AZ PIANO REVIEWS!: REVIEW - Artesia AP8 & Artesia AG41 Digital Pianos - NOT RECOMMENDED - Available at Costco - Digital Piano Reviews

Jan 6, 2014

REVIEW - Artesia AP8 & Artesia AG41 Digital Pianos - NOT RECOMMENDED - Available at Costco

Artesia AP8 & Artesia AG41 digital pianos
UPDATED REVIEW - October 2, 2014 - Artesia AP8 & AG41 furniture style Digital Pianos - NOT RECOMMENDED - Artesia is another one of those digital piano brands that I call a PSO (Piano Shaped Object) which means that it looks like a piano but otherwise does not play like a piano. The Artesia brand is available in the US exclusively at Costco on-line. These pianos look good on the outside but are not good on the inside at any price based on my playing experience with the AP8, AP41, and other Artesia models. Costco has regularly offered the low quality Suzuki & Adagio digital piano brands which I have previously reviewed, but I would think by now that Costco would stick to name brands instead of continuing to go down the off-brand road of trying to sell off-brand names that are not good, especially a name that no one has heard of like Artesia.

Artesia AP8 & Artesia AG41 digital pianos
Artesia is a brand belonging to a company called Virgin Musical Instruments who imports a variety of different kinds of musical instruments from China, which is a main source in the world for low price musical instruments. Having musical instruments made in or imported from China is not a bad thing as long as the products are high quality, reliable, have advanced electronics, good design and construction, and works properly. Some of the major piano brands like Kawai, Roland, Casio, and Yamaha have instruments made in China and they are quite good because those name brand companies know how to design & produce good overall digital pianos. But when it comes to off-brand digital pianos, especially those sold through Costco, I have not found any of them to be good, and in fact, they are pretty bad overall when it comes to getting a realistic piano playing experience. These off-brand digital pianos typically have certain things in common such as poor key actions, unrealistic piano sound, improper pedaling, and are typically unreliable based on my experience with them and the Artesia AP8 & AG41 are no exceptions based on my experience with it.

Artesia AP8 & Artesia AG41 digital pianos
Artesia AG41 digital grand
I was really hoping that the Artesia AP8 console furniture digital piano with matching bench in dark imitation rosewood finish would be an instrument that offered a high quality piano playing experience because of its attractive appearance and array of built-in features, especially at the low Costco price of $999US which is a very popular price range for most families. The impressive looking Artesia AG41 4'1" deep baby grand in polished ebony ($2399US Costco price) is the identical piano in terms of functions and features with an added docking port for an MP3 player and a much larger, more powerful speaker system. Both models have 64-note piano polyphony memory, 138 built-in instrument sounds which includes just 2 piano sounds but has a large selection of instrumental tones, 99 drum rhythm and auto accompaniment chord play for left hand including jazz, rock, country, Latin, etc. The Artesia pianos have General MIDI playback with SD memory card which is a nice feature, 3-track recording and playback with 4-song memory, 9 setup memories, layering & splitting of 2 sounds, 4-hand duet play, auto one-finger harmony for right hand auto-chords, lots of special effects including reverb, chorus, phaser, delay, brightness/EQ, transpose, touch response, and the piano if fairly easy to use with a digital LCD display screen.

