If you’re just starting out on your piano journey, the features of the high-end keyboard aren’t going to be a great deal of use to you. What you get for a digital upright piano priced under $1,000 is a good instrument that feels fairly close to its genuine acoustic cousin, has realistic piano sounds, a built-in foot pedal offering (at least) a soft and a sustain pedal, and responsive touch sensitivity.
There are some excellent bundle deals around, so you should certainly shop savvily for the best deal. Many music stores (including online stores) will offer you a package that will usually include a piano stool as a minimum. Some will also include some decent headphones (headphones for digital pianos are an absolute essential for the learner in a busy household), instructional DVDs and a dust cover.
And so, in this article, we’re going to give our favorite digital upright pianos that we think are worth your consideration. And, to better help you, I’ve included a table below which will allow you to easily compare many of the excellent digital pianos that are currently on the market.
This Casio 88 key digital piano is definitely at the top end of your budget, but you should still get a decent bundle package which will include a stool, headphones, learner’s books and DVDs.
Casio make some great digital pianos. They got left behind in the 80s a bit with those awful mini-keyboards, digital watches and cash registers. You rarely saw anyone saying anything decent about a Casio keyboard back in the day. However, a bit like Skoda, they’ve managed to shake the tacky image and come back kicking and screaming with some of the best digital pianos on the market.
The keyboard has a graded hammer action which emulates the feel of a real grand piano. A grand piano has longer key-arms, stretching from the hammer to the string, at the bottom end (the left hand side of the keyboard) with shorter arms at the top. This gives the top keys a lighter keystroke and a heavier feel at the bottom. Lots of digital pianos have graded hammer action these days, so it’s certainly something to look out for and, if you have a budget of $1000, something you can certainly expect to demand.
The keys are made from a simulated ebony and ivory and have three dynamic sensors underneath that provides a really controllable dynamic play that feels pretty close to the acoustic instrument. The piano sounds are really lovely and you find yourself lost in the music as soon as you sit at the instrument.
One of the first things you notice about the PX-870 is the clear, spacious sound it delivers, driven by Casio’s AiR system. Each note is a sampled from a 9ft concert grand, so you can expect to be transported to the concert hall. There are four dynamic levels of sampling which means that a lightly played note won’t just be a quieter version of the same sample.
A note played softly triggers a sample recorded from a softly played piano, which has a different tonal colour to a more heavily played note which will be richer and fuller in tonal depth. So what this multi-layered sampling technology gives you is a real sense that you can be as much in control of the digital keyboard as you can with the acoustic instrument. Technical stuff aside – this just means that you get a really convincing piano sound, partnered with a responsive keyboard – and that’s exactly what you want.
There are 19 on-board voices and a selection of digital effects, including reverbs that you can customize to create a sound environment that really takes you out of the room and into a much larger space (if you close your eyes!). This is a keyboard that’s going to offer many hours of playing pleasure.
With a sturdy and attractive stand in a selection of colors, the PX870 will make a lovely piece of furniture that you can show off to your friends.
This has quite a heavy feel to the keyboard – so isn’t necessarily going to suit every learner, but for a sturdy piece of kit that’s going to provide years of enjoyment, I’d definitely recommend this as a contender for best digital upright.
- You can read our new review of the Casio PX-870 right here, which is the successor to the popular Casio PX-860!
Below, please take a moment to view some of the best selling digital upright pianos currently available for sale online (and see how well they compare to the pianos we’ll be discussing throughout this article):
|1) Casio PX-770|
|2) Yamaha YDP-145|
|3) Roland RP-701|
|4) Yamaha YDP-165|
|5) Casio PX-870|
The Yamaha Arius series of keyboards offer great value for money. They have a warm, responsive piano sound and a light keyboard feel, providing an excellent canvas for any learner – all for a fraction of the price of the higher-end Clavinova series digital pianos.
The YDP-144 is a full-sized, 88 key, fully weighted, graded hammer system keyboard. There’s a real pianistic lightness to the keys that makes playing this instrument a real joy. Using the Yamaha Pure CF Sound Engine, this is a keyboard that affords a great dynamic tonal response that some of the low-end Clavinova series instruments seems to lack.
I didn’t approach the YDP-143 with any real expectation because I’m not really a fan of Clavinova CLP635, which is, at least, twice as expensive as the YDP-143. I don’t like the CLP635’s keyboard at all – it feels clunky and “unpianistic” to my experienced hands—and the piano sound feels too processed. So I was surprised at how light and responsive the YDP143 felt to play and what a pleasant, pure piano sound you get.
The YDP144 features 10 on-board sounds. There’s a collection of lovely grand piano sounds, some really excellent electric piano emulations, church and Hammond-style organs and some passable string sounds – there’s a good array of instrumental versatility on offer, here.
The interface for changing instrumental sounds is a touch on the clunky side. You press the Piano / Voice key, then choose your sound by pressing one of the notes between C2 and A2 (the second octave from the bottom). There’s no digital display to confirm which of the sounds you’ve chosen, so you just have to use your ears, which is no bad thing. This is no deal-breaker, however, as it’s quite a common interface style for this price range. You’ll learn to find your way around the sound selection quickly enough.
