Donner DEP-20 Review: The Best Affordable Piano?

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In this review we're going to take a good look at one of the newest digital pianos out there, by a brand most of you will never have heard of - the Donner DEP-20. This is a piano that sells exceptionally well on Amazon, and competes in terms of features with well established offerings from other major brands such as the Yamaha P125 and Casio PX160.

Donner is a pretty obscure brand to most people; they are actually a Chinese company that began in 2012 making guitar accessories, and at some point since then have decided to branch out and make a digital piano. They have a few pianos in their range, including the DEP-10 which we're also taking a look at in a separate review. They're hardly a household name, but they're an up and coming brand and the DEP-20 is one of their most popular offerings. 

The Donner DEP-20 is priced exceptionally competitively, and with a feature set that honestly blows other instruments at this price point out of the water. It includes everything you might expect from a piano even at twice this price. But have there been compromises on quality? Let's do a deep dive into a review of the Donner DEP-20 and find out.

Features

There's nothing that's missing here at all. It contains every single feature you might expect, and even a few you wouldn't.

Sound

Speakers are excellent - samples are not. The result is a very mediocre, artificial sound that is honestly a bit of a let down.

Price

In terms of value for money, probably the best bang for the buck that you'll find on the market today.

Pros

  • The Donner DEP-20 is simply exceptional value for money - nothing else comes close in terms of features at this price point
  • The action is actually pretty impressive for the price - it's probably about the same as Yamaha's GHS which is included in pianos much more expensive than this one
  • A massive, massive feature set - from the 238 tones, to recording functionality, metronome, etc, nothing is missing
  • The speakers actually really impressed me - I was not in any way expecting them to be as good as they were

Cons

  • The samples are unfortunately not very good at all - the piano sample has no life to the sound, and is very dry and flat. I also noticed weird buzzing sounds with some of the other samples
  • Very thick - thicker than most digital pianos out there and sometimes can be uncomfortable to position yourself to play it
  • Action, while good, has too much lateral movement and this can be a bit annoying

  • Touch sensitivity is a little weird - you're either playing forte or fortissimo, it seems impossible to play quietly on the Donner DEP-20

After 5 hours of testing, what do we think of the Donner DEP-20?

Honestly, this instrument has its' drawbacks. I don't think anyone who has played the Donner DEP-20 would deny that. The sounds are not particularly good, the touch sensitivity is quite poor and as a result, any advanced musician is going to have a hard time with this instrument.


However, we have to bear in mind that we're talking about an exceptionally cheap keyboard here. The Donner DEP-20 is not a practice instrument for a concert pianist - it's a beginner or intermediate instrument; perhaps your first step up from a non-weighted keyboard.


And in my opinion, the Donner DEP-20 is the best bang for your buck of any keyboard under around $700.


As much as I prefer Yamaha or Kawai as a brand, I'd honestly be tempted to buy one of these if I was a beginner or intermediate pianist. The feature set of the Donner DEP-20 and the value for money that you get is unparalleled by anything else in the market.

Our Rating: 4/5

Check the availability and the current price of the Donner DEP-20 in your region:

UK/USA/Canada

So what do you actually get for your money? Let's go through a full specification list for the Donner DEP-20.

Full Specification List 


  • 88 Key Hammer Action Keyboard with Adjustable Touch Response
  • 128 Note Maximum Polyphony
  • 238 Distinctive Tones, including grand piano, bright piano, electric piano, celeste and organ
  • Chorus & Reverb Effects
  • Backlit LCD screen
  • Dual-Tone mode for combining voices together
  • Optional 3-pedal unit (not included)
  • Connectivity: 2x USB, Sustain Pedal, 3-Pedal Socket, AUX IN and OUT, Power
  • Sustain Pedal Included
  • Size - 133cm x 29.5cm x 18.5cm
  • 11.6kg weight
  • 12V DC 3A Power Supply

For a complete specification list, please visit donnerdeal.com.


Design

The design of the Donner DEP-20 is nothing really to complain about - it's a standard, minimalist digital piano design with no real clutter or anything unnecessary. You have a very clear backlit LCD screen that tells you which voice you've selected, which metronome speed you're on, etc - and all the buttons are laid out in a logical and aesthetically pleasing way.

