Digital Piano Buying Guide (A Piano Teacher’s Perspective)

Last updated: November 8, 2018

Digital Piano Buyer's Guide – Digital Piano Reviews – from a Piano Teacher

The Best Digital Pianos in 2018 – for Beginners and Advanced Pianists Alike

As a piano teacher of 14 years, I’m often asked for recommendations of digital pianos.

I spent the last year researching and writing this comprehensive guide. I hope it serves you well.

Note: This post is long – about 23,000 words! It’s essentially a book that I’m publishing here on my blog.

On a mobile device, this post looks best in landscape (side to side) mode, rather than portrait (up and down).

On a desktop, you might want to use the Floating Table of Contents (to the left) to quickly find the info you’re looking for.

Sections of the post that might be of interest include:

If you have questions like, “What kind of digital piano should I buy?,” this post is for you.

Acoustic Pianos vs Digital Pianos

There’s some debate among pianists about whether digital pianos are appropriate instruments for serious piano study.

In my experience, some digital pianos are appropriate for serious piano study, and many are not.

A few things to consider:

  • Most electronic keyboards on the market would not be suitable for a piano student. But some digital pianos (also known as electric pianos) range from sufficient to impressively good. Deciphering a good from a not-so-good digital piano can be difficult. It’s advisable to research the territory before you buy.
  • Most university music departments nowadays have “piano labs” – rooms full of digital pianos where piano classes are taught. (Music departments I’ve studied in have used Yamaha and Roland digital pianos.)
    Digital Pianos in the Berklee School of Music Piano Lab

    Berklee School of Music’s Piano Lab

    Once students are at the level of a college piano major, they’ll be practicing some of the time on a world-class acoustic piano (something like a top-of-the-line baby grand). But before then, the difference is inconsequential.

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    And this is a screenshot from the website of M.I.T.’s Music & Theater Arts program:

    M.I.T.'s Music Practice Rooms

M.I.T. uses Yamaha YDP-142, Arius digital pianos in its piano lab. They cost $999.99, and have Yamaha’s entry-level, Graded Hammer Standard (GHS) action – which I like and recommend.

The Yamaha Arius line is nice, in that the stand is console-style (with the look, feel and stability of an upright piano); there are three pedals (for playing more advanced material); and there’s “half pedal” support (also helpful for playing more advanced music). The stand also holds the pedals in their proper place.

Yamaha YDP-142 digital piano review

The Yamaha Arius YDP-142.
Here it is
, with its cabinet stand, three pedals and Yamaha bench,
for $999.99 & Free Shipping on Amazon.

Summing Up the Debate

Alden Skinner, in “A Brief History of Digital Pianos” (from the book, A Natural History of the Piano) adds this to the acoustic piano vs digital piano debate:

But is it a real piano? If you define the instrument by how it works rather than what it does, then no. But if you define the instrument by its role – allowing a player to perform any music written for the piano, with a result that sounds like a piano – then a digital instrument is simply a different kind of piano. No more, and no less. (305)

I think you’ll want to play well-regulated acoustic pianos sometimes (to understand any minute nuances and differences – even between different acoustic pianos). But for day-to-day practice, if it’s more convenient, a good digital piano is completely fine.

How do you find a good digital piano? This post attempts to go into more detail than you’d even want to know. :)

Let’s start with a few sound recommendations of digital pianos for piano students – instruments to help with proper development of strength and technique, at the lowest cost:

An aside: Most of the links to digital pianos in this post are affiliate links – where I make a small commission, at no cost to you, if you click and then buy. Please only make a purchase if you feel that an instrument will help you achieve your goals.

Best Digital Pianos for Beginners

Based on my research into the proper weighting of piano actions, these six digital pianos are my top choices for beginners and piano students. They range in price from about $400 to $2,000. (Or just over $500, including a stand and bench.)

Each instrument is properly-weighted – with a downweight of about 62-72 grams at Middle C (not too heavy a feel, and not too light). And each has appropriate realism – so one can transition seamlessly to and from these instruments and acoustic pianos.

If I was looking for a digital piano for a piano student, I would honestly buy whichever of these was comfortable for my budget.

The Yamahas are appropriate for beginning and intermediate students. And the Rolands would be good for anyone; they’d be great for beginners, and even impressive to pros.

Recommended Digital Pianos for Beginners


Recommended Digital Pianos for Beginners

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Yamaha P-45 (aka P-71)


Price Store
$399.99 & FREE Shipping View on Amazon
View on eBay
$450 – 493.18 & FREE Shipping
Bundle with bench and L85 stand
View on Amazon

Yamaha P-45 digital piano review

Action: GHS
Sound Engine: AWM Stereo Sampling

The Yamaha P-45 is the least expensive digital piano I recommend. This is the lowest price I’ve seen for a quality digital piano that would be suitable for a piano student.

Despite the more appealing price tag of the P-45 by itself, the Bundle is actually the best deal on the P-45. It includes Yamaha’s official L85 furniture stand for the P-45 (and an adjustable bench). I highly recommend getting a digital piano’s official stand.

Third party stands, in my experience, are often unreliable – because the instrument usually just rests on top. It can wobble around and fall off. A digital piano will screw onto its official stand – creating a solid, stable instrument to play on. Very important for piano studies!

P-45 Accessories:

  • Dedicated Stand: L85 ($97.59). The P-45 bundle comes with the official L85 stand, but the stand can also be purchased on its own.
  • Pianistic Pedal: The P-45 comes with a small, square damper pedal. It works fine. But for more realism, you may want a piano-style pedal, like the M-Audio SP-2 ($21.95).
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Yamaha P-125


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$599.99 & FREE Shipping View on Amazon
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Yamaha P-125 Digital Piano

Action: Graded Hammer Standard (GHS)
Sound: Pure CF Sound Engine

The Yamaha P-125, pictured with its custom L125 stand and LP1 pedal board.

The P-125 upgrades the P-115 in a few ways: (1) The main upgrade is the P-125’s 2-way Speaker System. It adds two additional speakers under the digital piano (for 4 speakers total) – creating a “sweet spot” of sound for the player. Sound projects above and below the instrument. (2) The LP1 pedalboard (shown above) has a grand piano-like style – where the pedals connect to the top of the stand, rather than from the stand’s sides.

One of my students has a P-125. It’s a really nice instrument. The added speakers (along with Yanmaha’s PureCF sound engine) creates a nice, warm sound. Many people really like this instrument (including me!).

One other digital piano to consider, for only $100 more, is the Roland FP-30 (shown just below). I’ve played the P-125 and the FP-30 side-by-side. And, while they’re similar, I felt the FP-30 was better for performing advanced piano repertoire. The sound and keys responded to my playing more accurately – more like an acoustic piano would.

Both actions feel really nice, though. So, for someone who’s beginning piano, the difference may not matter much.

So I give the new Yamaha P-125 a hearty thumbs up! It’s a very enjoyable instrument to play.

P-125 Accessories:

  • Dedicated Stand: L-25 ($90.48 & Free Shipping)
  • Dedicated Pedal Board (Attaches to the L125 Stand): LP1 ($74.99 & Free Shipping).
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Roland FP-30


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$699.99 & FREE Shipping View on Amazon
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Roland FP-30 Digital Piano

Action: PHA-4 Standard

The Roland FP-30, pictured with its custom KSC-70 stand and KPD-70 pedal board.

I consider the Roland FP-30 the best digital piano for a piano student.

The all-in price – for the FP-30, with official stand and pedal board – is $895.97 (& Free Shipping). Or, since the FP-30 ships with a damper pedal, the pedal board could be considered later; for an all-in price of $819.98 (& Free Shipping).

This is a more expensive option than the Yamaha P-45. But the Roland FP-30 is essentially a pro-level digital piano at only a “slightly-higher-than-entry-level” price.

If the price is comfortable, I think this is the best option for a piano student. The highly-realistic and appropriately-weighted keyboard; plus, a damper pedal (capable of continuous detection), would allow a student to progress to an advanced level. It also sounds amazing. This is the least cost for an instrument I could say all of those things about.

Features of the FP-30 include:

Roland’s Pro-level, PHA-4 Standard Action (with Escapement and Ivory Feel); SuperNATURAL Piano Sound Engine; 128 Voices of Polyphony; 35 Sounds (including 6 Pianos); Adjustable Transpositions and Stretched Piano Tuning; Adjustable String, Damper and Key Off Resonance for Piano Tones; Ambience and Brilliance Settings; a Metronome; a 1-part SMF Recorder (to make CD-quality recordings of your playing); MIDI; Rhythms; Audio Playback (in 16-bit WAV, 44.1 kHz format); Bluetooth®; USB Flash Memory-Capable; 30 Internal Songs; 2 Stereo Headphone Jacks; 2 Speakers (11 W each); a Damper Pedal; and a Music Rest.

FP-30 Accessories:

  • Dedicated Stand: KSC-70 ($119.99 & Free Shipping)
  • Dedicated Pedal Board (Attaches to the KSC-70 Stand): KPD-70 ($75.99 & Free Shipping). The FP-30 comes with a damper pedal. The pedal board is an optional, though helpful, accessory.
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Roland HP504


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$1,499 View on Roland

Roland HP504 Digital Piano

Action: PHA-4 Premium
Sound Engine: SuperNATURAL

A higher-end option: The HP504 has Roland’s pro-level PHA-4 Premium action, a cabinet stand and 3 built-in Pedals. This would be a great digital piano for anyone, and amazing for a piano student.

The HP504 is sold primarily in brick-and-mortar stores by authorized Roland dealers.

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Roland RD-800


Price Store
$1,799 & FREE Shipping
* Being discontinued
View on Amazon

Roland RD-800 Digital Piano – Stage Piano

Action: PHA-4 Concert

The Roland RD-800 Stage Piano would be a great, high-end choice for a piano student. The contemporary stage piano look, and playing it through external speakers, might also appeal to some kids and teens.

The RD-800 has my favorite-feeling Roland action: the PHA-4 Concert. The feel and response of these is outstanding. The RD-800 is one of my favorite digital pianos ever made.

Roland’s PHA-4 Premium action – found in the HP504, above – is almost the same as the PHA-4 Concert. It’s my understanding that the feel of each action is the same (or almost the same); and the PHA-4 Concert has upgraded sensors, so the sound responds in a more detailed way to your playing.

Note: Because it’s a stage piano (and doesn’t have speakers), the RD-800 requires something like an amp to play it through. I have a recommendation below:

RD-800 Accessories:

  • Keyboard Stands: The Roland KS-G8 ($239.99 & Free Shipping) and the Gator Frameworks GFW-UTILITY-TBL ($80.39 & Free Shipping) are both very solid.
  • Damper Pedal: Roland DP-10 ($39.99) or 3-Pedal Unit: Roland RPU-3 ($129.99)
  • Speakers: A pair of powered, studio monitor speakers might be the best choice for the RD-800. The Mackie CR3 ($99) powered, studio monitor pair would be one of the best options.

    They’re 50 watts – comparable to, and probably even louder than, the two speakers built into most digital pianos. These would provide superb sound for the RD-800, at about the lowest price.

    Optional: The Mackie CR3 + Monitor Stands bundle on Amazon ($134.95) also includes two speaker stands.

    Mackie CR Series CR3 – 3

    Mackie CR3 studio monitor speakers – good for powering a stage piano.

  • Speaker cables: For going from the RD-800 stage piano to the Mackie speakers, you’d want to get two cables that are both female XLR to male 1/4″ (balanced) TSR. Two of these 10′ Hosa cables ($11.95/each) would do the trick!

    This is an audiophile-level connection. It maintains the stereo imaging of the Roland piano samples (that’s why two cables are needed, rather than one). And it cancels out the most noise from electromagnetic interference (so your speakers shouldn’t have some weird hum, or be tuning in baseball games from the radio!). :)

The all-in price for the RD-800 and these accessories is $2,199.88 – assuming the single pedal, rather than the 3-pedal unit. (Everything gets free shipping.) This would be one of the ultimate digital piano rigs possible – both the sound and the silky-realistic playing feel.

It’s a slightly more expensive option, but the RD-800 with these accessories has such a good feel and interesting look that I thought it might appeal to some kids. The RD-800 is inexpensive enough to consider for a beginner; and it’s a pro-level instrument, which can function as one’s lifetime piano.

(The only digital pianos I consider to be a step up from the RD-800 are the $5,000+ Yamaha hybrid pianos, and the $3,500+ Kawai Grand Feel II instruments.)

Here’s the Roland RD-800 on its KS-G8 stand (with the RPU-3, 3-pedal unit):

Roland RD-800 Stage Piano on KS-G8 angle stand

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Roland FP-90


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$1,799 & FREE Shipping View on Amazon
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Roland FP-90 Digital Piano

Action: PHA-50

The FP-90 is one of Roland’s newest and most impressive digital pianos. It uses Roland’s flagship, PHA-50 action; has 4 speakers, escapement and ebony/ivory feel.

These three higher-end Rolands – the FP-90, and the RD-800 and HP504 (above) – would be the best/least expensive choices, imo, if you’re looking for a digital piano that someone could play on for a lifetime. These are fully-pro-level instruments that feel almost indistinguishable from a high-end acoustic piano.

The FP-90 also includes: limitless piano polyphony, Headphones 3D Ambience, and Bluetooth® audio/MIDI support, to connect wirelessly with Roland’s Piano Partner 2 and other music apps on iOS devices.

The FP-90 would be a high-end choice for any pianist. The all-in price for the FP-90 – with the two accessories below – is: $2,259.88.

The FP-90 has built-in speakers, so it may be a more convenient option for some than the RD-800, above. The FP-90 and the RD-800 (above) are among my favorite digital pianos ever made. Professional pianists widely regard both as pretty much perfect.

FP-90 Accessories:

  • Dedicated Stand: KSC-90 ($189.99 + $79.95 shipping)
  • Dedicated Pedal Board: KDP-90 ($150.99 + $39.95 shipping). The FP-90 comes with a damper pedal. The KDP-90 (3-pedal unit) is an optional accessory for more advanced repertoire.

Best Digital Piano Under $500

If you or someone in your family is just starting piano studies, you might find yourself in a situation where you need an instrument, but might not want to invest a lot of money before knowing if they’ll stick with lessons.

I’ve got a great recommendation for you…

Beginners don’t need the refinements that make some digital pianos more expensive (features like double escapement, 10 speakers and authentic ebony key tops!). :)

Also, many people (including kids) do best on an instrument with keys which aren’t too heavy.

The Yamaha P-45 (aka P-71) digital piano ($399.99 & Free Shipping) – which is Yamaha’s entry-level digital piano – fits these criteria to a “T.” And a bonus: It’s Yamaha’s least expensive digital piano *.

(* The Amazon Exclusive, Yamaha P-71 is just a re-named P-45, but is discounted by $50. More about the P-45 vs P-71 debate, below.)

We can use its two model numbers interchangeably…

The P-45 contains Yamaha’s Graded Hammer Standard (GHS) action. It’s a realistic-feeling action on the lighter side – perfect for beginners, kids and everyone. (The GHS action, in my opinion, is actually better than many of Yamaha’s more expensive actions – like the GH, GH3 and NW – which I feel are too heavy.)

What I Like about the Yamaha P-45

  • It’s only $399.99 on Amazon (sold as the Amazon Exclusive version, known as the P-71) .
  • A bundle is available, which includes the official L85 furniture stand, and an adjustable bench: On eBay ($449.99) and on Amazon ($493.18).
  • The P-45 is the only digital piano I’m aware of in this price range that’s suitable for serious piano study.
  • It’s got 88 full-size, properly-weighted keys.
  • I consider the P-45’s weighting to be ideal – not too heavy or too light.
  • It comes with a pedal.

Yamaha makes an official stand for the P-45 – the L85. It costs about $99.99, and makes the P-45 into a sturdy, piano-like “piece of furniture.”

Official stands tend to be much more stable than generic, “x stands.” (I mention more about stands in Other Considerations, below.)

Yamaha P-45 – best entry-level digital piano

The Yamaha P-45 on its official L85 stand

Aside: The pedal that comes with the P-45 is a square rubber pedal.

For additional realism (good if you’re taking piano lessons), you could get a piano-style pedal like this one – the M-Audio SP-2 Universal Sustain Pedal ($21.95).

The M-Audio pedal is shaped and weighted just like an acoustic piano’s pedal. The pedal itself is metal. And it has a grippy rubber pad underneath, which keeps it rock solid, even on a floor.

Bottom Line on the Yamaha P-45

Yamaha’s P-45 is a great instrument. Its Graded Hammer Standard (GHS) action allows for development of proper technique and muscle strength.

And it feels great to play.

The only caution: It’s important to know that the P-45 is great, but entry-level. If one’s piano studies continue to an advanced level, it might be helpful (after a few years) to move up to a pro-level instrument – a well-regulated acoustic piano, or a top-of-the-line digital piano – as your “lifetime” piano.

Higher-end digital pianos like these tend to cost about $1,500+.

However, there is one digital piano I’m aware of, which is pro-level, for less: The Roland FP-30 ($699.99 & Free Shipping). The all-in price for the FP-30 – with the official stand and pedal board – is $875.97 (& Free Shipping). (Here’s my in-depth review of the FP-30, above.)

Yamaha P-45 Bundle
View on eBay

Yamaha P-71 Deluxe Bundle
View on Amazon

Yamaha P-71 Review (Amazon Exclusive)

Just to make things more confusing… :)

Amazon.com sells what’s called the Yamaha P-71. This is actually just a renamed P-45 – made by Yamaha as an Amazon Exclusive product.

The P-71 was originally intended to be sold for $50 less than anyone else sold the P-45. However, other companies responded, soon after, by reducing the price of their P-45’s by $50. :)

So essentially, sellers are competing for our business right now.

