With its Arius line of digital pianos, Yamaha has made the feel and sounds of their concert grand pianos accessible to beginners and intermediate (and some advanced) players alike. Yamaha was able to pack some of their best features into a digital keyboard that is a fraction of the cost and size of an actual grand piano.
This article will take an in-depth look at two similar models in the Arius line: the YDP-143 and the YDP-163. We’ll compare both of these popular digital pianos—everything from their looks and build quality to how the keys feel and whether the sound is worth the high price tag.
Below, please feel free to use our interactive table to compare the Yamaha Arius YDP-143 to the 163, as well as other popular digital pianos on the market.
|Yamaha YDP-103||88||$$$||GHS Weighted Action|
|Yamaha YDP-144||88||$$$||GHS action, CFX Grand Piano Voice|
|Yamaha YDP-164||88||$$$||GH3 action, CFX Grand Piano Voice|
|Yamaha YDP-184||88||$$$||Graded Hammer 3 Action (GH3)|
|Yamaha YDP-S54||88||$$$||GHS weighted action|
The YDP-143 and the YDP-163 are two 88 key digital pianos that are very similar—but there are a few differences too.
With that said, let’s start with what’s common between these two instruments.
Both the YDP-143 and the YDP-163 utilize what Yamaha calls their Pure CF Engine to drive the sounds in the keyboards. They’ve used recordings of a real Yamaha CFIIIS concert grand piano to give their digital pianos that classic Yamaha sound.
Both pianos are equipped with 192-note polyphony, which means that there is no degradation in the quality of the patches. Pianists can play the most complex songs and still use the sustain pedal without losing any detail.
There are 10 voices on each of these models:
- A standard grand piano
- A warmer, darker piano
- Bright piano
- Classic electric piano
- Electric tine piano
- Pipe Organ
- Jazz Organ – the speed of this organ’s rotary speaker can be adjusted by pressing the far left pedal
These seem to be Yamaha’s classic set of voices; they can be found on several other models of Yamaha digital pianos. The three acoustic piano voices are particularly impressive. They are highly detailed with rich and expressive tones. It’s very easy to get lost in your playing and forget that you’re using a digital keyboard.
Although the number of voices are limited, and the two organ and string patches aren’t particularly inspiring, I wouldn’t need or expect digital pianos like these to do much more than produce a good piano patch. Someone who needs a variety of quality patches should look elsewhere; these extra voices aren’t particularly useful for the studio or any professional application.
Below, we encourage you to take a look at some of the best-selling upright digital pianos currently on sale at Amazon.
Both the YDP-143 and the YDP-163 have very similar physical layouts. The power button and the master volume are situated on the far right side of the keyboard. On the left are the rest of the controls: a demo/song button, a piano/voice button, a metronome, two up and down selection buttons, a record button, and a play button.
The two headphone jacks, the USB terminal, the pedal jack, and the power supply jack are all hidden away in the underside of the piano. Neither of these digital pianos has a screen. Although the lack of a screen is typical for more simple keyboards like these, I found it a bit frustrating to not be able to see what settings or patches I was adjusting.
Having the option of USB connectivity is a really powerful and useful feature. Users can connect the keyboard to a computer or other external device. You have the ability to turn your digital piano into a giant MIDI controller when you connect it to a software like Logic Pro or Garage Band.
These two keyboards have four different types of reverb: recital hall, concert hall, chamber, and club. These reverbs add an extra element of realism to the Yamaha pianos. Although they all sound great, it’s a little difficult to access them. Like most of the more advanced features of these pianos, you need to hold a button down with your left hand while simultaneously playing certain keys with your right hand.
Different parameters correspond to different note numbers. I can’t imagine that anyone would be able to memorize all the controls and their associated keys; you would need to refer back to the manual anytime you wanted to edit a function.
