Alesis Harmony 61 MKII review: What is it?
If you are looking for a beginner keyboard, you aren't exactly short of options. Still, when it comes to the full package, you can be left searching high and low for a bundle that offers robust accessories that will stand up to the abuse often inflicted on a child's first instrument. That's where the Alesis Harmony 61 MKII keyboard bundle comes in. This 61-note keyboard features full-sized, piano-style keys, built-in speakers and a whopping 300 built-in sounds covering a wide variety of instruments.
As well as fun features to keep the user entertained, the Harmony 61 MKII also includes every accessory needed to get you started learning the keyboard. With an easy-to-assemble keyboard stand, a piano bench with three adjustable height settings, headphones, a music rest, and even a microphone, you'll be all set to kick off your piano-playing career.
So, we put this popular beginner bundle to the test to see if it offers the value for money Alesis promises. From the feel of the keys to the quality of the built-in voices, we put this humble keyboard through its paces to see if it's really worth your time and money.
Alesis Harmony 61 MKII review: Performance & verdict
Playability and build quality
Overall, the Alesis Harmony 61 feels well-constructed and fairly robust. It is on the light side, but that's exactly what we expected from a keyboard at this price point. All the buttons feel sturdy and durable and the speakers deliver plenty of volume. The keys themselves are full-sized and styled to resemble the appearance of a piano key. However, they aren't weighted or velocity sensitive.
This does mean that playing with any level of dynamics or nuance is entirely out of the question. Now, while personally, we aren't a fan of keyboards that don't allow the user to express themselves fully, we do understand that this is par for the course for this level of instrument and shouldn't stop kids new to the keyboard from enjoying the Harmony 61.
Sounds and features
Yamaha Piaggero NP12: This highly portable Yamaha is a brilliant option for anyone looking to learn piano or keyboard for the first time.
Casio CT-S300: We love the Casio CT-S300 for the way it balances features and price. This full-size, velocity-sensitive 61-note keyboard is ideal for newbie players.
Okay, so that brings us to the sounds that are hidden away inside this tiny Alesis keyboard. This is arguably where the Harmony 61 shines. Boasting an impressive 300 voices, this keyboard has every style and genre covered. From the standard acoustic piano sounds to strings, synthesizers, brass, woodwind and even percussion, there is a lot of fun to be had discovering new sounds and voices.
Better yet, you can pair voices together in 'dual mode' to create unique sonic textures, while 'split mode' allows you to trigger different sounds for each half of the keyboard - particularly handy if you want to nail a solo version of Stand By Me with your left hand playing the bass guitar, while your right takes care of the piano chords.
'One-touch song mode' allows users to instantly create music with a solitary press of a key, and just like the voices, you have access to 300 built-in rhythms to play with. Again, this is a lot of fun and we see young players in particular getting a lot of enjoyment out of this feature.
Now, if your child is keen on eventually making the move to a digital piano, then they should probably get to grips with the sustain pedal as early as possible. Unfortunately, the Alesis Harmony 61 doesn't support this. It does feature a 'sustain' mode, which allows chords and notes to ring out after the key is released, but it's not the same as manually controlling the duration of the sustained notes yourself. This is something we'd love to see added to future models as we believe it's a must-have skill to master for newbie piano players and the quicker they learn it, the better.
Lastly, we can't talk about the Harmony 61 and not discuss the slew of accessories and extras that come with this beginner-friendly keyboard. As we stated above, in the box, you'll find a relatively sturdy single-braced keyboard stand that is more than up to the job of taking the weight of the featherweight keyboard. You'll also discover a basic piano bench that is adjustable to three heights, meaning it's suitable for a range of ages. Both of these items are very straightforward to assemble and the tools were included, making it even easier.
As well as the hardware, you also get a set of very basic headphones and even a rudimentary microphone which can be plugged directly into the keyboard, with the audio being played back over the in-built speakers.
Okay, so these aren't up to the same quality as the keyboard, or indeed, the stand and bench, but they are perfectly fine for what they are and will definitely get your little one started. That said, if you have your own set of headphones at home, we'd recommend using them over the ones provided, as you'll get a much better sonic experience.
Alesis Harmony 61 MKII review: Hands-on demos
Howard J Foster
Alesis Harmony 61 MKII review: Specifications
- Keys: 61
- Built-in tones: 300
- Built-in rhythms: 300
- Demo songs: 40
- Weight: 5.0kg
- Power: 6 "AA" batteries or included power adapter (9V DC, 500 mA)
- Dimensions: 31.5 x 94.8 x 10.5cm
- Contents: Alesis Harmony 61 Keyboard, Microphone, Headphones, Music Rest, Keyboard Stand, Bench, Power Adapter
- Contact: Alesis