Williams Overture III - REVIEW | Digital Piano 2022 | Is it Good


Williams Overture III review
UPDATED REVIEW
- Nov 1, 2022 - Williams Overture III - Is it as good as it looks? The Overture III (aka: Overture 3) is the latest update to the Williams Overture series that has been out for a number of years. The Overture III normally sells for $999 discount price and comes in a nice looking furniture cabinet with a choice of either a polished ebony or polished mahogany finish. Williams is the private "house-brand" of the Guitar Center company and is found exclusively at their stores and also on-line at their other company owned on-line and local stores including Music & Arts, Woodwind & Brasswind, and other on-line Guitar Center stores. 

Williams brand is made in China according to Guitar Center specs and the Williams piano cabinets tend to look attractive on the outside and sell for low prices as compared to the mainstream name brands in similar cabinets. There are usually good reasons why an off-brand or "house brand" sells for a lot less money for what appears to be visually a nice looking piano. I have played and reviewed the prior Williams Overture and Overture II models over the last few years and those models were very disappointing to me in a number of ways. I was hoping this latest Overture 3 version would be improved, especially with regard to the piano playing experience. 

INITIAL THOUGHTS


Initial thoughts of Williams Overture III
I have played and examined the new Williams Overture III home digital piano and despite what the Williams on-line marketing and promotional materials might otherwise lead you to believe, my personal playing experiences on this model was, again, disappointing. There are certainly some improvements but those features are primarily focused in the "bells & whistles" in my opinion and not on a realistic piano playing experience. 

Despite what Williams or Guitar Center web sites might otherwise say about the Overture 3 and how good they say it is as a "piano," that was not my experience and I definitely know what a real piano should play like because I have played thousands of them over the years along with most of the digital pianos out there.

Williams Overture III polished ebony piano cabinet
The problem that can occur on some of these digital pianos is that if you don't play piano or you play at beginner levels, then you can easily be swayed by the design & appearance of a piano cabinet and the specifications of that piano as outlined by the manufacturer or brand. Beyond that, some of the demo recordings you will hear on line are not always what actually happens when you play that piano in person and that has happened to me many times.

With all that being said, although the new Overture III looks attractive on the outside, it has some serious shortcomings that easily showed up when I played it, and those playability issues are not good for either the beginner student or more advanced player in my opinion, and I will talk about those things in detail below.

 KEY ACTION


Key action in digital pianos
The piano key action movement is by far the most important aspect of any piano, digital or acoustic. The keys are supposed to "weighted" and have some resistance to them as you press the keys down and also not come back up too fast or too slow after pressing the keys down. Just because a specification says "weighted" does not mean it is good. That would be like saying the food is "cooked" but that does not mean it is cooked good.

Key actions need to be fluid in motion and move smoothly and without too much finger force needed to press the keys down. If you press lightly on the keys, those keys should go down easily. There is a standard key force measurement that piano technicians use called "down-weight" or "touch-weight." That means when you touch the keys it should take a certain amount of finger force to press down the keys and that force is measurable in "grams." 

KEY ACTION DOWN-WEIGHT


key action down-weight
On most regular name brand acoustic (upright & grand) pianos, the finger force applied to the keys to get them to go down from key resting position is called touch-weight or "down-weight." It should average somewhere around 55 grams on middle C when pressing down the key on a good acoustic grand piano and that number can be a bit higher on an upright piano. Sometimes that measurement is a bit higher on grand pianos as well which is fine, and occasionally, but not often, it can be a bit less. 

key action down weight
But if we take a measurement on the middle C key of approx 55 grams on a real grand piano then when you press down the key it is supposed to easily press down and not be stiff. Having stiff resistant keys can really throw off your piano playing, create bad technique, and most of all can cause finger, hand, wrist, and lower arm fatigue which are all things you want to avoid.

There is obviously no way to "feel" the key action by watching a demo video of someone playing the piano, especially if they are good players. If you are a beginner student or not much better than that, even if you did play a key action you likely would not know what a key action is supposed to feel like when the keys are moving up and down.  

