Another digital piano from the cabinet style line, today you’re going to read my Donner DDP-300 review. One of the things that caught my attention at this brand is the affordable nature of their musical instruments. Is this trait a sign of qualitative weakness or are they able to offer more competitive prices because they don’t have such a wide reaching brand recognition? In other words, are Donner digital pianos worth even the lower price?
This is one of the questions I’ll be trying to answer with this review. Donner quite a young brand in the musical instruments space. They started out in 2012. Digital pianos were not their first product. The first hit that gave them the motivation to further develop their line of products was exclusive mini guitar effect pedals. This first success fueled their fire to develop different types of musical instruments with one thing common to them all: an affordable price. But is there more to their digital pianos than a low price. And does low price equate to low quality? These are some of the questions that I’m going to answer in this review. Let’s start by taking a look at the specifications table below.
Donner DDP-300 Specifications
|Piano cover||Slide cover|
The main reason why you would be interested in buying the DDP-300 is because it has those acoustic piano looks. The advantage is that it doesn’t have the weight of an acoustic piano, but still, it’s pretty heavy for a digital piano. This is not a weakness, it’s just a fact. And considering this fact I recommend you have someone around to help when you install it.
It comes in a big box with all of the pieces wrapped separately so that they don’t get scratched during transportation. The overall design of the built is very straightforward, so you surely will not lose too much time with the installation process. About 30 minutes should be enough. The only tricky part, where you might need a helping hand is when you put the keyboard on top. But, if there’s no help in reach, you could do it on your own with a little patience.
Once put together, the looks of the musical instrument will surely please your expectations. Although the cabinet is not made of hardwood, it surely has a nice sturdy look to it. The overall feeling that the piano gives you is one of durability. And it also doesn’t look or feel cheap, although it’s pretty affordable considering the category its in, and the alternatives.
What I like about the manufacturer, Donner, is that they focused on the fundamental elements of each of their digital pianos. They identified the most important characteristics of each model and made sure those features are great quality. They managed to offer a very competitive price because they tossed away the extra features that have a secondary nature in the interests of the consumer.
The overall design is clean and elegant, like a cabinet style digital piano should be. The control panel is reduced to a bare minimum, but it does have more controls and functions than the other two models from their cabinet style line, the Donner DDP-90 and DDP-100.
Some of the functions, though, can only be accessed by pressing down the functions button and one of the pianos keys. This is a common characteristic with digital pianos. You will find the combinations in your user’s manual. Don’t worry, the inconvenience will disappear once you memorize your most used combinations. This inconvenience is also a relative matter. Some people prefer this type of controls because it limits the number of buttons on the piano’s control panel drastically, thus offering a sleeker, cleaner look.
I like the fact that the piano has a sliding cover. This keeps dust away from the keyboard and contributes to that authentic look of the piano. I also like the 3 pedal unit. It also contributes to the realism of the experience. The pedals work just like those on an acoustic piano, enabling you to use the same effects. While the support of the pedals is made of plastic, the pedals themselves are made of metal, which further underlines that durability sensation I noticed right from the start.
Digital pianos, compared to acoustic pianos, don’t need any tuning. Their sound remains constant. This makes the quality of sound that much more important. Because, basically, you’re stuck with what you get.
There are 2 different methods that the sound engines of digital pianos employ to produce sound. The first, and classic method, is the sampling method, the second is modeling. The difference between the two consists in the fact that the first uses actual recordings of each key at different velocities, the second starts from the actual sound, and then uses more computer technology to recreate each sound the moment you press the key, in accordance with the way you press it. There’s no clear recommendation as to which method is superior. They’re just two ways to obtain the same end result.
The Donner DDP-300 uses the sampling method. They take their sound from a 9′ grand piano. I’m pretty impressed with the sound of this digital piano. Considering the price range it sells for, I expected a lesser sound, but just like with the other models from Donner, they did a good job where it matters.
The sound is clear and crisp, even when turning up the volume. This makes for a pretty realistic piano playing experience. If you plan on not disturbing the people around you with your practice, you can always use headphones. And the sound is even more immersive when you use headphones. I also like the fact that it’s sensitive to the way you play the keys, so it renders even the finest of sounds.
Unlike the other cabinet style digital pianos from Donner, the DDP-300 has a number of different instrument sounds. These are a welcome addition for those who want to have some fun, or those who want to diversify their musical repertoire.
The Donner DDP-300 has a maximum polyphony of 128. This is the same with all the digital pianos from this manufacturer. They could’ve gone overboard and installed a higher limit, considering that it’s the flagship model. But, it would’ve driven the price up, without making a world of difference.
