Donner is a relatively new presence in the digital piano market. According to my experience, their mission is to produce portable and cabinet style digital pianos that have high quality fundamentals and are reasonably priced. So, one of the main characteristics of their digital pianos is an advantageous value for money ratio. They are also producing other musical equipment, but I can’t say anything about those because I have no experience with them. I prefer to stick with my area of expertise; pianos. Welcome to my Donner DEP-45 review.
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Understanding all the pros and cons of a digital piano is very important before you buy. Doing all the research by yourself would have taken a lot of time and effort. Do you want to know if the Donner DEP-45 is the best choice for you, before you buy? In this review I’m taking a close look at all the component parts of this digital piano, analyzing every aspect closely, so that, at the end, you have all the necessary information to know whether it’s the best choice for you, or not. Let’s start by taking a look the specifications table below.
Donner DEP-45 Specifications
|Keyboard||88 key semi-weighted keyboard|
|Key material||Plastic & ABS|
|Dimensions||50.3″ x 12″ x 3.7″|
Designed as a portable digital piano, the Donner DEP-45 only weighs 16 pounds. You can easily transport it to and from piano lessons or gigs. It’s primarily made for beginners. Considering the low price range it sells for, I didn’t have too many expectations from this digital piano. But, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the piano feels pretty durable, although it’s made mostly of plastic. When you go with your hand over the different parts of the piano, this feeling of sturdiness is the first one that you notice.
The Donner DEP-45 has a full keyboard comprised of 88 keys. The control panel of the piano is located above the keyboard. It’s a rather light control panel with only the most important buttons and a volume knob. Having to use button and key combinations to access some of the piano’s features is unavoidable. But this is not only specific to the DEP-45, it’s a characteristic that you find across many different digital piano models from multiple brands. I would have liked a display as part of the control panel, but there isn’t any. It would have been very helpful in determining which functions are active. Anyway, the button and key combinations are a discomfort only until you start memorizing your most used combinations.
A helpful feature is the included sheet music stand, that you can use, for what it was intended, sheet music, or to hold your tablet. The other feature I really like is the included pedal unit. Although the base of the pedal is made of plastic, the pedal itself is made of metal and feels really durable. And pedals are the very accessory Donner is appreciated for. They started by making electric guitar pedals that have been rated highly by the people who have bought them.
The connectivity panel is located on the rear side of the piano. There you can find multiple connection capabilities like USB, pedal jack, headphone jack.
Overall, I like the design of the DEP-45. It’s very similar to the 2 other portable models in this line, the Donner DEP-10 and Donner DEP-20 in that it’s easily portable, is compact and has high quality fundamentals, all for a more than affordable price.
There are two ways in which digital pianos produce sound. The first is the sampling method. This means that the manufacturers have taken samples of each key of an acoustic piano at different velocities. Then they attribute those recordings to the corresponding keys of the digital piano, and smoothen out the differences. The second method is the modeling method. By using this method, the technicians start from samples but use a lot more computer technology. Basically each sound is recreated from scratch every time you press a key, according to the way you press it, similar to the way acoustic pianos create sound.
Which is the better method? I really can’t say. I like the sound of digital pianos that employ both methods. And generally, there isn’t a consensus regarding which of the two methods is the superior one. The Donner DEP-45 uses samples taken from an acoustic grand piano to reproduce sound.
The sound of the DEP-45 is very clear and crisp, without any unwanted noises even when I turn the volume up. Now, it doesn’t sound like a 2-3k digital piano, but still, considering the price, it sounds really well, very realistic. The sound is one of the most important parts of a digital piano. And the DEP-45 will definitely please your ears, especially if you are a beginner, but not necessarily. According to my opinion, it sounds well enough to be worthy of your consideration even if you’re past the beginning stages in your pianist journey.
And let’s not forget the main advantage of digital pianos over acoustic piano: they don’t need to be tuned. If you’re buying an acoustic piano, besides the lack of further functionalities, and need for more space, you also have to tune it regularly to keep it sounding right. Digital pianos don’t need any tuning. The constancy of sound is one of their main advantages. This is why it’s important to buy a digital piano that has a good sound. You can’t change it in the future.
One of the main characteristics of a digital piano’s sound is polyphony. This is an aspect that doesn’t exist when talking about acoustic pianos. Polyphony refers to the number of notes that can be sustained at any one point in time before the first played notes start decaying. In plain English, your performance will not be at the height of your true expressiveness if the digital piano you play doesn’t have a considerable level of polyphony.
What is a considerable level? Well, it depends a lot on the level you’re at right now. The DEP-45 is designed for beginners, who need to progress a lot before needing a higher polyphony level, but even so, it has an upper limit of 128 notes. I will risk saying that most people will never need a higher limit than this one, most people will never max out this limit anyway.
