The Yamaha YPG-635 is a digital grand piano by Yamaha, a company that that has been admired for their quality keyboards for decades.
It is a great keyboard for beginners or intermediate-level pianists looking for something that will get them close to the real feel of a piano, while still being affordable and compact. It has a high quality, 88-key graded hammer-action keybed; this is certainly one of its most notable features.
It uses Yamaha’s AWM (Advanced Wave Memory) sound engine and has 500 different sounds to pick from, with 30 songs, 150 styles, and a DSP effects engine. In addition to this, it’s got 64 voices of polyphony, a pair of stereo speakers built in, and a 6 track MIDI sequencer. It’s no longer available for retail purchase for the most part, but can be found used for around $500, sometimes even lower.
Because of this, it’s certainly one of the best cheap keyboards available, even if just for the quality of its keybed and wealth of sound possibilities.
In this article we will be delving into the following aspects of the YPG-635:
- Keybed, Hardware & Build Quality
- Sound Engine
- Performance, Practice, & Educational Features
- Comparison to Similar Yamaha Keyboards
- Pros & Cons
To better help you, take a moment to check out the interactive guide below, which allows you to compare the Yamaha YPG-635 to other notable keyboards:
|Casio PX-S1100||192-note polyphony; 18 built-in tones|
|Yamaha P-45||64 Note Polyphony|
|Yamaha NP12||Uses Six AA Batteries|
|Yamaha P-515||40 Voices, 18 Drum/FX Kits, 480 XG Voices|
|Yamaha NP32||Graded Soft Touch (GST) Keyboard|
|Casio CDP-S350||700 built-in tones|
|Korg LP-380 U||Now features USB Audio/MIDI|
|Yamaha DGX 670||601 Voices, 29 Drums, SFX Kits|
Keybed, Hardware & Build Quality
In my opinion, the most important feature of a digital piano is its keybed, followed closely by the quality of its sounds. Fortunately, with Yamaha you can almost always expect their keyboards to have a high quality keybed with a realistic, responsive feel to get the utmost expressivity and realism out of the instrument. The YPG-635 does not fall short in this department, with 88 keys of Yamaha’s graded standard hammer-action.
This fully-weighted keybed has been designed to deliver an authentic experience akin to a real acoustic grand piano. On a “graded hammer action” keyboard, the keys in the lower register have a heavier response, and as you get into the higher registers the touch gets lighter; this is the same response behavior that you would find on an acoustic piano. This attention to detail is what helps to deliver such a realistic feeling keybed, even on a pretty affordable product.
Not only is the keybed on this keyboard realistic and high quality, it is durable and built-to-last. I have owned my 635 for almost 10 years; in that time it has seen consistent heavy usage almost every day, and it still feels and plays excellently. I think this is the mark of a great keyboard, being a quality instrument that holds up to years and years of use. You can count on this one to be reliable.
The YPG-635 also sports a stereo pair of speakers built into the chassis. This, in conjunction with the stereo samples provided by the sound engine (we’ll get to that later), gives you some pretty realistic playback without needing to plug into an external amplifier or set of speakers. The sound quality on these speakers is reasonably good, and it is absolutely sufficient for regular practice or playing in your home. It can get quite loud, and has a good frequency response for speakers of their size.
Though, I would not recommend trying to use these speakers for any sort of performance or group playing, without hooking up to an external speaker. As I said, the sound quality and frequency response of the built-in speakers is sufficient, but I didn’t quite realize how good the 635’s engine sounded until I hooked it up to a proper sound system or pair of headphones.
It should be noted, however, that having speakers built into your keyboard will unfortunately add quite a bit of weight (and size) to the overall unit, making it a lot less portable than a keyboard without speakers. This is certainly something to consider before buying this product, especially if you plan to use it for gigging or other similar usage. Because of this, the keyboard weighs in at almost 40 pounds, or 53 pounds when you include the wooden stand that it comes with.
The included wooden stand is a nice touch; it gives the keyboard a classier appearance in your room, and has a very solid build quality that can hold the keyboard sturdily without and wobbling, and will stand up to years of use.
This keyboard supports the use of Yamaha’s LP-7 three-pedal unit, which gives you access to a sostenuto and damper pedal in addition to a sustain pedal, just like you would find on a real piano.
This LP-7 unit attaches onto the wooden stand, and is particularly great if you plan to do a lot of intricate classical piano playing. Additional hardware on the front panel includes a backlit LCD screen for navigating through sounds, settings, and more; an ample number of buttons for selecting sounds and rhythms, recording tracks, etc.; and a pitch bend wheel that can be used with any of the sounds. It also comes with a music stand that attaches right to the keyboard to hold your sheet music, scores, and more.
There is an okay amount of connections on the rear of the keyboard. It has a DC input for power, a single stereo output for headphones or line output, a port for a Yamaha triple-pedal unit, a single sustain pedal input, a USB B output for connecting to a computer, a regular USB input to serve as a host, and finally a contrast knob for the LCD screen.