[Note: As of August 2018, Amazon seems to currently be the only store still selling the P-71/P-45 for $399.99. All the other stores, as far as I’ve seen lately, are selling it at $450 again.]

Yamaha P-71 ($399.99 & Free Shipping)
View on Amazon

Yamaha P-45 ($449.99 & Free Shipping)
View on eBay

This is a win for us, as customers – as the P-45 is probably the best deal for a great, entry-level digital piano.

Yamaha P-45 vs P-71

If you’re buying a P-45 or P-71 on Amazon, here’s what you should know:

  1. For buying just the instrument (without a stand or bench), the P-71 ($399.99) costs $50 less than the P-45. The P-71 is the better deal.
    Yamaha P-71 Digital Piano or Bundle – on Amazon

    Navigation Tip: Make sure to choose the correct tab on Amazon’s P-71 page: Deluxe Bundle, Digital Piano, or Starter Bundle. (This is somewhat confusing.)

  2. And, if you’re wanting a stand for the instrument as well, it’s worth getting the P-71 Deluxe Bundle. This includes the official Yamaha L85 furniture stand – which is solid and strong.

    I would avoid the P-71 Starter Bundle.

    Here’s why:

    The P-71 Starter Bundle – while the price ($415.18) sounds good – comes with an x stand, rather than the P-71’s official stand – the L85 furniture stand ($97.59).

    A digital piano just rests on top of an x stand. It’s not fastened in place at all.

    We can see the x stand, and how the piano would just rest on top of it, in this screenshot of the P-71 Starter Bundle on Amazon:

    Yamaha P-71 Starter Bundle – Amazon screenshot (showing X Stand)

    The P-71 slides and wobbles (pretty easily) on the x stand while you play – and it can also fall off the stand. In the piano lessons I teach, I see kids accidentally knock keyboards off of x stands all the time. I’ve even done it myself! :)

    In contrast, the P-71 Deluxe Bundle ($493.18), and the P-45 Deluxe Bundle ($574.18), both include Yamaha’s L85 furniture stand – which is the official stand for these instruments.

    The P-71 Deluxe Bundle and P-45 Deluxe Bundle are the same. I found it helpful to see Amazon’s listings of the two, side by side:

    Amazon screenshot – Yamaha P71 bundle and Yamaha P45 bundle

    Both bundles have the same digital piano (just re-named – either called a P-45 or P-71), the L85 furniture stand and an adjustable-height bench.

    And Amazon is offering the P-71 Deluxe Bundle for $50 less than the P-45 Deluxe Bundle.

What is a Piano’s Action?

According to Mario Igrec, M.M. – pianist, former head piano technician at Louisiana State University and author of Pianos Inside Out: A Comprehensive Guide to Piano Tuning, Repairing, and Rebuilding:

definition-the-piano-action-is-a-set-of-levers-that-transfer-force-from-the-finger-to-the-hammer-with-diagram-showiwng-key-wippen-and-hammer

Image by Mario Igrec, M.M. (PianosInsideOut.com). Reprinted with permission.

A piano’s action is basically everything from the keys to the hammers – all the moving parts that combine to make the sound in an acoustic piano.

A heavier action means it takes more force to press the keys. And a lighter action means it takes less force to press the keys.

There’s a trade-off with the weight of a piano’s action:

  • Too heavy an action can make one prone to injury;
  • while too light an action will respond less to nuances in one’s playing.

Hammer Action

In an acoustic piano, the hammers are what plunk the strings to make the sound.

The best digital pianos actually reproduce this mechanism of levers and hammers. These types of digital pianos have what’s known as hammer action.

Having hammer action is one marker of a better quality digital piano. (Other digital pianos and keyboards reproduce a piano’s action with different mechanisms, like springs – and typically have a distinctively non-piano, “electronic keyboard” feel.)

Graded Hammer Action

In an acoustic piano, the strings toward the bass end of the piano are more thick. And correspondingly, the hammers for those strings have to be bigger.

This results in a slightly heavier action in the keys toward the left side of the piano; and a slightly lighter action on the keys toward the right.

The best digital pianos reproduce this effect – and the technology is known as graded hammer action.

Buying Tip: While hammer action, and graded hammer action, are important to look for; many lesser digital pianos also use this technology.

If an instrument does not have hammer action (or graded hammer action), I would probably cross it off my list.

However, having hammer action does not necessarily mean a digital piano will feel realistic or be a good instrument for piano studies. There are definitely lots of digital pianos with hammer action (and graded hammer action) which don’t feel realistic, in my opinion.

The piano’s downweight, described below, is also very important to consider…

Touchweight

Touchweight is defined as the force required to press a piano key (“downweight”), plus the amount of weight a key will lift (“upweight”), divided by two.

This calculation is used by piano technicians in their work balancing the mechanisms of a piano’s action.

I find, when evaluating digital pianos, downweight is an especially helfpul metric. It doesn’t necessarily tell us an instrument is great. But downweight can help us to rule out certain digital pianos – if we’re looking for an instrument that has keys with a similar weight to a well-regulated acoustic piano.

Many non-realistic electronic keyboards have a much lighter downweight than a piano.

This includes the $100 “cheesy synth” kind of instruments (don’t worry, I have one, too!), :) up to some high-end “MIDI controllers” which aren’t designed to feel pianistic.

And many digital pianos, bizarrely, have been made with much heavier actions than most acoustic pianos.

So, I start my evaluation by seeing whether a digital piano has a downweight at Middle C at or near what’s considered ideal. It’s one quick metric that can tell us a lot.

My Research

I did downweight tests at Middle C on all current actions made by Yamaha, Roland and Kawai. (And a bunch of others (!) – Kurzweil, Casio, Nord, etc.)

I used the method for downweight testing described in Mario Igrec’s Pianos Inside Out – involving placing gram weights 13 mm from the front of each key.

The downweights you see listed throughout this post are from these measurements. They’re accurate, to the best of my ability.

My digital piano recommendations are derived, in part, from this research.

Downweight

Downweight is defined as the lightest amount of weight it takes to press a piano key.

Traditionally, downweight is measured with gram weights, set back 13 mm from the front of a key; and with the piano key starting depressed 4 mm from its resting position. (Source: Igrec, 276)

The damper pedal is pressed when taking downweight measurements, to remove the weight added by the piano’s dampers.

Upweight

Upweight is defined as the most weight a key can lift – depressed from 7-8 mm, up to 4 mm.

The two-minute video below – made by Eric Johnson RPT (a Registered Piano Technician in the Piano Technicians Guild) – shows how touchweight is measured on a piano key:

Ideal Touchweight

Igrec (in Pianos Inside Out, p. 276) suggests these as ideal touchweight measurements at Middle C:

A downweight of 48 grams
An upweight of 23-24 grams

He adds: “A downweight over 55 g will be perceived as heavy.” And: “A downweight of 45 g or less will feel light.”

So, a downweight at Middle C in the range of 46-55 grams is ideal for an acoustic piano.

Now, we have to adjust this metric when we consider downweights of digital pianos. That’s because acoustic pianos have their downweight tested with the damper pedal pressed – which removes about 12 to 23 grams of weight from the keys.

Since digital pianos don’t have dampers, pressing the pedal doesn’t remove any weight.

A Piano’s Dampers and Damper Pedal

Dampers are felt cushions which rest against an acoustic piano’s strings. This keeps the strings from constantly resonating and making sound.

Dampers are lifted off of the strings while playing. When a damper is lifted off a string, the string will continue to sound (in a sustained way) for some time.

Dampers can be lifted off of the strings in two ways:

  • When a piano key is pressed, the damper lifts off of only that key’s string(s). The damper stays off of the strings as long as the key stays pressed. And just that note is sustained.
  • When the damper pedal is pressed, all of the dampers lift off of all of the piano’s strings. And all notes that one plays remain sustained (until the sound naturally decays), as long as the pedal is kept pressed.

This is what allows the skillful creation of sustained notes and chords, characteristic of a piano’s sound.

Because pressing the keys moves the dampers, dampers add a bit of weight (about 12 to 23 grams – based on my tests) to the downweight of each key. When the piano’s pedal is pressed, the dampers lift off of the strings, disconnect from the keys, and that weight is removed.

A grand piano’s dampers and strings

A piano's dampers resting on its strings – a Steinway grand piano

A piano when not in use. The dampers (the white felt cushions) are resting on top of the strings.

A piano's dampers lifted off of the strings (when the damper pedal is pressed)

Now, the damper pedal is being pressed; and the dampers have lifted off of the strings.

(Sorry for the dust!)
:)

So, it takes a bit more or a bit less force to press a piano key, depending on whether or not the damper pedal is pressed.

When an acoustic piano’s downweight is measured, it’s done with the weight of the dampers removed (usually by pressing the pedal while making the measurement).

As stated above, Igrec’s ideal downweight range for a well-regulated acoustic piano at Middle C (with the damper weight removed) is 46 to 55 grams.

A Digital Piano’s Downweight

A digital piano doesn’t have strings or dampers.

And, so far, no digital pianos have been made that recreate the lighter weight of the keys when the damper pedal is pressed.

Therefore, there are three main choices for how a company would choose to weight the keys of a digital piano:

  1. The weight could be the same as an acoustic piano with its pedal pressed (i.e., around 46 to 55 grams at Middle C);
  2. The weight could be equal to an acoustic piano without its pedal pressed (i.e., about 58 to 78 grams at Middle C); or
  3. The weight could be set somewhere in between.

Or, the weight could be vastly different: Very light (for cheesy synths!), or very heavy (as is the case in some mid-level Yamahas, some Kurzweils – which use Fatar actions; and so on).

It’s telling to note that the top-of-the-line digital pianos made by arguably the best manufacturers (Yamaha, Roland, and Kawai) tend to set their downweight at either:

  • The same as a piano with its damper pedal pressed;
  • Or, most often, a little bit heavier – so the downweight is somewhere in between an acoustic piano with and without its damper pedal pressed.

This includes Kawai’s Grand Feel and Grand Feel II actions, most of Roland’s current line of digital pianos, and Yamaha’s hybrid pianos/AvantGrands.

All of these digital pianos have a downweight at Middle C of about 45-72 grams. I think this is the ideal downweight for a digital piano.

(Yamaha’s hybrid pianos/AvantGrands are equal to the downweight of an acoustic piano with its pedal pressed – because these use actual actions from acoustic pianos.)

Yamaha’s entry-level action, the GHS, is also in this ideal range (62 grams at Middle C) – something good to know, for anyone wanting a realistic-feeling digital piano at the least cost.

This ideal downweight range results in a digital piano with a completely comfortable and realistic weight, whether or not the pedal is pressed.

Some piano technicians refer to this ideal weighting as the keys feeling “invisible.”

Here are jump-to links for the digital pianos I’ve found to have this “ideal” weighting: (These links will take you right to those instruments’ descriptions/reviews, further in this post.)

And actually, I only recommend digital pianos in this post that fall into this ideal downweight range.

It took me months of research to reach these conclusions (doing hours of downweight tests and playing as many digital pianos as I could; taking notes on the specs of almost all current digital pianos; researching touchweight/downweight; consulting with piano technicians; etc.).

I hope the information serves you well!

Digital Pianos with Heavier Actions

The reason I don’t like the heavier-action digital pianos – like some mid-level Yamahas, and some of the entry- and mid-level Kawais – is that these instruments are being weighted equal to the weight of an acoustic piano without its pedal pressed (or even heavier).

Some heavier Yamahas, for instance, have a downweight of 82 to over 90 grams at Middle C.

Some of these Yamaha actions are the: Graded Hammer (GH), Graded Hammer 3 (GH3) and Natural Wood (NW).

On digital pianos weighted this way, everything one plays feels noticeably heavy – even when the pedal is pressed.

In contrast, I did downweight testing on a Steinway Model M – a luxury “baby grand”; one of the best acoustic pianos in the world. It had a downweight at Middle C (with damper pedal pressed) of 46 grams.

So, while the heavy-action Yamaha digital pianos feel very realistic, 46 grams (for the Steinway) compared to 82 grams (for some P-series and Clavinovas) is a noticeable difference!

Deep Dive into Touchweight

Feel free to skip over this. But just to be thorough… :)

There’s actually an even deeper level to analyzing piano touchweight – a system called The New Touchweight Metrology.

It’s a method for balancing a piano’s action used by piano technicians and builders.

It was developed by David C. Stanwood, President of Stanwood Piano Innovations (on Martha’s Vineyard). Stanwood is a piano builder and rebuilder, and a registered piano technician (RPT).

In 1996, Stanwood published an article, “The New Touchweight Metrology” (in the Piano Technicians Journal).

With Stanwood’s method, each component of the piano’s action (on each of the 88 keys!) is individually weighed – and these metrics are combined together to give a deeper picture of how well the piano’s action is balanced.

This helps piano technicians know which parts to make heavier – by adding weights; and which to make lighter – by trimming.

Stanwood measures parts of the action, for each key, like the:

  • Hammer (which yields Strike Weight);
  • Whippen (for Whippen Radius Weight);
  • Key Stick (to get Front Weight);
  • He averages Upweight and Downweight (to yield Balance Weight);
  • And so on.

It’s pretty technical stuff! :)

Here’s a screenshot, for example, showing the analysis of these various measurements:

Stanwood – Balance Weight Graph

So, if we want to be aware of the most comprehensive method for measuring piano touchweight, here it is.

And, for our purposes (in determining which digital pianos are most ideally-weighted); one Downweight measurement (taken at Middle C) can tell us the most important thing:

How many grams of weight it takes to press a key.

With this one measurement, we can quickly say, “This digital piano feels heavier to play than that digital piano.” And, “This digital piano has a downweight in the range that’s considered ideal, and that digital piano does not.”

Yamaha, Roland & Kawai

Based on my research, the three companies that make the best digital pianos are Yamaha, Roland and Kawai.

Of the three, Yamaha and Kawai also make acoustic pianos. Both companies are highly regarded for their acoustic and digital pianos.

Roland digital pianos are also highly regarded. Even though Roland doesn’t make acoustic pianos, they’re a long-standing industry leader in synthesizers and electronic instruments. And Roland’s current line of digital pianos is widely-recognized as having reached a very high level of realism and excellence.

Yamahas, Rolands and Kawais are often considered the most realistic-feeling digital pianos.

When buying digital pianos, most classical pianists – and university music departments – choose Yamaha, Roland and Kawai.

Below are reviews of these “Big 3″ brands – along with my recommendations of the best digital pianos made by each.

Most of these companies make some realistic-feeling instruments (suitable for use by pianists); and some instruments which, in my opinion, aren’t as good.

We’ll look at each company’s digital pianos below:

Yamaha Digital Piano Review

Yamaha currently makes about 45 digital pianos – ranging in price from $400 to $22,000.

Background

Yamaha has a history of making world-class acoustic pianos, digital pianos, and synthesizers.

In 1983, Yamaha created one of the first “digital pianos” – the YP-40. It had fully-weighted, wooden keys. The YP-40 was the beginning of Yamaha’s well-known Clavinova line of digital pianos.

Yamaha YP-40 – First Clavinova Digital Piano

Yamaha’s YP-40, one of the earliest digital pianos

Since 1986, with the introduction of the CLP-50 (also a Clavinova), Yamaha has been using acoustic piano samples in their digital pianos, rather than synthesized sounds. This sampling technology is what most digital pianos still use today.

Likewise, Yamaha’s acoustic pianos are highly sought-after instruments, used by music departments, classical pianists, and ensembles around the world.

Yamaha CFX full size concert grand piano

The Yamaha CFX – top-of-the-line, full size concert grand piano

U1 popular Yamaha upright piano

The well-known, Yamaha U1 upright piano

Having expertise in both areas, Yamaha has long enjoyed a reputation as the digital piano of choice by many classical pianists. They’re used more than any other digital pianos in university music programs, and are known for their realistic feel.

Best Yamaha Digital Pianos

There are 15 current Yamaha digital pianos I recommend. Each of these instruments has a properly-weighted action – falling right inside or very near what’s considered ideal.

My Yamaha recommendations could be grouped into two categories:

  1. I recommend any Yamaha with the Graded Hammer Standard (GHS) action.
    Eight current Yamahas have the GHS. These are entry-level instruments – well-suited for piano students, and anyone looking for a good digital piano that’s not too expensive. They range in price from $400 to $2,000.
  2. I also recommend Yamaha’s six highest-end digital pianos, known as Hybrid Pianos.
    These are ultra pro-level digital pianos. Each contains Yamaha’s Specialized Upright Piano Action or Specialized Grand Piano Action. These are arguably the best digital pianos ever made. They include Yamaha’s NU1 Hybrid Piano, and also Yamaha’s six AvantGrands (the N1, N2, N3; and the new in 2016 and 2017, NU1X and N3X). They range in price from ~$5,500 to ~$22,000.

The GHS and Hybrid Pianos all have properly-weighted actions, feel smooth to play, and sound great.

The tables below have prices and links to each of these instruments.

Yamaha makes about 30 other digital pianos, which could be considered considered mid- to pro-level. I don’t recommend any of these mid-level Yamahas, simply because the actions are much heavier than what’s generally considered ideal. These heavier-action Yamahas include most of the Clavinova series, some of the Arius line, and so on.

For mid- to pro-level instruments, I recommend a number of Roland digital pianos, instead. (That link will jump to the Roland section of this post.)

Roland makes great mid-priced ($699 to $1,999), pro-level digital pianos that feel amazing, and have an ideal weighting.

Recommended Yamaha Digital Pianos

These 13 Yamaha digital pianos all have appropriate weighting and realism for proper development of muscle strength and technique.

The GHS instruments are entry-level (starting at $399.99). And the Hybrid Pianos and AvantGrands (containing Yamaha’s Specialized Upright and Specialized Grand Piano Actions) are some of the best digital pianos ever made (and start in price at just over $5,000).

