These days, you can get a great digital piano for under $1,000. But with so many options, how do you know what is the best of the best? Well, in this article, where we examine digital pianos that range in price from $400 to $999, we aim to answer that exact question. By the end of this article, not only will you know what to focus on most in terms of quality performance or important features, but we’re going to recommend to you some of our favorite digital pianos on the market that have weighted keys, but ones that are fairly cheap as well.
Here are the digital pianos we will be exploring in depth today:
- Yamaha P-45
- Roland FP30
- Yamaha P1-25
- Kawai ES110
- Yamaha DGX-660
- Yamaha P71
And, to better help you with your buying decision, we’ve created an interactive table below where you can directly compare the digital pianos mentioned above against each other based on price range, notable features and more.
|Casio PX-160||88||$||Dual Headphone Outputs on Front|
|Alesis Recital||88||$||Semi-Weighted Keys|
|Casio PX-S1000||88||$$||18 Sounds, Bluetooth Capability|
|Yamaha P-515||88||$$$||Natural Wood X Key Action|
|Donner DEP-20||88||$$||Fully-Weighted Keys|
|Casio PX-870||88||$$$||Redesigned Cabinet, Speaker System|
|Yamaha P-45||88||$||64 Note Polyphony|
|Yamaha P-125||88||$$||GHS Weighted Action|
|Yamaha YDP-164||88||$$$||GH3 action, CFX Grand Piano Voice|
For around $400, you can get yourself one of the more popular portable digital pianos—the Yamaha P45. This is a pretty basic piano with a simple user-interface and an 88-note, fully weighted keyboard and 10 instrumental voices.
The keyboard features Yamaha’s Graded Hammer System technology which emulates the feel of a grand piano by having a heavier-weighted key at the bottom end of the keyboard, progressively becoming lighter as you travel up the keyboard toward the top notes. This makes the P45 a great instrument for a learner. One of the most important elements of learning an instrument is developing the muscle memory, so it’s pretty essential that you learn on an instrument that feels like the real thing – otherwise your technique is going to be terrible when you play an acoustic piano.
The sampling technology is AWM (Advanced Wave Memory) which is Yamaha’s entry-level system. They’ve moved onto their Pure CF driver for the higher end models, such as the P125 and DGX-660 discussed in this article. However, the sound produced by the P45 is totally satisfactory, sounds pretty realistic and for the price, offers a brilliant learner’s instrument.
The P45 has a polyphony of 64, as opposed to it’s big brother, the P125, which has a polyphony of 192. This might be a limitation that you’d want to consider, but if you bear in mind that my CLP50 has a polyphony of just 16 and I’ve never really noticed a major problem with note drop out, I think that, for the money, this is quite a liveable first-world issue.
The P45 is a basic model, but it has decent speakers, a pretty realistic play-feel, an easily acceptable piano sound and lots of features for learners, such as split keyboard mode, allowing a piano teacher to sit next to you and both halves of the keyboard to play the same octave range.
I will point out that the “P” in P45 means “portable,” meaning it’s a piano you can take with you on the road if you’re a musician or to and from school if you’re a student. The differentiating between a portable digital piano and an upright one, for example, is that a digital upright comes permanently housed in a “furniture” type unit and usually has a better speaker system, whereas a stage or portable piano is basically just the keyboard. You can buy decent stands for a good price and there is a dedicated stand (L85) for this model, so this could easily take pride of place in a bedroom or a living room.
Below, please take a moment to view some of the best-selling digital pianos on the market today, and then see how well they stack up to the pianos we will discuss in-depth today:
|1) Yamaha P71|
|2) Casio Privia PX-160|
|3) Yamaha DGX-660|
|4) Roland FP-30|
|5) Yamaha P-125|
The FP30 is a distinct step up from the Yamaha P45, but has a higher price tag at around $700. However, for the extra $300 you get a lot of keyboard. If the P45 is a great piano for a learner, then the FP30 is a great stage piano for the gigging musician and learner alike. With a higher polyphony of 128, this keyboard sounds altogether more realistic, driven by Roland’s fantastic SuperNATURAL sound engine.
The keyboard feel is amazing – Roland really have perfected the weighting of a digital piano keyboard. This superlative weighting, however, does come at a cost – the P45 is 25 lbs in weight, whilst the FP30 is 31 lbs which is quite the difference for the gigging musician. A stage piano needs to be portable, so weight is always a factor to consider.
The FP30 has a fantastic 5 dynamic sensors underneath the keys which respond perfectly to your expressive play, so this is an instrument that you can easily fall in love with very quickly indeed. With 6 great piano voices and 7 super funky electric pianos this is a keyboard that is perfect for the live soul band.
With a combination of 22 other voices, including strings and various oddities such as “Thum Voice” (which can only be described as bizarre and useless), this is a digital stage piano that will enthral as much as it will provide years of playing bliss.
The user-interface certainly isn’t the best, but with some practice, you get used to it fairly quickly. I would hardly say it’s a perfect instrument to swap instrumental sounds quickly, but it’s not as bad as some others. With on-board Bluetooth, however, you’ll find plenty of iOS and Android apps to keep your sound-set ever growing.
