Makala Dolphin Ukulele Review

In this review, I’ll be taking a looks at the Makala Dolphin ukulele. Also known as the MK-SD, the Dolphin is part of Kala’s budget-friendly Makala brand.

The Dolphin comes in a variety of colors and gets its name from the signature dolphin-shaped bridge.

It’s affordable uke with a fun design, but is it right for you? Keep reading to find out.

Makala Dolphin Ukulele All Colors Collage

For this review, I purchased a brand new Makala Dolphin MK-SD/CAR (the CAR stands for “Candy Apple Red”). All impressions are based on the how the uke performed “out of the box” with no tweaks or adjustments. All pictures are of the actual ukulele I used for this review.

Makala Dolphin Review Summary

Makala Dolphin Review - Full Body Diagonal

The Makala Dolphin is a well-built, affordable instrument from one of the top names in entry-level ukes. Here are my main takeaways:

  • The Dolphin’s build quality isn’t flawless, but it’s better than a lot of other ukes in this price range
  • The playability on my Dolphin uke was pretty good, although some players might find themselves wishing the action (string height) was a little lower
  • The MK-SD sounds nice for a budget uke, but the laminated top and heavy plastic back result in a tone that is a bit less robust than some of Kala’s other budget offerings

My final verdict is that if you like the Dolphin’s unique design and interesting color options, it’s a reasonably good uke for the money.

Players looking for a more “serious” beginner ukulele may want to consider other options. I recommend a few models at the end of this post, or you can read my article on the best beginner ukuleles.

Kala MK-SD-MBL Makala Dolphin Soprano Ukulele - Metallic Blue Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
Kala MK-SD-YLBURST Makala Dolphin Soprano Ukulele - Yellow Burst Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth, Yellow Burst, Bundle w/ Gig Bag
Kala MK-SD-CAR Makala Dolphin Soprano Ukulele - Candy Apple Red Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
Metallic Blue
Yellow
Candy Apple Red
210 Reviews
210 Reviews
210 Reviews
$59.99
from $59.99
from $59.99
Kala MK-SD-MBL Makala Dolphin Soprano Ukulele - Metallic Blue Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
Metallic Blue
210 Reviews
$59.99
Kala MK-SD-YLBURST Makala Dolphin Soprano Ukulele - Yellow Burst Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth, Yellow Burst, Bundle w/ Gig Bag
Yellow
210 Reviews
from $59.99
Kala MK-SD-CAR Makala Dolphin Soprano Ukulele - Candy Apple Red Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
Candy Apple Red
210 Reviews
from $59.99

Makala Dolphin Full Review

Makala Dolphin MK-SD Ukulele Review - Full Body Front and Back Horizontal

Build Quality

The MK-SD’s build quality is very good considering the price. It’s better than many ukes I’ve seen in this price range and far superior to the super cheap ukes you’ll find on Amazon for $20 to $30.

Makala Dolphin Fretboard and Body Close Up

The uke I tested for this review is in line with what I’ve come to expect from Kala, which is good quality at a reasonable price. The important stuff was all there: Straight neck, even fretwork, and decent playability.

The detail work is surprisingly clean for a uke of this price, but it’s not flawless. There were a few minor imperfections here and there, but these issues were purely cosmetic and don’t affect tone or playability.

Makala Dolphin Ukulele Review - Bridge Close Up

One small issue I have with the Dolphin is the tuners. They work fine, but they have loose plastic washers on the top of the headstock that can occasionally vibrate when certain notes or chords are played. This is a small issue and it only happened occasionally on my uke, but it’s still worth noting.

Makala MK-SD Ukulele - Headstock Front and Back

The bright “Candy Apple Red” finish was rich, deep, and uniform. Even though I prefer ukes with a more traditional look and finish, if you want something with a bit more flash may like the Dolphin’s bold color options.

