Jun 17, 2014

REVIEW - Williams Rhapsody Digital Piano - Not Recommended!

UPDATED REVIEW - June 5, 2015 - I still do not recommend the Williams Rhapsody digital piano ($499 internet and store price), especially if you are taking piano lessons. The Williams digital piano brand is a private label brand made specifically for Guitar Center and its affiliates/subsidiaries including Musicians Friend, Woodwind & Brasswind, Music & Arts, and other Guitar Center companies. In an effort to have their own "house brand," the Williams brand is exclusive to those companies for better or for worse and that brand is mostly not so good based on all my playing experience with them. The Williams brand has nothing to do with the brand being made in the US other than its name being created in the US. The pianos themselves are made by unknown Chinese digital piano manufacturers using what appears to be much lower quality digital technology in a somewhat nicer looking cabinet, even though the cabinet construction looks cheaply made.

Williams Rhapsody digital piano
I do not recommend the Williams Rhapsody because it simply sounds and plays bad as a piano in my opinion and it doesn't reach even minimum standards of piano playing and sound reproduction. I am not talking about this piano needing to be good enough for advanced players. I am talking about this piano being good enough for a child to learn on...and it is not. Although the keys are weighted and certainly feel more like a piano than a keyboard does, the acoustic piano tones themselves sound very bright and more like a guitar than a piano, and the volume sensitivity and dynamic range of these piano tones as you press the keys almost sound as if there isn't any tonal dynamics and volume changes at all when pressing on the keys. In other words, this instrument as far as fundamentals go, including the actual piano sound realism, volume sensitivity (when pressing keys from soft to hard), and dynamic range (mellow to bright when pressing the keys harder) is nothing like any real piano I have ever played. The foot pedal action is also another important area of piano playing and the 2-pedal unit on this piano seems flimsy and makes squeaky noise, at least on the ones I have tried, and I have played many of them. The pedal sound sustain response should include "half-pedaling" to be more realistic, and this piano does not have that feature but in this price range I did not expect that. If you or a family member is taking piano lessons, getting the "half-pedal" sustain feature can be important as you progress in your piano playing skills.

Williams Rhapsody digital piano
What this piano does have that is positive is a fairly attractive dark brown cabinet (no built-in keyboard cover) and a nice front panel layout with easy to use controls and a LED display screen to better navigate the functions. The other instrument sounds including electric pianos, guitars, strings, organ etc, actually sound OK for a piano in this lower price range and are acceptable. Other useful functions include layering and splitting of tones, recording, metronome for timing, and other nice features which can make this piano fun to play. It even has dual audio outputs and a USB to computer output (below left pic) which is pretty cool. But just because it has a USB output does not necessarily mean it will work and connect well to another device.

Overall if you were to just look at this piano visually you might decide that this is a nice instrument and buy it, especially for just $499 or less money when it's on sale occassionally. However, you can get even more of these fun features with better piano playing results on inexpensive $200 keyboards (though I don't recommend that for piano students), so just because something seems to be good on the outside does not mean it's good on the inside. Looks should not be the primary reason you buy a digital piano. In fact, I refer to a piano with decent looks but inferior and downright disappointing piano playability as a PSO or "piano shaped object." Looks good, plays bad, which is true of other digital pianos I have reviewed, so this is not the only one.

Williams Rhapsody digital piano
A digital piano should be purchased with one main primary goal in mind, and that is to reproduce the acoustic piano playing experience as closely as possible in specific price ranges, especially if you will be taking piano lessons. When you know little or nothing about the way real acoustic pianos play, then you may not realize how deficient some of these "off brand" digital pianos can be. Although the $499 price is very low in comparison with most new digital pianos, especially when it comes to furniture cabinet models, the looks as well as the amount of buttons & functions at a low price should not be the main criteria for choosing one piano over the other. It should always be the piano playing experience realism and on the Williams Rhapsody, this piano falls way short to the point where you probably would be better off with a less expensive name brand small keyboard instead.

Williams Rhapsody digital piano
Another not-no-pleasant feature of the the Rhapsody is its noisy, clunky key action. On most digital pianos when you are playing the keys a little harder and using more force, when the key touches the keybed below it, the sound the physical key makes should be fairly muted and relatively quiet. However, when the keys are played a bit harder on the Rhapsody, the keys hit bottom and make a clunky noise like the key is hitting wood with little padding in-between. I have heard this on some other key actions before and you may not notice this until you get it into your house and start playing it. This kind of "banging sound" can be very distracting especially if you are using headphones for private practice where other people are then subjected to hearing the keys banging while you are listening to music through headphones and not as aware of the clunking sound.