Grand Piano 1 (the default sound as you switch on) has a clear, mid-range warmth that feels instantly pianistic. Grand Piano 2 (accessed via the C#2 button) has a sharper, more defined clarity at the top end, providing a crispness at the bass end of the instrument that doesn’t muddy up the frequency range. Grand Piano 3 has an immediate bite, suiting the jazzier end of the repertoire, offering tonal clarity, accompanied with a great dynamic response.
The electric piano sounds are crunchy and warm, providing a realistic Fender Rhodes-type playing experience – you get the proper crunch of distortion when play you the keys hard, just like the real instrument.
There’s an accompanying iOS app that provides a better interface for swapping between instrumental sounds, as well as providing editable capability for the reverb and “room” settings.
It’s certainly at the top end of the budget, but if you shop around, you’ll certainly find that you’ll be able to pick the YDP-144 up for $1000 or slightly lower.
You can read our full comparison review between the Yamaha YDP-144 vs Yamaha YDP-184 right here.
You can ALSO read our review of the Yamaha Arius YDP-184 right here!
Roland make amazing digital pianos. I love the play feel, the piano sounds are fantastic and they’re usually loaded with a tonne of extra features that you discover along the way.
The Roland SuperNATURAL sound engine is one of the best on the market and, although this is right at the top end of the budget, it’s certainly money well spent. With a super high level of sampling density, this instrument excels in its tonal color across the full dynamic range. You can get beautifully tender expression with piano (as in soft) play, with an aggressive bite with forte. The piano sounds are great, but the electric piano sounds are genuinely amazing
Roland are a relatively new brand (well, from the 70s), so they don’t have the years of experience in building acoustic grand pianos like Kawai and Yamaha do, but nonetheless, they certainly know how to build a fantastic, super responsive keyboard. I rarely sit at a Roland keyboard without wanting to spend a longer, more extended time playing . And the F-140 just feels great to play.
The F140 is designed to be compact so is perfect for a student taking a digital piano with them to university. The folding piano lid doubles as a music stand which is a really funky feature that adds to its compact build.
There’s a decent user interface that you’ll find your way around in absolutely no time. A built-in metronome assists your practice, whilst the keyboard splits in two down the middle, offering both halves of the keyboard the same octave range which is useful for piano lessons.
This keyboard is definitely worth some consideration!
- You can also read our review of the Roland F-140, as well.
Kawai instruments are great to play and the KDP90 is absolutely no exception. Kawai have been building acoustic pianos for almost 100 years, so there’s no surprise that they’re really amazing at it!
The keyboard is light to the touch with a beautiful bounce to the key-off action. Each note is individually sampled at various velocities to provide a great canvas of tonal colour that’s as close to the real thing as you can get at this price bracket.
The keys are weighted with Kawai’s graded-hammer action that emulates the hammer lengths of grand pianos, affording more weight at the bottom of the keyboard, in contrast to a graduated lightness as you approach the top end of the instrument.
The headphone sound is really great and well-balanced, with a thankful lack of mid-range focus which can fatigue the ears if worn at length. There’s a nice body to the headphone sound that will protect your aural endurance, facilitating hours of practice that won’t disturb the rest of the household.
The KDP110 has 192-note polyphony. This ensures that sustained notes can last until they would naturally decay.
The Kawai KDP110 is a great instrument for a student or teacher, as the keyboard can be split down the middle, with both halves inhabiting the same octave range.
All-in-all, it’s difficult to go wrong with this lovely instrument.
- You can read our full review of the Kawai KDP110 here.
Portable Pianos Under $1,000
And below, here are a handful of portable pianos that we feel you might really enjoy if you use them in conjunction with an optional stand.
Korg B2 (if stand is used)
Korg might be more familiar to the electronic music crowd, making some of the best synths on the market, but they’ve produced a really impressive digital upright with the B2 and it will leave you with a decent pocket-full of change from your $1000 budget.
It has 88 weighted, hammer action keys and a furniture style stand with a 3-pedal foot board, providing a soft pedal, a sostenuto and a sustain. Sostenuto sustains the chord or notes that are played when the pedal is pressed down but allows the following notes to be stacatto (as if there was no pedal press) whilst the original chord sustains throughout.
This instrument has a pretty basic feature set including 3 acoustic pianos, 2 electric pianos, 1 harpsichord and 2 organs. If you’re looking for an instrument that’s going to keep you focused on your practice (and not on playing about with drum beats) this could certainly be the keyboard for you.
The piano sound has a really satisfying mid-range fullness, with a slight bite that makes this an instrument that demands the attention of the ear. The electric piano sounds have a really lovely crunch when played loud, with a lovely key-on click that gives it a genuine representative feel of the classic Fender Rhodes.
The MFB speakers are large and placed across the top half of the unit. MFB is “Motional FeedBack” which simply means that they’ll never distort regardless of the volume. You can also use headphones, as with all of the models listed in this article, which are an essential if you’re a learner. The speaker cover is a textured cloth-based material which I think is a bit of a mistake, because it will attract dust and will require fairly regular vacuuming.
The keyboard comes with a built-in metronome which is an essential feature for all learners. There’s a split keyboard mode that makes this a great keyboard for piano lessons because you can sit next to your teacher (or student) and both halves of the keyboard will inhabit the same octave range.
The B1 is certainly a “no-frills” instrument – the feature set is limited, but the sounds are pretty impressive for the price. But sometimes, all you need out of your digital piano is for it to play. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. For my money, this is a bit of a winner.
Yamaha DGX-660 (if stand is used)
The Yamaha DGX-660 is one of those keyboards that just keeps giving. I really loved playing this 88 key, graded hammer action keyboard. However, it looks a little low-end as far as I’m concerned – more of a toy than a serious instrument – so I approached this keyboard with very little in the way of expectation.
But what I found was a keyboard that is immense fun to play. The quick demo I was intending soon turned into quite an embarrassing ushering out of the music shop as I realized that the staff were waiting to go home! A real time vacuum-er!
Rammed full of excellent features, this is a keyboard that belies it’s low-end looks. OK – let me substantiate what I mean by low-end, because it sounds like I’m being a snob! You have your “portable” keyboard style – the Yamaha YPG-235 is a fine example. Whilst the YPG-235 has a decent enough piano sound, the user interface is aimed more closely towards the “leisure” end of the spectrum, with a price tag to match. The keys aren’t weighted and the keyboard is just 76 keys.
Dare I say it, but it fits more into the Bontempi organ market.
So, the interface of the DGX-660 looks very similar to the “leisure end” of things, not the serious instrument that we’re looking for. Which is either a mistake on Yamaha’s part, or a stroke of genius. It’s always hard to tell, isn’t it?
What you get with the DGX-660 is a really impressive selection of dynamic responsive grand piano sounds, with a plethora of other keyboard sounds that will keep you entertained, if nothing else. I think that this is a great keyboard to learn on, especially if you’re an aspiring singer songwriter, because this model really captures the market for the singer that no other digital piano does.
The instrument has a preamp for a microphone which means that you can connect a mic directly to the back of the instrument and play and sing with amplification through the built-in speakers. With a wide variety of live digital effects, such as reverbs and phasers, this is a brilliant keyboard for the singer.
The LCD display offers a user-interface that few keyboards in this price range offer – you’d normally find expansive usability like this in the higher Clavinova range, but those come with a hefty price tag.
For the price (and once you’ve got over the slightly tacky interface layout) you get an amazing keyboard for your money.
Yamaha P-125 (with accessory stand)
OK, so this is where we start cheating a little bit. The Yamaha P Series are stage pianos – designed for portability, so if you go for the basic package, this is just the keyboard without a stand.
The keyboard itself is usually available for around $650. But, for an additional $99 you can get the keyboard stand, which, it has to say is practical rather than beautiful, and for around $75 you can get the optional 3 pedal, foot unit. So for around $825 you can get a great keyboard that fits into the digital upright category. The stand unit and foot pedal are of the same quality as the Korg B2, so if that gets away with it, why can’t the P125?
I’ve included this in the list because, for your money, you get a really excellent keyboard that heads much closer towards the pro-end than some of the other keyboards on this list. It has a decent user interface and the on-board speakers are built into the top of the casing. With most digital uprights, the speakers are built into the body of the stand.
The P125 has a great piano sound and a good graded hammer action keyboard. There’s an impressive selection of electric pianos and organs and some passable string sounds. It comes in a sturdy casing that will stand being moved around the house if you need to.
The keyboard feel is on the heavier side, which might not suit everyone but it can be a decent piano to learn on, because it does have the heavier feel of some upright pianos, so will be a reliable practice instrument.
The piano sounds are good, but a little over processed for my liking. This is quite a common trait with Yamaha keyboards, I’ve found. There’s something a little too smooth and overly rounded about the sound that takes you away from the live piano feel that the well-constructed keyboard evokes, which is a shame. I think it comes down to taste because I know of lots of people who swear by the Yamaha digital piano sound.
Again, you should be able to get this instrument bundled with a great selection of accessories if you shop around. Yamaha keyboards are really sturdily constructed instruments and last for years and years, so if you’re looking for reliability, you can’t go far wrong with Yamaha.
- You can read our full review of the Yamaha P-125 here.
All of these keyboards offer a great feature set and I’d gladly spend many hours playing them, but we need a top of the pops!
I’m going for a controversial choice here. Taking all into account, I think that the Yamaha DGX-660 is the best digital upright for under $1000. Despite the somewhat low-end look of the user interface, I think that this model offers a range of features that you just can’t get with any other digital piano on the market.
Perhaps it’s aimed more towards the singer songwriter and, for this, I think it deserves a real accolade. It’s a great fun upright with a functional furniture style stand, but I think we can take from this a sense that we should always look beyond the looks.
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