Digital Pianos with the Best Key Action Feel

Who makes the best piano key action?

Are you on the hunt for a digital piano that captures the essence of playing a traditional acoustic piano? If so, enjoy this comprehensive guide which analyzes and recommends the best digital piano actions (and top pianos for each key action) available in 2024. 

From understanding the intricacies of key action to evaluating top contenders from leading brands, this article will guide you towards making an informed decision!

Understanding Key Action

At the core of the piano-playing experience lies key action, a feature defined by a weighted keybed, touch sensitivity, velocity response, and the tactile feel of the keys. 

Whether you’re making the transition from toy keyboards or are well-versed in the nuances of classical pianos, grasping the essence of key action is paramount.

Exploring Key Features

What good digital piano key action really needs

Here are the essential features that are crucial for any good piano action keyboard:

Touch Sensitivity: Seek pianos with responsive keys that faithfully interpret your playing dynamics, allowing for nuanced expression.
Weighted Feel: The feel of the keys is important.  Look for pianos equipped with weighted or graded hammer action, replicating the tactile response of acoustic pianos and enhancing playability.
Velocity Response: Choose pianos with velocity-sensitive keys that deliver varying dynamics based on playing intensity, enabling expressive performance.
Hammer Action Systems: Explore the diverse hammer action systems offered by leading brands to find one that resonates with your preferences and playing style.

What is the Best Digital Piano Action?

To assist you in navigating the diverse array of digital pianos, we’ll evaluate key action systems from popular manufacturers and offer a balanced perspective on their features.

1) Casio – Scaled Hammer Action

What is the best Casio hammer action in digital pianos?

Casio’s Privia Line features the innovative Tri Sensor Scaled Hammer Action II system for its more expensive console pianos (like the Casio PX-870) and the Smart Scaled Hammer Action Keyboard for its cheaper portable digital pianos (like the Casio PX-S1100).

Casio’s Tri-Sensor Scaled Hamer Action Keyboard is particularly impressive.  This key action system uses three sensors under each key to accurately capture the dynamics and subtleties of your playing. 

The scaled hammer action closely emulates the feel of an acoustic piano, with heavier resistance in the lower register and lighter touch in the higher register.  This provides a very natural and responsive playing experience.

PhotoPianoHammer Action
Casio PX-770Tri-sensor Scaled Hammer Action
Casio PX-870Tri-Sensor II Scaled Hammer Action
Casio AP-470Tri-sensor Scaled Hammer Action

Also, newer Casio pianos have Smart Hybrid Hammer Action. This hammer action is meant to feel more authentic to a grand piano with white keys made of wood and resin.

You’ll find Smart Hybrid Hammer Action in more advanced portable pianos like the Casio PX-S5000, Casio PX-S6000 and Casio PX-S7000, along with console pianos like the Casio AP-S450.

PhotoPianoHammer Action
Casio PX-S3100Smart Scaled Hammer Action
Casio AP-S450Smart Hybrid Hammer Action
Casio PX-S5000Smart Hybrid Hammer Action

Recommended Piano: Casio PX-S1100

Key Action: Smart Scaled Hammer Action Keyboard
Price:
$700

Casio PX-S1100 digital piano

Priced under $700 and weighing only 25 lbs, the Casio PX-S1100 offers compactness without sacrificing performance quality. It’s ideal for beginners, offering a user-friendly interface without overwhelming features.

One highlight is its realistic key action, simulating the feel of playing an acoustic piano. You’ll enjoy immersive mechanical sounds and responsive keys, enhancing your playing experience.

Playing the Casio PX-S1100

In summary, the Casio PX-S1100 combines affordability, portability, and authentic piano feel, making it an excellent choice for musicians seeking versatility and reliability.

Pros:

  • Weighing only 25 lbs, the Casio PX-S1100 is lightweight and easy to move.
  • With a price tag of less than $700, it offers good value for its features.
  • The hammer action keyboard provides a good simulated acoustic piano playing experience for the money.

Cons:

  • Only comes with 18 built-in tones
  • While adequate for practice and performance, the sound may not satisfy professional musicians.
  • The plastic construction may feel less durable compared to pianos made with more robust materials like wood.
How Does the Casio PX-S1100 Compare?
Casio PX-S1100 vs Yamaha P-125
Casio PX-S1100 vs Roland FP-30X

Recommended Piano: Casio PX-870

Key Action: Tri-sensor Scaled Hammer Action Keyboard Ⅱ
Price:
$1,200

The Casio PX-870 digital piano

The Casio PX-870 is a standout digital piano renowned for its ability to replicate an acoustic grand piano sound and feel. 

