There are many advantages to digital pianos, as they provide a plethora of technological features – from MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) to the piano’s actual recording capabilities. They are also smaller than acoustic pianos, with some, such as the , weighing as little as 36 pounds.
Sometimes, digital pianos are even cheaper than their acoustic cousins, as well.
Of course, that’s not always the case. Prices on digital pianos range from over $10,000 to just under $100. This can be troubling when shopping for a piano that’s right for you, especially considering the common refrain of, “You get what you pay for.”
The good news is, there are a lot of quality digital pianos for far less than $10,000. In fact, there are wonderful, quality pianos for under the price point of five hundred dollars.
So what is the best digital piano under $500? Well, let’s take a look.
Piano Buying Guide
Below, please check out our interactive table to best get an idea how the more affordable digital pianos on the market compare to one another:
|Casio PX-S1100||192-note polyphony; 18 built-in tones|
|Alesis Prestige Artist||30 voices, 256 polyphony|
|Casio CDP-S350||700 built-in tones|
|Yamaha P-515||40 Voices, 18 Drum/FX Kits, 480 XG Voices|
|Casio PX-870||Redesigned Cabinet, Speaker System|
|Korg LP-180||Natural Weighted Hammer Action|
|Casio PX-770||128 Note Polyphony|
|Yamaha P-45||64 Note Polyphony|
Choosing the Best Digital Piano Under $500
There are many features to consider when looking for a piano, and some of those features do influence the price. For instance, you can spend $130 on the Casio CTK-2300, or $499 on the Williams Rhapsody.
But what’s the difference? Well, in this article, I’m going to give you the exact guidelines you need in order to figure out how to select the best, most affordable digital piano possible. We’ll also compare and contrast these digital piano guidelines to those of acoustic pianos, so you can see some of the key differences between these two types of instruments.
And before we get started, please take a quick look at some of the best selling digital pianos online:
|1) Casio PX-S3000|
|2) Casio PX-870|
|3) Roland RP-102|
|4) Alesis Prestige Artist|
|5) Korg D1|
The Feel of the Instrument
Any pianist – from a beginner to a concert performer – can tell you that digital piano keys feel different that acoustic keys. The difference is in the action of the keys.
In an acoustic piano, the key controls a hammer, which hits the strings and produces the sound.
However, in a digital piano, pressing the key plays a pre-recorded pitch. Since the keys are not controlling hammers, they are normally much lighter (easier to press). For most pianists, this is a hindrance to their playing, as they are used to some resistance from the keys.
Some digital pianos, such as the Casio Privia PX-130, or the Williams Rhapsody have weighted keys. Done right, weighted keys give a feel that is closer to an acoustic piano.
Depending on your level with piano, weight may or may not be an issue. If you’re just looking for an instrument to mess around on, or you’re more worried about the technological side than about how it feels, you may not need to worry about it. However, if you want a digital piano that feels as much like an acoustic as possible, you need to look for weighted keys. Some instruments even have a feature that allows the pianist to adjust the weight of the keys.
This is the area that has no comparison to an acoustic, and it’s also what makes digital pianos so much fun. There is an array of features that can come with a digital piano. Here are just a few:
- Multiple voices – this is where the piano can sound like other instruments, from an organ to a string orchestra. A piano can have just a few voices, or several hundred.
- Accompaniment features –pianos can generate accompaniments while you’re playing. It can be anything from drums to chords, and be in any style of music imaginable. However, not all pianos have this feature, or very many options on this feature.
- Key Split – a lot of digital pianos with different voices have the ability to let the player split the piano in two, having one voice on top and another on the bottom.
- Layering – some digital pianos allow two voices at once, so you could have piano and violin sounds at the same time, for example.
Now, let’s move onto responsiveness, shall we?
Responsiveness is related to weight. On an acoustic piano with hammers, you press the keys harder for a louder sound, and more lightly for a quieter sound. Depending on how you press the keys, you can create different tones and moods, because the instrument responds to different kinds of touch.
Digital pianos are not innately like that. As I said before, the keys are just giving off a recorded sound. The only way a digital piano will have the responsiveness of an acoustic is if it was built that way. Instruments like the Alesis Cadenza are built to be responsive to the player.
If you are a novice pianist looking for a decent instrument, looking for a piano that advertises responsiveness (make sure you look at buyer comments as well) may be enough to get you a quality instrument. However, if you are a more experienced player, or have the goal to be one, then finding a place to try out pianos may be your best option.
