MDG100 review here: Have you ever heard the saying "you can't judge a book by it's cover?" We'll that saying is especially true when it comes to the Suzuki MDG100 micro grand digital piano. It looks nice in its shiny black cabinet, but that's where the nice stops.
Suzuki (the brand) does not make its own pianos but they use an unknown factory in China to make the pianos for them. In my opinion it really doesn't matter where a piano is made but it's who makes it and the quality and parts that go into it. Yamaha & Kawai have pianos made in China, but those pianos are in a different class, and it shows. As an example, the black shiny cabinet finish can be just a thin coat of material or multi layers of material that stand up to wear & tear. So it's the materials & workmanship that cause the price to go up or down, and then you get what you pay for. If you don't want to pay a lot of money for a cute little micro grand, Suzuki may be perfect for you, however you will eventually notice the difference as well as big deficiencies.
There is very little else that I like about the piano except the fact that it looks cute. The piano doesn't play good, doesn't sound good, the cabinet is normally flimsy and wiggles & wobbles if you barely move it, and the controls and sounds are extremely weak as far as quality, based on everything I have seen from this piano so far...and I am not exaggerating. This model has been carried by Costco for awhile and also by a couple of on-line music dealers.
When I first saw this piano at Costco, I got a chance to play it extensively in their store. I was fortunate that it was not busy while I was there so I could spend some time on it. What was interesting to me was, as people approached this piano in the aisle way and saw it (while I was standing there), the first reaction from a shopper was always "it's so cute and pretty, I would love to have one." I was not surprised by this emotional response as it is expected because the piano is cute, but once you get past the cuteness, you'll probably wish you had bought a better musical instrument, in my opinion. Yeah I know you can bring it back to Costco (in almost any condition) and they'll give you your money back...but do you really want to go through all that time and hassle?, I wouldn't.
$1499 on this model which seems low, but what shoppers don't understand is once you get past the cute cabinet, you have (in my opinion) a very poor musical instrument with inferior technology, which is too bad.
On one occasion at Costco, I tried to slide/push the key cover open where it slides up into the piano and then it got stuck real tight (not a good sign). The key cover would hardly move when I tried to slide it out again and then got stuck again going back up. OK, maybe that can be repaired, but the piano was a new model in their store and it should have worked properly like they usually do on the 'good brands.' This is a red flag to me on what the workmanship on this piano could be like in other ways too. I have played and examined thousands of digital pianos over the years and rarely encountered anything like that on the higher quality digital pianos brands that I have used extensively including Roland, Yamaha, Kawai, and Casio, and others.
However, what really got my attention was the piano key action expression and key velocity reaction time. In other words, as I was playing a song, the volume of the notes I was playing were very choppy and irregular as I pressed the keys lighter and then as I gradually played with more pressure on the keys. It was like adjusting the volume on your TV remote and having it start out somewhat loud (no soft volume) and then jump to a much louder volume with nothing in-between. That would not only be very annoying, but does not allow for normal smooth musical expression, especially when playing lightly and that is not a good thing for piano students either. This is the way the Suzuki micro grand was obviously designed and there's nothing that can be done about it including changing the velocity sensitivity (a function)...nothing helped.
The physical keys themselves felt OK on the piano but they had a very noisy plastic sounding key action movement to them. And when I tried to play a bit faster with more repetition while using the sustain pedal (which is a normal way to play), some of the notes didn't respond at all, as if they were silent (dead)). I suppose if you always play slow then that wouldn't be a problem..but that's not realistic when playing in a normal fashion. So the key action was, to put it mildly... bad, and I've run into this before on some other "off brands" I have played. The piano sound itself was very basic and tinny in tone quality overall (you may not notice this unless you have heard how real pianos sound). In fact, Costco sells a Casio 88-key portable piano with weighted keys for $449 that plays and sounds better than this Suzuki in my opinion, and that doesn't say much for the Suzuki.
When a person is playing piano, they also need to use the sustain damper pedal (right pedal), although if you are an absolute beginner, you may not be using the pedal until you understand the keys and notes first. But it won't be long until you will need to do that and the piano needs to respond with a good piano sustained sound and resonance when the pedal is pressed down. Unfortunately, when I was holding the sustain pedal down (the right pedal) with my foot on the MDG100 piano, as I played the keys, the piano notes would decay (fade away) very fast. If you've never played an acoustic piano much or at all in the past, then you might not know that the piano sustain pedal on the right is supposed to sustain or hold the notes for a longer period of time than the Suzuki does.In other words, this is a deficiency for those piano who would be at a higher skill level than a beginner.
There are a total of 138 instrument tones on the piano with some sounding unrealistic (compared to many other digital pianos in similar price range). In fact, I have personally heard new Yamaha & Casio keyboards under $300 do a much better job at recreating realistic instrument sounds than this Suzuki. The same situation is true for the drum patterns and chord accompaniments. As far as other features of this piano, the built-in speaker system has (according to Suzuki) a total of 120 watts of power (2x60 watts stereo). That would be a a very good volume and hearing it should be no problem, but bigger audio power is useless if the piano and instruments sound cheap and play poorly...and in my opinion they do. That's like someone who sings bad who then sings louder to make up for singing bad (like on American Idol sometimes). How does that help anything?...it doesn't.
There is an SD card slot and an iPod docking station on the piano but it's all for show and no go as far as I'm concerned. Not long ago I reviewed a digital micro grand piano called the Williams which is sold by Guitar Center, and it and the Suzuki are not much different except the Williams had even worse physical problems on the one I saw then did the Suzuki. Regardless of what the manufacturer or store might otherwise say or believe, my advice is...just stay away from this instrument if you are looking for a satisfying piano playing experience and want a good piano investment for the future.
Yeah I know...it's CUTE! But if you can get past that and know that "at the end of the day" you need it to be a reasonably good musical instrument, then I advise you to opt for something else...unless you have very low expectations. I have actually seen some "positive reviews" of this piano out there by individuals who have apparently bought one, but as the old saying goes, 'ignorance is bliss," and if people can't notice the issues I have mentioned, it doesn't mean they are not there, it just means those people have not discovered them because they do not have prior piano experience. The deficiencies in this model is not limited to just one specific piano that I played on. The fact is, all MDG100's will have been made exactly the same and play exactly the same, deficiencies and all.
Another option is to consider buying a digital vertical/upright piano from Kawai, Yamaha, Casio, or Roland. My two favorite models right now are the Kawai CE220 ($1899 internet price) and the Casio PX850 ($1099 internet price). Both pianos are fine instruments and have realistic piano tone, hammer action key touch, and very cool digital features that many people will enjoy. The Kawai CE220 is by far the better piano and even a professional piano player could feel comfortable playing that model because the key action (keys) comes from real wood full size acoustic piano keys along with having an incredibly smooth grand piano tone that far surpasses anything else in the under $2000 range. So if you are looking for super high quality piano reproduction and don't necessarily have to get a "grand piano look," then the Kawai CE220 would be my recommendation and a much better long term investment over something like the Casio PX850. But as for the Suzuki MDG100 or any other Suzuki MDG model, in my opinion you should stay away if you are looking for a good piano playing experience no matter what skill level you are at.
FURTHER MDG100 UPDATE: When a model is discontinued, sometimes there are used ones for sale by stores or private owners by that time. In the case of the MDG100, I have noticed you can find many used MDG100's for sale and some of these pianos are being sold in "as is" condition with problems and non working parts. This is an indicator of that model being somewhat unreliable and having had enough problems where they are showing up that way. Suzuki is not the only brand with these issues but they are definitely occuring on the MDG100 so be careful what you buy regardless of price and regardless of brand.