The Yamaha Arius YDP-103 is Yamaha’s most affordable upright console piano. The piano is geared at the entry level, or budget-minded, pianist looking to have great acoustic piano sounds in a functional and fashionable framework.
In this article, I’m going to be reviewing the YDP-103 to see whether this is a worthy, entry-level addition to the Arius lineup. I’ll also be comparing it to some of the other digital pianos within the Arius line, like the YDP-143, the YDP-163, and the YDP-181.
For you convenience, we have created a table below that allows you to compare the YDP-103 to other digital pianos worthy of your consideration:
The YDP-103 is a clean and minimal console piano. The unit I tested was a nice, dark brown color with a synthetic wood-grain look. The YDP-103 is 83 pounds, coming in at roughly 32 inches high, 53 ½ inches wide, and and 16 ½ inches deep.
Is it heavy and big? Sure. That being said, it would likely be fairly easy to move if you had a friend or family member help you.
The piano is built up of a few different pieces that are screwed together. The YDP-103 is slightly shorter than other models I tested, like YDP-143, 163, and 181. It is also negligibly lighter to the other models, as well.
When purchasing new, the piano will need to be assembled, but the model I tested was put together already and felt pretty sturdy when given a slight shake.
The key cover is the sliding type that opens and closes smoothly. Of course, this is a full-size keyboard with 88 keys. The music rest can be flattened to accommodate a laptop. The included piano bench matches the piano in color; it does not feel like the sturdiest seat in the world, but works just fine.
Below, please take a moment to review some of the best-selling digital pianos currently available online, and then see how well they compare to the YDP-103:
|1) Casio PX-770|
|2) Yamaha YDP-145|
|3) Roland RP-701|
|4) Yamaha YDP-165|
|5) Casio PX-870|
This Arius model features a few connections, such as two stereo headphone jacks, a USB-B port, and the connections that link the pedal unit to the keyboard as well as a DC power jack.
Having two headphone connections is nice, but their location is somewhat odd. They feel almost hidden, as they are vertically positioned underneath the left side of the keyboard. These connection features are the same on the other models in the Arius line, as well.
The USB connectivity is a nice touch as well for sending and receiving MIDI data from a DAW or other type of sequencing unit. The pedal connection is a nine-pin type. The pedals themselves could have a more secure feel. The unit I played had a little too much wiggle for my liking, but I’m sure they will have a long life so long as you’re not stomping or kicking them by accident.
Overall, the keyboard itself has a nice look and generally sturdy feel to it. The limited connectivity match the modest features of the YDP -103, but their straightforward functionality also matches the keyboards strengths in what it offers.
How Do the Keys Feel?
Apart from the construction and connection of the YDP-103 is the actual feel of the keybed. This, along with the quality of the main piano sounds, are the two most important factors of a digital piano, in my opinion.
This model of the Arius line utilizes what Yamaha calls the Graded Hammer Standard keybed, which attempts to replicate the gradual heavy to light touch from low to high that one would feel on a acoustic grand piano.
When I played the instrument, this feature was noticeable and I can appreciate it, but it doesn’t compare to the real thing. On more expensive Arius models, beginning with the Yamaha Arius YDP-163, Yamaha uses the Graded Hammer 3 keybed, which feels more realistic. A beginner or somewhat intermediate pianist may not notice the difference, but someone more seasoned definitely would and if it is within your budget, I would recommend this sort of keybed.
The keys themselves have a nice, quality feel to them. The white keys have a more plasticky feel, but the black keys have a matted finish that feels great and helps prevent a slippery feeling when moisture from sweat is added to the equation. The note release has an odd, almost too light recoil to it, and hinders playing quick, repeated notes or very fast trills. Another line of digital pianos by Yamaha is the Clavinova. If you’re sensing you may need something a little more professional than any of the Arius models, check out for a great discussion on the Arius vs the Clavinova line.
If you are a serious students that wants the best possible feel, the Clavinova may be for you.
Sound Options and Quality
The YDP-103 includes 10 different instrument patches.
- Grand Piano 1
- Grand Piano 2
- E. Piano 1
- E. Piano 2
- Pipe Organ 1
- Pipe Organ 2
- Harpsichord 1
- Harpsichord 2
These sounds were sampled with AWM Stereo Sampling. The YDP-103 comes with demos of each patch so you can get more acquainted with them. I will discuss how to access these in the next section. The average consumer of a console digital piano is most interested in the piano sounds, so I will spend a little more time discussing these than with the other sounds.
