If your child is just starting out with piano lessons, or maybe you’re an adult beginner who wants to try out piano for the first time, investing in an expensive acoustic or digital piano right off the hop is something many folks would prefer to avoid.
Perhaps you’ve got more of a casual interest or just a tight budget, in any case, there are many reasons why an inexpensive entry-level digital piano is the way to go. With online purchases more popular than ever, many people are electing to go for one of Amazon’s best sellers when it comes to choosing their digital piano.
Today we will compare two of the most popular 88-key beginner digital pianos from Amazon as we look at the Yamaha P45 and the lesser-known Alesis Recital (not to be confused with the Alesis Recital Pro). At first glance, you might be surprised we’re comparing a Yamaha product with a much less famous Alesis product. But when you look at the specs and get them side-by-side, you might be shocked at how close an experience these two pianos actually provide.
If you’re in the market for an 88-key digital piano under the $500 or so price point, this article and companion video is for you.
Beginner Digital Pianos – Background
Let’s say you’ve just started looking into pianos for the first time and you were instantly met with price points well into the 5-digit range, inciting a bit of a panic. Fortunately, you will quickly discover that digital beginner pianos start below the $500 USD price range, so there’s no need for a 5-digit investment right off the bat.
Whether at the advice of a piano teacher or from your research, odds are you’ll be looking for something with an 88-key keyboard. This means there’s a good chance you’ll come across the Yamaha P45 and the Alesis Recital since they’re both very popular among online retailers.
According to Google Analytics, they’re both receiving a very high volume of searches as well, so it definitely made sense for us to get these two side-by-side and do a proper comparison.
Before we even set these two up, however, we assumed the matchup would handily go to the Yamaha P45 since it’s using the fully weighted GHS action, while the Recital’s action is only semi-weighted. But now that we’ve played them a little bit, it’s actually much more of an interesting showdown than we initially anticipated.
Let’s start with a comparison of the sound.
Pulling up the specs sheets of these two pianos and the Alesis Recital starts to look quite impressive, at least on paper, from a sound-related perspective. Take polyphony for example; the P45 has a meek 64-note polyphony, while the Recital no less than doubles that with 128 notes.
The Recital also has a clear advantage with regards to the built-in speakers with 20 watts of amplifier power compared to 12-watt speakers on the P45. These are two key sound-related specs where the Recital isn’t just edging out the P45 on paper, but a clear step up.
Now, the P45 has more sounds with 10 in total compared to 5 on the Recital (acoustic piano, electric piano, organ, synth and bass) but most people would make that trade for better speakers and polyphony. If you’re after a ton of sounds, the Casio CDP-S350 for a little bit more money is probably the way to go.
In terms of the quality of the grand piano sound, these two are actually remarkably close. The decay is cleaner on the P45 with its AWM Stereo Sampling (Advanced Wave Memory) sound engine, but the sound quality on the Recital really surprised us with how well it stands up to the P45.
Once you move past the acoustic piano sound into the other instrument sounds the Recital still manages to hold up. The electric pianos are fairly similar, though the P45 has extras such as a harpsichord.
That said, the Recital has a USB MIDI port, meaning you could hook up a small portable device to function as an additional tone generator and greatly expand the number of sounds.
So, while the P45 is producing a slightly better real piano tone and timbre while offering more sounds, the Recital has a higher polyphony count and a better speaker system, so this is a really close comparison. Alesis’ increasing experience making musical instruments is really showing here.
The Alesis Recital’s 88-Note Full-Size Action
Moving onto the action, this is the critical feature that could potentially disqualify the Alesis Recital as a legit option for some buyers. The reason for this is as we mentioned above, the Recital does not feature a fully weighted action, and semi-weighted keys instead. It is touch sensitive however and impressively so given the fact that it isn’t weighted.