Artesia AP8 & Artesia AG41 digital pianos
Artesia connectivity jacks
Both pianos have a weighted key action and 3 functioning pedals along with lots of connectivity including audio output, audio input, headphone jacks, USB output, SD card input, and MIDI ports which are underneath the piano. Even some some the name brand pianos do not have this much connectivity for internal and external connection in this price range so these pianos do a good job in that area. The Artesia AP8 has two speakers going through stereo 40 watt power (total) and the AG41 has 6 speakers going through 120 watts of power. So really... what's not to like about these pianos!? They look great and have most of the functions & features people are looking for in their respective price ranges. It's interesting to read the Artesia specification sheet and internet product description when it describes the key action and sound by saying
Artesia AP8 & Artesia AG41 digital pianos
Artesia AP8
"balanced Hammer Action," "advanced, weighted hammer action design," "excellent response and smooth playability that will satisfy even the most demanding teacher or professional performer," "incredible sound realism with its acoustic sound sample processing," "It records the actual acoustic instrument capturing their remarkable depth, expression and essence," etc, etc. These descriptions would have you believe the Artesia pianos are the most wonderful digital pianos ever made and at their low prices, will be impossible to resist! However, the Virgin Company warranty on these pianos is only 1 year parts and labor which is a small warranty as compared to the major brands, but when you buy it at Costco they (Costco) have a very generous return policy in case you cannot resolve issues with Artesia (Virgin Music Instruments) or the when the product warranty is expired. Based on my experience with reliability on these off-brand digital pianos, I would be concerned about this short 1 year warranty as most name brands have a 3 year warranty. Beyond that the unknown Artesia brand will likely have a very low resale value too as do most off-brand pianos.

Artesia AP8 & Artesia AG41 digital pianos
Artesia AP8 & Artesia AG41 digital pianosI just got though asking the question "what's not to like about these pianos" and the answer is... A LOT! Yep, all is not what it seems on these pianos from their appearance and specs. Before I start (unfortunately) tearing these pianos apart in a negative way, I will say that some of the fun features on these pianos including left and right hand chords, drum rhythms, accompaniment SD card playback, and additional instruments sounds do work and are fun. In fact some of the intro's, ending's, and left hand chord arrangements sound good and when I played the AP8 I had a real enjoyable time using those features. But that is not why most people want to purchase digital pianos. People tell me all the time that they want the piano to have the best and most authentic weighted piano hammer key action with minimal action noise, best piano dynamics and resonate sound, realistic quality pedaling, and full clear piano sound out of the speaker system. On all these fundamental piano functions, the Artesia unfortunately falls very short.

Artesia AP8 & Artesia AG41 digital pianos
Artesia control panel
At first when you play these pianos it seems like the piano sound, key action, and pedaling might be good. The keys are weighted pretty nicely, there is a piano sound and some dynamics, and the pedals work overall and sustain is OK. But the more I played this piano the more I disliked the piano playing experience. First and foremost is the fact that the keys are noisy and bottom out like plastic hitting wood over and over. In other words when I pushed down on the keys with minimal strength, they made considerable knocking noise like there was no felt under the keys. That was not enjoyable and a big deficiency. The keys are also stiff when playing lightly and softly. They don't push down easily like a regular acoustic piano and the key movement is also uneven amongst the various keys. Physically the keys have weight and resistance to them but in all other ways they are not like playing a real acoustic pianos or even the pianos from Casio, Yamaha, and Kawai starting at $350. So the Artesia piano key action fails my tests and I am not surprised because all of the off-brands I have played from Costco or anywhere else have key action problems.

As far as the piano sound and the response of the sounds to key pressure across the keys, I give this piano a big F (failure) for the piano sound in this price range. First of all, believe it or not, the piano sound is out of tune with itself...yes you heard me right, notes are out of tune! How do I know this?...well when you play some octaves together (2 notes at a time) the notes are not in tune (unison) with each other and are noticeably "off pitch." If you have ever heard a tuned acoustic piano or played another brand of digital piano where the notes are in tune, then you would know what I am talking about when you hear them out of tune. The Artesia piano keys/notes are definitely out of tune and this is also obvious when you layer a different instrument sound along with the piano sound because that 2nd instrument sound is out of tune with the 1st piano sound when played together which is also not good. In addition to this, when you play the piano sound on the right hand along with using the auto-accompaniment left hand chords, the piano sound is out of tune with the left hand accompaniment chords. The out-of-tune problem is not limited to the piano sound of which there are only two piano sounds on this instrument. The other sounds like harpsichord, trumpet, strings, etc, are also out of tune with themselves when playing octaves, fifths, fourths, and chords in various keys. I tried using the master tuning function to raise and lower the tuning pitch but that just changes the tuning for all the notes at one time and it did not help the situation with individual notes. On the Artesia product description it says "The AP8/AG-41 is a digital piano and therefore never needs tuning.Well if this is true as far as never needing tuning (and normally it is true), then Artesia (the Chinese manufacturer of this piano) has likely used a digital piano sound chip that is permanently out of tune on various keys because digital piano notes cannot be tuned individually like an acoustic piano. This simply makes the Artesia piano unacceptable to me just for this reason alone not counting the physical problems with the key action.

Artesia AP8 & Artesia AG41 digital pianos
LCD display screen
With regard to the quality and consistency of the piano sound across the keyboard, this too is also not very good. Some of the notes sound as if they are a different piano from the notes (keys) next to them. The recording of that note was not good and it shows when you play one key at a time going up or down the keyboard. Also, some notes when playing the keys come in noticeably louder than other notes (keys) next to them, so the piano volume and sound is inconsistent across the keyboard and this is also not good. When you combine all of this with the issues I described above, you have a real PSO...piano shaped object that resembles a real piano but does not really play like one, even at some more basic levels.

Artesia AP8 & Artesia AG41 digital pianos
There are 3 full size pedals on these pianos. They look good, function properly (soft, sostenuto, sustain/damper), but there are some deficiencies. The sustain pedal (right pedal) does not have the half-pedal feature which allows for a medium amount of sustain when you would press the pedal about half-way down. The Artesia sustain pedal is just an on & off pedal which is OK but not great and even the inexpensive name brand digital pianos have the half-pedal function and that becomes important as you progress in your playing skills. The pedals themselves seem to be physically cheap and not made well because of the metal clicking noise I heard when pressing the pedals down as well as
Artesia AP8 & Artesia AG41 digital pianosside-to side lateral movement which should not be there. That looseness in the pedals themselves (I have seen this on other off-brand Chinese digital pianos) probably will cause problems in the future and that would not be good. Even the pedal height off the ground was too high compared to most other pianos I have played and that extra height makes pushing on the pedals more difficult. The piano stand assembly is fairly easy to do but a couple of the screw holes on the AP8 did not line up well with the screws and two screws could not be tightened all the way down during my experience with it. Also the pedal connector port in the piano did not hold the pedal cable too well and was loose so that it is possible for the pedal cable to fall out and the pedals not work. All of these issues can be attributed to cheaper materials, parts, and/or poor workmanship and not necessarily shipping issues, although that is possible too, However the Artesia piano should be able to function and operate well regardless and that was a disappointment to me.

Artesia AP8 & Artesia AG41 digital pianos
SD card input slot
I do like the control panel layout, the buttons that light up, the display screen, and the fairly intuitive functionality. However there were some simple things that this piano should have done that it did not do including being able to slow down a playback MIDI song from the SD card playback. When the song is playing back I found no way to reduce or increase tempo of the song. It is important to be able to use that tempo feature when trying to learn songs but the tempo control was disabled during song playback with no apparent way to use it and that was a big disappointment to me. The speaker system in the AP8 is quite weak for what it is and the piano sound is generally muffled through the speakers. If you try to use the built-in EQ brightness control to correct for the muffled sound, then the piano tone is tinny or thin through the speakers which is odd because the AP8 has two speakers and 40 watts of power which should otherwise be good as compared to some name brands in this price range, but in fact was not. Actually the sound of these Artesia pianos are much better through a good pair of stereo headphones and if the internal piano speaker system actually sounded like that, then it would be a big improvement.

