Yamaha CLP 685 review

In this Yamaha CLP 685 review, we compare this digital piano to other notable instruments from the popular Clavinova digital piano line, in an effort to help you better determine if this is the right piano to meet your needs. 

We also think that the CLP 685 is such a high end digital piano, that we felt it’s worth comparing to the Yamaha NU1X and Kawai CA 98 as well—both of which are hybrid digital pianos.

And to better help you along in this article, feel free to take a moment to use our interactive guide below to directly compare the Yamaha CLP 685 against other popular digital pianos on the market.

Yamaha CLP 735
Yamaha YDP 144
Casio PX-770
Yamaha YDP-165
Casio PX-870
Roland RP-102

Breaking Down the Yamaha CLP 685

The Yamaha CLP 685 is one of the upper-range pianos in the CLP line of Yamaha digital pianos.  Let’s start with the exterior of the piano before tackling all of the cool interior features of this piano.

The CLP 685 is available in four beautiful finishes at varying prices.  Here is a photograph of the instrument on the showroom floor of my local authorized Yamaha dealer:

As you can tell from the above photograph, this is the polished ebony cabinetry of the CLP 685.  It is the second most expensive of the three finishes from which you may choose.  The other finishes are matte black and polished white, the white being the most expensive of the finishes.

You may also notice that unlike less expensive models in the CLP line, the CLP 685 features a folding keyboard cover to which a hinged, fold-down music stand is attached.  The CLP 685 is also two+ inches taller than the other CLP series pianos.

Some of the best interior features of the CLP 685 include its Grand Touch keyboard action.  I’m a huge fan of this digital piano action, which consists of longer, wooden keys (the white keys) with the fulcrum repositioned closer to the front of the piano.  The longer key combined with the repositioned fulcrum result in a heavier, much more authentic grand piano touch on this keyboard and all other Clavinova pianos featuring the Grand Touch action.  

This touch provides the player with a true authentic feel.  As are all of the Clavinova piano keyboards, the keys are also weighted lighter in the treble end of the piano, with each key weight increasing slightly as you move down the keyboard toward the bass end of the piano.  This is another ‘authentic’ grand piano feature that simulates the feel of an acoustic grand piano.

The CLP 685 is compatible with Yamaha’s Smart Pianist app (which I’ve talked about before, like in this roundup of my favorite Yamaha Arius digital pianos) on any iOS Smart device as well.  This app gives the musician full access to all of the CLP 685’s wonderful features which include Chord Chart, a fun way to play along with your stored music on your iOS device.  The CLP 685 accesses your favorite songs and charts them into chord displays, allowing you to follow the music and play along.

The control panels of the CLP 685 are quite nondescript and are located on either side of the keyboard.  The right-hand side controls its on-off function and volume setting.  The left side, show below, accesses many of the other sounds and features of the piano:

This panel is identical to that found on many of the CLP models, as well.  The display allows you to toggle through the various voices and features, depending upon which button you press.  Of course, if you plug in your iOS device, the viewscreen of the device supplants the one shown on the left-hand panel of the piano.

This piano possesses an impressive speaker and amplifier system—great for a large room or home, yet the headphone jacks allow you to practice and/or play privately. As with most digital pianos on the market presently, the CLP 685 has two headphone jacks, so you and a friend or a teacher can listen and even play along.

Below, please take a moment to view some of the best selling digital pianos online, and see how they stack up to the Yamaha CLP 685:

1) Casio PX-770
2) Yamaha YDP-145
3) Roland RP-701
4) Yamaha YDP-165
5) Casio PX-870

Yamaha CLP 685 vs Yamaha CLP 695GP

Now that you know what the Yamaha CLP 685 has to offer, let’s see how it compares to some of the massively impressive high end digital pianos on the market.  So let’s actually take a step up in this CLP line and compare the CLP 685 to the CLP 695GP.

If you decide that you prefer the look of a grand piano but don’t want to forfeit the price or the space in your home, consider the Yamaha CLP 695GP.  Yes, the GP refers to Grand Piano, as the look of this piano suggests:

However, this piano has neither the strings or the cast iron frame of a grand piano.  So while an acoustic grand piano may occupy up to 12 feet (or more) in your home and may weigh over 1000 pounds, the CLP 695GP is less than 49” deep and weighs 280 pounds—a significant difference in size and weight.

Yet, just like the CLP 685, this beautiful CLP 695GP features the sampled sounds of the amazing Yamaha CFX 9’ concert grand and the incredible Bosendorfer Imperial, two of the most sought-after and highly-regarded grand pianos in the world.  So, with the touch of a button you can hear either of these two beautifully-toned pianos or several other piano sounds.

Rather than strings and a cast iron frame, the inside of the CLP 695GP features its speaker system set into a striking wood frame, as you can see:

Interestingly enough, the CLP 685 and the CLP 695GP have identical features otherwise, from the number and types of voices offered, to the speaker and amplifier systems, to the Grand Touch keyboard action, and so on.  The only differences I could discern were the differences in appearance.