The main thing I'd comment on here is the thickness of this piano. It is exceptionally thick compared to some competitors - I measured around 7.5 inches (or around 18.5cm) from top to bottom, which means that when you place it on a table, it's noticeably higher than some competitor offerings like the Yamaha P125 or P45. This can make playing it a bit awkward - I found that even on a standard X-frame keyboard stand I was having to adjust my stool as high as it could go, and even then it would have been more comfortable a little higher than that.

Other than that, the design of the Donner DEP-20 is as you'd expect from other manufacturers - no better or no worse.


Weight

This piano weighs hardly anything - it's a contender for lightest piano I've ever tried. The Donner DEP-20 weighs in at a very light 11.6kg, meaning that if you're a teacher needing to transport it between lessons or a gig musician transporting it between concerts, it's a very easy instrument to throw into your car or put it in a case and carry it around.

Donner have done really well to pack such a great feature set into a keyboard this light. However, in all honesty for me it does raise some questions about build quality, but only time will tell on that front.


Assembly

No assembly is necessary for the Donner DEP-20 - you simply take it out of the box, put it on a table or X-frame keyboard stand, and away you go. However, you can choose a bespoke stand and pedal set, which will need some assembly.

All you really need to do for this is bolt the stand together, insert the optional 3-pedal unit and then rest the keyboard on top; it's no more difficult to install or assemble than any other digital piano, really.


Controls and Buttons

The controls on the Donner DEP-20 are exceptionally easy to use. You've got a clear LCD screen to give you information about which sounds, beats or other options are selected, and you have buttons for everything you need. This is where the Donner DEP-20 sits apart from rivals, simply because it's far easier to select different options on this keyboard than it is on the Yamaha P45 (a piano with a lesser feature set but sits in the same price range) as you don't have to fiddle about with a function button combined with key presses.

What I would have liked to see, which is something you can get on more expensive models, is some kind of app with bluetooth connectivity. This is where this keyboard misses out compared to something like the Casio PX160, because I've found connecting to an iPad or iPhone to change settings to be very useful. However, this may not bother you, and to be honest it's not really an omission; more of a nice-to-have.


Pedals

The Donner DEP-20 gives you two options; the included sustain pedal, which in all honesty is a lot better than you get from most manufacturers even at higher price points. Most pianos come with a very poor quality sustain switch, which tends to slide all over the floor as you're playing and doesn't give you any real control over the sustain - it's either on or off. I always encourage my readers to get rid of this and buy a proper sustain pedal.

The included sustain pedal in this doesn't really feel like it's of great quality - however it is a significant step up based on what you get from other manufacturers. I've got to give Donner top marks for this one, as they've gone above and beyond and it really does enhance the experience.

If you're looking to take your music making a step further, there is an option to add a three-pedal unit to the Donner DEP-20, which would include sustain, sostenuto and una corda. I didn't have one of these while I was testing unfortunately, so I can't comment on how good it is, but I'm banking on good things based on my experience with the standard sustain pedal.



Colours

Unfortunately you don't really get much choice here. The Donner DEP-20 comes in black only. While some people may not like this very much, it wasn't something that particularly bothered me, and at this price point, it makes sense that little compromises like this have been made. Even more expensive keyboards come in only one or two colours.


Piano Sound

Let's push on to talk about the piano sound. This is what I've always thought makes or breaks a digital piano - so let's see if the Donner DEP-20 holds up.

Unfortunately the Donner DEP-20 has rather a plasticky, artificial sound. It's very dry and flat - and there's very little life to it at all. Which is a shame, because I really wanted to like this piano; it seems like it's got everything for a far better price point than competitors. However I can't really say that the piano sound is particularly good in the Donner DEP-20 - for intermediate players and those wanting to keep this piano to progress musically, it's not really good enough.

However this piano is quite clearly geared to the beginner, and in all honesty it's no worse than a lot of the alternatives out there for the same money; the natural reaction is to compare it to the P125 by Yamaha, but that's roughly double the price, and so we can't really expect every single feature to match up. 

In short - the piano sound is acceptable; not great, but for a beginner it will be OK. Take a listen to some samples on YouTube for an idea of how the piano sounds.


Other Included Sounds

The Donner DEP-20 includes a variety of other sounds; 238 to be exact, which includes other keyboards, drum samples, guitar, electric piano, etc - everything you'd expect. Again, the samples are adequate; not amazing by any means, and occasionally on some of the samples I could hear a little bit of buzzing; but other than that, an adequate sound set for the price range.

