Buying a digital piano is not for the weak-hearted. So many options exist in the digital instrument world. Making a final selection can be time-consuming and just a bit overwhelming for a neophyte. So I’m going to attempt to help you by doing some comparisons between popular Casio and Yamaha keyboards—two excellent, reputable brands.
Here are some of the things you should consider before you purchase any digital piano or keyboard:
- Space available for the instrument
- Instrument features required
- Instrument features that would be fun
- Other requirements/preferences
To better help you, please use the interactive table below to directly compare some of the top keyboards on the market against one another.
|Yamaha YDP-184||88||$$$||Graded Hammer 3 Action (GH3)|
|Casio PX-770||$88||$$$||128 Note Polyphony|
|Donner DDP-100||88||$$$||Includes Stand, Three Pedals|
|Yamaha DGX 660||88||$$||Graded Hammer Standard (GHS) Keyboard|
|Yamaha P-125||88||$$||GHS Weighted Action|
|Roland FP-30||88||$$||Built-in Bluetooth Wireless Connectivity|
|Casio PX-160||88||$||Dual Headphone Outputs on Front|
|Casio PX-S3000||88||$$$||700 Sounds, 200 Rhythms
|Casio PX-360||88||$$||550 Tones|
Most people develop a budget for a digital piano/keyboard. You must decide if you want to pay the complete retail price up front, or if you prefer to make payments on a more expensive instrument. A high quality digital keyboard can be purchased for as little as $200-$300, if you shop carefully. A high quality digital piano on the low-dollar end will cost in the $1,000 range and up. A high quality console digital piano with multiple features will likely run about $2,000 and up.
You are the only one who can determine your piano-buying budget. Choose wisely!
The Importance of Space
Let’s face it: most apartment dwellers simply cannot put a large grand piano in their living rooms. Besides wrecking your traffic patterns in the apartment, it would also wreck your neighbor relationships when you decide to play Beethoven at 2:00 a.m.! (Unless you play really, really well! Then your neighbors might appreciate…no, I don’t think so.)
Digital pianos can solve the apartment issue. Unless you decide upon one of the big hybrid digital grands, just about any console digital piano/keyboard will fit in all but the smallest apartments. Even in the smallest apartment a portable digital piano can be utilized, although it might take a great deal of setting up and tearing down.
If you occupy a house, the issue becomes smaller but still should be considered. Make certain that the instrument you choose fits into your home, wherever you live and wherever you decide to put your piano.
Below, please take a moment to view some of the best selling digital pianos on Amazon:
|1) Yamaha P-515|
|2) Casio PX-870|
|3) Roland F-140|
|4) Yamaha YDP-164|
|5) Yamaha YDP-184|
Key Instrument Features Required
You should decide what piano features you absolutely must have, no matter which instrument you select. Weighted keys? Three-pedal mechanism? Large view screen? Although most modern digital pianos come equipped with Bluetooth and MIDI capability, are these features something that you MUST have? Do you need a USB port to record and transport your own music? Do you need an instrument that you can tuck under your arm and take with you?
These choices are yours, because YOU are the one buying and using the digital piano/keyboard. So make a list of the features you absolutely cannot live without and follow that list when you choose your instrument.
Instrument features that would be fun
I doubt that anybody really needs 1000 voice options on a digital instrument. But they might be fun! Maybe you want to play around with world music and love the idea of hundreds of rhythm styles to choose from. Maybe you’re all about SFX sounds and would love to have an instrument that gives you dozens if not hundreds of choices of these unique sounds.
Add your “would be fun” ideas to your “absolutely must have” list and take the list with you when you go shopping. The faintest ink is better than the best memory. Or maybe that should read “the dumbest smart phone app is better than the best memory.” Regardless of how you make your list, be sure to take it with you when you hit the stores.
A lot of folks are living in RV’s and motor homes nowadays. These folks should look for a digital piano or keyboard with durability. Fragile instruments won’t last long in the world of full-time RV-ing. If your motorhome or RV is large enough and you do select a console piano, make certain it can be thoroughly secured through your travels.
Maybe you have a desire for a specific look to suit your home décor, such as style or wood type or color. Consider this factor when you shop for a digital piano. I happen to think any style/color piano suits any type of décor, but that’s because I’m a piano fanatic. Maybe you want your instrument to dress up a room or blend in with your décor. That’s your right and your choice.
Maybe you want a portable instrument that can run off batteries as well as house current. Or perhaps you want a portable instrument that can be easily secured and separated from a stand so you can leave it set up at home but still take the instrument with you.
All of these things are factors to consider when choosing a digital instrument. You may have others that I haven’t thought about, so write them down!
Comparing Casio to Yamaha
Let’s start the fact-finding by comparing two brands to each other: Casio vs. Yamaha.