Yamaha CLP 685 vs Yamaha NU1X

This incredible instrument, the Yamaha NU1X, is the flagship of what Yamaha calls its AvantGrand piano series.  The NU1X is a hybrid—what the digital piano industry calls a piano that is a mixture of acoustic action and digital technology.

I find this piano fascinating!  Take a look at the inside of the instrument:

As you can see, this instrument has hammers just like an acoustic upright piano.  Here’s a close-up of the hammer mechanisms:

Rather than striking strings, however, the hammers interact with non-contact fiberoptic digital sensors that produce the sampled sound.  The action feels remarkably like that of a concert grand piano, yet with the technological advantages of a digital piano. 

Because the hammer mechanism is that of an acoustic piano (without the strings), the NU1X has the most authentic piano touch of any digital piano I’ve ever played, including other hybrids.

It looks like an acoustic upright piano, as well.  Here’s a picture of the NU1X in my local showroom without the plexiglass cut out:

This piano has a cabinet and height very similar to that of the CLP 685.  This is the polished ebony cabinet available on the NU1X; Yamaha also offers an attractive polished white cabinet that is only $200 more expensive than the polished ebony version.

The sound system consists of two 16-cm speakers and two 1,9-cm speakers, each powered with a 45-watt amplifier that provides plenty of power to detect even the most subtle tones in both treble and bass.  The sound system is capable of powerfully big sounds in these registers, as well.

This instrument is compatible with the Smart Pianist app, as well, which makes the voices and features readily accessible on any iOS Smart device.  You can use an Apple Lightning – USB camera adapter to connect the NU1X to your device, or you can connect wirelessly through wireless network using the UD-WL01 device (sold separately).

The instrument is 18 ¼” deep and only weighs 240 pounds—significantly less than your typical upright piano that can weigh well over 500 pounds.  Of course, the reason the NU1X weighs much less than a traditional upright piano is because there are no strings or cast-iron frame for the strings.  This difference makes the NU1X much easier to move around your home with just  two people, rather than the four (or more) people required to safely move a traditional upright.

Yamaha CLP 685 vs Kawai CA 98

The Kawai CA (for Concert Artist) 98 is another piano considered to be a hybrid.  The CA 98 features Kawai’s Soundboard Speaker System which utilizes a genuine wooden soundboard through which the sound system delivers its sound.  You’ve probably seen the back of a spinet piano with the wood; this instrument uses a similar soundboard for the resonation present in an acoustic spinet or upright.

The CA 98 also features Kawai’s Grand Feel II keyboard action system utilizing longer keys and fulcrum points nearer the front of the piano for the feel of an acoustic grand piano.  Just like in the Yamaha instruments, the longer keys and adjusted fulcrum points give the piano a heavier touch than most digital pianos.

Frankly, when I played the CA 98, I didn’t like the way the sound system sounded through the wooden soundboard.  It seemed muffled to me and very much like an electronic/digital sound, rather than an acoustic piano sound like the Yamaha instruments managed.

I also played the CA 78 sitting next to it, and to my ear it sounded like a more authentic piano sound than the CA 98—attributable directly to the wooden soundboard, in my opinion.  I could find nothing regarding exactly how the inside mechanisms work.

To its credit, the NU1X, like other Kawai digital pianos, features Alfred’s Basic Piano Library method books onboard to help a beginner learn to play the piano, whether child or adult.  I taught for 30+ years using this method series and it is my favorite. 

Comparisons of Features, Prices, etc.

Whenever I compare more than two pianos, I like to use a table.  (It satisfies the schoolteacher in me!)  So, here’s a table of comparisons I’ve put together for the four pianos I’ve presented to you in this article:

Unless you just must have a grand piano-shaped digital piano, the price of the CLP 695GP puts this piano out of the competition.  Ten thousand dollars is an awful lot to pay for a piano with the exact features of the CLP 685 except for the shape.  I don’t believe it’s worth up to $3,500 more just for a certain shape of a piano.

Although the Kawai CA 98 is the least expensive of these four pianos, I disliked its sound enough that it’s not in the competition, as far as I’m concerned.

The NU1X hybrid is a really delightful piano, but I’m just not sure that the added weight and lack of preset voices makes this a piano that I would recommend at this price.  It’s a beautiful piano and I love the touch, but for approximately the same amount of money you can buy the CLP 685 with its Grand Touch keyboard action, the huge number of preset voices, and its amazing internal recording capacity.

The CLP 685 is definitely my choice out of this group of pianos, especially for a beginning or intermediate student or for anyone wishing to compose or arrange music.  With its plethora of voice possibilities, making music on the CLP 685 would be an adventure in fun!

This article was written by Digital Piano Review Guide contributor Anita Elliott.

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