If you are in the market for a digital grand piano, you have some interesting options—even if they are somewhat limited. One of those options is the Williams Symphony Grand, which of course comes under the Williams brand best known for pianos like the Allegro 2, Legato, Overture 2 and Rhapsody 2.
In this review, we’re going to dissect the Williams Symphony Grand to help you figure out what you can expect from this piano. We’ll also directly compare it to an upright (and cheaper) piano, the Yamaha YDP-181.
Before we get started, we encourage you to compare the Williams Symphony Grand to other notable competitors on the market by using our interactive table below.
Look Versus Feel
Aesthetically, when I first approached the Williams Symphony Grand, I was impressed with the way it looked. It is perfect for those that do not want to invest in the maintenance of a baby grand piano, but still want something that looks authentic.
Of course, looks can be deceiving. Initially, I thought the Williams’ digital piano bench was comfortable, and it felt like I was sitting down at a real piano. Although I personally like the wood finish panels on the Yamaha YDP-181, I thought the open and close lid option on the Williams was a nice touch. However, once I started playing, I began noticing other things.
The first thing I always do, as with most piano players, is to get a feel of the piano keys. It is no different from a guitar player wanting to get a feel for a guitar’s neck. These little things affect how one plays, and should not be overlooked if you are a beginner. The keys were unimpressive. Though they tried to make them feel like authentic weighted keys, they felt cheap and were similar in feeling to unweighted keys. They were light to the touch and did not have the best action. I think this is where the Yamaha does a better job for the YDP-181 key’s had the touch and feel of a real piano, although both had the full set of 88.
- And, for comparison sake, you can read our full review of the Yamaha YDP-181 right here.
Below, please take a look at some of the best-selling digital pianos currently available online:
|1) Casio PX-770|
|2) Yamaha YDP-145|
|3) Roland RP-701|
|4) Yamaha YDP-165|
|5) Casio PX-870|
As I looked around at the different buttons and slots, the first thing I noticed on the Williams Symphony Grand was the Bluetooth option. Although the YDP-181 has the USB option and can connect with computers, the Bluetooth option on the Williams gives it a bit of an edge since it allows the user the option to connect portable audio devices.
Another point where these two pianos differ is with their LCD screens. The Williams has a large screen with its dimensions at 2” x 2.75.” The Yamaha only has an LED screen with 7 segment and 3 digit display.
I thought both had great feeling buttons and knobs, which to me is not necessarily critical, but does contribute to my overall assessment of quality. The buttons on both instruments are concave. This allows your fingers to grip them easily, as the concave design fits the round nature of your fingers.
Both come with the three main pedals. The Williams comes with a sustain, sostenuto, and a soft pedal. The Yamaha comes with a damper (with half-pedal effect), sostenuto, and soft. Their feel and touch are pretty much identical. However, the half pedal effect on the Yamaha adds more authenticity to the pedal system, as it allows the pressure of your foot to influence the damper effect, rather than it being simply an on/off switch like the Williams.
The Williams also has double the amount of pre-programmed songs in comparison to the Yamaha. It has 128 general MIDI sounds for accompaniment and 120 Style Arranger songs for real-time performance. The Yamaha has 14 demo songs and 50 piano preset songs. I personally wouldn’t do much with this, but for some, this could be a defining feature.
The Williams piano also beats out the YDP-181 by the number of sounds it has programmed.
Here is what the Yamaha YDP-181 comes with:
- grand piano sound
- 2 electric pianos
- 2 harpsichords
- 1 vibraphone
- 2 church organs
- 1 jazz organ
- 2 string voices
- a choir voice
- a guitar
This is pretty standard setup for most upright digital pianos. However, the Williams Symphony comes with over 174 different sounds (128 general MIDI sounds and a handsome 46 sounds from Williams’ Custom Sound Library). These sounds include a wide range of instruments such as electric piano, guitar, violin, drums, and much more.
When you delve into the library, each category, such as drums, comes with a few options. As I experimented with the drums, I noticed there was a rock kit, one for heavy metal, and more.
Does It Sound Like The Real Thing?
Piggybacking off the difference in sounds, I think that point of difference explains a lot about how these differ in sound. The Williams covers more ground when it comes to sound options. The main piano sound is decent. It is not terrible and it is not great. For me, it felt like it was right in the middle. It is a solid piano sound that will satisfy certain players’ needs.
On the other hand, while the Yamaha YDP-181 does not have as many sounds, I think it does a better job producing its smaller selection of sounds than the Williams. The Yamaha’s main grand piano sound is deep, bright, and more authentic.
In this case, I think Yamaha beat out Williams. It may not have as many features, but it sure does sound good. And at the end of the day, I believe sound trumps features and aesthetic. The whole point of buying an electric upright or grand piano is that you can have something that will sound like the real thing without having to worry about the upkeep that goes into maintaining a real piano.
A Digital Piano Teacher
Another defining difference between the Yamaha YDP-181 and the Williams Symphony Grand is their teaching accessories. The Yamaha YDP-181 comes with a songbook entitled “50 greats for the piano.” It doesn’t offer any sort of live teaching mechanism from my understanding in comparison to the Williams which does.
The Williams Symphony Grand piano comes with a feature called “Song Tutor.” This is a nice addition for anyone at the beginner to the intermediate level that wants to learn new songs without having to fork out thousands of dollars for a private music instructor. That’s not to discourage you from seeking out a piano teacher if you so choose—good piano teachers do a fantastic job. However, I think “Song Tutor” is a fairly nice substitute, especially if you want the freedom to learn on your own and not have to spend additional money.
What is nice about this feature is that it doesn’t limit itself to classical music. Not everyone digs classical music, which is perfectly fine. There are a lot of other genres out there that you can play on the piano. “Song Tutor” also has the option to teach you rock and blues songs, for example.
Although I mentioned this is great for the beginner and intermediate player, this piano also comes with more in-depth lessons provided by McCarthy Music. They have a cloud-based piano education program with a large song library to cover even the more advanced players that wish to learn some newer tunes and push themselves to the next level.
So, what does this all mean?
Well, after playing both pianos, I think any potential decision someone may make boils down to this: quality versus quantity.
I think if you want to buy a digital piano, the Yamaha YDP-181—though lacking in features—is better quality in terms of sound when compared to the Williams. That, above all else to me, is the most important thing.
An instrument can have all of the bells and whistles like the Williams does, but at the end of the day, if it just does not sound quite as good as the competition, then that of course is an issue.
With that said, given everything you get, the Williams Symphony does have a wonderful price point. So, in the grand scheme of things, I can see why many people would opt for the Williams—especially if you’re still a relative beginner when it come to the world of piano. But, if you see yourself as having a decent amount of piano experience, and perhaps a bit more money, the YDP-181 might be the digital piano you want to focus your sights on.
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