Buying a budget digital piano is always a difficult thing to do, it is easy to end up with a dud product that simply doesn’t do the job you want it to. A lot of the budget digital pianos are around $500, and the Alesis Recital Pro is even cheaper than this. Affordable, but does it offer enough to be worth it? Does it do the job of actually feeling like a quality piano?
In this guide, we’re looking at the Alesis Recital Pro. The “big brother” product to the simple Alesis concert (this really is the cheapest acceptable 88-key digital piano out there).
There is always an element of getting what you pay for when it comes to music equipment and we won’t go out on a limb and say that the “pro” is really that “pro”. Instead, it is a good beginner’s option and a way for people to get started playing the piano without having to pay too much money. So, what are the features of the Recital Pro? Does it do a good job for the money or is it worth paying a little more for a different brand?
Table of Contents
- 1 The Alesis Brand
- 2 Features at a Glance
- 3 Hammer Action – The Improved Recital Pro
- 4 Looks and Build Quality
- 5 Sounds and Sound Quality
- 6 Playing Modes
- 7 Alesis Recital Pro – A Good Portable Choice?
- 8 Effects and Recording
- 9 Other Functions and Controls
- 10 Accessories (or Lack Thereof)
- 11 Who is the Recital Pro Best For?
- 12 Summary
The Alesis Brand
Alesis is a very good music tech brand. It does not have the same draw as some brands like Yamaha. For instance, you can’t look back at the history of Alesis and see loads of upright and grand pianos. Brands like Yamaha do have this. For some people, going with a specific piano brand is a big deal.
Alesis creates a lot of drum pads, MIDI products and other affordable but quality gear. Their studio equipment has a utilitarian feel to it at times but this doesn’t mean that it isn’t very good. There’s something basic and simple about their range but there is nothing wrong with that, and for affordable products basic is often a good choice.
Alesis was only started as a brand in 1980. In music terms, it’s a relative baby, but this shouldn’t put you off. Their range has grown a huge amount and as technology has revolutionized music, Alesis has been one of the brands making things affordable for the consumer, and their digital piano range is an example of this.
They set out to make a product that had the full range of a piano, but didn’t cost the earth.
Features at a Glance
What are the features of the Alesis Recital Pro?
- 88 full-size hammer-action keys
- Touch Sensitivity
- 12 voices
- Inbuilt effects including reverb and chorus
- 128-note polyphony
- Learning modes such as lesson
- Different playing modes such as learning and split
- Metronome and transpose functions
- 20W speaker system
- Lightweight at 11.8KGs
- MIDI, USB outputs as well as headphone outs and line inputs.
To quickly look through these features, you can see why people are excited about what they are getting for their money. In truth, you won’t find features like this for the same price, but that is no use if the features actually don’t live up to expectation and stack up when compared to affordable Yamaha and Casio models.
Hammer Action – The Improved Recital Pro
The Alesis Recital Pro has included the “holy grail” for a lot of cheap digital pianos. A hammer action. Hammer action is designed to mimic the feel of an acoustic piano. It gives a weighted feeling which means that there is resistance from the keys, and the harder you press the key the louder the sound.
Most people are looking for the hammer action as they want the feel of a piano. If this isn’t important to you then you can just opt for a keyboard, which may not have weighted keys but will probably give loads of tones. Keyboards are also more affordable, so a hammer action is the sort of thing that drives the price up, but give a much more professional feel. If you ever wish to switch from digital to acoustic then being used to the feel of a digital piano rather than a keyboard will do you a big favor.
The hammer action on the Recital is not graded. Graded action means that the keys are heavier in the lower range and then lighter at the top end, this is something that mimics the way acoustic pianos feel, too. A lot of the more impressive digital pianos have this, but the Alesis Recital Pro is basic, and doesn’t provide a graded hammer action. It’s definitely closer to the weighted keys feel of an acoustic, but it is far from perfect.
Weighted keys are one of the main differences between this and the other Recital digital piano on the market. The little sibling product has “semi-weighted” keys which is an approximation and does give touch sensitivity but it is not the same as a hammer action.
Though it is fair to say that the hammer action is not the best out of all of the digital pianos out there, and that Yamaha GHS systems are better, it is worth paying the extra for the Alesis Recital Pro vs the Recital, to have the benefit of hammer action keys.
Looks and Build Quality
In spite of having 88-keys, this is a relatively compact design. The design is 51.6″ by 13.8″ by 5.5″ and it weighs in at 26 lbs.
