In days gone by, piano playing was an expensive and sometimes impractical hobby. Pianos have never been a particularly cheap instrument, and require a great deal of space in order to keep one – not to mention considerate enough never neighbors.
But today, digital pianos can fit easily inside your home and play multiple sounds. They can connect to your myriad technology devices. And…they can be pretty cheap.
And that why, in this article, I’m going to provide you with six of the best and most affordable digital panos on the market. And to better help you, please take a moment to view the interactive guide below, which allows you to directly compare the most popular digital pianos against one another.
|Casio PX-S1000||88||18 Sounds, Bluetooth Capability|
|Yamaha P-125||88||GHS Weighted Action|
|Casio CDP-S350||88||700 built-in tones|
|Roland FP-30X||88||12 piano, 20 electric piano, 24 other tones|
|Casio PX-870||88||Redesigned Cabinet, Speaker System|
Let’s begin with the Yamaha P-45.
Yamaha are one of the leading and most well know manufacturers of digital piano, and the P45 is perhaps their flagship budget digital piano.
The P45 features a set of 88 fully weighted keys, with the weight graded from top to bottom. This means that the keys in the lower octaves are noticeably heavier than the keys in the higher octaves, leading to a more realistic piano playing experience.
The P45 keys are manufactured using Yamaha’s Graded Hammer Action specification, which features realistic hammer action whilst playing, with real hammers imbedded within each key, mimicking the nuance and resistance of playing an acoustic piano.
The GHS system is great for those at the beginner-intermediate level; as they offer decent weighting (which in this model can be adjusted between light, medium and heavy), graded weighting, and a decent hammer-action feel. More advanced players might find the keys lacking when compared against other key-beds (such as the Casio Tri-Sensor keys), however the difference is not too significant.
The piano sound – in true Yamaha fashion – is fantastic, with the acoustic piano well sampled, offering rich vibrant sound. Unfortunately, the speakers built into the body of the instrument do not playback this particularly well, with the sound lacking a little in depth: however, this comes as a result of the instruments slimline and light build (weighing only 25 lbs). It might be worth investing in an external pair of speakers if you are after higher fidelity playback, or perhaps you might consider playing through headphones.
There are no other significant features to mention, with only a small handful of other instrument voices (none of which come close to the quality of the piano sound), and only the bare necessities built into the interface (metronome, playback etc).
The P45 is a solid option if you are looking for a good traditional piano playing experience on a budget. The model offers good replication of acoustic poison playing within a relatively slimline frame: if simple is what you’re after then the P45 could be the keyboard for you.
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Below, please take a moment to view some of the best selling digital pianos currently on sale at Amazon, and see how well they stack up to the pianos that we discuss throughout this article:
|1) Casio PX-S3000|
|2) Casio PX-780|
|3) Casio PX-870|
Let’s now move onto a very different kind of piano playing experience: the Roland FP30.
The Roland FP-30 is another great option if you are looking for a budget acoustic-pianos playing experience, however the Roland trumps the P45 in terms of the additional features it offers.
The FP-30 again offers 88 fully weighted and graded keys – which better if not equal that of the P-45. The keys themselves are actually remarkably quiet whilst you play them – which is a massive plus particularly if you tend to play at lower volumes or through headphones: gone is the nosying clicking and banging of the keys as you play!
Roland have turned to their SuperNatural sound engine in the FP-30, and this playback well the nuance and complexity of acoustic piano playing. The sound of each key is not quite uniform, meaning each individual note really does feel independent of one another: a very subtle aspect that reality brings character and expression to your playing. This isn’t something that is immediately evident, particularly to those less experience playing digital pianos – however the SuperNatural engine capture the sparkle of piano playing rather well.
The body of the FP-30 is slimline, and the all-black finish and curved angles of the body make the instrument look smart and un-imposing. Despite its shallow frame, the FP-30 boasts downward facing speakers that manage to produce deep and rich low and mid tones even at lower volumes. Often times there is a trade off amongst budget digital pianos between design and the quality of the speakers – however in this instance the Roland FP-30 offers fantastic value. It must be said the physical interface is a little confusing and clunky though.
The FP-30 has USB connectivity, and can be hooked up to smart devices via Bluetooth: resulting in a keyboard that is agile enough to be used in coordination with your favorite music making apps.
The FP-30 offers not only exceptional acoustic piano playing emulation, but also boasts a very decent in-built speakers, and is very user friendly – I would consider this Roland 88 key digital piano if you are looking for a jack-0f-all-trades in the budget digital piano market.
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M-Audio Hammer 8
While the first two models not this list are aimed at those looking for good acoustic piano playing in the home, at a budget – the M-Audio Hammer 88 is a solid piece of kit that is aimed at home producers, looking for good piano response.
The 88-keys on this are all weighted, with the weighting coming in a touch heavier than the aforementioned Roland and Yamaha models. The keys themselves are not quite as nuanced as the Yamaha and Roland, not featuring the kind of hammer-action that sets those two out – however in terms of playability the Hammer 88 is still very much satisfactory. The heavier keys offer great response and resistance, and make for a pleasant piano playing experience.
