Jul 7, 2016

REVIEW - Williams Overture 2 vs Rhapsody 2 Digital Pianos

Williams Rhapsody 2 & Overture 2 Digital Pianos - Review by AZPianoNews.com

UPDATED REVIEW - September 1, 2017 - Williams Overture 2 and Rhapsody 2 Digital Pianos - NOT RECOMMENDED - I have reviewed Williams digital pianos in the past (they are a Guitar Center house brand) and so far there has not been one model that has passed my basic playing test...and that is for the digital piano to play like a real piano at minimum standards. All the "bells & whistles" and nice looking cabinets in the world don't impress me if the piano can't play like a piano and I just don't think I am asking for too much in this way. The all new Rhapsody 2 ($499 internet selling price) and Williams Overture 2 ($699 internet selling price) are the 2016 upgraded models replacing the older regular Overture and Rhapsody models. The big things that makes these new models seem like they would be good pianos is that they are in attractive looking furniture style cabinets and they are very low priced as compared to other more well known brands. They both have 88-piano style weighted keys, lots of cool buttons and electronic features, and they are pretty easy to use. Also for the first time the new Overture 2 is offered in an elegant looking polished ebony finish which in my opinion looks beautiful. So what is NOT to like about these pianos and why would I not recommend them?


Williams Rhapsody 2 & Overture 2 Digital Pianos - Review by AZPianoNews.com Both new piano models are essentially the same piano in terms of key action, piano sound, and most other functions and actually I do NOT recommend them particularly if you don't want just a nice PSO (Piano Shaped Object), because essentially that's what they are. They actually seem like they would both be good because they look attractive in their furniture style cabinets and they even somewhat sound like pianos...but both of them have something very important missing in them which I believe is critical when it comes to playing piano. That "something" is their inability to have any real normal control over the volume and tonal dynamics when playing the keys. In other words, it's really difficult to achieve any kind of real Williams Rhapsody 2 & Overture 2 Digital Pianos - Review by AZPianoNews.com expressive dynamic range...and it's especially difficult to play softly when pressing the keys normally, and that's not something a student or player should have to contend with. The "cheap key action" as I call it makes it nearly impossible to play piano normally and have smooth, normal transitional volume and tonal control when you press the keys easy, medium, or hard, or anywhere in between. There is a function to change the "velocity touch curve" on the piano but this feature does little to overcome the lack of control. The control over the piano sound when pressing on the keys is not even as good as low priced $200 Yamaha & Casio keyboards I have played. Yes, the keys are weighted although they are noticeably lighter than a real piano action, but the dynamics (expression) and volume control when playing the keys is so weak that it can definitely cause a beginner player to learn bad playing habits (because they need to compensate in their playing technique so much) and a more advanced player will find they cannot control piano sound dynamics very well and that tonality (mellow to bright as the keys are played harder) is also very limited.

Williams Rhapsody 2 & Overture 2 Digital Pianos - Review by AZPianoNews.com
Overture 2 control display screen
When it comes to playing softly and achieving control over low playing volumes, the keys need to be able to be pressed all the way down to the bottom without any volume occurring. In other words, when you press a key down very slowly & lightly, you should hear nothing. That is called zero volume hammer response and all good acoustic pianos can and should be able to do this when pressing a key softly & lightly. Good digital pianos should also behave the same way with zero volume hammer response but unfortunately the Williams pianos cannot do this. When you press a key down about half-way on a Williams piano, the piano sound is triggered at that point and you can hear it at a noticeable volume well before the keys touch bottom, so you can never play the Rhapsody 2 or Overture 2 like a real piano because of this issue. Is this important? Only if you care about being able to have control over your music, your technique, the expression of your music, the dynamics, etc. Other digital pianos brands have had this same problematic key sensing problem in the past so it's not exclusive to Williams. However, all of the top name brands have moved way beyond these old technology issues and can reproduce a real piano playing experience now without these key action and piano sound deficiencies.