I really wish this keyboard had a MIDI output other than over USB, for integrating with a hardware setup without the need of a computer. Additionally, it would have been nice if there was a dual stereo quarter inch output in addition to the headphones output.
Below, check out some of the best selling keyboards online, and see how they compare to the Yamaha YPG-635:
|1) Yamaha P-45|
|2) Casio PX-360|
|3) Alesis Recital Pro|
|4) Casio CDP-S350|
|5) Casio PXS-1100|
The sound engine on the YPG-635 is a combination of Yamaha’s Advanced Wave Memory (AWM) engine for the base sounds and a Digital Signal Processing (DSP) engine for adding digital effects to these sounds.
The AWM engine on this keyboard uses true stereo, high fidelity samples and a fully stereo signal path to give you a high quality resulting sound, especially when used in conjunction with the built-in stereo speakers or headphones. There are over 500 sounds available, giving you more than enough options for playing any sort of music, and plenty of fun to be had.
These sounds include several different types of piano, electric piano, percussion, organs, guitars and basses, woodwinds, brass, strings, synth leads, pads, drums and much more. You could think of the sound set and layout as a much more expansive general MIDI set, but with considerably higher-quality samples.
Additionally, the DSP engine offers many different digital effects to further shape these sounds. This includes 29 different reverbs, 24 chorus effects, distortion, rotary speaker effects, and many more. It also has a harmonizer effect. The YPG has 64 voices of polyphony, to ensure you never run out of notes even when playing the most intricate pieces. It is also 16 part multi-timbral, allowing you to split and layer to your heart’s content.
Admittedly, the sound engine on Yamaha keyboards from this time, although still recent, can sound a bit dated at times, particularly depending on the sound you are using. If you stick to piano and electric piano sounds you probably won’t run into this problem, as those sound quite good, but when you venture into guitar, orchestra, and synth sounds, you might find that you’re better off using even the built-in sounds in your DAW.
This really only matters if you’re planning on using this keyboard for recording and expect record-quality sounds; for any sort of general home use these sounds are more than sufficient. Even if you aren’t interested in using a lot of the sounds this keyboard offers, it also functions as a fantastic MIDI controller keyboard for your DAW thanks to the awesome hammer-action keybed.
Performance, Practice, & Educational Features
The YPG-635 offers a number of additional features to help you with practicing, performing, and more. It has 30 songs and up to 150 different styles to help accompany you while playing. These styles come in any number of genre and tempo, and using the built-in “performance assistant” give you a drum track to play along with, and based on the bass notes and chords you play, infers additional bassline and rhythm section specifically shaped around what you’re playing.
Each style also comes with a recommended keyboard sound to best fit that specific style. This is a great feature to play around with while learning and practicing new songs, but could also prove to be very useful in a performance, especially if you are performing solo without a band. It also has a rudimentary score and lyrics display that can be configured for different songs to help you along while playing.
This keyboard has some rudimentary recording features with the built-in 6 track sequencer. This is a time-based sequencer, not a step sequencer, meaning anything you record will not be quantized in any way. It allows you to record one or several instruments into each of the 6 tracks, and includes the ability to mute any of these tracks at any time.
This is a super useful feature, especially when working on composing or arranging your own music; you can quickly sketch out ideas without needing to turn away from the keyboard and open a DAW. Whether you’re a professional musician or just a hobbyist player, this can be a ton of fun and a great educational tool for learning about songwriting, making arrangements, covers and more.
The YPG line comes with an included CD as part of the Yamaha Educational Suite; when used in conjunction with this keyboard and its educational features, it gives you interactive lessons with seven different levels of difficulty. This is great if you’re a beginner pianist or are just looking to hone your keyboard skills a bit more.
As I mentioned before, this keyboard also has extensive split and layering functionality. This gives you the ability to have a different sound in each hand while playing; for example, when playing along to one of the built-in styles, you can have an electric bass sound in the left hand and an electric piano sound in the right.
In addition to the drum tracks, it also has a simple and easy-to-use metronome that can be configured in any time signature at any tempo, and is extremely useful when practicing a new piece, and working on getting it up to speed.
The YPG-535 is another keyboard made by Yamaha in the YPG range. It has the exact same sound engine as the 635, except the polyphony is 32 instead of 64. It also has all of the same features, everything except for the keybed. The keybed on the 535 is still 88 keys, but instead of being weighted, Graded Hammer Action, it has a “soft touch,” meaning it has a bit of a lighter, more semi-weighted feel than the 635.
However, it is still a graded action, so you will feel some of that realistic variation between the low register, middle register, and high register. I would only really consider the 535 over the 635 if you have trouble playing on fully-weighted keys, or if you’re looking for something a bit more affordable.