The Hammer 88 is connected to devices via USB – which while not quite as handy as Bluetooth, at least feature very little delay between the two devices. The instrument comes with a great bundle of software, including a virtual piano, several lite versions of high-end music editing software (e.g. Pro Tools) as well as a digital interface to manage the keyboards various physical ports.
The keyboard is not the lightest on the market, particularly considering it does not feature its own audio processing capabilities – however the body is well made, and looks and fees like it should be more expensive as a result. This is a solid piece of kit, unlike some of M-Audios cheaper keyboards, which can tend to feel a little plasticky.
The M-Audio is a great option for those looking to combine a decent acoustic piano playing experience with easy usability producing and recording music at a budget.
There are also a whole host of great options to consider if you are looking for more of a keyboard experience at a budget.
The Roland Go: Keys 61K is a great start in terms of offering an inexpensive entry level keyboard.
The 61K is colorful, small and portable – and is a really stylish instrument that would look good on the road and in the home. There are 500 different voices built into the keyboard – all of which are really well sampled and are of a high quality. Often times an entry-level keyboard will pack itself out with a host of different voices and instruments, but none of them sounding quite so good: the Roland manages to both offer a huge range of voices, whilst still maintaining a good level of quality – which is impressive at this price-point.
The Keyboard can be connected to your smart-device via Bluetooth, through which you can download songs to play along with. You can also write your own songs using both the keyboard and app – being able to record, save and playback loops on the fly.
The Roland Go 61K is a fantastic little keyboard that should unleash your inner creative streak – and offers many of the most desirable aspect of keyboard playing event at a budget.
[easyazon_link identifier=”B072FKLXRB” locale=”US” tag=”digpiantex-20″]Alexis Recital Pro[/easyazon_link]
The Alexis Recital Pro is a great option if you are looking for a lightweight and easy keyboard to take with you on the road.
The keys are semi weighted, which offers a better keyboard playing experience than most, especially considering many other models don’t feature weighted keys at all. The piano sampling built in is decent, if nothing groundbreaking. The sound wont rival the depth and complexity of the likes of Yamaha and Roland, however is certainly still decent.
This keyboard comes into its own when we consider how portable it is. Built into an unobtrusive and slimline frame, the instrument only weighs 16lbs, which is remarkably light; meaning it can easily be carried by one person.
The Alexis Recital Pro is not an instrument packed full of features – however it manages to offer a highly portable decent hybrid piano/keyboard playing experience with semi-weighted keys at a budget: making this a great option if you are looking to play out and about with little in the way of hassle.
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Nectar Panorama T-4
As technology has advanced, not only has digital piano playing improved, but the accessibility through which line can make your own music at home has significantly increased.
There are more people than ever making music at home, often using the vast array of virtual interfaces and instruments available for use on any computer. As a result, the market for great compatible keyboard interfaces has boomed, and the Nektar Panorama T-4 is a great budget model.
The keys themselves are not weighted, however they are touch sensitive, offering good velocity control. These keys are built to provide a springier synth style action rather than a traditional weighted piano action – if you are in the market for a midi controller and/or interface then this is usually preferable.
The keyboard features pressure pads that are both touch sensitive and feature after touch – meaning the pads respond to the manner in which your fingers leave the button once pressed. Nine faders and eight knobs are also included – this keyboard allows for a great deal of control over various automations and sound elements.
The key selling point of this keyboard, however, its its integration with your digital technology. The Panorama T-4 is comparable with most major virtual instruments and digital audio workstations – meaning you should be able to easily use this keyboard as a controller for almost al of the different pieces of software you are looking to use. The information coming from your compute is displayed on the LCD screen built into the body of the instrument.
The combination of a great physical interface and deep integration with digital software results in an instrument that can be hugely powerful and responsive, if paired with the right kinds of software. This is a great midi interface at the budget range.
The MPK249 is another budget level midi interface, and offers fantastic value for money.
This model features 49 semi-weighted keys, allowing for a decent trade-off between springy synth action, and weighted keys, offering reasonable amount of resistance to coax some nuance out of your playing.
There are 16 x pads, with the option to switch between 4 x alternate banks – resulting in the ability to switch between 64 different sounds: which is great if you are looking to use the pads to trigger different loops during live-performance. All of these pads light up – adding to an aesthetic that is colorful and stylish.
An appreciator is built into the keyboard, and you can easily switch between different octaves with specific buttons at your disposal.
The MPK249 also integrates well with all of your digital software, and comes bundled with lite versions of some of the best digital audio workstations and instruments.
The MPK249 is slightly more expensive than the Panorama T4, but is better suited for live performance considering its amount of interchangeable trigger pads, and its colorful aesthetic. This Akai Digital Piano is a great budget keyboard for those of you looking for a midi-interface for use both in the studio and when playing gigs.
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