“Polyphony” literally means “many sounds.”
In the digital piano world, it refers to how many notes the piano can sound at the same time. On an acoustic piano, the number of pitches sounded is only limited by the number of keys. On a digital piano though, the number of notes able to be sounded at one time (polyphony) is limited by the technology built into the piano.
If you are looking to have layered sounds – like using the piano for drumming effects as well as piano – then you should look for the number of notes of polyphony. 48 polyphony is fairly common for best pianos under $500. It can be a harder feature to find listed, though, and may require that you contact a particular seller.
A lot of pianists only use the sustain pedal (the one on the far right of the acoustic piano), which is often included with the digital piano.
If the digital piano either does not include a pedal or does not include a very good one, you can buy one separately as well.
You want to make sure you have a pedal that has progressive dampening action, meaning it doesn’t just dampen or not dampen, but rather dampens at varying levels depending on how you press the pedal.
If you anticipate needing all three pedals, like on an acoustic piano, you can buy those as well, although they tend to cost a bit more.
If you use the pedal a lot, or want a nicer one (most digital pianos in the price range of five hundred bucks do not come with very good pedals), make sure you factor in the cost of buying one separately.
While it is not always possible, it is best if you can try a digital piano before you buy it. If you do have the opportunity to try the piano, take a pair of headphones with you. It is easier to hear the sound quality if you plug in headphones than if you just hear the piano through its speakers.
It is, of course, important to try it through the speakers as well, as that is what everyone else will be hearing when you play.
Another issue with the sound quality is where the sound comes from. On an acoustic piano, the bass notes come from the left side of the piano, and the high treble notes come from the right. On a digital piano, the sound just comes from the speakers, although some pianos use different speakers for different ranges of notes, making it sound more like an acoustic. Make sure the direction the sound comes from can either be manually adjusted, or it is something you are pleased with. This is another instance where trying the piano in person will be helpful, but if that’s just not possible, be sure to do your research online, read customers reviews, and ideally buy from a website than has a great return policy and potentially even offers a warranty.
Weight and Portability
When looking for a digital piano, you have to consider what you’re going to do with it.
Is it just going to be for practicing, or do you want to take it to concerts and events?
Some pianos, like the Alesis Cadenza I mentioned before, are meant to be set up and left intact. However, many other digital pianos can easily be packed up and taken with you to school, work, events, vacations and more.
One factor that affects portability is of course weight. A lot of the nice pianos people covet weigh around fifty pounds, but some, like the Yamaha Piaggero NP11 (61 keys) weigh less than ten pounds. It’s just a matter of what you prefer, and what you plan to do with the instrument.
Top Five Digital Pianos Under $500
Obviously, what each pianist considers the best is going to depend on his or her preferences concerning the criteria listed above. That said, here are five of my favorites.
- The Williams Rhapsody – Not only does it look nice, it has weighted keys, 2-track recording, layering, and 12 voices.
- Alesis Cadenza – This one is slightly cheaper than the Rhapsody, and has weighted keys as well. It also has the ability to adjust the weight.
- Yamaha P45 – This one is simpler than the previous two, but still has weighted keys and multiple voices.
- Williams Allegro – A much simpler version that the Rhapsody, but still a decent piano for the price. We’ve also recently reviewed the Williams Allegro 2, as well.
- Yamaha Piaggero NP11 – This is the cheapest of the five, and actually can run on battery. It will be a great portable piano. You can also read our new review of the Yamaha NP-12!
- HONORABLE MENTION: If you’re willing to spend a little bit more than $500, you can get the Yamaha P-115 for about $600, which is a great piano for beginner and even intermediates, and is a very popular and well selling portable piano. You can read our review of the Yamaha P-115 here!
And one more quick suggestion that we didn’t get to here–the Casio PX-160, which we have reviewed as well. This piano is the successor to the Casio PX-150, and would be a pretty nice option for someone not looking to spend too much money.
Digital pianos have many benefits, including portability, technological gadgets, and, of course, the fact that they never have to be tuned. With a little searching, you can find one that fits well with your playing style and musical needs.
And, most importantly, your budget.
If you enjoyed this article, or if maybe you have a little bit of a bigger budget, please do check out my very in-depth article for those looking for pianos under $1,000:
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