Williams Rhapsody 2 & Overture 2 Digital Pianos - Review by AZPianoNews.com The actual stereo piano sound on the Williams pianos is said to be taken from a famous acoustic grand piano. Even though this may be the case, it does not necessarily translate well to the digital piano sound chip in these pianos. The piano sound in the bass section is actually quite good and when I talk about the piano sound, I am not talking about the dynamics or control...just the original piano sample itself. As you go up the keyboard, the piano sound becomes less resonate and more "plunky" and sounds much less like a piano. So it does a good job in the bottom bass notes but as you go up into the middle of the keyboard and on up to the top...it's just OK. But what is interesting (and definitely not good) is the sound of the piano is inconsistent going from one note to the next. In other words, when you play a note on one key it may be bright and sharp and then the next note may be dull and mellow. This is not how good acoustic or digital pianos sound. The characteristics or sound of the note should be fairly consistent up and down the keyboard where all notes are either more mellow or more bright unless you edit the piano sound in the editing functions and increase or reduce brightness of the entire piano sound. Some people like their piano sound more mellow and some like piano sound brighter and more distinct...it just depends what your ears like to hear. But to have the sound character change from one note to the next (depending on the notes played) is not what you find (or want) in a quality digital or acoustic piano. There are piano sound inconsistencies in all pianos because nothing organ coming from a natural organic acoustic piano is perfect. But to have such noticeable poor note (piano sound) transitions from one note to the next in the Williams pianos is not something any progressing piano student would want to have and certainly no piano player would enjoy hearing. If you don't play piano and know little about sound then you may not notice these things and I would expect that. But as you progress or have a chance to play a better piano, you will likely notice these deficiencies on the Williams pianos and regret that you bought the piano.

Williams Rhapsody 2 & Overture 2 Digital Pianos - Review by AZPianoNews.com So it's not what you see on these pianos that counts...it's what you hear and feel that should really count...and that's where the new Rhapsody 2 and Overture 2 definitely take a fall in my opinion. Another thing I don't like is the fact that the key actions are noisy. When you play the keys on these pianos and you put any kind of effort into your playing, when the keys go all the way down to the bottom key-bed they make a loud knocking noise. This is not the first time I have seen and heard this issue come up in digital pianos before, but unfortunately this loud knocking sound is very annoying and distracting, especially if you're wearing headphones because Williams Rhapsody 2 & Overture 2 Digital Pianos - Review by AZPianoNews.com anyone else in the room or the house will hear this knocking noise every time a key goes down...and that could be hundreds of times in one song. It's like there is no felt or dampening material under the keys and this is typical of cheap Chinese key actions. It's not that they are built in China which is the problem, but it's the lack of quality material and workmanship that seems to be the issue here and it really shows in this noise key action. Try it for yourself...if you can find one of these pianos to play in a local Guitar Center, play the keys with a normal medium finger pressure and make sure the piano volume is lower and not full blast, or off volume (to simulate headphones plugged in), and you will hear this distracting knocking sound. It is true that all digital piano key actions make some movement noise either going down or going up or both, but it tends to be minimal. But when it's this loud then it's beyond normal and will probably get worse as time goes on and I would never recommend this piano just for that reason alone.

Williams Rhapsody 2 & Overture 2 Digital Pianos - Review by AZPianoNews.com
When it comes to the pedaling experience, most good digital pianos now offer half-damper pedaling or continuous detection pedaling including Casio, Yamaha, Roland, Kawai, and some others. This half-damper and continuous detection pedaling function allows the sustain pedal (right pedal) to have incremental amounts of sustain just like a real acoustic piano whereas the Rhapsody 2 and Overture 2 pianos only have an on/off sustain pedal function. This (on/off pedal switch) makes the pedal sustain for played notes more choppy and less smooth as compared with the better pedaling technology. It is interesting to point out that the Rhapsody 2 pedaling which only has two pedals compared to the normal three pedals on the Overture, makes the piano tone even more choppy sounding than the Overture 2 because the Overture 2 has a higher level of pedaling with a re-pedaling function. So at least the Overture 2 does a better job than the Rhapsody 2, but still does not have the pedal technology for the sustain pedal like the name brands do and cannot reproduce what a real acoustic piano can do.

