For the fairly hefty price of $1,000, it’s reasonable to expect an 88 key weighted digital piano, a great responsive feel, touch-sensitivity, realistic piano sounds, headphone jacks for practicing and full sized, weighted hammer-action keys.
But how do you determine what’s the best on the market? How can you determine what piano is worth the hype and high price tag, and which ones aren’t?
In this article, we’re going to provide you with our favorite digital pianos priced under $1,000 for the year 2017. We chose pianos based on a variety of criteria, but one of them being the idea that, whether it’s 2017, 2018, 2019 or beyond, that the pianos that made our list were high quality ones that will have longevity and give you the best bang for your buck.
And, in order to better help you, please take a moment to use the interactive guide below to compare some of our top pianos under $1,000 currently on the market.
Stage Pianos vs Upright Pianos
Before we reveal our top five, we just wanted to briefly discuss two different kinds of pianos that you will find on this list—stage pianos and upright pianos. Let’s first begin breaking down stage pianos.
A stage-piano is a portable instrument. Generally you buy just the keyboard without a stand or base unit. They often have an on-board speaker set and are light enough to transport.
Stage pianos have improved a lot over the years and have come down in price. Of course, there’s always going to be the crème de la crème that offers every conceivable feature, but you always have to consider whether that button for the ejector seat is going to remain a dusty party piece or an essential that will transform your playing experience. I’ve often found that the top of the range model offers great new innovations that I’m unlikely to ever use.
Upright Digital Pianos
An upright digital piano is a keyboard with a fixed, base stand unit – such as the Casio AP460 or Yamaha YDP103R. They’re usually heavier and less portable than stage pianos and usually have better speaker sets. They come with a built-in foot-pedal board and have an aesthetic “furniture” feel, fitting into a living room without being an eyesore.
Our Top Picks
And now, let’s dive right into our top picks for 2017 pianos priced $1,000 and under.
The Roland FP30 comes in at around $670. What I particularly love about the FP30 is its amazing play and feel. Roland has mastered the mechanics of the keyboard, and you get a really genuine piano feel with this great instrument.
These are really robust instruments that have their own on-board speaker system that is likely to offer ample volume if you’re playing at home or in the corner of an intimate restaurant, so you probably wouldn’t need to lug a PA around with you to be heard in most situations.
The Roland SuperNATURAL sound engine is one of the best on the market and gives you great dynamic control over the instrument, with an amazing touch sensitivity. If you’re looking for a more permanent, as opposed to portable, instrument, for another $100 or so, you can get the stand (KSC70) and the foot-pedal set (KPD70). The stand is a bit flimsy, I think, but perfectly acceptable and fit for purpose. The foot-pedal set includes a soft, sostenuto and a sustain pedal. The pedals can also be used to control Bluetooth devices – for example, you can “turn the page” on a sheet music app on your tablet.
The Kawai ES110 will set you back around $730. What the ES110 has over the Roland FP30 is weight – or lack of. The FP30 weighs in at just over 31 lbs, whilst the ES110 is a mere 26.5 lbs. So, for portability alone, the ES110 wins hands down.
The ES110 includes an impressive sound set and feels great to play. I was pleasantly surprised with the pianistic bounce of the keyboard and the amazing dynamic response you get from the three sensor system underneath the hood, offering great control over the instrument for truly expressive play.
Kawai are masters of the grand piano and have brought their 90 years of manufacturing expertise to this great instrument. The keyboard has an amazingly light touch and great touch-sensitivity response, making this one of the most impressive plays in its category.
The piano sounds are great and they have an on-board speaker system delivering an impressive 14W of sound, whilst the FP30 really delivers a punch at 22W.
The Yamaha P125 has a strong feature-set offered at the great price of $599.99. The user-interface is better than the FP30 and the ES110, and this instrument is a super-portable 26 lbs.
The sounds are all perfectly satisfactory, but the speaker set has a slightly boxy sound in comparison with the clarity of the FP30 and ES110. With 14W of overall sound pumping out into the space, the P125 offers ample amplitude for any home environment. The keyboard consists of Yamaha’s Graded Hammer Action which weights the keys more heavily at the bottom end of the instrument, with a lighter action at the top, just like a real piano, so the play feel is pretty authentic.
For the more permanent instrument, you can purchase a bundle which includes a fixed base, foot-pedal board, and a piano stool for around $800. Yamaha keyboards are certainly built to take a battering and they really do last, which is why you see so many of them in music departments in schools.
- You can read our review of the Yamaha P-125 here.