At the heart of its appeal lies its Tri-Sensor II Scaled Hammer Action keys, which successfully mimic the touch response of a real piano.

Additionally, advanced features such as duet mode, integrated lesson functions, and connectivity options (MIDI via the USB port) enhance the playing experience and cater to both beginners and experienced pianists alike.

Pros:

  • The Casio PX-870 features a Tri Sensor Scaled Hammer Action Keyboard II, providing a realistic touch similar to an acoustic piano.
  • With Casio’s AiR Sound Source technology, the PX-870 delivers high-quality piano tones with nuanced expression.
  • Includes an incredible 256 notes of polyphony, which is great for complex musical pieces.

Cons:

  • Some users may find the PX-870 to be heavy and difficult to move compared to cheaper options.
  • It lacks advanced connectivity options such as Bluetooth.
  • While offering good value for its features, the PX-870 may be relatively expensive for budget-conscious buyers.
Casio Piano Reviews You Will Enjoy
Casio PX-S1100 review
Casio PX-870 review
Casio AP-470 review
Casio AP-270 review
Casio PX-5S review
Casio CDP-S360 review
Casio CDP-S110 review

2) Yamaha – Yamaha Graded Hammer Action

Yamaha Hammer Action

The Graded Hammer Compact (GHC) and Graded Hammer Standard (GHS) systems are commonly found in entry-level Yamaha digital pianos. These pianos offer solid weighted key action that simulates the feel of an acoustic piano. 

GHC and GHS features graded hammer weighting, which simulates the natural feel of a grand piano.

PhotoPianoKey Action
Yamaha P-143Graded Hammer Compact
Yamaha P-225Graded Hammer Compact
Yamaha DGX-670Graded Hammer Standard

Moving up the Yamaha hammer action ladder are the Graded Hammer (GH) and Graded Hammer 3 (GH3) systems, offering enhanced realism and responsiveness. 

These systems incorporate advanced technology to replicate the feel and response of a grand piano, providing smooth key movement and accurate note reproduction across the keyboard.

PhotoPianoKey Action
Yamaha YDP-165Graded Hammer 3
Yamaha YDP-184Graded Hammer 3

Yamaha has recently replaced their Natural Wood (NWX) keyboard with a new GrandTouch-S keyboard. While some similarities remain, such as the GrandTouch keyboard having wood keys and three sensors, improvements to the key action have been made.

Most notably, you’ll find that a GrandTouch keyboard will be more responsive. An extension between the key front and fulcrum has also been made on the GrandTouch keyboard, giving pianists more leverage when playing.

PhotoPianoKey Action
Yamaha P-525GrandTouch-S keyboard
Yamaha Clavinova CLP-735GrandTouch-S keyboard

The Natural Wood (NW) keyboard can still be found on older digital pianos like the Yamaha P-515

Recommended Piano: Yamaha P-225

Key Action: Graded Hammer Compact (GHC)
Price: $750

Picture yourself running your fingers over the keys of the Yamaha P-225, feeling the weighted touch of Yamaha’s Graded Hammer Compact (GHC) keyboard.

Sounds pretty great, right?

The Yamaha P-225 has officially replaced the Yamaha P-125.

Well, for under $800, you can experience the immersive sensation of a grand piano, as the graded hammer action on the P-225 brings depth and authenticity to your playing. 

The P-225’s touch response elevates your musical expression to new heights, ensuring every note resonates with precision.  That’s the power of a good key action, and despite the GHC action being entry-level, it packs a considerable punch.

But it’s not just about the touch—it’s about the sound. The P-225 dazzles with  Yamaha’s CFX Premium Grand Piano Voice, transporting you to a concert hall with its faithful reproduction of Yamaha’s top tier concert grand piano. 

The only notable downside is that Yamaha has decided to remove the upward facing speakers on the Yamaha P-225, which were of course present on the now discontinued Yamaha P-125.

Pros:

  • The Graded Hammer Compact action gives you an acoustic piano feel inside of an inexpensive digital piano.
  • The Yamaha P-225 replaces the very popular Yamaha P-125 piano.
  • A thinner piano body than previous pianos in the Yamaha P-series.

Cons:

  • The Yamaha P-225 no longer has upward facing speakers, like its predecessor, the Yamaha P-125.
Yamaha Articles You’ll Enjoy
Yamaha Piano Value
Yamaha or Roland Digital Pianos
Yamaha YDP-145 review
Yamaha YDP-145 vs Yamaha YDP-165
Yamaha YDP-184 review

3) Roland – Progressive Hammer Action

Regarding Roland digital pianos, you’ll find key action systems like the Progressive Hammer Action (PHA) series are designed to deliver a realistic playing experience.