Quick Links:

Here are three Yamaha digital pianos which I think are Yamaha’s best values in three distinct ranges: entry-, mid-, and pro-level:

  1. Yamaha P-71 (aka P-45)entry-level ($399.99)
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    Yamaha P-45 digital piano review

    This is Yamaha’s least expensive digital piano. It’s also the least expensive way, in my opinion, to get a quality digital piano, suitable for serious piano study.

    The P-45 contains Yamaha’s entry-level, but very realistic, GHS action.

    Amazon’s P-45 bundle contains the Yamaha P-45 (aka P-71), its official L85 furniture stand, and an adjustable-height bench, for $449.99 (with free shipping). This is the best deal I’ve seen for a quality digital piano.

  2. Yamaha YDP-103 (Arius)mid-level ($899.99)
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    Yamaha Arius YDP-103 review

    The YDP-103 also contains the entry-level, GHS action. But Yamaha’s Arius line has a few more features than the P-45 (and the P-series): Arius digital pianos come with their own wooden, console stand – giving them a more pianistic look.

    Yamaha Arius digital pianos also include three pedals (damper, sostenuto, and soft), and half pedal support; making the Arius line suitable for more advanced piano study.

    The least expensive Yamaha Arius is the YDP-103. Here it is on Amazon (for $899.99 & Free Shipping).

  3. Yamaha NU1pro-level (~$5,340-5,999)
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    Yamaha NU1 Hybrid Piano

    The NU1 is one of the best digital piano ever made. At $6,499 (MSRP), or around $5,340-5,999 (depending on the store), it’s also a great value for the price. Note: The NU1X (above) has now replaced the NU1. It’s the same price or less, and has a few upgraded features and sounds.

    The NU1 contains Yamaha’s newest action, the Specialized Upright Piano Action – which is an actual action from Yamaha’s finest upright, acoustic piano – the U1 (pictured a bit above).

Yamaha GHS Action Review

Yamaha’s entry-level action is called Graded Hammer Standard (GHS). It has a downweight at Middle C of 62 grams, and feels smooth and realistic to play.

The GHS action, in my opinion, is the least expensive digital piano action that feels highly realistic. For as little as $399.99, you can get a Yamaha P-45 (aka P-71), which has the GHS action and is a great, entry-level digital piano.

I’ve not found anything else close to this level of quality in that price range.

More advanced pianists – who are looking for something closer to a pro-level instrument – would want to step up to something with a more-refined feel than the GHS, like the Roland digital pianos I recommend.

The least expensive Roland I recommend is the FP-30 ($699.99 & Free Shipping). It has a pro-level feel and sound, with its impressive PHA-4 Standard action and SuperNATURAL sound engine. The FP-30 is the instrument that really “wows” me – in terms of value and quality – in that price range.

In my opinion, Yamaha’s GHS action is the best digital piano action that can be found for under about $700. (So, it’s probably the best choice for a major portion of the market.)

The table below shows all of the current Yamahas with the GHS action – listed by price, from lowest to highest:

(Note: The P-45 is the same instrument as the P-71. Amazon has an exclusive deal with Yamaha, where they can offer it under a different name.)

(Note 2! :) Considering the Roland FP-30‘s more-refined feel, that might be a better choice than the more expensive Yamahas with the GHS action.)

Recommended Yamaha Digital Pianos

Recommended Yamaha Digital Pianos

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Yamaha P-45 (aka P-71)

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$399.99 & FREE Shipping View on Amazon
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$450 – 549.98 & FREE Shipping
Bundle with L85 stand (and bench on Amazon)
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Yamaha P-45 digital piano review

Action: GHS
Sound: AWM Stereo Sampling

The P-45 – the least expensive, very realistic digital piano. Pictured here with its official, L85 furniture stand.

P-45 Accessories:

  • Dedicated Stand: L85 ($97.59). The P-45 (aka P-71) bundle comes with the official L85 stand, but the stand can also be purchased on its own.
  • Pianistic Pedal: The P-45 comes with a small, square damper pedal. It works fine. But for more realism, you may want a piano-style pedal, like the M-Audio SP-2 ($21.95).
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Yamaha P-115

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$599.99 & FREE Shipping View on Amazon
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$799.99 & FREE Shipping
Bundle with bench, L85 stand, LP5A
3-Pedal Unit & Knox Bench
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Yamaha P-115 digital piano review

Action: GHS
Sound: Pure CF Sound Engine

The P-115 – pictured here with the official, L85 furniture stand.

2018 Note: The Yamaha P-125 (just below) is an upgrade to the P-115, at the same price. It adds two additional speakers. So, the P-125 is now a better buy than the P-115.

The P-115 differs from the P-45 (above) in that “the tweeter [speaker] position has been improved… to be in line with the ears of the performer.” The P-115 also adds Yamaha’s newer, Pure CF sound engine – which uses samples from Yamaha’s CFIIIS 9′ concert grand piano.

As well, the P-115 adds support for 3 pedals (damper, soft, and sostenuto) – making it appropriate for playing more advanced repertoire. (The 3-pedal unit is an optional accessory.)

P-115 Accessories:

  • Dedicated Stand: L85 ($97.59).
  • 3-Pedal Unit: The P-115 comes with a square damper pedal. The P-115 also has an official 3-Pedal Unit, the LP5A ($79.09).
  • Another option: a third-party, piano-style sustain pedal – like the M-Audio SP-2 ($21.95).
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Yamaha P-125


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$599.99 & FREE Shipping View on Amazon
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Yamaha P-125 Digital Piano

Action: Graded Hammer Standard (GHS)
Sound: Pure CF Sound Engine

The Yamaha P-125, pictured with its custom L125 stand and LP1 pedal board.

The P-125 upgrades the P-115 (shown below) in a few ways: (1) The main upgrade is the P-125’s 2-way Speaker System. It adds two additional speakers under the digital piano (for 4 speakers total) – creating a “sweet spot” of sound for the player. Sound projects above and below the instrument. (2) The LP1 pedalboard (shown above) has a grand piano-like style – where the pedals connect to the top of the stand, rather than from the stand’s sides.

One of my students has a P-125. It’s a really nice instrument. The added speakers (along with Yanmaha’s PureCF sound engine) creates a nice, warm sound. Many people really like this instrument (including me!).

One other digital piano to consider, for only $100 more, is the Roland FP-30. I’ve played the P-125 and the FP-30 side-by-side. And, while they’re similar, I felt the FP-30 was better for performing advanced piano repertoire. The sound and keys responded to my playing more accurately – more like an acoustic piano would.

Both actions feel really nice, though. So, for someone who’s beginning piano, the difference may not matter much.

So I give the new Yamaha P-125 a hearty thumbs up! It’s a very enjoyable instrument to play.

P-125 Accessories:

  • Dedicated Stand: L-25 ($90.48 & Free Shipping)
  • Dedicated Pedal Board (Attaches to the L125 Stand): LP1 ($74.99 & Free Shipping).
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Yamaha DGX-650

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$799.99 & FREE Shipping View on Amazon
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Yamaha DGX-650 digital piano review

Action: GHS
Sound: Pure CF Sound Engine

The DGX-660 (below) is a newer, upgraded version of the DGX-650. With both instruments priced the same, the 660 (below) offers a bit more bang for your buck.

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Yamaha DGX-660

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Yamaha DGX-660 digital piano review

Action: GHS
Sound: Pure CF Sound Engine

The DGX-660 (and DGX-650, above) are cool instruments. I’ve had a few students with these, and they sound and feel great.

If you want a nice-feeling digital piano with lots of interesting sounds (for under about $1,000), this is one of my favorites!

I’m always impressed with these.

The Yamaha DGX (PortableGrand™) series includes a CD-quality USB Audio Recorder; and optional access to Yamaha’s XG play-along sound files. These are musical accompaniments to a variety of Hal Leonard’s sheet music library. So, you can buy and print sheet music online by musicians like Coldplay and Adele, and have the digital piano accompany you. And you can make CD-quality recordings of yourself playing.

Both the DGX-660 and DGX-650 are shipped with their own, official stand included.

The DGX-660 expands on the DGX-650 (above) by adding Yamaha’s new Piano Room feature. It gives a greater choice of sampled pianos and acoustic settings.

DGX-660 Accessories:

  • 3-Pedal Unit: The included square damper pedal can be replaced with the DGX-660’s official 3-Pedal Unit, the LP7A ($74.99).
  • Another option: a third-party, piano-style sustain pedal – like the M-Audio SP-2 ($21.95).
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Yamaha Arius YDP-103

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Yamaha YDP-103 digital piano review

Action: GHS
Sound: AWM Stereo Sampling

The Yamaha Arius series (always denoted with “YDP” in the model number) is a step up from the Yamaha P series. Arius digital pianos include damper, sostenuto, and soft pedals; half-damper pedal control; and matte black keytops. They also stand in their own piano-style cabinet – which has an elegant look, and keeps the pedals fixed in place.

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Yamaha Arius YDP-142

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$999.99 & FREE Shipping View on Amazon

Yamaha YDP-142 digital piano review

Action: GHS
Sound: Pure CF Sound Engine

Comparing the YDP-142 to the YDP-103 (above), the 142 adds two things: Yamaha’s newer sample set, the Pure CF sound engine – which samples Yamaha’s CFIIIS 9′ concert grand piano. Also, a two-track MIDI recorder – to record and play back your work. (This can also be done with a MIDI connection between any digital piano and a computer.)

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Yamaha Arius YDP-143

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Yamaha YDP-143 digital piano review

Action: GHS
Sound: Pure CF Sound Engine

The YDP-143 updates a few features of the YDP-142: 192-note polyphony, compared to the YDP-142’s 128. (Each should exceed almost any needs.) The YDP-143 also contains the new, Stereophonic Optimizer – designed to optimize the sound when playing through headphones. The 143 also has four reverbs, compared to the 142’s one.

The Yamaha Arius YDP-143 is the most expensive Yamaha digital piano I would consider buying – other than Yamaha’s top-of-the-line ($5,000+), Hybrid Pianos. In the $900-$5,000 range, Roland digital pianos, in my experience, outperform Yamahas. But in the lower price range, I consider Yamahas with the GHS action to be the best option.

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Yamaha Arius YDP-V240

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$1,999.99 & FREE Shipping View on Amazon

Yamaha YDP-V240 digital piano review

Action: GHS
Sound: AWM Dynamic Stereo Sampling

The YDP-V240 is a fine digital piano. But at this price (~$2,000), there are better options, in my opinion. Roland digital pianos in the $699 to $1,999 price range (such as these, below) outperform Yamaha digital pianos with the GHS action.

The GHS shines, in my opinion, in that it’s a great, entry-level action – which can be found in instruments for as low as $399.99. But in the price range of the YDP-V240, I’d definitely opt instead for a comparably-priced Roland digital piano.

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Yamaha Hybrid Piano and AvantGrand Review

Yamaha’s top-of-the-line digital pianos are known as Hybrid Pianos. Yamaha’s hybrid pianos are unique: They’re the only digital pianos that use an actual action from an acoustic piano. This makes them probably the most realistic-feeling (and best) digital pianos ever made.

To me, these instruments feel indistinguishable from acoustic pianos.

Yamaha’s Hybrid Pianos use actual actions from high-end Yamaha acoustic pianos.

Of the six Hybrid Pianos, five are known as AvantGrands. These are designed to emulate high-end Yamaha acoustic grand pianos.

The five AvantGrands are the N1 (MSRP: $9,999), N2 (MSRP: $14,999), and N3 (MSRP: $19,999) – all released in 2007; and Yamaha’s newest additions, the N3X (MSRP: $22,199) – released in January, 2017 – and NU1X (MSRP: $6,999; Yamaha’s “buy-online price”: $5,999.99) – released in September, 2017).

Yamaha considers the new NU1X an AvantGrand – even though it has an upright piano’s action – from Yamaha’s high-end, U1 acoustic upright.

Each AvantGrand (other than the NU1X) uses an actual action from Yamaha’s high-end, CFIIIS concert grand piano. (The hammers are re-shaped for hitting sensors, rather than strings.) This action is known as the Specialized Grand Piano Action.

Yamaha’s predecessor to the NU1X AvantGrand is the NU1 (released in 2012). The NU1 (MSRP: $6,999) uses the same action as the newer NU1X. The NU1 and NU1X are designed to emulate Yamaha’s high-end, U1 acoustic upright piano. Each uses an actual U1’s action (with redesigned hammers) – known as the Specialized Upright Piano Action.

One unusual naming convention that can be confusing: Of these six instruments, all but the NU1 are considered both AvantGrands and Hybrid Pianos. (The full list would be the N1, N2, N3, N3X, and NU1X.) But the NU1 is not called an AvantGrand by Yamaha – only a Hybrid Piano.

But regardless of what they’re called, these six instruments are probably the best digital pianos ever been made.

And one pricing note: The NU1 and NU1X Hybrid Pianos can often be found for significantly less than the MSRP.

The NU1, NU1X, and N3X – the newest additions to the Hybrid Piano line – include Yamaha’s newest sample set, the CFX. (The CFX concert grand piano is considered Yamaha’s greatest achievement in an acoustic piano.) The NU1X and N3X also use Binaural Sampling on its CFX samples. As well, the NU1X and N3X also include impressive samples from a Bosendorfer Imperial concert grand piano.

The other Hybrid Pianos (N1, N2, and N3) contain samples from Yamaha’s also top-of-the-line, CFIIIS concert grand piano.

The N1, N2, N3, and N3X use Yamaha’s Spatial Acoustic Sampling and Spatial Acoustic Speaker System.

Spatial Acoustic Sampling

The piano samples (made from instruments like Yamaha’s acclaimed CFIIIS concert grand) are recorded at four different places along the acoustic piano’s soundboard.

Spatial Acoustic Speaker System

The sound is then projected (using multiple speakers) from different areas of the Hybrid Piano – based on what range of the instrument a person is playing.

Each Yamaha Hybrid Piano contains several speakers:

  • four speakers for the NU1 and NU1X;
  • six for the N1 and N2;
  • twelve for the N3 and N3X.

This system is designed to emulate the way an acoustic piano projects sound.

Two other intriguing features in some of the Hybrid Pianos are Yamaha’s:

  • Tactile Response System (TRS) on the N2, N3, and N3X – which recreates the vibrations and feedback felt when playing an acoustic piano; and
  • Soundboard Resonator Technology on the N2, N3, and N3X – which produces natural resonance around the person playing.

The one other company creating something similar to the Hybrid Pianos is Kawai, with its high-end digital pianos, the Grand Feel II instruments: the CA67, CA97; and the newer, CS8 and CS11.

These are all comparable instruments; and the Yamaha Hybrid Pianos and Kawai Grand Feel II line are likely the best digital pianos ever made.

The table below shows Yamaha’s six Hybrid Pianos. These instruments are mostly sold through authorized Yamaha dealers (in brick-and-mortar stores). I’ve included online buying options where possible.

Recommended Pro-level Yamaha Hybrid Pianos, AvantGrands

Recommended Yamaha Pro-level Digital Pianos

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Yamaha NU1

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MSRP: $6,999
Street Price: $5,999.99
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Yamaha NU1 digital piano review

Action: Specialized Upright Piano Action
Sound: CFX Sampling

A caveat: I wrote this NU1 review before Yamaha’s release of the NU1X (below) – which is an update to the NU1. So, while they both feel the same to play, the NU1X would now edge out the NU1 as my favorite digital piano, as it includes a number of upgraded sounds and technologies. As well, both the NU1 and the newer NU1X are selling for the same price. (Yamaha is discontinuing the NU1 and replacing it with the NU1X.)

This is probably my favorite digital piano. I consider the Yamaha NU1 to be the best digital piano on the market. (It’s also 1/4 the cost of some other high-end digital pianos.)

The NU1 contains Yamaha’s newest action, the Specialized Upright Piano Action. It’s an actual action from Yamaha’s U1 acoustic upright piano line. This is the most realistic-feeling digital piano I’ve ever played. It’s indistinguishable from a top-of-the-line, acoustic upright piano.

If price was not a concern, I’d opt for a Yamaha NU1. (Update: Now, I’d opt for the NU1X, below.)

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Yamaha NU1X

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MSRP: $6,999
Buy Online Price: $5,999.99
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Yamaha NU1X digital piano review

Action: Specialized Upright Piano Action
Sound: Binaural CFX Sampling, and Bösendorfer Imperial

New in September 2017, the NU1X is an upgrade to the NU1 (above). Added in the NU1X are:

(1) Two new piano sounds: Samples of the Yamaha CFX full concert grand piano which now include Binaural Sampling – for a more three-dimensional headphone experience; and samples of the Bösendorfer Imperial – the flagship concert grand piano of the acclaimed, Bösendorfer (who, since 2008, have been part of the Yamaha family). These are Yamaha’s two newest and best sample sets and sound technologies.

(The NU1, in contrast, includes non-binaural CFX samples, and it doesn’t have Bösendorfer Imperial samples.)

(2) Wireless, Bluetooth ™ connectivity (in addition to the USB and MIDI ports included in the NU1).

(3) Virtual Resonance Modeling (VRM). Vibrations in the piano recreate the unique resonance characteristics of the string(s) for each key. (Pretty complex/savvy stuff!)

(4) GP Response Damper Pedal – for a “grand piano-style resistance curve” to the damper pedal’s weighting.

Yamaha now has a “buy online” option for the NU1X through their website – something they haven’t offered for their other AvantGrands/Hybrid Pianos.

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Yamaha N1

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MSRP: $9,999 View on Yamaha

Yamaha N1 digital piano review

Action: Specialized Grand Piano Action
Sound: Spatial Acoustic Sampling

The N1 (and N2, below) are designed to have the feel and sound of a grand piano in a compact size. The N1 is Yamaha’s least expensive AvantGrand which uses their Specialized Grand Piano Action.

