Just like any other purchase decision, research is crucial! The digital piano industry can be confusing and overwhelming. There are so many brands and models, each has its own features and specs. To help you with that, I list my best pick of digital pianos in 2019 and share with you my knowledge of the industry. Are you looking for your very first piano to start learning this amazing instrument? Or maybe you are looking to upgrade your current keyboard because your skill has out-grown it. Are you a student or a pianist looking for a secondary piano to practice at home? Or are you in a band and need a good piano to perform from place to place? Maybe you just really want a concert grand but don’t have the budget nor the space to accommodate it. Whatever your reasons are, if you are looking for the best digital pianos for your need in 2019, you have landed on the right place.
Along the years, the digital piano industry has come a long way. Newer and better technologies are being pushed out every year by major manufactures. There are quite some amazing choices in 2019 to meet your different needs.
- The good news of the industry expanding is that digital pianos now a days have very realistic key actions and natural sound. In many ways, they are superior to your traditional upright acoustic piano. I do firmly believe that it will come a day when digital pianos replace acoustic ones for home use.
- The bad news however is that there are so many models from so many brands and various different technology terms. It can be a taunting task to compare and find the right digital piano for you.
To help find the perfect digital piano for you, here are some buyer’s guide to consider:
Whether you have no experience and want to benefit from learning piano, or you are a performing pianist, your skill level is one of the key factors to determine which digital piano is right for you.
Portability is another major factor. If you are in a band performing from venue to venue, you simply can not use a console style digital piano.
Last but definitely not the least is your budget. Due to the heavy competition in the industry, I’m happy to report that most digital pianos on the market are properly priced. However, there are many bells and whistles that you might not want to be paying for. This is why checking reviews before you purchase is so important.
What We’ll be Looking at Here
Before we get to my list of best digital pianos in 2019, I want to first set some criteria so that you understand what we are looking at here.
Piano play is the main purpose here when I compile this list. Other instrument voices would be a nice addition but they are not my main focus.
All the models I list here are equipped with 88 keys. That to me is simply a must if you want to learn and practice piano.
The keys must be weighted with hammer, graded and are touch sensitive.
They need to be weighted because the keys on acoustic pianos are. And you need that weight to express emotion during your play. The weight need to be created with actual hammers instead of springs. This is the best way to ensure a realistic key action.
To get on this list, the keys also need to be graded. This means the weight on each key is different. It is to reproduce the key action on an acoustic piano. The weight is heaviest on the bass and gets lighter towards the treble. You need this to be able to easily switch to an acoustic piano after practicing on your digital piano.
Just like an acoustic piano, the keys on a digital piano need to be touch sensitive. The volume of the sound produced is controlled by the strength and speed of the key press. This is another necessity for a proper piano play experience.
The models on this best digital pianos 2019 list are judged based on key action, piano sound quality, relevant features and price.
Digital vs. Acoustic Piano
If you are new to the digital piano world, one of the first thing you would ask yourself is whether you should get a digital piano or would you be better off purchasing an acoustic piano. Here I want to help you with some of their pros and cons so that you can look at your need and limitations to choose the right one.
The sound of an acoustic piano is produced by the hammer hitting the string. The string then vibrates and creating a sound wave that not only moves directly toward the players ears but also projects at all directions and bounces off components inside and outside of the instrument. The sound is immersive and full of subtle nuances. The drawback however is that sound quality varies largely from cheaper upright models to expensive concert grand ones.
Digital piano on the other hand uses various technologies to re-produce the sound of an acoustic piano and then delivers that sound with its speaker system. It usually contains less nuances due to the limitation of the electronics on board. Dynamic range is another disadvantage of digital piano sound and that could limit the control and expressiveness of your performance. However, with most digital pianos, you usually get samples from the world’s best acoustic concert grand. This makes many digital pianos sound better than a cheap acoustic upright. Another benefit of digital pianos is that they usually let you easily tweak and fine tune the sound characteristics to your liking. To do that on an acoustic piano, you will need to hire a professional technician.
Digital pianos over the years have much improved their key actions but still could not quite meet the level of control and expressiveness from an acoustic piano. However, quite a few premium models and hybrid models come really close and many can not tell the difference. Generally speaking, acoustic pianos still have the better key actions. However, bear in mind that acoustic upright and grand pianos have very different key mechanism. And since most digital pianos are mimicking actions from grand piano, you might prefer a digital piano to an acoustic upright.
If you go for an acoustic piano, you will need to be mindful to the maintenance needed own the road. The exterior, soundboard, wooden components, felt on the hammer and the steel strings are all parts that would be subject to age, humidity and temperature. As a result, you not only need to keep your instrument under ideal environment, but also need to tune the piano couple times a year. These could mount to be exhausting and expensive. Meanwhile, a digital piano is mostly care free.
Digital pianos provide many valuable features that are simply not possible on acoustic pianos. Many would choose a digital piano over an acoustic one for this reason alone.
- Portability: While acoustic pianos are heavy and bulky, digital ones come with all sizes and weights. You can find ones that you can carry with one arm and are ideal for gigs. There are other digital pianos that are so slim they can be fit in a hallway. Furthermore, if you live in an apartment upstairs, you can easily move your digital piano through the stairs or elevator. While with an acoustic one, you will need some professional help.
- Headphone: Digital pianos allow you to practice and play using headphones. This is to many the biggest advantage of a digital instrument. It can save a lot headaches and embarrassment for your neighbors and family members when you just want to smash some keys in the middle of the night.
- More Instruments: Almost all digital pianos come with multiple piano sounds as well as some other instrument voices. You can choose the sound best suited for the piece you are working on and even layer it with a secondary instrument. It is a lot of fun playing with all the different sounds and fuel you with creative ideas.
- Recording and Connectivity: Most digital pianos on the market right now allow you to record your performance so that you can play it back and fine tune your technique or expression. Many also give you the capability to mix multiple tracks so that you can really compose your own piece. Furthermore, all of them have ports or Bluetooth to connect with your computer and you can do your magic with software.
Price & Accommodation
Digital pianos are almost always cheaper than their acoustic counterparts. The difference in price is very significant and that would most likely be a major factor for your consideration. Accommodation is another strong point to go for a digital piano. We all love a 9 foot acoustic concert grand. But you better buy a huge house first.
Digital Piano Terminology
While researching on the best digital piano for you, it is inevitable to encounter numerous terminologies. These can be overwhelming and it’s a taunting task to figure what each of them means. To add to the confusion, each manufacture tends to use their own term and you end up with several different names for the same thing. To set things straight for you, I list some of the most important terminologies and explain what they are.
- Key Action
- Sensors: Instead of strings, a digital piano uses sensors to measure the timing and volume of the sound it should produce. It starts with two sensors. When the key/hammer moves from one sensor to the other, they measure the time difference thus to understand the speed of the movement. This gives you control of volume by how hard you press the keys, much like an acoustic piano. A triple sensor system is later introduced to provide fast repetition possibility. Instead of return the key/hammer to the first sensor, you can now return it to the much closer middle sensor. On some high end hybrid digital pianos, you can often find more advanced optical sensors. These are sensors that use some sort of laser to capture the position, movement and speed of the key/hammer.