Casio developed the “Grand Hybrid” key system for their most advanced digital pianos. This system consists of actual wooden keys operating on a pivot point as acoustic pianos do. It also utilizes a number of moving parts that function as an acoustic piano does, but incorporates digital technology rather than strings. The keys are full length which results in a touch similar to a grand piano—a feature for which most pianists would be most grateful.
Casio also prides itself on the “damper resonance” developed for their most advanced models of digital pianos. This resonance mimics the whole-body resonance of a concert grand piano: strings vibrating sympathetically when nearby strings are struck by the hammers and resonance in the wood of the grand piano. Casio managed to sample this damper resonance and incorporate it into their finest instruments.
Casio’s digital pianos have come a long way from the little toy keyboards the Casio company produced 40 years ago. Even in their low-end digital pianos, the Casio company proves that it is serious about manufacturing fine digital instruments that will lend beautiful sound and looks to your home.
Their high-end GP-500 digital piano retails for about $6,000. Their lower-end digital pianos—the PX series, start at about $900, without accessories.
I really liked the Casio AP-700, a digital piano with integrated cabinetry and a 3-pedal mechanism. This instrument retails for about $2500. When I played it, I noticed right away the damper resonance, something I admired on all the Casio pianos I played that day. The touch was light and highly sensitive, a trait I prefer in a digital piano as well.
The keys seemed well-balanced and felt like wooden keys, although I believe they are actually simulated ebony and ivory. This piano offers 26 various tones; although I didn’t sample all of them, the voices I sampled sounded authentic. This piano is a great choice for someone who wants the sound and feel of a piano and the versatility of a number of great-sounding voices to experiment with and to layer.
The Beauty of Yamaha Clavinova Pianos
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Yamaha manufactures my favorite digital piano series, the Clavinova. Whether you select the low-end CLP-625 for about $2,000 or the high-end CVP-709GP that retails for $16,000-$21,000, you will always get your money’s worth from a Yamaha Clavinova.
You may ask, what makes the Clavinova series such a good product? One reason is the history of Yamaha pianos. Yamaha has been making acoustic pianos for well over 100 years. They were the first in the business to manufacture digital pianos, beginning in 1983 with the CP 40, the first Clavinova.
Yamaha has consistently upgraded its digital instruments to feature the latest in digital sampling technology. Even the non-piano sounds were sampled from Yamaha instruments—saxophone, clarinet, flute, guitar, etc. To put it simply, the Yamaha instrument manufacturers have the “street creds” when it comes to digital pianos and keyboards.
Yamaha has created its own version of “damper resonance” with their Virtual Resonance Modeling (VRM) technology. This technology utilizes all of the resonation factors present in a concert grand piano: damper resonance (from the pedal), string resonance, body resonance, and aliquot resonance. Aliquot resonation occurs when extra, un-struck strings are added to the piano for increased tonal quality and resonance.
The additional strings are usually higher in pitch than their companion strings, similar to the six additional strings of a 12-string guitar, but they are never struck by the hammers. Yamaha incorporates this colorful resonance to their digital pianos for a tone richness and vibrancy that seems unparalleled.
Yamaha also features Stereo Optimizer in its headphones function that makes the sound seem like it is coming from the piano, rather than from the headphones.
I loved playing the CVP-709GP. What a beautiful instrument! It resembles a grand piano without taking up the amount of space of a grand. It features a large 8 ½ inch touch screen and 1,270 voices. This instrument has 37 drum/SFX kits sounds and 600 styles of accompaniment.
It also features a hefty price tag at about $15,000. But it may well be the last piano-type instrument you would ever need to buy.
My favorite Clavinova is the CSP-150, a beautiful instrument with clean, simple lines. It retails for about $4,000, which does not include the iPad or other tablet that a musician uses to control and access all the available sounds and effects of this instrument.
The Smart Pianist app features an “Audio to Score” function that creates a piano accompaniment score right from the music on your tablet. The Smart Lights show you which keys to strike to play along with your favorite music. Yamaha added a Graded Hammer 3X technology that mimics the action of a grand piano with its spring-less keys and heavier touch in the bass and lighter touch in the treble ends of the piano.
I noticed that Smart Pianist app also includes a Chord Tutor to help a budding pianist learn about chord structures and how to use chords. As a former private piano instructor, I would have loved this feature for my intermediate and advanced students studying chords!
So let’s narrow this comparison down. Putting my preference for Yamaha aside, I can reasonably say that for great sound and functions at a practical price, Casio does a terrific job putting together the features for an excellent digital piano. If you want to purchase the best piano for the least amount of money, Casio may just be the piano for you.
If you’re willing to spend a bit more money on an instrument that may never need to be replaced, then consider a Yamaha Clavinova.
Both of these brands will provide lasting enjoyment as you learn to play the piano or advance your piano-playing skills. I give the edge to Yamaha because of my history with the brand. Play both of them before YOU decide!
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