Welcome to my Donner DEP-10 review! I decided to test out the digital pianos made by Donner because they tend to rise in the popularity and best seller ranks. At first glance, there’s a clear reason why, their affordable price tag. But are they just affordable, or do they bring more to the table? This is what I am committed to find out. And also, how do they fit in the digital piano landscape, populated by many instruments made by reputed manufacturers with many years of experience.
Donner is a pretty young company, compared to most of its competitors. It was established in 2012, and started by making exclusive guitar mini effect pedals. They identified a lack in the market and developed a product that catered to the niche perfectly. Afterwards, they started to develop a series of musical instruments, such as guitars, ukuleles, electric drums and keyboards, among others. How do their digital pianos compare to the more established alternatives. And most of all, is there a good value for money ratio? These are just some of the questions that I’m answering with this review. So, let’s start by taking a look at the specifications chart below:
Donner DEP-10 Specifications
I am usually biased when reviewing low cost digital pianos. Probably because of my prior experiences I tend to expect that the manufacturer cut corners in terms of quality, materials and technology. But, with the years, the technology has advanced and now there are a few manufacturers that produce good quality digital piano for a very fair price, if I can put it like that. These digital piano are ideal for beginners who don’t want to spend a lot of money on something they’re not sure will catch on. One of the main questions that I want to answer with this Donner DEP-10 review is whether this is one of those inexpensive good quality digital pianos or not. And I will tackle this issue by dividing my analysis along main characteristics of a digital piano. Let’s start with design.
The DEP-10 is designed to be a compact portable digital piano. Its total dimensions and weight are very indicative of this fact. Apart from the piano’s height, which is a tad bit larger compared to other portable digital pianos of its class, the other dimensions and weight are right there in the portable class. You should also know that if you decide on buying this piano, you should also get a stand and bench, because they don’t come as part of the package. Actually, it depends on the package you choose. You can go for just the piano and pedal unit, or you can go for the cabinet style package, that is pictured above. The pedal unit, which I must say, is really good quality, and is made of metal.
The control buttons are above the keyboard. Just as with other portable digital pianos in this price range, you don’t have an extensive control panel, with separate buttons for each setting. You will have to use a button and key combination to access many of the piano’s settings and features. There’s no other way around it, you will have to keep the user’s manual at hand for a while, at least until you learn your most frequently used combinations by heart.
Most of the connectivity ports are situated at the back of the piano. The only ports in the front are the headphone ports. This is a very smart design decision.
The piano has a full 88-key keyboard, and is made mostly of plastic. But although there are no high end materials or surfaces, the Donner DEP-10 doesn’t feel low quality or fragile. Its built is very sturdy, and in my opinion will last at least until you graduate to a higher level of proficiency, where you would probably want a more technically advanced instrument.
The Donner DEP-10’s sound engine uses the sampling method. By this method the manufacturers capture recordings of each key of an acoustic grand piano at different velocities and attribute them to the corresponding keys of the digital piano. So basically a recording is played whenever you press a key, but the transitions are so well tuned that you can’t notice any differences, they’re all smoothened out.
In total, you have 8 different voices you can choose from: acoustic grand piano, bright acoustic piano, electric grand piano, church organ, chorus piano, harpsichord, vibrating harp and string ensemble. The main reason why you would buy an affordable digital piano is to learn how to play the piano. The main piano sound of the DEP-10 (which you will probably use most) is surprisingly good. I mean I was expecting a lower quality sound for the price, but I must say that it’s more than acceptable. This kind of makes me wonder how much sound rendering technology has evolved in digital pianos.
The main piano sound has an authentic enough feel, especially for beginners. You definitely feel you get more than you paid for, as much as the main sound is concerned. I am not so sure of the other sounds, I mostly concentrate on the piano, but again, you would probably use the other sounds just for diversity.
There’s a maximum polyphony limit of 128 notes. This is a great enough limit to avoid disrupting your expressivity while playing the piano. What this actually means is that the piano can reproduce a maximum number of 128 different notes at once. You would think that there’s the slightest chance to play more than a few notes at any moment, but as you progress and play more complex musical pieces, using pedals and effects, the number of different notes played at once rises. But, there’s no point in worrying. This limit gives you the ability to play anything with your highest level of expressivity, if you’re between the beginner to intermediate levels.
