Monday, June 29, 2015

REVIEW - Williams Legato Digital Piano Keyboard - NOT Recommended

UPDATED REVIEW - September 5, 2016 - Williams Legato Digital Piano Keyboard - NOT RECOMMENDED - You are probably immediately wondering why I don't recommend this keyboard? After all, the Williams Legato is a new 88-key keyboard at a cheap price of just $199US internet discount price and it seems like it may be a great starter piano without having to invest much money...right?. The answer would be...no...it would not be a good starter piano for any beginner piano student or even for a person playing recreationally as far as I am concerned. You never want to judge a book by its cover, regardless of price, and the same would be true for this digital keyboard and I will outline my major concern about this model below.

Williams Legato keyboard piano
The Williams keyboard brand is a private label brand owned by Guitar Center and its affiliate stores of which there are many including Musicians Friend, Music 123, Music & Arts, and the list goes on. I have never fully recommended any Williams piano/keyboard product in the past and unfortunately I cannot recommend this Legato keyboard at all as it has what I consider to be a fatal flaw. The Williams Legato is a keyboard and not really a digital piano. A digital piano by nature most commonly has actual piano style weighted keys (like an acoustic piano...more or less) and the keys move more like a real piano with some brands and models doing a much better job of that than others. The Williams Legato is a keyboard in the sense that it has what all non piano weighted keys have...unweighted spring activated keys. Their are no "weights" in or on the keys. The springs under or on the back of each plastic key have a certain amount of upward tension just like real springs have. Try pushing down on any spring (depending on the size and strength of the spring) and it will take a certain amount of downward pressure to push that spring down to overcome the upward resistance or tension of that spring. Springs want to stay at resting position and if that spring is pressed down, it wants to pop back up immediately. The more the upward tension/pressure and resistance there is of the key from being pushed down, the more pressure it takes to push the spring down in the first place. Simple physics actually.

Williams Legato keyboard piano
All Yamaha & Casio low priced keyboards along with professional stage keyboards from Roland, Korg, and Yamaha use unweighted (non-piano non-hammer weighted) spring loaded keys. Some of these brands and models have better spring key action than others but they all are spring loaded. The Williams Legato is no exception. The fatal flaw of the Legato that I am referring to is the fact that the spring loaded keys are exceptionally stiff to push down and take an unnecessary and fatiguing amount of finger pressure to push the keys down. In fact, the keys are so stiff that in my opinion it will easily cause a piano student or recreational player to have to compensate for this unnatural key action in the way they play their music. The keys are simply uncomfortable to press down and completely unrealistic in response, particularly when you need or want to play softer and easier portions of the music you are playing. It's just difficult to play softly with a light touch and the dynamic range is thrown off because of this. The white keys are stiff enough but the black keys are even stiffer (if that were possible, and it is) so when you try to play flats or sharps, especially chords, it's just ridiculously bad. In fact as you press a key down, it actually gets harder to push the further you press it down as opposed to easier. When playing on almost any low priced Yamaha or Casio keyboard, the key action playing experience is much better with their spring key actions along with being much easier and more enjoyable to play along with less unnatural stiffness interference with playing correctly as far as keyboards go.

Williams Legato keyboard piano
The upside of the Williams Legato is that it has 88-keys whereas the low priced Casio & Yamaha keyboards do not. The most keys on those brands in the $200 price range is 76 keys, however for most recreational players and for all beginners and beginner intermediate players, 76-keys is more than sufficient to play most popular music and many classical pieces. The difference between 88 keys and 76 keys is only 12 keys and that is counting both black & white notes. So in reality there is not much of a difference in the amount of keys on these keyboards and I would rather have a much better key playing experience than just having more keys. There really is no comparison to getting quality as opposed to quantity and when it comes to the Williams Legato key action, and it is definitely not quality in the ways the keys move. This spring loaded key mechanism cannot be changed or adjusted in any way. You can change the velocity touch curve response in the Legato as you can with all popular keyboard brands, but that just changes volume response and not the physical nature of the keys. Regardless of what you might otherwise read about the Legato, the key action is not semi-weighted, fully weighted, piano weighted, or any other weighted...there are no "weights" in or on the keys like there are in real digital pianos. It is only spring loaded action and any so-called "weight" you might think you feel is only resistance (tension) from the spring underneath or behind the key, and the key stiffness can be misinterpreted as weight...but it is not. 