- Escapement a.k.a. Let off: On an acoustic piano, a clever mechanism is engineered to free the hammer after it hits the string. This is necessary because the string needs to be able to vibrate freely to create and maintain sound. This mechanism is called escapement or let off. It gives a subtle notch feeling when you press the key slowly. While on a digital piano, such mechanism serves no purpose, many manufactures include a simulated escapement to mimic that notch feeling.
- Key length & Pivot point: A pivot point is where the key stick rotates around. The placement of the pivot point together with the length of the key stick is often an important factor for key action quality. The longer the key and the further back the pivot point, the smoother and lighter the key feels. It is also crucial when you need to press a key near its back end, there is still enough distance from the pivot point for the key to feel light and responsive.
- Counterweights: On an acoustic grand piano, individually calculated weights are added to the front end of the keys to lighten the action. This can also be found on some high end digital pianos.
- Sound Engine
- Sampling vs. Modeling: Sound can be produced in two ways on a digital piano. When you press a key, it can play back a pre-recorded sample from an acoustic instrument, or it can use computer modeling to create the sound from scratch. Most manufactures use a combination of both. The tone of each individual key is recorded and various resonance are being added by computer modeling.
- Polyphony: When you have the sustain pedal pressed, the sound continues to live after you lift your fingers from the keys. This allows multiple notes to sound at the same time. The maximum polyphony determines how many notes can be sounded at the same time. It goes without say that the more the merrier.
- Multi-track recording: Not all digital piano supports that function but it can be very useful to you. Multi-track recording allows you to record separate parts of a piece and then play them back together. For example, you can first record the left hand part. Select the same song and record the right hand part. Or, you can record a piano piece first and then add some strings or rhythms. Depends on your need, this could be a must have feature.
- USB to device: On almost all the digital pianos out there, you will find USB to host port. With an adapter, you can connect the piano to your computer and do all kinds of fun stuff. In addition to that, some digital pianos also have a USB to device port. This will allow you to plug a USB stick in it and record/export audio files of your performance on to the USB stick. It is a very convenient feature to export your recording for further mixing on a computer or share it with your friends and families.
What Type of Digital Piano is Right for You?
To help you find your perfect digital piano, I further narrow the list down based on categories. Each of these will be fit for different purposes of use. Choose your category based on your need and then you can easily find the right digital piano.
- Portable digital pianos are designed for gigging musicians, who need to move the instrument from venue to venue. They are compact in size and light in weight. Many people mistaken them for electric keyboards or synthesizers. They usually have a very simplistic sustain pedal and you will need to purchase a stand and bench separately for these. They have built in speakers and can be used with external amplifiers or PA systems. Generally speaking, these are the most affordable digital pianos on the market. Which makes them also good choice for home use on a budget. You can usually find a console style stand for these and make it look more furniture wise for your home.
- Stage digital pianos are similar to portable digital pianos. These are designed for high-end professional gigging musicians. They usually have the best key action the manufacture can offer and are packed with many features that are important for stage performance. The internal sound samples are also top notch. These are your premium quality digital pianos and are built with strong materials to withstand all kinds of accidents during transit. Usually there is no internal speakers in these stage digital pianos because they are meant to be used on stage with amplifiers. Being premium products, stage digital pianos are usually quite expensive and should only be considered if you are a professional gigging pianist.
- Digital upright pianos are sometimes also called console style digital pianos. They sit up against the wall and are not meant to be moved around. Aesthetics wise, they are designed to function as a furniture to your home. Most digital upright pianos are small and sleek, which make them better fit for modern home compare to traditional acoustic upright pianos. They come with three pedals just like an acoustic piano and they usually have pretty good speakers system built in.
- Hybrid pianos are a special breed. Don’t confuse these with silent pianos. Hybrid pianos are fully digital pianos with a key actions that’s identical to an acoustic piano. They combine the best of both worlds. You can find all the benefits of digital pianos and enjoy an actual key action from an acoustic piano. In most cases, the key actions built in the hybrid pianos are from grand pianos, which is different from the key action of an upright acoustic piano. The downside of these is of course the price. Hybrid pianos are very expensive and is only suitable for those who want the best of the best and don’t care much about money.
Now that you have narrowed it down to one specific type of digital piano. Let’s dive in and find the best digital piano that’s on the market for you!
BEST PORTABLE DIGITAL PIANOS
1. Kawai ES110
The Kawai ES110 has been praised by many since its launch. After reviewing it and comparing it with others, I put the Kawai ES110 on the top spot for the best portable digital piano available.
Kawai ES110 is highly focused on the piano play with minimum bells and whistles. Every dollar you spent goes to enhance your piano playing experience.
It is equipped with Kawai’s Responsive Hammer Compact key action, which is realistic and responsive. Kawai has created something very close to the key action of an acoustic piano on the ES110. Personally, I think the RHC feels better than Yamaha’s GHS. The keys are made from plastic with matte finish.
ES110 uses Kawai’s Harmonic Imaging technology to sample every single note with different volume from Kawai’s world famous EX concert grand. Combined with reverb and resonances, the ES110 sounds rich, natural, dynamic and reproduces a very realistic sound experience to the EX concert grand.
The ES110 has a maximum polyphony of 192.
Like most portable digital pianos at this price range, the Kawai ES110 does not have the best speaker system. There are two 7 watt speakers in the ES110. It is loud enough to fill a room or a small venue. The sound produced by these speakers are clear and detailed even at maximum volume. For a larger place or out door performance, you will need to connect it to an external amplifier.
The Kawai ES110 is the only one at this price range that comes with Bluetooth. You can connect ES110 to an iPad and there are several app you can use to either fine tune the instrument or to help you learn and practice piano.
Internally, the ES110 can record 3 songs and there is no possibility to combine tracks. However, since there’s Bluetooth, you can easily connect the ES110 to a smart device and do your recording/mixing there.
Another great value you will get with the Kawai ES110 is the high quality sustain pedal that’s included in the price. Unlike other models in this price range, the included pedal supports half pedaling and is surprisingly responsive.
For less than $800, the Kawai ES110 offers massive value and has features that are only found on much more expensive models. It takes the crown to be my best portable digital piano and I’m sure you will not be disappointed by it! For more details about the ES110, read my full review here.
2. Yamaha DGX-660
The Yamaha DGX-660 is a strong contestant for the best portable digital piano. Being the flagship of Yamaha’s DGX line, the DGX-660 is packed with features and is also solid in very aspect.
The Yamaha Graded Hammer Standard key action is what you will find on the DGX-660. It is not a bad key action, but it’s slightly lacking compare to its competitors. It is on the low end of Yamaha’s key actions and is not that impressive. The keys are not very expressive and I find it hard to put emotions into my play with the GHS. The keys are plastic with matte finish.