Breaking down Roland piano action

The Progressive Hammer Action (PHA) system found in Roland’s digital pianos is built to replicate the nuanced touch and response of traditional piano keys. 

This advanced mechanism incorporates graded hammer weighting, mirroring the feel of an acoustic piano. Additionally, the PHA system provides smooth and responsive key movement, allowing for expressive playing and more precise control.

For those requiring a smaller piano, Roland offers variations of the PHA key action (Progressive Hammer Action) system tailored to different models, such as the PHA-4 Standard or PHA-50

These variations maintain the authentic feel and responsiveness of the keys while accommodating smaller digital pianos and portable digital pianos.

PhotoPianoKey Action
Roland FP-30XPHA-4 Standard
Roland FP-E50PHA-4 Standard
Roland F-107PHA-4 Keyboard
Roland FP-90XPHA-50 Keyboard

Recommended Piano: Roland FP-90X

Key Action: PHA-50
Price: $1,999

The Roland FP-90X uses a PHA-50 keyboard.

The Roland FP-90X is a premium digital piano known for its lifelike key action and authentic acoustic piano feel. 

Featuring Roland’s PHA-50 hybrid keyboard (made of wood and plastic), it successfully replicates the touch of a traditional piano with remarkable precision. 

The SuperNATURAL Piano Modeling technology ensures realistic sound reproduction, as well, while its portable design and versatile features make it an ideal choice for professional musicians and enthusiasts alike.

Pros:

  • Lifelike key action with Roland’s PHA-50 hybrid keyboard.
  • Realistic sound reproduction thanks to SuperNATURAL Piano Modeling technology.
  • Portable design makes it suitable for both stage performance and home use.

Cons:

  • Higher price point compared to other digital pianos in its class.
  • Some users may find the interface and menu navigation complex.
  • Limited onboard sounds and effects compared to other models in its price range.
Roland Articles You’ll Enjoy
Roland FP-30X review
Roland FP-60X vs Roland FP-90X

4) Kawai – Responsive Hammer Action

Now with Kawai digital pianos, you’ll find advanced key action systems like the Responsive Hammer Action (RHA or RHIII) or the Responsive Hammer Compact (RHC or RHCII).

Kawai uses Responsive Hammer Action for its digital pianos!

These systems use high-end technology to replicate the feel and responsiveness of acoustic piano keys.

The RHA system, featured in Kawai’s premium digital pianos, faithfully reproduces the weighted feel of real wooden keys and hammers striking strings inside a grand piano. 

It also incorporates graded key weighting for a natural touch, with heavier keys in the lower register and lighter keys in the higher register. This ensures expressive playing and dynamic control.

For a more compact option, Kawai offers the Responsive Hammer Compact (RHC) key action. This scaled-down version maintains responsiveness and authenticity in a smaller design. 

Ultimately, it’s perfect for pianos in a small space or those needing portable digital pianos.

PhotoPianoKey Action
Kawai ES120Responsive Hammer Compact Action
Kawai ES520Responsive Hammer Compact II Action
Kawai KDP120Responsive Hammer Compact II Action

Recommended Piano: Kawai ES120

Key Action: Responsive Hammer Compact II
Price: $1,499

The Kawai ES120 uses Responsive Hammer Compact II key action

The Kawai ES120 is an excellent choice for those seeking a digital piano with authentic acoustic piano feel. 

Featuring Kawai’s Responsive Hammer Compact (RHC) key action, it replicates the weighted touch of an acoustic piano, offering nuanced control and expression. 

With simulated ivory and ebony key surfaces for added comfort, the ES120 provides a realistic playing experience in a portable design.

Pros:

  • Authentic acoustic piano feel with Responsive Hammer Compact (RHC) key action.
  • Portable design makes it easy to transport and set up anywhere.
  • Simulated ivory and ebony key surfaces for enhanced playing comfort.

Cons:

  • Limited instrument sounds compared to more advanced models.
  • Smaller built-in speakers may lack full-bodied sound for some users.
  • Limited polyphony (192) may be restrictive for complex compositions.
Kawai Articles You’ll Enjoy
Kawai Piano Value
Kawai ES120 vs Casio CDP-S110

Additional Considerations

In addition to evaluating key action, I recommend that you consider other factors like a piano’s design, sound customization options, and connectivity options when selecting your ideal digital piano.

Wrapping It Up

Finding the instrument with the best digital piano action isn’t necessarily easy, but it doesn’t need to be a burden either.   

By understanding key action systems, evaluating important pros and cons, and considering additional factors like design and sound customization, you can confidently find the best key action (and best piano model) that most fits your needs!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply