What Are the Best Digital Pianos of the Year?

Roland F-140

Even though we’re only a couple months into the new year, a lot of pianos have come out from a variety of manufacturers. To name a few, Yamaha, Roland, and Casio have put out some new electric piano models that are great improvements to previous models.

Even though I like to think of myself as someone who favors old school models with classic sounds, I’m quite impressed with the new technology that these companies have integrated into their digital pianos. And so, this article will be about what I feel are the top digital pianos available on the market in 2016 (and beyond).  Below, I’m going to select five pianos that I think are especially noteworthy, and go into detail as to why I feel they should strongly be on your radar if your in the market for a brand new piano.

Let’s get started!

Piano Buying Guide

Below, please use our interactive guide that compares all of the pianos we’ll discuss today, as well as a couple extras for good measure.  

Casio PX-S1100
Alesis Prestige Artist
Casio CDP-S360
Yamaha P-515
Casio PX-870
Korg LP-180
Casio PX-770

The Best of the Best

We’re going to begin with a piano made by Roland.

5) Roland F-140

  • $1,200
  • Enhanced playing ability
  • Twin-piano mode
  • Perfect for: Intermediate pianists

The Roland F-140 is arguably one of the better pianos from the company right now. With 88 weighted keys that offer an ivory feel, it has five sensitivity levels and with a 128-note polyphony. This piano meets all the basics of a high quality piano, and offers the user a ton f flexibility with over 150 preset songs.

The F-140 is great for those that want to improve upon their skills. The twin-piano mode is a simple feature, but much appreciated for those who are teaching a lesson or want to enhance their practice. It’s great for those that want to play duets and it makes it easy for students to mimic their teachers. The pedals can even be made to fit this function to accommodate both players.

Roland features a realistic sound engine for a heightened level of sound, as well. Based on note decay, velocity response, and key-range behavior, this piano is quite impressive with its SuperNATURAL sound engine. The sound quality is pretty close to that of an acoustic grand piano.

Few downsides to this piano include its lack of portability. For those who use their piano for performances all over the city, this piano isn’t for you. This is a stationary piano—you would need a portable piano

However, the aesthetics offer a modern look that can blend into anyone’s home. The user interface, though, is a little more difficult than most. There aren’t too many buttons to perform functions and it can be a little confusing. It requires users to either memorize function combinations or always keep the manual handy.

And below, please take a moment to view some of the best selling digital pianos currently available online, and then see how well they stack up to the digital pianos we are discussing today:

1) Yamaha P-515
2) Casio PX-S3100
3) Casio PX-870
4) Roland FP-E50
5) Roland FP-30X

  • 4 OUT OF 5 STARS

4) Casio CGP 700

  • $800
  • Casio Touch App
  • Triple sensor keyboard
  • 200 built-in rhythms and ensemble chord arrangements
  • 550 built-instrumental tones
  • Auto-Harmonize feature
  • Perfect for: Beginner-to-intermediate players
The Casio-CGP-700

Like most of the pianos on this list, the Casio CGP 700 has its very own touch app that allows players to control the keyboard. With full color and swiping capabilities, the screen is built into the piano—as opposed to you having to bring in a tablet or mobile device that needs to be connected. Taking into account the quality, this is arguably one of the best digital piano under $1,000 on the market right now.

The triple sensor keyboard contributes to accurate key repetition sensing and expression. It feels quite authentic (well, within reason—it is a sub-$1000 instrument after all), as the key weight and movement that it offers is something that few digital pianos in this price range provide. The CGP-700 also has ivory and ebony synthetic key tops for an added authentic feel.

There are so many possibilities with the Casio CGP 700, as well. While I’m always partial to classic piano sounds, anyone looking to play around with the instruments will definitely have their hands full. There’s an increased realism to these sounds that cannot be matched by its competitors at this point in time. There are also drum fill-ins and accompaniment patterns for those players who are looking to add a little depth to their practice and performances.