Artesia AP8 & Artesia AG41 digital pianos
As I mentioned before, some of the instruments sounds in these models are pretty good and it's fun to play along with the drum rhythms, accompaniments, recording, and general song playback using the SD card slot and functions. But as for the fundamentals of the Artesia pianos including key action (most aspects) piano sound realism, and pedaling realism, they just aren't good and that's where the quality really needs to be. The cabinet on the AP8 vertical piano is finished with
Artesia AP8 & Artesia AG41 digital pianosa thin layer of imitation rosewood veneer contact paper type of material which is glued to the cabinet. I found that this rosewood veneer was starting to become unglued on one of the front corner edges of the piano. This situation caused a very sharp corner where it was possible to actually scape or cut your skin if your fingers, hand, or arm was to move across this corner. I have not found this issue occurring on the name brand digital pianos because they use different materials or have better installation and product quality. The control panel is slanted and easy to see and I like how they did that. However that panel is made of black plexiglass (plastic) and not only can scratch easily but it picks up fingerprints easily when touching and also shows smear spots when putting your fingers on that plastic when touching the buttons.

Artesia AP8 & Artesia AG41 digital pianos
Artesia AP8 with closed key cover
I have been a piano and keyboard teacher as well as a pro musician for many years and it never surprises me when a person plays a piano like this and actually likes it. This is because there are people out there who don't know if a piano is out of tune or not because their ears do not know what to listen for. These people cannot tell when a key action or pedal function does not respond correctly because they have little experience playing a good piano...or any piano, and I have seen this happen many times. So with all that being said, there are some individuals who will buy these pianos because they cannot see, feel, or hear the deficiencies and that can be bad for piano students (yourself or your children) who really should play on a digital piano that can respond like a real acoustic piano as much as possible in their price range such as models from Casio, Yamaha, Roland, Kurzweil, Kawai, and Samick.

Because the Artesia pianos look attractive (both models) and have fun features along with their low prices and they're available at Costco, people will probably take a chance and buy them because they can easily return them to Costco, although packing them up properly is not a small job. I would advise that you definitely look at buying the name brand models instead of Artesia and then you will get a much better piano playing experience and won't need to worry about returning the piano. I do not recommend the Artesia pianos at any price until they get their quality way up, so do it right the first time and get something good. Go to the following links to see my recommendations: Digital pianos under $1000Digital pianos under $2000, and Samick Digital Baby Grand pianos.

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.

If you decide to make a purchase after clicking on link below, I have arranged a big discount for you direct with eMedia for their educational software and that discount price is displayed through this link only! I want to see everyone learn to play and enjoy piano!

5 comments:

  1. I was looking at the Artisan-1 61 children digital piano. Do you feel the same way about this one? It's less than $200 at costco.

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  2. I have not played this particular model yet although it certainly looks cute and colorful. I don't have high hopes for the key action and sound response in the Artesia Fun1 61-key digital piano to by any better than the more expensive Artesia models, but at only $199, you can always take it back to Costco if it doesn't work out. As a piano teacher my fear is that this kind of instrument may get young kids to pick up more bad playing habits than good ones if the key action is poorly made. In that case it would be better to have a good inexpensive keyboard by Yamaha or Casio or spend more money on a better name brand digital piano

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  3. I was looking at the Artesian-40 do you have any experience with that one?

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  4. http://azpianonews.blogspot.com/2014/10/Artesia-AG28-Artesia-AG40-REVIEW-Digital-Grand-Pianos-Costco.html
    If you want further info, please email me directly
    this is the link for my review of the Artesia AP40

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  5. Thanks for such a detailed and good review. Had a Kawai upright acoustic piano, and after several moves, could not transport it any more and reluctantly gave it away. Missed it so much, that I got a Kawai digital piano, which certainly was not as good as the original upright, but acceptable. I just donated the Kawai digital, after 15 years, to our church, and was looking into another digital piano, and saw the Costco offering. Never heard of this company so looked for a review and found your site. Thanks for steering me clear from them. Will probably end up back with a Kawai.

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