When it comes to choosing a digital piano, you have a lot of great options these days. With so many different makes and models on the market, the choice can be somewhat overwhelming: especially if you are buying your first piano.
You will be pleased to know, however, that no matter your budget, the right digital piano is out there for you.
While some of the more advanced models of digital pianos can cost eye-watering sums of money, there are great options available for those looking to buy a digital piano that’s under $500.
The big question—how do you do it? What’s the best criteria to look for in a digital piano? Well, in this article, we have pulled together a brief guide showing you what you should look for in a budget digital piano, alongside our hand-picked favorites priced less than $500.
And, to better help you with this decision, please check out the interactive guide below to directly compare some of these sub-$500 digital pianos against one another, as well as against other popular digital pianos.
|Korg LP-380 U|
|Yamaha DGX 670|
88 Weighted Keys and Good Key Action
It might sound obvious, but the single most important part of any digital piano is the keys themselves. Specifically, it is imperative that you consider the touch and responsiveness of these keys, as well as how many there are. We already did an article on understanding the best key action, so if you haven’t already read that, you may want to check it out.
Those of you looking to buy a digital piano will already know that the instrument’s main function is that of mimicking a real piano, and the feeling of the keys whilst you play ranks alongside the sound (which we will touch upon soon) as the most important element of emulation. While more expensive digital pianos pretty much guarantee quality in this department, the lower end of the price spectrum can be vastly inconsistent in terms of the quality of the keys.
Weighted keys are an absolute must if you are looking to replicate the authentic piano playing experience on a digital piano—do not consider any model offering anything less.
Weighted keys are especially important for beginners: during the early stages of learning piano, your fingers will become conditioned to the keys you are playing – weighted keys encourage strength through your fingers, and leave you well-prepared to play on any type of keyboard in the future.
It is important, too, if you have a particular model or range of pianos in mind, that you research the specific manufacturers’ track record delivering weighted keys – manufacturers will often employ the same weighted system throughout a range of their different models.
Another thing to consider in relation to the keys is, well, how many keys do you really need.
While a full set of 88 keys is a necessity for more advanced players; beginners, or those looking to save on money and/or space, should consider 76 key models too – with these slightly smaller builds only sacrificing a handful of sparsely used keys on the fringes of the instrument.
61 key models are also available, however these should only be considered by those with the most pressing space concerns. While these may save on room – the significantly reduced number of keys will noticeably restrict your piano playing, limiting you to a narrow window of pitch.
As will be explored later on, less physically imposing 88 and 76 key models of digital pianos are available on the market.
A great example of this lies in the Yamaha line. The Yamaha P125, for example, features 88 keys and costs about $600. But, can save anywhere from $30 to $50 by buying the Yamaha P-121—a digital piano that’s from the same “P” series lineup by Yamaha but features just 73 weighted keys rather than the typical 88.
As a result, the Yamaha P-121 is a lighter digital piano than the P-125, and while both pianos are perfectly fine for beginners, if you’re a true piano novice, you might feel more comfortable overall using the Yamaha P-121 because there’s less keys you have to worry about.
Below, please take a moment to view some of the best selling digital pianos currently on sale online, and see how well they stack up to the pianos we discuss in-depth in this article.
|1) Yamaha P-515|
|2) Casio PX-S3100|
|3) Casio PX-870|
|4) Roland FP-E50|
|5) Roland FP-30X|
Let’s Talk About Sound Quality
Now that we’ve touched upon the importance of the piano’s keys, its time to explore the second most factor to consider when buying a budget digital piano; the quality of sound.
We mentioned earlier that a digital piano’s primary function is to mimic the feeling of playing a real piano, and the sound of your instrument is an integral part of this experience.
While the weighted response of playing a real piano can be realistically duplicated in a digital piano, the same cannot quite be said of the sound: a keyboard will never truly capture the same articulation of sound and acoustics of a real piano.