The Pure CF sound engine in the DGX-660 does a great job to reproduce the sound of Yamaha’s world famous CFIIIS 9 foot concert grand. The sound is natural, detailed and has Yamaha’s signature bright tonal characteristic.
The DGX-660 has a maximum polyphony of 192.
To show off the sound engine, DGX-660 is equipped with two 6 watt amplifiers firing four speakers. I like that Yamaha puts the extra 5 cm speakers for the high notes. The speaker system creates a realistic and rich experience. It also gets quite loud to fill a living room.
What makes the Yamaha DGX-660 stand out is its features. You can find everything you want on it, including hundreds of voices, present styles and a whopping 5 songs 6 tracks internal recorder. You can have a lot of fun on the DGX-660.
It is also the only model in this price range that comes with a display. And it’s not a simple display to show some numbers. This is a 320×240 full dot LCD display that’s capable of displaying scores and lyrics.
Unlike most other portable digital pianos at the price range, the DGX-660 also has the ability to record in WAV format. Combined with a USB to device port, you can easily export your performance and share it on the internet.
For around $800, you will not find another digital piano that has so many features as the DGX-660. If I’m ranking for the best all round, the DGX-660 would take the top position. It ends up second only because I focus on piano play experience. For more details about the DGX-660, read my full review here.
3. Kawai ES8
Being the flagship of Kawai’s ES series, the ES8 has all the best that Kawai has to offer on a portable digital piano. There are many upgrades you will find on the ES8 compare to the ES110. Although that’s to be expected because the ES8 cost more than twice the price of the ES110. But if you ask me, the ES8 is worth the price, especially if you are a gigging pianist.
The ES8 has Kawai’s newest Responsive Hammer III key action. Many claim it to be the best plastic key action they’ve ever tried on a digital piano. It has all the premium features you will find on a keyboard, including three sensors, simulated let off, counterweights and synthetic Ivory/Ebony key tops. Playing on the ES8 is just a breeze. The keys are working for you instead of against you and it’s much easier to express emotion on this keyboard than many of its competitors.
An improved sound engine called Harmonic Imaging XL samples each individual note on various volume level and extends the sampling duration up to 120%. You will also get three sampling of Kawai’s top of the line grand acoustic pianos: the 9 foot SK-EX concert grand, the medium sized studio grand SK-5 and the 9 foot EX concert grand. You will have to listen to it yourself to see how close Kawai has done to reproduce the sound of their grand acoustic pianos.
Unlike those cheaper models, the Kawai ES8 has a maximum polyphony of 256.
The Kawai ES8 has two 15 watt speakers in it. They are quite powerful and can easily fill a large room. This is the one portable digital piano that I can comfortable recommend for large venue and out door performance. Quality wise, the sound from the built in speakers are rich and natural with wide dynamic range.
Aimed at gigging pianists, the ES8 has a rugged build quality. Its frame is built with aluminum and the side panels are made with wood. You don’t need to be careful while dragging the ES8 from gig to gig.
Just like the ES110, the ES8 comes with a high quality sustain pedal supporting half pedaling. It feels realistic and responsive.
Internally, the ES8 can record up to 10 song each with 2 tracks. It can also record and export to a USB stick WAV as well as MP3 audio files, making it that much easier to share your performances.
At around $2,000, the Kawai ES8 is not a cheap piano. But for serious gigging pianists, this is a great portable digital piano to perform on. It’s built like a tank, plays like a concert grand and sounds amazing. That’s why it takes the third spot on the best portable digital piano list. Read my full review on the Kawai ES8.
Casio Privia PX-160
As an entry level model to the Casio PX line, the Privia PX-160 may lack some features but it doesn’t cut back on what’s important.
The PX-160 has Casio’s Tri-Sensor Scaled Hammer Action II key action. This is probably the cheapest triple sensor key action you can find on the market. It is identical to many of Casio’s high end models, including its flagship PX-870. So even on this relatively cheap model, you are getting the best key action from Casio. The keys are made from plastic and have the synthetic Ivory/Ebony key tops. This keyboard feels responsive and expressive. To me, it feels better than Yamaha’s GHS. It might just be the best key action you can find at this price range.
Another important feature that you can find on the Casio Privia PX-160 is the Multi-dimensional Morphing AiR Sound Source. Again, this is the exact same sound engine you will find on Casio’s flagship PX-870. Combined with two 8 watt speakers, the PX-160 sounds realistic with rich dynamic range.
The Casio PX-160 only has a maximum polyphony of 128. This is where you start to see the cheap price taking its effect. However, for most beginners, a smaller polyphony is not necessary a deal breaker.
Internally, the PX-160 is able to record only one song up to two tracks. There are two headphone jacks and one USB to host port.
For just over $500, you are getting the best key action and sound engine from Casio. This alone guarantees a spot on my best digital piano list. Yes, you are missing a lot features. But for an entry level instrument, I’d rather pay for the key action and sound than fancy features that might not be useful to me as a beginner. Click here to read my full review on the Casio PX-160.
This is another great choice for beginner piano players. Especially those who want to give piano a try but don’t want to invest too much in the beginning. For that reason, I say the Yamaha P-45 is the best digital piano for beginners. There is a Amazon exclusive version called P-71 that is identical to the P-45.
The P-45 uses Yamaha’s Graded Hammer Standard key action. It is the same key action you can find on Yamaha DGX-660. Keys are made from plastic with matte finish. It is a decent key action for beginners. Although I find the keys a little dull and hard to express emotions though them.
AMW Stereo Sampling is the sound engine built in the P-45. It’s Yamaha’s low end sound engine and it’s quite basic. The result is not too bad. But compare to its competitors, the sound of the P-45 is not impressive at all. Combined with two 6 watt speakers, the P-45 can handle a medium sized room and produce enjoyable sound, although you might need to adjust your expectations.
There is no internal recording capability of the P-45 and it only has a maximum polyphony of 64.
Overall, the P-45 has decent key action and okay sound engine. It lacks many important features and you will have to upgrade in the future. However, for less than $400, you really can not find anything better than the Yamaha P-45. Read my full review on the Yamaha P-45.
This entry level portable digital piano from Roland’s FP series is a strong option to consider. It is quite solid in many aspects and will provide an enjoyable playing experience.
The FP-30 is equipped with Roland’s 4th generation PHA-4 key action with plastic key and synthetic Ivory/Ebony key tops. It is also a triple sensor keyboard that gives the capability of fast and responsive key press. In addition, the FP-30 keys also has an advanced feature called ‘escapement‘. It is sometimes also called ‘let-off’ and is a simulated notch feeling that you can find on grand acoustic pianos. This keyboard feels natural, precise and expressive.
Like many other Roland digital pianos, the FP-30 has the SuperNATURAL Piano Sound engine. It record each individual note on an acoustic piano and build upon that with computer modeling. The result is a realistic, rich and dynamic re-production of acoustic piano sound. Coupled with two 11 watt speakers, the Roland FP-30 is capable of filling en entire room and impress every audience.
