Alesis Prestige, Recital Grand - REVIEW | 2022 | Should you buy?


Alesis Prestige & Recital Grand - Review
UDATED REVIEW
-  June 1, 2022 | Alesis Prestige digital piano - The Alesis Prestige portable digital piano is also called the "Recital Grand" which is the same piano but only available on Amazon.  These two models came out in 2021 and are selling now at $449 discount price.
 But should you buy it? The Alesis name has been around for many years even back in 1990 when they made pro music products. But those were different times and a different company. 

These days they're mainly known for lower priced digital pianos and keyboards made in China, although they do make other types of electronic musical instruments. As far as this review goes, when I talk about the Alesis "Prestige" model, everything I mention also applies to the Alesis "Recital Grand" because they are the same piano except having two different names. One name is sold at some music stores along with some on-line sales, and the Recital Grand version is available only on Amazon.

Alesis is a company that is battling it out with the more well known manufacturers for keyboards and digital pianos that sell primarily for around or under $500.  I have played many Alesis digital pianos and keyboards in recent past years but was not impressed. Sounds were average or below average and key actions felt like toys. Current model Alesis digital pianos in the past 5 years were products I would have never recommended to my students or people who played piano...there were just too many better alternatives, especially from the better and more well known digital piano companies like Yamaha, Casio, Korg, Roland, etc.

Alesis Prestige piano
Also, in past years I had never seen Alesis digital pianos models under $500 at a major music store like Guitar Center, Sam Ash, etc because Alesis did not have a portable weighted key action digital piano that was good enough in my opinion. But that has changed because those music stores have started to carry a newer Alesis digital piano called the "Prestige." But does that mean this Alesis Prestige is the right digital for you? The meaning of the name "prestige" is "widespread respect or admiration based on quality and/or other factors." So my question concerning this model was "does the name Prestige reflect how this model actually plays as a piano?" The answer is, unfortunately...no in my opinion. 

Also, be aware that the Alesis "Prestige" has another name called the "Recital Grand" and that model number is the same piano as the Prestige at the same price but available under that model name (Recital Grand) only on Amazon...just to confuse you I think! So the Prestige and Recital Grand are the same pianos. But I will refer to it here as the Prestige..

Oh, and one more thing before I continue. There is a slightly upgraded model of the Prestige/Recital Grand called the Prestige "Artist" which is $150 more than the Prestige. I talk briefly about that model near the bottom of this review.

Lower prices than Amazon & internet


INITIAL THOUGHTS 


Initial Thoughts on Alesis Prestige
I already knew that the possibilities of this model playing like a real acoustic piano were pretty low because the off-brands in this price range that I have played normally have to sacrifice "something important" to get the price down to near or under $500.
That sacrifice is usually with key action, piano sound response, pedaling or a combination of these things. The old saying of "you don't get something for nothing" is generally still true today especially in many of  these  models by Alesis, Donner, Eastar, Williams, Artesia, Suzuki, Souidmy, and others that you'll see on Amazon, Costco, and in a few stores.

Is the Alesis Prestige a good digital piano?
OK...so then what are the issues I have found on the Alesis Prestige that are negative? The bottom line is this...for me it is never about the appearance, "bells & whistles," or internal speaker system that are most important because you can get all kinds of digital pianos in a variety of price ranges with those things. The focus should always be on the "piano playing experience" and whether the digital piano you are considering can play like a real piano? That is what will be of most importance to you, your family, and other people who may be involved in your music. A digital pianos should play as much like a piano as possible in your price range, so make sure it can do that.

Most important digital piano considerations
The 4 main areas of concern (components) on any digital piano should be the key action response, piano sound authenticity and response, pedaling capability, and internal speaker system. Obviously reliability and construction are important factors as well but the 4 main components I listed are by far the most important.

At the end of the day, the vast majority of people purchase a digital piano to mainly play "piano." If you want a toy there are lots of other ways to get that experience. But if you want to learn to play or already play piano, then you should make absolutely sure that the instrument you are buying can fundamentally recreate a reasonably good piano playing experience...and that is where the Alesis Prestige noticeably falls short.

KEY ACTION


Key action upweight force
The key action on the Alesis Prestige is relatively good as compared to other "off-brand" digital pianos I have played. What I mean by "off-brand" are brands not carried in actual piano stores. However, the Alesis brand is starting to be carried in mainstream music stores now such as Sam Ash, Guitar Center, and others. With regard to key action, after you press the keys down, the response of the keys coming back up is fairly strong and feels more springy in my opinion, more like a spring coming back up after you press it down as compared to the way a real piano key responds. Pressing the key down is called "down-weight force or touch-weight. When the key comes back up, that is called upweight force and it is this return force I am talking about.

