7 Worst Piano Brands to Avoid in 2024 (+ Better Alternatives!)

Author: Tomas Morton | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

We've all heard those cheesy sayings like "all that glitters ain't gold" and "too good to be true," but you know, there's a bit of truth to them.

If a restaurant claimed they had 100% pure imported beluga caviar for only five bucks on the menu, you'd probably hightail it out of there. It's no different with musical instruments, especially pianos.

So, in this age of the internet, we all kind of expect some shady stuff being sold on sites like eBay and Craigslist. I mean, who hasn't seen an iPad Pro for just $99? But come on, we all know it's not exactly legitimate, right?

The Reality of Cheap Digital Pianos on Amazon

For all that to happen on Amazon though?! That's surprising.

What's even more messed up is when Amazon lets random brands sell their stuff on their site without any sort of verification. These brands make bogus claims about their products without any proof.

As someone who's into music and owns a studio, I'm all about new gear. I've raised some questions about the legitimacy of some of the piano and keyboard recommendations on Amazon.

A lot of these instruments are made with Chinese parts and are just rebranded, and while there's nothing wrong with Chinese manufacturing per se (I mean, iPhones are made in China), these pianos are out there making claims about unique design features that are actually generic, low quality, and mass-produced.

So when it comes to musical instruments, it's probably a good idea to avoid unknown brands. The really good piano brands are either handmade or undergo rigorous quality control. Legit dealers like Sweetwater only sell pianos that pass the quality brand test.

There have also been claims about fake reviews causing trouble for sites like Yelp and IMDb, although it is uncertain whether it is happening on Amazon, it seems pretty likely. There are many no-name brands with glowing reviews, and a lot of them have websites that look quite similar, which is suspicious.

Finding a good piano can be a bit of a challenge since there are a lot of factors that depend on personal preferences, but there are definitely some red flags to watch out for. To stay on the safe side, just stick with reputable brands and steer clear of the shady ones.

I have a few suggestions on what might be better ways to get yourself a good piano and some brands to definitely avoid!

7 of the Worst Piano Brands

Donner

Alright, let's chat about Donner, the Chinese knock-off digital pianos that are all the rage. They look pretty realistic and supposedly have a closer approximation of genuine hammer action, but apparently, you can achieve that by adding some cheap magnets to the low keys to add weight.

The most ridiculous claim is that there's a function on Donner digital pianos that allows you to test and adjust the timbre of a piano to make it sound more realistic. Do they mean a tone knob? EQ doesn't make anything more realistic, just brighter or duller.

Good luck figuring that one out though. There's only one knob on the piano, and the app is a total mess, so I don't see how you can do that.

Just from looking at the marketing and homepages of all these products, you can tell it's the same company selling you different versions of the same digital piano.

And get this, the promotional video shows a dude unboxing his piano, building it, playing it, and having a grand old time. But you never even hear the piano because all the music in the background is like an infomercial happy song for an insurance company.

If you don't even show what your product sounds like on your Amazon page, it's a pretty big red flag. I'd steer clear of these at all costs.

Best Choice Products

If the name of this company doesn't immediately make you say "nope," all you gotta do is watch the teaser video on the web page for their 88-key digital piano to know that you gotta remove anything from this company from your cart.

The teaser video shows a man approaching a standalone piano on a stand, taking off his coat like a matador about to slay a bull, and sitting down to rock out to a song that's not even playing. Also, while he does his whole matador stunt, there's already a piano song playing, and I doubt this is a diskclavier or similar instrument that plays by itself.

What's really crazy is that Amazon actually gave this keyboard the Amazon's Choice award out of all their products. Like, seriously, how bad are the rest?

Also, their main slogan is: "pure quality." This piano is supposed to look and play like an acoustic piano, but it looks nothing like an acoustic piano. It doesn't even have a built-in stand to mimic an upright. At least Donner has that.

I took a sneak peek at all the glowing reviews and checked out the one-star reviews and it's no surprise that at least 15 of them said that the keys either stuck together or broke super easily. I hate to say it, but anyone who still buys this piano after seeing the promotional video kind of deserves it.

RockJam

So this is another brand that gets some really good reviews and is one of the best-selling keyboards online. At least they did themselves a favor by not adding a promotional video.