The FP-30 has a maximum polyphony of 128. It is slightly less than the competition you can find around similar price range.
Bluetooth and USB to device port are two of some very useful features you can find on the FP-30. You can connect it with your smart device and utilize apps to help fine tune the instrument or help with your practice.
Unfortunately, the FP-30 does not support multi tracking recording. The internal recorder of the FP-30 can only record one song.
Overall, the Roland FP-30 is a decent choice around $700. Read my full review on the Roland FP-30 here!
If you are on team Yamaha and the P-45 is too basic for you, the next one to look at is the P-125. This is a new release of 2018 and it brings some good upgrades.
The P-125 uses the same Graded Hammer Standard key action as the P-45. It’s a good entry level keyboard with plastic keys and matte finish. The action is a little dull and I find it hard to be expressive while playing on the P-125. That said, it’s still a good enough keyboard for any beginners.
Unlike the P-45, the P-125 has Yamaha’s more advance sound engine called Pure CF. It does a great job to reproduce the sound of Yamaha’s world famous CFIIIS 9 foot concert grand. The sound is natural, detailed and has Yamaha’s signature bright tonal characteristic. This is certainly a better sound engine than the one you can find on the P-45. There are two 7 watt amplifiers with 4 speakers in the P-125. The two 4 cm tweeters help produce natural and clear high frequency notes.
The P-125 has a maximum polyphony of 192, another big upgrade from the P-45’s 64.
Internally , you can record one song with up to two tracks. This might be a big upgrade from P-45 but facing competitions at similar price range, the recording capability of the P-125 is a bit lacking. Especially considering it’s a new model from 2018. The P-125 also does not have USB to device, nor does it have Bluetooth.
To conclude, the P-125 is a solid mid range digital piano from Yamaha’s P series. It’s main advantage would be the Pure CF sound engine. It sits comfortably at a little over $700. Read here my full review on the Yamaha P-125!
Roland’s flagship FP-90 is introduced to compete with the Kawai ES8 for the premium portable digital piano segment. As it turns out, the FP-90 is no less impressive than the ES8.
The Roland FP-90 uses Roland’s best key action PHA-50. This is the key action on other Roland’s flagship models like the LX17. Not surprisingly, you can find all the advance feature including triple sensor, synthetic Ivory/Ebony key tops and simulated escapement. The keys are made of plastic but has wooden panels on each side of each key. This not only gives a premium look to the keys but they also serve to improve the feel of key press.
The SuperNATURAL Piano Modeling technology that’s on the FP-90 is different than most sound engine used on digital pianos. Instead of recording of acoustic pianos, this engine uses pure computer modeling to create a piano sound from scratch. It must be a very sophisticated system because the end result is nothing short of amazing. However, using a innovative technology usually creates a love it or hate it situation. Some players find the FP-90 sounds fake and other can’t love it enough. In the end, it depends on personal taste, like everything audio wise.
Another impressive feature that the modeling technology brings to the FP-90 is the unlimited polyphony while play the piano tones. This is just not possible with sample technology from other manufactures. For the rest 346 instruments, the maximum polyphony is 384.
The FP-90 has two 30 watt amplifiers firing 4 speakers. This is one of the most powerful speaker system you can find on portable digital pianos now a days. Those 2.5 cm tweeters works great to reproduce accurate high frequency notes.
Internally, the FP-90 can only record one MIDI with no multi track capability. But this shouldn’t dis-encourage you because the FP-90 has all the connection features you need to handle your recording/mixing externally. It has the USB to device port as well as Bluetooth and it can output WAV file to your memory stick.
The Roland FP-90 will set you back around $1,800. If you have that budget, the FP-90 is definitely one of the premium portable digital pianos you should consider. Do be careful though, the FP-90 weights 23.6 kg (52 lbs), making it the heaviest portable digital piano on the market right now. Read here my full review on the Roland FP-90!
Yamaha’s flagship portable digital piano is the P-255. It fits in a good spot that you might find appealing.
The P-255 has the Graded Hammer keyboard that’s plastic with synthetic Ivory/Ebony key tops. This is a different key action from the cheaper Graded Hammer Standard. The keys are much quieter, stable and heavier. However, this is a two sensor key action, which seems out-dated as of now.
The Pure CF sound engine in the P-255 does a great job to reproduce the sound of Yamaha’s world famous CFIIIS 9 foot concert grand. The sound is natural, detailed and has Yamaha’s signature bright tonal characteristic. The speaker system consists of two 15 watt amplifiers with 4 speakers.
The Yamaha P-255 has a maximum polyphony of 256.
The P-255 can record internally 10 songs each with up to 2 tracks. It has also a USB to device port that it can output WAV files to a USB memory stick.
Overall, the Yamaha P-255 is much inferior to the other flagships like the Kawai ES8 and the Roland FP-90. However, the P-255 is also much cheaper. If your budget is around $1,300, the P-255 is a model you need to consider.
BEST STAGE DIGITAL PIANOS
1. Kawai MP11SE
Just like the Kawai ES110 on the #1 spot of my best portable digital piano list, the MP11SE is also highly focused on piano play experience and Kawai delivers an amazing package. To many, It has the best key action and sound on a stage piano. For that same reason, I put the Kawai MP11SE on the top spot of my best stage digital piano list.
The MP11SE (Second Edition) is equipped with Kawai’s latest Grand Feel key action. The keys are made out of wood and are beautifully constructed. It has a long distance to the key pivot point, the exact same distance on the key action of a grand acoustic piano. This not only creates a realistic grand piano feel but also gives the player much more control and expression compare to a shorter key pivot length. Being the latest key action, the MP11SE has all the newest features from Kawai, including synthetic Ivory key tops, simulated let off, triple sensor and counterweights.
Just like other flagship models from Kawai, the MP11SE has the improved sound engine called Harmonic Imaging XL, which samples each individual note on various volume levels and extends the sampling duration up to 120%. You will also get three sampling of Kawai’s top of the line grand acoustic pianos: the 9 foot SK-EX concert grand, the medium sized studio grand SK-5 and the 9 foot EX concert grand. You will have to listen to it yourself to see how close Kawai has done to reproduce the sound of their grand acoustic pianos.
The MP11SE has a maximum polyphony of 256.
To recreate a realistic piano playing experience, Kawai has re-designed their triple pedal unit that comes with the MP11SE. This pedal unit is modeled GFP-3 and it uses an advanced optical sensor instead of traditional contact sensor. This new technology gives the pedals more control over the whole press distance and more responsiveness. It also allows for more precise fine tuning of the pedal behavior through Kawai’s Virtual Technician app, along with other 22 parameters you can tweak for the MP11SE.
The Kawai MP11SE can record internally 10 songs without the ability of multi tracking mixing. It can also export MP3/WAV files to a USB stick with the USB to device port.
Aimed at gigging pianists, the MP11SE is built like a tank. The frame is made from sturdy metal and it can withstand all the abuse you can throw at it’s way. However, the cost of that is size and weight. The MP11SE is bulky and quite heavy at 34 kg (75 lbs.).
