lu-21 is the best cheap soprano out there that still sounds like a mid range instrument with the cost of a low end one.

mangorockfish
10-28-2013, 11:00 AM
I have one that has never been set up properly. I have a set of Blacklines on it and it sounds pretty darn good. I think it is the best bang for the buck out there.

bazmaz
10-28-2013, 11:33 AM
I've played many LU21's and many Dolphins. The Dolphin sounds, to me, far better on tone and projection

OldePhart
10-28-2013, 11:34 AM
Oh, oh. Quick, don your flame retardant underwear - you're about to go down! LOL

Seriously, I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought the Dolphin is way, way, way over-hyped. The Dolphin I had is the only uke that I have owned that I had to level the frets to be able to bring the action at the nut down low enough for decent intonation. None of the LU-11s (roughly the same price) that I have purchased for kids needed anywhere near as much work.

They're cute, and if you have the patience and knowledge you can make them playable. That's about all I can say for them...

John

Captain America
10-28-2013, 11:37 AM
It's the sound that matters, at the end of the day.

I've heard plenty of ukes in the Cheap Uke category. The Dolphin beats the others I've heard.

iamesperambient
10-28-2013, 11:50 AM
I've played many LU21's and many Dolphins. The Dolphin sounds, to me, far better on tone and projection

I heard there is quality control issues with lanikai
which may or may not be true. I can say however my lanikai
right out of the box was pretty much spot on for a cheap uke.
Its not perfect but pretty close to it for the price. I'm very happy with it.

bazmaz
10-28-2013, 11:57 AM
I think you get quality control issues with both. I've seen a LOT of LU21's and 11's with issues, particularly at the nut, saddles that can't be lowered any more (i.e. bad neck joint etc).

Same with Dolphins - but they are half the price. I just personally think with both, in good setup shape, the Dolphin has more zing

Barbablanca
10-28-2013, 12:06 PM
I spent less than an hour on adjustments for mine! I filed down the bridge to lower the action and restrung it with aquilas. Didn't need to do anything about intonation, it stays in tune just fine all the way down the neck. I must have been lucky.

It is no Martin, but for what I paid for it, it makes a fine "All-Weather" Uke. I am not afraid to take into schools or on holiday with me.

Spud1$
10-28-2013, 12:15 PM
I got mine setup by Uke Republic with Aquila strings and it plays nicely.

I got one for my granddaughter from uke republic and I think it sounds quite nice considering the price!

MutinousDoug
10-28-2013, 12:21 PM
I bought a Dolphin from Uke Republic that wasn't very well set up and even after I filed the nut slots it never did much for me. However, a few weeks ago someone on another thread here suggested tuning cheap or small ukes up to "D" so I tried that. Greatly improved tone and sustain.

The wife no longer leaves the room when I pick it up. From annoying to tolerable. Remarkable actually.

SailingUke
10-28-2013, 01:12 PM
I like the Dolphin for what it is, it does not come anywhere close to my DaSilva or any other good ukes I have, but for price it sounds better than my "Outdoor" plastic hunk.

AKuker
10-28-2013, 01:12 PM
I bought one at Bounty Music on Maui. Had them put Aquilla strings on it and it sounds fine. Gave it to my daughter to learn on and it stays in tune. Pretty good for the price.

Dan Uke
10-28-2013, 02:07 PM
This thread is diff't than other threads I've read in the past. Maybe it's that people have better ears, more educated, etc but whatever the reason, the dolphin is not getting as much hype as when I first started playing.

chindog
10-28-2013, 02:16 PM
A dear friend once told me, "smoke some weed, it will sound better."

I don't know how that would turn out, since I don't do either weeds or dolphins.

Tigeralum2001
10-28-2013, 02:41 PM
I think "good" is a very relative term when it comes to Dolphins. I think what it means is "instrument grade" or "not a toy" uke for under $50 (when I bought my daughters). Comparing it to anything but another $50 uke is likely not fair. The charm of the dolphin is the fun colors, fun bridge, low price and the fact that it is not a toy. To get started on a new instrument for such a low price is a bargain and many people realized that. Once you decide you are actually going to play, then you will soon want some else. In that way, it is the perfect "gateway uke" for UAS.