KEY ACTION UP-WEIGHT


key action up-weight
Then there is also the force of the keys against your fingers when they come back up which is called the "up-weight." If the keys come back up too hard and quick then that is also not good because then you have to compensate by pressing down even harder on the keys. It would be like pressing down on a spring after the spring comes back up. If the spring comes back up hard then you really have to press down hard to compensate to get that spring to go back down.

Williams Overture III
The reverse is also true. If the key comes back up too slowly without being quicker to bounce back, then that key action is sluggish and not responsive. A slow moving key coming back up after pressing it down is equally bad for playability. The force that the keys "return" to resting position is also measurable in grams. So there are 2 forces at play here...the key going down and that same key coming back up.

The keys all go up and down on the Overture III but if that key force is way off where it should be, you'll likely have a poor playing experience which could cause you to get into bad playing habits. Even if you are playing just for fun in a recreational way or you are a more advanced player, a poor playing key action is not something you'll be able to change in the piano you purchase and it can cause you to dislike your piano playing experience on that instrument. That's my personal opinion after having played the Overture 3.

STIFF/HEAVY KEY ACTION?


Heavy key action in Williams Overture III
With all that being said, in my opinion the Williams Overture key action is very stiff when pressing the keys down easily and lightly. In other words, when you touch the keys and just press easily and normally, there is very noticeable stiffness in the keys. Remember when I said the gram measurement should average around 55 grams on middle C in a good grand piano? Even if that measurement of finger force needed to press on the key went up to 65 grams or even 70 grams in a grand or upright acoustic piano, that would still be OK overall and not cause big issues, and I have played those kinds of pianos, both acoustic and digital.

However, on the Williams Overture III, that measurement on middle C is over 90 grams based on my measurement of this key action touch-weight movement. What that means is that the keys are much too stiff and to me this is not unacceptable. To make matters worse, the "up-weight" return measurement on middle C is less than 40 grams which is a slower returning key when the static down weight (key being pressed down) is over 90 grams. The up-weight should be higher to enable the keys to return more quickly to have a more responsive key action experience.

Williams keyboard action
On the Guitar Center web site it says of their key action, "the Overture III has 88 hammer-action, fully weighted keys. If you are switching over from a traditional piano, you'll experience the exact same feel. Weighted keys are essential to develop hand strength for beginners and help more advanced players precisely control their dynamics." 

OK, I get it...you want to believe what they are saying about their key action and so do I. But for me, I have played hundreds of new top name acoustic pianos, especially grand pianos and they do not come anywhere near 90+ grams of touch-weight which is what I found on the Overture 3. It's important to build up your finger, hand, and wrist muscles when learning to play the piano. But a stiffer key action can also work against you and create fatigue in your fingers, hands, and wrists including your lower arms. Piano needs to be comfortable to play and not become hard exercise 

Playing chords on Overture III
Another problem with a stiff key action is that when you play multiple keys together in a chord, the key stiffness effects the outcome of the sound of that chord you are playing. To overcome the stiff keys you have to press a lot harder and if you have a slow key return then you have to wait longer for the keys to come back up. 
When I played chords on the Overture 3, some notes would respond with different volumes because it's more difficult to get all your fingers to physically press down the keys lightly at the same time and at the same speed due to the keys being so stiff. The key action, and therefore the piano sound, is just much more difficult to control.

NOISY KEYS


Noisy Key Action
To add to my concern with the key action, it is also physically loud when playing the keys. There is a noticeable key knocking noise when the keys hit bottom after pressing them down. When the keys come back up on the return, the keys were noisy too, but in a different way. This means that if you are playing at a lower volume or using headphones for private practice, you will likely hear that key noise over the actual piano sound, and for me that is quite distracting. If you play the piano loud enough then you likely will not hear the key noise.

However, if you are using headphones for private practice then maybe you won't hear key noise yourself but other people in or near the same room likely will and that could be annoying for them. Maybe you won't notice this issue as much as me and that's fine, but for me it's definitely an issue and one that I personally would avoid.

WILLIAMS PIANO SOUND TECHNOLOGY  


Williams Overture III Piano sound
OK, enough about key action. Now it's about the piano sound itself. On Williams web site they say: "The Williams Overture III digital piano gives you concert grand sounds in a size that won’t overtake your living room. To do so, Williams recorded a 10' 2สบ Italian grand in a pro studio to capture the nuances of every single note." 

