PS: This is a super long and detailed article, so if you just want to know which models us and our readers love the most - here are our 2017 list of best digital pianos and keyboards:
Shopping for a digital piano is an exhausting process, especially if you're trying to find the best digital piano for your specific needs.
There are so many things you need to take into consideration, and the abundance of available models isn't helping either.
Digital pianos have evolved over the years, starting out as a very crude instrument only to become a true alternative to standard acoustic pianos.
If digital pianos are new to you, chances are you're feeling overwhelmed with the amount of information available regarding these instruments.
Don't worry, though, you are in the right place. What we've decided to do is make the ultimate digital piano and keyboard buying guide. Here, you will find all the information you need to prepare yourself and pick the best digital piano of 2017 within your acceptable budget.
With that said, let's get this show on the road!
Table of Contents
- Why choose a digital piano over the traditional acoustic one?
- Best digital pianos of 2017
- Under $500: Yamaha P45 - Best for budget-conscious players
- Under $500: Casio Privia PX160BK - Perfect for beginners to work on simple concepts and songs
- Under $1000: DGX-660 - A digital grand with amazing concert hall filter
- Under $1000: Casio PX860 BK Privia - Allows you to control volume
- Under $2000: Kawai CE220 - Solid instrument that works with iPad
Why choose a digital piano over the traditional acoustic one?
This is a common question that pops up every time digital pianos are mentioned. To most people, it's the feel of an acoustic piano that turns them away from going digital. However, benefits of choosing a digital piano over an acoustic one are numerous. Naturally, it all depends on what application you have in mind. Let's go over some attributes found in digital pianos, which you might appreciate.
The first thing that comes to mind is mobility. Once you set-up an acoustic piano, you definitely won't be moving it around often. Those things are pretty heavy, and every time you move them, you're risking damaging the fragile exterior. That's not something you have to worry about with digital pianos. Even the most cumbersome models are light enough that you can transport them with little to no effort.
For a working musician, mobility is an important factor.
Ease of recording is the second major benefit of digital pianos. Look at it this way. The only way to record music using an acoustic piano is to use microphones in an acoustically prepared room. Unless you do everything right, the recording quality won't be great. Digital pianos are a whole different ball game. Instead of relying on various microphones and room acoustics, you will find that most models have recorded as a standard feature. On top of that, you can connect a digital piano to whatever device you usually use for recording, and record your music that way.
One of the biggest obstacles that most people have to deal with when buying a piano of any kind is the cost. Acoustic pianos usually have an expensive price tag, making them not so easily attainable for an average piano player. On the other hand, digital pianos come in various price brackets. Even those who are on a very strict budget can find a model that will within their reach. Actually, chances are you will have a lot of options available even if you have limited funds to work with.
Maintenance. As you probably know, acoustic pianos require a certain amount of regular maintenance if you want them to be in perfect working order. At the least, you will have to have them tuned twice a year, while some pianists recommend even more frequent tune-ups. Now keep in mind that this maintenance you will have to do even if everything is perfectly fine with your piano.
Unfortunately, since acoustic pianos are pretty complex in nature, there is an off chance that you will have to perform various repairs over time. Needless to say, digital pianos don't require any of the procedures we mentioned above. As long as you use them properly and keep them clean, you won't have to do much in terms of maintenance.
Finally, we have versatility. Digital pianos can not only mimic the sound of an acoustic piano, but they can do so much more. There are models that come with various presets, with numbers usually in hundreds. On top of that, there is also the aspect of connectivity. Depending on the model of a digital piano, you are looking at anything from numerous USB ports to MIDI compatibility. This allows you to connect your digital piano to a whole array of other devices. It goes without saying that acoustic pianos don't have that kind of versatility.
On a similar note, practicing on an acoustic piano can be an issue for some. Due to its very nature, an acoustic piano is loud by default. Sure, you have what is often called a 'practice pedal', which dampens the sound to a point, but even so, the volume is still up there. With a digital piano, you can just reduce the volume as you see fit, or simply plug in a pair of headphones. If you live in an apartment building or a suburb where your first door neighbors are rather close, you will appreciate this feature.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A DIGITAL PIANO AND A KEYBOARD
When an average person thinks of digital pianos and keyboards, these two things are often synonymous mistake for a single line of devices. After all, they are both digital and have keys, right? Wrong. There is a very distinct difference between digital pianos and keyboards. Understanding this difference will have a large impact on your choice when you go shopping for a digital piano. We'll start from the most obvious point of separation between digital pianos and keyboards.
Purpose. That's right, the main difference between these two seemingly identical instruments is their purpose. Digital pianos are built with one goal in mind, and that's too closely replicate acoustic pianos. This means the appearance, feedback during playing, features and finally the sound. If you look at more expensive digital pianos, you will see a close resemblance with acoustic pianos. They will look the part, and have all the features you can find on your standard acoustic piano.
For example, one of the most important aspects of an acoustic piano is the feel of keys. If you open them up, you will see that every key on a piano is connected to a hammer which then activates the strings. That process of string activation once you press a key is something that digital pianos are built to replicate. Some even go so far to have actual hammers behind the action. So in short, digital pianos are there to give pianists the necessary level of expression and authenticity they require.
On the other hand, keyboards are a completely different story. Keyboards aren't trying to emulate pianos aside from sharing the same, or similar key configuration. The general purpose of a keyboard is to be a very versatile instrument which can offer much more than just piano emulation. Often times this means that you won't get some features that you can find on a piano.