Key action
In other words, the amount of force it takes to press the keys down is not necessarily heavy on this model and feels good.
But the "upweight" or return force of the keys is much too strong coming back up (more like a spring return) and can have a noticeable negative affect piano playing technique because you have to compensate a lot for the much stronger upward force of the key return and it can cause hand and wrist fatigue after a while of playing. 

There are better options out there with regard to key action movement in digital pianos and key action is a physical thing and something you cannot change. So if you are going to get a digital pianos you should try to do it right the first time. Also, when the keys come back up after pressing them down, there is noticeable key noise when the keys come back up into resting position. The keys seem to be fairly quiet going down, but definitely not quiet coming back up and hitting resting position.

PIANO SOUND


Side view of keyboard
When it comes to an acoustic piano sound reproduction, in digital pianos that's no easy thing to do. What most off-brand digital pianos suffer from is noticeably artificial piano sound in my opinion because they likely use inexpensive piano sound technology along with basic made electronic key sensors that go under the keys to "sense" the movement of the keys so that the sound hopefully comes out at the appropriate times.

In other words, the piano sound is either smooth and has a seamless transition from a soft more mellow tone to harder and brighter tone when you press down on the keys with more or less force. There should be no instant jumps to the next tone. On a real piano you don't hear any obvious "breaks" when pressing the keys softly or harder with more force. The piano sound moves smoothly from soft to loud and from mellow to bright and back again as you press the keys harder and harder. It just gradually changes instead of it being jumpy.

abrupt piano sound changes
Unfortunately, on the Alesis Prestige the piano sound is noticeably jumpy and abrupt. In the Alesis Prestige there are just 3 tonal changes (mellow, bright, brighter) instead of numerous or unlimited tonal and volume changes (like a real piano) as you press the keys down and listen to the piano sound. 

A perfect example of very limited and abrupt piano sound changes is when you press the key softly on the Alesis Prestige you get a mellow or more muted tone at a low volume which is good. But then you add a little more force when you press down a key and the sound abruptly and noticeably changes and not only instantly goes up in volume but also instantly changes timbre or tone to a much brighter piano tone. There is no gradual and even change as you would get in a real piano or even most of the better digital pianos.

abrupt changes
This instant and abrupt tonal change from mellow to bright (and then even instantly brighter when you press the key even harder) is definitely not natural and makes your music sound very artificial and abnormal in my opinion. It's like not having a smooth transmission in your vehicle gears as you increase speed when riding a bike or driving a car. If your bike or car just "jumped" into the next gear when you increased or decreased speed and you felt this jump or shift in gears, then you probably would not like it and it would likely bother you before too long. 

No one wants a jumpy or jerky experience when riding a bike when it is shifting gears or driving a car. The same would be true for a digital piano when playing the keys and listening to the piano sound come out. You want the piano sound to have a smooth transition in volume and tone as you increase or decrease speed and finger force when playing on the keys. 

PIANO SOUND - continued


Piano sound character
It's too bad because the piano "sound" itself is descent, although average for this price range, and also there is more than one piano sound option which is good. But you should not have to encounter a jumpy, abrupt piano sound changes in terms of volume and tone when playing normally. For some people, especially beginners, you may not notice this issue right away because you don't know how a piano should behave. But the way this model is working is not good as opposed to having many more numerous amounts of tonal and volume changes as you would on a real acoustic piano.

Don't judge a book by its cover
Another piano sound anomaly that I noticed was when you are lightly playing individual notes going from middle C to the octave C note above, the piano tone comes out the same on all those notes. One note is not brighter or more mellow than another when you play at the same speed, so that is good.  However, as soon as you play the C# note one octave above the middle C# in the same way you played the previous notes, the piano sound gets noticeably dull from that point on.

In other words, it is like you switched piano sound choices to a dull or more muted piano sound and then that's what you get on those keys. It's like playing 2 different pianos in one piano and I do not consider that a good thing. It's an anomaly in the way this piano behaves and I am not surprised because that is what can happen when you don't spend a bit more money in better piano technology in a more widely known brand. 

Also, some people may hear the piano sound as slightly "out of tune" relatively speaking. This is because of a lower quality piano sound sample coupled with stretch tuning which is a type of a piano tuning in an acoustic piano to try and compensate for different tuning inconsistencies. This process is used on digital pianos as well through sampling but the piano tuning can sound a bit over-stretched sometimes if the process is not done properly. Depending on your ears you may or may not hear this "out of tune" issue, but if you  are more sensitive to piano sound and tuning, then you may hear it and it could bother you.  

POLYPHONY


128-note polyphony
Polyphony is a word used when describing the amount of piano sound processing power allowing you to play a certain amount of notes at one time while using a sustain pedal and/or layering 2 sounds together. If there is not enough polyphony memory in the piano and/or the right amount of piano sound processing, then the notes you play could possibly cut out as you are playing your song. Generally speaking, 120 notes of polyphony or higher is enough "processing power" for most people who play on digital pianos. The Alesis Prestige has 128-notes of polyphony piano processing power so you likely will not need more than that. In other words, with regard to "polyphony," this model is just fine.