Yamaha came up with a great solution to the difficulty of adjusting settings. If you have an iPad, you can download the Digital Piano Controller App. This gives you a screen and an easy way to access all the features and voices of the digital piano. For those of us without an iPad, we’ll just have to keep our manuals nearby.
The YDP-143 and the YDP-163 have the ability to record your piano performance with up to two tracks. They also contain 50 songs to play along with, and they come with a book to help students and beginning pianists learn.
One of the features that I wasn’t impressed with was the “Intelligent Acoustic Control.” It’s meant to adjust the EQ of the sounds based on the volume level, which helps to ensure that the pianos sound the same at lower levels. It was difficult to notice this feature, especially because I didn’t really care for the piano’s speakers. They were able to get quite loud, but I found the sound quality to feel boxy and overwhelming in the mid-range. Plugging in headphones made a huge difference.
Both keyboards come with something called the Stereophonic Optimizer. This feature is only present when headphones are used. It seems to pan the pianos and the reverbs wider to give you an immersive experience. It also puts some distance between you and the piano, which eliminates the unnatural closeness that most keyboards have. I thought it sounded great and very realistic. I greatly preferred using headphones than listening through the built in speakers. Both pianos have two headphone jacks, which make it convenient for duets or students and teachers.
Another highlight of this line of pianos is their foot pedals. Both the YDP-143 and YDP-163 have the same three pedals found on most traditional pianos: soft, sostenuto, and damper. They are incredibly well built and felt solid under my foot. I don’t think I would have been able to tell this difference between these pedals and some attached to an actual grand piano.
These digital pianos also have something called a “half damper” pedal control. When you depress the damper pedal down halfway, it only sustains half as much. This is intended to clean up your playing if using the damper pedal makes it sound too muddy.
The main difference between these two models is the quality of the keys. The YDP-143 uses a Graded Hammer Standard (GHS) key action while the YDP-163 uses something called the Graded Hammer 3. Both of these keyboards are made in such a way that the lower keys are heavier than the higher keys. Real pianos function in that manner, so it’s a really important feature to have in a digital keyboard. The YDP-163’s keyboard did feel a bit more substantial when I played it, and I especially liked the feel of the synthetic ivory key tops that are only available on that model. The keys on the YDP-163 allowed for very expressive playing.
The YDP-163 does have better feeling action than the YDP-143, but both of these pianos do a wonderful job at emulating the touch of a real piano. Both of these Yamaha pianos feel much better than other brands that I’ve tried. Neither of the keys felt fake or plastic to me.
The only other minor difference that I noticed between these two pianos was their size. It’s not a big difference; the YDP-163 is a little over an inch taller than the YDP-143. Both models are housed in a handsome wooden stand. Neither of the pianos looked cheaply made. They seemed to be well built and sturdy. The Arius pianos would look elegant in a living room or music room.
The price of these two models would greatly contribute to my decision of which one to purchase. The YDP-143’s MSRP is $1499, while the YDP-163 is listed for $1999. Knowing that the only major difference between the two models is a slightly more robust hammer action, I’m not sure that I would splurge on the more expensive YDP-163. The YDP-163’s keys do feel incredible to play, but the YDP-143’s keys also feel satisfying and realistic. There’s no doubt that the YDP-163’s keys are better; I’m just not sure that they’re worth the extra $500.
It seems like Yamaha’s ideal audience for these digital pianos would be students, beginners, teachers, or the more advanced player who is looking for a secondary practice piano. For these types of players, I would suggest the YDP-143. With this model, you’ll still have access to the exact same sounds, features, and settings as the more expensive YDP-163.
The YDP-143’s GHS keyboard would feel comfortable to the higher-level players who were familiar with the feel of an actual grand piano. It would also be a good way to get students and beginners used to the weight and nuances of an actual piano with a hammer action.
Both of these Arius models meet the incredibly high standard of instrument that Yamaha sets for itself. Either piano would be a great choice for your home or classroom, but I think that the Yamaha Arius YDP-143 gives pianists a little more bang for their buck.
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