Digital Stage Pianos Under $2,000: Ranking the Best of the Best

The Nord Piano 3, which will be shown at NAMM 2016

Are you interested in a digital stage piano, and are willing to spend a little bit extra than most to get an extremely high quality instrument?  Well, if so, you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, we’re going to dive into the deep end of the pool when it comes to stage pianos.  If you’re a professional performer, you’re going to truly benefit from this article, as we’re going to recommend you five great stage pianos and why we feel they are worthy of your consideration (if you’re currently in the market for a new stage piano).

We will cover a wide variety of brands—from Yamaha to Roland to Kurzweil—and discuss the good, bad, and ugly of our favorite stage pianos in an effort to help you make a wise choice.

And speaking of which, before we get started, we actually recommend that you check out our interactive table below that showcases some of the best stage pianos currently available on today’s market:

Roland RD-88
Nord Stage 3
Casio PX5S
Nord Piano 5
Yamaha YC88
Nord Grand
Casio PX 560Casio PX-560

Without further ado, the first stage piano under the price of $2,000 that we really like is the Yamaha P-255.

5. Yamaha P-255

You’ve probably seen this keyboard in music shops around the country, but you might not know much about it. After all, it looks pretty simple.

There’s certainly nothing special about its appearance; it’s black with a few buttons, 88 keys, and it has two speakers on either side of the face of the panel. But the thing I like about the Yamaha P-255 is that it feels phenomenal. It has weighted velocity sensitive keys, which do a great job simulating a grand piano, which is really great for pro players who are used to playing top-quality keys.

The P-255 has a few different sounds to choose from. My personal favorites are the grand pianos and the electric pianos. As a keyboard player, I definitely like electric piano sounds, but there are only a couple of options on this stage piano. There’s one that’s very “chimey,” and then another one that’s more muted sounding.

I think a lot of pro stage performers focus mostly on grand piano sounds anyway, so having a ton of sound options might not be in everyone’s best interest. The grand pianos are sampled from real Yamaha grand pianos, which is why this one sounds so convincing.

It truly does sound great, and you can send outputs onto stage speakers easily. It’s very accessible too, as there aren’t very many buttons and everything makes a lot of sense. Their specs page indicates that this stage piano is around 38 pounds, which is better than a lot of really heavy stage pianos. Musicians could still pick it up and set it on a stand, and it can definitely handle more aggressive playing styles.

The P-255 sounds great, feels great, and is easy to access on a stage, and is not too heavy to carry around. The downside? There aren’t a lot of voices to choose from. It’s a solid 3.5 out of 5 stars for me.

Do note that the Yamaha P255 has since been replaced by the Yamaha P-515!

3. Kurzweil SP5-8

One thing I like about Kurzweil is that they focus on making several piano tones where Yamaha and Roland usually stick with a few options per piano. With the SP5-8, you get so many really cool options.

Take the Blues 1974 piano, for instance. It’s dark, haunting, and full-sounding. Or, you could enjoy some tasty studio or pop grand pianos. There are some experimental sounds on the SP5-8 as well, like some detuned pianos and several layer stacks that sound pretty neat.

Some of them aren’t very convincing, but the money is still well spent as there are more than a couple of amazing sounds on here. I personally like to have options. While there might not be as many options on the SP5-8 as there are on the RD-800, the fact that there are so many piano options makes this a powerful option for the stage musician that likes to focus on sound design. It’s also a great studio piano too, because you can choose between a lot of different sounds.

The keys don’t feel quite as right as the P-255’s, but I like them better than the RD-800’s. The body is a little sci-fi to me, however. It kind of looks like an old Star Trek control panel or something. But it’s got a nice weight to it, and it’s still pretty heavy at 46 pounds.

Getting around the interface isn’t hard at all though. All you really need to do is press a button to scroll through the patches, and there are a lot of easily labeled standard controls as well. I really like this keyboard as a stage piano, and it’s a solid 4 out of 5 stars for me.

2. Roland FA-08

Roland is back at the number two slot on this list because I think the FA-08 is a really practical performer. Where the RD-800 thrives in sound selection, the FA-08 is right there with it, only this time there are over 2000 sounds to choose from.

While this might be overwhelming to people who prefer the ten or so options on the P-255, in a way having too many options is almost better. You’ll probably find the perfect sound instead of having to settle for something that’s close to what you want.

So why is this Roland ranked higher than the Roland RD-800? Well, for me it comes down to the accessibility of the platform. Meaning, the layout makes more sense.

Maybe it’s because I have a background in synths and there are plenty of parameters to tweak for sound design, but I love the fact that you can take any sound and make it how you want it to sound. The piano sounds work so well because you can adjust the brightness in real time using an EQ parameter. While the Kurzweil is great because it has so many starting points, you could take any piano sound on this one and make it into whatever you want, instead of searching for a preset. Then, you can even save your own setting the way you like it.

Workflow-wise, this seems great to me.

