Makai LC-80R Concert Ukulele Full Review


August 5, 2012 by Tim

I would like to start by saying that I love to review ukes that have been discontinued.  If you are reading this, then either you have found it for sale new, or you are looking at a used one. Either way; they sent it to me and I will review it either way.

Cedar has become a very popular tone wood. I have found it to be a little too mellow of a sound for me (I love spruce tops) but saying that, I see the attraction to it if you like the more mellow muted sound. Unfortunately this would not be the ukulele for you. I am not sure if it is the hard rosewood sides and back or what, this thing is loud and proud.

Read on to see what I thought.

Concert: 19 Frets
Tuners: Open Geared
Nut & saddle: Bone
Top: Solid One Piece Cedar
Sides: Laminate Rosewood
Back: Laminate Rosewood
Neck: Mahogany, Rosewood Fretboard
String Attachment: Tie on
Finish: Matte
Case: No case included
Full Specs: No Specs, Was a limited Ukulele


First look: (5) Most ukes today seem to rely on looks to sell them, although important, it should be secondary to the sound and playability. This is not flashy by any means, but that is the charm. The flat finish with a slight antique yellow tint makes it look rustic. Along with the white and black binding and soundhole rosette, it really just looks comforting and understated.

I am also a fan of not making the headstock match the body. With the majority of the uke being rosewood (Sides, back, fretboard, and headstock veneer) it makes the normally dull cedar top pop.

Fit and Finish: (3) After all the lovely things I said about its looks, it is the fine details that matter sometimes. Keep in mind everything that I take issue with has nothing to do with sound, intonation and overall playability.

The tinted finish is thin in places and looks sloppy when you see it on the white binding. Also there are glue marks around the butt of the neck, bridge, and bracing on the inside. Another flaw I found is on the back where they sanded through the finish and chipped the laminate rosewood. The last of the cosmetic things is the glue around the fretboard where it meets the body. All things that you see on mass produced ukes when they make a ton of them and don’t have the time to be more careful.

Build wise the top could have been thinner with all the bracing they do to it, but it does not affect the sound. I can only imagine if it was thinner though. I also am disappointed by the strip Kerfing that is responsible for keeping the back and top on the uke. The last bit a of weirdness is the extra wood block used for the neck block. Did they cut it too short? All that with glue everywhere at every joint.


Sound Type:  Normally cedar top means mellow. I had to make sure that it was cedar since to me it has the bright spruce top sound

Intonation: (5) Really good for a sub-$200 Ukulele. If super sensitive, it may need a little work, but it has plenty of room on the nut and saddle.

Volume: (5) Loud and full.

Sustain: (5) Not super long, but clear.


String Height: (medium-High) The strings are a little high, but not crazy high.

Neck Radius Depth: (3/4″) C shaped neck. Not over built like some mass produced ukes.

Frets: (5) I like when a fretboard is bound with the same wood that it is made of (In this case rosewood) . Since it is bound there are no frets sticking out. All the frets seemed to well-dressed and leveled by someone who cared

Tuning: (4) Never mind the fact that it has geared tuners, they seem to be standard for mass produced ukuleles, the 4 is because even after a month it falls out of tune very easily. I have looked at the tuners, bridge, does it bow at all?, to no avail. It just falls out of tune every so often.

Comfort: (4) very light and the head does not feel too heavy with the geared tuners . My only real issue is that the binding was not rounded enough on the body. This makes it uncomfortable to play when you don’t use a strap. A minor thing, but it is a thing I look at.

Sound Hole Smell: Dish Soap. Dawn?

Final Thoughts.

Once I got over the not in production thing, I was blown away by the sound of this uke! I have brought it to several uke events and almost everyone loves the sound. I have been offered trades for ukes that are worth a lot more, and I had to turn it down since this is a review uke and it should go to someone who wins it (Hint hint…contest coming soon)

The sound is the most important thing next to playability in my book, and it has both for its price range for sure. My only issue is in finish. The glue marks drive me crazy. I have seen other Makai ukes and they are not this bad. it may have to do with the matte finish that makes it harder to cover the glue marks.

Overall I really do like this uke, it actually has personality and is different than most cedar top ukes out there. If you are lucky enough to find one, I would pick it up. If it is anything like this one you will be very happy with your purchase.