What did impress me were the internal rhythms - the DEP-20 has over 200 internal rhythms you can use and play along with, in every genre and style you could imagine. This is a really fun feature that will definitely help students with their enjoyment of the piano, encouraging them to learn more.


Speakers

This is probably where the Donner DEP-20 impressed me the most. The presence and the depth of sound the speakers give is not at all what I was expecting for a piano this cheap. In fact, I'd wager that the speakers in this instrument are at least on par with, if not better than the speakers included with the Yamaha P125 or Casio PX160 - they're that good, and I have to say I was very impressed.

I unfortunately wasn't able to find out much information about the technical specification of the speakers, so I don't know what kind of power is actually behind them, but suffice it to say I was not disappointed when I started playing this and heard it for the first time. If they'd included better samples, this keyboard would without question be a contender for best keyboard under $1000.

I would say that in contrast to most digital pianos, the Donner DEP-20 probably has enough presence to play in public; not in a concert hall of course, but definitely in a small room, a bar or a studio - there is enough grunt and enough power in these speakers that they put out a pretty decent sound, with no crackling or distortion at the higher end.

Connectivity

The connectivity of the DEP-20 is great for the money, and features pretty much everything you'll need, including:

  • USB to host
  • Pedal socket (for the three pedal extension)
  • DC In 16V
  • AUX IN and OUT
  • Sustain pedal socket (for the included sustain switch)
  • USB socket (a regular USB socket for plugging in an MP3 player or similar)

Keyboard & Action 

Apart from the sound, the action is really the crux of a digital piano - if the action is terrible, the piano is going to severely limit your progress in learning the piano. However, the Donner DEP-20, while not the best action I've ever played, is far from terrible and for beginner and intermediate players, should serve its' purpose quite well. Of course; really difficult classical music is never going to be easy to play on a piano like this; but this piano is reasonably capable of some expression and dynamic control, which is more than can be said for a lot of models in this price range.

Of course, the dynamic response isn't the greatest, and the keys aren't certainly the nicest I've ever played, but if you're an intermediate player who isn't planning on practicing for three hours every day, then you won't really find anything lacking in what the Donner DEP-20 gives you.


Touch Sensitivity

Touch sensitivity does exist on this piano, but in all honesty it's definitely not one of the best I've tried. Unfortunately there seems to be very little in the way of soft and quiet playing on this instrument - everything seems to be either loud, or very loud. I was playing with the settings and I couldn't really find a way to change this; so it's something I lived with while I was playing and testing this piano.

Again - for the target market of this instrument; probably a non-issue.


Keys

This piano does feature 88 weighted keys, which is a real bonus at this price point. They have a nice weight to them, too - not too heavy and not too light. Playing these after transitioning from a spring-loaded keyboard is going to take a while, but it's an imperative part of learning to play the piano, and for the target market of the Donner DEP-20 they've done a pretty good job. The keys are plastic throughout, and the action is graded, meaning the keys at the bottom are heavier than at the top, which is just like a real piano.

One thing I will say about the keys is that there's a lot of lateral movement when playing, and I found that occasionally keys were brushing up against adjacent keys when they were being played. It's a little weird and off-putting when trying to play, because you do get kind of a clicking sound when it happens, and you may find it a little bit annoying. I learned to live with it - it's a quirk of the instrument, and in all honesty if you're playing intermediate pieces in the Grade 3 - 6 range, you're probably not going to be playing fast enough to even notice it.


Included Features and Accessories

The Donner DEP-20 comes included with a pretty standard list of accessories - there's nothing here that strikes me as particularly interesting, but nor is there anything missing that's usually included in pianos even twice this price.

  • Sustain Switch
  • Owner’s Manual
  • Music Rest
  • Power Adapter

However, you may want to invest in any of the following, in order to enhance your piano playing experience.

Recommended Accessories and Guides

Donner DEP-20 with Keyboard Stand and Pedal Set

The Best Headphones for a Digital Piano


Final Verdict

Our Rating: 4/5

Conclusion

A very, very capable piano for the money. Yes, of course you're not going to be playing Rachmaninov or Liszt on it, but it's squarely aimed at the middle of the market and therefore it caters to those who are going to be using it exceptionally well. 


Despite the low price point I do consider this an instrument, and not just a keyboard. All the components work together to create an impressive experience for the money, and if you're looking for a keyboard at this price point, I highly recommend the Donner DEP-20.

Check the availability and the current price of the Donner DEP-20 in your region:

UK/USA/Canada

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