On top of that, chances of a keyboard looking anything like an acoustic piano are slim to none. And that is completely fine. In terms of aesthetics, keyboards are usually designed to be compact, with the aim of occupying the least amount of space possible.
Keyboards also come full of various features you won't find on a digital piano. Aside from more versatile sound engines, you will also find things like trigger pads, jog wheels and similar. These additional features are there mainly because keyboards are used in a wide variety of music genres, some of which simply require more than just standard keys.
Can a keyboard replace a digital piano and vice versa? The simple answer is no. You are looking two different instruments which offer two completely different things. If you are strictly a piano player, and you're looking for the best way to emulate a real piano, purchasing a keyboard would be a mistake. On the other hand, if you want to compose music on your computer and you get a digital piano, you will be limiting yourself in various ways.
Understanding the difference between digital pianos and keyboards is imperative if you're new to these instruments, and you're looking to make a long-term investment. Otherwise, you will end up setting yourself up for disappointment.
For a visual comparison between a digital piano and keyboard, you can refer to this video. It's a perfect and rather eloquent explanation that will show you just what each of these instruments is capable of.
TYPES OF DIGITAL PIANOS
Just like there are many different types of acoustic pianos, you will also find several types of digital pianos. Unlike it's the case with acoustic pianos, the form and shape of a digital piano doesn't necessarily influence its performance. With that said, we can recognize three main types of digital pianos you will see on the market.
Upright digital pianos - Upright or vertical digital pianos are the golden standards when it comes to this technology. They are the way to go if you want to have something that is every bit as capable as an acoustic piano, or nearly so. Upright digital pianos often come with the best components, including a real hammer action which gives you the feeling of playing an acoustic piano. A good example for this type of piano would be the Yamaha Arius YDP-V240. Just by looking at it, it's fairly obvious what type of aesthetic this sort of digital pianos are aiming at.
However, with such level of emulation comes a higher price tag. These digital pianos will be among the most expensive ones you can get. In this case, that old saying 'you get what you pay for' really is true. As a testament to how good upright digital pianos can be, we'll give you one little fact. A good majority of piano teachers will refuse to teach an advanced student who uses an ordinary digital piano. With that said, some of the best music schools will let you take the final test on a high end upright digital piano. They are just that good.
In terms of size and dimensions, upright digital pianos are somewhat cumbersome. Even though they are a fair bit lighter than their acoustic counterparts, this type of digital pianos generally come in nearly the same size. This makes transporting them a bit tricky, but they were never really meant to be mobile in the first place.
Stage digital pianos - Contrary to upright digital pianos, stage models are built for mobility and ease of transportation. The target user for this type of piano is a performing artist who needs to have an instrument they can tour with.
The more compact form factor will usually mean a tradeoff in additional features and quality of sound. That doesn't mean that you can't use a stage digital piano for serious work, on the contrary. However, if you're an experienced pianist who can recognize even the most subtle variations in tone color and depth, you will probably feel the difference.
Aside from being easier to take with you, stage pianos have another benefit which makes them attractive to a large group of users. They are reasonably priced. You can get a fairly decent stage digital piano without breaking your bank account. For some, this is a must. In order to visualize what a stage piano looks like, check out this Nord Piano 3. It's a pretty good example of what this type of piano is offering.
Slabs - Last but not the least, we have standard pianos, or 'slabs' as they are usually called. This type of digital piano is often times considered to be the hybrid of the two types we previously mentioned. They won't have the appearance of an upright piano, and will be more on the compact side. This Yamaha P115 fit's the description perfectly. Slabs will also have the advanced components and features that put them somewhere in the middle between stage and upright pianos.
Standard pianos are mostly aimed at home use. This is the type of equipment you want to place in your living room and use for practice or work. Their price is also formed to fit this use. Standard pianos will have price tags which can range anywhere from affordable to more expensive, depending on which features you feel you need to have.
TYPES OF KEYBOARDS
Much like digital pianos, keyboards also come in a variety of forms. However, things tend to get a bit complicated. First of all, there are many types of keyboards, which all look pretty much the same to an inexperienced observer. One of the main benefits of keyboards, in general, is their versatility. This means that almost any model you can find on the market will be packed to the brim with all kinds of bells and whistles. Being able to understand which functions you need, and which you can live without can save you a lot of time and money.
Keyboards are generally divided into following categories: Arranger keyboards, Synthesizers, Workstation keyboards, and finally MIDI controllers. This is a very rudimentary classification, so keep in mind that each group branches further as you dig deeper. Figuring out which of these is best for you depends on several factors. One of the most important ones is your skill level and your intended application. Let's take a quick look at each of these types and see what they bring to the table.
Arranger keyboards - In a hierarchy of keyboards, if we disregard toys that are often passed as real instruments, arranger keyboards are the most basic type you can get. The scope of features this specific type of keyboard brings is limited. You will generally see stuff like rhythm patterns, various fills, and other basic features that allow you to fully arrange a song draft.
The number of keys will vary with the model. Some will feature a full set of 88 keys, while others will come with 61 keys or less. A decent example of this class of keyboards would be the Casio CTK-2400. It pretty much embodies what arranger keyboards are all about.
