For most musicians, we just can’t afford an acoustic grand piano without saving for several years. I know I couldn’t. So when I was looking for a home piano, I was wrestling with one burning question: could I really go digital? In the end, though, digital was just a better option all around – it was better for recording, travel and my budget. Anyway, I ended up doing a lot of shopping. Below, is the product of all that research, and I hope it helps at least some of you out – some of you who are thinking of buying digital but don’t know where to start. So, check it out, and please let me know if you have any questions!
Digital Piano Reviews: A Buyer’s Guide
|Casio PX150 BK||$$$|
Let’s see (or hear) how a digital piano compares to acoustic…
Now, this was the big struggle for me. I knew a digital piano made a lot more practical sense, but something in me just wanted an acoustic piano. I wasn’t really sure what it was. In the end, though, I found that lots of digital pianos had really great sounds, and some of them sounded a lot better than your average acoustic piano – because their sounds were modeled after famous, handcrafted master pianos. This video probably illustrates the point better than I can:
So why buy a digital piano over acoustic?
They are often better for recording musicians. This is a big one, and it’s pretty important to a lot of people, especially those of you in bands. Digital pianos are usually a lot easier to record with. Every digital piano will include MIDI connective functionality, which means that you can connect it to both a computer and other instruments. That makes it a lot easier to jam.
It’s a lot cheaper. This is pretty self-explanatory, but it was one of the most important factors for me. In the end, I just didn’t feel like I was sacrificing much, and I was saving thousands of dollars.
It’s a lot more portable. If you ever have to play a gig, or if you just want to jam with your friends, it’s pretty tough to haul a grand piano around.
It’s easier to maintain. A lot of people forget about this, but grand pianos take maintenance. And, most of the time, musicians just don’t know how to do it correctly. That’s more time and money spent (unless you want an out-of-tune piano).
Why you still might want an acoustic grand piano
You’ve got the money. If one day I do have the money, I think I’d still buy an acoustic piano. It’s what I learned on, and it’d just be fun. I wouldn’t throw away my digital piano, though; I’d just have both.
Tradition. As I mentioned, for those of you who are traditionalists, you understand that there’s a certain mystique that comes with an acoustic piano. It’s just sexy. There’s no denying that.
You’ve got a great room to play it in. If you really want to get the most out of an acoustic piano, you need to have a room with great acoustics to play it in; otherwise, a lot of that amazing sound is going to be wasted.
You just like the acoustic sound. This is just prefence, and a lot of people like the sound of both. It’s kind of like listening to the radio vs. listening to a vinyl record. Acoustic pianos just have a certain je ne sais quoi.
I’m mostly laying out these points because I want you to be totally aware of the pros and cons of each type of piano. This instrument is going to be your life (heck – it’ probably is your life already), so it’s not a decision to take lightly!
Reviews of the Top 5 Digital Pianos
Casio PX850 BK 88-Key Touch-Sensitive Privia Digital Piano
[easyazon_image add_to_cart=”default” align=”left” asin=”B0094D3K2Y” cloaking=”default” height=”127″ localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41YmSy5kf-L._SL160_.jpg” tag=”NONE” width=”160″]The Casio PX850 is a fine instrument, and it’s one of the best digital pianos I’ve come across. The sound quality is fantastic – and not because it’s super distinct; instead, it’s just right. The sound of this piano is right in the goldilocks zone. It’s not too bright, nor is it too mellow and soft.
The great benefit of this, of course, is the versatility of the instrument. I find it has remarkable range, and can handle fast, energetic numbers as well as it can long, lyric ballads. However, just because it seems to be a Swiss army knife does not mean it’s blunt. Despite being so well-rounded, the sound is very pretty, and I find it’s comfortable for most songs.
What I like most about this piano, though, is the feel. It’s obvious that Casio spent lots of time and money testing their keys with real musicians, and the result is fantastic. They keys are weighted perfectly, which makes me feel both more comfortable and more accurate. I really hate that feeling – usually on older, broken-in pianos – of super light keys; they just don’t feel like they’ve got any real weight to them. Not so with the Casio. It feels divine.
This is the most expensive piano on our list, but in the scope of all digital pianos, its price is about middle-of-the-road. And if you factor in the cost of an acoustic piano, it’s a steal. So, this piano certainly isn’t for everyone, but it’s worth saving up for if you’re a serious musician.
