Williams Allegro 2 and Overture 2

Hands-On Review: Williams Allegro 2 and Overture 2 Digital Pianos

Posted on .

These electronic keyboards deliver surprisingly robust features and satisfying playability at their pain-free price points.

One of the challenges facing wannabe pianists and the parents who usually spring for that first piano is the commitment-versus-cost calculation. While enthusiasm may be running high now, it could fade in the future, leaving you stuck with a pricey piece of furniture taking up valuable living space.

On the other hand, buying a bargain-basement digital keyboard is false economy. Cheesy sounds and feel will turn off both beginners and experienced keyboardists. Unsatisfying performance like this can be a real commitment-killer when it comes to sticking to your resolve to learn piano.

Williams Allegro 2—first impressions

At just under 30 lb and possessing 88 full-size keys, it’s clear when unboxing the Allegro 2 that this is no mere toy. That impression is completely borne out when you fire up the piano and begin playing.

The keybed is remarkably responsive when compared with other digital pianos in its price range. With velocity sensitivity and aftertouch combined with hammer-weighted keys, more experienced players will find the transition from acoustic pianos much easier. Students who practice on the Allego 2 at home while also learning on a school or teacher’s acoustic piano will also find switching between instruments smoother thanks to the Allegro’s great touch.

With 64-note polyphony—the ability to play up to 64 sounds at once—the Allegro 2 is capable of creating lush, orchestrated sounds. The onboard stereo speaker system does a good job projecting those sounds. If you need more output, back-panel ¼” stereo/mono line out jacks allow you to connect external speakers.

Around back

Aside from the external speaker outputs, the Allegro 2 back panel includes a USB connector. Coupled with the piano’s 16-channel MIDI capability, you can use it with pretty much any music software to record, edit, tweak or sequence your performances. The headphone output is an essential for keeping the peace during home practice.

Two other back-panel connectors —inputs for a power supply and optional sustain pedal—deserve special mention. The Allegro 2 can be battery-operated using 6 optional “D” cells—nice for those garden concerts. But you’ll probably want to operate it on wall current most of the time using the AC power adapter connector. It’s important to note that the Allegro 2 comes without an adapter. I suspect most buyers will order the Williams ESS1 Essentials Pack that includes the adapter as well as a sustain pedal and headphones.

Williams ESS1 Essentials Pack

The ESS1 Essentials is aptly named since it includes the power supply for Allegro 2 together with headphones and a sustain pedal for more expressive control.

Sounds Galore

One advantage of electronic keyboards over their acoustic counterparts is versatility. The Allegro 2 is no exception with its 10 voices from the Williams Custom Sound Library that include acoustic and electric pianos, organs, synthesizers and strings as well as electric and acoustic basses. All can be extensively modified for even more sonic flexibility.

I found the Grand Piano sound to be very competitive with those of digital pianos costing far more. Whoever did the sound capture clearly knew their job and was using a quality instrument for the source. The level of realism in the Grand Piano’s attack, harmonic complexity and note decay were pretty remarkable in a piano at this price.

You can tweak the sound of each voice with several reverb and chorus types whose depth (impact) can be easily dialed in. The so-called Mod FX section gives you access to tremolo and vibrato modulation effects. For example, the organ rotary speaker effect with fast/slow control using a sustain pedal mimics the sound of a Hammond B3 organ played through a Leslie speaker—a classic rock sound. Two-band EQ control lets you further tweak the sound output by the onboard Allegro 2 speakers.

Cool blue keyboard control

Williams has not stinted on Allegro 2’s functions—the status of which are signaled by the bright blue LCD display. Dedicated function knobs have matching blue LEDs that illuminate when they’re engaged.

From learning to performance situations, Allegro 2 has you covered. The metronome function is easy to set for both tempo and volume in a comprehensive range of time signatures. Transposing is made easy with a dedicated button that allows you to transpose up or down 12 semitones. There’s also an octave function with which you can transpose the entire keyboard up or down. The octave function can also be applied in split mode so that only the left hand notes are affected.

And as you’ve probably figured out by now, the keyboard can be split so the left and right hands play different instrument. For example, you can finger blues patterns with your right hand playing the electric piano voice while your left hand plays a walking bassline using the electric bass voice. In layering mode you can combine the sounds of two different voices simultaneously. Control over layer volume helps you dial in pleasing combinations.

A set of 10 demo songs plus a recording function to capture your own performance serve as tools for inspiration and learning. As with the entire interface on both pianos, accessing and setting parameters was intuitive thanks to dedicated buttons. Williams opts to keep things simple by avoiding the sometimes confusing, multi-layered menus of other digital keyboards.

The home-friendly Overture 2 Console

An ebony gloss cabinet that should work with just about any decor is the first thing that registers when you lay eyes on the Overture 2. But it’s not until you take a tour of its sound sets and functions that you truly appreciate its phenomenal value.