Grand Piano Sounds
Grand Piano 1 has a fine sound. Typically on digital pianos, the first piano patch is modeled after the European style, usually a “Steinway” sound. The YDP-103 is consistent with this and has a warm, balanced tone on that lends itself well to solo works and songs in the classical style.
Grand piano 2 has a brighter sound than the first. This is an analogue to a Yamaha or other Japanese voiced acoustic piano. In my opinion, this sound translated better off of the YDP-103’s speakers. This has a more modern timbre that “speaks” a little more clearly in ensemble situations.
It is worth noting that neither Grand Piano 1 or 2 includes release samples. This refers to the mechanical sounds that an acoustic piano emits when a key is released. This realism is not often included on a console digital piano, but someone looking for a hyper-accurate piano sound may miss its absence.
Higher up in the Arius line, starting with YDP-143, Yamaha uses what they call the Pure CF engine for piano sounds. Additionally, the YDP-181 and above incorporate a “half-damper” feature, which refers to an acoustic grand piano’s ability to have varying degrees of damper release on the strings. This translates to more expressiveness. These piano sounds have a more realistic sound than the YDP-103.
Once again, if these models are within your budget, they are worth checking out.
Electric Piano Sounds
Electric Piano 1 has a great vintage sound clearly based off of a Fender Rhodes piano. It doesn’t have too many layers of velocity divided samples, but can go from sweet to crunch depending on how hard you play the keys.
The instrument’s manual describes Electric Piano 2 as being great for standard popular music, but to me it sounds rather cheesy. It is an FM synthesis based sound and is very dreamy and bell-like.
Pipe Organ & String Sounds
I actually liked Pipe Organ 1’s sound quite a bit. It has a very convincing timbre and sounds great from Baroque music and of course sacred music. In my opinion, after Grand Piano 2, it is the second best sounding instrument patch.
Pipe Organ 2 has a fuller sound and a reminiscent, spooky quality. The Strings patch has a rather slow attack, and does not lend itself well to much melodic playing, but more so for string pad sounds. However, as I will discuss later, the different instrument patches can be double layered, and Grand Piano 1 pairs nicely with the strings.
Harpsichord and Vibraphone Sounds
The two harpsichord patches are the weakest sounds on the YDP-103. The first sounds cheesy and very unrealistic, and the second is doubled up the octave. The sound is slightly more bearable, but I don’t see anyone seriously using the harpsichord sounds on this model.
Lastly, the Vibraphone patch is a great addition. It has a sense of depth and that is only matched by the different piano sounds on the YDP-103. It sounds very convincing and works very well with jazz pieces, with not too dense of chord voicings.
The YDP-103 also includes four different reverb settings: Room, Hall 1, Hall 2, and Stage. True to their names, each setting nicely mimics the reverberation effects of the four different environments.
And for comparison sake, take a look at the video below to get an idea what another Arius piano–this time the Yamaha YDP-163–offers in comparison to the YDP-103.
Functions and Navigation
Being the most affordable model in Yamaha’s Arius line, the YDP-103 has some very noticeable cutbacks when it comes to navigating through its different functions.
When you first turn the piano on, the initial patch is Grand Piano 1. I believe most consumers of this product will be content with the YDP-103 acting as a piano most of the time, so this is not a problem.
Hidden within the YDP-103 are the other instrument patches, demo songs, keyboard layers and splits, a metronome, reverb types, touch sensitivity, and fine pitch tuning. Unlike many other digital pianos or even most others in the Arius line, to access any of these functions takes some serious memorization (or you need to have the user manual on hand).
To navigate through the different instrument patches, press the “function” button for any of the notes from C0 (the lowest C on the piano) through A0 to select through the 10 different instruments. Likewise, going through any of the operations requires some combination of the “function” button, and a key, or two different keys at once.
Some operations, like layering two instruments at the same time, are easy as playing to keys for two instruments while pressing “function,” but others are in different registers that are not easy to memorize. If the YDP-103 weren’t supposed to be the cheapest in the Arius line, I would have serious complaints regarding how non-intuitive it is for navigating the piano’s different features.
The other models in the line have significantly easier navigation, especially when it comes to selecting sounds. However, if you’re someone who mainly wants a piano, but not the room or money for an acoustic one, this is a great option.
Though the YDP-103 does have its shortcoming, I believe it is a great instrument. Is it one of the best digital pianos under $1000, though? No, I don’t think I’d go that far—you can find better quality for the money.
With that said, I think that, for what it does, it does well, and I believe its intended consumer will be happy with the instrument.
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