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Yamaha N2

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MSRP: $14,999 View on Yamaha

Yamaha N2 digital piano review

Action: Specialized Grand Piano Action
Sound: Spatial Acoustic Sampling

The N2 is more of a cabinet-style piano than the N1. It adds Yamaha’s Tactile Response System (TRS), recreating the vibrations and feedback felt when playing an acoustic piano; and has Ivorite®, compared to the N1’s Acrylic Resin, keys. (I find both key materials to be top notch.)

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Yamaha N3

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$20,276.99 & Free Shipping View on Amazon

Yamaha N3 digital piano review

Action: Specialized Grand Piano Action
Sound: Spatial Acoustic Sampling

The N3 (and N3X, below) are Yamaha’s highest-end offerings. They have the look of a baby grand piano. They also each have 12 speakers, to project sound from the instrument in a way similar to an acoustic grand.

The trade-off between the N3 and N3X is: The N3 has two piano sample sets, compared to the N3X’s five. And the N3 costs about $2,000 less.

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Yamaha N3X

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MSRP: $22,199 View on Yamaha

Yamaha N3X digital piano review

Action: Specialized Grand Piano Action
Sound: Spatial Acoustic Sampling,
Binaural Sampling on CFX Grand Voice

Released in January 2017, the N3X is an update to the N3 – adding samples of three additional pianos, including the Yamaha CFX and Bösendorfer Imperial grand pianos. (Yamaha acquired Bösendorfer – one of the world’s great piano manufacturers – in 2007.)

Yamaha’s Heavier Actions

All of Yamaha’s other current digital pianos – including most of the Clavinovas, the Stage Pianos, and some of the Arius and P lines – contain one of Yamaha’s heavier actions – namely, Graded Hammer (GH), Graded Hammer 3 (GH3), Natural Wood (NW), Natural Wood X (NWX), NW-GH, and NW-STAGE.

These actions, used in most of Yamaha’s digital pianos, have considerably heavier downweights at Middle C (about 82 to 93 grams!) than the ideal range for an acoustic piano of 46-55 grams.

Interestingly, all current, top-of-the-line digital pianos made by Yamaha, Roland, and Kawai have downweights of about 45 to 72 grams at Middle C. This includes the actions in Yamaha’s Hybrid Pianos/AvantGrands, all current Roland actions; and Kawai’s Grand Feel and Grand Feel II actions.

Yamaha’s entry-level, GHS, action is also 62 grams at Middle C.

I’ve actually owned a Yamaha digital piano (the P-60) with one of their heavier actions (the GH) since 2003. It’s a great instrument. It sounds and feels very realistic. The action is just far too heavy, in my opinion.

The Yamahas I recommend here are all 45-62 grams at Midle C. I’d personally like to trade in my GH action for a GHS, or for one of the Rolands I recommend in this post.

If you like a heavy action in a piano, I think you’d enjoy any of the heavier Yamahas. But, for most of us (and especially kids), I personally think lighter actions are a safer choice.

I’ve seen many people do fine playing on a heavier action. But I’ve also seen some people experience tendon pain.

Yamaha Pros

  • Yamaha digital pianos, in my opinion, feel almost indistinguishable from acoustic pianos. You can practice on them, and seamlessly transition to and from an acoustic piano.
  • The on-board sounds (samples of grand pianos, etc.) are high quality, realistic, and inspiring to play and hear.

Yamaha Cons

The only down side, in my opinion, is that the actions in some (but not all) Yamaha digital pianos are very heavy. They’re heavier than the keys of most acoustic pianos.

For example, the downweight at Middle C on six of Yamaha’s nine current actions (the GH, GH3, NW, NWX, NW-GH, and NW-STAGE) is about 82 grams or more. Compare that to a Steinway, acoustic grand piano (the “gold standard”) – which has a downweight at Middle C of about 46 grams. It’s a noticeable difference.

Downweight is a complex issue. (You can see more in the touchweight section, above.)

For this reason, I recommend Yamaha’s three lighter actions very highly (GHS, Specialized Upright Piano Action, and Specialized Grand Piano Action). And I only recommend other Yamahas with a caveat: People with sensitive tendons, and kids, might not want to play Yamaha’s heavier actions, day-to-day, or for long periods of time.

Now, if you like a piano with a heavy feel (and some people do), you would probably really enjoy the heavier Yamahas. (They’re solid instruments.) But, as a general rule, I avoid recommending pianos with heavier actions.

Yamaha’s Sound Engines

Most Yamaha digital pianos use either the Pure CF sound engine, or Advanced Wave Memory (AWM). These are Yamaha’s names for their different piano samples, and methods of sampling and playback, in their digital pianos.

Pure CF Sound Engine

This is one of Yamaha’s newer sound engines – found in some of their newer and/or higher-end digital pianos. It uses samples from Yamaha’s CFIIIS 9′ concert grand piano.

Advanced Wave Memory (AWM)

Many of Yamaha’s less-new, and more entry-level digital pianos, use their Advanced Wave Memory (AWM) sound engine technology.

There are a few variations of AWM, for example AWM Stereo Sampling and AWM Dynamic Stereo Sampling.

My take: Essentially, all of Yamaha’s methods of sampling and playing back piano samples have been inspiring and excellent-sounding for many years. For most of us, both the Pure CF and AWM sound engines would surpass our expectations.

I have an older Yamaha, the P-60 – released in January 2003. It uses AWM Stereo Sampling; it doesn’t have Yamaha’s newer, Pure CF sound engine or AWM Dynamic Stereo Sampling, which are both arguably better. And, to my ear, even the AWM Stereo Sampling sounds great.

Admittedly, I do find Roland’s SuperNATURAL technology, which combines acoustic samples with spectral modeling, to sound better.

Though, for most people’s purposes (including my own), AWM, Pure CF, and SuperNATURAL would all sound great.

As an example: I made a recording of myself playing on my Yamaha P-60 for one of my teachers in the early 2000s. It has AWM Stereo Sampling, and he had no idea it was a digital piano!

So, if you want Yamaha’s latest and best, look for the Pure CF. But all of these technologies are impressive and realistic.

Roland Digital Piano Review

Background

Although Roland doesn’t make acoustic pianos (as their main competitors, Yamaha and Kawai, do), Roland has been making digital pianos as long as anyone:

  • Roland’s original digital piano, the RD-1000 (1986), was the first digital piano to use digital synthesis.
  • And their EP-30 (1974) was arguably the world’s first “electric piano.”
  • Roland also contributed (in 1983) to the creation of MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) – a very useful technology, still used in all digital pianos today.

Roland specializes in electronic instruments. And, in the past several years, their digital pianos have become some of the most impressive ever made.

A quick idea about Rolands and price:

The least expensive Roland digital piano is the FP-30 for $699.99. It has a pro-level sound and feel – which is pretty impressive, for that price.

If you’re looking to spend less, the Yamaha P-45, aka P-71 (see my review above) uses Yamaha’s GHS action, which is the next best thing, imo. And the P-45 only costs $399.99.

My quick take: Roland makes the best digital pianos in the world, in the $700 to $2,000 price range. Click here to jump down in the post to the specific Rolands I recommend.

These are among the best digital pianos ever made, in my opinion. They do cost more than the least expensive digital pianos. But for the price, you get essentially a perfect digital piano – one that can provide a lifetime of quality and enjoyment.

Roland SuperNATURAL Sound Review and Roland V-Piano Review

Roland specializes in electronic instruments and synthesizers. The technology behind the creation of their sounds is one of Roland’s most important differentiating factors.

Each of Roland’s current digital pianos uses one of two different technologies (or “sound engines”) to create their sounds:

  1. The SuperNATURAL sound engine (released in 2010); and
  2. The V-Piano sound engine (released in 2009).

I find the SuperNATURAL sound engine to have more piano realism. It’s a refinement/upgrade to the V-Piano sound engine. The SuperNATURAL sound engine takes the V-Piano’s synthesized sound, and blends it with actual, acoustic piano samples.

Here’s my take on each:

Roland SuperNATURAL Review

In this official demo video on YouTube, Roland says of their digital pianos with the SuperNATURAL technology:

The Roland SuperNATURAL piano sound engine deepens the emotion of playing. It delivers a more natural and beautiful piano sound, as well as a touch, that gives you the ultimate in expressivity.

After researching and playing their instruments, I think I see Roland’s intent. Instead of creating their sounds using just samples (audio recordings) from an acoustic piano (as most companies do), the SuperNATURAL technology:

  1. combines samples from acoustic pianos; and
  2. blends in some proprietary synthesis techniques. (This synthesis component responds and changes a bit with the nuances, like dynamics, of your playing.)

So, when you play a note, you’re hearing a responsive, hybrid blend of audio samples and synthesis.

Roland seems to be trying to create (using their words, above) a playing experience with “deepen[ed]” “emotion” and “expressivity.”

When you’re playing one of these Roland digital pianos, it sounds and feels a bit enhanced in some way – which, in fact, it is.

My feeling is that most people would really like Roland’s SuperNATURAL technology (as there’s a smooth richness to the sound). There’s a certain elegance to how these Rolands sound and feel. (The word “silky” is what I think of as I play these instruments.)

My personal feeling is that, of Roland’s two current “sound engines”:

  1. The SuperNATURAL sound engine has just the right amount of synthesis. It sounds very inspiring, while still completely realistic to my ear.
  2. The V-Piano sound engine (described below) – which uses entirely synthesis (and no samples) – sounds a bit too synthetic for my tastes.

So, I personally would recommend Roland’s SuperNATURAL sound engine (very highly), but would only recommend their V-Piano sound engine with the caveat that it doesn’t, in my opinion, re-create the sound of an acoustic piano completely authentically.

24 Roland digital pianos contain the SuperNATURAL sound engine. I recommend 23 of them, below.

External link:
This Roland blog post goes into more detail about their SuperNATURAL technology – which they use on digital pianos, as well some of their other instruments, like electronic drums.

Roland V-Piano Review

As discussed above, Roland’s SuperNATURAL Sound technology blends acoustic piano samples with additional synthesis techniques.

In contrast, Roland’s previous technology – the V-Piano sound engine – creates its sound entirely with Roland’s proprietary synthesis techniques.

Roland’s marketing materials describe their proprietary technology as sound modeling. The sound modeling is used, full on, in the V-Pianos; and it’s used, in part, in their SuperNATURAL instruments.

Another name for sound modeling is spectral modeling.

Spectral Modeling

I attended a graduate seminar in spectral modeling, and it’s a deep and fascinating field.

With techniques like the Fast Fourier transform (FFT), you can use a computer to “pull apart” a recorded sound (like, say, a piano note) into its individual sine waves, also known as spectra. (Sort of like what a prism does to a beam of light.)

You can then alter the sine waves – adding to, filtering, and distorting the sound’s spectra – and re-synthesize it, to re-create the sound in a new way. (You could think of it like sound morphing.)

One cutting-edge use of spectral modeling is in creating the sound of an acoustic instrument entirely with spectral data – bypassing actual sound recordings (samples) of the instrument. It appears that this is what Roland is doing with their V-Piano sound engine.

With sound modeling, the spectral data of an acoustic sound (like a piano note) is analyzed with a computer. Then, a new sound is created by modeling certain features of the original sound’s spectrum.

Roland seems to be analyzing spectra from samples (recordings) of several of the world’s finest, acoustic pianos. And then, creating their own, synthesized piano sound, by piecing together their favorite features of each piano’s spectrum (and adjusting parameters in proprietary ways).

External link:
This article from the highly-regarded, Sound on Sound, goes into some detail on the fully-modeled (no samples used) Roland V-Piano technology.

Roland is doing fascinating work. And it’s just up to each person to decide whether this is what they’re looking for in an instrument, whether it serves their purposes, and whether the price is right.

If this is helpful to hear, I’ve played Roland’s V-Pianos (which use entirely-synthesized/modeled sounds), and they don’t sound realistic enough to my ear. It sounds a bit synthetic to me. (Though you can sculpt the sound extensively to your liking.)

I personally prefer Roland’s SuperNATURAL sound engine – which blends acoustic samples and sound modeling. I think that technology really hits the mark. But some people would probably really like the V-Piano sound.

External links:
If Roland V-Pianos interest you, this two-part, live presentation by Roland,
V-Piano Evolution NAMM 2010 Demo
Part One (8:35) & Part Two (8:45),
gives a very comprehensive unboxing of the V-Piano. They adjust various parameters, and show how the piano sound is affected, while playing various styles of music.

Two Roland digital pianos contain the V-Piano sound engine: the V-Piano Stage Piano ($6,999) and the V-Piano Grand ($24,999).

The feel of each of these instruments is superb. (They contain a high-end Roland action, the PHA III.) But I personally would avoid these instruments – as the price is so high, I don’t like the sound as much, and Roland makes perfect digital pianos in the $699-2,000+ range. (See the specific Rolands I recommend below.)

Roland Digital Piano Actions

A piano’s action, as described above, is the combination of mechanisms that gives the keys their weight and feel.

Roland makes seven different actions for its current line of digital pianos. It takes some research to figure out what action is in each instrument. And even more testing to figure out which actions are realistic and would be considered suitable for serious pianists. (I’ve gathered this research and info here.)

This section lists the Roland actions I recommend (and which I recommend avoiding).

Let’s dig in…

I Would Recommend

I highly recommend six of Roland’s seven current actions.

These six Roland actions are some of the best, most realistic-feeling digital pianos I’ve ever played:

  • PHA-4 Concert
  • PHA-4 Premium
  • PHA-4 Standard
  • PHA-50
  • PHA III
  • Ivory Feel-S

And Roland’s seventh action feels quite good, and just a bit less amazing to me than the above six:

  • Ivory Feel-G

I consider the Ivory Feel-G action to be “mid-level,” and the other six Roland actions to be “pro-level.”

There’s also one earlier Roland action I recommend (that you might find on some used digital pianos or backstock):

  • PHA II

The PHA II feels identical to the PHA III. The only difference is that the PHA III has three sensors, while the PHA II only has two sensors. (Roland calls three sensors their Tri-Sensor technology.)

The third sensor makes it easier to play fast, repeated notes. But, for most purposes, a third sensor isn’t necessary. The elegant, realistic feel of the action, for me, would outweigh its only having two sensors.

One additional note: I don’t recommend other Roland actions (current or previous). If I was buying a Roland digital piano, I’d limit my search to instruments containing one of the actions I recommend above – the PHA-4 Concert, PHA-4 Premium, PHA-4 Standard, PHA-50, PHA III, PHA II, Ivory Feel-S and maybe Ivory Feel-G.

Any instruments with one of these actions should serve you well.

My personal favorites are the PHA-4 Concert – which feels utterly perfect to me; and the PHA-50 – which is a slight tweaking of the PHA-4 Concert, and considered Roland’s newest and best.

(And the Ivory Feel-G action feels good, but not as good as Roland’s other actions, imo. More info on Ivory Feel-G is just below…)

The naming conventions of Roland’s digital pianos and actions are confusing. But, after a lot of testing and research, I can say that all of these actions feel great, and are very realistic. (Roland has really nailed it with these!)

Notes on Roland Ivory Feel-S and Ivory Feel-G Actions

Ivory Feel-S

According to some materials I’ve seen from Roland Germany, the Ivory Feel-S is a version of their high-end, PHA III action (which is used in two of Roland’s Digital Grand Pianos – the RG-1F and RG-3F – as well as the V-Pianos).

The only difference seems to be that PHA III uses two-piece, faux-wooden keys; while Ivory Feel-S keys are one-piece, and don’t look like wood.

So, the feel of the Ivory Feel-S action is virtually identical to that of the PHA III. It feels great, and is pro-level.

Ivory Feel-G

The Ivory Feel-G action is found in five Roland digital pianos:

Here’s my take on the Ivory Feel-G:

Pros

  • It’s one of the nicer-feeling digital piano actions on the market. I just prefer it, for instance, to Yamaha’s GHS action (which I really like). And I prefer the Ivory Feel-G (by a wide margin) to the actions found in Casio Privias.

Cons

  • There are better-feeling actions, in my opinion, for the same price or less.

For example, Roland’s PHA-4 Standard action feels much better to me, and more realistic, than the Ivory Feel-G.

And the PHA-4 Standard is actually found in Roland’s least expensive digital piano, the FP-30 ($699.99 & Free Shipping).

So, I would opt for the Roland FP-30 over any of the Roland digital pianos with the Ivory Feel-G.

Buying Tip: Roland RD-64 Stage Piano

The one situation where the Ivory Feel-G might be the best choice, as far as I can see, is if one is looking for a very portable stage piano at the lowest price.

The Roland RD-64 ($899.99 & Free Shipping) is lightweight and small. Roland made it with 64 keys (rather than 88), and without speakers.

So, I’d recommend the RD-64 as a good deal for a very nice, small, and portable stage piano. It’s got the Ivory Feel-G action, and feels quite good.

Note: The RD-64 would not be a good choice for piano students, however – since, for piano studies, we should really have an instrument with all 88 keys.

Two criteria are most important, in my opinion, for finding a Roland digital piano with the best sound and feel:

  1. The most important feature in a digital piano, by far, is its action – the mechanism and parts controlling the weight and feel of the keys. I think six of Roland’s seven current actions feel great, and are very realistic: the PHA-4 Concert, PHA-4 Premium, PHA-4 Standard, PHA-50, PHA III, Ivory Feel-S; one action feels pretty good: the Ivory Feel-G. And one previous Roland action also feels great – the PHA II.

    I’d limit my search of Roland digital pianos to their instruments containing one of these.
  2. For the best sound, I’d opt for the SuperNATURAL, rather than the V-Piano, sound engine. (All of Roland’s current digital pianos contain one of these two sound engines – or both.)