The auto-harmonize feature is something to be appreciated, as it harmonizes the right hand melody with your left hand chords to make it sound like you’re playing multiple notes—even if you’re playing just one key. The skill of playing multiple chords with both hands is something that few people come to master, so the fact that this piano can make it sound like you’ve already done this is incredible.

The CGP 700 has an impressive organic piano sound that can be heard through the large dynamic tonal range, resonance, and accurate legato and staccato sounds. It contains 4 speakers that are 16 watts that allow it to have loud volume for its size. The sound quality is fuller than most of its competitors, such as the PX360. What I love about this digital piano is that the sound isn’t so digital and robotic—the musical ritardandos and crescendos sound very natural. 

While this isn’t the most technologically advanced piano, it makes the list because of all the features it offers for the price. This piano is perfect for beginner to intermediate players that want to upgrade from their entry-level starter piano. There are plenty of voices to play around with, along with impressive sound quality that is sure to turn heads.

  • 3.8 OUT OF 5 STARS

3) Yamaha ARIUS YDP-181

  • $1,700
  • TOUCH Button
  • Advanced Wave Memory (AWM) Dynamic Stereo Sampling
  • Perfect for: Players that want good sound and features
Yamaha 181
The Yamaha Arius YDP-181

This is one of the pricier digital pianos on the list, but you’re paying for two things: high quality sound and equally high quality features. What’s great about the Yamaha ARIUS YDP-181 is that it can be appreciated by all skill levels. Those that are beginners can purchase this piano feeling comfortable that, for their individual needs, it’s very possible you’ll never “outgrow” this instrument.  And those that feel they are more in the intermediate stage in skill level can feel comfortable knowing this piano boasts a great mix of quality key action, touch sensitivity, polyphony, and much more in a package that, while pricey, definitely delivers a huge bang for your buck.

Featuring a Graded Hammer keyboard, the sophisticated musical action is suitable for both beginner and professional performances. The trills are sharp and it can accommodate fast musical passages, which is a refreshing change from plastic keys that downgrade the piano experience.

There’s a 128-voice polyphony that can be expressed through sustained and legato passages, too. The ARIUS YDP-181 has 14 different tone voices that contribute to a wonderful playing experience in combination with the realistic touch of the keys.

The Advanced Wave Memory (AWM) dynamic stereo sampling feature allows for the piano to have the realism of an acoustic instrument.

The high-quality digital filter is used to record the audio samples. There are noticeable differences when playing from pianissimo to fortissimo and it can produce dynamic nuances of various playing strengths. The more samples a player uses, the higher the expression is.

Users can choose between hard, medium, and soft settings using the designated TOUCH button. There’s also an option to turn it off for organ playing and other voices at the users discretion. The pedal functions is similar to that of a traditional piano, with damper, sostenuto, and soft—which is great for expressive pieces. There’s also a half-pedal capability that acts as an additional foot on the pedals.

Along with the sturdy cabinet keyboard, the piano also comes with a matching bench.

As one of the most expensive digital pianos out on the market right now, some of you may be asking what makes this piano so great? Well, when it comes to digital pianos, it’s easy to get lost in the technology and expect the piano to play itself. But, with the YDP-181, this is about as close as you can get to owning an acoustic piano (for several, several, several thousands of dollars less), while also having additional features that add to the playing experience. 

Make no mistake—this isn’t a substitute or replica of an acoustic piano by any stretch.  But if you want a really great digital piano that, at times, might make you forget it was made in the modern age, then the YDP-181 is your instrument.

  • 4.2 OUT OF 5 STARS

2) The ONE Smart Piano

  • $1,500
  • Connectable app capabilities from mobile or tablet
  • LED Light above keys for easier learning
  • Weighted keys
  • Perfect for: Technologically advanced learners

This interactive piano basically eliminates any need for an instructor. With LED lights above the keys to help learners play along to music, this is definitely a feature that will help people get their fingering on track to play properly.

