In this article, I’m going to give you my personal list of seven digital piano brands that I think make really fantastic pianos—whether you’re a beginner or a longtime pianist. And, to better help you, please take a moment to view our interactive table below, where you can directly compare some of the best digital pianos on the market against one another.
Top Digital Piano Brands
Let’s begin with the popular brand Yamaha.
Now I know Yamaha are one of the more obvious brands that come to mind when we think about digital pianos – but there is a very good reason for this, and a very good reason why Yamaha remain one of the most widely consumed brands of digital piano.
Yamaha may not always be pushing the boundaries in terms of the cutting-edge technology at the high-end of the market, they aren’t a manufacturer sacrosanct amongst professional musicians: in the same way the likes of Korg and Nord are.
Yamaha are so popular and widely loved by the music community because they are accessible. They manage to make quality, effective keyboards at relatively low prices – and in doing so encourage more and more people to buy digital pianos and take up piano playing as a hobby.
Now some other manufacturers listed in this article will rightly receive kudos for the manner in which they are shaping the future, for the way in which they are changing the game in the digital piano market. But Yamaha are deserving of some credit for the way in which they have managed to support lower budgets, without having to substitute on quality.
There will always be debate as to the best digital piano – in fact my personal pick for the best budget digital piano isn’t even a Yamaha, but a Korg!
Despite this, Yamaha are about the closest thing one can get to a guarantee of good quality at a budget level – you generally know you are getting a competent product in a Yamaha digital piano. They have consistently developed some of the leading budget digital pianos, with a different array of options all featuring near enough at the top of favorite lists – they are so popular because they are trusted.
You know that when you buy a Yamaha, you will be buying an instrument that produces good piano sounds, and emulates the weighting and nuance of playing an acoustic piano to a high standard. The Yamaha P45, for example, is a budget digital piano that delivers a clean, crisp, and accurate acoustic piano playing experience, at a very affordable price.
That Yamaha are able to effectively bring digital piano playing to the masses should be cause for celebration, and we should remember to appreciate the work manufacturers put in at the lower end of the pricing spectrum, as well as those pushing boundaries at the other end.
Below, please take a moment to view some of the best selling digital pianos available online.
|1) Yamaha P-515|
|2) Casio PX-S3100|
|3) Casio PX-870|
|4) Roland FP-E50|
|5) Roland FP-30X|
Now Nord are not as well-known as some of the other brands on this list, however this is mostly down to the fact that Nord keyboards can be downright expensive, with typically only professional musicians and performers ranking amongst their ownership. However, Nord’s proliferation among the performing community is no accident – it is as a result of their continued development of cutting-edge stage keyboards.
While many of the even more numerous features packed into these keyboards may come across as an unnecessary luxury for the causal players amongst us – all of these different features are an essential part of many artists live performance.
Nord keyboards won’t just playback a wide array of different samples: they will allow you to create your own and tweak them whilst you play. You can now EQ, manipulate a filter, and layer sounds on the fly: which truly allows a performance to sound both organic and free flowing. The Nord Electro 6 allows you play piano one moment, and be tweaking the parameters on a classic polyphonic synth the next.
While none of these abilities and effects are anything particularly ground breaking – being able to put these into action easily whilst performing live is no mean feat, and results in a greater diversity and greater scope for live performance. This is especially true when it comes to more electronic forms of music – with often involves the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) manipulation of sound, something barely possible before without the assistance of live sound engineers.
Nord keyboards are revolutionizing live keyboard playing – and while you will be hard pressed to find one of these in anybody’s home, keep an eye next time you are watching live music on the television or internet – Nord is everywhere.
Roland are another one of the more widely known manufactures on this list – not quite as prolific as – say – Yamaha, but equally not nearly as rare as the likes of Nord.
Roland can be considered an exciting brand, because they really push the boat out in terms of chasing the ever-elusive perfect emulation of acoustic piano playing on a digital instrument. One of the biggest leaps Digital Pianos have taken in the last ten or twenty years is in their ability to translate you’re playing into something that closely resembles the sound of a real acoustic piano.
I was lucky enough to have grown up around, and eventually playing, a baby grand piano: which is kept to this day at my grandparents’ house – I became attuned to the nuances of acoustic piano playing, and the subtleties of the sound. I remember coming home one day, and in the house stood a Yamaha Clavinova: one of the more expensive and renowned brands of digital piano (even today).
The moment I stated playing it, however, whatever anticipation or high hopes I had held for its capability swiftly diminished – the keys felt rigid, unresponsive, and plasticky. The sound was somewhat hollow, the piano sounded a little to digitized, a little too synthetic. I remember being unimpressed with the lack of finesse in the playing, and the lack of anything resembling a real piano in the sound quality.
Fast-forward to today, however, and the landscape has changed dramatically. No longer do we ask whether a digital piano sounds real, but rather we ask how closely real they sound: the line between real and emulated piano playing has blurred to the point in which oftentimes only experienced ears are able to pick up upon the differences between the two.
Roland stand at the very forefront of this: and are adept at bringing through new technologies and models that push the boundaries in terms of acoustic piano emulation.
The Roland V-Piano is quite simply a masterful creation, allowing you to emulate and experiment with everything from the configuration and material of the strings, to the organic spacial development of each sound – from the clicking of the hammers, to the resonance of a meaningfully played note: every subtly of playing a grand piano reimagined digitally.
Not only this, but their cheaper models of digital piano are also for the most part equipped with extremely good keybeds – for example the Roland FP-30 features a keyboard that is weighted fantastically, allowing for a deep and enriching piano playing experience, whilst remaining exceptionally quiet – a combination that is not always so common at the budget level.
While other manufacturers such as Casio and Korg are also pushing the boundaries in terms of acoustic piano emulation – in my opinion none have quite achieved the feats that Roland have.