19 current Roland digital pianos meet these criteria – having the SuperNATURAL sound engine and one of these actions. The tables below list all of these. In my opinion, any of these instruments would be a great choice:

I’ve included buying links where I was able to find highly-reputable stores that have these in stock. (Authorized Roland dealers in your area could help you find any of these that aren’t available online.)

Recommended Roland Digital Pianos


Recommended Roland Digital Pianos

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Roland FP-30


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Roland FP-30 Digital Piano

Action: PHA-4 Standard

The Roland FP-30, pictured with its custom KSC-70 stand and KPD-70 pedal board.

The FP-30 is Roland’s least expensive digital piano – and it has a pro-level feel and sound! Based on over a year of research, I consider this the best digital piano for under about $1,200. (And the FP-30 is better, imo, than many digital pianos costing upwards of $5,000.)

The FP-30, by itself, is $699.99 (& Free Shipping). Its official, KSC-70 stand is $119.99 (& Free Shipping). And the 3-pedal KPD-70 “pedal board” (which attaches to the stand) is $75.99 (& Free Shipping).

The all-in price – for the FP-30, with official stand and pedal board – is $895.97 (& Free Shipping). Or, since the FP-30 ships with a damper pedal, the pedal board could be considered later; for an all-in price of $819.98 (& Free Shipping).

This is a phenomenal value for a pro-level digital piano. It would serve any piano student perfectly – from beginner through advanced.

If the price is manageable, I think you’ve found just found the best option on the market!

Features of the FP-30 include:

Roland’s Pro-level, PHA-4 Standard Action (with Escapement and Ivory Feel); SuperNATURAL Piano Sound Engine; 128 Voices of Polyphony; 35 Sounds (including 6 Pianos); Adjustable Transpositions and Stretched Piano Tuning; Adjustable String, Damper and Key Off Resonance for Piano Tones; Ambience and Brilliance Settings; a Metronome; a 1-part SMF Recorder (to make CD-quality recordings of your playing); MIDI; Rhythms; Audio Playback (in 16-bit WAV, 44.1 kHz format); Bluetooth ™; USB Flash Memory-Capable; 30 Internal Songs; 2 Stereo Headphone Jacks; 2 Speakers (11 W each); a Damper Pedal; and a Music Rest.

FP-30 Accessories:

  • Dedicated Stand: KSC-70 ($119.99 & Free Shipping)
  • Dedicated Pedal Board (Attaches to the KSC-70 Stand): KPD-70 ($75.99 & Free Shipping). The FP-30 comes with a damper pedal. The pedal board is an optional, though helpful, accessory.
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Roland F-140R


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Roland F-140R Digital Piano

Action: PHA-4 Standard

The F-140R is an elegant digital piano – with a unique folding lid design, and furniture stand with 3 built-in pedals. It contains Roland’s pro-level PHA-4 Standard action with Escapement and Ivory Feel. It feels and sounds great!

F-140R Features include: 3 Built-in Pedals: Damper (capable of continuous detection), Soft (capable of continuous detection) and Sostenuto; SuperNATURAL Piano Sound; 11 Grand Piano Tones; 305 Other Tones (including 8 Drum Sets); Stretched Tuning (2 types); Transposition (in semitones); Damper, String and Key Off Resonance (for Piano Tones); Ambience and Brilliance Effects; a Metronome; a 1-part SMF Recorder (for making CD-quality Recordings of Your Playing); MIDI; 72 Rhythms; Audio Playback (16-bit WAV, 441.1 kHz); a 10-song MIDI Recorder; USB Flash Memory Compatible; Bluetooth ™ Ver 4.0; Piano Masterpieces: 69 songs; Czerny: 100 songs; Hanon: 20 songs; a 7 segment x 3 LED Display; USB COMPUTER Port (USB Type B); USB MEMORY Port: USB Type A; 2 Headphone Jacks; Headphones 3D Ambience; and 2 Speakers (12 Watts each).

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Roland FP-50


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Roland FP-50 Digital Piano

Action: Ivory Feel-G

The FP-50’s Ivory Feel-G action is not as realistic-feeling as Roland’s other actions, imo. So, while the FP-50 is a good digital piano, I’d opt for other Rolands instead. For example, the FP-30 (above), has Roland’s higher-end PHA-4 Standard action, and also costs less.

Features include: 14 piano tones (315 tones total), Damper Pedal (capable of continuous detection), adjustable effects like Ambience; and String Resonance, Cabinet Resonance, etc., for piano tones; 8 tuning temperaments; 2 speakers, a Custom LCD Display; a two-track, onboard SMF Recorder, compatible with Roland’s USB Flash Memory (to make CD-quality audio files of your playing).

FP-50 Accessories:

  • Dedicated Stand: KSC-44 ($299);
  • Other Stand Options: The Roland KS-G8 ($239.99 & Free Shipping) and the Gator Frameworks GFW-UTILITY-TBL ($80.39 & Free Shipping) are both very solid.
  • 3-Pedal Unit: RPU-3 ($129.99). The FP-50 comes with a damper pedal. The 3-pedal unit is an optional accessory for more advanced repertoire.
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Roland FP-60


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Roland FP-60 Digital Piano

Action: PHA-4 Standard

The FP-60 is Roland’s newest digital piano, released in September 2017.

The FP-60 is very similar to the FP-30 (above). The FP-60 has a more powerful speaker system (2 speakers, 8 x 4.7″ each; with 2 amplifiers, 13 W each) than the FP-30 (speakers: 4.75″ x 2; amps: 11 W x 2).

Roland designed the FP-60 to be loud enough for performances in small venues – so you can use it at smaller gigs without having to carry an amp or PA system.

So, for home use, the FP-30 ($699.99) might be the better buy – since the keyboard feel and piano sounds are the same; and the FP-30 costs $700 less. The FP-30 is literally half the price!

Another Roland to consider would be the FP-90 (review below). The FP-60’s speaker system is derived from the FP-90, but the FP-90 has more speakers and speaker power. And the FP-90 ($1,799.99) steps up to Roland’s flagship PHA-50 action – which is one of the most impressive-feeling digital piano actions ever made, imo.

All three of the FP models (FP-30, FP-60, and FP-90) are highly impressive, and among my favorite digital pianos.

Features of the FP-60 include: PHA-4 Standard Keyboard (with Escapement and Ivory Feel); SuperNATURAL Piano Sound; 288-Voice Polyphony; 336 different tones (including 15 piano tones); Key Touch: 100 types; Special Onboard Speaker System Designed for Loud, Clear Volume in Small Venues; 3-band EQ on front panel; Damper pedal (DP-10) capable of continuous detection; Phones jack x 2: Stereo miniature phone type, Stereo 1/4-inch phone type; Metronome; MIDI, Turning music sheet: Bluetooth Ver. 4.0; Wireless MIDI Capability (and Audio Streaming) via Bluetooth (the FP-30 and FP-90 have this as well; Compatible wtih Android, iOS Apps, & Roland’s Piano Partner 2 app (likewise for the FP-30 and FP-90); Piano Designer; Record Audio to USB Flash Memory (WAV, 44.1 kHz, 16-bit linear format); Play Audio wirelessly with Bluetooth; LCD screen (132 x 32 dots); and a Music Rest.

FP-60 Accessories:

  • Dedicated Stand: KSC-72 ($129.99 & Free Shipping)
  • Dedicated Pedal Board (Attaches to the KSC-72 Stand): KDP-90 ($150.99 + $39.95 shipping). The FP-60 comes with a damper pedal. The pedal board is an optional accessory – helpful for intermediate and advanced repertoire. A pedal board also holds the pedals in their proper place.
  • Carrying Bag: CB-88RL ($129.98 & Free Shipping)
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Roland HP504


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Roland HP504 Digital Piano – Best Roland Digital Piano

Action: PHA-4 Premium

The HP504 is sold primarily in brick-and-mortar stores by authorized Roland dealers.

Features include: 3 Pedals – Damper and Soft (capable of continuous detection), and Sostenuto (function assignable); 14 Piano Tones (321 Tones Total), Ambience and Brilliance Effects, a variety of Resonance and other settings for Piano Tones; a 3-Part SMF Recorder, compatible with Roland’s USB Flash Memory (to make CD-quality audio files of your playing); 2 speakers, and Headphones 3D Ambience.

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Roland FP-80


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Roland FP-80 Digital Piano

Action: Ivory Feel-S

The FP-80 has impressive features: Roland’s four-speaker Acoustic Projection technology (to envelop the player in sound), 8 tuning temperaments, Piano Designer feature (with various adjustable Ambience and Resonance effects), a Mic input (with Harmony and Ambience features), a 2-track, onboard SMF Recorder, compatible with Roland’s USB Flash Memory (to make CD-quality audio files of your playing), Damper Pedal (capable of continuous detection), and a Graphic LCD (128 x 64 dots).

FP-80 Accessories:

  • Keyboard Stands: The Roland KS-G8 ($239.99 & Free Shipping) and the Gator Frameworks GFW-UTILITY-TBL ($80.39 & Free Shipping) are both very solid.
  • 3-Pedal Unit: RPU-3 ($129.99). The FP-80 comes with a damper pedal. The 3-pedal unit is an optional accessory for more advanced repertoire.
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Roland FP-90


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Roland FP-90 Digital Piano

Action: PHA-50

Another impressive Roland. The FP-90 is similar to the FP-80 (above). It steps up to Roland’s flagship, PHA-50 action. (The FP-80’s Ivory-Feel S and the FP-90’s PHA-50 are both among the best-feeling piano actions I’ve encountered.) Each contains 4 speakers, but the FP-90 does not have the FP-80’s Acoustic Projection system.

The FP-90 also includes: limitless piano polyphony, Headphones 3D Ambience, and Bluetooth® audio/MIDI support, to connect wirelessly with Roland’s Piano Partner 2 and other music apps on iOS devices.

FP-90 Accessories:

  • Dedicated Stand: KSC-90 ($189.99 + $79.95 shipping)
  • Dedicated Pedal Board: KDP-90 ($150.99 + $39.95 shipping). The FP-90 comes with a damper pedal. The KDP-90 (3-pedal unit) is an optional accessory for more advanced repertoire.
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Roland DP90e


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Roland DP90e Digital Piano

Action: PHA-4 Premium

The DP90e and DP90Se (below) both have: 3 Pedals – Damper and Soft (capable of continuous detection), and Sostenuto (function assignable); Dynamic Harmonic feature (for fortissimo playing), Headphones 3D Ambience, compatibility with Roland’s USB Flash Memory (for making CD-quality audio recordings of your playing) and Roland’s piano apps for Apple iOS devices; Ambience effects, and two speakers.

The DP90e has the PHA-4 Premium action, and a matte finish; while the DP90Se (below) has the PHA-4 Concert action, and a mirror-like finish.

The DP90e is sold primarily in brick-and-mortar stores by authorized Roland dealers.

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Roland DP603


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Roland DP603 Digital Piano

Action: PHA-50

The DP603 contains Roland’s flagship, PHA-50 action; and is designed to be stylish, in a minimalist cabinet.

The DP603 contains most of the features in Rolands top digital pianos: limitless piano polyphony, Headphones 3D Ambience, 10 Tuning Temperaments, the Piano Designer feature (with adjustable String and Cabinet Resonance, etc.), Bluetooth® connectivity, connection to Roland’s iOS piano education apps, Damper and Soft Pedals capable of continuous detection (and a function assignable Sostenuto Pedal), a 3-part MIDI recorder, compatibility with Roland’s USB Flash Memory (for CD-quality audio recording of your playing), and 2 Speakers.

A similar option is the Roland FP-90 (above). It also has Roland’s flagship, PHA-50 action, has four speakers (rather than two), a dedicated furniture stand (also with 3 pedals) and costs less.

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Roland HP603


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Roland HP603 Digital Piano

Action: PHA-50

Part of the HP (Home Piano) line. The HP603 is one of Roland’s highest-end offerings. It contains Roland’s flagship, PHA-50 action; limitless piano polyphony, Headphones 3D Ambience, 10 Tuning Temperaments, Damper and Soft Pedals capable of continuous detection (and a function assignable Sostenuto Pedal), Bluetooth Ver 4.0 (Bluetooth LE), Piano Designer feature (to control String Resonance, Cabinet Resonance, etc.); a 3-part MIDI recorder, and compatibility with Roland’s USB Flash Memory (for CD-quality audio recording of your playing).

The lower price of the HP603 (compared to Roland’s other highest-end digital pianos) is probably due to its containing only 2 speakers. The HP605 (below) moves up to Roland’s 6-speaker, Acoustic Projection sound system.

The HP603 is only sold new in brick-and-mortar stores by authorized Roland dealers.

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Roland DP90Se


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~$2,630 View on Roland

Roland DP90Se Digital Piano

Action: PHA-4 Concert

The DP90Se is virtually identical to the DP90e (above). They’re considered Compact Home pianos – designed to be high-end instruments with a smaller footprint.

The DP90Se has the PHA-4 Concert action, and a mirror-like finish; while the DP90e (above) has the PHA-4 Premium action, and a matte finish.

With a price difference of about $800 (and very little difference between their Concert and Premium actions), the DP90e (above) may be the better buy.

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Roland HP605


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~$2,900
MSRP: $3899-4499
View on Roland

Roland HP605 Digital Piano

Action: PHA-50

The HP605 is one of Roland’s highest-end offerings. It has the same features as the HP603 (described above).

The HP605 differs from the HP603 in that it adds Roland’s 6-speaker Acoustic Projection sound system (2 Cabinet Speakers, 2 Near-field Speakers, 2 Spatial Speakers). It’s also offered in a polished, as well as contemporary matte, finish.

The HP605 is only sold new in brick-and-mortar stores by authorized Roland dealers.

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Roland LX-7


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~$3,850
MSRP: $5699-6299
View on Roland

Roland LX-7 Digital Piano

Action: PHA-50

The LX series is Roland’s luxury line of upright digital pianos.

The LX-7 is one of Roland’s highest-end offerings. It contains their flagship, PHA-50 action; Acoustic Projection technology – with 6 speakers (2 Cabinet, 2 Near-field, 2 Spatial), limitless piano polyphony, Headphones 3D Ambience, 10 Tuning Temperaments, Damper and Soft Pedals capable of continuous detection (and a function assignable Sostenuto Pedal), Bluetooth® connectivity, connection to Roland’s iOS piano education apps, Piano Designer feature (to control String Resonance, Cabinet Resonance, etc.), a 3-part MIDI recorder, and compatibility with Roland’s USB Flash Memory (for CD-quality audio recording of your playing).

Similar instruments to the LX-7 are the Yamaha NU1 Hybrid Piano and the Kawai Grand Feel II instruments: the CA67 and CA97 – and the CA95, CS8, and CS11 (sold outside the U.S.).

The LX-7 is only sold new in brick-and-mortar stores by authorized Roland dealers.

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Roland HPi-50e


Price Store
Street: ~$4,499
MSRP: $4999
View on Roland

Roland HPi-50e Digital Piano

Action: PHA-4 Concert

The HPi-50e is Roland’s higher-end digital piano that offers the most for piano students. It contains a large, high-res color screen in the music rest that can display sheet music and many built-in lessons.

Roland’s lessons include Flash Cards, Rhythms, Finger Training, interactive DigiScore games,and excerpts from the Bastien Sight Reading Level 1 piano library.

Along with the standard, high-end Roland features (Piano Designer, Headphones 3D Ambience, Damper and Soft Pedals capable of continuous detection, and a function assignable Sostenuto Pedal; compatibility with Roland’s USB Flash Memory – for making CD-quality audio recordings of your playing), the HPi-50e also includes some of Roland’s newest technologies like Authentic Damper Pedal Response (to replicate the light-to-heavy resistance of an acoustic piano pedal); and a 16-part song recorder for on-board composing.

The HPi-50e contains the PHA-4 Concert action – which is my favorite of all Roland actions. They feel great! And 4 speakers (including 2 Spatial/Nearfield speakers).

The HPi-50e is sold primarily in brick-and-mortar stores by authorized Roland dealers.

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Roland GP607 Digital Grand


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MSRP: $5,999 View on Roland

Roland GP607 Digital Piano

Action: PHA-50

I’d recommend the GP607 over the RG-3F, below. They’re both digital grand pianos, but the GP607 costs $5,000 less, while having a number of additional features: Acoustic Projection speaker system (5 speakers – 4.1 multichannel), limitless piano polyphony, Bluetooth® connectivity, connection to Roland’s iOS piano education apps, Headphones 3D Ambience, the Piano Designer feature, a 3-track (rather than a 1-track) onboard MIDI recorder, and a Graphic LCD (132 x 32 dots).

You may want to compare the GP607 to the Yamaha NU1 Hybrid Piano, and the Kawai CA97 and CS11. These are similar instruments at about the same price. While the Yamaha and Kawai are not digital grands, they’re all top-of-the-line digital pianos.

Yamaha also has some impressive (more expensive) digital grand pianos in their AvantGrand line.

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Roland RG-3F Digital Mini-Grand


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~$10,999 View on Roland

Roland RG-3F Digital Grand Piano

Action: PHA III

I recommend the GP607, above, over the RG-3F, as it has some additional features and costs less. But the RG-3F is also a top-of-the-line digital grand piano. The RG-3F and the GP607 both include Ambience and Brilliance effects, Damper and Soft Pedals capable of continuous detection (and a function assignable Sostenuto Pedal), multiple tuning modalities, and compatibility with Roland’s external USB memory (for CD-quality audio recording of your playing).

Both instruments have impressive speaker systems – the RG-3F has four speakers, compared to the GP607’s five.