The very responsive 88-key hammer-action keyboard with aftertouch and velocity sensitivity offers much of the playing dynamics and touch of an acoustic piano. Back-panel connectors mirror those of the Allegro 2 with the addition of a pedal input that connects the sostenuto, sustain and soft pedals built into the Overture 2. For pianists accustomed to a traditional acoustic instrument, the pedals impart familiar feel and control over performance dynamics.

The Overture 2 includes 18 demo songs that correspond to the 18 instrument voices—all of which have their own dedicated top-panel buttons and are from the Williams Custom Sound Library. Each sound type (piano, organ, etc.) has three instrument variations, providing plenty of fodder for practice. You can record your own performances too using the onboard 2-track recorder—helpful when you want to assess your progress.

Get schooled

In other respects, many Allegro 2 features are duplicated in Overture 2. These include the split, layer and octave functions. But the Overture 2 ups the ante with exclusive capabilities and controls. For students, an especially useful feature is the Song Tutor mode. You’ll find 50 piano pieces ranging from classical to rock to blues that will help you build your repertoire. You can mute either the left- or right-hand parts of each song so you can work on the rhythm and melody parts separately. You can download sheet music for the songs at the Williams website and the owner’s manual organizes songs by their difficulty.

The Overture 2 also has 129 additional voices beyond its core instrument sounds for an amazing degree of flexibility in creating performances. You’ll find everything from guitars, percussion and orchestral strings to brass, woodwinds and sci-fi sounding synth pads—all ready to become part of your audio tapestry. The built-in 2-way stereo speaker system produces plenty of detailed sound in most home settings while RCA inputs (for mixing external sources like MP3 players) and 1/4” outputs let you connect a variety of external speakers. Dual headphone outputs mean students and teachers can work together without disturbing the household.

The USB Host port on the Overture 2 allows you to play songs directly from USB thumb drives. This means that your library of songs to work with and rehearse is essentially limitless.

A special arrangement between McCarthy Music and Williams gives you access to additional free piano tuition software that runs on iPads and Windows computers. The software steps you through the basics to more advanced piano skills as you progress. With more than 1000 songs at your fingertips and immediate feedback on mistakes, you’ll find your abilities developing fast.

Conclusions

Williams has done a superb job of finding the sweet spot between price and performance. For the budget-challenged student or parent seeking a great starter instrument, the Allegro 2 serves up a lot of functions and sounds. Its portable format is ideal for homes and dorms where space is at a premium since it can be stowed when not in use.

The step-up Overture 2 is the answer for pianists and students who want more voices and functions and have the floor space to house its modest 54” x 34” footprint. The black console cabinet needs nothing but a little dusting and its understated elegance will coexist comfortably with just about any decor.

Your purchase of either model is risk-free with Musician’s Friend 45-Day No-Hassle Returns. Thoroughly audition your new piano at home and if you have one, get your piano teacher’s assessment. We believe you’ll agree these are two of the best digital piano deals out there.

Features & Specs:

Williams Allegro 2 Digital Piano

  • 88 weighted, velocity-sensitive, piano-style keys
  • 10 core instrument voices
  • 64-note polyphony
  • Layer, Touch, Split, and Metro voice control
  • 10 demo songs
  • MIDI implementation
  • Connectors: USB, sustain pedal, ¼” L/R outputs, headphone output
  • Dimensions: (W x D x H) 51.6” x 5” x 13”
  • Weight: 29.8 lb
  • Optional ESS1 Essentials Pack includes AC adapter, sustain pedal and headphones

Williams Overture 2 Console Digital Piano

  • 88 weighted, velocity-sensitive, piano-style keys
  • 18 core instrument voices
  • 129 additional instruments/sounds
  • 64-note polyphony
  • Layer, Touch, Split, and Metro voice control
  • Built-in sustain, sostenuto and soft pedals
  • 18 demo songs
  • 50 Song Tutor songs
  • MIDI implementation
  • Connectors: USB Host Port, sustain pedal, ¼” L/R outputs, dual headphone outputs
  • Dimensions: (W x D x H) 54.7” x 19.3” x 33.8”
  • Weight: 117 lb
  • Easy-care decor-neutral black cabinet

Tags: Keyboards

Add comment

Security code
Refresh

The HUB by Musician's Friend Logo

DON'T MISS THE LATEST UPDATES!
CONNECT WITH MUSICIAN'S FRIEND

FIND GREAT DEALS NOW
ON MUSICIANSFRIEND.COM

Stupid Deal of the Day (SDOTD) Musicians Friend Backstage Pass  Open Box Musical Instruments at Musician's Friend

SHOPPING TOOLS

  • BACKSTAGE PASS Rewards Program
  • Guitar Case Finder
  • Give a Gift Certificate
  • Clearance
  • Private Reserve Guitars

SHOP BY CATEGORY

  • Hot Deals
  • On Sale
  • Pre-Order
  • New Arrivals
  • Top Rated Gear
  • Best Sellers

SUBSCRIBE

  • Newsletter
  • Digital Catalog
  • Print Catalog