Just like the YPG-635 and 535, the guts on the YPG-235 is exactly the same. It has the same AWM and DSP engines (32 voice polyphony like the 535), sequencer, styles, performance features, connections, etc. The only difference is the keybed and keyboard. The 235 offers a smaller 76 key keybed and as a result a bit more of a compact footprint.
Much like the 535, the 235 has a graded “soft touch” action, placing it somewhere between synth action and fully-weighted keybeds. The 235 is the smallest and most affordable of the YPG line; it really has no other advantages over the other two.
Despite being from a different product range, the DGX-660 is notably similar to the YPG-635. It has many of the same features, and a similar appearance except for the fact that it is all black instead of gray with wood accents. It also features an 88-key graded hammer-action keybed, just like the 635. It does, however, have a few more connections on the back; it has two different inputs, one for a microphone and one for a line-level auxiliary signal.
This is a pretty significant advantage over the YPG line, because it gives you the ability to run a vocal microphone and another instrument or accompaniment track right on board, either for playback through the built-in speakers or through the line output.
Perhaps the biggest advantage that the DGX-660 has over the 635 is that it has a completely different sound engine. It uses the Pure CF engine, which is considerably higher-quality and more professional-sounding than the admittedly-dated engine on the YPG. The Pure CF engine also supports up to 192 voices of polyphony, which gives you a significant amount more versatility for layering voices and using the built-in sequencer.
These superior features come at a price, however; the DGX-660 costs a few hundred dollars more than the YPG-635, meaning the 635 is definitely still a better option if you’re looking for something affordable but still feature-packed.
Pros & Cons
Let’s begin with the Pros.
Overall, the YPG-635 is a great piano for home use, especially for beginners and intermediate-level pianists. Its most significant feature is definitely the 88-key keybed with Yamaha’s graded hammer action. This gives you a very realistic, responsive, and expressive experience particularly when playing acoustic piano sounds.
Even if you aren’t interested in using the built-in sounds, it works great as an 88 key MIDI controller for your DAW, as long as you don’t need any DAW control features onboard. Arguably, the 635 might be one of the best 88 key weighted midi controllers you can buy for the price, even if it isn’t specifically meant to be one.
The sound engine offers over 500 different sounds, which is great, but in my opinion, the best of these sounds are the best sounds are really only the acoustic and electric pianos.
However, the fact that it has so many sounds is a definite “pro,” even just for the fact that it is quite a bit of fun to try out playing songs using the multitude of different sounds. The fact that it has 64 voices polyphony is another “pro,” it pretty much means that you will rarely run out of voices in any sort of normal usage.
The 6 track MIDI sequencer is another useful feature; it isn’t nearly as robust as the sequencer in any DAW, but it serves as a great learning tool and for quickly sketching out song ideas without needing to turn away from the keyboard and lose your train of thought.
The built-in speakers are nice to have as well, particularly if you plan on using the 635 for practicing piano in your home; it means you don’t need to worry about hooking your keyboard up to an amp or speaker.
The wooden stand that this keyboard comes with is great as well; it is very solid and reliable as a stationary home for the YPG, and gives the keyboard a much more attractive, piano-like appearance.
There are some negative aspects to the YPG-635 as well, for sure. One of the biggest “cons” to me is the fact that its built-in speakers, although they are very useful, add a lot of weight to the keyboard itself, especially when combined with the hammer action keybed. Because of this, it is extremely heavy and therefore not ideal for gigging or any sort of mobile usage.
Being an older keyboard in a low price range, some of the features are a little dated. In particular, its built-in styles and songs are essentially using the same auto-accompaniment system that Yamaha have been using in their keyboards since the 90’s.
On top of that, a majority of the sounds in the 635’s engine sound pretty cheap and dated. This is only really the case for some of the more rarely-used sounds like guitar, strings, and synthesizers; it has some decent ones for the general bread-and-butter sounds.
The rear panel connections on the YPG also leave a bit to be desired. In particular, I would have liked to see MIDI input and output on a DIN connection instead of just USB. This would have opened up the possibility of using its great keybed to control hardware synths or other keyboards without needing to use a USB to MIDI converter.
In addition to that, it would have been nice to see an audio input like on the DGX-660, and a dedicated stereo output on dual-TRS jacks. Overall, however, it’s hard to blame a keyboard in this price range for not having all of these “ideal” features.
All in all, the Yamaha YPG-635 is a great keyboard for beginner and intermediate players who are looking for a keyboard that gets close to the feeling of playing an acoustic piano without breaking the bank, and in a reasonably-compact size. By no means to the negatives outweigh the positives with this keyboard, but in particular it depends on what kind of features you are looking for in a keyboard of this kind.
It can’t be denied that its most significant feature is its 88-key graded hammer-action keybed, and if you can get it for a good price this is reason alone to buy it. It is very heavy and unruly for any sort of mobile-use, and thus should really be stationary in a home, in conjunction with the custom stand. I hope this article was helpful in your decision-making process!
This article was written by Digital Piano Review Guide contributor Nicholas Barra.
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