It seems like your research for the best choice has led you to my Donner DEP-20 review. Are you wondering what’s with all the hype about the new Donner digital pianos? I was too. That’s why I decided to test out the ones that I could find, in order to make an objective analysis and offer a helping hand in understanding whether this is the right choice for you or not. Donner is a rather young company, so, did they manage to develop a product that is competitive compared to the more established alternatives? Because of the affordable price tag, I cannot but ask myself, did they cut any corners in the development of the product, or are they just able to offer the same quality as the competitors for a better price because they don’t charge extra for the brand itself?
Donner started in 2012 by producing exclusive mini guitar effect pedals. They served the market in a way that fitted the lack that they identified. After the initial success they experienced, they continued by developing a series of musical instruments, at a comparatively affordable price tag, like digital pianos, among others. I am usually precautious when I see certain products that are priced considerably lower than the alternatives. Does this indicate a lack in quality, or were they simply able to offer a better price because they lack brand recognition? This and other questions, concerning the value for money ratio, are the objective of my analysis. After reading this review, you’re going to have a well rounded opinion, and you’re going to be able to make an informed decision regarding the DEP-20. Let’s start by taking a look at the specs of this keyboard:
Donner DEP-20 Specifications
I am usually not the biggest fan of seemingly inexpensive alternatives that look like more expensive ones. But in the case of the DEP-20, all my assumptions were wrong. I started my research for my Donner DEP-20 review not expecting too much from this piano. Because over the last few years, I had the occasion to test out various digital pianos, some of which are really high end and expensive, I expected to be disappointed by this one. But to my surprise it went way beyond my expectations. You often have this feeling when you decide to leave your expectations at the door. But was it good in reality or did it only surprise me because I decided to not have any expectations? Well, I think there’s some substance to this digital piano.
You wouldn’t expect too much at this price range, but the DEP-20 packs some really nice features in this cost efficient package. The materials used in the overall built of the piano are different types of plastic. When you think about plastic you might be thinking low quality, but not in this case. The built is very sturdy. Going with the hand over every part of the instrument leaves you with a feeling of quality and durability. I didn’t expect such a young company to be able to pull off a challenge like building a cost efficient high quality digital piano. But they did.
The Donner DEP-20 has a full size 88 keyboard with a row of control buttons above the keyboard. There are certain settings and functions that need a button and key combo but the helpful feature, that other comparable alternatives lack, is a small display in the middle of the control panel. This is very useful when trying to make sense of the settings and functions that are active.
There’s also a sheet music rest as part of the package, but you will not receive a stand or bench. You will have to buy those separately. I’m pointing this out because many people expect a stand to be part of the package.
The connectivity options are found on the back side of the piano, apart from the headphone jacks which are located in the front, a very thoughtful design decision.
The DEP-20 is designed to be a portable digital piano, hence the compact dimensions and low weight. You can easily transport it to piano lessons, or maybe where you have a gig.
Because of my prior experiences with higher priced digital pianos I didn’t expect too much from the Donner DEP-20, especially in terms of sound. But I was wrong. I like the moments when I’m pleasantly surprised. Concerning the surprisingly good sound quality of this piano, I cannot but wonder if some other digital pianos are overpriced. I mean if they can manufacture a digital piano with such a level of sound and sell it beneath $500, then I’m not sure if the great price difference is justified for a slightly better sound.
Don’t get me wrong, there are digital pianos out there with considerably better characteristics than this one, but I must say that the advantageous value for money ratio is kind of turning into a theme with Donner digital pianos. I’m saying this because it’s the same situation I talked about in my Donner DEP-10 review, you get a lot of quality for a fair price. Maybe it’s because you don’t pay extra for the brand name.
With the DEP-20, you get 238 different sounds. But in my opinion, that’s not the most important thing. Actually it depends on your particular needs. Are you a beginner, looking for a digital piano to practice playing the piano on? Then you could have a million sounds, without adding too much to the perceived value. But if you want to have a little fun with you digital piano, and maybe experiment around a bit, then you will love the extensive variety.
The main sound, which is the most important in my opinion, the grand piano sound, is really nice. The realism is there across the keyboard and the transitions between different notes and different velocities is smooth. The sound aspect of the DEP-20 definitely contributes to an authentic piano playing experience.
There are better sounding digital pianos out there, but this piano’s sound is at a good level, especially for its price range. If you’re a beginner and not sure if you will stick to playing the piano for the long haul, there’s really no point in paying a lot more for a slightly better sound.