If you’re looking for something a little more permanent for the home, you can get the YDP103 for around $900. If the other keyboards are “stage pianos” this would certainly be considered a digital upright. This instrument is one of Yamaha’s entry-level digital pianos with its housing unit permanently attached.
The piano sounds are realistic and well sampled. There’s always a rich, smooth roundness of tone with a Yamaha piano that I often find a little overly processed for my taste, but for the money, you’re getting a great keyboard with realistic piano sounds here.
The additional electric piano sounds are really realistic, as well as the organs, all of which can be combined. The strings sound is OK, but not realistic in any way with too slow an attack to be anything other than a stirring string pad.
This would make a great learner’s instrument. I actually prefer the keyboard feel of this instrument, with its lighter weighted keyboard than the heavier weighted action of the higher end Clavinova series. The voice set and user interface is, perhaps, not as good as a Clavinova, but you’ll get a great instrument that you’ll love playing for many years to come with the YDP103R.
Perhaps a bit of a wild-card, I discovered the DGX-660 and had great fun with it.
This is more your “home-entertainment system” type keyboard than a serious piano player’s keyboard, but it is crammed full of features that will entertain for hours, with built in rhythms, over 150 voices, including some realistic sounding Grand Pianos and 192 key polyphony. There’s a large digital display that makes it really easy to navigate around the voice and rhythm menus.
You can connect a microphone to this instrument which will not only amplify your voice through the 12W dual speaker system, but will also complement your natural tone with a plethora of digital effects including digital reverbs and chorus effects that add depth to your voice.
There’s a really lovely depth of tone to the Digital Grand, as well as good edibility to the sound, such as the ability to alter the virtual “lid position” and room reverb settings.
You can record your piano and vocal performance direct to USB and transfer it to a computer which is a really brilliant feature, making the DGX-660 an incredibly impressive instrument for the singer songwriter working from home. The rhythmic accompaniment is on the slightly cheesy side of things, but it’s a great feature for anyone who writes their own music, to get a demo down.
The keyboard is weighted with Yamaha’s Graded Hammer Action, but the keys feel a bit plasticky and not particularly pianistic, but nonetheless, this is a great, feature-rich keyboard for the money.
This instrument is a digital upright with a full-sized keyboard with weighted, hammer-action keys, in a sturdy housing unit that looks good and contains a powerful stereo speaker system. The instrument comes with two headphone sockets which would make a perfect addition to any learner set-up, as well as a built-in metronome to help practice, and a split keyboard mode that separates the keyboard right down the middle that allows both ends of the keyboard to play the same octave range.
The keyboard has a great weighted feel that feels and sounds like a real grand piano as well as a selection of reverb settings that really take you into the concert hall. There’s a great accompaniment mode that allows you to play the “concerto” piano parts to well-known classics along with a fairly convincing-sounding full orchestra. This is a bit of a gimmick that will provide a couple of hours’ entertainment, but unlikely to be a real buying point, as far as I’m concerned.
The touch-sensitivity is superb with this instrument – there are three sensors that respond quickly to your dynamic change, offering real control over the instrument. Along with a convincing piano sound sampled using Casio’s AiR processor (Acoustic and intelligent Resonator), this instrument offers a realistic grand piano playing experience for the money.
The user-interfaces of the stage pianos explored in this article are not great. They feel clunky at best and may take some getting use to – they’re fine for general use, but if you want to switch between instrumental sounds or voices quickly, it takes some learning. The digital uprights generally offer a better user interface experience, with clearer button options, allowing for faster access to the instrument’s additional features.
None of the user interfaces are particularly extensive, especially as they don’t have digital displays of any type (with the exception of the DGX660).
Whether or not you’re ever going to need to swap sounds mid-gig or mid-song is really down to your own gigging requirements. In all my time as a gigging musician I don’t think I’ve ever used anything other than the default piano sound.
What the Roland and Yamaha stage pianos have, however, is an iPad / Android app that gives you much better access to their feature set, really expanding upon the limitations of their clunky user-interfaces.
Taking all into account, I really enjoyed the Yamaha YDP130R. It feels great to play, has an app that expands its user-interface, has a great selection of sounds and a really satisfying keyboard with a great key-off action that bounces, rather than springs back into position, just like a real piano.
I’d even go as far to say that this entry-level instrument feels much better than to play than some of the Clavinova range, which would at least double your required budget. The YDP130R doesn’t come with on-board Bluetooth, but you can purchase the optional UD-BT01 Bluetooth interface that connects to the YDP103R’s USB connector and allows you to connect wirelessly to a wide array of optional features such as app synths and sheet music apps.
All-in-all, this is a great keyboard for the money and certainly one of the most affordable digital pianos on the market.
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