Alesis Recital Digital Piano Review
When it comes to buying a digital piano, there are so many choices on the market that it can feel overwhelming trying to pick one. Which features do you need? How many keys do you need? Which brands are best and which brands are known for suffering with poor build quality or poor sound?
In this particular review we’re going to look at the Alesis Recital 88-key Beginner Digital Piano. Is it a good buy for a beginner? Or are you better off staying away from it and buying something else? Let’s find out.
Disclaimer: Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links. This means that I’ll be paid a small commission if you click on those links and buy something. This doesn’t influence my opinion on this product and enables me to continue bringing you this content for free. For more information, click here.
Alesis Recital 88-key Beginner Digital Piano
Our Rating: 3.5 / 5
What's our verdict?
This piano is a good choice for a complete beginner. It will take you up to at least intermediate level without too much of a problem. The feature set that you’re given for this extremely low price is very good.
The ability to connect an external speaker is welcomed, and when paired with a good quality keyboard stand, this piano should be a solid learning tool for a beginner. However, build quality seems to be an issue here; it feels very cheap (perhaps because it is) and I’m not sure how long this piano would last. The sound quality is dreadful with the internal speakers, so budget for either a good pair of headphones or a good set of external speakers.
Bear in mind that you get what you pay for; if you’re OK with the trade-offs, then this is a good buy. However, I personally wouldn’t buy this for a beginner and would prefer to buy something like a Yamaha P45, even though it’s more expensive.
The Honest Pianist's Detailed Review
I have to admit, I’d never really heard of Alesis before reviewing this piano. I knew they made low-end, beginner-grade digital pianos, but had no idea of the quality or robustness of their product. Admittedly the digital piano industry’s collective marketing departments aren’t very creative, and it’s rare that you see any kind of marketing at all for these products.
However, on further research, I found that Alesis is actually a sub-brand of a company called InMusic Brands, who also own very well-known brands such as M-Audio and Denon. This gave me a little more confidence in their products, seeing as M-Audio is a very well respected manufacturer of keyboards and digital pianos in their own right. Alesis products are designed in the United States and manufactured in China.
Alesis was established in 1984 in Los Angeles, where they began making synthesizers and electronic music equipment. They branched out into product categories such as electronic drums, portable PA speakers and recording equipment. Nowadays they make a range of electronic musical equipment geared towards the music professional, but are a relative newcomer to the digital piano market. Their products don’t seem to have disrupted the market a great deal, with key players such as Yamaha and Roland still at the forefront of the digital piano industry. However, only time will tell.
The Alesis Recital features five realistic voices; Acoustic Piano, Electric Piano, Bass, Organ and Synth. You can customise the voices by layering them, and can also be split between the hands. You can also add chorus and reverb effects. There is a maximum 128 note polyphony (read this article to find out why that’s important) and a 20-watt speaker set.
I found the piano voice to be acceptable; not great, by any means, but acceptable. The other voices are nice to have, but I really wish manufacturers would focus on a great piano sound at this price point and not worry too much about the other stuff. Admittedly, Alesis has attempted to do this with the Recital, and they do a much better job than Casio who include hundreds of poor quality sounds at this price point. I’d much prefer 5 good voices than 200 poor ones. However, there is room for improvement for Alesis; the piano sound, while acceptable, is a little plasticky and synthetic sometimes; quite bright and produces a harsh tone when you play fortissimo.
Not much to say here; there’s a sustain pedal input, a headphone output, stereo RCA outputs for connecting to a mixer or amplifier, and a USB-MIDI connection for recording to a computer or using a virtual instrument program. Nothing much you could want for here; it’s all been included.
One thing I really like is the ability to power the keyboard via batteries. This is something you don’t get with weighted digital pianos very often, and it’s extremely useful to be able to do this if you plan on taking your piano out of the home on a regular basis.
When reviewing this piano, there’s something I have to remind myself on a constant basis: “It’s $200.” It’s difficult to take this into account sometimes, because I try a feature and think “this is really not very good,” but then I realise that for the price, you can’t expect too much, and for what you get, it is pretty good value. If I’m comparing the keyboard to anything I’d usually play, I wouldn’t give it much more than 3/10. However, for the price you pay, it’s fairly responsive, and wouldn’t cause anyone too many problems playing most kind of music at a beginner-intermediate level.
