You want to take piano lessons, but you don’t want to spend a boatload of money on a piano in the event that you might hate it. Or your child(ren) wants to play the piano/keyboard and the same financial constraints apply.
Believe it or not, you have many affordable options available to you should either or both of the scenarios above apply to you and your family.
Let’s look at a digital piano suitable for keyboard lessons and compare it to a couple of others in the same general price range. My primary focus will be on the Williams Legato III; this article will compare the Legato III to the original Williams Legato digital piano and the Alesis Recital Pro.
Below, please take a brief moment to see how we can compare the Williams Legato to other notable portable pianos:
|Casio PX-S1100||192-note polyphony; 18 built-in tones|
|Alesis Prestige Artist||30 voices, 256 polyphony|
|Casio CDP-S350||700 built-in tones|
|Yamaha P-515||40 Voices, 18 Drum/FX Kits, 480 XG Voices|
|Casio PX-870||Redesigned Cabinet, Speaker System|
|Korg LP-180||Natural Weighted Hammer Action|
|Casio PX-770||128 Note Polyphony|
|Yamaha P-45||64 Note Polyphony|
Original Williams Legato
The Original Williams Legato made its debut in 2014 for about $300. In 2014, that was a ridiculously good price for the features offered by the original. Was it a perfect keyboard? Certainly not. However, it did offer some interesting possibilities in the keyboard world.
First: the keys are touch-sensitive, which means you can control the volume of the notes you play with your fingers and not just with the volume knob. This moves the original Legato from the classification of “toy keyboard” to that of “serious musical instrument,” in my opinion.
Touch-sensitive keys allow the musician to shade the music with dynamic contrasts—an important aspect of learning to play any musical instrument. Having an instrument with volume that is regulated only through a volume knob severely limits expression in music. You end up just playing the notes, and that is not making enjoyable music.
Second: a full 88-key instrument allows great flexibility in playing the piano. From the highest sounds to the lowest, a full 88 keys help prepare a budding musician for more intricate and intriguing music. It also allows a hopeful composer to explore the ranges of the instrument without restriction.
Third: portability is a huge advantage with the original Legato digital piano. At a weight of only 19 pounds, the original Legato keyboard proves it possible to carry good sound on your shoulder!
- Below, you can read our original review of the Williams Legato.
And below, please take a look at some of the best selling digital pianos currently on sale online (and see how they compare to the pianos we discuss in this article):
|1) Casio PX-S3000|
|2) Casio PX-870|
|3) Roland RP-102|
|4) Alesis Prestige Artist|
|5) Korg D1|
How Does the Williams Legato III Compare?
The Legato III is the newest version of the Legato series of pianos. As does its predecessor, the Legato III offers 88 keys in this version, all of which are touch-sensitive to perhaps a greater degree than the original Legato.
Touch-sensitive keys allows the musician greater dynamic range without being forced to use a volume knob or slider. The amount of force with which they strike the keys determines the volume of the note that is played. These keys are not weighted keys as in the Allegro III; I call them “spring-loaded” keys. However, they do respond to the amount of weight dropped onto the keys, thus the “touch-sensitive” label.
The Legato III offers a dual-speaker sound system that reproduces the digitally recorded voices quite well. The piano voice results from a 12-microphone recording set-up around a nine-foot Fazioli concert grand piano. Fazioli is an Italian piano manufacturer who produces one of the best concert grand pianos in the world. This beautiful instrument provides the piano voice that you hear on the Legato III.
Altogether this piano offers 10 instrument voices, including those from vintage keyboard instruments such as the tone-wheel organ, clavinet, and two types of electronic pianos. With a touch of a button, you can access any of the voices for clean, clear music.
The Legato III sounds remarkably good for a piano in this price range. I’ve played literally dozens of digital pianos over the past few months, and for a piano that retails for about $200, the Legato III impressed me with its quality of sound. Close your eyes and play one of the piano voices in this instrument and your ear will tell you that you are hearing a grand piano.