Instead of being weighted, it’s what we would essentially call waterfall hammer-action keys. Anyone taking piano lessons with a teacher and aspiring to work on any type of legit classical repertoire will have a nearly impossible time with this action – you’d literally need to upgrade within a month to a weighted action to make any kind of progress. There is an adjustable touch response which some people think solves this problem, but that’s simply not the case.
Now, of course, not everyone starts piano lessons with the intention of learning classical music. In fact, many people out these days simply want to expose their kids to music and see where it leads without the explicit intention of getting them to perform classic repertoire at a high level.
Just keep in mind that even if you fall into the second camp, if the student does ultimately end up progressing through lessons, you will need to upgrade this piano sooner than the P45 due to the unweighted key action.
The Yamaha P45’s Graded Hammer Standard Action
Yamaha’s GHS action is a fully weighted, touch-sensitive 88-key action so that particular box is checked.
This is a hammer action that has been on the market for a number of years now, and while it has its ardent supporters and can be found on more expensive models like the Yamaha P125 and YDP144, it is feeling a little bit dated compared to some other key actions out there.
It features a dual sensor, no escapement, and while there is a matte finish on the black keys, the white keys have a glossy finish that can be overly grippy during longer playing sessions.
If it sounds like we’re being hard on this action, and there’s no question this action would need to be upgraded at some point if you have designs on advanced classical playing, it’s still a weighted key action and in line with some others out there from companies like Korg for example.
If a weighted key action is a non-negotiable, then the P45 instantly trumps the Recital.
Both have a similar, fairly limited offering with regard to the connectivity ports, but that’s no shock for the price range.
Both pianos have a headphone jack, sustain pedal input and USB MIDI, which means both pianos could be used as a MIDI controller or synthesizer controller, and can connect to audio interfaces. The Recital also offers battery operation, so there’s a slot for 6 D Cell batteries if you’d like to go this route in lieu of a cabled power supply.
The Recital also has RCA Stereo AUX outputs, and these of course function as a line out, though it’s a little bit odd to see RCA outputs outside of the DJ’ing world this day and age.
The P45 alternatively doesn’t have a line out, so you would have to get an adapter and use the headphone output if you plan on using it as a stage piano by connecting to an amp or other external sound system. Neither instrument offers anything in the way of Bluetooth or an LCD screen.
Both pianos have a built-in metronome, some adjustable reverb settings, split mode and layer mode. The P45 also offers duo mode and transpose, whereas the Recital calls duo mode lesson mode.
That’s about it – both of these pianos are fairly lightly appointed as the focus is on the piano experience while keeping the costs down.
Both pianos come with a music rest and power adapter in the box. The P45 also ships with a basic footswitch pedal, whereas with the Recital it’s sold separately. That said, the footswitch pedal that comes with the P45 is very basic, so we would recommend upgrading to something that can half-pedal, such as the Yamaha FC4A which is included with the top P-Series model the P515.
Yamaha also makes the L-85 matching keyboard stand for the P45 as an option.
Here are some closing thoughts on this matchup. If you’re looking to keep the budget down and don’t have the aim of being able to play high-level repertoire, or are just looking to gauge interest in a young student, the Alesis Recital is a fine option for a piano keyboard.
Let’s say you went this route, things went well and it was time for an upgrade; you’d be skipping over the P45 at this point to jump to a category that’s going to offer an instrument that looks and feels more like a real piano. So with that being, there is a place for the Alesis Recital in the market and we’re quite impressed. The free 3-month subscription to Skoove Premium doesn’t hurt either.
The P45 is still one of the best options for under $500 for anybody who wants a weighted action instrument that is going to be able to serve them over a longer period of time than the Alesis Recital.
There is an argument to be made about starting on the best footing with a weighted action instrument, and if the budget is capped here and you can’t jump to something like the Roland FP-10 and its decidedly high-quality action, the P45 is going to serve you well. Also, Yamaha’s sterling warranty service can’t be overlooked either.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this digital piano review comparison. Thanks for reading!