What Are the Best Digital Pianos Money Can Buy?
Playing a digital piano is a unique and very gratifying experience, but shopping for one can be confusing. There are tons of specs, models that get discontinued and replaced with newer ones, and a bunch of “marketing speak” that makes it hard to figure out what simply feels and sounds good for a reasonable price.
We understand that here, and in this article, we’re going to select and discuss what we believe are the best digital piano for beginners in 2015 (though we think players at the intermediate skill level will be quite satisfied, as well). We’ll provide a short list of “finalist pianos” and, through an in-depth discussion and breakdown, ultimately provide one winning instrument that we deem to be the best and feel will most meet your needs.
With that said, do understand that selecting a digital piano is a personal choice, and one that must take into consideration one’s needs, location for playing, circumstances under which you will play, and skill level. It’s important that you also do your own personal research in an effort to find the best piano for your individual needs.
Helpful Digital Piano Guide
Below, please take a look at the interactive table below, which contains some of the pianos we’re going to discuss in this article:
|Nord Stage 3|
|Nord Piano 5|
The first requirement was to pick only one product from each of the five big digital piano manufacturers: Casio, Kawai, Korg, Roland and Yamaha.
The second requirement was the category. As we are trying to suggest the best piano for beginners and intermediates, we decided not select any workstations or exotic products (meaning, something like the V-Piano was omitted). Sorry, Roland, but only portable and upright pianos are allowed there, so maybe next time.
The third and last requirement was the price. If you’re a student or someone with a relatively tight budget, you obviously do not want to spend $5000 on your first piano. Therefore, we only selected pianos that cost somewhere between $500 and $1000.
After some deliberation, here are the five digital pianos that are in the running for the best of 2015:
- Yamaha P-115
- Kawai ES-100
- Korg LP-180
- Casio Privia PX-5S
- Roland F-20
We tried to pick the most recent products from each manufacturer, in order to enjoy the latest improvements and technologies, and compared them by four different criteria: the piano sound, the hammer-action keyboard, the available features and, of course, the price.
Are you ready to discover what is the best digital piano under $1000 is? Well, let’s start examining these beautiful instruments!
Below, please take a look at some of the best selling digital pianos currently available:
|1) Casio PX-770|
|2) Yamaha YDP-145|
|3) Roland RP-701|
|4) Yamaha YDP-165|
|5) Casio PX-870|
Let’s start with one of the most important things when considering to buy a digital piano: the sound. And here, it’s a very strong fight between five great sounding models, but there are at least three products that shine more than their rivals: the Casio PX5S, Kawai ES-100 and the Yamaha P-115.
Regarding the PX5S, Casio’s Morphing AiR Sound Source offers a natural and expressive sound thanks to a great 256-note maximum polyphony, 20 different acoustic piano presets with different nuances and tonal variations, a realistic String Resonance emulation and several shades that users can control and adjust as they wish.
The Kawai ES-100’s Harmonic Imaging sound engine, along with a 192-note polyphony and a 88-key sampling, offers probably the best piano emulation under the $1000 range. And thanks to the Fallback Hammer Noise and Damper Rail Noise, you really can almost replicate a realistic piano experience when using the sustain pedal.
The Yamaha P-115 features a revamped edition of the Pure CF engine, with a brand new sound based on the renowned CFIIIS 9′ concert grand piano. It’s a crystal and powerful tone, which allows for extreme dynamic expressiveness. But, despite the same 192-note amount of polyphony, the lack of all Kawai’s the mechanic emulations makes it less natural and realistic than the ES-100.
Roland does not do justice to its SuperNATURAL-derived engine by offering a piano sound that, despite the string, damper and key-off resonances, is not as good as expected from such a glorious company.
The Korg LP-180’s Stereo Piano System is probably the less-convincing engine of the group, with a 120-note polyphony that drops to 60 notes when using stereo samples.
The Kawai ES-100 gets another easy win, thanks to its AHA IV-F 88-key graded hammer-action keyboard, which is simply the best option to choose in this price range.