Williams Legato keyboard piano
As for the features and functions of the Legato keyboard, it definitely has some nice features for $199 including 5 good instrument sounds which include electric piano, synth, jazz organ, and bass. The acoustic piano simulation is actually OK, although the polyphony processing power for playing simultaneous notes is quite low at only 32-note max in mono polyphony). The Legato also has the ability to work on batteries (other keyboards can do this too), layer and split keyboard sounds, has a built in adjustable digital metronome, USB output to computer or device, audio outputs for connection to external audio, has special effects which include reverb and chorus, headphone jack, and some nice function editing features. There is also a sustain pedal which can be plugged in and an a/c adapter that can be connected but those come at an extra cost of about $30 which adds to the price. The Williams Legato keyboard piano Legato case is also fairly attractive, comes with a metal music rack, and has some cool aluminum/chrome looking buttons to push and things are laid out on the control panel in a pretty intuitive way. The editing functions must be done by referring to the owners manual because there is no way to know how they work from the keyboard itself. However, those features pale in comparison to what you can get with a new Casio or Yamaha keyboard which blow away the Williams piano in nearly every way including having access to internal educational and recording features, especially with regard to much improved key action and piano sound in my opinion. The Williams piano sound is somewhat digital toy sounding through the internal speakers but does sound better through headphones or external speaker system, and the keys are noisy when going up and down but that is sometimes true with other low priced digital keyboards too.

Casio WK245
Although the Williams looks like a good compact digital keyboard, is inexpensive and simple to use with its 88-key keyboard at very low price, in my opinion the key action completely disqualifies this model from being taken seriously. This model is an instrument does not provide a good, solid playing experience, especially for piano students just learning as it can get them into bad playing habits pretty quickly. I recommend you save your money and upgrade to a good Yamaha or Casio 76-key spring loaded keyboard like the Yamaha YGP235 at $249 or Casio WK245 at $199 (including the accessories) both with a much smoother and less troubling key action along with better sound and more usable features and much better brand names...(especially for resale value), or go up to a real portable digital piano like the Casio CDP130 ($399 internet discount price), Yamaha P45 ($449 internet discount price, or the new Casio PX160 ($499 internet discount price) which would provide the much better and more authentic key action. If a young child wants to learn to play piano (or their parents want them to learn), a cheap keyboard like the Yamaha or Casio is fine in the beginning, but a piano type weighted key action is better because it starts good playing habits early, at the beginning of the learning process and that will give your child a distinct advantage in the long-run.

Williams Legato keyboard piano
As far as my concern about the Williams Legato key action feel and movement, I challenge you to go into a store with the Williams Legato on display and then press and play on the keys and do the same on a competing Yamaha or Casio keyboard and you will feel the difference immediately...because not all springs and spring loaded actions are created equally. Yes, may be some people who will say they like this model and that's fine, but they are just fooling themselves into believing that keys are supposed to feel and move that way when in fact they are not...not even close. If you like a stiff key movement then perhaps you'll enjoy the Williams Legato...however I definitely do not enjoy playing it (I don't hate it, but I definitely don't like it) and I would not recommend it to any of my students or friends who are students or play piano and want want a low price keyboard and hope to get 88-keys, regardless of how low the price is. Yes, a good keyboard player can make this piano sound pretty good (although without soft legato playing), but a good keyboard player can make anything sound good! But the sound is only half the playing experience...it's the key action that is the other half and that is not something you can feel by watching a video of this piano. Do your homework when researching these pianos and don't believe everything you read when it comes to consumer reviews because much of the time they just don't know what they are talking about. Ignorance is bliss sometimes:).

If you want more info on new digital pianos and LOWER PRICES than internet discounts, please email me at tim@azpianowholesale.com or call direct at 602-571-1864.

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