Synthesizers - If you were to place an arranger keyboard and a synthesizer next to each other, you probably wouldn't see much of a difference. They definitely can look similar to an inexperienced observer, but they are anything but. Synthesizer keyboards are a completely different sort of instrument compared to arrangers. Where arrangers allow you to use the presets that were installed by the manufacturer, synthesizers allow you to create your own sounds.
This ability alone adds several dimensions of use. With that said, synthesizers are meant for those who are into music production and need to be able to create new or adjust existing sounds. How complex a synthesizer is depends on the amount of money you are willing to spend. Some are pretty basic, while others are impressive pieces of creative technology. This Korg microKorg is a great example of an affordable, yet capable synth.
Workstation keyboards - For ultimate versatility, nothing beats a workstation keyboard. These things are the most elaborate instruments of this kind you can get. What sets workstation keyboards from anything else are their features. Normally, even a decent workstation keyboard will come with a drum machine, a full synthesizer, a sequencer, sampler at the least. In simple words, with a workstation keyboard, you can create, record, edit and arrange music. Their sound engines are generally the best, which makes them the go-to piece of gear for professional musicians who perform on a regular basis. This Roland Fantom G8 is a great representation of what's currently the standard.
MIDI controllers - Compared to the rest of the keyboard types we listed, MIDI controllers might come across as underpowered. However, when you consider their intended application, their value becomes apparent. These days there are two ways you can create and record music using keyboards. There's the hardware path which includes workstation keyboards and synths, while there is also a software route which is becoming more and more popular these days. MIDI controllers were created to give a practical and efficient way of composing music to those who rely on computers to create music.
A whole lot of DJs and producers will have a MIDI controller of some kind in their studios. The key here is compatibility. Some MIDI controllers are designed to work with specific software, while others are not limited in that regard. One of the best things about MIDI controllers is their affordable price.
These things are inexpensive. On top of that, they also come in compact formats, which makes them the perfect travel companion for a working producer. Bottom line, modern music production is pretty much unimaginable without MIDI controllers. M-Audio Keystation 49 II is a perfect example of an affordable MIDI controller that simply works.
SOME TIPS TO HONE IN ON THE RIGHT PIANO FOR YOU
Alright, so you're dead set on getting a digital piano, but you're not sure where to start. Before you even start looking at different models and their features, you need to define some pretty important things. Not only will this save you a whole lot of trouble down the road, but it will also minimize the risk of you making a purchase you will later regret. Let's start with the basics.
Skill level and application - This is the most important thing you need to factor in when making a shortlist of pianos you might buy. Knowing what you're going to use the piano for will narrow down your choices to a group that is best suited for your needs. If you're a piano player who needs a practice setup at home, and you're not interested in synthesis or sampling, you will automatically exclude all of the keyboards and the majority of digital pianos from your list. On the other hand, if you're a performing artist who plays gigs every other day, you might want to something that is versatile and mobile. You see the pattern?
In terms of skill level, you don't want to overextend, but you also don't want to limit yourself. Going for the greatest and latest is not always the optimal route. Each feature increases the cost of a digital piano or a keyboard. If you can cross off features you don't need, and keep only what you know you're going to use, you can save yourself a decent amount of money.
On a similar note, purchasing a piano or a keyboard which is not capable of following your skills and experience, is a great way to sabotage yourself and waste money. The key is to find that sweet spot somewhere in the middle.
Budget - If the application is one side of the coin, the budget is always the other. Let's face it, most of us don't have the kind of disposable income we would like to have. This leads to often limited budgets which need to cover for a good digital piano. Since budgets are a personal thing, we can only give you some broad guidelines. Once you figure out what type of digital piano or keyboard fits your needs and skill level, find several models which range from cheaper to more expensive. This should give you a pretty clear idea about what your budget can get you at the moment. If none of the models satisfy your requirements, it's better to save your money until you can increase your budget.
Size matters - Digital pianos come in various dimensions. This is something we already spoke about. However, when you go out shopping for a digital piano, dimensions of the room you keep in your memory can be deceiving. Worst case scenario, you just bought a sweet upright digital piano and you come home only to find out that it doesn't fit anywhere.
This may sound like a small and obvious thing to think about, but it's definitely worth some time to carefully plan. Before you go shopping for a digital piano, take measurements and bring a tape measure with you. This way you will always be sure whether or not the piano will fit the place you want to place it at.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR BEFORE YOU BUY?
Now that we have the basics take care of, we need to address what kind of features you might encounter on different types of digital pianos and keyboards. As you can probably imagine, there is quite a variety. Trying to cover each individual feature would require a guide of its own, but we will go over the most common ones.
A number of keys - First order of business when shopping for digital pianos or keyboards is to figure out the number of keys you want to have. If you're a pianist who is looking for a great alternative for an acoustic piano, nothing short of standard 88 keys will give you what you need. On the other hand, if you're a producer who's building their home studio, you could probably get the job done with fewer octaves.
Touch sensitivity - One of the hardest things to emulate on a digital piano, and even more so on a keyboard, is touch sensitivity. For digital pianos, this is a must have feature. Touch sensitivity allows you to play notes of different intensity, which ensures the range of expression that is necessary for most piano compositions. How important is this feature on a keyboard is up for discussion, but the general consensus is that it's something you would want to have available.
Action - Action is something that is held to a high regard in the world of digital pianos. When someone talks about action, they usually mean the feedback you get as a player from the keys you activate. Since digital pianos don't have strings and thus don't need hammers, manufacturers had to find a way to mimic the sensation of playing an acoustic piano on a digital one.