Their 88-key digital piano looks like the classic beginner piano, with built-in speakers on the top corners and a flimsy wire stand in the center to place a tablet for using their app or sheet music.

Now, the claims are pretty impressive, no doubt about it. For instance, they say they have 10 unique voices when they're really just basic sounds like an upright piano, electric piano, and grand piano.

So what makes them unique? Did they use a Steinway to sample their piano? Did they use a Wurlitzer 200A for their electric piano? No details, as usual, simply generic stuff.

Also, there are statements that are a bit misleading, like "the sustain pedal adds depth to your sound with a rubber foot sustain pedal." No sustain pedal adds any depth to the sound. It just holds the notes; the depth stays the same.

And if you check out the negative reviews (which they're probably trying to buy off to get deleted), you'll see that there are problems with the keys. And honestly, you can't skimp on the action of an 88-key digital piano, which is something that applies to practically every example in this article.

It’s sad because it looks like folks are being sold 88 keys and made to feel like they're getting a replacement for an acoustic upright piano. I mean, let's be real, most people probably couldn't tell if they sampled a Steinway or a Wurli, but they'll definitely know if the keys are wonky or broken in a few days.

ZHRUNS

This digital piano uses a chip called French Dream Source, and there's a photo of the top of the chip to prove it. But, honestly, who knows what that even means or if it's really from France? It sounds like a preset on a workstation that produces dreamy George Winston-type sounds.

Also, I don't trust those product videos that use a track and show a pianist who's not even playing the right notes. If they're a reputable piano company, they should at least show someone playing live so you can hear the sound of the piano for real.

And what's up with these claims that keyboards can show your strengths and weaknesses while playing? This piano says it can do that, but it doesn't make sense. Are they saying there's an app that tracks your finger strength like a step counter tracks your steps? That's just weird. It sounds like the piano can tell when you're not playing correctly just by the weight you apply.

But, let's be real, nobody can tell if you're playing correctly or not just by the weight of your finger press. Have they even heard of dynamics in music? This is just a ridiculous claim. Pianos are not elliptical trainers at a gym.

Lastly, pay attention to how they describe the sounds that come with the piano. Do they name specific instruments that it can play or just say it has lots of features like recording and rhythms?

Honestly, there are just too many red flags for me to trust this product. The "too good to be true" law definitely applies to these types of descriptions.

MAGICON

Okay, this one almost made me chuckle because it's a foldable piano with semi-weighted keys. The thing with having a foldable 88-note piano is that you can pretty much bet they're not using a true progressive action, where the lower notes are heavier than the higher ones like on a real piano.

To give them credit, they do mention that it's semi-weighted keys and not hammer action like other pianos, but they make the mistake of also saying that the touch-sensitive keys capture your musical expressions and nuances throughout the keyboard.

The problem with that kind of language is that it's selling you a hammer-action experience. Basically, you're getting two 44-note standard MIDI controllers here, connected by a clasp to become an 88-key piano. It shouldn't even be called a piano.

The biggest red flag yet is the description of the piano sound itself as a high-end piano sample. Any reputable keyboard company, if they hype up the piano sound, will tell you what piano was sampled and by whom. If they don't, they just claim it has a piano sound.

Sheirin

At first glance, it may appear to be a retro-cool instrument. However, upon closer inspection, the wooden design may resemble something cheap, like a school desk.

When shopping for a piano, it is important to be wary of terms such as "real touch," "piano hammer," and "ivory-textured keyboard surface." These terms lack specific details on the parts used, which is a significant warning sign.

For example, if you buy a Roland digital piano, they created their proprietary hammer action, which is different from the one Korg or Yamaha uses. And if they didn't create it, they will tell you who they sourced it from.

Many keyboard controllers use Fatar keyboards, and they mention this in the product description. Be cautious of claims regarding professional-grade hammer action without any specifics.

Another thing to watch out for is when companies mention using "French chips." This term can be interpreted in many ways. For instance, are the chips from France? If so, which company? Is the company called French?

So, when it comes to piano companies, it's really important that they're totally legit with their chipsets and that they're totally upfront about the sound system they're using, ya know?

Oh, and one more thing, be careful with warranties and return policies. Like, Amazon might say that you can return something within 30 days, but it's the manufacturer that actually handles the return process.

