The Yamaha Arius line has many affordable digital pianos that are fantastic for beginner students. They have one for any playing level, and level of seriousness.
The YDP-184 is one of the best Arius pianos you can get. It has updated technology that produced amazing sound and gives a player a realistic playing experience.
The YDP-164 is a new model that is meant for beginners or people who play for fun. But it also includes so much of what the YDP-184 can do.
So why are they priced $800 apart?
Since the YDP-164 is so similar to the YDP-184, I’m going to break down all of the things they do the same, and how the YDP-184 is different. We’ll compare at the end how much more it can do to see if it’s worth the difference in price.
And to better help you, please feel free to use the interactive guide below, which will allow you to compare the YDP-164 and YDP-184 against other popular digital pianos on the market.
Key touch and action
The latest models of digital pianos have become more and more realistic. Yamaha’s latest technology is especially good as they are modeled after their acclaimed acoustic pianos. Here are the similarities between the YDP-164 and YDP-184.
Both the YDP-164 and YDP-184 have keys coated in synthetic ebony and ivory. Some people prefer the feel of plastic keys, but ivory touch has more benefits than only the feeling. This realistic touch gives students many benefits.
Some people say plastic is better because ivory keys promote animal cruelty. But ivory has been illegal to sell and trade for years and is never collected for modern pianos. The materials on these Arius models are synthetic and completely ethical.
The synthetic ivory coating on the keys creates grip so your fingers have traction while playing. Because this material is porous like ivory, your fingers are more resistant to slipping when they’re sweaty. Pianists who perform on plastic keys usually have problems when they have clammy or sweaty fingers. Plastic keys become very slippery and difficult to play.
The synthetic ebony/ivory material absorbs the moisture from your fingers. But it doesn’t absorb any dirt or grime from your skin. The keys are easy to clean and resistant to discoloration.
Below, please take a moment to view some of the best selling digital pianos online, and see how well they compare to both the YDP-164 and YDP-184:
|1) Casio PX-770|
|2) Yamaha YDP-145|
|3) Roland RP-701|
|4) Yamaha YDP-165|
|5) Casio PX-870|
Graded Hammer 3 Action
Graded Hammer 3 (or GH3) action is one of Yamaha’s hallmarks for their great digital pianos. It’s the best hammer action available in any Arius model. Both the YDP-184 and YDP-164 have this key action.
“Graded hammer” means that the keys weigh differently. This is to mimic what you would feel on an acoustic piano. The strings at the low end of the piano are very thick and need heavier hammers to strike clear notes. As you go up to the higher notes, the strings become much lighter and don’t need hammers as heavy as the low strings.
Keys on an acoustic piano feel lighter as you play up to the top register. GH3 hammer action mimics this gradual change, with the low keys feeling heavier to play than the high keys.
The “3” refers to the spring mechanism inside of the key. There are three sensors inside that replicate what would happen when striking a piano key. These sensors are what helps the digital piano understand how you play. GH3 gives you accurate dynamic levels, attacks, and repeated notes.
The YDP-164 and YDP-184 come with three gold pedals. They function as you would expect: right is the sustain (with the ability to half-damper), middle is sostenuto, and left is the soft pedal.
These Arius models also have a few touch settings a player can use for different voices or practice techniques.
The YDP-184 calls these settings “touch sensitivity” and the YDP-164 calls it “touch response,” but they are the same thing.
Touch sensitivity settings let you decide how you want the keyboard to respond to your playing. Some people use the settings for detailed practicing. These settings can be better for certain instrument voices.
The “Hard” settings make the keys not very responsive. You have to push them harder to get more sound. This can be useful for players who want to develop finger strength by working on dynamics.
The “Medium” setting gives you a standard response you would expect from a piano. This is the default players use.
The “Soft” settings make the keys extremely responsive. Pressing softly will give you a lot of sound. If you’re practicing with this setting, you’ll hear if any of your fingers are playing too loudly. This is also a good setting to use with young students. They’ll hear themselves play with a loud, confident tone even if their fingers aren’t strong yet.
The “Fixed” setting makes all the keys respond the same, no matter how hard you press them. This is best for the voices that work this way. For example, organs have no dynamic control when you press the keys. If you’re using that voice setting, change the touch sensitivity to “fixed” for an authentic sound.
How are they different?
As far as the touch and response, these two pianos are nearly identical. The only difference I could find was with the touch sensitivity.
The YDP-164 offers hard, medium, soft, and fixed. But the YDP-184 gives you more options with hard 2, hard 1, medium, soft 2, soft 1, and fixed. The players who want to use these features while practicing will appreciate more options to choose from.
Other than that, they feel and play the same. The YDP-164 has stepped up and has been able to replicate an acoustic piano as good as its older brother, the YDP-184.
Yamaha digital pianos are popular because they are reliable and because they sound like the acclaimed Yamaha acoustics. The sound of a Yamaha concert grand is loved and chosen by many of the world’s greatest performers. People who love the sound of a Yamaha buy their digital pianos to bring that iconic sound into their homes.