The results are the models which have weighted, semi-weighted, and hammer action. The first two emulate the feedback the keys on an acoustic piano produces by putting weights on the keys themselves. Hammer action means that there is an actual hammer within a piano, which does the most accurate job at emulating an acoustic piano's key feedback.
Multitimbrality - This is more a keyboard related feature which describes a number of different sounds you can play at the same time. For example, if you wanted to play two or more different instruments at the same time using just one keyboard. Multitimbrality is generally something performing musicians will appreciate the most. It's not the most important feature, but it's definitely worth mentioning.
Polyphony - Similar to Multitimbrality, polyphony defines the number of different instruments that can be emulated at the same time on one keyboard. There are models which offer limited polyphony, and allow you to play one or two instruments at any given time. On the other hand, you have models which can play dozens of different sounds at the same time. Again, this is more important for performing musicians than it is for pianists and producers.
MIDI compatibility - MIDI is a standard of communication that was first invented in the 80s, only to be adopted as the official protocol soon after. In this day and age, MIDI Compatibility is a must. This is especially true if you're looking to record using your digital piano or a keyboard. MIDI support also allows you to connect your instrument to a whole range of equipment. In short, it's definitely something you want to have available.
General connectivity - Let's face it, there's only so much we can do today without computers. Every modern digital instrument is pretty much useless if it has no way to connect to a computer. The type of connectivity features you will find on most digital pianos or keyboards, will range anywhere from a standard USB port to more niche options. These include S/PDIF, Firewire and more.
The features we've mentioned so far can mostly be found both on digital pianos and keyboards alike. With that taken care of, let's address some features you will want to have on a good keyboard.
Sequencer - A sequencer is a function of a keyboard which allows it to record a portion of your performance in MIDI format, and play it back as a sequence which you can edit. How important sequencers are is up for discussion, however, they can be a pretty powerful tool.
Sampler - As its name states, a sampler allows you to play samples of audio which you either recorded using the keyboard or imported from an another device. These samples can then be played in various ways with interesting results.
TYPE SPECIFIC FEATURES
Arranger keyboards are among the most basic types of keyboard you can get. As such, they come with limited features and generally offer a core performance that is necessary to give song ideas some depth. What you want in a good arranger keyboard is a decent sound engine that sports all the important sound presets.
These include drums, pianos, and other basic variations of keyboard instruments. Also, backing tracks are something that's worth mentioning. You'll want to find an arranger keyboard that has the most complex backing tracks suitable for your genre of music.
The general rule of thumb when it comes to synths is that analog is better than digital. With that said, there are some decent digital synths on the market. Since synthesizers are capable of not only playing back preset sounds but also creating new ones, you will want a model which comes with a decent ROM and lots of user slots in the preset library. The type of synth sounds will work the best for you depends on the genre of music you're playing. Synths are not all created equal, so some research is definitely necessary.
Even though keyboard workstations are the most complex type of keyboards, the main attributes you're looking for are rather simple. First and foremost, you'll want great connectivity. This means USB ports or FireWire for your computer. MIDI for other devices, and more specialized audio inputs/outputs.
More versatility in this areas is always welcome. Another thing to consider is the amount of polyphony a specific keyboard workstation offers. In this case, you want as much as you can get. Once you start looking at more expensive models within this category, polyphony stops being an issue.
What makes a good MIDI controller is vastly different from what we talked about so far. MIDI controllers are generally front end controls for a piece of software you're running on your computer. The first and most important thing is to get a MIDI controller that is fully compatible with your choice of software. You'd think that all controllers would be compatible with every Digital Audio Workstation there is, but that's not the case.
Some are designed around, and catered to a very specific brand of DAW, so keep that in mind. Other requirements worth mentioning are related to the hardware itself. You want a controller that has quality keys, and pads if it has any. Touch sensitivity is a big plus here, as it makes life a lot easier when recording directly into your DAW.
Best digital pianos of 2017
If you've already known a little about digital pianos and keyboards, let us show you what is the best the market has to offer right away. We have divided the following section of this guide into several price brackets and found the best selection of models for each. This way you will find something no matter what your budget is!
Under $500: Yamaha P45 - Best for budget-conscious players
It's no secret that Yamaha is one of the leading brands in the area of digital pianos. Their products are reliable, capable, and have gained the trust of a huge user base over the years. Aside from their more expensive models, Yamaha also has a pretty decent line of affordable entry level digital pianos. These are aimed at those who need a good practice setup, and those who are on a tight budget. Yamaha P45 is among the best in this field.
What you see here is a standard digital piano. It sports a full 88 keys configuration and comes with features which allow it to give you a great core performance. You get weighted action which is perfectly balanced and mimics the acoustic pianos very well. The AWM sound engine gives you the sound quality that is quite impressive considering the price range, along with a 64-note polyphony. In terms of connectivity, you have USB support.
What makes this Yamaha so great is the performance. You are looking at a very high level of quality, both in terms of sound and feedback. AWM sound engine does a great job at recreating authentic piano sounds which feel organic and are nicely compounded when you play a more complex piece. Overall, if you're looking for a good affordable option, this is the way to go.
Under $500: Casio Privia PX160BK - Perfect for beginners to work on simple concepts and songs
Casio is another big name in the industry, and their digital pianos are always at the top of any list. The one we're looking at today is a perfect example of how you can get a refined instrument at a more than reasonable price. It's not a very complex system, but considering what it's designed to do, we definitely can't complain.
