Tuesday, November 3, 2015

REVIEW - Artesia DP3 Digital Piano at Costco - Semi-Recommended

Artesia DP3 digital piano review UPDATED REVIEW - September 1, 2016Artesia DP3 digital piano - Semi Recommended - The Artesia DP3 digital piano is a current model instrument sold by Costco in the US and their price is $699US. Artesia is a brand developed by the Virgin Music Instruments company and their instruments are made in China. The DP3 is in an attractive furniture cabinet model which includes a nice comfortable piano style bench and the piano comes in what Aretsia describes as "dark rosewood finish." However, the rosewood color is so dark that it is difficult to see the wood grain in the DP3 finish that would normally be associated with rosewood. So in reality the rosewood color looks almost like satin black and not like actual rosewood. If you like a very dark "rosewood" finish that looks black, then you'll like the DP3 color.

With this attractive product being sold at Costco for a pretty low price, it would seem like an excellent choice, especially based on the manufacturer description of their piano. Here are a few quotes below that the Artesia company has put on the Costco website to describe their pianos:

Artesia DP3 digital piano review 1. "The Artesia DP-3 Digital Piano is a stylish, traditional furniture piece that enhances your home, not only with its deeply expressive sound, but also with its appealing traditional piano cabinet. This full featured piano and its concert hall sound will bring you and your family years of musical enjoyment. "

2. "The Artesia DP-3 full scale hammer action and velocity sensitive keyboard brings the feel of an acoustic piano to your finger tips. Its advanced, natural acoustic balanced hammer action design offers excellent response and smooth playability that will satisfy even the most demanding teacher or performer."

3. "The DP-3 offers incredible sound realism with its acoustic sound sample processing. It records the actual acoustic instrument capturing their remarkable depth, expression and essence. Instruments such as Piano, EPiano, Harp, Vibes, NGuitar, Organ, Strings and Bass are included. All the instrument voices offer an incredible dynamic range and realism."

Artesia DP3 digital piano reviewOK...I understand that a brand wants to describe their product in a positive way, but Artesia has taken its product description to a new level of ridiculous "hype," in my opinion. Whenever you see the word "incredible" or "remarkable" used to describe something by a manufacturer or supplier, you can already know that it is likely not true, especially in this low price range. I have taught piano for many years, play at a high skill level, and have played on hundreds of great acoustic and upright pianos and I can tell you the Artesia DP3 does not have an advanced, natural acoustic balanced hammer action design that offers excellent response and smooth playability that will satisfy "even the most demanding teacher or performer." Even the MOST demanding??...come on!...the most demanding would not come near this piano or any other piano brand in this price range when it comes to the most demanding teacher or performer. As far as a "deeply expressive sound" which is "capturing their remarkable depth, expression and essence" of an acoustic piano, if this is so, then all acoustic pianos that I have ever heard and played are nothing like the DP3. In other words, it's just all hype on the part of the Artesia brand on the Costco web site when it comes to describing this DP3 piano. Artesia DP3 digital piano review So what is the truth and the musical facts of this Artesia DP3 and how it plays? Well, let me start out by saying even though it does not come anywhere close to what the Artesia brand says it is, it isn't that bad and actually has some very postive things it's able to do. For many people, at $699, the DP3 may be sufficient as an entry level digital piano in an attractive cabinet. It is certainly better in my opinion than any of the Williams or Suzuki brand pianos sold through Guitar Center, so that's a good thing. The DP3 has a number of pretty cool features in terms of what it can do, but the most important things that any digital piano should do is to offer the student or player a good piano playing experience as compared to a real acoustic piano and that's where this piano does fall short and here are some reasons why:


Artesia DP3 digital piano reviewA piano key action is the all important feature of any piano and on the DP3, they use plastic action (all brands are plastic in this price range) which has a piano type weighted key and it actually moves up and down nicely with regard to the weight of the key not being too heavy or too light for most people. But...unfortunately, and as I had suspected before playing this piano, the key action is very noisy. If you have the volume of the piano up fairly loud then it's unlikely you will hear the key action noise because the louder piano volume will cover it. But most people play at a somewhat quieter volume or use headphones and this when the key action noise becomes apparent and can also be very irritating, especially to me. It is true that all digital piano key actions have some noise associated with the keys going up and down, but there is a point at which the noise is excessive and annoying...and that is the case with the DP3. The most obvious noise is when the keys being played and pushed down and the keys hit the bottom and make a loud thunking noise like it's hitting wood below the key without any padding underneath. I have played key actions like this on Artesia and also some famous brands in the past such as Roland and those key actions are just plain bothersome. Clunk, clunk, that's all you hear above the piano sound when the volume is lower or especially with headphones on. When you are using headphones for private practice the the clunky key sound is more evident, especially to others in the household at the time you are playing. All the other people hear is constant loud knocking when the keys are depressed, especially if you are applying more force to the keys when playing more lively upbeat songs or serious classical pieces. Also, when the keys come back up, they are noticeably loud and knocking returning to their normal position. So all I can say about this is...if you have a high tolerance for noise, this key action may not be an issue for you...but if you are like me and want a quieter key action, then this DP3 would not be the one to get...and mainly for this reason I would not recommend it. All the cool features and nice looks of the piano cannot overcome my distaste for loud, noisy key actions.