It is available in either black or white, and has the distinct feature of a music stand, something that gives it a bit more of a keyboard look but also comes in very handy. There is a simple interface for controlling the sounds and the effects.
The build quality is something of a matter of contention. We would call it good but not great. The keys feel pretty good, though they don’t have a synthetic ebony and ivory feel that a lot of more expensive digital and electric piano models do. The Recital is a budget product, and as such, it is not going to feel like you are playing the most incredible instrument ever with amazing craftsmanship. It feels a bit more on the “keyboard” side rather than being a replication of an acoustic piano.
If we were to rank the build quality we’d give it a 6/10. It isn’t the best, but it is about what we would expect for the price and it certainly doesn’t feel flimsy.
Sounds and Sound Quality
The Alesis Recital Pro gives you 12 different sounds, an upgrade on previous incarnations which have offered five different sounds.
The sound engine that is offered does not quite live up to the engine on offer with models from Yamaha and Casio, and definitely is not a scratch on Roland’s piano engine.
The sounds are decent. Not amazing, but they are more than good enough for a beginner. The piano sounds are pretty good. Some of the models from more expensive brands have really complex engines that replicate the feel of acoustics and even the resonance from an acoustic piano. It isn’t realistic to get this sort of thing for under $400.
12 sounds is quite a lot for a digital piano. They often just have a few very high-fidelity sounds to play around with.
Here are the sounds included with the Alesis Recital Pro:
- Two different Acoustic Pianos (Classical, Bright)
- Electric Piano
- Church Organ
- Harpsichord / Clavichord
- Acoustic Bass
- Fingered Bass
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the sound quality, in terms of the fidelity of the inbuilt tones is good for the price, though not amazing.
One thing that we were definitely really impressed by, which outperforms the price tag, is the speaker system. The 20W speakers are pretty powerful and they are actually very clear for the price point. If you use the aux input you can also play backing tracks or play along to sounds on other devices, this will show you the quality the Alesis Recital pro offers from its audio projection.
The speakers include subs and tweeters, and they are far superior to some of the models that are even more expensive than the Recital – Alesis can be very proud of this particular function.
All of these sounds are provided with a 128 note polyphony. This means that you can play complex melodies and even classical compositions and not have to worry about it being impacted by a lack of polyphony. If you are confused about polyphony, it is to do with the number of notes being played simultaneously or close together. This is a great guide to polyphony and explains what a 128 note polyphony actually means.
There are multiple playing modes within the functionality of this Alesis keyboard. This is one of the advantages of going for a digital piano instead of an acoustic piano. The tech functionality is far more advanced.
Layer Mode – This allows you to layer any two of the sounds together and play them at the same time. For example, you could layer the piano with strings to give a much bigger, more dramatic tone. This is easy to turn on and off and to select the two sounds you wish to use. Obviously, the end result is a thicker tone, but any note you play will play as both sounds, so they are not separated across the keyboard. This is a job for…
Split Mode – this lets you split the piano into two different presets. You can play the bass with your left hand and a different tone such as synth or acoustic piano with your right hand. This allows you to play around with more sounds and greatly increases what you can do with your piano during a performance, for example.
Lesson Mode – This is more of a learning mode than a different playing mode. You won’t want to use it in live performances, but if you are having a lesson or giving a lesson then you might find it very useful. It turns your 88 keys into two sections of 44 keys, both with the same range. This means that you can play something on the left-hand side of the piano and then someone can mimic the same key pattern on the right-hand side and it sounds identical. This is really useful for teaching people how to play the piano.
Having these extra playing modes is a great feature that you won’t get with 61 key keyboards. This is a real argument for why the Alesis Recital 88 key models are a big upgrade on some of the 61 key models that may cost a similar amount of money, but don’t quite have the piano “feel” to them.
Alesis Recital Pro – A Good Portable Choice?
A lot of people who are looking to buy a digital piano or a keyboard are looking to get a portable model so that they can take it out and about with them to band practice and even to shows. The Alesis Recital Pro can definitely do this job.
Okay, so it has 88 keys and they are full-sized, so it is never going to be a tiny model, but as digital pianos go, the Recital Pro is pretty portable. It can fit in a large digital piano case, and only weighs 26 lbs, which isn’t too much in the scheme of digital pianos and other musical equipment. For an 88 key model, it’s actually relatively lightweight.
One of the other things that makes the Alesis Recital Pro such a good choice for portability is the fact that you can power it in a number of different ways. It can work with a power adapter (included in the packaging) or you can use 6 D cell batteries instead. This might not be the most economical way of powering your digital piano, and a standard power supply may be better for the environment, but if you are going somewhere that power isn’t available then a power adapter will be no use, and being able to use batteries can be a godsend.