Even though it lacks some features like Bluetooth and is bulky and heavy, the MP11SE is truly the stage piano that dedicates itself to create the best piano play experience. For around $2,800, you are getting the best key action, sound and pedal behavior on the market. To many professional gigging pianists, the Kawai MP11SE worth every dollar of its price.
2. Yamaha CP4
The Yamaha CP4 has been around for a few year now. It might not have the latest features that’s been throwing around. But it remains many pianists’ favorite gigging piano, for very good reasons.
The key action on the CP4 is what Yamaha calls Natural Wood Graded Hammer action. The white keys are made of wood and all the keys are covered with synthetic Ivory materials. There are three sensors in the action to provide an accurate and fast repetition of the same note. Many like the CP4’s key action and consider it to be very close to an acoustic grand piano.
Yamaha uses their Spectral Component Modeling and Advanced Wave Memory 2 technology to drive the piano sound on the CP4. Not only is the result authentic but these modeling technology allows tweaking the sound in many different ways, using the master EQ sliders on the control panel. It features Yamaha’s flagship CFX 9 foot concert grand together with more than 400 other instrument voices.
The CP4 has a maximum polyphony of 128.
There is no capability to record internally on the CP4. However, being designed for stage play, that shouldn’t be a deal breaker. What’s going to keep gigging pianists happy about the CP4 is that it’s lightweight at only 18 kg (39 lbs).
The awesome wood key action, authentic voices and various tweaking capabilities make the Yamaha CP4 one of the most popular stage digital piano. For $2,000, it offers great value and performance that any serious stage pianist will appreciate.
3. Roland RD-2000
Roland RD-2000 is a powerful keyboard for stage play. Just by looking at it, you know it means business. All the knobs and sliders are not there for looks.
Beneath that almost intimidating control panel is Roland’s PHA-50 key action. It is currently the best key action from Roland and it feel great. This is the same key action on other Roland’s flagship models like the LX17. Not surprisingly, you can find all the advance feature including triple sensor, synthetic Ivory/Ebony key tops and simulated escapement. The keys are made of plastic but has wooden panels on each side of each key. This not only gives a premium look to the keys but they also serve to improve the feel of key press.
When it comes to sound, Roland does its magic on the RD-2000. It has one dedicated sound engine only for acoustic piano voices. This is Roland’s V-Piano engine, that creates authentic piano sound from scratch by using computer modeling. The other SuperNATURAL sound engine drive all other voices, and there are more than 1,000 of them!
The acoustic piano sounds created by the V-Piano engine have unlimited polyphony while the other voices with the SuperNATURAL sound engine has a maximum polyphony of 128.
The sophisticated control panel is probably the first thing you would notice on the Roland RD-2000. There are 9 sliders, 8 knobs, 2 wheels and 2 more switchers. The effects and tuning of this instrument is almost endless.
The RD-2000 does not have the ability to record MIDI internally. It can however export WAV files to USB stickers with the USB to device port.
For about $2,500, the Roland RD-2000 is certainly not cheap. But the authentic and versatile sound engine combined with many effects and tweaking makes this an impressive and powerful instrument for the stage.
Nord Stage 3 88 Keys
The Nord Stage 3 88 keys is a very popular choice for stage performance. Although piano play is only part of its functions, some of its features grants the Stage 3 a spot on the best stage piano list.
Although fully weighted, the key action on Nord Stage 3 88 keys is not that impressive compare to other models on the market. Especially when you judge it by how close it reproduce the key feel of an acoustic grand piano. The keys are plastic and do not have any advanced features that are being thrown around these days.
The sound of the Nord Stage 3 however is nothing short of amazing. Not only does it creates authentic and enjoyable sound, it also allow you to download which ever sound you like from Nord’s library to the 2 GB on board memory on the Stage 3. Their online piano library contains many world famous instrument, including Steinway, Bosendorfer, Fazioli and others. Besides piano, the Nord Stage 3 also has an organ section as well as a synth section.
The piano section of the Stage 3 has a maximum polyphony of 120.
The Stage 3 does not have internal recording capability nor does it have a USB to device port. But it is equipped with 5 different pedal jacks to support its various playing mode and effects.
Overall, at around $4,500, the Nord Stage 3 88 keys is reserved only to the most demanding stage performers. But if the features on this instrument is useful for your kind of gigs, the Nord Stage 3 is definitely one great choice to look out for.
Casio has been making solid stage digital pianos for a while now and their flagship PX-560 is a performance powerhouse with great value.
The PX-560 uses Casio’s Tri-Sensor Scaled Hammer Action II key action. This is one solid key action with plastic keys, synthetic Ivory key tops and triple sensors. It feels responsive and expressive. However, at this price range, there are simply better key actions out there.
The Casio Privia PX-560 is equipped with Multi-dimensional Morphing AiR Sound Source. Each note of a grand acoustic piano is recorded at multiple levels and the sample uses lossless audio compression. This give the PX-560 an authentic and dynamic reproduction of a grand acoustic piano. Furthermore, there are 650 voices and a maximum polyphony of 256. The PX-560 also comes with two 8 watt amplifiers firing 4 speakers.
This flagship of Privia from Casio is designed for performers. There are tons of effects, tweaking, rhythms and modes that you can choose from. To make life easier and ensure a quick switch on the fly, the PX-560 has a 5.3-inch LCD touchscreen display. This is the only one that you can find at this the price range.
The PX-560 has an impressive internal MIDI recording capability. It can record up to 100 songs each with 16 tracks. You can also come back to any part of the song and re-record it using the punch-in recording function. Once you are happy with the result, you can export the song in WAV to a USB stick with the USB to device port.
Overall, the Casio PX-560 might not be as impressive and powerful as other flagship stage digital pianos. But at around $1,300, the PX-560 is worth every penny and then some. It is a great choice for stage performers who are a bit tight on budget.
Nord Piano 4
Newly introduced in 2018, the Piano 4 is the newest and most advanced stage piano from Nord. Unlike the Nord Stage 3, the Piano 4, as it’s name would suggest, is highly focused on piano performance on stage.
A triple sensor fatar keyboard is used on the Piano 4 with Nord’s own Virtual Hammer Action Technology. This is by far the most realistic key action from Nord. It has good control, wide dynamic range and fast repetition.
True to Nord’s name, the Piano 4 comes with a 1GB memory for piano samples to be downloaded from Nord’s online library. All the samples are highly customizable with the new Creative Piano Filters to fit the performers’ need. With a much expanded 120 polyphony, the Nord Piano 4 sounds authentic and rich in details.
Being a stage instrument, the Piano 4 has many customization and effects that you can choose from. The built in OLED display helps to change your settings on stage under the worst lighting condition. Nord has developed seamless transitions and split point crossfades to insure a smooth transit when you change something on a live performance.
The Nord Piano 4 is a force to be reckoned with in the stage piano market. Although the price tag of about $3,000 is quite a barrier to many pianists.