How do these Arius models compare to each other in sound quality?
The Yamaha CFX has been reviewed by many world-class performers as one of the best concert grands of all time. It was built after Yamaha bought Bösendorfer. The CFX combines the brilliance of the Yamaha and the depth of the Bösendorfer. The result has astounded performers and audiences around the world.
This coveted sound is what both the YDP-164 and YDP-184 offer as the main grand piano voice. When you own one of these Arius models, you get the touch of a grand as well as one of the most recognized piano sounds available.
You can choose other instrument voices to use on these Arius models. Each comes with several voices you can layer over each other. These range from organ to strings. These YDP’s also have voices for different genres, including jazz vs. pipe organ and pop vs. mellow grand.
They also have large polyphonic capabilities. When holding down the damper pedal, a digital piano can only “hold” so many notes at a time. If you play more notes than the “polyphony” allows, it will get rid of old notes to make room for the new ones.
If you’re playing a note-dense passage, you want more than enough room to sustain all the notes. The YDP-164 and YDP-184 have room for hundreds of notes. Many other student keyboards offer less than 90.
These Arius models include the “stereophonic optimizer.” Normally, when you use headphones in a digital piano, it sounds one-dimensional and robotic. The stereophonic optimizer gives you the sensation that you’re playing in a large room with space and reverb.
If you practice with headphones in common areas, in an apartment, or at odd hours, you will love this. You become immersed in your sound as if you’re playing in a concert hall.
The aural differences
The YDP-184 model does noticeably more than the YDP-164.
- The YDP-184 has 256-note polyphony, and the YDP-164 only has 192.
- The YDP-164 has two 20W speakers, but the YDP-184 has two 30W speakers. More watts are going to give you much more sound.
- The YDP-184 has 24 voices, and the YDP-164 only has 10. The YDP-184 has more instrument families than the YDP-164 does, including choir, bass, guitar, and synths.
Virtual Resonance Modeling
The biggest difference is how these pianos produce sound. The YDP-164 uses a tone generator like most student digital pianos. But the YDP-184 uses Yamaha’s new Virtual Resonance Modeling along with CFX sampling.
Virtual Resonance Modeling is a program that produces not just the tone, but also the resonance of a piano as it’s being played. The result is a vibrant sound that sounds much more life-like than tone generation alone.
When you play a note on an acoustic piano, you’re not hearing that note alone. When one string vibrates, other strings in the same family of notes vibrate sympathetically. Each note’s different family is called overtones. So when you play one note, you hear these faint vibrations as a more three-dimensional sound and tone color.
The YDP-184 VRM produces the tone, instrument resonance, and overtones. Normally, this technology is found only on professional digital pianos. The YDP-184 is the best intermediate model that offers these cutting-edge acoustics.
Piano Room settings
“Piano Room” is another feature that gives the YDP-184 a life-like sound. It lets you change the sound according to the way a piano would sound in different positions. You can open the lid, close it all the way, and adjust the resonance from a concert hall to a small room.
The YDP-184 has a better sound to me. Because of the VRM, I could get a more colorful sound than I could on the YDP-164. It sounds more natural and does more with different voices.
I think any student will appreciate VRM even if they don’t know what overtones are. After their first recital or time playing on a grand piano, many students go home and notice how different their digital piano sounds. But the YDP-184 keeps that vibrancy of sound students appreciate on acoustic instruments.
The YDP-184 is more satisfying to students who appreciate the life an acoustic instrument has.
Added features: Duo Mode
Duo mode splits the range of your keyboard in two. This gives you two keyboards with identical ranges you can use. Even the pedals “split.” The far pedal on each side becomes the “sustain” pedal for the side it’s below.
This function is helpful for teachers and students to practice songs together, or for two players practicing a duet in the same range.
Dual mode lets you use two voices at once with separate hands. You can play your own instrumental duet without having to record tracks over each other. You can even change the octaves of each instrument to make it sound how you imagine.
When you use this setting, you can layer any two voices over each other. This can create rich harmonies in your songs. Piano and strings are most commonly layered, but the possibilities are anything you can imagine.
Each of these pianos includes several demo and preset songs. Demo songs demonstrate what each voice sounds like and what context it sounds best in. The YDP-184 has 14 demo songs and the YDP-164 has 10 demo songs.
Each piano also comes with 50 professionally recorded preset songs. The sheet music for these songs is in the “50 Classical Music Masterpieces” Music Book that comes with the piano.
You can record your own songs on these Arius’s. You can either store your songs on the piano and listen to them later or download them to a flash drive when you run out of space on the piano.
You also can record tracks and play them over each other. This lets you can make rich arrangements or complex original songs.
Here are the last few added features they both have:
- They both come with a built-in metronome you can use while practicing or recording.
- You can transpose the keys to play different notes.
- You can adjust the tuning from 414.8 to 466.8 Hz, adjusting by 0.2 Hz at a time.
The Arius that does more for you
Once again, the YDP-184 can do much more for you than the YDP-164 can.
- On the YDP-184, you can layer 16 tracks in one song. With the YDP-164, you can only layer 2.