Though I have "graduated" to different ukes, I still think it is a great entry-level uke. It is much easier to drop $50 to try something new (especially if you haven't played anything before) than it is to drop $200-300. Also, it could be that there is more competition at the $50 mark than there was a few years ago when Dolphins were all the rage.

Bumgardner
10-28-2013, 02:53 PM
For the money I don't know that you can buy a better uke. Mine stays in tune relatively well, has relatively good intonation and you just don't have to worry about it.

ukemunga
10-28-2013, 02:53 PM
Don't know much about Dolphins except the fact the they are generally recommended.

I think my first uke, the Kala KA15S is is good value at about $55. It looks like a uke. It sounds like a uke. And it plays like a uke.

taylorcrazy
10-28-2013, 02:55 PM
I was in Uke Republic in Atlanta last weekend and was in the process of purchasing a Mainland Hog Concert for my daughter. I thought I'd ask to see a Dolphin, thinking I'd pick it up for my wife and try to get her interested in the "ukemania" that is sweeping my family. I looked up and saw a very cool little Mainland "Chili" soprano that was set up and ready to go. It was strung with Red Aquilas and I couldn't pass it up. I just set it down after playing it for a while during my evening couch veg session. It sounds great for a little plastic uke and is a blast to play. Is it in any way close to my koa Pono; nope, not close. But for the coin, I am glad I picked it up!

Uke Republic
10-28-2013, 04:54 PM
My 2 cents on the Dolphins (thats about what we make on one) The Dolphin is not a high end instrument. Whats it point? To provide inexpensive ukulele fun. Does it provide it? Why YES!!! and more. It has a rosewood fingerboard and bridge . Many others in it's price point offer ebonized . Eh? Wood painted black. The Dolphin is durable and has an arched back. This little soprano has been used in schools, retirement communities, civic groups to name a few. Its a bit like a modern Macaferri ukulele in that it's affordable, durable and is in many homes. It slices, dices and julienne s...Okay it doesn't do that part. So many have bought one as their first ukulele which in turn has brought them joy and introduced them to playing. A lot of people buy them as their on the go uke. Toss it in a back pack, beach bag etc. No worries it cost less than $50.00. Hey I just spent more than $50.00 on a Tex-Mex meal, Burp.
I think about the VW Beetle- It wasn't as luxurious as a Cadillac, not as quick as a Ferrari but it didn't cost as much either and that little car changed the world. I'm thinking VU "The peoples ukulele"
So not saying there is any hype with the Dolphin. It is just a fun little ukulele that gives most folks more than their monies worth.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXvJ8UquYoo

Freeda
10-28-2013, 05:00 PM
This is the first time I realized dolphins have plastic backs. My cheapest were mahalo and a Lu-21 or something similar. Meh.

Uke Republic
10-28-2013, 05:08 PM
This is the first time I realized dolphins have plastic backs. My cheapest were mahalo and a Lu-21 or something similar. Meh.
The first ones were all wood. Makala still has the MK-S available but not in all the colors. The Sharks of course are the same body as the Dolphin.
I can remember way back when a Dolphin was wood and had flat backs- said in an old man voice.

itsme
10-28-2013, 06:51 PM
:rolleyes:

http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?85333-Leader-Board-Ahnko-Honu-Takes-The-Lead-Chapter-17!&p=1416973#post1416973

pdxuke
10-28-2013, 06:56 PM
I'm with Mike on this.

The Dolphin does what it promises to do: cheap uke fun. No more, no less. If it was a Martin I would not have 4 Martins. It's not. Therefore, I have one Dolphin and 4 Martins.

Set up with lowered action and nicely dressed frets (mine was done by MGM) it's a delightful--I repeat--delightful instrument. It is not over-hyped. As far as I know, Kala has resisted the urge to print KAMAKA on the headstock.

mangorockfish
10-28-2013, 07:13 PM
Been playing my Kamaka Gold Label soprano and my Dolphin all day and I don't know...

Manalishi
10-29-2013, 12:02 AM
I replaced the strings on mine for Aquila (at the time)
and lowered the action very slightly at the nut.I since
have fitted Worth Browns on it,and it is still my 'Go
anywhere' uke.Playable,and for the price,a good sounding
little beast! I have owned this one around five years now
and never found it to sound 'tinny' or 'off' in any way!

austin1
10-29-2013, 02:52 AM
I'll be honest, I've never really understood the Dolphin ukes. To me, they sound like nails on a chalkboard. But they've definitely got their fans, so clearly they must appeal to plenty. There's something to be said for their durability, but I much prefer Fleas and Flukes. Just (or almost) as durable, and they sound a million times better (imo).

mailman
10-29-2013, 03:21 AM
My 2 cents on the Dolphins (thats about what we make on one) The Dolphin is not a high end instrument. Whats it point? To provide inexpensive ukulele fun. Does it provide it? Why YES!!! and more. It has a rosewood fingerboard and bridge . Many others in it's price point offer ebonized . Eh? Wood painted black. The Dolphin is durable and has an arched back. This little soprano has been used in schools, retirement communities, civic groups to name a few. Its a bit like a modern Macaferri ukulele in that it's affordable, durable and is in many homes. It slices, dices and julienne s...Okay it doesn't do that part. So many have bought one as their first ukulele which in turn has brought them joy and introduced them to playing. A lot of people buy them as their on the go uke. Toss it in a back pack, beach bag etc. No worries it cost less than $50.00. Hey I just spent more than $50.00 on a Tex-Mex meal, Burp.
I think about the VW Beetle- It wasn't as luxurious as a Cadillac, not as quick as a Ferrari but it didn't cost as much either and that little car changed the world. I'm thinking VU "The peoples ukulele"
So not saying there is any hype with the Dolphin. It is just a fun little ukulele that gives most folks more than their monies worth.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXvJ8UquYoo

I never tire of this video! Too much fun....

bborzell
10-29-2013, 03:57 AM
Bought a Dolphin for the nice sea foam green/blue color. Strings had probably seen previous life landing an aged mackerel. Did a 15 minute setup and added Martin M600 strings. Sounds a whole lot better than some ukes that cost 2-3 times what I paid. I like it.

Strings are important. So are frequent exercise and fiber in your diet.

Captain America
10-29-2013, 04:23 AM
Folks on Ukulele Underground are mostly cognoscenti.

The Dolphin is built for Everyman. . . I think the VW idea connects with the Dolphin: a good-sounding, usable entry-level uke.

(for me, as a uke-elite, I think life's too short to not have all solid wood ukes. But I started with El Cheapo, like just about everybody).

salukulady
10-29-2013, 06:58 AM
:rolleyes:

http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?85333-Leader-Board-Ahnko-Honu-Takes-The-Lead-Chapter-17!&p=1416973#post1416973

It was a joke Woman! Get it? A joke.

And look, people are discussing it. Let it be.

bbycrts
10-29-2013, 07:19 AM
It was a joke Woman! Get it? A joke.

And look, people are discussing it. Let it be.

It was a mild joke - not that any of what I posted was inaccurate. I do have (actually three) dolphins in the family - one wood and two plastic. I have fiddled a lot with one of the plastic ones.

And I find the responses absolutely fascinating. Dolphin love, about 2-3 years ago, was very strong. It was a joking thing here in UU that you don't disparage the Dolphin. Vivid in my mind is when one Dolphin owner claimed his was as good as any Kamaka...

But the tide of public opinion drifts and changes, and I was really interested here to see that the Dolphin is finally being seen for what I believe it's true strength really is - inexpensive, sturdy, and sounds good enough to enjoy instead of cringe.

Do I play the Dolphin? Only enough to tune it for my daughter. Does she love her candy apple red Dolphin (set up, I might add, by MGM)? She absolutely does. That makes it worth every penny spent.

Freeda
10-29-2013, 08:41 AM
When I came here it was dolphins and aquilas. Now both have faded a bit. It's interesting to watch.

kvehe
10-29-2013, 08:48 AM
One of my earliest ukes was a Dolphin (February 2012), and I liked it enough that I purchased a few others (to keep them scattered around various places I frequent). Last May I chimed in on a thread saying that I thought Dolphins were good beginner ukes, and I was corrected by another member who advocated a Luna tattoo soprano pineapple. Just for the fun of it, I ordered one through Amazon (yes, yes, I know better) and guess what: I haven't played a Dolphin since. He was absolutely right. Even right out of the Amazon box.