Kala MK-SD-LBBURST Makala Dolphin Soprano Ukulele - Light Blue Burst Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
Kala MK-SD-PKBURST Makala Dolphin Soprano Ukulele - Pink Burst Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
Kala MK-SD-RDBURST Makala Dolphin Soprano Ukulele - Red Burst Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
Light Blue Burst
Pink Burst
Red Burst
210 Reviews
210 Reviews
210 Reviews
from $59.99
$59.99
$59.99
Kala MK-SD-LBBURST Makala Dolphin Soprano Ukulele - Light Blue Burst Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
Light Blue Burst
210 Reviews
from $59.99
Kala MK-SD-PKBURST Makala Dolphin Soprano Ukulele - Pink Burst Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
Pink Burst
210 Reviews
$59.99
Kala MK-SD-RDBURST Makala Dolphin Soprano Ukulele - Red Burst Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
Red Burst
210 Reviews
$59.99
It’s important to remember that in the world of acoustic instruments, the Dolphin is a relatively inexpensive uke. If you’re looking for premium build quality, be prepared to spend a lot more.

Playability

My MK-SD plays well right out of the box. The action (string height) was low enough that the uke wasn’t a struggle to play.

Makala Dolphin Review - Nut Close Up

Even though the action was a bit high for my tastes, most folks would be able to play this uke without any major issues.

The action could be brought down with a bit of basic setup work, but that sort of thing may go beyond the skill and comfort level of a beginner. You could always pay to have it done, but the money you’d spend having a music shop do the work would probably be better spent simply upgrading to a slightly more expensive ukulele.

Makala Dolphin Fingerboard and Strings

I didn’t notice any buzzing or high frets as I played up the neck, and the notes consistently rang out clear and clean.

The Makala Dolphin is a soprano sized ukulele, which is the smallest of the three primary ukulele sizes.​ Some players may find the soprano a bit too tiny to play comfortably and may want to consider the larger concert or tenor sizes.

Kala MK-SD-PW Makala Dolphin Soprano Ukulele - Pearl White Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
Kala MK-SD-CBK Makala Dolphin Soprano Ukulele - Charcoal Black Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
Pearl White
Charcoal Black
210 Reviews
210 Reviews
from $59.99
from $59.99
Kala MK-SD-PW Makala Dolphin Soprano Ukulele - Pearl White Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
Pearl White
210 Reviews
from $59.99
Kala MK-SD-CBK Makala Dolphin Soprano Ukulele - Charcoal Black Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
Charcoal Black
210 Reviews
from $59.99
A budget uke like the Dolphin will never have the buttery-smooth action of a more expensive instrument. Improved playability is just one of the many reasons people pay hundreds (or thousands) of dollars for a higher quality uke.

Tone

The MK-SD is a decent-sounding uke, and I found myself liking the tone more than I expected. It didn’t blow me away, but it certainly didn’t sound bad.

Makala Dolphin Review - Body Horizontal

While the Dolphin sounds better than the super cheap ukes you’ll find online for $25, its tone is thinner and quieter than some other ukes I’ve played in this price range. I also feel like the Dolphin has less sustain and resonance than Kala’s other budget-friendly instruments like the KA-15S.

The Dolphin’s composite back and sides don’t do it any favors, and the uke feels very dense and heavy for its size. In my experience, heavily built instruments always sound less rich and lively.

Like all Kala ukuleles, the Dolphin comes with Aquila Nylgut strings. I like these strings a lot more than the cheap nylon strings often found on budget ukes.

Materials

The Dolphin uke has a laminated mahogany top, which is very common on budget-priced ukes. Ukes with a solid top will generally sound better, but they also tend to cost quite a bit more.

Makala Dolphin MK-SD Ukulele Soundhole Close Up

The back and sides are made of a single molded piece of material. It looks and feels like plastic, Makala refers to it as a “composite.” I’m guessing this because the marketing folks at Kala thought it sounded better.

Makala Dolphin MK-SD Ukulele Review - Back of Body Angle

The neck is mahogany and the fingerboard and saddle are rosewood–all fairly standard materials for acoustic instruments.

The nut and saddle are plastic. This is common on more affordable instruments, but I think the synthetic bone found on slightly more expensive ukuleles tends to offer increased sustain and volume.