That being said, the sound produced in each new digital piano is steadily improving, and there are several elements you can evaluate that will help you choose the piano that sounds right for you.
The first is the quality of sample used. Previously, only the more expensive models of digital pianos offered high quality piano sound, but nowadays even budget keyboards will offer at least one decent sound to play with.
The majority of leading digital piano manufacturers — the likes Yamaha, Korg, and Roland — now offer consistently excellent results in this field: with all their piano audio having gone through a painstaking sampling and mixing process.
Watch out for older models of digital piano in this regard – while today even budget keyboards offer a reasonable acoustic piano sound emulation, the more expensive models from yesteryear can sound noticeably digital.
The quality of piano sample is not the only sound element to consider when buying a digital piano – its also important to evaluate the quality of the sound physically emitted by the model.
The larger models of digital piano usually offer beefy speakers that have no problem outputting good quality audio, however more compact models often feature limited speakers, or none at all. If you are restricted by size, but do not wish to abdicate sound quality, consider playing through your headphones, or hooking your instrument up to a set of external speakers.
Is Aesthetic and Design Important?
The third element to consider when buying a digital piano is the design of the instrument.
If you’re looking to make the digital piano the center piece of your living-room, there are a wide variety of different, larger models that look more like acoustic pianos than their digital brothers and sisters.
These models will often be much larger and heavier than your standard digital keyboard, and will have limited portability: however, they will compensate for this with a traditional acoustic piano design. This is definitely a trade-off between portability and style – and these models of digital piano are not so much just a keyboard, but a piece of furniture.
On the other side – those of you more pressed for space are also well accommodated: there are a host of different models that are geared towards those looking for a smaller keyboard. These models are usually slimline and minimal in design, focussing on delivering a compact playing experience rather than existing as a piece of furniture in the same way an acoustic piano would.
These designs will often require a separate stand and set of pedals, so please bear this in mind I you are looking to buy a smaller model. A good quality stand is absolutely essential, as you do not want too much movement through the keyboard as you play.
That being said, these models are much lighter than their bulkier siblings, and therefore can be dismantled and moved with relative ease, in comparison to the more solidly built models.
At the end of the day, the aesthetic and design of the keyboard is for the most part subjective – consider your lifestyle and accessibility, and choose a design that best fits your needs.
And now, let’s look at my picks for the Best Digital Pianos under $500. This is by no means a ranking, but here are the seven budget pianos I’m going to discuss in depth today:
- Williams Allegro 2
- Korg B1
- Casio PX-160
- Yamaha P45
- Alesis Recital Pro
- Yamaha PSR-EW300
- Alesis Coda-Pro
Williams Allegro 2
If simplicity is what you’re after, then the Williams Allegro 2 Plus is the digital piano for you. Despite its relatively low price-point, this keyboard boasts all the essential features needed for your first digital piano, without breaking the bank.
Starting with the keys – the Williams Allegro 2 Plus offers up 88-weighted keys: an essential feature especially for beginners.
While the weight and response of the keys doesn’t quite match the standards set by works of manufactures such as Yamaha & Roland, the Allegro 2’s weighted keys still allow for expressive piano playing, even if the weighting isn’t quite so nuanced. The Allegro 2 does not include any kind of hammer-action, so playing this will not be wholly comparable to playing a real piano – however the lighter touch needed to play this keyboard may more to the linking of some players.
The piano samples provided by the Allegro 2 are competent, if not quite as refined as those offered by William’s rivals. By no means does this piano emulation sound to fake, you will only really notice a tangible difference if you are downgrading from a more expensive keyboard or are used to playing acoustic pianos.
The Allegro 2 comes into its own when customizing the sounds and voices available to the player. Unlike its predecessor, the Allegro 2, the Allegro 2 Plus features a wide-variety of different voices – and you are able to chop and change elements such as the reverb and chorus, and can modulate the voices by adding effects such as vibrato and tremolo. You can easily transpose the pitch of the keyboard and can even change the split point, allowing for deeper bass notes without comprising the sound of the middle octaves.