Yamaha P-Series P35 88-Key Digital Piana
[easyazon_image add_to_cart=”default” align=”right” asin=”B00C7BLMNE” cloaking=”default” height=”160″ localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51rWd6lO0lL._SL160_.jpg” tag=”NONE” width=”160″]The P35 is what I’d consider the best beginner piano on the list. And don’t get me wrong; I don’t want to downplay the piano’s quality (which is great) – I just think it’s the most user-friendly, comfortable and easy-on-the-ear out of all the pianos here.
A lot of that is because there’s not a whole lot to figure out electronically. It’s only got one button, so it’s pretty hard to screw up. So you won’t have as many options as you might with some of the other pianos featured here, but you also won’t have to fiddle around. You can just play, which is what a lot of musicians I know like.
The P35 also uses AWM (Advanced Wave Memory), which basically means the instrument gets its sound from recorded sounds of actual acoustic instruments. The result is that, although it’s not as crisp as some digital pianos, the P35 produces very deep, very rich sounds. In fact, a lot of people think they sound almost exactly like the real thing.
Additionally, the keys are graded, which means keys on the lower notes are heavier. I love this feature whenever I find it on a digital piano because it makes playing feel so much more natural than playing with keys that are all weighted the same.
In short, this is a very high-quality, 100% plug-and-play piano that I would recommend to anyone looking for a quality instrument that doesn’t necessarily break the bank.
Yamaha DGX650 Digital Piano
[easyazon_image add_to_cart=”default” align=”left” asin=”B00FK9CJCS” cloaking=”default” height=”160″ localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41dg5qT67SL._SL160_.jpg” tag=”NONE” width=”160″]This is another really great digital piano best suited for more experienced musicians. Most of this piano’s strength comes from the immense customization available. In addition to the impressive array of natural sounds produced right out of the box, there are a number of options – via an extensive electronic interface, or “dashboard” — for players who want to “tune” their digital piano, making this a great instrument for those with a good ear.
Additionally, this piano comes with three pedals, adding yet more options for musicians, and probably making classically trained pianists a lot more comfortable.
Like the P35, the DGX650’s keys feature a weighted gradient, so the lower notes are slightly heavier, and, again, this makes the instrument feel considerably more natural (and for musicians like me, a lot more enjoyable). It just feels more… dynamic.
Additionally, the sound here comes from PureCF sampling, which means that the sounds produced are actually recorded sounds from the rather infamous CFIIIS piano, also by Yahama.
This piano isn’t for beginners, but it’s a fantastic product for old veterans and young prodigies.
Williams Allegro 88-Key Digital Piano
[easyazon_image add_to_cart=”default” align=”right” asin=”B0049SBVLG” cloaking=”default” height=”39″ localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/413aQwXDSsL._SL160_.jpg” tag=”NONE” width=”160″]This may seem slightly out of place in this list because it flirts with the “toy” pianos you can find at Target – if you’re just looking at the price, anyway.
Don’t let that fool you, though. This is a very, very good piano despite its price. And it’s certainly not a toy; it’s made for musicians. In other words, if I was going to buy a first piano for my kid – or if I was a musician on a budget – this would almost undoubtedly be the one.
One of the most impressive things about the Allegro is its feel. It doesn’t have the exaggerated graded feeling of Yahama pianos, but it’s certainly clear that Williams took great care to make it feel… real. And that is surprising. You would not expect to find that in a piano in this price range, which is a fantastic surprise.
The one major drawback here is the speakers, which is where they’ve saved some money. And, really, if you’re going to cut any corners to bring a really amazing piano down to a more realistic price range, I’d much rather sacrifice speakers than I would sound or keys.
In short, it’s a great piano, but you’ll get a considerably better experience if you’re recording on a computer and replaying your music through some other audio system (or if you just have a good pair of headphones).
Korg SP170 88-Key Digital Piano
[easyazon_image add_to_cart=”default” align=”left” asin=”B004M92J0O” cloaking=”default” height=”57″ localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/31-tLyrjb5L._SL160_.jpg” tag=”NONE” width=”160″]The last piano on our list is the SP170, which is kind of like B+ student of the group. It performs really well in most situations, but it doesn’t necessarily stand out.
This is another simple instrument (you won’t find any complicated digital interfaces here), that’s great for pianists who want to take their piano out of the box, plug it in and start playing. That said, there is an audio button that allows you to cycle through several different sounds, and a central button that returns you to the main piano sound.
The keyboard is comfortable, but not extraordinary, and the sound is good, but not great – it doesn’t compare to the Yahamas above, anyway.
That said, this piano makes the list because it gets the basics right, and a lot of pianos out there just don’t. It’s a jack of all trades, and it’s worth the money if you’re looking for a good mid-range piano.