Yamaha NU1X review: Best Hybrid Piano?

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What is the best digital piano you can buy for your beginning piano student?  For your advanced student who wishes to continue serious music study? For your studio apartment?  For your big house and big family with lots of potential students?  These scenarios could have many and varied answers.  These scenarios may also be answered with just one type of piano, and it may not be a digital.

There’s a new and improved type of piano on the market now, and it just may meet your needs no matter what your situation may be.  This piano is called a hybrid piano.  And in this Yamaha NU1X review, we’re going to dive deep into not only what a hybrid piano is, but why this digital piano is one of the most impressive pianos on the market.

To better help you determine if the Yamaha NU1X is the right piano for your needs, check out our interactive table below that allows you to directly compare the NU1X to other notable pianos on the market.

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

Before we get into brands and prices and features and all those details, let’s define some terms used in the piano world.  Then we will discuss brands, etc.  Here are some important terms and some important instruments to talk about:

  • Acoustic
  • Electric keyboard
  • Electric piano
  • Digital pianos
  • Hybrid pianos

Why an Acoustic Piano in the First Place?

An acoustic piano is the kind your great-grandmother played, in all likelihood.  Simply, an acoustic piano is a piano that isn’t plugged in or capable of being plugged in.  It uses hammers attached to wooden keys that lift the hammers, which then strike from one to three strings.  This produces the sound of a piano.  

Acoustic pianos tend to be very heavy, especially a large upright piano or a grand piano.  They shouldn’t be moved often, as moving an acoustic piano with all of its delicate moving parts can cause the tuning to go out.  An acoustic piano should never be placed against an outside wall of a home or apartment because the exterior environment may affect its tuning, the hammer pads, or any number of other parts of the acoustic piano.

Humidity levels around the piano should be maintained at about 42% to preserve the wood parts, felts, and strings for the longest life possible.

 For optimum sound, an acoustic piano should be tuned once or twice a year, every year, for the life of the piano.  As some pianos may have a lifespan of a century or more, that’s a lot of money spent on tuning! 

A player piano fits this category, especially if it is the kind that uses foot pedals to power the player mechanism.  Your good old-fashioned upright piano, spinet piano, and grand piano all fit this categorization as well.

The only voices an acoustic piano is capable of producing is a piano voice—just one.

Below, please take a moment to view some of the best selling digital pianos currently online (and see how well they stack up to the Yamaha NU1X):

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

Electric Keyboard

You probably remember your first glimpse at an electric keyboard.  I certainly do!  It was a little Casio keyboard with about 20 keys that I bought for my kids in the early 80’s.  My kids acted like I had bought them a Steinway!  That keyboard is long gone, but Casio and others produced several versions of the toy keyboard. The electric keyboard was the “in thing” for music bands in the 70’s, 80’s, and later.

Roland made some great electric keyboards beginning in the mid- to late 60’s following the integrated circuitry inventions.  Even today, if a band wants to get some “sick” sounds for their music, they’ll shop for a Roland keyboard/synthesizer due to the portability of the instruments, the prices that make purchasing these keyboards easier than ever before, and the various sounds they need.

Electric Pianos

My pride and joy in 1975 was a delightful Wurlitzer 64-key electric piano.  This beige-colored piano was dragged all over the state I lived in for the gigs I played with my bandmates.  The Wurlitzer electric piano was a staple in bands from the early 70’s to the early 80’s. 

The sound is produced by hammers striking metallic reeds, inducing current through a pickup.  These pianos worked similarly to the Roland pianos, but they sounded significantly different.  Listen to any pop song in the time period and you’ll probably hear the bell-like sounds of a Wurlitzer.

Digital Pianos

Yamaha developed its first digital piano, the Clavinova, in 1983.  Yamaha has been a leader in the field of musical instruments for well over a century, and their dominance continues today.  If you’re in the market strictly for a digital piano, the Clavinova is the best Yamaha digital piano in the world, in my opinion. 

I owned one for over 25 years, and it was durable, realistic, and a true joy to play.  Today’s Clavinovas and digital pianos are tremendously above that early Clavinova in technology, sound, and features offered.

A digital piano is a type of piano that is lightweight compared to an acoustic piano.  It reproduces the sound of a piano by electronic means and very often offers many more sounds and rhythm tracks in addition to its original function as a piano.  Digital pianos often resemble grand pianos or spinet pianos in appearance, rather than the synthesizer keyboard.

Digital pianos can vary in price from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, depending upon the brand, size, model, features offered, and sound systems built into the piano.  The best brands determined by sales are those manufactured by the aforementioned Yamaha, Kawai, Casio, Roland and Korg.  We’ll be talking about a Yamaha line of digital pianos shortly.