The 64 Polyphonic capability is more than adequate at this price point, and you will likely never notice any unintended note drop-off whilst playing.
The in-built stereo speaker does a decent job of projecting audio at low to mid levels with no distortion, however once again you will want to consider external speakers, monitors or a PA if performing live.
The design of the keyboard favors function over style. The casing is durable but can look cheap when compared to other models. The combination of the blue LED screen and raised silver buttons mean that this keyboard do not make for the most low-key sight, so I would not consider making this keyboard the centre-piece of your home – however if you plan on using the Allegro 2 in a more personal setting, then this durability and functionality is an asset rather than a drawback.
The Allegro 2 Plus comes with a sustain pedal and power cable included: an upgrade on the Allegro 2, which came with neither.
Overall, the Williams Allegro 2 Plus offers functionality and simplicity. Whilst the weighted keys and piano sampling are not quite at the same levels as other models in this guide – the response and expression whilst playing is more than adequate for the beginner.
You can read our review of the Williams Allegro 2 here.
If are looking a simple, clean digital piano experience the the Korg B2 is the keyboard for you.
This keyboard is the true definition of minimal – both in terms of design and functionality. The Korg B2 does not feature a varied range of different features and voices, but rather focuses a quality piano playing experience. The 88 keys are a pleasure to play – being both weighted and featuring Korgs own take on hammer-action emulation.
Korg absolutely nails the piano voicing in this keyboard, with their effort perhaps the most accurate sounding translation of an acoustic piano on a digital instrument at this budget price-point. The speakers do this quality sampling justice, and sounds fantastic at all level, with little distortion when pushed the limit. There are a few other voices to choose from: including organ and string sounds – however these pale in comparison to the quality of the piano voice.
The Korg B2’s design reflects its functionality – simple and sophisticated. The keyboard is smart and unobtrusive, and the lack of many buttons and any kind of digital interface result in a solid flatter surface, that looks good pretty much anywhere. The overall build of the keyboard is not the smallest on this list, neither is the keyboard particularly light – so I would not consider taking this on the road, however the Korg B2 is by no means bulky.
Overall, the Korg B2 offers simple yet quality digital piano playing – and if you are after an easy, yet quality digital piano playing experience, then I would highly recommend this keyboard.
It should be noted, too that there is also both the Korg 12 and Korg B1SP on the market. What’s the difference between the Korg B1 vs Korg B1SP?
Well, not much, as it turns out. What you will notice, however, is that the Korg B1 SP comes with
You can read our review of the Korg B1 here.
The Casio PX-160 is perhaps the best all-rounder on this list, and this is our pick as the best digital piano under $500.
This keys on this digital piano are fantastic, especially considering the low-price. The PX-160 boasts 88 fully weighted keys, using a Tri-Scaled Hammer action within the body of the keyboard to simulate the touch and resistance of a real piano.
The instrument detects changes in velocity particularly well – allowing for all the nuances of piano playing to expressed thoroughly – the keys are even graded: with the keys toward the top end of the board requiring noticeably less force to play than the keys at the lower end of the board – just like a real piano.
The Casio PX-160 offers the player 5 different Piano samples to choose from – all recorded from a Grand Piano. The audio has been sampled well, and while the 5 different piano pre-sets are nothing ground-breaking, produces a piano sound better and more nuanced than most – however the chorus, reverb and brilliance settings are adjustable if you feel like fine-tuning the sound to your liking.
The keyboard is equipped to process a maximum of 128 polyphonic notes – so none of note you have played will cut-off unnaturally whilst playing.
The speakers on slim-line digital pianos can often be inadequate, however this is certainly not the case with this keyboard. The speakers are able to produce stable, clear and resonant sound, and are perfectly suited if you are looking to play in small to medium spaces.