Williams Rhapsody digital piano
A much better alternative to the Williams Rhapsody would be the new Yamaha P45 or Casio CDP130 both internet priced at $449 each (or less if on sale) not including stand, pedals, or bench. A bit further up from there would be the Yamaha P115 ($599 internet price) and Casio PX150 ($499 internet price) not including accessories. These instruments are so much better in reproducing a more realistic piano key action and playing experience than the Williams Rhapsody, it's not even close. A bit further up from there would be the new Casio Privia PX760 (above left pic) furniture cabinet model internet priced at $799. Although the Casio PX760 is quite a bit more money than the Williams Rhapsody, it's worth every penny and would make a much better investment into your family's musical future. 

By the way, just for the record, I do not recommend any Williams digital pianos because they all share similar deficiencies in the key action, sound response, touch, tone, pedaling, etc, based on my experience. I would just save your money and go purchase a Yamaha or Casio for slightly more money than see you put it into an instrument that may cause you to develop bad playing habits and/or keep you from enjoying the true beauty of a good piano playing experience that other digital pianos can give you. Do your homework and be careful of off-brands like the Williams, Suzuki, Adagio, Adams, and other brands that don't meet very basic standards. You do get what you pay for so be sure you make the best purchase decision you can. If you want some help, please contact me directly.

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.

5 comments:

  1. I enjoy playing this piano, as an amateur - but I also DO NOT recommend it because the audio out and headphone jacks produce terrible quality audio output. The internal speaker sound has a decent, dark tone and actually sounds somewhat realistic, but after fiddling with trying to record it via headphone jack, 1/4" jack, and USB it sounds like a cheap piece of junk. If you have any interest whatsoever in recording audio thru the output jacks you will be very disappointed in the sound quality. It's very tinny and fake sounding, almost like a toy piano. The quality of the outputs is not the same as the quality of sound when playing thru the internal speakers!! I'm super pissed about this because I wanted to set it up to record, and having to use a microphone setup defeats the purpose of having a digital setup to begin with.

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  2. interesting. Not only is that a problem but in terms of playing the piano in "real-time" it is a very poor quality, especially in key action and note recognition volume as well as tonal consistency throughout each octave. A poor piano at best...

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  3. I recently purchased one of these on impulse - this week they put them on clearance (in store only so far) for $349 and I couldn't pass it up.

    First off, I'm a guitar player, not a pianist so will leave the judgments on playability to those who would know more than I. That said, I've had an accomplished pianist friend over bang on this for some time and we both found the sound quite satisfactory. I have no doubt you wouldn't want to play this on stage at a recital, or that an experienced classical pianist would find it wanting, but based on my experience and from reading other reviews online it seems like a perfectly suitable alternative - especially at the current in-store price point.

    Normally I'd have just passed this post by, but felt compelled to comment because the early tone of your review, I feel, hurts your credibility. What on earth does the parentage of the company, or Mitt Romney have to do with the playability of this digital piano? And what exactly is your point about GC having a private label brand? They're hardly alone in this - in fact it would be surprising if a retailer this large didn't have a house brand. This in and of itself should be irrelevant to the issue at hand.

    I've not doubt you're being sincere about your feelings regarding the noisy keys, squeaky pedals, etc. But your clear bias towards the company, or private label, or maybe just Mitt Romney and Bain Capital, casts a shadow over your conclusion. I suppose I should just find it refreshing to have these biases disclosed so clearly in a product review, but it really does interfere with the content.

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  4. I have played many Williams Rhapsody pianos over a period of time and all of the ones I have played exhibit the same negative issues I have stated in my review. If you (or someone you know) like the piano then that is based on personal feelings instead of what I consider to be reality. A private label brand in a music store is almost always inferior to name brands in many ways based on my substantial experience with these private label brands. I hope you enjoy your time with the Rhapsody but I would personally never recommend it to anyone regardless of age, playing ability, or musical goals. I have no bias against Guitar Center as they are a very good company with some excellent products but they normally do not have anyone who works there in any of there stores I have had experience with, and there are many, who knows much (if anything) about digital pianos. I wish you musical happiness.

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  5. Thank you for your opinion... we are investigating buying piano for my son and I am totally ignorant on this subject, so your feedback was great.
    I'd rather pay a little more for a product that is going to last through 3 children and have a service back up. So I will continue to research an affordable option.

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