Despite its lack of any ivory-feel materials, the Kawai’s keyboard has achieved a realistic experience by making heavier the lower notes and lighter the higher ones, and while the key-action may not be as heavy as the Casio PX-5S’s, when combined to the sound engine, the overall result is that the ES-100 feels and sounds a bit better (although, we admit that this is highly subjective).
Korg’s NH is a great compromise between Kawai’s and Yamaha’s keyboards, but it simply does not shine when using the internal sound engine. Yamaha chose to use on the P-115 the same GHS Graded Hammer Standard Keyboard of its entry-level P-45 digital piano, which is noisy and not as good as its competition.
Roland is again bringing up the rear with its Ivory Feel-G keyboard, which is miles away from the excellence achieved by Kawai and Casio, despite its ivory-esque keytops.
All of the pianos here have positives and negatives, so it really is going to come down to what you plan to use your new digital piano for, and more importantly, what you’re potentially willing to sacrifice in order to get a great instrument at a reasonable price.
The ES-100 has no USB port, LCD display, Duet mode nor automatic accompaniment, but offers a 1-track digital recorder and a collection of 100 grooves to play along. There’s also a unique library mode based on Alfred’s Song Books and Bürgmuller 25 Etudes, which is of course great for students.
Yamaha and Roland offer lots of apps on iOS devices to control and manage every single aspect of your piano, to play along with grooves or songs, or even develop music listening and reading skills, but in order to enjoy them you’ll need to buy an optional USB-accessory.
Casio chose to focus on a totally different approach with the PX-5S by creating a sort of stage piano, which allows one to split and layer up to four zones, equalize them on the fly with the 4-band EQ, and assign a different MIDI channel to each of four zones for using an external sound generator. The six sliders, four knobs and two wheels allow users to transform this piano in a true master keyboard controller.
The Korg LP-180 is unfortunately the weakest product of the group, mostly due to a less desirable set of features.
Among the five selected products, only three are native upright digital pianos. This means that if you want to turn the Kawai, Roland or Yamaha models into an upright piano, you can still do that by buying an additional furniture-style stand. You won’t, however, be able to do that on the Casio PX-5S due the lack of a proper furniture stand.
The Korg LP 180 shines here, as it comes built inside a one-piece stand and even features a key cover, three pedal unit, pedal cord and AC adapter. Of course, should you want to pack up your piano and take it with you to a gig or simply move it to another location, you’re probably going to be out of luck (especially because this weighs 51 lbs when you factor in the stand but exclude the pedal unit).
That said, let’s talk about money: the Yamaha P-115 is the most affordable product, shipping for $599 in its basic version. That includes the AC adaptor, the music rest and the footswitch-like pedal. If you want to transform the piano in a piece of furniture, you’ll need to spend $99 for the stand and $75 for the pedal system, for a total of approximately $775.
The Korg LP-180 is certainly the cheaper solution considering the inclusion of a furniture-style stand and the three-pedal system in its $699 price. The Casio Privia PX-5SWE is the most expensive product of the group and it ships for a $999 price, including an AC adaptor and the sustain pedal.
The Roland F-20 ships for $799 and, when you include a sustain pedal with the half-pedal function (it does not offer any triple-pedal system to be integrated on the optional furniture stand), shipping becomes about $119.
Finally, the Kawai ES-100 ships for $799, but you’ll need up to $230 to buy the additional furniture-style stand and the triple-pedal system. Despite that, it’s easy to find several offers online with a price ranging between $850 and $900.
AND THE WINNER IS…
While its price may not be considered “affordable,” the Kawai ES-100 is clearly the most interesting digital piano being sold for less than $1,000. If you care about the sound fidelity, the hammer-action keyboard and the piano experience, you’ll find in this new product from Kawai the best solution to practice or play live.
Alternatively, if you can’t afford this piano, our advice is to look for a great offer on the Yamaha P-115, which we think is definitively the most complete and convenient solution if you can’t acquire the ES-100.
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