I know all of this sounds impressive and that this newer Overture III digital piano sounds (from this Williams description) like it will outplay any top brand of digital pianos at any price range...at least that's the impression I get from what they are saying. But that was definitely not my experience when I played this piano and I had expectations that the Williams "hype," as I call it, would not live up to the actual playing experience that I had.

Williams Overture III abrupt piano sound changes
My biggest concern is that the piano sound on a real piano changes gradually and smoothly from mellow tone to brighter tone as you play more easily on the keys and then as you add more finger force and more speed to your playing. Piano sound in a real piano comes from vibrating strings amplified through a wood soundboard. The piano sound typically goes from a more mellow tone and then evenly morphs into a more powerful and ever brighter sound as you apply more strength and finger force in your playing. Those piano tone transitions from mellow to bright are smooth and definitely not choppy or abrupt when you play on a real acoustic upright or grand piano.

With the Overture III that did not happen to me at all and there were no smooth tonal transitions. There is just 3 distinct and noticeable layers of piano sound when I was pressing down each of the keys. When you press down a key (like middle C) the piano sound starts off as more mellow, then jumps directly into a different piano sound being a bit brighter, and then immediately jumps into an extremely bright and metallic piano sound as you play the keys hard. 

Williams Overture III
In other words I hear 3 different piano sounds when playing each note with no smooth and even transition. Instead of a gradual and smooth change in piano tone that you would find in a real piano depending on how hard or soft you press a key, you get a more abrupt change of piano tone. Also, the more noticeable metallic piano sound when playing the keys harder on the Overture III is very artificial in tone (twangy) and not what you would hear on a real piano and I definitely did not like it.

So not only is the piano sound that I hear on this instrument limited to 3 layers of tone per key based on how much force your fingers are playing on the keys, those layers change abruptly and not smoothly like a real piano, or many other digital pianos I have played. The piano sound is overall very jumpy, especially when playing chords in the middle octaves and also from one key to the next. That was my experience playing the Overture 3. For me it is not the acoustic piano they originally sampled, but it is the implementation of that piano sound and the electronics that are used in the piano to try and replicate it. 

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO YOU? 


No smooth sound transition
As far as the piano sounds go in the Williams instrument sound library, there are 2 piano sounds in this model with the first one being their best piano sound and the 2nd one being a bright piano sound which I did not personally care for and it's somewhat brassy and too bright, but perhaps you will like it. If you a beginner or an occasional recreational player and you don not have good acoustic piano playing experience, maybe you won't notice this jumpy abrupt piano sound issue that I am talking about when pressing down the keys at different velocities. Some people may be able to live with that, but I can't because I want more control over the dynamics and expression of the piano sound. I noticed it right away when playing on the Overture 3 because I have played many acoustic pianos and many other digital pianos and what the Williams Overture 3 does in this way is not what happens in many of the other pianos out there including Yamaha, Kawai, Roland, Casio, and Korg.

I will also say that the Williams Symphony Grand II ($2500) also has this same jumpy and abrupt piano sound issue and it does not have a "smooth piano sound transition" when playing at different velocities on the keys, so unfortunately it is not exclusive to the Overture III. Perhaps Williams will come out with a new version someday to fix these key action and piano sound issues that I am not happy with, but right now that is not the case.

POLYPHONY


Williams Overture III 240-note polyphony
The Overture III has up to 240-notes of polyphony which is plenty of piano processing power with regard to being able to play many notes of piano with sustain pedal and even layering another sound at the same time without any notes dropping out due to low polyphony. So there is no shortage of digital polyphony on this instrument which is a good thing. Other digital pianos in this price range have less polyphony memory so Williams did a good job in that way.

PEDALING


Triple pedal function
The pedaling on the Williams Overture III is generally OK and there are 3 functional pedals with the sustain pedal being the most important. The sustain pedal does sustain the piano sound when you press it down and that sustained tone has a lot of decay time (longer piano sustain time) on it so that is good and is a nice benefit. The sustained tone itself doesn't seem to have all of the organic tonal content (sympathetic vibrations, overtones, etc) that other digital pianos due, but for beginners that is relatively unimportant. 

