Alesis Recital Pro Digital Piano
By Phil O'Keefe |
Alesis Recital Pro Digital Piano
Both beginners and pros will find something to like in this recital
by Phil O'Keefe
Acoustic pianos have been one of the most popular instruments for music students for ages, but the modern digital piano has become increasingly more popular as an alternative - and there's a lot to recommend them. Alesis has recently released a new, very affordable digital piano called the Recital Pro that has features that pros will appreciate, but that is squarely targeted at home users and students. Let's take a look at exactly what it has to offer.
- The Alesis Recital Pro is a 88-key digital piano. Unlike some less expensive digital pianos in this price range it features very responsive, fully-weighted, hammer action keys that feel much more like the keys on an acoustic piano instead of like the unweighted keys on a synthesizer or organ.
- The touch sensitivity of the keyboard can be set to one of three levels to accommodate the preferences of people with a harder or lighter playing touch. It can also be set to output a fixed velocity, regardless of how hard or soft you depress the keys.
- The Recital Pro has full polyphony, and is capable of producing up to 128 notes simultaneously.
- The Alesis Recital Pro has full-sized keys, and it measures 51.6" W x 13.8" D x 5.5" H . Like all full-sized digital pianos its size is significant, but it's surprisingly light in weight, coming in at only 26 pounds. This is light compared to some other 88-key weighted action digital pianos, and drastically lighter than a acoustic piano.
- Power is supplied by an included 12V DC adapter. Alternatively (and surprisingly for a keyboard of this type and size), you can power it with a set of 6 D cell batteries, but you'll need to provide those yourself. Frankly, I can't imagine that many people will ever choose to power this keyboard with batteries, but the capability is there if you really need it.
- The Recital Pro has its own built-in sound system, so unlike some keyboards, you don't need to plug it in to an amp or stereo system in order to hear it. There are two speakers on either side of the top panel, with 20 watts powering the bass drivers and 10 watts powering the tweeters. There is plenty of power in the built in sound system to rival the volume of an acoustic piano.
- If you'd prefer to practice silently, the Recital Pro has a 1/4" stereo headphone jack on the rear panel that mutes the onboard speakers when you plug headphones into it.
- The number of sounds a digital piano can create is one area where they really exceed the capabilities of an acoustic piano. The Recital Pro features twelve different onboard sounds, or "voices", as Alesis refers to them. In addition to two different acoustic piano sounds (regular and bright), you also get an electric piano, vibraphone, organ, church organ (similar to a pipe organ sound), harpsichord, Clavi, synth (a brassy sounding sawtooth synth sound similar to the opening synth sound on the Van Halen song "Jump"), strings, and acoustic and fingered (electric) bass sounds.
- A built-in display shows various settings and makes it easy to know what sound is selected.
- All of the various controls are mounted on the top panel to either side of the display. On the left you'll find a power button and a rotary master volume knob. There's also buttons for playing one of the ten built-in classical piano demo songs (there are also brief demos available for each one of the 12 onboard sounds), controlling the built-in metronome, transposing the keyboard (with a range of +/-12 semitones) and for the built-in recorder. The recorder can only record one performance / track, and there's no way to save it, but it can be useful when you want to concentrate on playing at your best and then listening back to how well you actually did later.
- The metronome's relative volume, tempo and even the time signature can be user-selected, with a tempo range of 30-280 beats per minute.
- To the right of the display are six voice select buttons, each with a main sound and an alternate sound. When a button is pressed, it illuminates blue. This selects the main voice (sound) for that button. Pressing the key a second time will select the alternate sound for that button, and the light for the button will turn red.
- Not only can you select and play any one of the twelve built-in sounds singly, the Recital Pro can also layer any two sounds so they can be played simultaneously. With 128 note polyphony, there's no risk of running out of notes, even when layering sounds. Layering provides thicker and more complex sounds, with piano and strings layered together being a very common and popularly used pairing.
- For additional performance flexibility, the keyboard can be "split", with one sound on the left side and a different one on the right side of the keyboard. This allows you to do things like play a bass sound with your left hand while playing a piano or organ sound with your right hand. The split point on the keyboard is user-selectable.