BEST UPRIGHT DIGITAL PIANOS
1. Kawai CA48
Kawai’s Concert Artist CA series is the most premium upright style digital piano line from the world famous Japanese manufacture. In 2018, Kawai has introduced several new additions to the CA series, the CA X8. The entry level model the CA48 offers the perfect balance between quality and price. It is in my mind the best upright digital piano overall that you can buy in the market right now.
In the digital piano industry, Kawai is famous for its realistic key actions that closely reproduce the feeling of acoustic concert grand. Being on its premium product line, the CA48 is equipped with the brand new Grand Feel Compact from Kawai. This is currently the second best key action across all Kawai’s digital pianos. The main difference between the Grand Feel Compact and Kawai’s very best Grand Feel II is the length of the keys. The compact version, as you would imagine, has keys that are slightly shorter. Other than that, the Grand Feel Compact has all the important features of the Grand Feel II that can be found on Kawai’s top of the line CA98. The keyboard on the CA48 has wooden keys, synthetic Ivory key tops, counterweights, triple sensors, balance bar and simulated let off. It has the mechanics that’s designed similar to the key actions on Kawai’s world famous acoustic concert grand pianos. The keyboard feels fluid and responsive with excellent control. It is one of the most realistic key actions I have tried on any digital pianos. The longer Grand Feel II does feel even better but only slightly.
On the Kawai CA48, you can find Kawai’s world famous 9 foot acoustic concert grand SK-EX and EX. Every single key of these two extraordinary instruments are individually sampled using Kawai’s Progressive Harmonic Imaging technology. The result is an amazing re-production with details at every dynamic range from pianissimo to fortissimo. Combined with reverb and resonances, the CA48 sounds rich, natural, dynamic and creates a very realistic sound experience for the pianist.
The CA48 has a maximum polyphony of 192. I would like to see 256 at this price range. But 192 is enough to handle maybe 99% of the cases. In other words, probably once every a hundred times would you prefer to have a larger polyphony number. It shouldn’t be a deal breaker for any pianist.
There are two 20 watt amplifiers built in the CA48 and they fire 4 speakers facing different directions. The tweeters for treble notes are firing directly at the play and the bass speakers are facing downwards. This is a very outstanding speaker system on a digital piano. It creates deep bass while maintaining fidelity of mid and high frequency notes. The end result is detailed, dynamic and immersive.
The control panel on the CA48 is minimal and many features requires a combination of buttons and keys. This is somewhat annoying but since the CA48 has Bluetooth, you can easily tweak everything on a smart device. I also really like the music rest. It is very wide and the angle is adjustable. A nice user friendly touch, I would say.
You can record internally 3 songs in MIDI. There is no multi tracking recording. Nor does the CA48 have a USB to device port. Maybe Kawai thinks having Bluetooth makes these functions redundant. But it is more convenient to be able to mix on the fly and output to a USB stick.
Overall, at around $2,000, the Kawai CA48 offers the most realistic key action and outstanding piano sounds. It might lack a few features here and there. But if your main focus is the piano playing experience, the CA48 is the best upright digital piano on the market right now. Read here my full review on the Kawai CA48!
2. Casio Privia PX-870
When it comes to digital pianos, we simply can not ignore Casio. They have produced some outstanding models in the past and their new flagship of the Privia line, the PX-870 offers massive value with its price.
Being the flagship model, you can find the best key action Casio has to offer on the PX-870. The Tri-Sensor II Scaled Hammer Action has been praised by many and is well received by consumers. It is indeed one of the best key actions at this price range. The triple sensor in the actions makes the keyboard responsive and allows for fast repetition. The keys are made from plastic with synthetic Ivory/Ebony key tops.
Casio’s Multi-dimensional Morphing AiR Sound Source includes a four-layer grand piano with damper resonance, string resonance, key off simulation, adjustable hammer response, and a lid simulator with four positions. Each note of an acoustic grand is sampled in multiple levels and Casio uses lossless compression to maintain as many details as possible. You really don’t get much than that at this price range. Combined with two 20 watt amplifiers firing four speakers facing two different directions, the PX-870 creates a realistic, detailed and dynamic sound experience close to an acoustic grand piano.
The Casio PX-870 has a maximum polyphony of 256. Many models twice its price do not even have that many notes.
Multi-track recording is possible on the PX-870 although you can only record one song with two tracks. It is also possible to export WAV recordings to a USB stick with the USB to device port.
Costing around $1,000, the Casio PX-870 is a strong performer and is definitely one of the best upright digital pianos on the market. Read my full review on the Casio PX-870.
3. Yamaha YDP-184
Yamaha has been a popular brand in the digital piano industry. Their premium Clavinova series has been the industry standard for premium models and are used/recommended by many music school and teachers. Next in line is Yamaha’s Arius series and the new 2018 flagship YDP-184 blends the line between the two series. It offers numerous important features that are exclusive to the Clavinova series with a price tag of the Arius.
The YDP-184 is equipped with Yamaha GH3 keyboard. This is fundamentally identical to the key action on the Clavinova CLP 635, minus the simulated let off effect. It uses three sensors to give more control to the pianist and allows for fast repetition. The keys are plastic with synthetic Ivory/Ebony key tops and the build quality is top notch. Across the keyboard, actions are really quiet and smooth. Key press is slightly on the heavy side. That’s something I would pay attention to. Some find it annoying and tiring, others preferred a heavy action to build strength.
Unlike other models in the Arius line, the YDP-184 is the only one equipped with Yamaha’s newest CFX grand piano sound technology. It is the same engine in the Clavinova series all the way to the top on the CLP 685. The CFX is currently the best sound engine Yamaha has to offer. It combines sample from Yamaha’s world famous 9 foot concert grand CFX with Virtual Resonance Modeling to produce a realistic, natural, smooth and detailed sound experience. One draw back of the YDP-184 is that it does not include the Austrian made Bösendorfer, which would be a valuable compliment to the more bright CFX.
The YDP-184 has a maximum polyphony of 256. Two 30 watt speakers help produce loud and immersive piano voice. Even at maximum volume, the sound is clear and enjoyable anywhere in the room. I would like to see one or two tweeters dedicated to high frequency notes however.
If you like to play with mixing and recording your performance, the YDP-184 has a massive internal storage to record 250 songs each up to 16 tracks. They can then be exported to a USB stick using the USB to device port.
Overall, the Yamaha YDP-184 combines decent key action, outstanding sound engine and many useful features. It is one of the best upright digital pianos you can buy at around $2,200. Read my full review on the Yamaha YDP-184.
Roland has been able to maintain an excellent reputation throughout the past by manufacturing some of the most beautiful digital pianos for the people in need. Their F-140R has been very popular and well received by users.
The F-140R has a modern design with a slim and sleek cabinet that is going to look awesome in your living room. It is so small and nimble that you can fit it anywhere even in hallways.