Williams Overture III mahogany
The sustain pedal functions as and on & off switch and does not trigger the half-pedaling (variable sustain) that you will find on other brands.
When you are a beginner, having access to a sustain pedal that triggers the half-damper effect is not important. However, if and when you grow in your piano playing skills then that type of variable sustain pedaling can become important in your piano playing growth, so it's good to be aware of that. However, the sustained tone does have a long sustain time as I mentioned so Williams did a good job on that technology overall.

The pedals themselves seem to be physically solid but unfortunately they make a noticeable amount of noise when the pedals come back up after you press them down. They are clunky and have a distinct knocking sound after the pedal comes back up and this was especially noticeable when using the sustain pedal because that's the pedal that is constantly used to sustain the piano sound. I have also played some other brands and models where the pedals make a lot of noise when they move up & down. But there are also many top brands and models which have much quieter pedals when they are moving. Personally I like my piano pedals to be quiet so they do not disturb my music when I am playing.

INSTRUMENT SOUND LIBRARY


Grand piano sound
Now that I have talked about the primary aspects of the piano playing experience (key action, piano sound, and pedaling) now it's time to get into the other stuff...bells & whistles. The Overture 3 has 171 instrument sounds including the 2 acoustic piano simulations that I mentioned earlier along with electric pianos, organs, strings brass, choirs, synth, and many others. I found that it was a "mixed bag" when it came to the realism of these instrument sounds. Some were good, some were average, and some just were not real at all based on my experience having actually played many of those actual instruments and also hearing those instruments on other digital pianos. They can be fun to play, but at the end of the day and based on my experience, most people who buy a furniture cabinet piano like this one primarily want to play piano and a few other sounds..

Instrument category buttons
I like the fact that there are instrument category buttons which instantly lets you access the main instrument categories in the Overture III and from there you can dial in the specific instrument you want from that category. The category voice button names are pianos, e pianos, organs, pads, basses, drums. Not all digital pianos have this feature and the more instruments that are in a digital piano, the more buttons that are needed to access those sounds. Williams did a good job including these category buttons and organizing them.

STANDARD FEATURES & FUNCTIONS


Williams Overture III - Split point
The Overture III seems to have most of the features that would be useful and are also found on other digital pianos. You can layer/mix 2 instrument sounds together which just about all digital pianos have, split 2 instruments sounds with one on the left hand and one on the right hand which can be fun to play, has a "duet" feature allowing 2 people to play the same song in the same octaves together at one time with one person playing on the left side 44-notes and the other person playing on the right side 44 -notes. This might be useful for practicing the same notes in the same song together, but overall I don't find it to be that useful.

Williams Overture III - Reverb effects
Other features include reverb and chorus buttons to add and control reverb echo to your sound along with chorus effects, etc, The Mod FX button is there to add special effects like tremolo and vibrato, etc as well as change overall EQ. Special effects and reverb/chorus can be good to have to add depth to your piano sound and other instruments, and the Overture 3 has enough to cover most applications. But I find that most people just "set it and forget it." A little overall reverb and some chorus effect on the electric pianos, maybe change EQ a bit, and that's about it. Most people do not go further than that.

Song recorder
This model does a number of other useful things such as enabling you to record your left hand and right hand on two separate (MIDI) recording tracks for simultaneous playback after you have done your recording. However, this feature can only record one song and save it and if you want to record another song then the first song will automatically be erased. But at least it has a recorder and playback system whereas a few digital pianos out there have no recording feature at all..

time signature
There is an electronic metronome built in to this piano so that you can set your timing and play along to learn the rhythm of a song. All digital pianos that I know of these days have digital metronomes, so it's a standard feature. To go along with recording and playing a song, there is a feature called Song Tutor that has a library of 50 songs with most of them being classical music. You can play these songs back over 2 tracks with left and right hand playing back at any speed and then play along with each song and mute out the track that you want to play live while the other track of the song plays back. This feature can be useful and fun.

There are other standard features such as being able to digitally transpose to a different key so that you can modulate your song for playing and/or get it into a different key for singing along that might better fit your vocal range. Transpose is a standard feature these days on most all digital pianos but it's good to have. Another related feature is being able to change the octave of any instrument sound. You can transpose the octave of an instrument sound up or down one entire octave from the normal octave range.

