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Best Upright Digital Pianos 2020: Ideal For Home & Classroom

Best Upright Digital Piano

Compare to portable digital pianos, upright style ones usually come with more advanced features. There is no compromise needed for size and weight. This type of pianos are usually my recommendation for home use as well as small venues like classrooms, church practice and restaurants. To help you narrow it down, here I list these Best Upright Digital Pianos in 2020.

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 one of the best upright digital pianos 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!

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.

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 $2,200Read my full review on the Yamaha YDP-184.

Roland F-140R

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 $1,200Read my full review on the Roland F-140R.

Kawai KDP 110

This 2018 model from Kawai offers great value and earns itself a spot on this best list. It is currently the only model under the KDP lineup. You’ll find a great balance with performance and price.

The KDP 110 has a classical upright piano look. The colors available are Black and Rosewood (availability depends on region). It does feature a fold-able music rest. You can set it flat down when not in use. I find it a welcome feature since classical looking pianos can be difficult to fit in most modern home decor. The folded music rest helps the piano to blend in better.

The key action on the KDP 110 is Kawai’s Responsive Hammer Compact II. This may not be the most sophisticated key action in Kawai’s arsenal, it does offer surprisingly realistic feel and key reactions. The RHCII is currently one of the best entry level key actions on the market. It is very expressive and offers excellent dynamic to your performance.

Sampled from the world famous SK-EX concert grand, fired through two 20 watt speakers, the KDP 110 provides a great sound experience. A major advantage is that each key is individually sampled. This is a feature that’s reserved only for premium models from other manufactures.

Although the KDP 110 is an entry level model, Kawai doesn’t cut down on its features. It has a polyphony number of 192, Bluetooth and two headphone jacks.

What is limited in this entry level model are the sound library. You get only 15 voices to choose from.

Overall, the KDP 110 from Kawai is highly focused on piano playing experience. You don’t get many other instruments or voices. It offers realistic key actions and excellent sound. If you are looking for a digital piano mainly to play the piano sound, this is a model that you must not overlook. Here’s my full review on the Kawai KDP 110.

Kawai CA98

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.

1 thought on “Best Upright Digital Pianos 2020: Ideal For Home & Classroom”

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