128 might sound like many notes, and you might ask yourself how it’s possible to max out even this level. The answer is that you most likely will not max it out. There’s a chance to reach near this level if you play different instrument sounds at the same time and use all kinds of effects. Or you could reach near this level during certain passages of a musical piece. But just so you know, you can rest assured that this 128-note polyphony limit is a high enough limit to not worry about this aspect.
Built-in speakers are very important. Without them, you’d need headphones or external speakers to hear the sound of a digital piano. Most pianos have built-in speakers and so does the DEP-45.
The total power output of the DEP-45’s speaker system if 20W. This is enough power to fill even a bigger room, like a classroom. You would easily use it for smaller performances for a few people. If you plan on performing in front of larger crowds, then external amplifiers are a must.
In a home environment, where most people will use this digital piano to practice, the sound is loud enough even half the way up. And there’s really no need to turn the volume all the way up, even though it retains it’s quality at higher volumes, just in the where you would want your neighbors to be audience of your practice sessions. The realism factor is also there, the sound envelopes you, creating that surround feeling. If you want an even more immersive sound experience, then I recommend you use a pair of headphones. This way the experience is not only going to be more immersive, but the people around you will be able to go about their activities without having to re-listen to the same passages over and over.
The keyboard of a piano, besides its sound, is the most important part. It’s the part of the piano you interact with that is decisive in making or braking the authenticity of the piano playing experience. There are a number of aspects that need to be taken into account when analyzing the keyboard of a digital piano.
The number of keys a digital piano has can vary. The Donner DEP-45 has a full keyboard, with 88 keys, just like an acoustic piano. Another characteristic of the keyboard is whether it’s weighted or not. This also has an important contribution to the realism of the experience. The DEP-45 has a semi-weighted keyboard. This means there’s more weight to them than on an unweighted keyboard, but it’s not comparable with the weight of the keys on an acoustic piano.
A good thing, though, is the ability to adjust the touch sensitivity of the keys. This way you can set the sensitivity level to be able to play fast trills and other passages that need a high expressive capability.
For an affordable digital piano like the DEP-45 you wouldn’t expect faux ebony and ivory keytops, and there are none. The keytops are plastic, but in their defense, they offer a good enough grip to prevent your fingers from slipping during long practice sessions. Which you will be doing a lot of, especially as you learn to play the piano.
Because the Donner DEP-45 was designed for beginners, a function like metronome is a natural presence. You can set it to different levels of BPM and aid you while learning to play new songs. Another function that is very useful for beginners is the dual keyboard function. This function splits the keyboard in two equal parts, each with a middle C. This way you can play the same instrument with a teacher. You can also use this function in a duet, but it’s primarily designed for learning purposes.
There’s also a dual voice function, that let’s you split the keyboard in two parts, and assign an instrument sound, out of the 4 groups of sounds, to each part. This is a feature that can be really fun once you’re initiated in the fundamentals of playing the piano. If you have the dexterity you can play an instrument sound with one hand and another instrument sound with the other.
A recording function allows you to record your practice sessions or your performances. This is also helpful, especially in the beginning stages because you can play the recordings back to yourself and discover the parts where you need to pay more attention.
Like many other digital piano models, the Donner DEP-45 also has a connectivity panel located on the rear side. Here you can find the usual connectivity options like USB, pedal port and headphone port. But what I really like about the connectivity options of the DEP-45, the that it has Bluetooth MIDI. This way, you can connect your digital piano to a laptop or tablet, wireless. This is quite the advantage, especially if you are a beginner, because then you can use all kinds of different music apps in tandem with your digital piano, enhancing its capabilities.
There are no dedicated apps developed by Donner for their digital pianos, such as there are in case of Yamaha or Casio digital pianos, for example. But you can use a series of music apps. Some are designed for beginners and have an educational character, others are more like an enhancement of your piano’s functionalities. So, at this chapter, I must say I am really surprised, in a good way, that you get Bluetooth on a digital piano in this price range.
Now that we’ve reached the conclusion part of my Donner DEP-45 review, it’s time to reach a decision on whether this digital piano is the right choice for you.
We’ve seen how it has a sturdy built designed to last for at least a few years. It has a very good sound, with a reasonably high polyphony limit and multiple sounds to choose from. The keyboard is semi-weighted, which I am not the biggest fan of, as I think a fully weighted keyboard offers the most realistic interaction. But, you can adjust the touch sensitivity to match your preference, which is a nice plus. The built in speakers are powerful enough to fill any living room and also render a clear sound at higher volumes. The music rest and high quality zinc alloy pedal are nice additions. But probably the feature that surprised me most is the Bluetooth connectivity. In the price range the DEP-45 sells for, I’d be hard pressed to find another digital piano with Bluetooth connection capability.
Overall, I’d say that this is a good choice if you are a beginner. It’s a nice keyboard to practice on while you go through the initial stages of your piano journey. The aspect that is the greatest strength, in my opinion, is the value you get for the price you pay.