Artesia DP3 digital piano review Artesia DP3 digital piano review Artesia DP3 digital piano review With regard to the DP3 piano sound, actually it is acceptable at its price...but not at all great. As I mentioned earlier, it's certainly better than any Williams or Suzuki digital piano I have played in this price range but the individual piano notes/tones on the DP3 are overall fairly muffled in tone through the internal speakers and not very clear so there was little noticeable change in expression or dynamic range...but the piano sound is certainly loud enough and will fill a room with no problem and the bass notes on the piano are actually very big and full. You can edit the treble frequency on the DP3 to add some more clarity for the middle to higher octaves and that does help a bit, but not near enough. However, when you use a good pair of stereo headphones, the piano sound is altogether different than through its own speakers and much clearer and more expressive that way too. When playing the piano normally through the piano speakers, I think it's important to point out that when you play one note at a time up or down the keyboard, the volume sensing and tonality of the sound is definitely not even, so on some notes they will be more mellow or muted and on other notes they will be noticeably brighter, which I definitely do not like when there are noticeable changes like that. Also on some notes the piano sound will be louder while on other notes it will be quieter with some notes jumping up in volume more quickly when the keys are played especially when the master volume is up higher. This kind of uneven jumpy sound response is not unusual on cheaper key actions using lower quality key sensors and piano samples, but for $699 in a cabinet model, I expect that, but it's worth pointing out. Also, on real acoustic pianos, when you push a key down very slowly and lightly, there should be no piano sound even if the key touches bottom. The hammer in a real piano will hit the string only when you give the key more force. On the DP3, the piano sound comes on before the key even gets to the bottom so there is no way to have subtle volume changes from zero on up on the DP3 as you would otherwise get on a real piano. For beginners this is not an issue because they are not good enough yet for that to matter. But for students who are progressing in their lessons or for more advanced players, having the volume triggered before the key even gets to the bottom is annoying in my opinion. This is not the first piano that has has this issue because even some of the better brands have had it. But all the major brands have eliminated this problem, but unfortunately Artesia is showing that their key/sound sensing needs some upgrading to make it work correctly. This is also true for when you let a key up after pushing it down. In a real piano when you let a key up slowly, the sound does not instantly cut off but instead the piano sound has a small bit of sustain as the key is nearing coming back up to resting position. This is how all real pianos work and it has to do with the damper inside a real piano slowly coming back to rest in-between the strings. A quick on/off sound is not real and although this will not affect beginners, I am pointing it out because Artesia has made its description of the DP3 sound like this model is just like a real piano when they say it offers excellent response and smooth playability "that will satisfy even the most demanding teacher or performer," when in fact that this statement could be not be further from the truth based on all my piano playing experience. So don't be fooled by any manufacturer hype you may read about concerning this model. It's certainly OK for $699 but with that price also comes a more limited polyphony processing power of 64-notes maximum compared to 128-192 note polyphony processing power on the name brands, and in my opinion no serious piano student or piano player would likely be happy with the piano playing result of the DP3 as opposed to a comparably priced Yamaha or Casio digital piano.

Artesia DP3 digital piano review The pedaling on the DP3 includes three pedals although the actual pedals are shorter than normal piano pedals and are spring loaded mechanisms. Spring loaded pedals on digital pianos are not unusual because even real pianos use springs in their pedals. The big difference beside pedal size is that the pedals are weak and just too easy to press down. It's like there is no pedal spring resistance at all when pressing on it as opposed to what a real piano feels like when pressing on those pedals. I don't particularly like the weak DP3 pedals but in the beginning for a novice student or player, it is fine. But for any progressing piano student or player, the pedals...especially the right sustain/damper pedal is just too light and weak to have any pedal expression and authenticity to the movement. Also, with regular pianos, the piano sustain pedal is not just on & off, but there is an incremental amount of sustain depending on the position of the pedal and this function is normally referred to as half-damper sustain pedal. This is not the case with the DP3...the pedal sustain is just on & off and does not have half-damper. So for any person at a higher skill playing level, having just an on & off sustain pedal may not be acceptable...and it certainly isn't for me. The end result is typically a choppier and less even piano sustain sound experience. Also with the DP3, the amount of pedal sustain time (aka: decay time) is rather short. This is not an issue for beginner students or players, but for anyone at a higher playing skill level, you would notice that the music, especially with longer legato passages, sounding plain and much less realistic without much piano tone character at all. The other two pedals (sostenuto & soft) which are not used very much, work just fine.