All Rating on a scale of 1-5
Click here for an explanation of reviews

First Look 5
Fit and Finish 3
Sound Type Like a Bright Spruce
Intonation 5
Volume 5
Sustain 5
String Height Medium -High
Neck Radius Depth 3/4″
Frets 5
Tuning 4
Comfort 4
Sound Hole Smell Dish Soap

Places to buy on the web: Not Super easy to find online

Look on ebay or ukulele underground market place
Elderly has the Soprano version for $195

HD Audio Samples:



21 thoughts on “Makai LC-80R Concert Ukulele Full Review

  1. Tom M. says:

    Interesting review…but the Makai LC-80R is supposed to be all solid wood. Solid cedar top and solid rosewood back and sides (solid rosewood back and sides according to several different sites)

    Makai has other LC-80 models (LC-80J…..solid cedar top and LAMINATE Juneberry back and sides and I think they also had an LC-80W that was solid cedar top and LAMINATE willow back and sides).

    I have one of these, and you won’t believe how much sound and volume this concert uke has. Although it’s understated with a matte finish, the fit and finish on mine is quite good, and the intonation is right on the money. The action is very good also.

    I don’t know if they’re all as good as the one I was lucky enough to get, but this might be one of the best ukuleles you can get in this price range.

    Note: If you looking for one, check out the tuners! The later ones had open-gear tuners but the earlier ones had friction tuners.

  2. Snarky Olgoat says:

    Nice review Tim. The excess glue is really a shame. There is a lot of it. I don’t personally have a problem with strip kerfing. It is actually a bit harder to work with than the slotted and some high end classical guitars use strip or solid kerfing.

  3. Tom M. says:

    By the way….a really good review! I’d like to hear how the soprano sounds. It’s hard to believe the volume the concert has.
    Thanks for posting.

  4. Donald Doss says:

    That headstock winds me up. Something about the dark wood surrounded by the double border draws me in.
    Nice to see a new review up. Your reviews are like internet window shopping.
    Thank you.

  5. Jon B says:

    Elderly still has a bunch of old new stock.

    I have one of their maple laminates; bright, loud, light and some glue squeeze. Very pretty and a very tough finish, my beach and party take along. Got it for a C note.

  6. Tom M. says:

    If you can find one of these (especially with geared tuners), get it! I have several ukes that cost many times more than this one, but I seem to always have this one around where it’s handy.

    Mine is an LC-80R but my guess is that any
    of the models that have a solid cedar top would have a good sound with volume you might not believe from a concert.

  7. Wes says:

    I have a concert LC80R with geared tuners. #2011527. Cedar top /rosewood sides and back.
    Great little box.
    Also have Makai tenor mango MT90 with closed tuners #20114 9A 2 3B that I love mucho

    Great review… That makes me double proud

  8. We are grateful for the amount of time you put into this information thanks

    • Tom M. says:

      Just to state again. I have a Makai LC-80R Concert Ukulele and while other Makai LC-80 models have laminated back and sides, the Makai LC-80R does indeed have SOLID back and sides.

      The Makai LC-80R ukes are really nice ukes! I’ve had mine for a few years now and it’s
      one of my favorites!

      • Tim says:

        Where did you find the info that backs that up? I talked with the manufacture and they say it is laminate.

  9. Tom M. says:

    Check with them again and make sure they know you are talking about the Rosewood model
    LC-80R not the other LC-80 models. Or if you have a Makai LC-80R, look at the wood grain….inside and out… and you will be able to tell. When they laminate, they don’t book-match the inside and the outside.

  10. Tom M. says:

    NOTE: the Amazon is an LK-80R

    • Tom M. says:

      By they way, this is a GREAT site and I really like reading your reviews! 🙂 Thanks
      for the work you put into it!

      • Tim says:

        Thanks. I will edit the review tonight. The link is the closest I can find for sale. Don’t have the uke anymore

      • Tom M. says:

        Tim, I have 10 ukes (and about that many guitars….including some fine guitars like a 1963 Martin D-28, made with Brazilian Rosewood that my father bought new…and this ukulele is really
        surprisingly well made (I think) for the price.

  11. Mario says:

    I love your blog,
    I didn’t know what kind of ukulele to buy and it has helped me a lot.

    I will combine it with what I am doing to improve my results and learn quickly.

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