Williams Rhapsody 2 & Overture 2 Digital Pianos - Review by AZPianoNews.com
OK, now that I have talked about some of the poor quality functionality of these pianos, I want to talk about the good things, and there are some. Besides their low price and good looks, both these pianos have an amazing amount of features and a useful intuitive user interface and control panel that I do like. The backlit LCD screen tells you what function or feature you are using and you can go into the editing and function menu and change a feature by pressing a button and then turning the silver backlit knob to get what you want. It couldn't be too much easier than that...unless you had a color touch screen like a couple of the models that Casio has. So as for being able to easily use the features on these pianos, you definitely can do that. The Rhapsody 2 has ten instrument sounds besides its two acoustic piano sounds (total 12), whereas the Overture 2 has 17 instrument sounds besides its one acoustic piano sound (total 18). All of the non-acoustic piano instrument sounds are actually very good and sound pretty realistic for this price range and I enjoyed playing them. Since instrument sounds such as organs, strings, choirs, electric pianos, harpsichords, etc don't need a good piano key action to sound and play good, then both of these Williams piano key actions do a nice job of of allowing those sounds to be played and heard. However, the key action is still noisy when the keys hit bottom but it's not as critical compared to needing a good key action for the acoustic piano sound. Ultimately since most people will be buying these instruments to mostly play piano on, as good as the other instruments do sound, in my opinion most people tend not to use them very much...but it's good to know those sounds are there if you want them.

Williams Rhapsody 2 & Overture 2 Digital Pianos - Review by AZPianoNews.com Some of the other useful things these pianos offer are...an adjustable digital metronome with tempo control, split instrument sounds, layer instrument sounds, 2 track (one song) MIDI recording, adjustable EQ, reverb & chorus effects, volume balance adjustments, modulation effects, key transpose, and many other editing functions. The Overture 2 has a few interesting and useful features that the Rhapsody 2 does not have including a function known as Song Tutor. Inside the Overture 2 are 50 piano songs which include classical pieces (most of the music is traditional classical), rock & blues progressions, and etudes. The Song Tutor Williams Rhapsody 2 & Overture 2 Digital Pianos - Review by AZPianoNews.com will allow you to play these built-in songs at any speed you want and then you can play along with them. You can adjust tempo speed with the built-in tempo function so that you can slow down the song while you're trying to learn it. There are two control panel buttons on the Song Tutor feature for these songs for listening to the right hand and left hand parts together or separately. This allows you to hear one part while you are playing the other part as you are learning the piece. Some of the music is more difficult and some easier. The Williams web site has free downloadable sheet music for all 50 of these built-in songs so that you can read the music while playing along with the songs...which is a very good idea, assuming you can read music. All 50 songs are with the piano sound only and no instrumental accompaniment but they are fun to play along with, although other digital pianos have built-in songs for play-along. But in this low price range this feature is a good one.

Williams Rhapsody 2 & Overture 2 Digital Pianos - Review by AZPianoNews.com Another song playing function is called General MIDI song play. The Overture has a USB flashdrive input slot allowing you to download an unlimited amount of full music arrangements from the internet in the General MIDI format so that you can save those songs to a USB flashdrive, put it in the Overture USB input slot in the front panel, and then play the songs from the internal menu in the display screen. There are no full size furniture cabinet digital pianos in this price range that I know of that can play General MIDI song files from a USB flashdrive and I am a big supporter of using this format to learn to play music and help with lessons. However, Williams Rhapsody 2 & Overture 2 Digital Pianos - Review by AZPianoNews.com unfortunately the built-in tempo control that works for the Song Tutor feature does not work with the General MIDI song play feature. This is unfortunate because when you are trying to learn to play a lesson song or just playing a favorite song you have not played before, slowing down the song can be very important and the Overture 2 cannot do this. Oh well...you can't have everything I guess, but if the Song Tutor feature has adjustable tempo, why not the more important General MIDI song-play feature? The Overture also has the popular duet function that nearly all new digital pianos have these days. This feature allows you to digitally split the 88 note keyboard into two identical 44 note keyboards with both keyboards playing in the same octave where the bass notes become just like the treble notes. This allows for two people to play the same song at the same time in the same octave for educational purposes. This feature is not the same as the sound split feature which puts a different instrument sound in the bass section and another instrument in the treble section such as bass on the left hand and organ on the right, etc.