The frets (metal bars on the neck) are made of brass. While I don’t like to see brass frets on steel-string instruments like guitars, uke strings are so soft that it’s not something I worry about.

Kala MK-SD-PL Makala Dolphin Soprano Ukulele - Purple Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
Kala MKA-SD-PK Makala Dolphin Soprano Ukulele - Pink Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
Kala MKA-SD-LBL Makala Dolphin Soprano Ukulele - Light Blue Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
Purple
Pink
Light Blue
210 Reviews
210 Reviews
210 Reviews
from $59.99
$59.99
from $59.99
Kala MK-SD-PL Makala Dolphin Soprano Ukulele - Purple Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
Purple
210 Reviews
from $59.99
Kala MKA-SD-PK Makala Dolphin Soprano Ukulele - Pink Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
Pink
210 Reviews
$59.99
Kala MKA-SD-LBL Makala Dolphin Soprano Ukulele - Light Blue Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
Light Blue
210 Reviews
from $59.99

Makala Dolphin Vs. Makala Shark

Kala makes a nearly identical ukulele called the Shark. The only difference between the two ukes is that the Dolphin has a dolphin-shaped bridge while the Shark has a shark-shaped bridge.

Makala Shark Ukulele Bridge Close Up

The Makala Shark is the exact same price online, so I guess it just boils down to which kind of sea life you prefer! The Shark is available in many of the same colors as the Dolphin; I’ve posted a few examples below.

Kala MK-SS-GRN Makala Shark Soprano Ukulele - Surf Green Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
Kala MK-SS-YLW Makala Shark Soprano Ukulele - Yellow Coral Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
Kala MK-SS-BLU Makala Shark Soprano Ukulele - Mako Blue Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
Surf Green
Yellow Coral
Mako Blue
211 Reviews
211 Reviews
211 Reviews
from $59.99
from $59.99
from $59.99
Kala MK-SS-GRN Makala Shark Soprano Ukulele - Surf Green Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
Surf Green
211 Reviews
from $59.99
Kala MK-SS-YLW Makala Shark Soprano Ukulele - Yellow Coral Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
Yellow Coral
211 Reviews
from $59.99
Kala MK-SS-BLU Makala Shark Soprano Ukulele - Mako Blue Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
Mako Blue
211 Reviews
from $59.99

Final Thoughts

While the Dolphin’s tone and playability won’t thrill serious players, it’s still a fun, well-built uke. If you like the quirky design and wide array of color options, it’s worth a look.

Makala Dolphin Light Blue Burst
210 Reviews
Makala Dolphin Light Blue Burst
  • Soprano size
  • Kauri top
  • Composite back and sides
  • Mahogany neck
  • Light blue burst gloss finish

Other Good Budget Ukes

Players seeking an instrument with a bit more substance may want to consider the KA-15S (also from Kala) or the highly-rated Donner and Hricane ukes in the table below.

These options are about the same price and offer a number of upgrades over the Dolphin that are well worth the investment.

Kala KA-15S Mahogany Soprano Ukulele
Donner Soprano Ukulele Mahogany DUS-1 21 inch with Ukulele Set Strap Nylon String Tuner
Hricane Ukulele Soprano 21inch Professional Ukeleles For Beginners Sapele Hawaiian Ukele UKS-1 Bundle with Gig Bag
Kala KA-15S
Donner DUS-1 Soprano
Hricane UKS-1
2,107 Reviews
845 Reviews
331 Reviews
$54.99
$49.99
$59.99
Kala KA-15S Mahogany Soprano Ukulele
Kala KA-15S
2,107 Reviews
$54.99
Donner Soprano Ukulele Mahogany DUS-1 21 inch with Ukulele Set Strap Nylon String Tuner
Donner DUS-1 Soprano
845 Reviews
$49.99
Hricane Ukulele Soprano 21inch Professional Ukeleles For Beginners Sapele Hawaiian Ukele UKS-1 Bundle with Gig Bag
Hricane UKS-1
331 Reviews
$59.99

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