It has one of the more sleek designs with little to no controls, as everything is controlled through the accompanying app. The ONE Smart piano makes learning fun with videos and piano games for extra practice, too.

Weighted keys are usually a feature customers come to expect, and with the ONE, these 88 velocity sensitive keys are heavier than most which contributes to better finger strength, control, and expressiveness.

Perhaps the best advantage to playing with the ONE is that, because it’s fully connected to the app, any updates made to it will in turn be reflected on the piano. Currently, the ONE app has an expansive classical repertoire downloaded and ready for players to use. As the company continues to update the app and add more music, players can happily take advantage of this.

A key feature for learning is the real-time updating sheet music that lights up as you play. It catches all mistakes and won’t advance until a player plays the correct note.

As far as sound quality goes, the sound is projected between two main speakers, as well as two smaller ones at 50 watts. Like most digital pianos, its sound was recorded from a grand acoustic piano.

In conjunction with the app, the ONE currently features about 128 instrumental sounds that are said to increase as manufacturers add more voices.

To anyone that’s heard about the ONE Smart Piano and what it can do, you’re probably wondering why it didn’t make the top spot on the list. While I’m all in favor for advanced technology, I believe that what makes this piano truly great is the app – not necessarily the piano. The piano, along with the app, has great features that will indeed aid anyone that wants to learn to play.

For this price tag, however, I wouldn’t want beginners to be too distracted by the tech. I think that, given the cost of this piano, if you’re just starting out, your aim should be for this to be your second digital piano, not your first.

It’s probably worth noting, too, that the ONE might work best (at least as of this publishing) with Apple products.  If you have an Android device, it may be a bit more challenging to work with the app.  But I’m also confident that, over time, this is something that will be worked on, tweaked, and eventually enhanced.

  • 4 OUT OF 5 STARS

1) Yamaha P-125

  • $600
  • Accompaniment app
  • Sound boost feature
  • Perfect for: Performers, entertainers, and the budget conscious
Yamaha P115
The Yamaha P-125

Right off the bat, some of the great features inside the Yamaha P-125 include the duo-mode, sustain pedals, and transposing features. It allows for instructors to play alongside their students, so the piano adapts to create two middle C’s for easy assistance.

In terms of sound quality, the P-125 has a 7-watt amplifier with two 12-centimeter speaker cones, along with an additional two 4-centimeter speaker cones. The sound is sharp and crisp, but still maintains a natural vibe or tonal quality.

The sound boost is optimal for those that are playing with a band, as it allows the piano to break through the surrounding instruments for a noticeable presence. Whether you’re a singer who’s being backed by a piano or you’re playing along with a band, the ability to cut the speakers makes for a stark performance. No need to worry about hearing feedback in the recording track or fuzziness around the edges of the audio.

The P-125 allows players to record their pieces and play them back for learning or accompaniment too. This feature is extremely helpful for those who need to practice their dexterity in one hand or have trouble with a certain piece of a song.

Much like the ONE, the P-125 can be accompanied by a controller app for iOS users. From the app, users can control the voices, as well as transpose the keys. Players can even save their preferred settings to make little to no adjustments for the next time.

For the price, sound quality, and features, this is Yamaha’s best quality piano (with the most affordable digital piano market) available right now. It makes the top of the list because it can be appreciated by both beginners and performers, but it also has great features that don’t completely rely on the accompaniment app.

The P-125 is also portable, which makes it easy to pack to play a gig or transport to your dorm or home or office. In the P-125, you get the right amount of technology that makes playing and learning a little easier.  And yet, somehow, the technology doesn’t dominate the presence of the digital piano.

  • 4.5 OUT OF 5 STARS

Each and every piano listed has its special features that have made it one of the top pianos of the year. Integrating technology and accompaniment apps seems to be a popular feature that companies will either start doing or continue to improve upon in 2016 and beyond.

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