Polyphony refers to the maximum number of notes that can be sustained at the same time. You probably ask yourself if there are any chances for you to ever reach this limit. I’d say there are no chances. But some musical pieces have some pretty intricate passages that require a lot of polyphony in order to be performed at the highest level of expressivity. I think, though, that this is not a matter you should worry to much about, your performance will most likely never suffer because of the technical limits of this piano.
The DDP-300 has a 20W speaker system that gives off a sound which has an enveloping surround feeling to it. Some would argue that the system could have been more powerful, considering, again, that it’s the flagship model. But, I’d say that power is not everything, and that the quality of sound is really high with enough volume to fill most rooms. You could even use this in a classroom environment without any problems.
If you want to perform for larger audiences, you can always plug in external amplification. But, in most cases, turning the volume knob halfway up is more than enough power for any living room. I’d say you will rather need some headphones in order to avoid disturbing the people that are close by. The speakers also retain the quality of sound when you turn the volume up.
Besides sound, the other most important part of a digital piano is its keyboard. These two aspects make or break the authenticity of the piano playing experience. So, how good is the keyboard of the Donner DDP-300? I’d say surprisingly good.
The keyboard is a graded hammer standard. This means that besides the full weight of the keys, the distribution of the weight is progressive, from the high notes to the low notes. In other words, the keyboard behaves very similar to that of an acoustic piano. They went as far as providing that red felt that acoustic piano keyboards have. I’m really pleased with the level of details. Some people say that the weight is a bit too much, and that you have to strike the keys with more force than usual. In my opinion, the weight is just right. In the case of a cabinet style digital piano, like the DDP-300, you want that weight to be rather more than less, so that you can develop that proper finger technique that can be easily translated to acoustic pianos.
The graded hammer standard keyboard also enables you to be very expressive in your performance because of the heightened touch sensitivity and responsiveness. Unlike keyboards that are not weighted or aren’t graded, this keyboard can render even the most delicate sounds with much precision.
The keys themselves are made of plastic but don’t feel flimsy. They replicate the feeling of the keys of acoustic pianos very well, even without that special surface that mimics ebony and ivory. The surface has a nice grip, though, preventing your fingers from slipping, especially during long practice sessions when your fingers start to sweat.
Focusing on fundamentals seems to be the mission of Donner, but they added some extra functions to their flagship model, in order to round up their offer. The DDP-300 has all the functions you would expect from a digital piano in its category.
With this digital piano you are able to record your performances, so that you can play them back to yourself later, and identify where you need to practice more. The metronome function is a basic one, but a very helpful one, especially for beginners. It helps you a lot with keeping that right rhythm before you develop a feel of it. And speaking of beginners, there’s a function that splits the keyboard in two equal halves with pitch and tone, each one with a middle C, which is very useful when practicing with a piano teacher.
If you feel like you deserve a break from practicing piano and want to have a little fun, you have 10 tones to explore: grand piano, electric piano, rock organ, string, bass, etc. You can also adjust parameters such as touch curve and reverb.
I consider the included 3 pedal unit also as a function of the digital piano. With the help of this pedal unit, which offers a very authentic sensation, you can use the same effects that you can on an acoustic piano: sustain, sostenuto and soft. These functions enable you to play any musical piece, no matter what the technical requirements are.
There is another function that many other alternatives lack, Bluetooth connectivity. But more on this in the next section of my Donner DDP-300 review.
There are a number of connectivity options you get with the DDP-300. The connectivity panel is found on the rear side of the piano. There, you can plug in the pedal unit, or external amplification if needed. I was curious of the quality of the sound through an external amplifier, and it rises to expectations. You can also connect your digital piano to a computer through the USB port.
But the most interesting connectivity feature must be Bluetooth. This is a feature that can’t be found on all the alternatives in this category. Using Bluetooth you’re able to connect your digital piano wireless to your computer or smart device. Through this connection, you can then record your performance or use different apps in tandem with your digital piano to unlock further features, that can greatly enhance your learning experience.
You can also plug in headphones to use while you practice, if you’re concerned about disturbing others.
Now that we’ve reached the final part of my Donner DDP-300 review, it’s time to draw a conclusion and answer the question: is it a worthwhile purchase?
We’ve seen that this is a cabinet style digital piano, meant to be used in a fixed place. So, if you look for a portable keyboard, you should consider other options. It’s fairly easy to assemble, although it has some weight to it. The overall design is elegant and looks great in any setting. The key cover is a great addition that rounds up the authentic look and is also very useful in keeping the dust out. The sound is high quality and I also like the graded hammer keyboard. The 3 pedal unit completes the setup. The functions and connectivity options are within expectations. Bluetooth is a nice addition that helps you get rid of some cables.
Overall, I really like this digital piano, and think it’s a very good value for money option. It’s primarily intended for beginners and intermediates but due to its strong fundamentals, it can satisfy even advanced pianists.