PEDALING


Alesis sustain pedal
As far as the pedals on a piano go, generally there are 3 of them with the right pedal being the most important one called the sustain (damper) pedal that gives sustain to the notes you play. The Alesis Prestige comes with one square plastic sustain pedal that allows you to trigger the sustain fuction when you press the pedal down. It is an on & off function and does not do variable sustain like a regular piano. So as you grow in your piano skills, you won't be able to have a normal piano damper-sustain experience as you would on a real acoustic piano using the Alesis single black plastic pedal.

Alesis is supposed to be coming out someday with a separate triple pedal unit but I don't know when that would be and if it would add the variable sustain capability to this model. IN the meantime you'll have to be satisfied with the on & off pedal switch that comes with this model. If you play at a higher skill level then you will not be able to work on your pedaling skills effectively as compared to other digital pianos or real acoustic pianos.

INSTRUMENT SOUNDS


Alesis Prestige instrument sounds
When it comes to the instrument sounds in this model, there are 16 of them that are divided up into 4 separate buttons on the control panel. These sounds include 3 different piano sounds (grand, dark, bright), harpsichord, 4 electric pianos, 4 organ sounds, strings, poly synth, and 2 bass sounds. Overall I liked the piano sounds except for them being jumpy, but the other sounds I did not like much at all except for the synth, strings, and bases. The electric pianos, harpsichord, organs, etc sounded fake to me and more like what you might get out of $100 keyboards.

The control panel buttons light up for the sounds and change color when you press them indicating that you have selected a different sound in that button, which is cool. But there is no other indication of which sound you have selected in that button other than memorizing the color and which sound lines up with it or just listening to the sound itself. At this price range that is OK and not a problem for me.

OTHER FEATURES - RECORD, LAYER, SPLIT 


Other function buttons on Alesis Prestige
There are 4 other buttons on the control panel including "record/start/stop," "layer," "split," and "key function." The recording feature is pretty basic and records your playing and then you can play it back, and stop it. You get one recording to store in the piano but then you have to record over it if you want to record something else.

The layer button allows you to mix 2 instrument sounds together at one time such as piano & strings, harpsichord & organ, etc. Some digital pianos do not have a "layer function so having one on this model is also pretty cool. There is also a "split" function which allows you to have a separate sound for the left hand and another sound on the right hand such as bass for the left hand and piano for the right hand. Some people will use this feature and others will not.

LESSON MODE


Lesson mode
There is also a "lesson mode" that automatically and electronically divides the keyboard up into two 44-key keyboards having the same octave piano sounds and pedaling so that 2 people can practice the same music at the same time. But this feature also needs a triple pedal unit to control both sustain parts, which is not available yet. The lesson mode doesn't actually teach you to play piano. It is only a keyboard setup mode for 2 people. The majority of digital pianos these days have this feature but in reality I do not see it used very often so to me it is not a big deal.

KEY FUNCTION - SELECTING ADDITIONAL FEATURES


Key function
The key function button makes it so you can access the metronome timing functions & volume, reverb effects, split & layer volume control, transpose key change and a few other things. So there are are more functions on this model but you do not access them with their own dedicated buttons but you do it by holding a function button and then selecting the function by pressing an appropriate and defined white or black key on the keyboard. Other digital piano companies do the same thing so this is not unusual and it works fine.

In my opinion the Alesis Prestige has about all you would need in terms of functionality at this price range to let you do pretty much what is needed to make some music and also learn to play piano. But as I mentioned earlier, functionality, features, bells & whistles, etc don't matter to me and don't "swing my vote" if the piano playing experience is not realistic with regard to key action, piano sound, pedaling, and internal speaker system.

INTERNAL SPEAKER SYSTEM


Alesis Prestige internal speaker system
Speaking of internal speaker system, like a few other brands and models under $500, the internal speaker system in this model is very good. I was impressed with its power, bass frequency range, and sound dispersion. At 50 watts stereo amplifier power going through four 2.5" speakers and 4 passive ports coming up out of the top back of the piano, the Alesis internal sound system is impressive, no doubt about that. So I give them 5 stars for having this feature in their Prestige digital piano whereas other digital pianos are not this powerful.

CONNECTIVITY


Alesis Prestige connectivity ports
The connectivity ports on the back of the piano are more than sufficient to take care of most external connectivity needs. These ports include USB output to computer, a triple pedal input for an Alesis triple pedal unit which may be unavailable right now, dual 1/4" audio outputs to connect to an additional external speaker system, and a mini jack audio input to run external audio devices through the Alesis Prestige speaker system. On the front of the Alesis  Prestige are 2 stereo headphone jacks for private practice.

