These models are among the most affordable and highest-rated ukuleles for sale on Amazon. I was anxious to try one myself and see if I agreed with everybody else!
A few quick notes:
- This article is based on my impressions of concert-sized DUC-1, but most of the information will apply to the DUT-1 tenor and DUS-1 soprano.
- For this review, I purchased a new DUC-1 concert model using my own funds. The ukulele in the photos is the actual uke I purchased directly from Amazon
- This post is part of a series on Amazon’s top-selling ukuleles
The Donner DU-1 series are surprisingly good ukuleles for the price. I honestly wasn’t expecting this level of craftsmanship, playability, and tone from a mass-produced budget uke.
Based on my experience with the DUC-1, I think this brand’s glowing customer reviews are accurate and reflect the high quality of the instrument. This is definitely a brand to put on your short list when shopping for a good beginner ukulele.
Current prices and Amazon customer reviews are shown below. If you purchase through one of these links I earn a small commission.
What I Liked
- Simple, no-frills design
- Tight construction with excellent fit and finish
- Decent accessories
- Loud, full tone
- The fluorocarbon strings that came on the uke sound good, but I prefer Aquila Nylgut strings. This is just a personal preference–your mileage may vary!
- The see-through tuning machines work well but the “window” on one of my tuners fell out after lugging the uke around for a couple days. Not a problem functionally (many ukes have open-geared tuners) but still noticeable
The construction on my DUC-1 is tight and clean. Attention to detail is excellent. For the price, I’m genuinely impressed with the fit and finish on this uke.
The instrument is also very light, and in the world of acoustic instruments that’s a good thing. Lower quality ukes are often heavily built, and this often results in a thin, lifeless tone. A lighter build allows the ukulele to resonate more freely, which leads to a bigger, warmer tone.
- I’m a fan of Donner’s minimal, no-frills design, including the unbound body and fingerboard (no white strips on the edges)
- The wooden rosette features a design similar to the “rope” pattern found on many traditional Hawaiian ukuleles. I thought this was a nice touch.
- The uke has strap buttons already installed. A lot of people don’t use a strap so it’s not a huge deal, but it’s nice to have the option if you ever want to try using a strap
- The top is X-braced, which is typically only found on higher-end ukes from Martin, Kamaka, etc. I’m not sure how much it helps improve the tone, but it was a neat little touch and I thought it was worth mentioning
- The nut looks like TUSQ (a synthetic material) and I think the saddle is bone. These materials are harder and denser than the soft plastic pieces used on many budget ukes, and they improve tone by transferring more of the string’s vibrational energy into the body of the uke
I really like the way my Donner uke sounds. It has a loud, full tone with a nice low end. Great projection for a concert. Sounds good strummed and when playing fingerstyle.
It loses a little warmth as you move up the neck, but that’s normal for a uke made from laminated wood.
As you may know, the size of a uke also impacts the tone. The soprano-sized DUS-1 will be a little more bright and treble-focused, while the tenor-size DUT-1 will have more bass and volume.
Very comfortable to play right out of the box. Action (string height) is nice and low. On budget ukes I often find I need to adjust the action, but I don’t think I’ll need to tweak my DUC-1.
Notes ring out clearly up and down the neck. No high frets or buzzing.
The gig bag isn’t very heavy duty, but it’s more than I’d expect from uke at this price point.
It seems well made and has enough padding to protect the uke during light use. The shoulder straps and large pocket are nice touches.
It’s a perfect bag for day-to-day stuff, but I’d recommend a hard case or heavier bag for major travel.
Accessories & Extras
All Donner ukuleles include a few accessories. They’re not top-tier products, but they work and are nice extras considering the price.
- The strap is lightweight but reasonably good quality. It attaches securely to the strap buttons.
- An extra set of strings are always good to have
- The clip-on tuner works well and is easy to operate. I only need the chromatic mode not all the other options (banjo, violin, bass) but that’s a minor complaint.
- The plastic guitar picks are a little silly since almost nobody uses this kind of pick on a uke. A felt pick would have made more sense, but most people just use their fingers (which is what I suggest doing).
Customer Service & Warranty
Donner offers a 30-day return policy. I couldn’t find anything about a warranty online or in the packaging.
It doesn’t look like many people had issues, but I’m not sure what would happen if you have a problem beyond 30 days.