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Casio are a manufacturer of many different things – and are particularly known for their watches – however they also manufacturer great digital pianos.
Casio digital pianos are more common towards the less expensive side of the market – however similarly to Yamaha offer great value for money in terms of both the keys and build of the keyboard.
This isn’t the reason that I am including Casio on this list – while they do produce good quality keyboards at a budget: these are not quite as consistent as the likes of Yamaha and Roland, possibly to be expected considering their sole purpose is not the development of musical instrumentation.
The reason I have include Casio on this list is because of smaller, often overlooked feature that has been implemented in their newer models (particularly those towards the higher end of the price spectrum, although this is likely to change over time) – Concert Play. The premise is simple – to allow the user to play alongside a full classical orchestra.
Now, this might not sound like particularly ground-breaking stuff – we are all capable of playing along with our favorite records on the stereo – the very integration of this feature is exciting because of the future it could point towards.
First of all, it takes away the hassle of having to find arrangements that do not feature a piano – a task now rendered an unnecessary chore.
Secondly, the ability to play alongside an orchestra is something that will have eluded the vast majority of piano players over the years and is an experience that would be fantastic to roll out to the masses. Some of the most popular pieces on piano were written to be played alongside an orchestra, and even amateur piano players might finally be able to realize an ambition to play a piece, in its entirety, with the necessary instrumental backing.
With the emulation of acoustic piano playing growing ever nearer and nearer reality, it is pretty feasible to believe that this initial introduction of a live orchestra into our digital pianos has vast potential for growth.
In years to come, we might find ourselves with more and more songs, and more and more ways to play along with the inbuilt orchestra. It is entirely feasible that at some point in the future we may be able to play alongside an orchestra that adapts to our playing – adjusting the tempo to coincide with your interpretation of a piece.
This is all hypothetically speaking of course, but if you think how far away from acoustic piano emulation we were even twenty years ago – it is not too difficult to imagine the technology taking similar leaps with Concert Play.
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Moving on from the abstract future, it is now time to explore the material present, specifically, Kawai.
Kawai are a Japanese manufacturer of musical instruments, and the reason they leave me excited about digital pianos is because of the aesthetic they manage to embody throughout their production line. Kawai make beautiful digital pianos, from the very top end of the market; with models such as the CS-11, to the bottom with the CL-36.
Their designs project a certain degree of minimalism and simplicity, that should be considered almost an art in of itself, the builds of their keyboards are for the most part slimline and unobtrusive, all of which lends itself to the beauty of piano playing. Playing one of their instruments allow you go get lost in your performance – the keyboards cease to become a tangible object whilst playing but become an extension of yourself.
This may sound slightly pretentious, but an underrated quality of the best digital pianos, and even acoustic pianos, is their ability to lend themselves to your playing, without becoming a burden.
Kawai’s designs really set the standard in terms of the future of digital piano aesthetic – we are slowly moving to the point where our focus can lie beyond the instrument in front of us, and stay rooted in the music.
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M-Audio are a brand who continue to make keyboard playing, and indeed music making in general – accessible to even those of us on the tightest f budgets.
I remember when I first started writing and recording my own music; looking at all the different keyboards and controllers that many of the pros using and wondering how on earth I would ever be able to afford something in that brackets.
Luckily for me (and many others) M-Audio are consistently producing decent quality keyboards at affordable prices. These range from the smallest of MIDI controllers, to full size 88-weighted-key units – M-Audio seem to have manufactured some kind of keyboard for everybody, no matter your needs.
The vast majority of their keyboards do not include inbuilt speakers, or even any kind of audio interface – however they are always built well for integration with all kinds of external devise, whether wirelessly, through MIDI, or through USB. Their work to saturate the market with affordable keyboards of all shapes and sizes only serves to bolster the piano playing community.
There were times when I was without access to a proper weighted digital piano; but was still able to practice my scales on a keyboard I was able to easily fit into my rucksack. I have managed to convert their larger keyboards into a hybrid digital piano by hooking up a sustain pedal and using a free piano emulator on my computer.
M-Audio are by no means up there with the likes of Roland and Nord in redefining the boundaries of live and home digital piano playing – but they do offer a huge array of cheap yet entirely functional instruments and controllers – allowing anybody, anywhere, with any budget – to be able to play, practice and perform the keyboard at any time.
Novation are another brand whom are more widely known for manufacturing keyboards – specifically keyboard controllers – rather than digital pianos: however, I believe that some of their more recent work lends itself well to the future of digital pianos.
I am talking about Novation’s ‘Automap’ technology – a software that, once installed on your computer, automatically maps your controller to the various software built into your computer – whether these are emulated instruments or digital audio-workstations. Gone is the time spent trying to get all your settings just right so your controller work perfectly in sync with your external deice, now it just happens automatically.
This is something the digital piano enthusiasts should be excited about because it is another step in the right direction in terms of the ever-increasing blending of smart-device and our instruments. Many of the newer digital pianos do not feature particularly developed physical controls – instead they are largely directed via smartphone apps – a notable example being many of Roland’s recent models.
While digital piano manufacturers have always sort to cram their instruments with all kinds of features – it is entirely plausible that in years to come we will find ourselves working with effectively ‘smart’ digital pianos – that are able to sync up with the internet, unlocking a vast array of different possibilities. You may be able to download and play with brand new voices every day, or play with new effects and filters, or even change the weighing on your keys to match as specific brand of an acoustic piano.
The ever-increasing integration of our digital pianos with our own personal technology mean that the steps taken by the likes of Novation, with their AutoMap technology, to ensure this integration is made accessible and relatively easy to all, is something that should excite all digital piano players.
The future is ripe with possibility.
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