This modest Casio packs a decent punch to say the least. It sports a very capable set of speakers which can offer all the volume you need from a piano of this type. Their sound engine is an impressive piece of technology. They've used some of the most detailed samples of an acoustic grand piano found in this price range. Almost natural key feedback is ensured by Casio's Tri-Sensor Scaled Hammer Action II, which lives up to its popularity.
Honestly, picking the best digital piano under $500 was a tough choice. Both the Yamaha and this Casio bring an outstanding performance. The sound feels natural, and the acoustics are more or less spot on. If you are a purist on a budget, this Casio is a perfect alternative to the Yamaha we have just mentioned.
Under $1000: DGX-660 - A digital grand with amazing concert hall filter
The intermediate range of Yamaha's digital piano houses a real gem. DGX-660 is definitely the best value for the money in this price range. It comes packed with features that are both well designed and implemented. This piano comes with a stand, making it a perfect choice for home and stage use alike.
With a digital piano of this caliber, you can count on getting some more advanced features. Yamaha DGX-660 sports the renowned Pure CF sound engine which brings a crystal clear reproduction of their popular grand piano. GHS weighted action comes standard, along with a display unit which you can use to read notation or navigate the preset library. Speaking of which, there's a variety of acoustic settings you can choose, on top of different piano models.
Needless to say, Yamaha DGX-660 brings a very impressive performance. The quality of sound is remarkable, even when compared with some more expensive digital pianos. Their GHS weighted action provides natural feedback, which allows you to be accurate with your expression. The best thing about this Yamaha is its price. It is significantly cheaper than most of the models offered in this price range.
Under $1000: Casio PX860 BK Privia - Allows you to control volume
After another Yamaha, we have one more Casio for you to check out. The PX860 BK Privia is a truly stylish digital piano that brings not only the sensation of playing a full-sized acoustic piano but almost the nearly authentic sound of one as well. It's a bit more expensive than our Yamaha, but it still has a lot to offer.
PX860 is the flagship model of the whole series which brings 88 weighted keys that sport Tri-Sensor technology, and offer Ebony and Ivory feel. There are four speakers powered by two 20W amps. The sound engine on this thing is a beast. This Casio uses grand piano samples which have no less than four layers, ensuring the most authentic acoustic experience in this lineup. Add to that 256 polyphony and multi-dimensional AiR Sound technology, and you're all set.
In terms of performance, this digital piano is a true workhorse. It's capable of replicating an acoustic piano in a way that makes it great both for practice and performance. Casio PX860 is marketed as a home piano, although there is enough performance in there to take it a step further. We went with Yamaha in this duel purely because it offers a similar experience for significantly less money, but this Casio is truly a something.
Under $2000: Kawai CE220 - Solid instrument that works with iPad
Once you get over the $1000 limit, you're entering the territory where you can find some really incredible digital pianos. Kawai CE220 we're looking at here is barely withing our budget, and it's pretty impressive. Kawai is an old brand that has been in the business for quite some time. Therefore, you know you can expect excellence, especially when paying top dollar.
The first thing you notice is the build quality of this piano. Everything from fine wood used for the stand to wooden keys gives off pure confidence. Kawai CE220 comes with AWA PRO II hammer action that features counterbalancing as well. You get 192 tone polyphony, 22 different voice presets, and a whole array of effects and more advanced features. It's safe to say that Kawai CE220 is not your regular upright digital piano. It brings a whole new dimension of versatility.
The sound quality offered by this model is pretty accurate to an acoustic piano. Overall, the combination of wood keys with graded hammer action and impressive sound engine make this Kawai a go-to choice for many. If you absolutely need a proven reliable digital piano, Kawai CE220 won't disappoint
Yamaha Arius YDP-181
This Yamaha digital piano is in the same neighborhood as the Kawai we just talked about. It's a superb piano that lacks nothing in aesthetics and performance. As a matter of fact, it's probably a bit more attractive than the CE220 due to its Rosewood texture.
The deal is pretty straightforward. You get 88 keys with graded hammer action. The sound engine is the already proven CE from Yamaha which brings stellar samples of their CFIIIS 9' concert piano, this time with 128 note polyphony. This particular model comes with a LED screen which you can use to navigate the features or read sheet music. The playability is impressive, especially considering the pedals which behave so naturally.
In all honesty, there isn't much you can't play with this piano. The quality of sound is more than great, making it a perfect choice for more serious applications. This is the type of digital piano you can perform on stage with, easily. That alone is enough, but once you add all the extra features and options, Yamaha Arius YDP-181 becomes a very versatile instrument to own.
BEST DIGITAL PIANO FOR KIDS
Getting your kids interested in music is one of the best things you can do for them. If your child is expressing interest in playing piano, you should probably start looking for a decent setup that can be used both at home and elsewhere. We've prepared a short list of digital pianos which are suitable for kids.
Yamaha Piaggero NP31
What makes Yamaha Piaggero NP31 a great choice for kids is its format. It's a very compact digital piano that that features a 79 key configuration. It comes with a decent stereo system, graded keys, and Yamaha's AWM Stereo Sampling technology. In terms of price, you're looking at the upper end of the spectrum. However the kind of performance this particular piano offers makes it more that worth the investment. This is probably as far as you should go when purchasing a digital piano for your kids.