Williams Rhapsody 2 & Overture 2 Digital Pianos - Review by AZPianoNews.com
Overture 2 with closed key cover
As far as connectivity on the Rhapsody 2 and Overture 2, they both have USB to computer/tablet port along with audio outputs for connection to an external speaker system as well as two headphone jacks for private listening. The Overture 2 also has audio inputs for connection of external devices such as MP3 players, computers, tablets, etc. The audio inputs are a nice bonus and most pianos in this price range don't have this. With the exception of the headphone jacks, the other connecting jacks are on the rear of the pianos. Both models are plenty loud when the master volume is increased with the Rhapsody 2 having two speakers built in and the Overture 2 having four speakers built in. The Overture 2 weighs about 35 pounds more than the Rhapsody 2 and its cabinet is also larger, but that's obvious when you see it in person. The Overture 2 has a nice sliding key cover but the Rhapsody 2 does not have a key cover at all to protect against dust and debris. The satin black grain finish on the Rhapsody 2 is attractive and the of course the polished ebony finish on the nicer cabinet design of the Overture 2 is a definite upgrade. Neither piano comes with a bench so that will be an extra cost, especially with trying to get a polished ebony bench as that kind of bench can be somewhat expensive.

Williams Rhapsody 2 & Overture 2 Digital Pianos - Review by AZPianoNews.com
Rhapsody 2
When trying to make a good digital piano buying decision, I believe a shopper needs to consider not only the good parts of any digital piano, but also the negative parts and then determine if you can live with those negative things because you might like the positive things so well. That's the dilemma with the new Williams Rhapsody 2 and Overture 2. They both have a very low price for a nicer looking furniture cabinet style piano, both have 88 piano style somewhat weighted key feel, both sound kind of like a real piano, and both have lots of good features that can be useful and fun to play around with. But if you are buying a digital piano for the primary purpose of learning to play a piano or you already know how to play and you want to duplicate the acoustic piano playing experience so that you can have the sound expression, dynamic range, and piano playing satisfaction that you're likely looking for, then there are definitely much better new digital pianos out there for just a bit more money. The old saying is "you get what you pay for" and in the case of the Rhapsody 2 and Overture 2, this saying is absolutely true.

Williams Rhapsody 2 & Overture 2 Digital Pianos - Review by AZPianoNews.com
Williams Rhapsody 2 & Overture 2 Digital Pianos - Review by AZPianoNews.comYou cannot judge a book by its cover and regardless of what the Williams advertising hype might lead you to believe, "under the hood" of these two pianos is a very inadequate noisy piano keyboard with poor control over piano sound dynamics including volume and tonal control, regardless of how you might try to play it. I  played them many times and was very disappointed each time. Williams (Guitar Center brand) had to save money somehow to keep the prices so low on these pianos and the only way to do that is to compromise on the most expensive part of any piano...the key action including the key contacts and key sensors under each key. It's like buying a car...you generally cannot see the transmission which is a very important part of that vehicle. But if that transmission is a bad one (runs rough, noisy, shifts bad, etc), regardless of all of the other cool technology and good looks that vehicle may have, are you willing to put up with a bad running transmission for as long as you own that vehicle so that you can have the other stuff? These are things you cannot see and cannot touch so you don't know what that's going to be like until you sit down and really try it out, and I can tell first hand that unfortunately it is not good on the Rhapsody 2 and Overture 2. You certainly can still play piano music and might even like what you hear on these new Williams models at first...but what you feel and hear is nothing like a real piano. So at the end of the day it's your money and if you want to take a chance and buy either of these two new models because you think they look so good and the price is so low that you cannot pass it up, then go ahead and buy it. But I don't personally recommend it especially because for just a bit more money you could get a much better piano in another brand. I wish I could say that I recommend the new low price Williams pianos because on paper and from all their advertising promotional hype, they appear to be very good pianos especially at their low prices...but you just can't believe everything you read...especially from the makers of the pianos, because after all...they are trying to sell it to you...so what do you expect them to say?!:). Do your homework and research and then contact me for solid digital piano shopping advice.

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

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review...i was about to buy it from amazon.com because it was on sale!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for the review, My son is taking lessons, I will keep shopping

    ReplyDelete