There’s a lot of support for the live and studio applications for this series of keyboards. This forum post talks about all the potential for patch sets you can come up with to make performances easy. After all, scrolling through 2000 patches on a stage sounds like a nightmare to me. On one hand, setting up this stuff would take more work, but the results are arguably more satisfying. Plus, all of the effects like flangers and delays are all available on the face of the keyboard so you can set everything up ahead of time.

It’s not number one on my list because the keys aren’t perfect. While I love the interface and I feel like pro stage performers would as well, the feel isn’t the dream for me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still very good, but maybe a Yamaha keybed with this interface would make the perfect stage piano. But I love the weight at only around 32 pounds, which makes it much easier to carry on stage or even onto a plane.

4.2 out of 5 stars.

1) Yamaha Motif XF8

The last stage piano on my list of ranked stage pianos under $2000 is the Yamaha Motif XF8–but I have to something to admit right here and now.  This piano actually retails for more than $2,000–but I felt it was just too good to leave off of this list.  With that said, I believe that if you shop smart–with some perseverance and maybe a bit of good fortune–you might be able to find the Motif XF8 used for less than $2,000.

Now, at the beginning of this article, I wanted to rank these keyboards based on three things: playability, sound, and accessibility for the practical performance setup.

And in my opinion, the Motif XF8 does the best job.

The keys are divine. A little heavier than the P-225, they’re somehow durable and flexible at the same time. Because Yamaha specializes in modeling the grand piano, the keys are an accurate representation. However, there are so many more sounds on this thing. There are amazing electric pianos that model Rhodes, Clavs, and Wurlis in some of the best ways imaginable. It’s got just under 1200 presets for sounds, all editable if you want.

And I have to say, I’m not normally a big fan of guitar modeling on keyboards, but the XF8 does a really nice job. For those who like to track guitar ideas on the keyboard or even perform guitar parts live, it’s actually surprisingly convincing.

There are assignable filter controls, as well as a DAW control if you’d like to use the XF8 as a workstation or an audio interface. It’s got a great sequencer onboard, and you can route an external input like a guitar or a microphone in order to use its powerful effects.

So for instance, if you sing and play simultaneously and you love the Yamaha reverb, you can run it through your microphone and out into the house speakers. It’s convenient and high-quality. You can also pull up the sound editor on the computer and tweak sounds in real time if you’re used to using VST plugins with a midi controller.

The weight is really important for me, as a piano that’s too heavy would be hard to take on a tour. This keyboard is only 32 pounds, nearly fifteen pounds lighter than some of its competitors. It’s amazing that it still feels so durable, as well.

The XF8 requires a little bit of learning. There are a lot of buttons, and that’s mainly attributed to the fact that this keyboard is very much designed to be able to control a DAW for home studio recording. And honestly for the price, you’re essentially getting a workhorse with two heads, one being for gigging and the other for studio work.

It’s pretty amazing, and the fact that it’s also light, accessible, and feels great to play has led me to the conclusion that for a stage piano, it’s one of the best, and the fact that you can do even more with it is an added bonus.

The XF8 is a solid 4.5 out of 5 stars for me.

I should also mention that I’ve played the XF6 before as well, which is basically the same thing but with 61 keys instead. For a stage piano, I think I would personally prefer 88 keys, but if you don’t feel like you need the extra octaves of the full range, you can save money and get the XF6, which also only weighs about fifteen pounds. 


So in conclusion, my top five ranked stage pianos are:

5. Yamaha P-225

4. Roland RD-800

3. Kurzweil SP5-8

2. Roland FA-08

1. Yamaha Motif XF8

While most of these stage pianos might be under $2000, budget is still very important, even for pro players. No one should waste money if they can help it.

Now you might find, for instance, that you prefer one keyboard over another, and it might even cost less than the other ones. If this is the case, you should do what feels right for you. Don’t buy one of these pianos at a higher price just because of my personal rankings—do additional research and buy based on solely your feelings.

Every stage performer has his or her own preferences, and if the best keyboard for me isn’t the best keyboard for you, there’s nothing wrong with that. However, I hope you’ll agree with me that when looking for the perfect stage piano, you should consider the factors I mentioned in this review. However, if there are other nuances you prefer, don’t be afraid to look for stage pianos that are more inclined to those preferences.

With that being said, however, I personally think the Yamaha Motif XF8 is a great option for any stage performer that needs something solid, portable, and easy enough to understand to jump into a gig on short notice. While I know it’s the most expensive option of the bunch, I think it makes up for it with really great features.  If you have the disposable income, this might be a wise choice.  And if you can find it used and in good condition, well, it just might be one of the best purchases you’ll make all year.

You Might Also Want to Read:

  1. Kurzweil SP4-8 review
  2. What’s the Best Digital Stage Piano?
  3. Casio PX-560 review
  4. Ableton Live MIDI Controller Buying Guide
  5. Beginner Keyboards for Kids Buying Guide

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