Going down the list we see a Yamaha YPG-235. This is definitely not your conventional digital piano. On the contrary, it's more of a learning tool than anything else. YPG-235 comes with 76 graded keys, several coaching modes which will teach your kids proper fingering and hand positioning, and so much more. There's a lot of great backing tracks in there as well. The performance is more than acceptable considering both the price and the purpose of this piano.
The most affordable piano we are comfortable recommending is the Williams Legato. A lot of people bought this as their kid's first digital piano platform. Needless to say, it grew in popularity over time. What makes the Legato so well respected is its simplicity and the fact it contains all the core features you would want. Legato comes with several different sounds, a built in metronome and good enough connectivity to be used with other devices. On top of that, it's pretty portable both due its size and the fact that it can work on batteries. If you're on a tight budget, this might be the solution you were looking for.
BEST DIGITAL PIANO FOR BEGINNERS
Finding a great beginner digital piano is all about balancing out the price and performance. When you're just starting out, the last thing you want to do is spend too much money on a digital piano, only to find it overly confusing. The right way to go about it is to get an entry level model which you will practice on, and later replace it as your skill continues to evolve. We've prepared a list of what we think are currently the best digital pianos for beginners. Let's start from the top.
When it comes to beginner digital pianos, something like this Yamaha P115 is probably as far as you want to go. Some will argue that it's a bit pricey to be recommended to beginners, but we feel that a P115 will get you through your beginner stage all the way to intermediate. Yamaha P115 comes with their acclaimed CF sound engine, which pretty much guarantees a good sound quality. It packs 88 GHS weighted action and brings you several coach modes that will help you develop your skill. If you're looking to 'future proof' yourself, investing in this digital piano is a great way to start.
Yamaha P45 Digital Piano
For a model that is right in the sweet spot, both in terms of price and performance, we recommend Yamaha P45. It actually brings a number of features found on the P115, such as the GHS weighted action and advanced sampling technology. You also get decent connectivity and 64 note polyphony with this particular digital piano. It's not as packed with features as the P115, but you get a great core experience with a pretty amazing sound quality. Performance to price ratio is definitely the strong suit of this model.
Williams Allegro 2
One thing that is always recommended when you first start playing piano, is to get one that has touch sensitivity at least. The reasoning for this is quite simple. An acoustic piano, which should be your end goal, relies heavily on keyboard expression and how hard or soft you hit the keys. The skill necessary to apply proper velocity can only be learned if you have a piano which has this feature. That's why we think that Williams Allegro 2 is about as cheap as you can get, and still retain all the necessary qualities for proper skill development. This piano comes with a fairly decent sound engine, great connectivity, and a sufficient amount of presets to choose from.
BEST DIGITAL PIANOS FOR INTERMEDIATE PLAYERS
Intermediate piano players have a more developed skill level, and more importantly, they have developed a taste. Once you reach this point, you will know exactly what kind of digital piano you need, and what features that specific piano needs to offer. Naturally, different people will have different requirements. However, there are only so many different pianos that will get the job done. Here's our pick for best intermediate digital pianos.
One of the major design objectives for Korg SP170s was simplicity. As soon as you lay your eyes on this digital piano, this becomes instantly obvious. What Korg SP170s does best is sound emulation. This thing has a very impressive sound engine and detailed samples. One of the most noticeable features this piano offers is clinical precision when it comes to velocity. Thanks to a very delicate piece of hardware combined with natural weighted hammer action, you will have the feeling of playing a rather decent acoustic piano. Simplicity plus great performance is all an intermediate pianist needs.
When mobility is essential, Kawai ES100 delivers. This stage piano really has a lot to offer to those who are gigging on a regular basis. It's relatively compact, but it also packs a very elaborate sound engine. Kawai's Harmonic Imaging technology does wonders when it comes to reproducing the acoustics of a grand piano in a very compact package. On top of that, you also have 192 note polyphony to work with, allowing you to do complex sweeps and play demanding piano pieces. If you're a performing artist, look no further.
Lastly, as a more affordable option in the intermediate range, we once more turn to Yamaha P45. This piano has proven to be a very capable model that will comfortably follow your skill level as you progress into intermediate range. It simply has all the features necessary, and a sound engine that keeps delivering. What makes it attractive to those looking for a piano in this segment of the market is the price. It's a real bargain when you consider what it offers and just how much it costs. If you were to get Yamaha P45 as a beginner, you could easily keep using it after you became more experienced.
BEST DIGITAL PIANO FOR ADVANCED PLAYERS
Advanced piano players require a level of quality in their musical instruments, which not every digital piano can offer. When you reach this level of skill, you will be able to notice even the most subtle changes in tone quality, key feedback and other things which a beginner or even an intermediate player wouldn't be. Generally, an advanced player will be looking at high-end digital pianos since models in that segment of the market have everything one needs. Let's look at one of those digital pianos, shall we?
Digital instruments are something Roland simply knows how to do. A testament to this statement is their line of elite electronic drum kits and a whole range of very capable keyboards. When it comes to high-end digital pianos, Roland has a lot to offer as well. One of the latest additions to their elite lineup is the Roland DP-90SE - a digital piano for a working professional.
The core of this digital piano is built around the SuperNATURAL sound engine, which is the technology Roland has been implementing in a variety of their products. The build quality and finish found on DP-90SE are impressive, to say the least. After all, it's one of their most expensive models. The keyboard comes with 88 weighted keys which offer PHA-4 technology along with Ebony/Ivory feel. The preset library brings 14 excellent Grand Piano voices, along with over 350 other tones available.