CABINET & USER INTERFACE


Alesis Prestige full view
I like the design of the Alesis Prestige cabinet and user interface buttons in the center of the piano, and the cabinet has some height to it as opposed to being just a typical "metal slab" with uninteresting looking buttons and controls. So it does look good in this price range and comes with a large music rack to support sheet music. Even the master volume knob on this model is larger and easier to handle and it also looks pretty cool. The weight of this model is about 28 lbs so it is definitely not very heavy, which is a good thing.

FACTORY WARRANTY


1 year factory warranty
The factory warranty is only 1 year on this model which is a very short amount of time especially as compared to some other brands. Most (but not all) name brand companies offer 3 years parts & labor so as far as I am concerned, 1 year is just not long enough. There are a few music stores (like Guitar Center) that offer an additional 36 month warranty plan for $95 because the plan would start on the day of your purchase and not on top of the manufacturer warranty. 

Therefore, if you wanted 3 year full coverage on the piano you would actually be paying the $449 for the piano plus $95 for the additional warranty which equals $544 plus tax. If you only wanted the extra 24 month warranty which would give you a total of 2 years coverage from the day you buy it, then that one would cost you an additional $80 plus the cost of the piano at $449 for a total of $529. The bottom line is...I recommend you get additional warranty coverage if you decide to purchase the Alesis Prestige although that does raise the price nearly $100 over the $449.

THE BOTTOM LINE


The bottom line
Here's the bottom line: There is a lot to like about the Alesis Prestige & Recital Grand. The looks, functionality, speaker system, features, and connectivity. You can certainly buy the Alesis Prestige and play piano on it. But as far as this piano being "prestigious" and perfect and wonderful, etc...it definitely is not that way in my opinion.  It lacks in a big way as far as the "piano playing experience" goes and that is why most people purchase digital pianos...it's to primarily play piano and then maybe have some fun and/or useful bells & whistles as well. 

Alesis Prestige Artist
THE PRESTIGE ARTIST: Also, be aware that the Alesis company makes a slightly upgraded model called Prestige "Artist" which sells for $599 on Amazon and at some on-line and local music stores. This is essentially the same model at the "Prestige" using the same cabinet, same internal speaker system, same overall button operation and layout, same connectivity, and same key action and piano sounds. It just has a lot more "bells & whistles" including more instrument sounds, more fun features, a more intuitive control panel with OLED display screen which makes it easier to operate, and more "polyphony." It also comes with an upgraded sustain pedal for better physical sustain pedal response. However, for most people the overall playing experience will be the same between the "Prestige and the Prestige "Artist."

Alesis prestige digital piano
At the end of the day I always recommend to "not judge a book by its cover" as the old saying goes, especially if that item has a very nice cover. It's not the cabinet, or "name" and it is not the "spec sheet" or what the manufacturer tells you in their marketing & promotional materials. There is always a reality to these digital pianos when you finally play them. As you get into a lower price range like this one, then that reality seldom matches up to the "hype" that you may otherwise read on-line, based on all my experience with these things. The same is true for another more off name brand called Artesia which is typically available at Costco. They have a portable model called the Harmony which is in this same price range. If you want to learn more about that piano then go to my review of it at the following link: Artesia Harmony Review

MY FINAL ADVICE


My advice is...spend a bit more money for a better and more realistic piano playing experience on a different digital piano with more factory warranty coverage, even if you need to give up a few "bells & whistles" or have a less powerful internal speaker system inside. In the long-run you will likely be mainly "playing piano" (especially if you are a student and taking lessons) so be sure to do it right the first time and also make sure you are satisfied with what you buy well into the future.

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.

2 comments:

JasonT said...

I purchased the Alesis Prestige for my daughter. The overall built quality is superb. I feel that the hardware is better built than my Roland FP-30x. Unfortunately, I soon also experienced the "tone jump" symptoms exactly as you described. Strangely, it occurred only to a couple of keys in the middle octave but not the others. I had tried everything I could but the issue remained so in the end I had to returned the unit. It was really too bad as I liked the sound a lot -- it has its own characters, the speaker is powerful and clear (both high and low notes), the keys are nice to play (on the heavy side), and the design is minimalist that suits my taste. I am not quite sure if the tone jump symptoms were due to the vibration during the shipping and transportation (so the sensors were knocked out from their original positions). The shipping box was in a very bad shape when it arrived. Guess I will never find out. Your review is the only one that I could find describing the same issue that I experienced.

Tim Praskins - AZ Piano Reviews said...

The jumpy abrupt piano sound issue has occurred on 2 Alesis Prestige pianos that I have played. I have also seen this same issue on a couple of other digital piano brands and models, so Alesis is not the only brand that has this issue. It is not due to "shipping & handling."