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There are six other, current Roland digital pianos I recommend. They have the same actions and the SuperNATURAL sound engine as the instruments above. But there’s just a caveat with these:

  • Three are stage pianos – and they don’t have their own speakers. They’re great instruments, but require something to play them through.
  • And three have speakers, but are mostly sold outside the United States.

Recommended Roland Stage Pianos

These three are stage pianos (i.e., digital pianos designed to be a bit more portable). They’re great for serious piano playing, but they don’t have speakers:

At the very bottom of this table (in the RD-800 review) I recommend speakers for a stage piano, if you’re looking into any of these.

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Roland RD-64


Price Store
$899 & FREE Shipping View on Amazon

Roland RD-64 Digital Piano – Stage Piano

Action: Ivory Feel-G

The RD-64 is one of the least expensive Roland digital pianos I recommend. In an effort to be more portable, the RD-64 has 64 keys, rather than a piano’s standard 88 keys.

Other features: 12 tones (including piano, electric piano, clavinova, and organ tones); Reverb, a 2-band EQ, Pitch Bend/Modulation, a Damper Pedal (capable of continuous detection), and 1/4-inch jacks for Soft and Sostenuto Pedals.

And most important to know: These Stage Pianos do not have their own speakers.

RD-64 Accessories:

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Roland RD-300NX


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$1,299 & FREE Shipping View on Amazon

Roland RD-300NX Digital Piano – Stage Piano

Action: Ivory Feel-G

An 88-key Stage Piano with Roland’s mid-level, Ivory Feel-G action.

Features include: 939 tones (SuperNATURAL sound on piano and electric piano), Damper Pedal (capable of continuous detection), Control Pedal jack (FC1, FC2), 200 Rhythm Patterns, Live Set (Preset: 200, User: 60); Multi-Effects: 78 types, Reverb: 6 types, Chorus: 3 types; 3-band Compressor, 3-band EQ; compatible with Roland’s USB Flash Memory and Wireless USB Adapter: WNA1100-RL or ONKYO UWF-1.

Being a Stage Piano, the RD-300NX does not have onboard speakers.

RD-300NX Accessories:

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Roland RD-800


Price Store
$1,799 & FREE Shipping
* Being discontinued
View on Amazon

Roland RD-800 Digital Piano – Stage Piano

Action: PHA-4 Concert

With Roland’s high-end PHA-4 Concert action, the RD-800 is a phenomenal digital piano; and one of the highest-end stage pianos in the world. The two stage pianos I’m aware of that might be as good are the Kawai VPC1 ($1,849 & Free Shipping) and the Kawai MP11 ($2,649 & Free Shipping).

The only disclaimer is that it needs external speakers. (A bonus if you’re using it for gigging, but a potential downside for some home users.)

Features include: 1,113 tones (including piano, electric piano, clav, and virtual tone wheel organ); 200 Live Sets, Piano Designer feature for piano tone (for sculpting elements like Damper Noise and String Resonance); 88 keys, 3-band Compressor, 5-band Equalizer; Effects (Modulation FX: 4 systems, 56 types; Tremolo/Amp Simulator: 4 systems, 5 types; 6 Reverbs, and 5 Delays).

RD-800 Accessories:

  • Keyboard Stands: The Roland KS-G8 ($239.99 & Free Shipping) and the Gator Frameworks GFW-UTILITY-TBL ($80.39 & Free Shipping) are both very solid.
  • Damper Pedal: Roland DP-10 ($39.99) or 3-Pedal Unit: Roland RPU-3 ($129.99)
  • Speakers: A pair of powered, studio monitor speakers might be the best choice for the RD-800. The Mackie CR3 ($99) powered, studio monitor pair would be one of the best options.

    They’re 50 watts – comparable to, and probably even louder than, the two speakers built into most digital pianos. These would provide superb sound for the RD-800, at about the lowest price.

    Optional: The Mackie CR3 + Monitor Stands bundle on Amazon ($134.95) also includes two speaker stands.

    Mackie CR Series CR3 – 3

    Mackie CR3 studio monitor speakers – good for powering a stage piano.

  • Speaker cables: For going from the RD-800 stage piano to the Mackie speakers, you’d want to get two cables that are both female XLR to male 1/4″ (balanced) TSR. Two of these 10′ Hosa cables ($10.95/each) would do the trick! (That’s the best deal I’ve found on those, by far.)

    This is an audiophile-level connection. It maintains the stereo imaging of the Roland piano samples (that’s why two cables are needed, rather than one). And it cancels out the most noise from electromagnetic interference (so your speakers shouldn’t have some weird hum, or be tuning in baseball games from the radio!). :)

The all-in price for the RD-800 and these accessories is $2,199.88 – assuming the single pedal, rather than the 3-pedal unit. (Everything gets free shipping.) This would be one of the ultimate digital piano rigs possible – both the sound and the silky-realistic playing feel.

Recommended Roland Digital Pianos – European and World Market

These next three models each have one of my preferred actions, and the SuperNATURAL sound engine. But these digital pianos seem to be sold in Europe (and other parts of the world, outside the U.S.):

Buying Tip: Avoiding Older Roland Digital Pianos

A quick note:

I would avoid Roland’s older digital pianos (unless they have one of the actions I recommend here).

For example, I found a Roland from the 1990s – the HP 1300e – at a music store I visited, and the action feels really bad to me. I couldn’t imagine having to play on it.

I’ve also seen that model being sold, used, online.

Roland’s manual for the HP 1300e doesn’t even have a name for its action! They just call it “88 weighted keys.” :)

In the past several years, Roland has really reached a level of perfection with its digital pianos. They’re reasonably-priced and pro-level. (In many ways, these are my favorite digital pianos to play.)

But, in my opinion, their digital pianos from years ago don’t come close to the realism and elegance of their current line.

Kawai Digital Piano Review

Background

Kawai has been selling acoustic pianos since 1928.

Interesting story:

Koichi Kawai, the company’s founder, was actually a neighbor in Hamamatsu, Japan, of Yamaha’s founder, Torakusu Yamaha.

Yamaha offered Kawai an internship, and later a job – working in R&D on the development of Yamaha’s first acoustic pianos.

When Yamaha sold his company in the mid-1920s, Koichi Kawai (and a few others from the company) founded Kawai.

Kawai started selling digital pianos in 1986. (Or even 1985 – with the release of the PT200, their first wooden-key electric piano.)

Kawai’s acoustic and digital pianos are regarded as among the highest-quality in the world:

Kawai EX Concert Grand Piano

The Kawai EX Concert Grand Piano (MSRP: $150,000!!)

Kawai also has an affiliation with Steinway & Sons (often considered the finest manufacturer of acoustic pianos). Together, Steinway and Kawai have created the highly-regarded Boston line of acoustic grand and upright pianos:

Boston UP-118E PE Upright Piano

A Boston UP-118E PE (Performance Edition) upright piano – designed by Steinway and manufactured by Kawai.

Kawai currently makes 25 different digital pianos. They range in price from ~$600 (for their entry-level offerings) to ~$8,500 (for some of their pro models).

Both Kawai’s acoustic and digital pianos are highly regarded, consistently reviewed well, and used by serious pianists around the world.

Kawai’s specialty with digital pianos, in my opinion, is high-end instruments – in the ~$2,800 to ~$8,500 price range. (Their Grand Feel II and Grand Feel actions – which are both made with wooden keys.) The quality of these digital pianos is competitive with the best offerings from any company.

These are some of the best digital pianos ever made.

Kawai also makes two of the best stage pianos – the VPC1 ($1,849) and MP11 ($2,519 – $2,799). These are made with Kawai’s RM3 Grand II action, which also has wooden keys.

At the entry- and mid-level, though, I prefer the feeling of most Roland and some Yamaha digital pianos.

Kawai Actions

A piano’s action (all of the parts between the keys and strings) is the most important factor affecting how a piano feels to play.

Kawai makes eight different actions for its current line of digital pianos: GFII, GF, RM3 II, AWA PROII, RHIII, RHII, RHC (new in 2017), and AHA IV-F.

Each action is found in one to several Kawai models.

External link:

This page on Kawai’s website lists and gives info about all of their current digital piano actions.

(There are actually a few errors on that page. For example, the CS8 and CS11 – impressive new additions to Kawai’s catalog – contain the newer GFII action. But they’re listed on that page as having the GF action.)

Here’s my take on what I consider to be Kawai’s best actions:

I Recommend

Three Kawai actions stand out to me as very impressive and realistic – and among the best digital piano actions ever made:

  1. Grand Feel II (GFII)
    This is Kawai’s top-of-the-line action. The GFII very accurately emulates the action and feel of a grand piano.
  2. Grand Feel (GF)
    The GF action is the predecessor to the GFII. It’s very similar. But these instruments are priced a bit high, imo – often costing more than the newer, GFII digital pianos.
  3. RM3 Grand II (RM3 II)
    The RM3 II action was designed to deliver high performance in a more compact Stage Piano. Its design is similar to the GFII and GF, and it’s also widely regarded as one of the nicest-feeling digital piano actions.

Here’s more detail about each of these three actions:

Click here if you want to skip down in the post to the complete list of Kawai digital pianos I recommend – with links, specs, and images.
Grand Feel II (GFII) Review

The Grand Feel II is Kawai’s top-of-the-line action. It’s found in four Kawai digital pianos, ranging in price from about $3,000 to $8,000.

If you’re looking for one of the best digital pianos ever made, the GFIIs would be on the list. I’d put them in the list of top 10 digital pianos, for sure.

Released in 2015, the GFII is found in four instruments – Kawai’s top-of-the-line digital pianos:

  • The CA67 ($3,599-$3,699) and CA97 ($5,899-$5,999) (Kawai’s Concert Artist line); and
  • The CS8 (MSRP: $5,699) and CS11 (MSRP: $8,499) (the Concert Series).

The Grand Feel II emulates a grand piano’s action, with features like:

  • Extended-length, fully-wooden keys. This allows for a pivot point at the center of each key – as is the case in grand pianos.
  • Graded hammers.
  • Counterweights on all 88 keys.
  • Ivory Touch key surfaces, and moisture-absorbent Ebony Touch key surfaces. (The latter is an upgrade to the GF action, which uses just Ivory Touch key surfaces.) Supposedly, 3D scanning techniques were used to re-create subtleties in the wood grain of real ebony keys.
  • Let-off.
  • Triple sensor key detection.

And pedaling: The GFIIs include Kawai’s Grand Feel Pedal System – which accurately reproduces the weight and feel of each pedal. It offers Damper (with half-pedal support), Soft, and Sostenuto pedals.

The Grand Feel II is one of the best digital piano actions ever made. It’s incredibly realistic – almost indistinguishable from the feel of a high-end grand piano.

(I actually started laughing the first time I played a Kawai with the GFII – because it felt so good.) :)

Also, the action is not too heavy. The GFII has a downweight of 61 grams at Middle C. This falls right in the range I consider ideal for digital pianos – based on my research into piano touchweight.

Top 10 Digital Pianos

I consider the four Kawai GFIIs, and the six Yamaha Hybrid Pianos and AvantGrands, to be the top 10 digital pianos ever made.

And some of Roland’s digital pianos achieve almost this level of performance, imo; often at a lower price point.

Other Hybrid Digital Pianos

A few companies have started making digital pianos similar to Kawai’s Grand Feel II and Yamaha’s Hybrid Pianos – instruments made with high-end acoustic piano actions, intended to have a feel and playing experience as indistinguishable as possible from an acoustic piano.

For example, Casio has three digital pianos, in its Celviano line, which use this hybrid technology:

These three Celvianos incorporate keys and actions from acoustic grand pianos made by C. Bechstein. Bechstein (founded in 1853) is a high-end German manufacturer of pianos – said to have been preferred by composers and pianists like Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy, and Franz Liszt.

I personally prefer Yamaha’s Hybrid Pianos and Kawai’s Grand Feel IIs to these Casio Celvianos. But the three Celvianos in the “GP” (Grand Piano) series deliver something somewhat similar, at a lower price than some of the Yamahas and Kawais.

However, I would definitely choose the Kawai CA67 (Street Price: $3,599-$3,699) – the least expensive Kawai with the GFII action – over a Celviano. I consider the CA67 one of the top 10 digital pianos on the market. (The Celvianos come close, in my opinion, but don’t have quite the same level of excellence in feel and sound as the Yamaha and Kawai Hybrid Pianos.)

Buying Tip: The five other digital pianos in the Casio Celviano line do not have this type of higher-end, hybrid action: the AP-700, AP-650, AP-460, AP-270, and AP-260. (If looking at Celvianos, I’d only choose one of the three “GP” models.)

So, if you’re looking for the best digital piano in the world, Kawai’s GFIIs – the CA97, CA67, CS11, and CS8 – would be among the top 10 choices, in my opinion (along with Yamaha’s Hybrid Pianos/AvandGrands).

External Links:

Here are direct links to Kawai’s promotional brochures for the CA and CS series:

Here’s more detail on Kawai’s newest Grand Feel IIs, the CS11 and CS8 – both introduced in 2016:

Kawai CS11

Released in 2016, the CS11 is Kawai’s newest, most-high-end digital piano. It’s essentially the same instrument as the CA97 (Kawai’s other highest-end digital piano), but in a different cabinet.

The CS11’s cabinet is actually the same one used in Kawai Professional Upright Pianos (the Kawai ‘K’ series) – making it look essentially indistinguishable from an acoustic piano.

If you’re looking for a pro-level digital piano that looks identical to an acoustic upright, the CS11 and the Yamaha NU1 are my favorites.

The CS11 has an elegant look – with a polished ebony finish, and the traditional leg and toe block design characteristic of many high-end upright pianos:

Kawai CS11 Digital Piano

Kawai CS11 Hybrid Digital Piano

The CS11 contains Kawai’s best sound system – the Soundboard Speaker System. This sound system is also used in the Kawai CA97 – a similar instrument in Kawai’s Concert Artist series. (The CS11 and CA97 are essentially the same instrument, in two different cabinets.)

The sound in these instruments is created using a combination of six speakers; and a resonating, wooden soundboard on the back of the instrument – much like an acoustic piano:

Kawai CS11 – back view, showing resonating soundboard

The Kawai CS11’s resonating soundboard

The Soundboard Speaker System is intended to recreate, as closely as possible, the vibrations and sound projection patterns found in an acoustic piano.

Buying Tip: The resonating soundboard is quite bass-y and boomy. Good if you’re looking for a strong, deep sound – capable of loud volumes. But the CS8 (below) or the CA67 – which are almost identical, minus the Soundboard Speaker System – might be better options, if you’re looking for an instrument that’s not as bass-heavy.

The CS11 also includes Kawai’s latest piano samples (all with 88-key sampling). The sampled pianos in the CS11 (and the CS8, below) are the:

  • Shigeru Kawai SK-EX Concert Grand Piano;
  • SK-5 Studio Grand Piano;
  • EX Concert Grand Piano.

Kawai really goes all out to make their Grand Feel II instruments some of the finest offerings on the market – especially their two top-of-the-line models, the CS11 and CA97.

Kawai CS8

The CS8 has the same specs as the CS11 – with two exceptions:

  1. The CS8 uses 4 speakers, compared to the CS11’s Soundboard Speaker System; and
  2. It has a traditional digital piano cabinet (also with polished ebony finish).

Kawai CS8 Hybrid Digital Piano

Kawai CS8 Hybrid Digital Piano

Grand Feel (GF) Review

Introduced in 2012, Kawai’s Grand Feel action is the predecessor of the Grand Feel II. The GF also simulates a grand piano’s action in a realistic way, with features like:

  • Extended-length, wooden keys – with a pivot point at the center of each key; much like keys in a grand piano.
  • Graded Hammers.
  • Key Counterweights.
  • Ivory-touch key surfaces.
  • Let-off.
  • Triple sensor Key Detection.

The difference between the Grand Feel and the Grand Feel II actions are that the GFII action adds:

  • Ebony-touch Key Surfaces (on the black keys); and
  • Improvements in Hammer Weights
  • .

Both actions feel superb – almost indistinguishable from playing a high-end grand piano!

Just like the Grand Feel IIs, I’d also consider Kawai’s Grand Feel instruments to be among the best digital pianos in the world.

(On the world market, the Kawai CA95 also contains the GF.)

The only caveat with the Grand Feel digital pianos is that they’re priced a bit high (MSRP: $5,696 to $21,999) – compared to similar options on the market. The one exception is the MP11 Stage Piano ($2,519 – $2,799), which doesn’t have on-board speakers.

While these would all be amazing digital pianos; in this price range, I would opt instead for a Grand Feel II – which are a newer and improved action, and interestingly, cost less than most of the Grand Feel digital pianos.

Similar, pro-level digital pianos to consider would be:

  • The Kawai Grand Feel IIs – newer, arguably better, and most are less expensive! Like the CA67 (~$3,600);
  • The six Yamaha Hybrid Pianos / AvantGrands (~$6,000-$22,000);
  • A Casio Celviano GP-series (~$3,000-4,000) – which feel very realistic, and are also hybrid pianos;
  • Or one of the higher-end Rolands – like the HPi-50e (~$4,500) – which I think feels elegant and incredibly-nice to play.

However, the five Grand Feel digital pianos by Kawai are among the best digital pianos ever made. And if any seems right for you, you’d be buying an essentially-perfect digital piano!

RM3 Grand II (RM3 II) Review

The RM3 II, released in 2013, is also one of Kawai’s newer and highest-end actions.

The RM3 II is said to be designed as a more compact version of Kawai’s Grand Feel (GF) action – which is very high-end, and feels almost indistinguishable from an acoustic grand piano.

The RM3II action has many of the same features as Kawai’s Grand Feel (GF) action – like graded hammers, key counterweights, Ivory-touch key surfaces, Let-off and triple sensor key detection.