The polyphony limit of the Donner DEP-20 is 128. This is a high enough limit to offer full expressivity opportunities. If you’re just beginning then there’s going to be a while until you even come near to playing complex enough musical pieces to get near to that upper limit.
If you’re not sure what polyphony is, it indicated the maximum number of different notes that can be played at the same time before the first sustained notes start falling off.
Contrary to first impressions, there are certain pieces of music where you use layers of effects and complexity that push the number of different notes played at the same time closer to that 128-note limit. But there’s no need to worry, it’s likely you will not get anywhere near needing more polyphony.
One of the major inconveniences with some speaker systems is the tendency to lose in quality as you turn up the volume. I was, again, pleasantly surprised not to discover anything like it with the speakers of the Donner DEP-20.
The sound is clear and crisp, even when turned all the way up. Of course, you will not need to turn it all the way up, ever. A sixty to seventy five percent range will be loud enough for most people. But it’s good to know exactly what you spend your money on, even when it’s not a high priced item.
The range of the speakers is great and they behave very well with both low end and high end. Another plus point is the fact that there are no other pieces of the digital piano that resonate in any way when you turn up the volume, the sound being undisturbed by humming or vibrating noises.
As I go about my review I notice that the DEP-20 surprises me in a positive way at every chapter. The keyboard, along the sound of a digital piano are the most important parts of the musical instrument. The keyboard, in this case complements the sound very nicely.
This digital piano has a fully weighted keyboard with touch sensitivity. I like the quality of the mechanism and the that of the built. The keys are heavy enough to create that acoustic piano feeling. The material of the keys is of nice quality as well, you really don’t have that sensation of cheap keys. They went so far as to fit the keyboard with red felt, just like you can notice on acoustic pianos, a detail you can’t find that often in this price range.
Functions & Features
I’ll start by mentioning the pedal unit that fits the DEP-20. Although the base is made of plastic, the pedal itself is made of metal and is very sturdy, another nice detail that Donner payed attention to. The pedal unit connects easily to the keyboard into a port located on the rear panel.
A nice function that lets you release your creative juices is the dual mode. The dual mode lets you combine two different sounds in order to create more complex music. You can have some fun with this feature once you learn the basic finger technique.
You actually have 238 different tones to choose from like ukulele, drum, bass, and many others. All these tones are a nice addition to the feature offer of the DEP-20. You can imagine that only your skill level and creativity are the limit to what music you can play.
As part of the control panel of the digital piano, a backlit LCD display is very helpful in making the user experience better. The display helps you control the piano’s settings easier, while showing you important information on aspects of your current configuration like chord names and notation. It’s a nice feature that you can’t find on many competing digital pianos.
There’s also an onboard recording function that you can use to record any song you’re playing, for later playback. It can be helpful if you’re a beginner because you can analyze your performance and hear any mistakes you make. This way your progress can be accelerated.
You can find all the basic connectivity options on the rear panel of the piano. The exception is made up of the headphone jacks that can be found on the front of the piano. I consider the decision to place the headphone jacks on the front of the keyboard the right one. It’s a lot more convenient then connecting them at the back. You also have two of them so you can repeat with a tutor without disturbing the rest of the people around the house.
As I mentioned above, the connection socket of the pedal unit is located on the rear panel. Apart from this, there are in and out audio interface lines, a power line socket, a triple pedal socket, a USB transmission socket and an MP3 socket.
Unfortunately there’s no Bluetooth connection capability, but anyway, it’s not really a function that you can find in this price range. You don’t need it necessarily to be able to use the piano’s functions. The big advantage of Bluetooth is that there will be need for less cables.
Now that we reached the final section of my Donner DEP-20 review, it’s time to reach a conclusion.
As I have pointed out along the sections of he review, there are many characteristics that impressed me in a big way. The general impression is definitely a positive one. As much the sound as the keyboard of the digital piano surpass its price range. The speakers are very good quality offering enough clarity to please even the more sensitive ears, their power filling any living room setting without amplification. There are many functions and effects you can choose from.
Overall, I consider the Donner DEP-20 to be a very good value for money choice, especially for beginners. It’s not a massive financial investment, so you can test the waters without breaking the bank. It’s qualitative in all the right aspects. The sturdy built suggests durability. It’s clearly an instrument that is designed to last for years to come. Is it comparable to a high end digital piano? Not really. But it’s not supposed to be anyway.
It’s a very good fit if you’re a beginner looking for an instrument that is within a reduced budget but offers a realistic piano playing experience.