Alesis has produced two of the best selling digital pianos of the moment, the Alesis Recital and the Alesis Recital Pro. The are best sellers because they align a number of characteristics that fil the needs of most people looking for a beginner digital piano best: compact design, strong fundamentals, and a very advantageous value for money ratio. But until now, there hasn’t been a cabinet style digital piano to enter the best selling list from this manufacturer. This is why today I decided to write this Alesis Virtue Review, after having the chance to test this digital piano. Does it continue the legacy of good quality at an affordable price? How does it fit into the cabinet style digital piano landscape? And more important, is it the best choice for you? These are some of the questions that I decided to answer with this review. So, let’s start by taking a look at the Alesis Virtue specs.
Alesis Virtue Specifications
|Number of keys||88|
|Type of keys||Non-weighted with Adjustable Touch response|
|Touch Sensitivity||Fixed, Soft, Medium, Hard|
|Song Playback||80 internal songs|
|Storage||USB Flash Drive|
|Audio Outputs||1 x 1/4″|
|USB||1 x Type B, 1 x Type A|
|Number of Pedals||3 (sustain, soft, sostenuto)|
|Pedal Input||1 x 5-pin DIN|
|Amplifier||2 x 15W|
|Software||Skoove Premium (3 mo. free)|
|Power Source||A/C Power Adapter|
|Dimensions||55.9″ x 18.9″ x 10.6″|
The Alesis Virtue comes in a big box with everything you need to set up the piano. The actual installation process shouldn’t take more than 30 to 45 minutes. I usually recommend you have a helping hand nearby, especially when placing the keyboard onto the stand, but in this case, I think most people will be able to complete the process by themselves. The total weight of the piano is 64.8 pounds. A little on the heavy side, but not that heavy considering that there are other cabinet style digital pianos that weigh in above 80 pounds.
The stand is not hardwood, although it has a nice look to it. Some people complained about the quality of the stand. I think it’s pretty good, but indeed, they could’ve used more durable materials. On the other hand, more durability usually comes with more weight, so there’s a fine balance that needs to be reached.
The piano itself is made of plastic, but in my opinion doesn’t feel cheap. Overall it has a pretty nice look to it. I’m sure it could complement most living rooms or otherwise most interior decors.
The keyboard has 88 non-weighted keys which are touch sensitive. But more on the keyboard in the corresponding section below. Above the keyboard you have a control panel that is made up of numerous buttons and a central LCD display. Although I usually am a fan of more elegant, simple looks in cabinet style digital piano, the extensive control panel, together with the LCD display gives you the ability to adjust settings with superior ease.
Two features that I like a lot about this piano is the key cover and the 3 pedal unit. The key cover is a great addition to the Alesis Virtue, because it’s an elegant way to keep dust out while you’re not using the piano. It also contributes to the realistic look. The 3 pedal unit also contributes to the realism because it’s the exact setup you’d find on acoustic pianos, with a pedal for soft, sostenuto and sustain. I also like the fact that the piano comes with a chair. This way you will not have to spend extra to get one separately. Considering all the components of the setup, at this point in my Alesis Virtue review, I can definitely say that it’s a very good value for money offer, especially for beginners.
There are to very important parts of a digital piano: sound and keyboard. Let’s start with sound.
Sound is produced by digital pianos according to two major methods: sampling and modeling. The first, sampling, is the original method. This is done by taking recordings of each key of an acoustic piano, at many different velocities and then attributing these recordings to the corresponding keys of the digital piano. The second method, modeling, starts from this principle but uses more computing technology in order to render the sound the moment you strike a key of the digital piano, according to the way you strike that key. In a way it’s closer to the way acoustic piano produce sound. Which one is the superior method? Opinions don’t really reach a consensus. Some people prefer the sampling method, some the modeling method.
The Alesis Virtue uses samples taken from an acoustic piano. The sound is very nice and smooth with realistic transitions. This model is designed for beginners as stated by the manufacturer, but the many voices, 360 different voices, to be more exact, plus other effects and functions make it an interesting instrument even for those initiated in the basics of playing the piano.
The many voices and effects can be a pleasant way to diversify and have fun, while still using the keyboard, in this way better familiarizing beginners with this instrument. But they can also serve as a way to spark creativity. The 360 sound include among others: acoustic and electric pianos, organs, strings, brass, woodwinds, percussion, mallets, guitars, synths and others.
But, in my opinion, the most important sounds are the acoustic piano sounds, because they are the root of learning to play the piano. And in the case of the Virtue, I am pleased with the quality of the main acoustic piano sound. It’s realistic enough to serve as a good option for those learning to play the piano an want a realistic practice experience.
