In the 21st century, we are well and truly in the age of digital pianos, and the best yamaha digital pianos are right up there with the very elite models that can be bought. Yamaha is a household name, and manufacture a huge range of electronics and other products. In the world of music, Yamaha have plenty to offer, but their keyboards and pianos are probably their most successful foray into music equipment.
Why Go Digital?
This is covered elsewhere on the site, but as a quick overview, the benefits of a digital piano are as follows:
- More easy to transport.
- Can have multiple sounds built in (everything from a Fender Rhodes to a grand piano).
- Doesn’t go out of tune, so you won’t need to pay a piano tuner once a year.
- Can be played through many different amps and even fed through effects pedals with ease.
- Simple to record at home via a microphone or USB mic, or track straight into your DAW of choice as many have Midi built in.
All of this isn’t to say that playing a grand piano isn’t absolutely amazing, and the sound offered from an acoustic piano can be incredible. However, if you’re looking for portability and ease of use, the digital piano is the only way to go.
Finding the Top Yamaha Digital Pianos
There is a big range to choose from here. We’ve set out some criteria to help us narrow down the best. Of course, different people have different needs and different budgets, so we’ve looked at price and features among other things, in order to help people in making a decision.
- Sound and Voices. This is the number one criteria and the main priority for deciding. It needs to sound good. A digital piano will often have a lot of different voices too, many of the Yamaha models have 10 voices, this means 10 different settings which all have their own different sound. Having multiple sounds, all of which are good quality, is a big advantage.
- Keys. Both the number of keys (this will more than likely be 88 as with a standard piano) and the quality. Weighted keys with a hammer action make all the difference and mean that your digital piano plays like an acoustic. The harder you hit a key, the louder the sound, giving a more realistic sound.
- Pedals. Having Pedals will also help with the realistic feel, and let you have the expected Sustain and Damper controls.
- Looks. Realistically, a lot of us want a piano that looks good, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There is no reason a digital piano has to look like a rubbish $20 keyboard, and many of them are made with high-quality wood, with beautiful finishes. This is especially great if you’re installing one at home.
- Price. Not many people are lucky enough to be able to buy an instrument with no consideration for the cost. We’re looking at value for money. There are some good options for digital pianos under $1000 or even under $500, but you have to know what you are looking for.
Yamaha P71, P45 and P115 88-Key Weighted Action Digital Piano
This is perhaps the best affordable digital piano we’ve come across, certainly in this brand. It is excellent quality as we have grown to expect from the company, but as well as that it is compact, relatively cheap and pretty portable. The features are exceptional, and it has some pretty cool functions above and beyond what you’d expect. It is a bit of a ‘keyboard’ style in appearance, so it is great for gigs and band practices when you aren’t able to lug around an upright acoustic piano!
It has weighted keys and a realistic playing style, with the 10 voices that many of the yamaha pianos now come with. A cool function is the ability to play two voices at once, for instance layering strings along with a piano sound for a more interesting depth and a new dimension to your playing.
The P71 is actually an Amazon exclusive model, but there are others in the same design which are aimed at different ability levels and come at different pricing points. The P45, P115 and DGX-660 are very similar designed and at different pricing points, with slightly varying features to suit your ability level and the amount you plan to spend.
These digital pianos are available in packages depending on what you need to go with it. Amazon does a great job of selling bundles which include pedals, stands, and stools depending on personal preference.
Reviews of all of these models have been very high, with a lot of five-star reviewers ranging from professional musicians to hobbyists and beginners.
Mentioned briefly in the above review, the Yamaha DGX-660 is definitely worthy of its place on our ‘best-of’ list. If you are looking for a portable digital piano, look no further! As well as being easy to transport and great for beginners, the functions and features are exceptional.
The DGX-660 is designed to be very modern and has high compatibility with other devices. You can easily plug in a microphone and record both your singing and playing via a USB cable. It also plugs in and works with iOS devices, and Yamaha even have apps that you can download to use along with the piano.