The primary difference is that the RM3 II has shorter key lengths than the Grand Feel and Grand Feel II. Thus, the pivot point is closer to the part of the key stick which is pressed, making the downweight slightly heavier than the Grand Feel and Grand Feel II actions.

So, the RM3 Grand II could be considered Kawai’s third best action (right behind the GFII and GF) – and one of the best digital piano actions ever designed.

In the U.S., the RM3 II action is found in one instrument – the VPC-1 Stage Piano ($1,849 & Free Shipping).

The RM3 II feels great, but it’s important to know that the VPC-1 does not have speakers!

The best deal I’ve found on speakers for a stage piano (suitable for “at-home” volume levels) are the Mackie CR3 ($99) powered, studio monitor speaker pair.

The VPC-1 is regarded as one of the best stage pianos in the world. Stage pianos are digital pianos designed to be more lightweight and portable – and they usually don’t have speakers.

If I was looking for a stage piano, I’d opt for a VPC-1 or a Roland RD-800 ($1,799) – which also feels perfect!

On the world market, the Kawai CA15 and (the new) CA17 also contain the RM3 II action. These are great digital pianos – with speakers! But I haven’t been able to find these for sale in the U.S.

Best Kawai Digital Pianos

The table below shows all current Kawai digital pianos, sold in the U.S., containing the three Kawai actions I recommend (the GFII, GF, and RM3 II). All of these instruments feel amazing, and are among the best digital pianos ever made. They’re impressive, even to pros.

(The one caveat, again, is that instruments with the GF action tend to be priced rather high, imo. The GFIIs seem like a better choice to me.)

Recommended Kawai Digital Pianos


Recommended Kawai Digital Pianos

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Kawai CA67


Price Store
$3,599-$3,699 View on Kawai

Kawai CA67 Digital Piano – Concert Artist series

Action: GFII

The CA67 is the least expensive Kawai containing their flagship GFII action. It’s a great price for one of the best digital pianos ever made.

Sound: The CA67 (and CA97, below) use full, 88-key stereo sampling and Harmonic Imaging™ sound technology. They feature samples from three top-of-the-line Kawai grand pianos:

Kawai’s flagship Shigeru Kawai SK-EX full concert grand, the Shigeru Kawai SK-5 medium-sized grand, and Kawai’s EX concert grand piano.

The CA67 includes 60 sounds (compared to the CA97’s 80).

The CA67 and CA97 include 6 Reverbs; as well as other effects, like Chorus, Delay, and Tremolo.

The CA67 and CA97 also use an impressive Acoustic Rendering Modelling technology which recreates various resonances of an acoustic piano, in real-time, such as Damper Resonance, String Resonance, Cabinet Resonance, etc. These are adjustable with a series of menus and settings known as their Virtual Technician technology. (The settings can be adjusted via a control panel on the instrument, or with Kawai’s Virtual Technician iPad app.)

The CA67 and CA97 also include Kawai’s Spatial Headphone Sound (SHS) technology. There are 3 settings to adjust the spatial positioning of the sound.

The headpone amplifier in both digital pianos is also high fidelity – using audiophile-level hardware, with different settings available for optimized sound with different headphone types (open, in-ear, etc.).

Speakers: The CA67 has 6 speakers. Lower frequencies are projected through the underside of the piano; with mid and higher frequencies played through top-mounted and front-facing speakers.

The CA97, below, includes additional speakers and a resonating soundboard. (But I actually prefer the sound of the CA67.)

Other features include: a 10-song, 2-track recorder; the ability to play back MP3 and SMF; and to record your playing in MP3, WAV, and SMF formats.

The CA67 is offered in four colors: Rosewood, Mahogany, Satin Black, and Satin White.

The CA67 is an update to the previous generation model, the CA65.

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Kawai CA97


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$5,899-$5,999 View on Kawai

Kawai CA97 Digital Piano – Concert Artist series

Action: GFII

The Kawai CA97 is Kawai’s top-of-the-line digital piano (on par with Kawai’s new CS11); the two are essentially the same instrument, in different cabinets. The CA97 has a matte finish, compared to the CS11’s polished finish.

The CA97 includes all of the feature of the CA67 (above); plus:

The CA97 includes an upgraded sound system compared to the CA67 – including additional speakers, and a resonating wooden soundboard. These features are designed to emulate the way sound projects from an acoustic piano.

The CA97 is offered in three colors: Rosewood, Satin Black, and Satin White.

The CA97 is an update to the previous generation model, the CA95.

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Kawai CS8


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MSRP: $5,699 View on Kawai

Kawai Concert Series CS8 Digital Piano

Action: GFII

Kawai’s new CS8 is very similar to the CA67. The main difference is that the CS8 has a polished finish, compared to the CA67’s matte finish.

Features include: Wooden Keys (with Ivory and Ebony Touch Key Surfaces); Let-off, Triple Sensor, and Counterweights; Grand Feel Pedal System (appropriately-weighted soft, sostenuto, and damper pedals); Half-Damper Capability; Harmonic Imaging™ XL technology; 88-Key Sampling; 256 notes of polyphony; a 10 song, 2-track recorder; USB to HOST, as well as traditional MIDI ports; Virtual Technician feature (for sculpting piano sounds); LCD screen (128 x 64 pixel); 6 speakers; Built-in Alfred Piano Lessons and Finger Exercises; Polished Ebony Finish; Approximately two hours of recorded classical piano repertoire; Ability to store, record and play back digital audio on USB drives – so you can make digital audio recordings of your playing.

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Kawai CS11


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MSRP: $8,499 View on Kawai

Kawai Concert Series CS11 Digital Piano

Action: GFII

The CS11 is one of Kawai’s two highest-end digital pianos. It contains all features of the CS8 (above), and adds:

20 additional sounds; and a bulked-up sound system, consisting of 9 speakers and a resonating soundboard.

The CS11 (and the CA97, below) are Kawai’s two top-of-the-line digital pianos.

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Kawai CS7


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MSRP: $5,695 View on Kawai

Kawai CS7 Digital Piano

Action: GF

Features of the CS7 include: 88 Wooden Keys with Ivory and Ebony Touch Key Surfaces; GF Action with Let-Off and Triple Sensor; Harmonic Imaging ™ XL(HI-XL); 88-Key Sampling; 60 Sounds; 5 Reverbs; Other Effects (like Delays and Chorus); Kawai’s Virtual Technician (for adjusting Decay Time, String Resonance, etc.); Included Lessons (Traditional Finger Exercises, and Exercises from 5 Alfred Lesson Books); Ability to Play MIDI/MP3/WAV, and to Record MP3/WAV; MIDI (IN/OUT); USB to HOST; USB to DEVICE; 2 Headphone Jacks; 176 “Concert Magic” Songs; 128 x 64 pixel LCD; and a 10-Song, 2-Track Recorder.

While the CS7 is a great instrument, Kawai’s newer Grand Feel II digital pianos (the CS8, CS11, CA67, and CA97) offer an upgraded action (for a more-refined feel); with the CA67 and CS8 costing the same or less than the CS7.

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Kawai CS10


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MSRP: $8,195 View on Kawai

Kawai CS10 Digital Piano

Action: GF

The CS10 includes all of the features of the CS7 (above); and the CS10 adds Kawai’s high-end Soundboard Speaker System – for pianistic sound resonance and projection.

Again, with an MSRP of $8,195, the CS10 is more expensive than most of its newer, upgraded counterparts by Kawai – the Grand Feel II digital pianos: the CS8, CS11, CA67, and CA97. While the CS10 is an amazing digital piano; the four Grand Feel IIs have more-refined actions than the CS10, and most cost less.

If the Soundboard Speaker System appeals to you, it’s also found in the Kawai CS11 (MSRP: $8,499) and CA97 ($5,899-$5,999).

The similar Yamaha NU1 (MSRP: $6,999; Street Price: $5,999.99) would also be a step up from the CS10, imo; and worth considering. The Yamaha NU1, and the four Kawai GFIIs, are my favorite digital pianos – along with Rolands with the PHA-4 Concert action.

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Kawai CP2


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MSRP: $8,999-$9,199 View on Kawai

Kawai CP2 Digital Piano

Action: GF

The CP2 contains almost all of the same features as the CP1 (Digital Grand), below. The only differences are that it’s styled as an upright, rather than a grand piano; and the CP2 contains 4 speakers, compared to the CP1’s 9 speakers.

The CP2 is a great digital piano. However, Kawai’s newer, Grand Feel II (GFII) digital pianos have even better actions, similar features and cost less.

I’d recommend the Kawai GFIIs, over the CP2: the CA67 ($3,599-$3,699), CA97 ($5,899-$5,999), CS8 (MSRP: $5,699), and CS11 (MSRP: $8,499).

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Kawai CP1


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MSRP: $21,999 View on Kawai

Kawai CP1 Digital Piano

Action: GF

The CP1 is Kawai’s one Digital Grand Piano.

Features include: 88 Wooden Keys; Let-Off; Ivory Touch; Triple Sensor Key Detection; GF Action with Counterbalancing; Harmonic Imaging ™ XL(HI-XL); 88-Key Sampling; Over 1,000 Sounds; 256-Note Polyphony; a 16-track Internal Recorder; USB to DEVICE; USB to HOST; a Large Color Touch Display; 9 Speakers; 6 Reverbs; Other Effects (a Variety of Delays, Chorus, etc.); Kawai’s Virtual Technician feature (for sculpting Resonance, Temperament & Tuning, etc.); 723 Lesson Songs (including Finger Exercises, Burgmüller, Czerny, Beyer, and Bach); WLAN connectivity; Ability to Play and Record MP3 and WAV; a Metronome; Over 7 Hours of Recorded Piano Music; Kawai’s Grand Feel Pedal System – including Sustain (with half-pedal support), Soft, and Sostenuto Pedals, with an authentic weight and feel; and a 1/4″ Mic Input with Volume Control.

While the CP1 is an amazing instrument; at this price, you may prefer Yamaha’s digital grands, the N3 ($20,276.99) or N3X (MSRP: $22,199). These are Yamaha’s top-of-the-line digital pianos, known as AvantGrands or Hybrid Pianos. They use actual actions from Yamaha’s high-end, CFIIIS concert grand piano; and are probably the best digital pianos ever made.

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Recommended Kawai Stage Pianos

Kawai also makes two of the world’s best stage pianos – the VPC1 and MP11. Stage pianos are digital pianos designed with portability in mind.

The one caveat with stage pianos, of course, is that they don’t have speakers.

If you’re looking at stage pianos, the best deal I’ve found on speakers that would work well (for home use) is a pair of Mackie CR3, powered studio monitor speakers. Amazon has them (for $99/pair).

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Kawai VPC1


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$1,849 & FREE Shipping View on Amazon

Kawai VPC1 Digital Piano

Action: RM3II

VPC1 features include: 88 Wooden Keys; Graded Hammer with Ivory Touch Key Surfaces; RM3 Grand II with Let-off, Counterweights, and Triple-sensor Key Detection; 5 Internal Memory Settings (for use with VPC Editor software); MIDI In / Out; USB to HOST (‘B’ type, USB 2.0); DC IN (12V); and a Music Rest.

The VPC1 comes with the F-30 Pedal Unit, containing Damper (progressive), Sostenuto, and Soft Pedals.

Note: Being a Stage Piano, the VPC1 does not have speakers. “VPC” stands for “Virtual Piano Controller.” Its full weight is 65 pounds.

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Kawai MP11


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$2,798.99 & FREE Shipping View on Amazon
$2,499.00 & FREE Shipping View on eBay

Kawai MP11 Stage Piano Review

Action: GF

The MP11 is one of the highest-end Stage Pianos ever made. It contains Kawai’s luxury, Grand Feel (GF) action. It’s a stage piano with a feel like a grand piano.

But, considering its price ($2,519 – $2,799), you may get more bang for your buck from two other high-end stage pianos: the Kawai VPC1 ($1,849) and the Roland RD-800 ($1,799). Both are also highly impressive.

MP11 features include: 88 Wooden Keys with Ivory Touch Key Surfaces; 40 Internal Sounds; 5 Reverb Settings (each customizable); up to 10 Modules; 5 Amp Simulators; Virtual Technician (including String Resonance, Damper Resonance, etc.); 9 Tunings (including Pythagorean, Stretch Tuning, etc.); a 4-Band EQ; 10-Song Recorder; Ability to Play and Save as MP3/WAV; a Metronome; SMF to USB; USB to DEVICE; USB to HOST; 50 Parameters and Functions; MIDI Zones; and a Music Rest.

Kawai’s F-30 Triple Pedal Unit (with half-damper support, and Kawai’s Grand Feel Pedal System) is included with the MP11.

Note: Like most stage pianos, the MP11 does not have speakers. Its full weight is 72 lbs.

MP11 Accessories:

  • Stand: The MP11 does not have an official stand. Two best options I’m aware of are the Roland KS-G8 ($239.99 & Free Shipping) and the Gator Frameworks GFW-UTILITY-TBL ($80.39 & Free Shipping). Both would be strong enough to hold the MP11 well.

I Would Avoid

Some of Kawai’s other actions are not as impressive to me as some comparably-priced actions made by Roland and Yamaha. I would personally avoid Kawai digital pianos with these actions:

  • AHA IV-F and RHII.
  • And I would only recommend Kawai’s RHIII action with a caveat: It feels great, but the keys have a heavier feel than what my research suggests is ideal. So, the RHIII, in my opinion, is best for those who like pianos with heavy actions.
  • Kawai’s earlier, RH action (from 2010), doesn’t have the realism, in my opinion, of their newer actions.

Here are more thoughts on some of these:

Advanced Hammer Action IV-F (AHA IV-F) Review

Kawai’s entry-level action is the Advanced Hammer Action IV-F (AHA IV-F).

Four current digital pianos contain the AHA IV-F:

These feel realistic. But the AHA IV-F action doesn’t feel as smooth or nice to play, in my opinion, as comparably-priced Yamaha and Roland digital pianos.

I prefer Yamaha’s entry-level action, the GHS, to Kawai’s AHA IV-F.

The downweight of the AHA IV-F doesn’t suggest that the action would feel that heavy – it has a downweight at Middle C of 67 grams. (I did downweight tests on all of these!) But something about the action of the AHA IV-F feels overly-stiff to me. (I believe this action has greater friction than most.)

I wouldn’t enjoy playing on these instruments.

There are many impressive alternatives to the AHA IV-F – even in this same price range. For example:

  1. Yamaha’s digital pianos with the GHS action (which have a perfect downweight of 62 grams at Middle C) – like the P-45 (aka P-71) ($399.99 & Free Shipping), P-115 ($599.99 & Free Shipping), and Arius YDP-103 ($899.99 & Free Shipping);
  2. The Roland FP-30 ($699.99 & Free Shipping) contains Roland’s pro-level PHA-4 Standard action – which feels even better to me than the GHS. The FP-30 is the best digital piano I’m aware of for under $1,000.

I think of those Yamahas, and that Roland, as the ultimate entry-level and mid-level digital pianos. I think they’re better instruments, and better values, than Kawai digital pianos with the AHA IV-F action.

Real Hammer Action II (RHII) Review

Kawai released the RHII action in 2012.

Three current Kawai digital pianos contain the RHII:

  • MP7 (MSRP: $2,199)
  • CS4(MSRP: $3,695)
  • CP3(MSRP: $5,999-$6,099)

I find the RHII feels noticeably less-realistic than the digital pianos I would recommend.

And, in this price range, there are lots of better options, imo. Current Roland digital pianos, like the FP-30 ($699.99 & Free Shipping) – feel more realistic, in my opinion; and often cost less.

A Kawai Action I’d Recommend, with a Caveat

Kawai Real Hammer Action III (RHIII) Review

I almost recommend this action! The RHIII is among the better-feeling digital piano actions I’ve played. It feels like a very nice acoustic piano.

My only concern is that the RHIII action has a slightly-heavy downweight. It reminds me a lot of the heavier-action Yamaha digital pianos – like some of the Clavinova series, or Yamaha’s GH action, etc. – in that the feel is great, but noticeably heavy.

However, the RHIII is quite a bit lighter than those Yamahas – which have downweights of 82 to over 90 grams at Middle C.

So, I wouldn’t recommend digital pianos with the RHIII action for kids. I’d highly recommend them, but only to people who know they like heavy actions in pianos.

Instruments with the RHIII action:

If you like a piano with a heavier action, the RHIIIs might be the best digital pianos on the market! The feel is on the heavy side, but it’s lighter than Yamaha’s heavier actions (the GH, NW, etc.) which are 81 (up to 93!) grams at Middle C. And too heavy, in my opinion.

Kawai ES110 (New in 2017)

There’s been some talk about the Kawai ES110 – which contains a brand new action, the Responsive Hammer Compact (RHC).

Kawai states on its website that the RHC action is “[d]esigned along the principles of the RHIII action.”

I tried out an ES110. And while it’s a pretty good instrument, I don’t recommend it.

Here are my opinions:

  • The keys are very noisy (loud, clicky sounds while playing) – especially as the keys lift back up. It’s similar to the Casio Privias in this regard (which I also don’t recommend), but the ES110 feels a little bit better/more refined to me than the Privias.
  • The feel of the ES110’s action is not nearly as good/refined/realistic-feeling as the Roland FP-30 (which I recommend highly).
  • But the ES110 is a good instrument. The weighting is not too heavy, it feels pretty nice, and is enjoyable to play.
  • In this price range, the Roland FP-30 is what I consider to be, by far, the best choice/option.
  • Price comparison: Kawai ES110: $728.00 & Roland FP-30: $699.99.
  • So, the FP-30 is better, imo, and costs a few dollars less!

Kawai’s Partnership with Alfred

Kawai has partnered with the Alfred Publishing Company – one of the most highly-regarded music publishers in the world.