The sound and feedback that this piano offers are just incredible. Between the 14 Grand Piano presets, you won't have to worry about your piano sounding artificial. 128 note polyphony, great internal storage memory, and a backlit LCD display will make the use of this piano a very enjoyable experience. If you need the utmost fidelity from a digital piano, something like this Roland DP-90SE is where you should start your search.
BEST DIGITAL STAGE PIANO
Digital stage pianos are subject to a different set of standards compared to your regular digital piano. Their nature and application requires them to be mobile, somewhat light and offer a broad spectrum of features to its users. There are many pianos on the market which offer all of those benefits, but some are definitely better than other. The model we'll show you next is what we consider to be the best digital stage piano at this very moment.
Nord Stage 2 HA76
When versatility is the key, Nord delivers with their incredible Stage 2 HA76. In all essence, this is probably the best stage piano you can get at the moment. It's packed with features and controls that span beyond the scope of your regular digital piano. You could go so far as to say that Nord Stage 2 HA76 is the Swiss Army knife of stage pianos.
Where to even start with this one? The core of this piano is the C2 organ technology which has proven its worth many times since it was released. Keys are fully weighted with hammer action, and the feedback is impressive for a compact model such as this one. What really sets this Nord aside is the fact that it offers impressive synthesis on top of already great piano voices. There's a whole variety of presets you can use and edit. On top of that, you also have a whole variety of effects to play with, and other features which make this piano a great tool for any performing pianist.
Usually, when you talk about stage pianos, you will see a trade off in sound quality due to the compact nature of these models. However, that is not the case with this Nord. The sound is impressive, to say the least. No matter which of the main voices you use, you will find a very organic tone that just flows well. Once it's time to spice things up, Nord's synth section takes over and delivers a whole range of versatile voices. If you need the best possible stage piano, it's hard to beat this Nord.
WHICH DIGITAL PIANO HAS THE BEST KEY ACTION?
Many of those who are shopping for a digital piano ask this question at one point. When you're about to spend a considerable amount of money on something, it's completely natural to want the best there is. However, there is not such thing as 'best key action,' and there's a good explanation why.
Each of the main digital piano manufacturers has their own idea what the perfect key action should feel like. This is why you have so much similar, yet different key action technologies on the market. The truth is that all of the high-end models each of these manufacturer offers comes with great key action. However, picking the best one depends on your style and preference.
Some will find Casio's Tri-Sensor Scaled Hammer Action I and II to be the best for their playing style. This key action brings some interesting benefits such as being able to press the key several time without having to reset its position. On the other hand, Yamaha brings a whole array of key actions, ranging from Graded Hammer Standard to Natural Wood. The latter is based on Graded Hammer 3 technology, but it also includes precision balanced wood keys, which add to the feedback as you play.
Lastly, Roland with their PHA, or Progressive Hammer Action system, which has seen three iterations so far. Roland's goal with this key action was to closely mimic the feedback you get when playing a high-end Grand Piano. For example, PHA III is considered to be the top choice if you're looking for a more conservative key action.
There are many more key action technologies out there than the ones we've mentioned here. Unfortunately, the best way to figure out which one works for you is to go out and try them for yourself.
BEST SOUNDING DIGITAL PIANO
Digital pianos rely on sound engines to produce the sound we hear when we play them. However, a sound engine doesn't synthesize the sound on the spot. No, it uses an elaborate sample library which contains recordings of various acoustic pianos, which the manufacturer has chosen to include. So, with that said, what is the best sounding digital piano?
This is definitely not an easy question to answer since different manufacturers use different sound engines and piano samples. However, at the end of the day, Roland seems to offer the most authentic experience. The reason for this comes down to their SuperNATURAL technology. This sound engine is spanned across several of their product lines and is a perfect example of a well-integrated system. What makes it the best (in our humble opinion) is the finesse it brings to the table. If you're looking for a specific model, Roland RD 300NX is a great place to start.
BEST KEYBOARD FOR BEGINNERS
Finding a great keyboard for beginners is definitely not that hard. Every manufacturer has a very extensive lineup of models in this segment of the market, so the choices are plenty. With that said, we have one keyboard that we think offers the best bang for the buck, and is capable of serving you once you evolve your skills.
Yamaha NP-11 Piaggero
Yamaha's Piaggero series of keyboards offer great quality at a very affordable price. The NP-11 is the entry level model which brings a slim and lightweight format to those who value mobility. Even though it's not as complex as some other keyboards, NP-11 definitely has a lot to offer.
What you get with Yamaha NP-11 is a very clean design and a piano style keyboard. The Advanced Wave Memory Stereo Sampling technology is there to give you tonal versatility. It comes with several presets and backing tracks which you can use to practice your skills. This keyboard can operate both on AC adapter or batteries.
Compared to more complex models, NP-11 is definitely falling behind. However, from a beginner's point of view, this keyboard gives you a rock solid core experience, which is what matters the most. The feedback is great, and the sound engine delivers decent quality sounds. That's all you need for a great beginner keyboard.
What about intermediate or advanced keyboard players?
Once you develop your skills to a certain level, you will reach a point where you have to choose which way you want to go. Are you more interested in playing a traditional piano? Or is sound synthesis something that fits you better? Answering that question will also tell you which keyboards are going to be the best for you at that point in your musical career.