This piano also offers Bluetooth connectivity and a number of iOS-driven apps that will help you access all of the advanced menus of the Legato III. This piano also includes self-teaching aids and, with the free app included, you can access McCarthy Music Teaching materials and lessons.
Here is a picture of the left side control area. This side features the power button, a volume adjustor, demo buttons and other functions.
The right-side controls section includes the buttons for voice selection and to split the keyboard into two parts that are pitched the same.
I have two concerns about the Legato III. First, the keys are non-weighted. I feel very strongly that keys should be weighted for an authentic playing experience and to acclimate students to the general feel of an acoustic piano.
The “spring-loaded” keys of the Legato III remind me of the toy keyboards I used to play around with as a child. These keyboards were fun, but the first time I compared the touch of a toy keyboard to my acoustic upright piano, I was genuinely shocked at the difference in the feel of the keys.
The toy keyboard immediately lost its appeal to me. As a long-time piano teacher, I can say that whenever I have students ask me what kind of keyboard or piano they will need to learn to play, I always tell them to get a piano or keyboard with weighted keys. It avoids any confusion or frustration when moving to an acoustic instrument and is a more authentic feel.
My second concern with the Williams Legato III concerns its durability. This piano is designed as a portable piano with battery capability or AC capability.
My source at Guitar Center informed me that, generally, the Williams keyboards are not as durable as some of the other digital pianos on the market, even those in the same general price ranges as the Williams instruments. It seems to me that an instrument designed for portability should be more durable, not less.
The Alesis Recital Pro is a digital piano that offers 88 full-sized keys with hammer action. When I researched the term “hammer action,” I learned that a keyboard with “hammer action” means that the instrument’s key mechanism replicates in some fashion the hammer action found in an acoustic piano.
The Alesis Recital Pro also offers adjustable touch response. This means that the keyboard has three switchable touch responses which allows the musician to experience the different levels of touch sensitivity and force required for different types of keyboards. The Recital Pro claims to have semi-weighted keys—a “fancy” way of saying that the keys are spring-loaded but still touch sensitive.
The Recital Pro offers 12 different instrument voices:
- Acoustic Piano
- Acoustic Piano (Bright)
- Electric Piano
- Church Organ
- Acoustic Bass
- Fingered Bass
You can also vary the voices by selecting layering (a feature that allows you to play two sounds together) or adding reverb or chorus features to fill out the tones of the individual voices.
The Alesis Recital Pro features 20-watt built-in speakers, although I couldn’t find out how many speakers. It also provides capability to plug into a home stereo system or separate amplifier system for even greater sound possibilities.
Comparison of Features and Prices
Now let’s directly compare the Williams Legato III to the Alesis Recital Pro, point by point. I’ve built a table to give you a side-by-side comparison:
The Williams Legato III has the edge in that regard. I have spent time playing the Legato III. While I don’t care for “spring-loaded” or “semi-weighted” keys on a digital keyboard, I can appreciate the touch sensitivity on the Williams.
I would be concerned as a buyer that the Alesis Recital Pro does not include the sustain pedal mechanism in its basic package. A damper/sustain pedal is a very important part of piano education and I am frankly astonished that this full-size, 88-key digital piano doesn’t include the sustain pedal as part of its basic package.
As a professional pianist and piano teacher, I would never recommend that a student buy a keyboard without one, although the sustain pedal can be purchased separately.
I don’t believe two additional voices justify a $70 difference in price, not to mention (again) the lack of a sustain pedal mechanism. The Alesis web site is surprisingly uninformative regarding the actual specifications of the Recital Pro. As a consumer, this lack of details frustrates me.
Between the Williams Legato III and the Alesis Recital Pro, my recommendation would be to select the Williams. I feel like it’s a greater value for the money and would be a decent “starter piano” for children or adults who wish to learn to play the piano.
- This article was written by Digital Piano Review Guide contributor Anita Elliot.
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