BLUETOOTH WIRELESS STREAMING


Bluetooth wireless technology
The Overture III also offers Bluetooth wireless streaming for both MIDI and audio connectivity, but cannot be used at the same time.  This feature can be a practical thing to use when connecting the piano to a Bluetooth MIDI device to use apps or MIDI software
Bluetooth wireless on
or if you want to stream a song from an external device and play that song through the speaker system of the piano and use it as a stereo speaker system. 

If you did not have Bluetooth MIDI connectivity on a digital piano then you could just connect via a USB output port and your external device because you would accomplish the same thing. More and more digital pianos these days offer these Bluetooth wireless features although there are still some brands who do not offer it on their digital pianos. Some people use one or both Bluetooth features (not at the same time) and others do not. It just depends on how you want to use the piano for connectivity.

USB THUMB-DRIVE PORT


USB thumbdrive port
The Overture III also has a built in USB thumb-drive slot so that you can input a small USB thumb-drive device loaded with MIDI song files (from the internet) and the piano will play them back and then you can play along with those songs. You can also change tempo of that song to play along with it and learn it in real time. A thumb-drive port to support a thumb-drive device is becoming more popular on digital pianos these days but these different thumb-drive features do not all work the same.

WILLIAMS OVERTURE III CONNECTIVITY


Williams Overture III connectivity ports
As far as overall connectivity goes, the Overture 3 has pretty much what most people will need and want. It has 2 audio-line outputs (for stereo) to connect the piano to an external sound system if needed. It has an audio input mini jack port to play music from an external device (without Bluetooth) through the piano speaker system. There is a USB thumb-drive input (as I mentioned earlier) for playing music files through the piano along with a USB output port to connect to an external device such as a computer, tablet, or phone using a USB cable. Finally, there are 2 headphone jacks under the piano for plugging in headphones for private practice. So when it comes to hardware and wireless connectivity, this model does a great job.

CONTROL PANEL


Williams Overture III - control panel
With regard to the control panel and how it is set up and laid out, the buttons and user display screen are centered above the keyboard in easy reach. The buttons are easy to use, feel good, and are fairly intuitive with regard to operation. The display screen is a good size, easy to read, and contains good info when you select a feature from the buttons, and you can scroll through those features using the menu wheel on the right side of the screen which makes it quick and easy. So everything is accessible and the buttons also have a small blue LED light in them so you know when the button is in use. Overall I do like the control panel buttons and LCD display.

INTERNAL SPEAKER SYSTEM


Williams Overture 3 - speaker system
Now onto the internal speaker system. The Williams Overture III has 50 watts of total power (two 25watt amps) going through 4 speakers with two of them mounted under the piano and the other 2 smaller speakers coming through each end of the control panel. Even though the piano has plenty of power and volume, I found that the piano sound was overall a bit removed or distant from my ears when playing the piano sound, even though there are also 2 speaker grills on the control panel as well as under the piano. Not sure if that is me or the piano but perhaps it's the way the under-mounted speaker grills were installed?. But nevertheless, it has plenty of audio power for its size and there are no complaints there. There are a number of digital pianos in this price range that have just 16 watts or less. So as far as an internal sound system, overall it is a good one.

CABINET


Williams Overture III with sliding closed key cover
As far as the cabinet and finish goes, the Williams Overture III is very attractive in my opinion and I like the design. It comes in a pedestal style with 2 "feet" extended forward on the floor and does not have front support legs like other furniture cabinet digital pianos do. But those other brands are typically $300 to $700 more than the Williams Overture 3. 

The cabinet comes in 2 colors including polished ebony and polished mahogany so they do look attractive. The Overture 3 has a nice sliding key cover to protect the keys and it looks good. There is also a matching bench that comes with the piano so that is an extra bonus. The piano measures 55" wide x 21" deep x 42" tall so it definitely has a larger "footprint" and takes up a good amount of space. Depending on your available space for a digital piano, you might like that.