WHO MAKES THE BEST DIGITAL PIANO
Just like it is the case with other musical instruments, choosing a digital piano has a lot to do with the brand which makes it. There are several reasons for this. As you probably know by now, each major digital piano manufacturer has their own technologies which they incorporate into their products. One of the most obvious examples of this is the sound engines department. Unlike acoustic pianos which use strings and hammers to produce sounds, digital pianos rely on electronics to achieve the same, or similar result.
The hardware side of things includes amps, speakers, and other elements, but the software side is mostly based on the sound engine. Each manufacturer uses their own proprietary software for this application. Roland is known for their SuperNATURAL sound engine, while Yamaha uses Pure CF Sound engine. However, sound engines don't simply synthesize piano tones. Instead, they rely on a library of samples. In most cases, digital piano manufacturers will also produce acoustic pianos. This means that the samples you get in your digital piano will be based on recordings of that manufacturer's best acoustic piano. Knowing this, you will see a subtle difference between the sound digital pianos from Casio, Roland, Yamaha, Korg and other manufacturers deliver.
However, sound engine and samples are not the only factors that impact the sound of a digital piano. The key action also needs to be mentioned. Here, the situation is the same. Different brands have different key action technologies. Some are more versatile than others, which allows you to apply more or less expression when you play.
There is also one more aspect to digital pianos which is sometimes overlooked - connectivity. Being able to pair your digital piano with other devices is a very important feature. Each company also has differing levels of class compliant connectivity features, from USB to HOST ports that enable MIDI connections to dual headphone jacks and AUX outputs and inputs. Beginner models of these digital pianos offer a limited array of many of these features while the advanced models throw out everything they have to offer while costing significantly more. Beginner digital pianos usually range in the $200-$600 range, while intermediate to advanced digital pianos can range anywhere from $800-$5,000.
At the end of the day, if you're looking to buy the best digital piano, you should stick to the major brands that we are going to mention in the next section of this guide. These companies are on the leading edge of the industry and are constantly pushing the limits of digital piano technology.
BEST DIGITAL PIANO BRAND
As we are nearing the end of our guide, let's do a quick recap of the best digital piano brands in the business. These are the companies you can trust to deliver reliable and capable digital pianos, no matter what your budget is.
Casio has been making keyboards and digital pianos for decades. They have a very extensive lineup of models which range from entry level to professional pianos. Their absolute best digital pianos come from the Celviano series. Notable models include the new GP-400 as well as AP 460. Casio's mid-level digital pianos bear the name of Privia and include a wide array of great models. As for their more affordable stuff, something like CDP130 is a great place to start.
Roland is one of those companies which insist on pushing the limits. Being the best is what drives them. Their lineup of digital pianos is among the best on the market. Roland offers anything from the top tier DP-90SE we mentioned before, to more affordable A-88 digital piano. Unfortunately, they don't really have what you would consider a cheap model. But, you definitely get what you pay for when you buy a Roland.
If there is one brand that offers top quality as well as great entry level models, it's Yamaha. Their offer is probably the most extensive on the market, allowing you will find digital pianos for every skill level and budget. One of their best models is definitely the CP1 Stage piano. Going down the price range, you will see Arius YDP162B. This is a great upright digital piano which offers the best value for the money. When it comes to their affordable models, Yamaha P45 is definitely hard to beat.
Korg is better known for their keyboard, but they also have a lot to offer when it comes to digital pianos. Korg's SP250BK and SV-1 are considered to be their best models at the moment. Their mid range SP170s offers a great combination of style and quality, while their B1 model brings decent performance at affordable prices.
Much like the rest of the brands we've mentioned so far, Kawai has been around for a while. Their digital pianos are considered to be among the best on the market, especially when you look at their more advanced models. Speaking of which, Kawai ES7W and MP111 Stage Piano are a good example of what this brand has to offer. On the other hand, Kawai ES100 is a reasonably priced bestseller at the moment. Kawai's mid-range solutions include models such as the KDP90, all the way up to CE220.
CARE & MAINTENANCE
Compared to acoustic pianos, there isn't that much maintenance involved with digital pianos. The best way to protect and care for your digital piano is to use common sense. The placement of your piano is crucial. You want to keep it away from direct sunlight, exposure to water, and heat sources. On a similar note, watch where you plug your piano at. It's best to use a dedicated outlet in order to prevent overloading the circuit, and thus damaging your piano.
Always cover your keys, don't use the keyboard as a shelf, and definitely don't drink anything around the exposed keyboard. Remember, this is an electronic device, so cleaning it with water is a sure-fire way to ruin your digital piano. Only use recommended cleaning procedures which you can find in your user manual.
Finally, when you're not playing the piano, turn it off and unplug it from the wall. Leaving the piano on constantly will definitely shorten its life span. On top of that, if you leave it plugged in constantly, you are risking damage to the electronics if there is a sudden spike in voltage or any other anomaly on the grid.
If you take care of your digital piano, and use common sense when handling it, not only will it last you a long time, but it will also save you a lot of money. Keep in mind that repairs on digital pianos are often very expensive. Sometimes going so far that it's cheaper to buy a new one.
Hopefully, this guide has given you enough information to make the best possible choice when you go shopping for a digital piano. We tried to give you the most important facts and explain the basics of how these musical instruments work, and what are some things to consider when choosing one. With that said, we definitely recommend that you do as much research as you can on digital pianos you think might be a great choice for you.