With its Clavinova-series, Yamaha has really changed the world of digital pianos, achieving unbelievable goals in over 30 years. The company launched the first Clavinova model (which was also the first digital piano ever created called the YP-40) in 1983, and since then it has reached a totally new level of piano emulation technology.
Yamaha currently offers more than twelve Clavinova digital pianos, and one of the most interesting models in its actual line-up is arguably the CLP-535, an intermediate product that comes built inside an upright-style piece of furniture.
The CLP-535 is the second entry in the new Clavinova 500-series, along with the basic CLP-525, the more expensive CLP-545 and CLP-575, and the flagship CLP-585. The CLP-535 also comes in a grand piano-shaped version, called CLP-565GP, which includes all its main features but built inside an extraordinary wooden cabinet.
In fact, below, compare the Yamaha CLP-535 to other high quality digital pianos in its class:
$ = $500 or less | $$ = $500 – $1,000 | $$$ = $1,000 and up
Now, the Yamaha CLP-535 no doubt looks wonderful, but it’s certainly not cheap. In fact, the MSRP ranges between $2899 and $3399 depending on the selected finish. So is it really worth the money? Well, let’s take a closer look at both the piano’s design, features, and overall functionality.
The Yamaha CLP-535 is made out of an elegant wooden cabinet, which follows the tradition of the Japanese company with a sober and pleasant design that is suitable for any kind of living room.
The CLP-535 ships in four different finishes: the matte Black Walnut, Dark Rosewood or Mahogany, and the lucid Polished Ebony. With a good amount of choices in its visual aesthetic, there’s no doubt that you will find the perfect match for your home décor.
Now, let’s check out what’s actually inside the box:
- Yamaha CLP-535
- Furniture-style stand with triple-pedal system and music rest
- Headphones hanger
- Owner’s manual
- “50 greats for the Piano” book
Below, please take a look at some of the best selling upright digital pianos that are currently still available for sale on Amazon, which you can then compare to the Yamaha CLP-535:
The cabinet features an integrated music rest, which can be raised or lowered as needed. There is also a triple-pedal system that supports soft, sostenuto, damper and half-pedal functions, just like a real grand piano.
In the lower part of the cabinet, you can mount the included hanger to safely store your headphones, and the sliding key-cover lid allows you to protect the keyboard from dust while not in use.
The connectivity includes two headphone outputs, a MIDI I/O, an aux input for connecting a media-player, a stereo output, and two USB ports: one for MIDI purposes, the other for connecting an external drive (helpful for audio recording or media playback).
The main interface is located on the left side of the piano. There, you’ll find an LCD display, four navigation buttons, the Transport section, the Metronome and Dual/Split functions, and finally the six sound categories.
REAL GRAND EXPRESSION
One of the most important features of this Yamaha digital piano is the presence of the GH3X 88-key graded hammer action keyboard, which is based on the renowned GH3 but also offers synthetic ivory keytops, as well as escapement on each key.
This keyboard is graded into four weight zones, while Clavinova’s superior CLP models–such as the CLP-575 and CLP-585—feature 88 keys that are all weighted differently individually, and they return differently once you release your finger up off the key as well.
The GH3X offers a 6-level touch sensitivity, which allows users to get an excellent response while playing the piano. Though the GH3X has no wooden keys (which is a feature in available in the higher end models of the CLP line, namely the CLP 545, 575, and 585), the presence of the synthetic ivory keytops gives a solid feeling of an authentic piano, and not just a cheap digital emulation.
Of course, it cannot be denied that the NWX Natural Wood X keyboard included in CLP-545 and above will further enhance this sense of realism, but it’s likely that only a very experienced or advanced pianist would be capable of noticing the differences when it comes to the different keyboards and their build quality. If you consider yourself to be an intermediate player, the CLP 535 is a perfectly acceptable option.
The Yamaha CLP-535 features two of the world’s most important piano sounds ever created: the Yamaha CFX and the Bösendorfer Imperial grand pianos.
The first is sampled from a 9′ concert grand piano and sounds a bit brighter than the 9′-6” Bösendorfer, which instead has richer, more mellow nuances. Each key of both pianos was sampled individually by Yahama to return a realistic tone, and the final result achieved by the company is really excellent.