Effects and Recording
On to another area of the Alesis Recital Pro that is really impressive when you consider the price point. There is some included functionality that you really wouldn’t expect for such a cheap digital piano.
There are inbuilt effects, which allow you to change the sound and give it different qualities. Those 12 inbuilt voices can actually be the platform for lots of different tones when you consider the effects and layering possibilities with this digital piano.
You get an EQ control as well as effects like Modulation, Chorus and Reverb. They are fairly basic with only a few presets. For example, the EQ doesn’t let you alter the bass and treble manually, instead it just lets you switch between modes. Still, most digital pianos don’t have this choice at all, so for the Alesis Recital Pro to have included it is a big bonus.
The other effect settings let you choose between 8 types of reverb, 12 modulation effects and 8 different choruses. If you are looking to give a more spacious sound then you might want to use the reverb, for a thicker tone then chorus might be a good option. All of this is really quite unexpected for a budget model, and is another tick in the box for the Alesis Recital Pro model of digital piano.
On top of this, you also get a very basic (but also very helpful) record mode. This records the MIDI you are playing and allows you to play back different ideas. If you come up with a new melody when you are on the go, you can just record it and come back to it at a later date.
Other Functions and Controls
There are a few more functions that fully explain the control panel and the things you can alter within the Alesis Recital Pro.
Transpose allows you to move up and down in pitch, either by octave or in semitone increments. This can help with playing in a different key, for example.
A Metronome is included to help you to practice playing in time. This can be set to between 30 and 280 beats per minute (BPM) and allows you to improve your timing and rhythm skills.
Touch Sensitivity controls let you change the intensity and…well, sensitivity. Some people might prefer a more sensitive piano so that when you play the keys gently, it still produces quite a loud sound. There are three different settings which all give a different feel to the hammer action keys.
Accessories (or Lack Thereof)
As we’ve said already, it is important not to expect too much from the digital piano, as the Alesis Recital Pro is one of the cheapest models you can get with 88 keys and a hammer action. Inevitably, some areas could be improved in an ideal world, and this doesn’t come with any accessories besides the simple music stand.
To get the most out of this, we recommend the following accessories:
- A sustain pedal – The Recital Pro lets you play with sustain. By which, we mean that it has an input for a sustain pedal but it doesn’t provide one. If you want to be able to change the sustain of the notes you are playing and let some of those notes ring out a bit more then we do recommend getting some form of sustain pedal, even if it is another cheap and affordable model.
- A stand – Alesis doesn’t recommend any sort of stand in particular for the Alesis Recital Pro model. This means that you can go for one of the more generic models on the market. Just make sure that it is big enough for an 88 key keyboard and can also support the weight of the digital piano.
- Headphones – These are a “nice to have” accessory rather than a “must-have”. Headphones are commonly bundled in with keyboards or digital pianos but it really doesn’t matter if you already have a pair of cans that you love and can use with your piano. If the input size is wrong, you can even buy an adapter.
The Alesis Recital Pro can form the center of a home studio or performance setup but you will probably have to find some accessories separately to get the most out of it.
Who is the Recital Pro Best For?
This can be one of the tough things to work out if you are buying a digital piano. We would be lying if we said this model suits any type of pianist, but there are certain types of aspiring pianist or keyboard player that this is a great choice for.
- Beginners, who one day wish to move onto acoustic piano. This is definitely preferable to some of the keyboard models that you may have seen us review if you want to get used to an 88-key range.
- Hobbyists on a budget. If you love playing the piano but you don’t have a lot of money to spend on your hobby, it is good to know that the Alesis Recital Pro has you covered with a passable approximation of a piano that doesn’t cost the earth.
- Bedroom musicians who want an 88 key MIDI controller. This has all you need to plug into your computer and start to play the full range through virtual instruments and using your DAW. It can combine with a laptop or desktop PC to make a powerful composing and even performing companion!
As you can see, the Alesis Recital Pro is not the best product on the market. The sound engine could be a little better, as could the feel and sensitivity of the keys. However, for the money, you will be hard-pressed to find a better 88 key model. On top of this, it has some unexpected bonuses like the recording mode and even those sophisticated inbuilt effects.
It isn’t elite, and you won’t see classical pianists take to the concert halls with one of these. However, for the money, it is hard not to recommend the Alesis Recital Pro. If you’re on a budget but still want weighted keys and a wide range, Alesis might just have you covered with the Recital Pro.