I have to say that this piano won’t take you much further than Grade 5 or 6. There are just too many limitations and at this stage you’re looking at upgrading to a higher end digital piano or an acoustic piano. However, for some people the Alesis Recital can be a good way to test the waters, to see if you or your child will stick at the piano before investing in something better.
Interface and Usability
This piano really sucks on this front, I’m sorry to say. In order to get this piano to do almost anything beyond switching to one of the other voices, you need to put it into “Advanced Mode,” and press a combination of keys on the keyboard to get it to do certain things. Now, this isn’t a new feature, and it’s something I’ve come across on lower-end Yamaha pianos in the past. However, where Alesis have really messed up is that in the manual, they will often tell you to “press the keys marked x and y”, when in reality, none of the keys are actually marked.
In order to use this properly, I think I’d have to label each and every key so I know what it did when I put the piano into advanced mode. Otherwise I’d be consulting the manual every five seconds, and this is no good when you’re trying to practice. This is a really stupid way of doing things and this alone caused me to knock a star off the rating. I don’t like this feature and would prefer if everything had buttons. Similar models at a similar price by Casio do just this and the usability is far better. This Alesis would drive me nuts after a while.
Price and Value
I thought I’d touch on this at this point in the review because I’ve been pretty harsh with the Alesis up until this point. This is probably because I’m used to playing higher-end digital and acoustic pianos, and my requirements are much greater than your average beginner.
The fact is, this instrument is more than adequate for a beginner just starting out at the piano. It will be absolutely fine for them to learn the basics, and will probably be better for them than an old, out-of-tune upright piano. The price/value proposition is excellent, and I have very rarely seen any kind of digital piano offered at this low a price point. The value offered here is really excellent and I would recommend seriously considering this model of piano if this is one of your concerns.
HOWEVER; I feel that while this offers significant value, there are other alternative pianos at a higher price point that will probably be a better long-term investment for you or your child. You may decide that spending this kind of extra money is not currently worth it, or you may decide that the cheapest option is the best until you or your child proves that they can stick at learning the piano. And I’d agree with you in this case.
This piano offers what’s called “Lesson Mode.” This is a pretty common feature I see in a lot of pianos, which essentially splits your 88 key piano up in to two 44 key pianos. This can be very useful if you are a teacher, demonstrating to your student. You’re able to do this on your own separate section of the keyboard, and can even play together without having to purchase a second piano.
Personally I can see the value of this feature, but I also recognise that most people probably won’t use this. If you’re a pianist or musician and want to demonstrate things to your child as they practice, it could be useful to you. Bear in mind that given my comments about usability, this will probably be more hassle to set up than it’s worth.
Skoove is an online piano learning software. You get three months of Skoove when you buy the Alesis Recital. I’ve never used Skoove before, so don’t know how valuable it is. However, it seems as though it’s fairly comprehensive, and may be of value to a beginner. As a caveat, I’d always recommend getting a real teacher over using a virtual educational resource.
Takelessons is described as America’s largest music lessons company. They seem to offer a service very similar to Skoove, but with a purchase of the Alesis Recital you get two months of live video lessons from them. This actually looks to be a pretty useful little tool, as the video lessons seem to be run as live classes with actual teachers. You can raise your hand, ask questions and interact with other class members, and apparently there are several hundred classes per month you can choose from.
Again, I’ve not used this service before so I have no idea whether it’s any good, but it seems as though it could be quite useful to a beginner pianist. I don’t know how valuable this service is so I’m not recommending it; it is, however, free with this piano, so it may be worth checking out.
So, should you buy it?
Yes, you should
No, you shouldn't
Complete Specification List
88 semi-weighted keys with adjustable touch sensitivity
Five built-in voice; each with the ability to split or layer simultaneously
20-watt internal speakers
128 note polyphony
Lesson mode divides the keyboard into two zones with the same pitch and voice, enabling two pianists to operate the instrument at once (teacher/student)
Adjustable Reverb and Chorus effects; Pedal Resonance feature
Stereo RCA AUX outputs for connecting to a mixer, amp, or other compatible device
1/4" headphone output mutes the internal speakers for private practice (you’ll need this, trust me)
USB-MIDI output for use with educational software or virtual instrument programs
Sustain input to connect standard 1/4" sustain pedal (not included)
Powered by AC adapter (included) or six D cell batteries (not included)
If you're looking for a pair of headphones to go with your new digital piano, try checking out my guide to the 5 best headphones for a digital piano in 2020.
In the meantime, happy practicing!