Yamaha P-515 review: Upgrade over the P255?

The Yamaha P-515 is considered the flagship in the P-series and is the successor to the very popular Yamaha P255.  A portable digital piano that actually has some features that are seen in their Clavinova line, our Yamaha P-515 review will break down everything you need to know about this new digital piano in order to help you determine if it’s worth your hard earned money. 

And, to better help you decide, please use our guide below to directly compare the P-515 to other notable pianos made by Yamaha and other manufacturers.

Roland RD-88
Nord Stage 3
Casio PX5S
Nord Piano 5
Yamaha YC88
Nord Grand
Casio PX 560Casio PX-560

Grand Piano Sounds in a Portable Digital Piano

The Yamaha P-515 packs a lot of goodies under the hood, and a lot of that surrounds the wonderful sound that emits from the instrument.  And if you’re someone that buys a digital piano because you like the idea that it can mimic other instruments, including grand pianos, then you’re really in for a treat.

The P-515 features piano sounds that were created with samples of the Yamaha CFX concert grand piano, as well as the Bösendorfer Imperial grand piano.  At the click of a button, you can have your P-515 sounding like either one of these grand pianos, and it’s really a treat for the ears.

The Yamaha CFX is sampled using binaural sampling.  The Bösendorfer, by contrast, uses a standard sampling method. 

When playing the Yamaha CFX, you’ll notice that the sound is very rich and bold.  It’s very full of life and will fill up your room quite easily.

The Bösendorfer, by contrast, is a bit softer or warmer to the ear.  But it’s also a little bit deeper too. 

Ultimately, you have two great options here, and it really just depends on the mood you’re in when it comes to which grand piano sound you’d most want to opt to use.

Below, take a look at some of the best selling digital pianos currently available for sale online:

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

Hammer Action

If you’re familiar with Yamaha’s hammer actions, then you likely have some experience with GHS (Graded Hammer Standard), GH (Graded Hammer) and GH3 (Graded Hammer 3).

But when we start getting into the more expensive realm of Yamaha digital pianos, you start seeing something that’s called NWX.  Now NWX stands for Yamaha Natural Wood X, and it’s a keyboard that features an escapement mechanism that aims to truly reproduce the touch and feel of an acoustic piano going through the let off and drop of the hammer whenever a key is played softly.  The escapement is noticeable only on the lightest of keystrokes, which is meant to truly replicate the keys on a grand piano.

And this is fantastic news for those interested in the Yamaha P-515.  Because NWX keyboards are normally reserved for the expensive Clavinova series by Yamaha, and so the fact that Yamaha transferred their wooden keys and great action over to the P-515 tells you how much they believe in the P-515.

Overall, the NWX action feels very responsive to the touch, and it’s no wonder why it’s considered the premiere key action for the brand.

Notable Sounds

The P-515 comes with 40 voices, along with 18 drum/SFX kits and 480 XG Voices.

That’s a lot of options at your disposal.

Among the 40 sounds are voices like electric piano (phaser, for example), organs (rock organ, jazz organ, classical organs) and strings. 

You’ll also notice some acoustic piano sounds here, as well.  So whether you want a studio grand sound, or pop grand sound, or jazz grand sound (or even something fun like Honky Tonk), you’ll get it all built into the P-515.

Also, one thing the P-515 comes with is something called Virtual Resonance Modeling on the piano sampling.  When you turn this feature on, it makes a notable difference in that the sound will come across a bit more lively.  You feel there’s an added layer of character to the piano sound.  If you want the sound in the P-515 to sound less flat, this is a pretty nice feature.

As far as speakers go, you have two 15 watt speakers on each side of the piano.  The speakers seem to provide a nice bass response when you sit down to play on the 515’s keys. 

Features of the Yamaha P-515

When it comes to the P-515, one nice feature is the ability to be able to play drum beats with or without a bass track.  So, for example, you could do an electric piano and a bass split.  And what that means is that the drum beat will play in the background, and you’ve also split the piano.  So, the left side (and subsequently, your left hand) would control the bass.  And your right hand would control the electric piano. 

And as you play, the drum beat can theoretically be playing underneath the bass and the electric piano.  So, this is a cool feature that would allow you to create very unique musical pieces.  And, just as important in my opinion, it’s just plain fun to play around with.

The P-515 also comes with two headphone jacks.  And speaking of headphones, you get a pretty cool headphone optimizer with this piano.  Essentially, whenever you’re wearing headphones or earbuds, the sound can be configured to make it feel as if you were sitting and playing on a traditional piano. 

And lastly, one very important thing to note here is the polyphony on this digital piano.  The Yamaha P-515 comes with 256 notes of polyphony, which is a great and very high number.  This means that you can, of course, play 256 notes at once.

This feature may really matter to you—or you may be totally indifferent to it.  It depends on what kind of piano player you are.  If you’re a relative beginner, and you’re playing relatively simple pieces on the piano, you might not care about the higher polyphony count. 

But, if you’re a more seasoned pianist (or plan to stick with the piano to become a more seasoned pianist), polyphony count really begins to matter.  Because the higher the polyphony, the more sustained notes you can have, allowing for you to play more complex pieces that are highly expressive.

Connectivity Options

The Yamaha P-515 comes with a USB port that’s located on top of the piano.  This is a very nice placement for the USB port, especially when compared to the decision by some manufacturers to put the port on the back of the piano.  It’s not a major change, of course, but it’s more convenient, which is always a plus.

The USB port records and plays back WAV files, which is of course a nice addition as well. 

You also get a USB/MIDI interface built into the P-515, as well.  So you can plug straight into the computer, whether it’s a Mac or a PC.