Hybrid Pianos

A hybrid piano is its own special class of piano.  It is not what is known as a Silent Piano, which is merely an acoustic piano with a few digital features added on.  A hybrid piano is a blending of acoustic mechanisms with digital technology. 

This blending results in an impressive instrument that doesn’t just resemble the action of an acoustic piano; it actually has the action of an acoustic piano without the weight of the strings or the cast iron plate to which the strings are attached.  (It’s the cast iron plate that gives the typical acoustic piano the majority of its weight.  Strings would warp any other type of surface.)

The hybrids I’ve played all used the key and hammer features of an acoustic piano.  Different manufacturers utilize different woods, pivot points, and digital technology to produce the sounds specific to their hybrid instruments.

So now that you have some definitions, let’s talk about some specific pianos.

Casio Celviano hybrid

The first hybrid piano I ever played was a Casio Celviano hybrid.  Was I shocked!  The last time I played a Casio digital piano, I was very disappointed by its lack of quality…more than three decades ago.  This beautiful Casio Celviano hybrid piano amazed me with its authentic piano “feel” in the key action.  I had never heard of hybrids, so I was pleasantly surprised by this new “thing” in the digital piano world.

Casio calls theses pianos the Celviano Grand Hybrid pianos, which model three of the most famous grand pianos in the world: the Berlin, the Hamburg, and the Vienna.  The Grand Hybrid piano line offers the digital sampling of all three pianos in its series of Grand Hybrids, consisting of the GP 300, GP 400, and the GP 500 pianos. 

These pianos offer full-length Austrian spruce piano keys and a six-speaker sound system.  The key action emulates that of a grand piano up to the point where the hammers strike strings; in this hybrid piano, the hammers strike digital sensors that relay the sound and intensity to the computerized piano.

The top of the line, the GP 500, retails for about $6,000.  Probably not a good choice for a beginning student, but I would say this piano would definitely suit the needs of an intermediate or advanced student who wishes to continue their musical education.  I give this piano 4.25 out of 5 stars for its playability, smooth and authentic touch and broad piano sound.

Kawai Hybrids

The Kawai Novus NV10 is one of Kawai’s top-of-the-line hybrid pianos.  The Novus NV10 is more accurately a digital hybrid piano.  As Kawai explains on their website, a digital hybrid piano is an advanced digital piano that integrates acoustic mechanisms to provide an authentic feel/touch to a digital piano.

I was impressed with the NV10, specifically its touch.  While the Casio Celviano felt good to my fingers, the NV10 seemed a step above the Casio.  This piano impressed with its headphone features, as well.  Its Spatial Headphone Sound gives the musician the impression that the sounds emanating through the headphones are actually coming from the piano, rather than the headphones.  The NV10 has a 7-speaker sound system as well.  

I didn’t really care for the look of this piano.  It seemed confused between the look of a grand and the look of a portable digital.  I really like the sound and the touch of this piano, however, so I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Yamaha NU1X vs. Clavinova CLP line

This is rather like comparing apples to oranges.  I love all things Clavinova, although I do have my favorites in the Clavinova family.  (The CSP 150, for instance, is my absolute favorite Clavinova piano.)  The CLP line of Clavinovas are some of the most affordable digital pianos for the price, especially the CLP 635.  

Most Yamaha dealers may offer a significant discount on this piano in order to provide the best piano for the money to a shopper who may be concerned about spending a lot of money on a piano, such as a person looking for a piano for their child to begin to study piano.  The CLP 634 usually retails for about $2,000, which is considerably less than any of the pianos mentioned above.

However, the NU1X is not a Clavinova.  It is Yamaha’s newest hybrid in its line they call AvantGrand. I love this piano!  As you can see in the photograph below, it looks like an upright piano.  This piano takes up much less room than a grand or even a digital grand.  

The touch is the most authentic acoustic grand touch I’ve experienced on a piano that isn’t an acoustic grand.  This piano utilizes keys with connected hammers, just like an upright piano.  The hammers actually rise up to strike the digital strike points that create the sounds of a grand piano, specifically the Yamaha CFX Concert Grand or the Bosendorfer Imperial. 

This piano also supports Yamaha’s Smart Pianist app, designed for iOS or Android systems on any type of Smart device.  With such a Smart device, you can control any of the digital functions offered, including Audio to Score, which digitally scores your favorite songs on your play list.  You can access all of the voices, accompaniment styles, drum and SFX kit styles, and many other features offered through the Smart Pianist app.

This piano is a dream piano.  I loved the look, I loved the touch and sound, and I even loved the price tag!  The NU1X retails for about $6,000 to $7,200, depending upon whether you choose the polished ebony cabinet or the white cabinet.  This piano would be perfect for any student at any level or for any professional.  I give the NU1X 5 out of 5 stars and my highest recommendation.

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

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