- The YDP-184 stores 250 of the songs you create, but the YDP-164 can only hold 10.
- The YDP-184 metronome can click out tempos between 5-500, but the YDP-164 only has a range of 5-280.
- Because there is no percussion voice, the YDP-184 has 20 rhythm presets that you can use to improvise over and record with.
- The pedals have different commands. For example, on the Vibraphone and Rotary organ voice, the right pedal control how fast the sound vibrates. It also becomes the play/pause control when you’re listening to your songs.
The YDP-164 can do almost everything the YDP-184 can, but the YDP-184 does more of it.
If you are just looking for a practicing piano and not one to create on, the YDP-164 may be enough for you. But if there’s a chance your student wants to write their own music someday, the YDP-184 gives them more space to be creative.
The YDP-184 and YDP-164 come with several ports for what any musician would need. They both have:
- USB to port
- USB to host
- MIDI in and out
- Two headphone jacks
The MIDI let players use a DAW or notation software with their Arius. Not only can you record your songs, but you can also have them written out as well.
Two headphone jacks allow two players to practice duets in either common areas or at odd hours. They are also helpful in this way for teachers and students and for group classes.
SmartPianist is an app Yamaha designed lets the player control the acoustic settings on their digital pianos. When you connect your Apple device to the piano, you have all the controls available from your phone.
You can change voices, control recording, playback, Piano Room, and more from your screen. This way, you don’t have to open your owner’s manual every time you forget the button combination to play your recording—and so you don’t accidentally delete it!
The smarter keyboard
YDP-184 is the “smarter” Arius because it has several technological updates.
The YDP-184 also includes a MIDI thru port. MIDI thru lets you connect more devices together in what’s referred to as a daisy chain. When you can daisy chain devices together, you can have a more intricate workstation.
If you are looking for a digital piano to record with along with other MIDI instruments, the YDP-184 will let you set your equipment up like a workstation.
When using your device with these Arius pianos, you have to first connect it to the piano. The YDP-164 can only communicate with your device through a cable. This means you have to have wires and a dongle available to use.
The YDP-184 has a USB Wi-Fi adaptor you can use to wirelessly connect your device and your piano. Because we are moving to everything being wireless, I’d expect it would be a better choice to go with the YDP-184. The other option seems a little outdated.
Design (and a few freebies)
There are only a few differences left to point out between these two pianos before comparing the price. Here’s what I noticed about the design, plus a few extra thoughts.
- The YDP-164 has thicker music brace and longer music stand; this is a common complain designs like the YDP-184 get. The thicker music brace keeps your music steadier on the keyboard.
- The YDP-184 has a nicer cabinet. It looks closer to an upgraded Clavinova model that the YDP-164 does. The space under the YDP-164 keyboard makes it look cheaper than the YDP-184. This is especially noticeable if you have wires you can see behind the YDP-164.
- The YDP-164 comes in 2 different colors: dark rosewood and black walnut. The YDP-184 only comes in dark rosewood.
- The YDP-184 also has line-level outputs to use with speakers. It can be used for more versatile situations.
Which Arius is more cost-effective?
Let’s review what each model can do and see if the extra cost is reasonable.
The YDP-164 is available for $2000. Compared to the other Arius’s we didn’t talk about here, this is an excellent choice. Many of the common complaints or outdated features from past models were updated on the YDP-164. These updates include:
- CFX sampling
- GH3 touch
- Synthetic ebony and ivory keytops
- USB to host post
- A better-designed music rest
These updates make the YDP-164 an excellent beginner digital piano.
Here’s an overview of what the YDP-184 offers beyond what the YDP-164 has:
- More gradual touch-sensitivity settings
- More polyphony (256 vs. 192. It sustains 64 more notes)
- More sound from 30W speakers
- More voices (24 vs. 10)
- More instrument families, including percussion tracks
- Virtual resonance modeling
- Piano room
- Can layer more tracks (16 vs. 2)
- Stores 25x more songs (250 vs. 10)
- Wider metronome range (max tempo of 500 vs. 280)
- Unique pedal commands
- Wi-Fi capabilities
- MIDI thru port
- Line level output for speakers
The YDP-184 is worth the extra money for serious beginners and students who want to compose. If you are looking for a piano with the best sound technology available for this price range, this is the piano to get.
The VRM gives the YDP-184 the most sophisticated sound out of all the Arius models. Beginners may not hear it at first, but they will be more sensitive to it the more they play.
After playing an acoustic instrument, they will notice if they go back to a digital piano that produces flat-sounding tones. VRM will last your student from beginner to advanced.
The YDP-184 retails for $2800, and I think the VRM is worth the extra $800 alone.
Stores like Sam Ash and Guitar Center also offer used instruments at lower prices.
This digital piano is up to date with technology. Its wireless connectivity helps you use more than just SmartPianist. As more digital learning software comes out, flexibility and accessibility are going to become more important. You’ll want a piano that is equipped to handle more in the future.
The YDP-184 is a piano that will be there for your as your technique grows and as technology grows.
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