This is definitely that part of my Donner DEP-10 review where I have a ‘wow’ moment. The speakers are one of the, comparatively, big strengths of this digital piano. It has definitely more powerful speakers than most other alternatives in this class or price range. The two 25W speakers pack enough power to let you easily have performances in your living room, or in front of smaller groups of people. If you want to play for larger crowds, then external amplifiers are a must.
Also the quality of the sound that comes from the speakers at higher volumes is nice. It’s definitely contributing to a realistic and authentic feeling when playing the piano.
At first sight, the keyboard seams to have certain weak points. Like for example the fact that it’s only semi-weighted. I can’t say it doesn’t feel pretty nice when played, but there is a clear difference between this keyboard and that of many other models. And it’s not in favor of the DEP-10.
But other than that it responds pretty realistic, but limits somehow the capacity for expression, as you can’t imprint fine nuances due to the light weight. I might be a little bit influenced by the fact that I have played many other models, some a lot more expensive than this one. But I try to put things in perspective here and not compare the DEP-10 with higher end Casios or Yamahas. And isolating this keyboard and assessing the way the keyboard plays independently, you’re going to be very pleasantly surprised.
There is also the fact that it’s in a very affordable price range, hence offering a very attractive quality over price ratio. I like the fact that they decided to go with 88 keys instead of fewer. I also like that the keys are a good size, this way further contributing to the authenticity of the feeling you get when playing them.
Overall I would recommend this keyboard to beginners, but not more advanced pianists, as the weight on the keys is a bit too light to be able to translate the finger technique to an acoustic piano without feeling any difference. The matte finish of the keys will assure a good enough grip to make a difference during long practice sessions when your fingers start sweating. But they’re not quite the artificial ebony and ivory key tops.
Another strength of the Donner DEP-10 is the great number of functions available. Because there aren’t many buttons on the control panel of this digital piano, many of those functions are accessed via a button and key combination. Kind of complicated, you might think, and you are partly right. At least for the first few weeks until you start remembering the most frequently used combinations. After that you will not need to have the instructions manual at hand every time you sit down at the piano.
First, there’s a variety of pre-selected sounds that the keyboard can play.
Then there are 8 different tones that you can choose from, of course, after finishing piano practice.
You can select an accompanying rhythm and tempo, while you play the keyboard. The metronome function has 4 types of beat you can choose from. Metronome is a pretty basic function, but it’s especially helpful for beginners who find it difficult to keep the right rhythm.
You can also add a certain effect from the ones available if you want to mix things up and obtain new, interesting sounds. So, as you can see, the Donner DEP-10, can be pretty fun too, it’s not just a practice instrument for playing classic piano. Kids will probably like all of the fun functions that the keyboard has, convincing them to play the piano for longer every day. You can also record your performances so that you can play them back and understand where you’re good and where you need to improve. This can be a pretty helpful function to refine your technique.
I’ll start with the lacking connectivity option: Bluetooth. This is a connectivity technology that starts to be part of the feature set of ever more digital pianos of the latest generations. The Donner DEP-10 doesn’t have this feature, but you can still hook up external devices through the USB connection. You can find this connection on the back panel.
What I appreciate about this digital piano as far as connectivity is concerned is that the manufacturer decided to place the headphone jacks in the front panel of the piano. This way it’s far more user friendly.
There are no dedicated apps that work with the DEP-10, like there are for other digital pianos made by Yamaha, Casio and Kawai. But that’s a minor shortcoming, considering the accessible price range. And that’s what you have to put everything in perspective with when it comes to the DEP-10, the price you can buy it for. Because as much as price is concerned, you might be making one of the best deals in digital pianos. There are not many other keyboards that have such a good value for money ratio.
So, we reached the moment for final thoughts in my Donner DEP-10 review. Should you buy this piano? Is it the right choice for you? It depends.
First thing I would like to point out is the almost unbeatable value for money ratio. From this point of view the DEP-10 is well worth its price, and maybe then some. But that’s not the whole picture. It doesn’t mean that you should rush in to buy it right now.
Are you a beginner who is not sure whether you will stick to this new activity? Then I can only recommend you to buy this digital piano, and go through the learning stages. You can also have fun with its variety of functions.
Do you plan on sticking to the activity or don’t mind a higher price if the other features are in proportion to the price difference? Then you might want to check out some of my other reviews of more advanced digital pianos, and then make a decision.