RichM
10-29-2013, 09:01 AM
When I came here it was dolphins and aquilas. Now both have faded a bit. It's interesting to watch.

Still loves me some Aquilas!

soupking
10-29-2013, 09:13 AM
Still loves me some Aquilas!

Ditto! Haters gon' hate! Hate 'em all ya want, they're awesome!

haolejohn
10-29-2013, 10:53 AM
I don't know...

I have a custom but wanted something cheap to kick around and enjoy in harsher environments. So I got a dolphin, mostly based on things I've read around here.

My thoughts? Well...I tried new strings, tweaked the tuners, polished the frets and the thing still sounds like a cheap plastic uke.

Any ideas?

BLASPHEMY!!


I am with you though. It is a decent starter uke, but it is not the holy grail like many think.

haolejohn
10-29-2013, 11:39 AM
I own many dolphins, I own many geckos, and two chilis. I also own many mainland mahogany ukes for my students. The whole the dolphin is indestructible is a lie.

Last year I carried a dolphin and my daughter to work with me. I only had two hands so I grabbed my daughter and my cup of coffee and left the dolphin in the sled (Yes...I take a sled to work in the winter). I forgot about the dolphin. I went back 30 minutes(or something like that) later to grab the dolphin and I bumped it against the railing. It shattered. I kid you not. The plastic back just shattered.

So indestructible is the dolphin not. I actually decided to buy an outdoor uke to test this winter. We shall see...

kmac66
10-29-2013, 11:43 AM
I tuned my Dolphin up to D last night and it did sound better.

bborzell
10-29-2013, 04:45 PM
Seems a bit ironic that all the Dolphin bashing comes on National Cat day. Bad time for otherwise innocent creatures.

Oh, this is about inexpensive ukes? Never mind.

Kayouker
03-19-2014, 01:36 PM
The Dolphin seems to be a product of group psychosis. By the time you get a quick 'n dirty setup and shipping, let's say $60 shall we? After all that, yes it will be playable, but the intonation likely just adequate. Playable. Or like a Yugo convertible, cute and driveable but not much else.

OTOH one could spend the whole of $35 for a uke Schoenhut with Martin strings for great action, easy playability, lovely tone and and excellent intonation. Not overly loud but sweet and harplike, and if the kids destroy it or lose interest, no worries. Consider it a VW, dependable as is. Licensed by Fluke, and a lesser but quite decent knock-off.

A no-brainer. It's time to change the standard recommendation for entry.

itsme
03-19-2014, 02:46 PM
OTOH one could spend the whole of $35 for a uke Schoenhut with Martin strings for great action, easy playability, lovely tone and and excellent intonation. Not overly loud but sweet and harplike, and if the kids destroy it or lose interest, no worries. Consider it a VW, dependable as is. Licensed by Fluke, and a lesser but quite decent knock-off.

A no-brainer. It's time to change the standard recommendation for entry.
Wow. I know you've praised the Schoenhut before, but many others have slogged it as a piece of dog doo. Just because you got an apparently (rare) decent one, doesn't mean that they should be considered as some kind of go-to uke.

I'd suggest anyone reading this take Kayouker's words with a grain of salt and seek out other opinions, as there are many, and most of them aren't exactly positive.

KevinV
03-19-2014, 03:15 PM
I have a Shark, same as the Dolphin with a different bridge shape and palate of available colors. For the price I can't complain. A string change to Aquila's made it worthwhile. Before that it was pretty anemic with the stock strings on. It didn't lighten the wallet too much and it does exactly what I needed for it to do. It's a locker uke at work that I don't need to worry about humidity on, it stays in tune fairly well, intonation isn't terrible, and the tone is above that of a toy uke. It's there when I have a chance to strum and it's been enough to pique the interest of coworkers. As a direct result of the Shark, 2 others have purchased ukes…another Shark, and a Lanikai Pineapple. So again, no complaints. It is what it is.