Artesia DP3 digital piano review Ok...now on to some of the digital features. The DP3 has 8 instrument sounds including its one acoustic piano sound and those sounds include the standard tones such as electric piano, strings,harpsichord, etc. They are good instruments overall but mostly people use the regular piano sound. Also, the DP3 has a bunch of nice digital features including allowing for splitting the keyboard electronically into two different sides and putting a different sound on each side such as bass on the left hand and piano, layering two different instrument sounds together to be played simultaneously on every key such as piano & strings together, reverb echo with many variations which offers a very nice concert hall effect to the Artesia DP3 digital piano review instrument sounds, chorus effect which offers simulation of real electric piano effects, transpose feature which enables the piano to change key electronically up or down, a 2-track MIDI recorder so you can record both left & right hand independently and then play back those recordings individually or simultaneously for practicing at home. This is a very nice feature and I definitely like it. Artesia has also included a "duet" function which allows the keyboards to be electronically split into two 44-key keyboards giving both sides the same exact octaves for two people to practice & play at the same time. Other digital pianos have this features but it's really nice that Artesia included it in this model. There are 55 songs built into the piano including a variety of royalty free classical, Christmas, ragtime, religious, folk, old time standard, and other pieces that you can play and take advantage of the separate playback tracks to play along with those songs, and a songbook is included. However the song arrangements and sheet music are definitely advanced and more difficult to read and not for beginners...but they are still fun to hear and to try to play along with by ear. Unfortunately there is no speed/tempo control for the songs to slow them down, so you would always have to play at full song tempo which is also more challenging. There is also a built digital metronome to help with timing while learning music and is especially good for beginner students and players. All of these functions are easily seen on a LED display screen in the control panel above the keys with easy to use buttons (which I like) and the owners manual helps in understanding what the functions do and how to control them with the buttons on the panel.

Artesia DP3 digital piano review
The built in speakers and amplifiers are good with 2 nice sized speakers and big volume coming out. So there is no problem there at all. The DP3 has a surprising amount of good connectivity to other devices like external speakers, computers, iPad, headphones,etc with 2 separate stereo headphone jacks, a real MIDI output, a USB output jack, 2 separate audio RCA output jacks, 2 separate RCA audio input jacks, and a separate volume control for the audio input. So there is a lot of great connectivity and they did an excellent job with including those features. I just wish they would have used a 1/8" mini jack for audio input instead of 2 separate RCA jacks because few people use RCA jacks any more and it's a pain to get an adapter for that.

Artesia DP3 digital piano review
As for the cabinet, it weighs about 93lbs and it is quite attractive and has a nice design, although the dark rosewood (fake) finish is so dark that it looks black as I said earlier. So if you like a satin black color then you'll like the finish on the cabinet. I did notice that the paper thin photo finish veneer over particle board on the piano is so thin that I noticed a few sharp edges on it, but that's what I would expect at this price. It's nice looking but definitely not solid or real wood and not using any thicker upgraded veneers or finish...but it looks nice nevertheless. There is a built in key cover that closes and protects the keys when the piano is not in use and it works well. Artesia has also included a nice comfortable padded bench which has music storage in it, although the storage space is small and limited in size, but this is true for other digital pianos as well. But at least it comes with a bench so that is a definite plus.

Artesia DP3 digital piano review So when considering this new Artesia DP3 for a piano purchase, if it wasn't for some definite playability drawbacks of this model and the fact that based on all my playing experience, Artesia greatly exaggerates this piano's capabilities (they are not the only company that exaggerates!), I would recommend it, but unfortunately can just partially recommend it and only because it looks good, has a low price, and may satisfy some people who really don't know what pianos are supposed to sound like or how they're really supposed to play...and there are a lot of piano shoppers who fall into that category. Also, typically Artesia offers a 1 year warranty on their pianos whereas the major brands typically offer a 3 year warranty in this price range. For now, unless you are in love with the cabinet and price, there are better digital piano alternatives including some of the pianos that Casio and Yamaha have to offer that are slightly more money in a more furniture style cabinet. For $699 the Artesia DP3 seems like it would be a good buy...and in a way it is. But at the same time, I would not recommend it to any of my students because I want them to develop good playing habits from the beginning and the DP3 just doesn't "cut it" for me. If you are going to invest $699 plus tax on a DP3, for a bit more money I would encourage people to move up to a more satisfying digital piano in terms of a more realistic piano playing experience because in the long-run it will be worth it and then you won't need to worry about whether the piano can keep up with your (or your family's) playing needs and skill level. Do your digital piano research and homework and then contact me for free shopping advice.

Casio PX760 satin brown walnut
In my opinion a much better digital piano option would be the new Casio PX760. This piano is a huge upgrade over the Artesia DP3 with regard to piano key action, piano sound, and pedaling authenticity. The PX760 comes in a compact furniture style cabinet with sliding key cover in a choice of satin black, satin brown walnut, and satin white. Current discount selling price on this model is $699 and it is a far better investment than the Artesia, especially if you want something in this lower price range that can actually play like a piano should play, and not something you may regret later on as having purchased. I would recommend you read my review on the Casio PX760 before you make any decisions to purchase an Artesia DP3 piano. I have played the Casio PX760 many times and for the price there is no comparison when considering the Artesia or the Casio.  Casio PX760 Review

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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