WILLIAMS PIANO WARRANTY


Williams 1 year warranty
One more thing and that's the Williams warranty on the Overture III. It is just 1 year parts & labor whereas many other brands of digital pianos have 3 years parts and labor in this price range and a 5 year parts & labor warranty in a slightly higher price range. So the Williams warranty coverage time is very small (too small in my opinion). You can add additional warranty coverage for a total of 3 years from the Asurion insurance company which is purchased through Guitar Center. That coverage costs an additional $155 on top of the price of the piano. So if the price of the piano is normally discount price at $1099, then if you got 3 year warranty coverage your total piano cost would actually be $1254 plus tax. If  you are in a state where there is an state tax, then your total cost would be as much as $1350 or so depending on your state tax rate. At that point it would not cost much more money to get a better digital piano with regard to the piano playing experience. Nevertheless, I would definitely buy this optional coverage if you decide to purchase the Williams Overture III. 

THE BOTTOM LINE


The bottom line
So here's the bottom line as far as I am concerned. This piano has the looks and it definitely has the "bells & whistles." So if you are especially impressed with all the "bells & whistles" this model offers, then you should consider buying it. It also sells for a reasonable price with regard to the way it looks and the digital features that it has. But what is it like as a "piano?" That's the question I always ask myself..."how does it play as a piano?" What is the key action like, what is the piano sound like, how does the sound and key action react when playing the keys lightly, or with more force, or repetitively, and does the piano sound remain consistent as you are playing up and down the keys? Also, what is the pedaling like, do the pedals work correctly, and is there enough pedal sustain on the damper pedal? 

Williams Overture III
Those are the things I look at because at the end of the day that's what most people care about when purchasing a furniture cabinet digital piano. Having good cabinet design and looks is important to a lot of people along with some of the cool digital "bells & whistles" out there. But for me, first and foremost is the piano playing experience because most people will spend the bulk of their time on a digital piano "playing piano." 

I can tell you that any advanced piano player can make just about any digital or acoustic piano sound good and look good when recording on a video or playing in person...even if the piano has playing issues. I have done that with pianos that are not good at all so I know what it's like. It's easy to fool people into believing what they think they see. But when you yourself  go to play or learn on it then that's when it becomes obvious about the piano's shortcomings.

Williams logo
With this in mind I personally do not recommend the new Overture III digital piano if you are mostly interested in the actual piano playing experience. For me it's all about the key action movement and response along with the piano sound and how it works and what you hear. As far as I am concerned, it just doesn't cut it. It might seem OK to you if you don't know what to look for or how a real acoustic piano actually plays. 

The piano playing issues that I have outlined in this review could hinder your advancement in your piano playing skills in my opinion and your overall enjoyment in playing piano might also be hampered by these limitations.  It is true that some people will like this Overture III digital piano because they don't have the musical background or understanding of what their music and playing experience would be like on a better digital piano. This is especially true if you are a beginner student of just have not played much on a real acoustic piano before or a better digital piano. 

The Overture III looks attractive, has lots of cool "bells & whistles," and is in a good price range. So if you are happy with what this piano can do, then buy it. But for me...I'll pass, not because this model is a "bad" piano because is is not bad...but there are so many better options out there for around the same price range when it comes to a much more authentic piano playing experience.

ALTERNATIVE DIGITAL PIANO OPTIONS


Casio AP-470 digital piano
I would instead recommend you look at other brands and models for a much better and more realistic piano playing experience such as the Casio PX-870, Casio AP-470, or Korg LP-380U as examples. None of these models have near as many internal bells and whistles as the Williams Overture 3 nor do the cabinets come in polished ebony or polished mahogany. But as furniture cabinet pianos go, they play and respond much more like real acoustic pianos than anything else out there in those price ranges. Check out my review of those models at the following links below:



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:

Unknown said...

Man I wish I had found this before I bought this thing. Yeah, it's "pretty" but, as a intermediate level player (church pianist, nothing fancy) I swear, when I say down toplayit you would have thought I was a first yr student, or had forgotten how to play in one month as I moved. So CHOPPY. No sustaining smoothness. And you're right, I hate playing it--even for the personal playing I bought it for.
You are right on in this critique.

jarjared said...

finally a review that breaks down key action. thank you!!!