It used to be that when your eight-year-old started piano lessons, you went out and plunked down a thousand bucks for a used upright and then spent two hundred more a year on tuning. It was a sizeable commitment, especially when you didn’t know if your child was going to be the next Joey Alexander or flame out in three weeks. This need is exactly what the new Williams Allegro 2 is designed to fill. For under three bills it offers an 88-key weighted-piano action, a serviceable acoustic-piano sample, surprisingly authentic electric pianos, and a few other surprises, all in a 25-pound instrument that will never see a tuning hammer.
Ever since Roland introduced the game-changing EP-7 (and the Casio Privia redefined the category a decade later), entry-level digital pianos have stayed consistent in form and function: They all feature five or more key instruments with options such as sound layering and splitting, effects such as reverb and chorus, and a number of basics—a metronome, a simple MIDI notepad, tuning capabilities, and an adjustable velocity curve. The Allegro 2 hits all these notes while providing an easily readable layout and built-in speakers. Its buttons are raised and have a concave center that, on some controls, sport a blue LED to indicate multiple functions.
The back panel includes a USB port, 1/4" stereo outs, sustain pedal and headphone jacks, and a receptacle for the power adaptor, which is not included: Surprisingly, the Allegro 2 can be powered by six D batteries (see Figure 1). If you want the AC power supply, the optional Williams ESS1 Essentials Pack ($30) provides it, as well as a sustain pedal and a set of consumer-style headphones. Clearly, Williams is committed to keeping a consumer-friendly price-point. Although there are a few compromises on the instrument, it offers tremendous value for the entry-level musician (or the musician who has a cabin in the woods or wants to take a piano to the beach).
|Fig. 1: In addition to a USB-to-Host port and 1/4" stereo outputs, the Allegro 2 has a pedal input that is used to change the
speed of the rotary speaker emulator when using the organ patches.
The Piano Experience
Although the piano sounds are not as convincing as you would find on more expensive digital keyboards, the Allegro 2 provides a more-than-satisfactory entry-level piano experience (even better when you plug the audio outputs into some good amps or studio monitors) and will delight any new player. As it happened, I had the instrument set up in the studio when a singer and her guitarist husband came by to work out some arrangements: They found the Allegro 2 to be enjoyable to work with, and were impressed by its action and value.
And this ergonomic playfulness will carry over to performance situations. Live onstage, the weekend warrior will have a rollicking time with the Allegro 2. The action is bouncy and quick, light to the touch, and supportive of athletic maneuvers. It’s delightful to find a digital-piano action this responsive on such an inexpensive instrument. And while it does offer the ability to alter the velocity curves, I found the default setting is best. Which is fine because, other than a little scrapey-ness from the key edges, there is not much I’d change about it.