Finding the best beginner keyboard piano is often more about the budget than quality. Ideally, you want to find a good mix of value for money and quality/quantity of features.
While Donner is relatively new to the keyboard piano market, they are well-versed in making beginner-friendly products. This review looks at the Donner DEP-20, a budget instrument aimed at first-time buyers.
About the author
- 88 weighted keys
- 128-note polyphony
- built-in speakers
- 238 tones
- 1/4″ audio output
- pedal inputs
- USB, MIDI
Final verdict on the Donner DEP-20
If I were asked if the DEP-20 is a good keyboard piano for beginners, I’d have to say yes, it certainly is. However, it comes with some very apparent flaws.
The sound quality isn’t great; the keyboard action isn’t great, and it’s quite a clumsy-looking instrument. However, what it lacks in quality, it makes up for in quantity in almost every area.
What I like
- Very cheap (value for money).
- Lots of sounds.
- Lots of demo/rhythm content.
- Record mode.
- Excellent built-in speakers.
- Surprising connectivity.
What I don’t like
- The keys are noisy.
- Onboard sounds are of limited quality.
- Clumsily designed unit.
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Realistically, the people playing this keyboard piano will mostly be absolute beginners and perhaps mostly younger learners. With that in mind, the quality of onboard voices isn’t necessarily the most crucial element. But, to be clear from the start, anyone beyond a beginner’s ability will find significant faults with the sound.
The voices are similar to what you’d expect in a budget beginner keyboard, typically in the 25 to the 61-key range. The piano sounds lack depth, and have a somewhat toy-like quality, as do the electric pianos. The main issue lies in the bass notes; in the mid-high range, they sound more convincing.
Here’s the upside: you get a massive 238 tones when the average in the price range is 10-20. The other tones are a broad selection of instruments, including a violin, slap bass, and synths.
Some students are easily distracted by a large sound bank. Others are easily bored when there’s not enough. I can say for sure that the DEP-20 will provide lots of fun for youngsters who like to explore new sounds.
It has a max polyphony of 128 notes.
The Donner DEP-20 probably has the most powerful built-in speaker system in its class and possibly even up a price range or two. That’s not something that I was expecting to find, but it’s true, thanks to dual 25-watt amplifiers.
The volume produced is excellent if you want to jam along with friends or even have those first band rehearsals at home (when you reach that stage).
The downside is that the speakers can only amplify the sounds as they are; they can’t enhance them. Generally speaking, when poor quality sounds are made louder, the quality worsens, which is true in some cases with the DEP-20.
Ultimately, it’s pretty hard to complain; some more expensive keyboard pianos should have a speaker system this good and don’t.
I struggled to get the score higher in this area because there were too many minor flaws.
Although, I should start with the major positive, which is that you get 88 hammer-action keys, and that’s not always the case with cheap keyboard pianos. So, whatever the quality, hammer-action keys are a huge selling point for the DEP-20.
If I have to be critical, the keys are slightly heavy, but that’s not the main concern. The main problem is the responsiveness of the action, which leave much to be desired. If playing faster runs or trills, you might feel like the keys can’t quite keep up.
Although I have been quite harsh, it’s important to remember that most people who play the DEP-20 won’t be playing advanced material anyway, and it becomes less of an issue.
It’s not overloaded with features by any means, but the DEP-20 still offers more than most competitors.
It comes with an impressive 100 demo songs and 200 accompaniment rhythms. These onboard songs and rhythms will help develop core skills like timing and provide hours of fun.
The DEP-20 features Split mode and Lesson mode. Split mode allows you to play with a different sound in each hand, while Lesson mode creates two identical keyboard zones for student/teacher practice. Split mode can be fun for younger players and encourage a stronger left hand.
Record mode allows users to capture composition/song ideas or practice sessions for critical listening. It’s pretty basic but more than you need at this stage.
It has a small backlit display that makes navigating the many sounds and rhythms much easier.
I’ve tried to focus on the positives here, and for the right player, there are many. It’s easy to use because the important features have dedicated buttons, and the panel is nice and clear. The abundance of sounds will keep even the most demanding youngsters entertained for a long time.
Most important, the hammer-action keys will help beginners get ready for a more realistic instrument. On the downside, the keys are noisier than the average cheap keyboard piano, which can irritate some.
It’s not too heavy to move around the house when needed, but it’s rather big and clumsy. It comes with five feet on the bottom, one of which is oddly positioned in the middle of the underside.
The foot in the middle makes it impossible to sit straight on any surface that’s narrower than the keyboard. That may seem like a strange complaint, but we all use makeshift stands/surfaces at times.
There is a little wiggle/movement in the controls/buttons, but not an alarming amount. Overall, the size and weight of the DEP-20 make it feel reassuringly robust.
The entire body is hard plastic and shouldn’t cause any concerns unless it’s mistreated (and we know kids can be heavy-handed). But, even with the most excitable kids, it should be absolutely fine.
I would trade some of the robust nature for a slightly slimmer unit, but you can’t have it all.
Connectivity is another surprising area in the DEP-20. It provides two USB ports, one for MIDI and one for smart devices to stream music.
Along with a 1/4-inch sustain pedal input, it also has a 5-pin pedal input for a standard three-pedal unit. It has a 1/4-inch audio input that you can use for a microphone, which is pretty crazy at this price.
Perhaps most surprisingly, it has a dedicated 1/4-inch audio output if you need to connect to a PA system.
Compared to other keyboard pianos
Although you might think the DEP-20 is the perfect first keyboard for you, it’s important to remember that even with a limited budget, there are still plenty of options. Here are a few that I like.
Donner DEP-20 vs Yamaha P-45
The Yamaha P-45 is more expensive, and to be blunt, it’s a much better piano. However, if you’re more interested in a large variety of sounds (and fun features), save some money, and get the DEP-20.
Donner DEP-20 vs Alesis Recital Pro
The Recital Pro is one of the few cheap keyboard pianos that can challenge the DEP-20 speaker system. The DEP-20 wins on variety again, but the Recital Pro feels and sounds a little better.
Donner DEP-20 vs Casio CDP-S160
It’s a step up in price, but for the extra money, you’ll get scaled hammer-action keys in a slimline body. It has a pretty good grand piano sound, too.
Who is the Donner DEP-20 best suited for?
The Donner DEP-20 suits younger kids or anyone who wants 88 hammer-action keys on a tight budget.Buy Donner DEP-20 at: Amazon