The CLP-535 reproduces the String Resonance and Damper Resonance to emulate all the mechanical sounds of a real grand piano, and the key-off samples just add more realism when you lift your fingers from the keys. A powerful 256-note polyphony allows professional pianists to play even the most complex passages of music without any dropped notes.
The integrated 60W-stereo sound system offers a great stereo sweep, which is less enjoyable if you use the headphones, but it’s a shame that Yamaha chose to not insert the same speaker system of the superior models, which offers 4-to-6 speakers with a power handling of 100-to-180W and, of course, a more surrounding experience.
Of course, doing so would not only raise the price point for consumers, but would blur the line between the intermediate CLP models and the advanced ones. So while it’s disappointing, it’s also quite understandable.
AN ALL-IN-ONE SOLUTION
The Yamaha CLP-535 also features six other popular piano sounds, such as the Rock Grand or the Mellow Grand, as well as electric pianos, jazz and pipe organs, harpsichords, three different basses (helpful for splitting your keyboard in two zones), guitars, vibraphone and five different pad sounds (which can be layered with the piano to get a warmer sound).
Thanks to the built-in 16-track recorder, you can save a total of 250 songs on a USB drive, and even use the CLP-535 to record WAV files that you can easily store on an external flash memory.
The Yamaha CLP-535 includes a Lesson mode with 303 built-in lesson songs from popular methods such as Bayer, Burgmüller, Czerny and Hanon, which are of course really helpful to strengthen your piano technique.
You can connect an iPad through the USB port and use the NoteStar app to view the score while playing and changing pages via the three-pedal system. You can also use the other popular free Yamaha Apps to approach the piano in a more fun and relaxed way.
CLP-525 vs CLP-535 vs CLP-545
Now, let’s check the main differences between the three CLP-500 series that are the most affordable products. Ultimately, you might be asking yourself the following question: how do I between the CLP-525, CLP-535 and the CLP-545?
Well, for starters, the CLP-525 is an entry-level product that, despite a price very close to the CLP-535, is a bit negatively affected by too many missing features. This model does indeed include a standard 88-key GH3 keyboard with synthetic ivory keytops, which is good, but it lacks the escapement and only has a 4-level touch sensitivity.
Its sound engine is based on the usual CFIIIS, which only includes 10 sounds and is far distant from the excellence achieved by Yamaha with the CLP-535’s sound engine. The CLP-525 has no key-off samples nor string resonance at all. Split mode, USB, AUX inputs and outputs are also missing from this model.
Considering the street price of $1700 to $2000 for the CLP-525, and $2200 to $2600 for the CLP-535, it is not necessarily “worth it” to spend so much money for a lesser product like the CLP-525, when you can spend a bit more on the 535 and get a superior piano.
At the same time, pianos are a costly investment. And therefore, if your choice is between getting the CLP 525 now or not getting a piano at all, then certainly the 525 is a good model that you will enjoy for years to come.
If, however, the choice is between buying the CLP-525 now, or saving a bit more to purchase the CLP-535 (or even the 545) in the near future, you might be better off succumbing to the urge of buying today and instead starting saving for tomorrow.
And speaking of the 545, it is no doubt an improvement over the 535, but it’s worth noting that the CLP-545 mostly differs from the CLP-535 in the following ways: the CLP-545 has keyboard that features white keys made of wood, the 545 has a Stereophonic Optimizer effect that creates a wonderfully spacious sound when you’re using headphones, and a 20-preset Rhythm section. Whether you feel these features are worth a $700-800 price difference is certainly up to you. More likely than not, it will come down to how you judge your own skill level as a pianist, and how committed you are to honing your craft as a piano player.
The CLP-535 is definitively one of the best digital pianos currently available from Yamaha, and certainly the most convenient choice you can make from the popular Clavinova CLP series.
Now, if you really wanted to make a committed quantum leap, you can consider the $3900 to $4500 Yamaha CLP-575 in an effort to acquire a substantial performance boost, mainly thanks to its graded hammer keyboard with different weights for each key, and other major sound technologies that make the piano experience superior to instruments available on the lower end of the CLP line.
But, if you can’t afford to invest that kind of money right now, then the Yamaha CLP-535 is certainly no slouch, and in fact is far more than just a simple consolation prize.
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