The Yamaha P-125 is the next step up from the P45 and features the more sophisticated CF sampling technology.
The P125 has a great sound-set and will set you back around $600, so it sits in-between the P45 and the FP30 in terms of price. The P125 has an infinitely better user-interface that the FP30, 192 note polyphony and 14 on-board instrumental voices.
The piano sound is really well rounded and crisp. Yamaha sampling feels a little too polished and perfect for me. It feels as though it lacks something of the tonal color of the Roland SuperNATURAL engine which feels like the most realistic representation of the acoustic instrument to me. However, I’d really recommend that you try both keyboards out for yourself and gauge which of the sound-sets you prefer.
The keyboard of P125 is a little heavy in comparison with the famously lighter touch of Kawai and Roland keyboards. Again, this is a personal preference – the P125 has a really responsive keyboard that facilitates an impressively expressive palette of play but, for me, the Roland always wins hands-down. The on-board speakers of the P125 are powerful and deliver a punchy sound that will be perfectly adequate for playing either at home or in the corner of a small restaurant.
For the price, you get a fantastic keyboard for the learner and a great cross-over for the gigging musician.
You can read our review of the Yamaha P-125 right here.
This keyboard was a real surprise to me. This is quite an unassuming little number – it looks a little plasticky and light-weight at first glance. But then you play it and you fall in love.
For around $730, you can take one home. And taking it home will be easy, because this is a light-as-a-feather at approximately 26.6 lbs. I keep mentioning weight because, for a stage piano, portability is a must. I’ve got the Roland FP3 (an earlier, now discontinued member of the FP family) and it’s a colossal 40 lbs!
The ES110 is a total surprise to play. I instantly fell in love with its keyboard – so light and responsive, with a great speaker-set delivering super-high quality audio, this really is one of the best cheap digital pianos on the market.
Kawai has nearly 100 years of experience in crafting acoustic grand pianos, so it’s of no surprise that they’ve translated this skill into their great digital pianos. I love their digital uprights – the CN range provide amazing results from (again) fairly modest outer shells – but they are closer to the $2000 range, so we’re not exploring those for the purposes of this article.
The keyboard feels great to play with a wonderfully bouncy key-off action, replicating the feel of a real grand piano. However, the user-interface is clunky as hell. Changing voices is a case of repeated presses of various buttons, so if you’re taking this out live, then it might not be the best interface to whizz from one instrumental sound to another with.
However, I’ve been a gigging musician for many years, and there have been very rare occasions where I’ve needed to change sounds, so whether this is an issue for you is really down to your specific requirements.
This instrument comes as a standard stage piano, but can be customized with a stand and a foot-pedal board, so it can certainly become a more permanent part of the furniture for the home player / learner.
The DGX660 doesn’t look like a professional instrument. It has the presentation layout of quite a low-end keyboard, usually intended for the non-piano player. But don’t write it off straight away – it has some great features.
It has a great instrumental voice-set, such as Pure CF grand piano samples, with 192 note polyphony, 151 other instrumental voices and a wide selection of rhythms and accompaniment modes. You can plug a microphone into the instrument which has a pre-amp and a digital effects suite that enhance your vocal performance.
There are a selection of accompaniment modes that are slightly cheesy, but for the home singer-songwriter, or perhaps the soloist wanting to travel light on the road, these will produce good demo versions of your songs.
The sounds are editable via the really expansive LCD user-display, so for the price, this instrument offers the best user interface of them all. There are various recording modes, allowing recordings of up to 6 layered instrumental tracks and you can bounce your recordings (at CD quality) to USB for transferral to a computer or CD.
The keyboard is good – an 88-note, fully weighted, Graded Hammer Standard. This keyboard has a lighter touch than either the P45, the P125 and the Clavinova range, so it’s a good choice unless you’re a particularly heavy-handed player.
The DGX660 is packed with brilliant features and I’d really urge you to go and try one out. It might not be what you’re looking for, exactly, if you’re just a piano player or a learner, but if you’re a singer wanting to practice at home, this is a fantastic bit of kit.
You can read our review of the Yamaha DGX-660 here.
What’s the Top Choice?
The choice is hard, because all of the keyboards explored offer great features for an affordable digital piano.
My recommendation for the best cheap piano with weighted keys is the Yamaha DGX-660, with a close second in the Kawai ES110.
I’ve chosen the DGX-660 because of its great feature-set. There are very few keyboards designed expressly for the singer-songwriter, and this instrument is just immense fun to play. OK, it doesn’t have the professional look of the other keyboards, but it has a great user-interface that you usually only find on much higher-end instruments, and the ability to plug in a microphone, for me, makes this the best cheap piano with weighted keys.
Recording at CD quality is a great feature and the ability to transfer the audio file via USB is a stroke of genius. Perhaps the keyboard doesn’t have the serious nature of the others, but it has enough of the gifts to provide a lifetime of fun that’s perfect for the learner or for the accomplished home musician.
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