Compatible with the Smart Pianist app

One thing I’m a big fan of is the Smart Pianist app, which I discussed in my Yamaha P-125 review and will cover a little bit here as well, because the P-515 works with this great app, as well.

So first, Smart Pianist is an app that allows you to connect to your P-515 and use it to help you get more control and interactivity when it comes to playing your digital piano.  It works with iOS devices like an iPhone or an iPad, and hopefully sometime in the near future, it will be compatible with Android devices, as well.

Let’s first talk about connecting your device to this app.  First, you can attach a cable from your iPad directly into the back of the 515 to get it connected.  In this case, you’ll likely want to use a camera adaptor cable and plug it directly into the lightning port on your iPad.  From there, you’d use a standard USB cable to plug from the end of the camera adaptor cable to the back of your P-515.

There’s no need for Bluetooth or wireless connection, and I’m sure some would of course prefer that.  And hypothetically, it would save you the expense of a camera adaptor plug.  But, what’s nice about not using something like Bluetooth, and directly connecting the via a wire, is that it prevents you from getting a noticeable delay in the audio when you’re using the app with the P-515.

Now, what’s cool about the Smart Pianist app is that it allows you to change sounds, record audio to the application itself, and even edit the voices on the piano.  The app has a mixer on board too, which means if you’re doing layers, you now have control over the layers’ levels.  You can also save your favorite settings too, which prevents you from worrying that when you exit out of the app, you’ll have to reconfigure all of your customs settings again.

One of my favorite aspects of the Smart Pianist app is its Chord Chart feature.  This feature allows you to play some of your favorite songs within the app, and then Chord Chart analyzes the song and provides chords symbols right on the screen, allowing you to play along with your favorite songs.

Now, before you get too giddy with joy, it’s important to note that there is a little bit of a limitation when it comes to this feature.  The Smart Pianist app does a good job analyzing songs, but it doesn’t analyze every single song known to man.  In fact, according to Yamaha’s own website, it can analyze ten of thousands of songs—not millions.  So, yes, while it’s a nice feature, it likely won’t be able to cover your entire music library.

On top of that, you also won’t be able to use Chord Chart for songs that are deemed to be “harmonically complex.”  That’s of course a very vague phrase, so Yamaha provides a handful of examples of songs that do indeed work with Chord Chart, allowing you to get an idea if your music library on the whole will work with this feature.

To get a quick idea, some songs that work well with Chord Chart are Ed Sheehan’s “Thinking Out Loud” and John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

Yamaha P-515 vs the Competition

I wanted to devote a small part of this review to going over some of the similarities and differences between the P-515 and other digital pianos on the market.  So first, let’s take a closer look at the P-515 when it’s contrasted against the P255.

Yamaha P-515 vs Yamaha P255

As mentioned earlier, the Yamaha P-515 is the successor to the P255, and because of that, these two digital pianos are pretty close in price.  The P-515 should likely run you about $1,499, while the P255 can likely be found for a little bit cheaper, coming in at approximately $1,299.

When you take a look at these two digital pianos, you’re actually going to notice a handful of stark differences.

First, the P-515 is a heavier piano, clocking in at 48 pounds, compared to the P255, which is about 38 lbs.  If you plan to transport your digital piano a lot, that extra ten pounds will likely be pretty noticeable.

The second difference is in the key action.  The P255 comes with a Graded Hammer (GH) keyboard—pretty standard fare for a Yamaha digital piano in this price range.

The Yamaha P-515, by contrast, comes with the NWX (Natural Wood X) keyboard, which features wooden white keys.  This is a keyboard you’d expect to find in the much pricier Clavinova line.

On top of that, while the P255 uses the Pure CF Sound Engine, the P-515 comes with Yamaha CFX concert grand piano samples, as well as, Bösendorfer Imperial grand samples.

The P255 is a great digital piano.  But the P-515 is a definite upgrade.

Yamaha P-515 vs Kawai ES8

When we begin comparing the Yamaha P-515 to the ES8, it becomes a point of true personal preference.

Both digital pianos are offering you 256 notes of polyphony, so no matter which one you select, you’ll be able to play many different complex musical pieces.

The P-515 provides you with access to the Smart Pianist app, but the Kawai ES8 also has app connectivity.  In fact, you can use an app called the Virtual Technician, which actually allows you to tweak your digital piano to better feel and sound like an acoustic piano. 

Giving you the ability to adjust touch curve, damper resonance and noise, key-off effect, decay time and much more, this is the perfect feature for someone that loves acoustic pianos and wants to be able to “tinker” with their digital piano in hopes of getting it feel like an acoustic piano.

Yamaha P-515 vs Roland FP90

Now the Roland FP90 comes with a PHA-50 Keyboard, which features a wood and plastic hybrid structure. 

Comparing actions from different manufacturers is always a bit tough, but the Roland can come across a bit lighter than the NWX action on the Yamaha, but that is certainly subjective. 

And “lighter” doesn’t mean better or worse necessarily.  It just means that you can likely play faster and longer without your fingers becoming tired or feeling overworked.

One thing I also really like about the Roland FP90 is the panel display.  You get nice round buttons that light up when they’re engaged on the FP90, giving it not only a really nice look in general, but is particularly helpful or practical to use when the lights are down low or you’re practicing your piano at night and want a clear indication of which piano sound you selected. 

It’s also important to mention that you get the SuperNATURAL sound technology in this portable FP90 piano, a technology normally reserved for the HP or LX lines of Roland digital pianos. 


The Yamaha P-515 is a great digital piano.  And although the Roland FP90 gives it a run for its money and perhaps even surpasses it in certain areas (depending on your personal taste), the P-515 is a wonderful value for approximately $1,500.

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