And sometimes it's a real pain to get in touch with them, and you might even have to pay to send the piano back. It's important to be extremely careful when purchasing one of these products.

Hexant

So let me start off by saying that this is the fourth company I've seen with the exact same web page on Amazon. The number of thumbnails, layout for details, and format for all the descriptions are all the same.

Is it just me or are these companies trying to play us? They're all pretending to be separate, but what if they're just one sneaky company trying to hide behind different names?

Oh, and watch out for pianos that need to be assembled. I get it, it's Amazon and all, and they're not going to ship a moving truck with your piano. But seriously, if you can see the screw on the outside of the wood that's supposed to face you and your audience, that's not exactly a good design. Even IKEA doesn't do that.

Also, they claim to have this progressive, semi-weighted real touch experience, where the low keys are supposed to be heavier than the high keys. But the problem is, their chart looks more like a velocity curve, which means they're just artificially making the lower keys feel heavier so you have to press harder. That's not how a real piano works.

And get this, they don't even mention what type of chip they use for sound. But they're claiming to have premium voices, whatever that means. Even Roland, a legitimate brand, doesn't go around saying they have "premium voices" unless they're talking about a choir preset.

So, yeah, just be careful of sketchy claims that can't be backed up.

Quality Alternatives for People on a Budget

Japanese Digital Pianos

If you're looking for a piano, don't waste your money on those sketchy pianos on Amazon. Go for something legit, like a Korg, Roland, or Yamaha.

Seriously, some of the basic digital pianos from Yamaha, like the P-45, are around the same price as those Amazon pianos and have real graded hammer action that's patented and authentic. Plus, these companies have been sampling real pianos for years, so you know the source for your sound is top-notch.

Sure, maybe some of those Amazon pianos have more bells and whistles, but who cares if your piano breaks in four months? Play it safe and go with a trusted brand.

MIDI Controllers

If you're on a budget but still want to tickle the ivories, there's a simpler option than shelling out for a pricey digital piano. Get yourself a top-notch midi controller with 88 keys and use your laptop for the sounds.

Trust me, the Arturia Keylab Essential 88 feels way better than those wannabe pianos mentioned above. And even though it doesn't have built-in sounds, it comes with a bunch of stellar pianos from UVI and Arturia that you can use for free on your laptop.

Heck, even GarageBand or some free VST digital pianos will sound better than those knock-offs on Amazon. Plus, did you know you can use GarageBand and Logic Pro on the iPad Pro? That means you can easily integrate a simple midi controller via USB-C and have a super portable digital piano that sounds legit. How cool is that?

Used Digital Pianos

So, here's the deal: Japanese pianos from companies like Korg, Yamaha, and Roland are built to last and hold up really well over time. However, because they're not exactly old-school "acoustic" instruments, they lose some value. But no worries, this actually means you can score some nice deals on used pianos that are still in great condition.

Especially if you're looking for a digital piano with a built-in stand, you can find some that are like-new. These pianos might not have been moved around a lot or stored in a dusty attic somewhere, so they're in pretty good shape.

I've bought plenty of used instruments in my day, and let me tell you - if they're made by a good company, they're definitely worth the money.

Final Thoughts

Hey, I get it. It's a real pain to try and navigate the world of instruments online these days because digital marketing has gotten so slick. With bots, paid reviews from sketchy companies, and no accountability to most of their customers, it can be tough to know what's legit.

And I gotta say, the rule of thumb here really should be: if it sounds too good to be true for the price, it probably is. For those of you who just want a piano that's top-notch and won't give you a headache, go with a brand you know.

The reason that names like Roland and Yamaha have been around for ages is 'cause they get how important their rep is. Sure, they're profitable businesses, but they put musicians first.

I think all these no-name digital pianos with crummy Chinese parts being rebranded are just trying to make a quick buck, so they don't care about their reputation. They'll disappear once people catch on to the con and just be onto the next thing.

We've seen it all before; it's like the hydra of business. Cut off one head, and two more grow back. When it comes to branding, familiarity is key. Better safe than sorry.

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About Tomas Morton

Tomas is a record producer, engineer, and synthesizer enthusiast based in Pasadena, CA. He received training at Berklee College of Music in Boston and the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, CA. When not in his studio, he can often be found scouring garage sales or Craigslist ads for vintage gear treasures.

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