The small form factor of the F-140R does not impact its performance in anyway negative. It is equipped with Roland’s PHA-4 Standard keyboard. The keys are plastic with synthetic Ivory/Ebony key tops. There are three sensors and a simulated let off effect to mimic the escapement feel of a concert grand acoustic piano. The action feels light and responsive and it offers good control to the players. The simulated let off effect though, is quite prominent and you will notice that notch feeling almost all the time. This is one big annoyance for me but you will need to try it for yourself.
The sound of the Roland F-140R is generated by the SuperNATURAL piano sound engine that you will find on many Roland’s digital piano. It combines sampling from a 9 foot concert grand with computer modeling to produce a smooth and rich reproduction. The sound is further enhanced by adding damper resonance, string resonance and key off simulation. The end result has a wide dynamic range and sounds very close to an acoustic piano. Due to the heavy modeling Roland uses in this engine, some find the sound a bit artificial. However, that in the end comes down to personal taste.
The Roland F-140R has a maximum polyphony of 128, which is unfortunately quite weak compare to its competitors. What’s also weak are the speakers. The F-140R is equipped with two 12 watt speakers, which are loud enough to fill a room and produce decent sound quality. However, competitors at the same price range are mostly equipped with 20+ watt system.
You can record 10 songs internally without the ability of multi track mixing. The F-140R does come with 316 instrument voices and Bluetooth function. You can also export your recordings to a USB stick with the USB to device port.
Despite some disappointments I find on the F-140R, it remains a strong performer and offers good value to pianists with different skill levels. Currently, this popular upright digital piano will set you back about $1,200. Read my full review on the Roland F-140R.
Kawai’s Concert Artist CA series is the most premium upright style digital piano line from the world famous Japanese manufacture. In 2018, Kawai has introduced several new additions to the CA series, including the flagship model CA98. This flagship model has some interesting and powerful surprises and is one of the best upright digital pianos if you can afford it.
The CA98 uses Kawai’s brand new Grand Feel II key action. The keys are wooden and are the longest of all Kawai’s digital piano keyboards. It has also the exact same pivot length as Kawai’s acoustic concert grand pianos. The realistic material combined with the length gives this key action the feel closest to the finest concert grand piano. This GF II keyboard has all the advanced features from Kawai including triple sensor, synthetic Ivory/Ebony key tops, simulated let off, graded counterweights and balance pins. All these technology combined creates the best key action on an upright digital piano. It is fluid, precise, expressive and responsive. Many including myself prefer the CA98 key action to what its competitors have to offer.
The best key action in the world would mean nothing if the sound engine is lacking. The Kawai CA98 certainly does not disappoint on the sound. It uses Kawai’s recently developed SK-EX Rendering sound engine. This engine on the CA98 is dedicated only to the pianist mode. It samples Kawai’s very best acoustic concert grand, the Shigeru Kawai SK-EX. Not only is each key sampled at different levels, but also from multiple positions in the concert grand. It helps recreate a broader range of tonal characteristics as well as an improved responsiveness between the key press and the piano sound. Kawai further enhance the sound with computer modeling to enrich it with all the physical interactions between components in an acoustic concert grand. All together, the SK-EX Rendering sound engine creates one of the most realistic, responsive, dynamic and precise piano sounds on an upright digital piano. You also get Kawai’s 9 foot concert grand EX, chamber grand SK-5, its upright K-60 and numerous other instrument voices with Kawai’s Harmonic Imagining XL sound engine. The CA98 has a maximum polyphony of 256 notes.
The way sound is delivered on the Kawai CA98 is another big surprise. Kawai collaborates with Onkyo, one of the world’s best premium audio equipment manufacture, to design the most advanced speaker system on an upright digital piano that we have even seen. Onkyo has brought many cutting edge audio technologies on to the CA98 to boost the sound with clarity, richness, dynamic range and power. There are four top mounted speakers from Onkyo to handle the mid range frequency and two tweeters placed near the player to boost the high range frequency. In addition to the 6 speakers from Onkyo, the CA98 also uses the latest version of Kawai’s TwinDrive Soundboard technology. A wooden soundboard similar to an acoustic upright piano is equipped on the back of the CA98. One primary transducer developed by Onkyo channels bass range sound energy to the wooden soundboard and one additional secondary transducer handles the mid range frequency. The whole back side of the CA98 functions like a huge speaker with the warm acoustic wooden characteristic. The whole system outputs 135 watt of power and is by far the most sophisticated speaker system I have ever seen on any digital piano. One drawback I would like to mention is that such a complex system requires some tweaking from every user. Due to the unique acoustic characteristics of each room and location, the Kawai CA98 needs to be tuned to sound its best before first use with the virtual technician app.
Not only does the CA98 have Bluetooth, it features a 5 inch touchscreen just like your modern cellphone. This replaces the traditional buttons and knobs and allows for much easier and more user friendly control of the instrument. The touch screen turns off automatically after a while to prevent distraction.
Under Pianist mode, the CA98 can record internally 3 songs with one track. While in Sound mode, it is capable to record up to 10 songs each with 2 tracks. The CA98 can also export WAV/MP3/SMF recordings to a USB stick with the USB to device port.
Overall, the Kawai CA98 has the best key action, advanced sound engine, sophisticated speaker system and a handy touch screen. Many features of this magnificent instrument are unique and can’t be found on any of its competitors. If money is not an issue, the CA98 would be on the number one spot of my best upright digital piano list. However, for more than $3,000, I can not recommend it to everyone.
BEST HYBRID DIGITAL PIANOS
1. Kawai Novus NV10
Kawai has been producing world class acoustic grand pianos for 90 years and in recent years it has provide us with some outstanding digital pianos with industry leading key actions. In 2017, Kawai’s 90’s anniversary, the Japanese manufacture announced their brand new hybrid digital piano the NV10. It is the only hybrid digital model on Kawai’s line up, and the NV10 has since been praised and loved by many serious pianists.
As a hybrid digital piano, the NV10 uses Kawai’s Millennium III Hybrid action specially designed from the key action of Kawai GX acoustic grand. It is mostly identical to its acoustic counterpart. The keys are wooden and the hammer is made of ABS carbon. Each hammer is weighted exactly like the one on the acoustic GX. To capture the hammer movement and the timing of it hitting the virtual string, Kawai uses a non-contact optical sensor.
The NV10 also has a real damper mechanism placed behind the key action. It has added weights for each individual key that is equivalent to the weight of the wood and felt parts from an acoustic grand. When the sustain pedal is pressed, the whole damper bar is raised just like an acoustic instrument and you can actually feel the weight difference on your fingers. The NV10 is currently the only hybrid digital piano that equips such mechanism.
Being a newly introduced model, the NV10 has all the most recent and advance technology from Kawai, including the newly developed SK-EX Rendering sound engine. This engine on the NV10 is dedicated only to the pianist mode. It samples Kawai’s very best acoustic concert grand, the Shigeru Kawai SK-EX. Not only is each key sampled at different levels, but also from multiple positions in the concert grand. It helps recreate a broader range of tonal characteristics as well as an improved responsiveness between the key press and the piano sound. Kawai further enhance the sound with computer modeling to enrich it with all the physical interactions between components in an acoustic concert grand. All together, the SK-EX Rendering sound engine creates one of the most realistic, responsive, dynamic and precise piano sounds on an upright digital piano. You also get Kawai’s 9 foot concert grand EX, chamber grand SK-5, its upright K-60 and numerous other instrument voices with Kawai’s Harmonic Imagining XL sound engine. The NV10 has a maximum polyphony of 256 notes.
