26 June 2023
By Ellie Palmer
This is a unique and admittedly gorgeous-looking piano that might just have filled an important gap in the piano market
Take a visit to any digital piano store these days, and you will be hit face first with mountains of information on all the latest and most high tech digital piano models.
You’ll see pianos with over 300 sounds to play with, pianos that allow you to adjust every tiny detail of the sound – from the pitch right down to the parameter of the strings, pianos that have ‘Harmonic Imaging XL sound technology’, and pianos that have a ‘RH3 responsive hammer action’. If we were to ask you what a RH3 responsive hammer action is, would you be able to answer?
Shopping for a digital piano in 2023 can be overwhelming. Some of us know what all these features and details mean. Some of us don’t! A simple, easy-to-use, affordable piano with minimal fuss is needed in the current market.
The problem is, a lot of the ‘simpler’ pianos look cheap. Many are made from plastic and come in a standard black finish. That’s not fun for the buyer either.
So, when I came across the Donner DDP-80 Plus with its gorgeous wooden exterior and limited specifications list, I was definitely intrigued. I wanted to see if this could be the piano that could fill a niche gap in the market.
Described as a piano that can be 'seamlessly integrated into modern home décor', I can definitely confirm the Donner DDP-80 Plus fulfils that statement.
When I first took the key bed out from the box, I'll admit I got very excited. I knew it looked gorgeous in pictures, but in real life I was taken aback by just how slick and beautiful it was. And it's the design that seems to have been at the top of the priority list for Donner when it came to creating this piano.
A big focus on design and aesthetic
The piano has been given a slick wood grain finish which is a very refreshing change to the standard matte black finish you find on most lower-end pianos. And once assembled - which it’s worth mentioning was surprisingly simple and straight forward, another tick in the pros box – I was able to position it seamlessly into my own home surroundings given its clean, minimalistic design.
Another plus point I noticed here was that, despite having a full sized keyboard with 88 notes, the DDP-80 Plus takes up little space. The metal legs are skinny yet sturdy, and there is no bulky backboard underneath. There’s plenty of room if you want to store some piano books or accessories under the piano itself.
With such a good start, I was anxious to see what the actual piano sounded like, especially given it only carries 1 single piano sound.
Is just 1 piano sound enough?
The DDP-80 Plus carries 1 grand piano sound. There isn’t an option to edit this sound. There are no sound settings on the piano aside from, quite literally, the volume control. The pedal block does of course allow for a sustaining and softening of the sound. It’s a very nice, classic French sound with good balance across the keyboard in terms of tone. It does however lack some atmosphere. That could have been fixed with a reverb setting.
Take a look at this sound demo below to hear it for yourself (Note: This demo is of the DDP-80):
A clear target audience: the beginner
Donner's choice to go with just the 1 piano sound and very minimal controls makes it clear who their target audience is.
Interfaces on pianos can be daunting to get your head around as a beginner. Donner has given the piano a simplified interface, with the volume knob and inputs all located on the back to prevent any distraction while playing.
Additionally, Donner has teamed up with professors from Berklee College of Music to offer the Donner Berklee Tutor Course Series, a unique set of music courses available free to the public and suitable for beginners. These can be viewed on the Donner Music App [LINK]. Purchase of the DDP-80 Plus gives you total access to all of these courses.
For some, the lack of any editing controls whatsoever will be a limitation. But it does offer a refreshing simplicity for pianists who are looking for no fuss. And even so, for those that hold an interest in music production, the DPP-80 Plus does have a USB-MIDI input which gives you the capacity to use the piano as a base for any sounds you may have stored on your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation).
A good choice for amateur music producers
Whilst this is a piano clearly built for the beginner who has an interest in decor, I do think there will be interest here for amateur music producers. Along with your Donner DDP-80 Plus purchase, you also get free access to a number of DAWs. This is an impressive addition given the fact that DAWs are getting more and more expensive as each year passes. Some cost more than the piano itself. Donner offers you free access to the following DAWs:
- Cubase LE
- WaveLab LE
- Cubasis LE
Is it worth it?
At around £625, the DDP-80 Plus is certainly a piano worth considering if you are a beginner on a budget. Its focus on design and aesthetic is something to seriously think about as well. Why? I personally believe that the nicer your piano playing space is, the more frequently you will play and practise. Are you more likely to play on a small, standard keyboard that looks like every other keyboard out there, or a gorgeous piano with a slick wood grain finish like the Donner DDP-80 Plus?
I would say the latter.
Find out more about Donner and the DDP-80 Plus model here.
Who is Donner?
Donner is a music technology brand founded in 2012 that has grown from strength to strength in its short 11-year life so far. The brand creates not only pianos, but also guitars, synthesisers, drums, and audio & production equipment.
The Donner DDP-80 Plus is one of five pianos in the DDP range. It’s the first edition, giving it the lowest price point of the five pianos. The DDP-80 Plus sits at around $800 (£625), while the most expensive piano in the range, the DDP 400, sits at just under $1,000 (£785).