- It's even possible to split and layer the keyboard at the same time; when doing so, the right hand half of the keyboard will have the layered sounds while the left hand side will have only one single sound instead of a dual-tone layer. This feature makes it possible to do things like play piano and strings simultaneously with the right hand, while playing a bass part with your left hand.
- The relative volume level of layered and split sounds can be user-adjusted.
- There's even a useful Lesson mode, where the keyboard is split into two equal zones, each with the same sound and note range. This allows a teacher and student to sit side by side, with the teacher demonstrating a part and the student able to follow along on their half of the keyboard.
- Another feature you won't find on an acoustic piano are built-in effects. The Alesis Recital Pro has Chorus (4 chorus types and 4 celeste types), Reverb (8 types, including rooms, halls, stage and plate varieties) and Modulation effects built-in.
- The modulation effect you get will depend on which sound you have dialed up. Many sounds feature a tremolo modulation effect, but some have a rotary speaker effect and others feature a vibrato effect. All three types of effects (reverb/chorus/modulation) can be used simultaneously if desired. There is also a built-in EQ, with 5 preset (Standard, Classic, Rock, Jazz, and Modern) EQ presets.
- The Alesis Recital Pro has a pair of 1/4" line outputs so you can hook it up to a mixing board, audio recorder, keyboard amp or PA system for recording and live performance. Like the headphone output, these are located on the rear panel.
- Also on the rear you'll find a 1/4" jack for connecting an optional sustain foot pedal, the input jack for the power adapter, and a USB 2.0 port. This can transmit and receive MIDI signals, which can be used with computer recording and music tutorial applications. Both Mac and PC computers are supported, with Mac OS X 10.10 and later and Windows 7 (32 and 64 bit) and above supported. No drivers are necessary - the Recital Pro is class-compliant.
- Local MIDI control over the internal sounds can be turned on or off, and the transmitted MIDI channel can be user-selected.
- The Recital Pro has a removable "music rest", and while it's basic, it does give you a place for your sheet music.
- Alesis includes a three month subscription to the highly regarded Skoove Premium online piano lesson service.
- No stand or sustain foot pedal is included, and both are what I'd consider to be essential accessories - budget accordingly.
- There is no 5-pin DIN MIDI input or output jacks, just USB MIDI, which requires a computer for connection - you can't use it to drive external MIDI hardware devices directly.
- There are no modulation or pitch bend wheels, which (along with the lack of old-school MIDI jacks) somewhat limits the Recital Pro's usefulness as a master MIDI controller keyboard.
While Alesis took a fairly no-frills approach to the Recital Pro in order to keep the cost as low as possible, they obviously focused their attention on the basic features that a good digital piano needs and didn't leave out any of the essentials, including a very nice feeling 88 key hammer-action keyboard and a basic, but generally very nice sounding selection of sounds. While I wasn't particularly crazy about the electric piano sound, the rest of the samples that they've included are more than serviceable and the main attraction - the two acoustic pianos - should please all but the most finicky acoustic piano purists.
The lack of 5-pin MIDI I/O and any modulation or pitch bend wheels makes the Recital Pro less suitable as a master controller keyboard, but I could still see the Recital Pro appealing to some professional keyboardists as a stage piano for live and studio performances.
Of course even a bare bones digital piano has advantages that an acoustic piano can not offer, such as freedom from the need for seasonal professional tunings, the ability to transpose the keyboard, alternate sounds beyond just piano, a keyboard that can be split for dual-timbre performances or dual regions for lessons, the ability to layer any two sounds, along with the ability to record what you play and then play it back. The three month free trial for Skoove Premium also gives you a way to get started with quality music instruction that works with your schedule. I think the rehearsal and lesson features are some of the strongest aspects of this digital piano, and really make the Alesis Recital Pro an excellent choice for neophyte keyboardists and students. At the present time, it's one of the least expensive, 88-key hammer action digital pianos on the market, making it an excellent value too. -HC-
Want to discuss the Alesis Recital Pro or have questions or comments about this review? Then head over to this thread in the Keyboards, Synths & Samplers forum right here on Harmony Central and join the discussion!
Alesis Recital Pro 88-key Digital Piano with Hammer-action Keyboard ($549.00 MSRP, $349.00 "street")
Alesis Recital Pro product web page
You can purchase the Alesis Recital Pro from:
Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.