The Casio PX-160’s speakers struggle to output at higher volumes though – so it will be worth investing in an external set of speakers or PA if you are interested in performing at events. A dual headphone-jack means enables you to play duets while keeping the noise to a minimum.
The Casio PX-160 comes in either a black or white finish, and the overall design of the product is sleek and smart. This model does not take up too much space, being only 11 inches deep – so is well suited for those with limited space – however the stylish design means that the keyboard would look at home in any living-room. Bear in mind however, that this keyboard does not come complete with a stand – this will have to bought separately.
While the Keyboard is small – and thus easily portable – the piano is encased in plastic; which, while looking smart, means that the keyboard is easily susceptible to damage. With this in mind, it may be worth looking at buying a 88-Key keyboard if you are thinking of taking the PX-160 on the road.
The keyboard is able to playback a number of different sounds, including decent Rhodes and Organ voices. The onboard interfaces enables you to save two-track recordings, however with the right USB cable, the PX-160 can be hooked up to you computer for use as a MIDI device – with programs such a as GarageBand, Flow-Key, and Logic Pro expanding your options.
The Casio PX-160 is a fantastic all-around instrument, as is comfortable both on the road, and at home. The weighted keys are among the best below $500, and the speaks are able to deliver dynamic sound, despite the instruments slim-line build.
You can read our Casio PX-160 review here.
Yamaha are well known amongst the music community as a safe pair of hands when it comes to digital pianos, and the P45 only adds to their reputation.
Like the PX-160, these keys are fully weighted, and feature hammer-action within the main body to really emulate the feeling of playing an acoustic piano: with the lower and upper ends of the keyboard graded. The velocity of the keys can be amended to your tastes – with 4 presents from heavy to soft to flip between; and the keys make little noise whilst being played. The quality of these keys is no surprise considering Yamaha’s pedigree as a a reliable digital piano manufacturer.
The base piano sound has been captured superbly by Yamaha’s audio engineering team, with the P-45 featuring Yamaha’s AWM Dynamic Sampling technology – which, put simply, delivers high quality piano emulation through their range of different digital pianos.
This keyboard features perhaps the best quality simulate piano sound of all the keyboards featured in this list – and while the 64 note polyphony is not quite up there with the PX-160: there are very few foreseeable situations where this might make a tangible difference.
The ability to layer sounds whilst playing is an added bonus, with the user able to create unique and lush sounds when combining voices.
The sound quality through the speaker is OK, however in order to capture the full dynamic range of your playing, I would recommend playing at lower levels or through a good pair of headphones. It’s a shame that the inbuilt speakers are not able to do Yamaha’s quality sampling justice – however portability often comes at the price of speaker quality.
The P45 is approximately 11 ½ inches deep and is light enough to be carried by one person, which makes this keyboard extremely portable. The weight and size, coupled with a durable build quality; means that the P-45 is well-suited to the musician on the go, however I would still look to invest in a proper keyboard case if you are planning on hitting the road.
In terms of the style of the keyboard, the P-45 is fairly low-key, and does not make much of an impression when placed in a living room. The keyboard is no means ugly, but the design is particularly understated, with no particularly discernible features – something that may even be desired.
The Yamaha P-45 is not quite the all-around piano that the Casio PX-160 is, but if your best bet if you are looking for a relatively compact and portable digital piano. In true Yamaha fashion, the fleeing of playing this piano is fantastic, with the weighted hammer-action keys among the best at this price range.
It’s a shame that the inbuilt speakers are not able to project the fantastic piano sampling, but as always, I would recommend playing through an external pair of speakers, or through headphones.
You can read our Yamaha P-45 review here.
The Alesis Recital Pro is a pretty good piano: perfect for those looking to teach themselves to play, or looking for a portable keyboard with multiple voicing options.