On many Kawai digital pianos, MIDI “recordings” of the songs from five of Alfred’s core, “first year” piano method books are built into the pianos – so you can listen to the songs played back, change the tempo, and play along (as you read the sheet music in your Alfred books – which have to be purchased separately).

The music included is from Alfred’s:

  • Basic Piano Library (1A and 1B),
  • Basic Adult Piano Course (Level 1), and
  • Premier Piano Course (1A and 1B).

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From the Kawai Insiders Blog (which has more details*):

As succinctly described on Kawai’s website, “You can play along with any of the pre-recorded Alfred songs [built into Kawai’s digital pianos]…and adjust the tempo, mute either hand, and even compare [a recorded performance of yourself] to the built-in professional performance.”

* The blog link above mentions which digital pianos are loaded with MIDI files from which books. (It varies from instrument to instrument.)

Other Considerations

Full-Size Keys

Many “electronic keyboards” and synthesizers are made with smaller keys than an acoustic piano. For studying piano, one wants to make sure they practice on an instrument with full-size keys.

There’s a good deal of “muscle memory” and spatial learning that develops – having to do with recognizing the feel/distance when we shift from one key to another on a piano. Practicing on an instrument with full-size keys will ensure that this spatial learning takes place properly.

(I worry when students practice on an instrument with smaller keys.)

88 Keys

The instruments we’re looking at here all have 88 keys – like a standard piano. While there are a select few digital pianos with fewer than 88 keys which have realistic actions; in general, a “good” digital piano usually has 88 keys.

The one caveat is that some stage pianos – digital pianos designed to be more portable (for gigging) – are made with fewer keys.

The one stage piano I recommend with fewer than 88 keys is the Roland RD-64, which has 64 keys – while still having a realistic action (Roland’s Ivory Feel-G).

Buying a Pedal

Higher-end digital pianos often come with one to three pedals which look and feel just like the pedals of an acoustic piano. The pedals might even be built into the piano’s stand – so the pedals remain in a fixed position, just like the pedals of an acoustic piano.

This is the ideal situation.

Some quite good digital pianos, however, are designed to be more economical. These instruments can sometimes be purchased without a stand which includes pianistic pedals.

These digital pianos often include a less expensive pedal – like Yamaha’s stock pedal, the FC5:

Yamaha FC5 Digital Piano Pedal Review

The Yamaha FC5 – a stock pedal shipped with many Yamaha digital pianos.

These pedals work fine – and true beginners (especially kids) tend to not use the pedal in their first lessons.

However, somewhere down the line (when the pedal is being introduced in lessons), you’ll want to have a pedal that’s the shape and weight of a piano pedal. (This will help develop proper pedal technique.)

If your instrument doesn’t come with its own, pianistic pedal(s), one pedal which can be purchased on its own, and that plugs into all digital pianos, is the M-Audio SP-2 universal sustain pedal ($21.95).

M-Audio SP-2 sustain pedal review

The M-Audio SP-2 ($21.95). A good choice, if your digital piano doesn’t come with a piano-style pedal.

A lot of people like this pedal. It has a grippy, rubber pad on the bottom that keeps it solidly in place. It doesn’t slide around on the floor – as some pedals do. I’m surprised at how well the SP-2 pedal stays in place.

Pedal Maintenance: Pedals can sometimes start to squeak over time. Spraying some WD-40 oil into the pedal’s spring can get rid of any squeaks!

Getting Your Instrument’s Official Stand

Most music stores promote what are known as X Stands. I recommend avoiding these.

They’re called x stands because of their design/look:

X stands are not recommended for digital pianos. Try to use the keyboard's official stand instead.

An x stand is a generic stand that can be used with any digital piano or electronic keyboard. Because it’s a “one size fits all” scenario, the stand isn’t tailored to your instrument.

I’ve found x stands to be unstable. The keyboard isn’t fastened to the stand – it just rests on top. It can move back and forth on the stand, and can easily fall off.

I see kids in lessons knock over x stands regularly. A keyboard actually fell off an x stand at a lesson I taught a few days after writing this! :)

Many x stands also tend to be up too high (and not adjustable to a low enough height for proper hand position while playing).

Instead of an x stand, I recommend getting the official stand that’s made for your instrument. Not only do they look nice (the piano and stand are often made to resemble an upright piano):

Yamaha P-71 (aka P-45) – shown with its official stand, the L85 furniture stand

The Yamaha P-71 Deluxe Bundle on Amazon ($493.18)
includes the P71’s official stand.

But, most importantly:

  • Digital pianos and their official stands actually screw together – so the entire thing becomes one solid unit. The keyboard won’t shift around while playing, or fall off, etc.
  • And the height of the stand is designed to be appropriate for that instrument. Often, a company will also make their own piano bench – the digital piano, official stand, and bench are designed to go together as a set.Having this three-piece set will ensure one is practicing with everything at its right height to develop proper hand position and playing technique. (One caveat here is that, for younger kids, having a higher (or adjustable) piano bench can be helpful.

Getting the official stand and bench sometimes costs more (figure about $100 for the official stand, if it’s not part of a bundled deal); but many digital piano “bundles” include both, or at least the official stand, for free.

So, if the price is manageable, having the digital piano, with its official stand, is a worthwhile investment.

If one’s budget doesn’t allow for purchasing a stand, it is possible to put together a system that can work. The important factors are that the instrument and bench are at a height so one’s hands and arms can be about parallel to the floor while playing (not having to angle up or down) – and that the piano remains firm and stable while playing.

Two All-purpose Digital Piano Stands

Roland KS-G8b Review

If a digital piano you’re looking at doesn’t have an official stand, the best all-purpose digital piano stand I’m aware of is Roland’s KS-G8 Keyboard Stand ($239.99).

The “b” in the model number indicates its finish – black. (It’s also available in two-tone silver.) Roland seems to have discontinued making these. But the stands are still available for now.

Roland KS-G8 Keyboard Stand

The Roland KS-G8 stand

Reviews consistently are glowing – saying things like:

Roland KS-G8 Reviews – Screenshot

The height of the KS-G8 is adjustable to three different levels. Based on my research, the KS-G8 is the most stable and sturdy, all-purpose stand for an 88-key (full-size) digital piano.

The concensus on the KS-G8 keyboard stand seems to be that, while the price seems high, it really delivers. And many, inexpensive keyboard stands seem like a great deal (based on a low price). But they’re often not stable while a person plays.

So, a solid stand like the KS-G8 is a worthwhile investment, imo. I’d consider it a great, second choice, to a digital piano’s official stand.

Gator GFW Utility TBL Review

Another good option for an all-purpose digital piano stand would be the Gator Frameworks GFW-UTILITY-TBL Heavy-duty Keyboard Table ($80.39 & Free Shipping).

Gator Frameworks Utility Table Keyboard Stand

The Gator GFW UTILITY TBL stand

The solidity of this stand stood out to me while I was doing my research. It’s recommended highly by music stores. And reviews on Amazon are glowing.

Concensus seems to be that:

  • It’s the next best thing to the Roland KS-G8, and for less money.
  • The padding on the top of the stand holds a digital piano in place really well – almost (but not quite) as well as an official stand that an instrument screws onto.
  • It’s uncanny how many people’s reviews mention how bad their x stands are! :) And how great the Gator stand is in contrast. This is what sells me.

You also get to sound tough when you talk about your Gator UTILITY-TBL. :)

And the only downside I see appears fixable:

One review suggests that a slight left-to-right movement in the stand can be fixed by pushing the legs outward a bit. (Another reviewer also mentions this fix works for them.)

So, two best options for a stand that should work well with any digital piano would be:

  1. The Roland KS-G8 ($239.99 & Free Shipping); and
  2. The Gator Frameworks GFW-UTILITY-TBL ($80.39 & Free Shipping).

I’d definitely choose these over an x or z stand. 👍

Escapement and Let-off

Feel free to skip over this! The quick summary is that the only people who need escapement or let-off in a digital piano are professional pianists who prefer playing on grand pianos, rather than upright pianos.

Also, while many great, high-end digital pianos do include these features…

A digital piano’s having escapement or let-off does not necessarily mean it’s a highly realistic or great instrument.

But I wanted to include a discussion of escapement and let-off here, in case you’d find it helpful or interesting.

It’s quite a deep subject!

History and Description

When Bartolomeo Cristofori invented the piano in or around 1700, one of the clever features he built into the piano’s action is a mechanism known as escapement.

This allows the hammers to be “thrown” into each string when a key is pressed – to “escape” from the part of the action that pushes it forward.

Portrait of Bartolomeo Cristofori, inventor of the piano

1726 portrait of Bartolomeo Cristofori, inventor of the piano.

When a piano key is pressed, the hammer has to escape (or disconnect) from the key before hitting the string. Otherwise, the hammer would stay resting against the string until the player releases/lifts the key. (This would muffle the sound of the string.)

An analogy I’ve heard is that each piano string has to be struck like a bell. The hammers have to hit the strings, and then immediately lift off again, to let the strings ring and make sound.

All contemporary acoustic pianos contain escapement. And almost all digital pianos simply simulate the effect of escapement.

Double Escapement

In 1821, French piano and harp maker, Sébastien Érard, created what’s known as “double escapement,” which introduces a few extra parts to a piano’s action, including what’s known as the “let-off button.”

Double escapement allows the hammers to return to their original position more quickly, even while a key is still being pressed. This allows for faster repetition of the same note/key.

Portrait of Sebastien Erard, inventor of double escapement

Portrait of Sébastien Érard, inventor of double escapement.

Grand pianos, nowadays, are built with Érard’s double escapement. And upright pianos use Cristofori’s single escapement.

If you press the key of a grand piano very slowly, you’ll feel a slight “click” when the key is pressed partway down. This is the feel of the let-off mechanism of the double escapement.

People who regularly play on grand pianos get used to the feel of that click.

Because upright pianos have single escapement, no click feeling is felt when pressing an upright piano’s keys.

Escapement in Digital Pianos

Some higher-end digital pianos include a feature called escapement. This is a bit confusing because this actually means simulated “double escapement” and “let-off.”

What these digital pianos are actually doing is re-creating the “click” feeling of the let-off button in a grand piano’s double escapement.

In digital pianos, however, because the sound is created electronically (and without strings), the question is, “Does this matter?”

Since what’s being re-created is the click of a grand piano’s key (compared to the non-click of an upright piano’s key), it’s more of a personal preference.

On a digital piano, the actual repetition speed of a key has more to do with the instrument’s sensors; with three sensors often said to be more accurate – and allowing for faster repetition of a key – than two sensors.

Essentially, escapement in a digital piano is a pro-level feature – designed for pianists who prefer playing on grand pianos more than upright pianos. (Or, for pianists who are trying to be as prepared as possible for, say, performing on grand pianos.)

If you’re in this elite group, then digital pianos which mention they include escapement or let-off would be helpful. But, for most purposes, it’s not important.

Basically, a digital piano without escapement or let-off is simulating the feel of an upright piano. And digital pianos with escapement or let-off are simulating the feel of a grand piano.

In my experience, there are better and worse digital pianos that include or don’t include this particular feature. So, seeing that a digital piano contains escapement or let-off doesn’t automatically tell us that it’s a great digital piano.

Double Escapement in Digital Hybrid Pianos

Interesting note:

The only digital pianos to use actual double escapement with let-off in their design – rather than mimicking it – are a few Yamaha hybrid digital grand pianos, which use real actions from acoustic grand pianos.

The full list of these (as of early 2018) – as far as I’m aware – is:

  • Yamaha’s four AvantGrands: N1 (MSRP: $9,999), N2 (MSRP: $14,999), N3 ($20,276.99 & Free Shipping – Amazon actually has these in stock!) :) and N3X (MSRP: $22,199); and
  • Yamaha’s 1990s-era GranTouch line of digital pianos – which also use actual actions from grand pianos.

In these instruments, everything from the piano key, up until the hammers, is taken right from an acoustic grand piano. And, instead of hammers hitting strings; they have hammers (sometimes reshaped to be more like sticks) that hit sensors!

These are the most realistic of all digital pianos. And their high-end nature is reflected in their price.

An interesting aside:

Casio’s three Celvianos which are also digital grand hybrids – the GP-300, GP-400 and GP-500 – use parts from acoustic grand piano actions, but don’t include escapement or double escapement.

Comments on Online Stores

Two of the best companies to buy from online, in my opinion (based on my experience and research) are – in no particular order:

  • Amazon, and
  • eBay.

I’ve bought things a bunch of times from each (as have friends, family and students of mine), and I trust each company 100%. (I buy from Amazon all the time. And I bought my current computer through eBay last year; it’s great, and the transaction was a perfect experience.)

You probably don’t need my take on Amazon, :) but here’s some info I’ve found about buying digital pianos and music gear on eBay:

eBay Review

The customer service, quality, and reliability of most companies selling new digital pianos on eBay is very high. It’s actually difficult to even find negative feedback/reviews. Most companies I’m linking to on eBay have a 99-100% positive rating! (And many of them have made hundreds of thousands of sales.)

Companies Selling Digital Pianos on eBay

As I did research for this post, I found that many reputable, brick-and-mortar music stores (some well-known) now have eBay stores – where they sell a lot of the digital pianos I most recommend. It’s pretty thriving!

So, even though it’s eBay, you’re often doing business with a company you’ve known for years; and you’ll probably recognize lots of the companies selling new digital pianos there.

Comparing Amazon and eBay

The main difference I’ve found between buying a digital piano on Amazon and eBay is:

Amazon, even when working with resellers, has uniform rules in place that every company has to follow. So, whatever you buy through Amazon has Amazon’s same return policies, etc.

In contrast, eBay offers some guarantees:

eBay Money Back Guarantee

However, on eBay, there’s more leeway for each company to decide some of the specifics.

So, if you buy through eBay, there are three things I’ve found helpful to look for – especially when investing in something like a digital piano (or like the computer I bought through eBay last year):

A few things to look out for, if you’re purchasing a digital piano on eBay:

  1. That the item is new. (I’ve occasionally seen mentions of people buying used digital pianos, and finding the keys messed up in some way, etc.) I’m sure that many secondhand digital pianos are fine, though it seems to be more of a risk than buying new.
  2. Almost all of the time, you can find a digital piano on eBay with Free Shipping!! So I’d personally look for that.
  3. Also, I recommend only buying from a seller who allows returns! (Some companies on eBay don’t – and I couldn’t imagine buying a digital piano, and not being able to return it if something was wrong.)

Here’s a screenshot from a digital piano listing on eBay. I’ve drawn arrows showing where you can see info about the shipping and return policy, etc.:

Roland FP-30 listing on eBay

This company, Front Row Electronics, sells one of my favorite digital pianos – the Roland FP-30. They have 99.9% positive feedback (from over 38,000 sales!), a 30-day return policy, and they offer free shipping.

Amazon’s listing for the FP-30 is almost identical to this – same price, etc. The one difference I’ve found is that, on Amazon, return shipping is free; while, on eBay, it’s usually not.

I’d feel very comfortable buying a digital piano from Amazon, or from eBay – from one of these kinds of sellers. 👍

(And, btw, the eBay listings in this post are all to new digital pianos, from sellers on eBay who allow returns, and have about 99-100% positive feedback! And almost all include free shipping…)

International Availability

If you’re reading this from outside the United States, another benefit of both Amazon and eBay is that they automatically redirect the links to that same item in the Amazon or eBay store closest to your country.

This is true in most parts of the world. For instance, if you’re in the UK, and you click an Amazon link, it should take you to that item on Amazon.co.uk.

So, wherever you’re reading this from, the links should hopefully be helpful for you.

Geotargeting – it’s a pretty cool thing! :)

One Note About Geotargeting On eBay:

Outside the U.S., you may want to double check that a particular seller has a return policy in place, and free shipping – or at least competitive pricing when shipping is factored in. The links here will automatically direct to that item (new, not used) in your country’s eBay store. Though I’m not able to see info about the specific sellers eBay is redirecting to outside the United States.

I hope the geotargeted links work well for you. (And I’d be intrigued to know if they do!)

I’ve really tried my best to only include links in this post to digital pianos (and accessories):

  • Where the prices are very reasonable;
  • The company selling them would be great to do business with;
  • And the terms are safe and fair – allowing returns for a certain amount of time, and almost always with free shipping, etc.

(I think I succeeded!) :)

Questions?

Feel free to contact me if I can share more thoughts – or if you’re looking at a specific digital piano you’d like my take on.

And if you purchase any of the instruments I recommend, I’m happy to give more guidance and ideas to help you get up and running with your digital piano.

The ideas I share in this post are my personal opinions. But I did a lot of research, and put a great deal of thought into my recommendations.

I hope you have a good experience with your digital piano. Let me know if I can be of help.

Thanks!

If you found this information helpful, I’ll just mention that the links on this page to online stores (Amazon and eBay) are affiliate links, where I make a small commission from each sale, at no cost to you.

Thanks, if you happen to purchase through any of those!
♥ ♥ ♥

Acknowledgements

Thanks to the following people and companies for their help in the creation of this guide:

  • Mario Igrec, M.M., author of Pianos Inside Out, for guidance on piano touchweight;
  • Prosser Piano & Organ, Shoreline, WA – for letting me spend hours doing touchweight tests on their digital and acoustic pianos (and for the great conversation about topics like The King’s Singers!);
  • Classic Pianos, Bellevue, WA, for similar help;
  • American Music, Seattle, WA, for similar help. (They’re really nice!);
  • Kennelly Keys, Seattle, WA, for similar help;
  • Ted Brown Music, Seattle, WA, for similar help – and for sharing an outstanding book on the history of pianos with me.
  • Computer programmer, Greg Franko, for help implementing the Table of Contents, using Tocify, which is his creation;
  • Members of my family, for proofreading and helping me improve the post.

These are all kind and professional, high-quality people and businesses. And good people to have in one’s family! :)