Kawai has teamed up with Onkyo, one of the world’s best premium audio equipment manufacture, to produce the best sound deliver system on their digital pianos. The NV10 uses three 45 watt amplifiers to drive 4 main speakers, 2 tweeters and 1 woofer. The tweeters help produce crystal clear high frequency notes and the woofer enhance the bass range and also channels the vibration to the keys and pedals. These vibrations adds another layer of realism since you would feel the same physical sensation while playing on an acoustic grand piano.
Like many premium models that have been recently introduced, the NV10 is equipped with a 5 inch touchscreen just like your cellphone. This user-friendly feature make tweaking and tuning the NV10 a fun and intuitive experience. Using Kawai’s Virtual Technician app on the touchscreen, you can easily adjust up to 19 parameters to fine tune the sound to your liking.
The NV10 can record 3 songs with one track under Pianist mode and 10 songs up to two tracks under Sound mode. It can also export MP3/WAV/SMF files to a USB stick with its USB to device port. Furthermore, the NV10 also has Bluetooth connectivity to link with any smart device to enhanced functionality.
Priced around $10,000, the Kawai Novus NV10 is the best hybrid digital piano on the market right now. You will enjoy all the benefits of having a digital piano without the compromise on key action and sound. It really combines the best of both worlds.
2. Casio GP-400
Casio has been in the digital piano market for a while now and has been praised for the value it offers to the consumers. You can find amazing instruments from Casio usually at a much low price range than their equivalent models from other manufactures. This stays the same with Casio’s hybrid digital pianos, the GP series. The GP-400 is identical to the flagship GP-500 except paint finish, which makes the GP-400 the best value of the series.
Since Casio has no experience building acoustic grand pianos, they team up with the German piano manufacture C. Bechstein, who has been producing top quality acoustic grand pianos from the 19th century. The complete key action of the GP-400 is designed and manufactured by C. Bechstein, using some of the best materials in the world. The keys are made of aged premium spucewood from Austria and are exactly the same as the keys used on their acoustic grand. Attached to the keys are hammers not only weight the same as an acoustic but also moves like one. Three sensors are being used in the action to measure and capture the movement of the keys and hammers. While developing the key action for the GP-400, C. Bechstein took the opportunity to get rid of the escapement that’s a necessity of an acoustic key action and produce an action that’s far more responsive and fast. The keyboard on the GP-400 can repeat note even faster than an acoustic grand. The keys feel firm but smooth. It is a very enjoyable keyboard to play.
You get three world famous grand piano tones on the GP-400: Berlin, Hamburg and Vienna. Each has its own distinctive tonal characteristics and is sampled by Casio’s AiR Grand Sound Source engine. Computer modeling technology is used to further enhance the sound with different resonances and other physical noises. The GP-400 is capable of a maximum polyphony of 256 notes.
The speaker system consist of 4 amplifiers firing 6 speakers with total 100 watt output. It is quite a powerful system at this price range. The two main speakers are placed beneath the keyboard and facing downwards and there is a lid at the top of the cabinet that you can open to allow more sound coming from the top and towards the player. This creates an envelope effect the result is an immersive re-production of the acoustic experience.
The Casio GP-400 can record internally one song with up to two tracks. It is also capable to export audio recording in WAV format to an USB stick with the USB to device port.
Retailing at less than $3,000, the Casio GP-400 offers massive value and should be considered one of the best hybrid digital pianos on the market right now.
3. Yamaha N3X Avant Grand
At a price range close to a proper acoustic grand piano, hybrid digital pianos need to offer a playing experience similar to an acoustic grand to have a reason to even exist. As the flagship of Yamaha’s hybrid line, the N3X does deliver a state of the art piano experience.
The Specialized Grand key action on the N3X is directly inherited from Yamaha’s renowned acoustic grand pianos. For a large part, they are identical. The keys are wooden and have all the physical components of an acoustic key action. If you are looking for a digital piano with the most realistic key action, it doesn’t get better than the keyboard on the N3X. To further capture every nuance of your play, Yamaha uses two non-contact optical sensors that are able to pick up the slightest movement of the keys and hammers. One optical sensor is placed beneath the key to capture the speed and length of each key press. The other optical sensor is on the hammer to measure the precise timing and strength of the hammer hitting the virtual string.
For advanced pianists, the pedals are also crucial for subtle expressions during performance. The Specialized Grand Piano Pedal system that Yamaha has designed faithfully reproduce the sensation of grand piano pedals. Thus provide the possibility of delicate pedaling for finely nuanced expression. It mimics the three stages of a grand piano pedal, light at first, heavier through the travel and lightens again in the end.
Both the keyboard and pedals are equipped with Yamaha’s Tactile Response System to recreate subtle vibrations that you would feel on an acoustic grand piano. These physical sensations are registered on a subconscious level and help convince your mind that you are playing on an acoustic grand, even with headphones on.
The N3X uses Yamaha’s Spacial Acoustic Sampling technology. Not only is each note sampled at multiple levels, it is also sampled at four different position on the soundboard. The samples are then produced by four sets of speakers at the exact same spot that they are recorded. This way, the sounds of Yamaha’s CFX and Bösendorfer Imperial are most faithfully recreated. The samples are further enhanced by Yamaha’s Virtual Resonance Modeling to add the reverb effect that an acoustic grand produces.
On the headphone side, the N3X uses binaural sampling from Yamaha’s CFX concert grand. This technology uses a set of microphones to pick up the sounds of the CFX from locations that are close to human ears. The result is so immersive that if you close your eyes, you would feel like you are performance in a music hall on the 9 foot CFX.
The N3X has a maximum polyphony of 256 and sound is delivered through 4 sets of speakers, each placed at the exact same spot where the sample is recorded. Each set consists three speakers the size of 16cm + 13cm + 2.5cm. There is also an actual soundboard installed on the N3X and it is driven by an oscillating transducer to vibrate alongside the speakers to create a more enveloping sound experience. This sophisticated system uses 15 amplifiers totaling 615 watt.
Being a hybrid digital piano, the N3X is able to record WAV recording to a USB stick with the USB to device port. It also has XLR balanced audio output that allows for a professional and stable output to any external amplifier/speaker system.
At around $20,000, the N3X is similarly priced like many acoustic grand pianos. The key action and playing experience is nearly identical and the sound is so close that with the benefits of a digital piano, the Yamaha Avant Grand N3X might be a better choice for your need than an acoustic grand. It certainly is one of the best hybrid digital pianos you can find on the market, with a price.
Let me know if I missed any good options out there. If you have any experience with any of the these digital pianos, please leave a comment and share it with us.