The Alesis DG8 Digital Piano|
BY PHIL PARLAPIANO
You may have noticed a trend in the digital piano market. Everyone is making them! All of them have pretty passable sounds, but what features will make one stand out from the next? Try one of the best feeling keyboards I've ever had the pleasure to lay my hands on. The DG8 is 64 note 88 weighted key digital piano, that happens to have a 100 watt sound system (roughly the Alesis studio monitor) built in. And oh, it has great acoustic and electric piano sounds.
Besides the great feeling weighted wood keyboard, the best attribute of the DG8 are the built in stereo amplified monitors. It was a joy to learn new songs with a CD plugged into the keyboard's handy stereo inputs, playing along with a great sounding piano or string patch. Unfortunately, the speakers increase the weight of the DG8 to 80 pounds, not for those fearing large chiropratric bills.
The split and double functions are a breeze to use. I especially like the one button split bass. Hit one of 7 bass buttons (acoustic, electric and synth) and instantly have a key bass split a C2 (user definable as well) with a slider controlling the volume. Other sounds can be used for the split, including any from the optional cards available (more about this later). The layer mode is equally easy to use, hitting the layer button, then the sound desired, once again having a slider for the volume. Reverb and chorus sliders make it convenient to add more or less effects at different parts of the song, which I always appreciate (the more control the better). Throw a five band eq in the mix and you got a pretty rockin' keyboard. I miss pitch bend and mod levers (old school), but mostly for the keyboard controller aspect, which on the DG8 is pretty light. There is no control for midi zones, layers, or assignments for the pedal configurations (sustain, sostenuto, soft, volume or mod).
The piano sounds (12 in all) are all very excellent. These range from dark classical (like a Bosendorfer) to bright jazz or a pop sound. The only complaint I heard from people who tried the Alesis is that it was missing the 'harp' sound-the sound of all the strings resonating while playing the chosen keys. Few digital pianos do this, making a difference while playing the piano alone, but I found that given the great feeling keyboard emulating sounds from the keyboard, I was fooled into thinking I was playing the real thing. The Wurlitzer electric piano is very nice, built with the vibrato, which is very important aspect of the tone. Other sounds, such as the harpsichord and organ (more about that later) are also very usable. What ups the ante, is the very generous card port in the back of the unit. Yes, a selection of half or dozen sound cards are available for the DG8, such as a Euro Dance, Hip Hop, Latin, Orchestral, and my favorite, Vintage Keys. This real increases the value of the keyboard. The Mellotron, Chamberlin and Hammond patches are really good. They are even looped well! When it comes to the sounds, it is safe to say that the Alesis is expandable-not often found in a stand alone digital piano.
ON THE GIG
I took the Alesis DG8 for a bluesy, roots gig at a place called none other than the Martini Lounge. After the requisite highly stylized drink, I put the axe to the test. This time, I really wanted to see what those speakers could handle, so I didn't bother bringing my keyboard amp, relying on the onboard monitors to power both the piano and my Yamaha CSX1, which I plugged into the mono input on the Alesis. The manual says these stereo inputs are for cds, and I think they meant it, as the Yamaha sounded under-powered though these inputs. In fact, I kept the volume up to 10 with the graphic on and cranked to hear it through a fairly loud band. If the Alesis was playing in a quieter situation, especially by itself, it would easily be loud enough with the onboard monitor. Given the weight, I wanted the speakers to earn their keep. I wish the speakers had been tilted up, and I'm sure I would have heard them better. I loved the sliders for the reverb and chorus, especially when the chorus controlled the leslie speed for the a few pretty decent organ sounds. The Wurlitzer tone was good too, but the sustain sounded a little abrupt and I was a little irritated that I couldn't tweak the patches. The strings were rich, rather Kurzweil like, and incredibly usable. I think if I had my keyboard amp, perfection could be achieved, being really enthused by the idea of having the sound coming from the keyboard itself as well as being supported behind.
This piano feels great when you're playing with a band. Having the speakers is incredibly convenient for working around the house. I would love to have the DG8 on a tour or as the house pianist at a venue where portability is not a problem.
©2000 Gig Magazine
Reprinted with permission