The first thing to mention about this keyboard is that this keyboard does feature weighted, hammer action keys, compared to the regular Alesis Recital that features only semi-weighted keys. This is not necessarily a bad thing – semi weighted keys are sometimes preferable for those playing live and still encourage the beginner to develop some sensitivity to velocity – however this is not the keyboard for those looking for budget emulation of a real acoustic piano.
The keyboard features 5 different voices, all sampled to a decent standard. These can be fleshed out by layering on top of one another, however the base piano sound does an adequate job, if not quite as nuanced as some of the other pianos on this list.
The in-built speakers on this keyboard are decent enough for good audio output and low-mid levels.
The Recital Pro really comes into its own when we consider its design, as almost tailor-made to be taken out on the road. Weighing in at only around 16 lbs (possibly helped by the semi-weighted key), and with a simplified interface and low profile build – this keyboard is certainly portable.
So if you’re looking for a compact and low-maintenance keyboard you can easily take with you to band practice – the Alessis Recital Pro is worth considering.
The Yamaha PSR-EW300, which is the successor to the very popular Yamaha YPG-235, is not a keyboard that offers the most authentic piano playing experience – however it is an affordable middle ground between digital piano and keyboard and is a great option for those looking to combine the functionality of latter, with the good piano emulation of the former.
This keyboard is a little smaller than the others on this list – with only 77 keys, all semi-weighted. The keys are touch sensitive though, and are graded from low to high – so your piano playing will still be expressive, but will not replicate the experience of playing a real piano. The keys are slightly narrower than traditional acoustic piano keys, however this is a sacrifice made in the name of portability.
This keyboard is designed to be moved about with you – weighing in at 13 lbs, with a depth of about 15”: offering impressive portability considering the number of features packed into an intuitive interface.
With a host of different unique voices, various different effects and modulator options, and even a built-in teaching interface – this digital piano is for those looking to experiment and have fun with your sounds.
While this option is more geared towards those looking for a keyboard, this still functions as a very decent digital piano: the Yamaha PSR-EW300 is an excellent combination at this price point for those looking for the best of both worlds.
Alesis Coda Pro
The Alesis Coda-Pro is another option to consider if you are looking for a digital piano-keyboard hybrid.
Unlike the Yamaha PSREW300AD, this black digital piano features a full set of 88 weighted keys—and offers a very solid digital piano playing experience. It is worth nothing however that the keys are not graded, so the notes at the bottom of the scale will be no heavier than those at the top. However, depending on far along you are in your development as a piano player, this could be considered a luxury feature, especially at the given price-point.
The piano voicing is good, if not quite to the standards of the Korg and Yamaha models, however the Coda Pro does feature a further 20 voices, as well as various different tone and effect controls: enough to whet the appetite of those seeking to explore a host of different sounds.
The Coda Pro is a capable instrument to learn on: while the two headphone ports are a useful, if common addition; it is the extra features built into the interface that really make this keyboard stand out: specifically, a built in lesson-mode to guide you through he early stages of piano playing.
The instrument itself is compact, with a depth of only 14”, however weighs in at close to 30 lbs, meaning you won’t necessarily be able to carry this around by yourself.
The Coda Pro is aesthetically one of my favorite models on this list – the smoothed deep black finish, combined with the rounded edges and contrasting orange interface result in an instrument that looks more like a high-end keyboard/synthesizer than a digital piano.
The Alesis Coda-Pro is a great alternative option if you are considering investing in a hybrid digital piano – while it does not quite offer the same amount of voicing and features as the YPG-235, it makes up for this in style and the addition of a fully weighted 88-keyboard.
Now we’ve gone through a list of seven of the best budget digital pianos under $500, its time to ask: ‘which model really is THE best?!’
While the answer to this question is highly subjective – my personal pick is the Korg B1.
This model is unparalleled in terms of its quality as a digital piano at this price range – you simply won’t find the same balance of high-grade weighted keys, and quality piano sampling. While the Korg be somewhat basic in terms of functionality and may lack in the feature department: the B1 offers the best digital piano playing experience on a budget.
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