The Alesis Virtue has a total polyphony limit of 128 notes. This is a high enough limit to ensure that most people will never reach its capacity.
Polyphony refers to the total number of different notes that can be sustained at one time. While it’s not an issue with most musical pieces, there are certain songs that can challenge a low polyphony limit with certain passages. And that’s especially true when you layer sounds and use all kinds of effects. The 128 note limit of the Virtue is high enough to avoid notes cutting off too fast even when you play complex musical pieces.
It’ a pretty good speaker system for the price. The total output of the Virtue’s speakers is 2 x 15W. This is enough power for small performances. In a normal living room setting you will probably never have to turn the volume all the way up.
But sheer power is not everything when talking about speaker systems. The quality of the sound is very good, even at higher volumes. I didn’t experience any disturbances at higher volumes. The effect of the sound creates a realistic experience of enveloping the pianist. The effect is also very nice for others who are farther away from the musical instrument.
If the built-in speaker system is not enough, you can always connect external amplification. Or, if the speaker system is too much, and you want to practice privately, without disturbing others, you can connect headphones. With headphones, the sound is even more immersive.
Besides sound, the other most important part of a digital piano is the keyboard. The keyboard is a big part of the piano playing experience because it triggers the use of another sense: touch. A realistically looking and behaving keyboard can help you develop the right finger technique from the beginning.
A realistic keyboard must have a series of characteristics. Among these are the number of keys. A full keyboard has 88 keys, just like an acoustic piano’s. The Alesis Virtue has a full keyboard. Another characteristic is the weight of the keys. Unfortunately the Virtue hasn’t weighted keys. The touch sensitivity is also a very important factor. The keys are not only touch sensitive, but the sensitivity level can be adjusted according to your preference. I would have really liked it if they provided a fully weighted keyboard, although that would have taken the price most likely above $500, considering the current configuration of features. It’s nice having touch sensitivity, but without weighted keys, it kind of decreases the realism of the experience.
The surface of the keys is not artificial ebony and ivory, but still, it has a pretty good grip. This is pretty important because you need to be able to practice for longer hours without your fingers slipping because of moisture that is accumulating.
A detail I like is the red felt strip visible at the root of the keys. It’s a very aesthetic feature that also contributes to the authenticity of the look.
A department where the Alesis Virtue is clearly at its strongest is functions. With 360 different instrument sounds, there’s a lot of fun you can have with this digital piano. You can also split two of these voices on your keyboard to play an instrument with one hand and the other with the other hand. You can also layer two voices to create a new sound. Functions like these spark your creativity, and are a nice way to take a break from piano lessons while still spending time developing the finger technique.
And speaking of lessons, the Alesis Virtue has some functions that are meant to serve the beginners, especially. The lesson mode lets you part the keyboard in two equal parts, each one with the same pitch, so that you can practice with a piano teacher. Even further, with the purchase of the Virtue, you get Skoove 3 month premium subscription for free. This is a very useful bonus if you are a beginner and want to fast forward your learning curve.
Apart from these there are further functions that help you compose and record your performances. You have 160 different accompaniment styles. If you’re not that creative yet, you can inspire your creativity by the 80 built in demo songs. There’s also an on board recording function that you can use to record your performances and then play them back to yourself. This way you can analyze your performance and adjust it where it needs adjusting. As a bonus for beginners who have a hard time keeping the right rhythm, Alesis included a metronome function that has a 30 to 280 BPM range.
Considering the many buttons and functions the Alesis Virtue has, it’s a good thing they decided to place a backlit display in the control panel. It helps a lot in knowing which function is active when, providing for a better user experience.
One of the important differences between digital pianos and acoustic pianos, apart from the need for tuning, is that digital pianos have a number of connectivity capabilities that enhance and enrich user experience. The connectivity panel of the Virtue is located on the rear side of the digital piano and includes a number of connectivity options like:
- Quarter inch stereo output for connecting to a mixer, amp or other external sound system;
- USB-MIDI output for connecting to a computer or tablet;
- USB input so you can play along with your favorite mp3s;
- Headphone output for private practice.
It’s time to sum up the good and the not so good and reach a conclusion, now that we’re the end of my Alesis Virtue review. The big strengths, in my opinion are the extended list of functions, the sound and the completeness of the package, meaning that the offer includes the cabinet, the 3 pedal unit and the seat. Probably the greatest advantage is the value for money ratio, which is very favorable. The weakness is the lack of weighted keys, the presence of which would have contributed to the authenticity of the piano.
Is the Virtue the best option for you? Are you a beginner looking for a good looking digital piano that offers a lot of extra fun features. Then my answer is Yes. Are you a more advanced pianists who hopes to buy a more professional or high end digital piano, then I think you should do some more research before making your decision.