If you are a pianist as well as a singer, this is amazing. Plug in your microphone and read your music and/or lyrics from a digital display much like an iPad which is built in. This is an alternative to using a music stand. Record your ideas and play around with the apps.
This model offers two 12 inch cone speakers as well as two 5 cm speakers. The 6 watts of amplification make it pretty loud, and certainly enough for the bedroom musician. Of course, if you plan to amplify to a higher volume this is easy too.
Over 150 different voices and even some SFX and inbuilt drum kits mean this is amazing for the home studio, and gives you so many different sounds to add to your recordings. If you just want a simple piano sound, this could be overkill, but for versatility, it is hard to find anything better.
For a portable digital piano, we find it very hard to find fault with the DGX-660. If you want a simple sound, use the amazing grand piano preset, if you want to layer up and make a full track out of sounds built in, this is totally possible too. Definitely comes with our top recommendation.
Yamaha Arius Series Console Digital Piano
The Arius Series of Pianos is Yamaha’s solution for those looking for bench style digital pianos. A lot less portable, but the sound of these is fantastic, and the design is perfect for those who want to incorporate a piano within their home. This wouldn’t look out of place even in the best-decorated homes.
The grand piano sound that comes from the Arius models of digital piano is exceptional. It has been meticulously sampled from Yamaha concert grand pianos and the amazing dynamics of the piano are faithfully reproduced by weighted keys. You’ll feel like you are playing an acoustic, but retain all of the benefits of digital.
The series again covers a variety of price points with many different models, the 103, 143, 163, 181 and S52, as well as V240, make up the Arius series. The model at the top end of the pricing is vastly more expensive than the cheapest, so be sure to think about exactly how many features you need.
One of the key differences between the 103 at the lower price point up to the V240 is the number of voices. The Arius V240 has over 300 different voices in total, meaning almost endless possibilities for your playing. The bench pianos offer recording, and just like the portable models has excellent compatibility with Yamaha’s iOS apps, which help you to further edit and alter the sound.
The 103 Sound is relatively basic, and I would advise that for the price, it is a little bit more sensible to get a portable with more functionality and features, or extend to one of the slightly upgraded bench style models. By the time you have got up to the V240, the piano has an incredible 6 track recorder and is amazing for writing a whole song from scratch and composing songs with multiple layers.
In terms of looks, the Yamaha Arius series are certainly well made, and give users the choice of finishes including Black Walnut, Dark Rosewood and Satin White, so you can be sure to fit the decor of your home or studio.
Yamaha YPG-535 88-Key Portable Grand Piano
An alternative to the Arius series of pianos which is a little bit on the pricey side, this is one of the best value for money pianos we found. The YPG-535 is available in 88-key and even 76-key models, and it is described as a ‘portable grand piano’. The sound is very high quality, and though it doesn’t have a huge amount of voices, it is great for those who want to look and feel of a bigger digital piano but want to be able to take it out and about.
The LCD display lets you show notation, lyrics or chords to help you with your playing, it has a headphone output so you can practice in quiet, and can link to other devices via USB. All in all, it may not be the absolute best model we’ve seen, but in terms of value for money, the YPG-535 is hard to fault.
Digital Piano Vs Keyboard
If you still need convincing of whether you should buy a digital piano or a keyboard, there is really no contest here. If you are looking for a keyboard to take out with you for gigs then a keyboard may be a decent option, but in reality, the sampled sounds and synthesized sounds within a keyboard are better for music production, but not likely to stand up to the quality of a digital piano. Historically, some benefits of a keyboard may also have been its compatibility with other devices or the ease of plugging it in via USB or Midi to use in conjunction with recording software and effects. This is not really a benefit now, as Digital Pianos have well and truly caught up, as Yamaha display with their inventive new app.
A quick glance at the products mentioned will show how many different options there are. Digital pianos can last a long time, and greatly enhance your playing and learning, but it is important to work out the features you need. Do you need portability? Do you need a digital piano to help you to learn? Do you need an amazing Grand Piano style sound in order to sound as authentic as possible? Yamaha’s range offers a little bit of something for everything, at a huge variety of prices.