A digital piano is designed to be a modern alternative to the classic acoustic piano. Digital Pianos are made to look, sound, and feel like a traditional piano, while offering features that are not available with the classic instrument. A quality digital piano should be portable and should feel like an acoustic piano while being played. It should also offer a high maximum polyphony, and be compatible with other devices, such as computers and tablets. While more expensive models usually come with more features and options, pricing should not be the only consideration when choosing which digital piano to purchase.
THE BEST DIGITAL PIANOS
The table below shows some of our favorite choices for digital pianos in several categories. These pianos were chosen based on their excellence in a number of categories and offer the best value for their price range.
|Williams||Legato 88 Hammer Action||$299.99||4.2||Portable|
THE DIGITAL DIFFERENCE
It’s understandable that many new players confuse the digital piano with the electric piano and the electronic piano. Those are three different versions of the instrument. While they may share some common features, the main difference is in how they work and how they produce sound.
- In an electric piano, the sound is produced mechanically which is then turned into electrical signals by pickups. These electrical signals can be amplified, much like the way an electric guitar works.
- An electronic piano is a device that mimics the sound of a piano and other instruments through analog circuits.
- The sounds produced by a digital piano are actually sounds that have been recorded and stored in a ROM, much like a computer. Sounds from a piano and other instruments are recorded and then stored in the instrument. When the corresponding keystroke is made, the sound is then accessed and produced. That is a very simplified version of a complex process, but it should give you an idea of how it works.
For details on what separates digital pianos from regular keyboards, read our guide here.
The sound stored in the ROM of a digital piano comes from the best acoustic pianos available. The sounds are recorded in studios using the best microphones and other recording equipment. The recordings might include several sounds from the same kind of keystroke, but the number of versions are limited.
The way that sound is recorded and stored in a digital piano would of course mean that it would have certain limitations. The sound it produces may lack the harmonic tones, natural reverberation and acoustic noises that are produced when playing an acoustic instrument. All of those are limitations, but the digital piano does have its advantages.
A typical digital piano would have the following common features:
Sound or Volume Control
Requires Little Maintenance
Does Not Require the Use of Microphones
FORM AND APPEARANCE
Digital pianos come in a number of different shapes and sizes. While most are modeled after traditional upright pianos, they can be modeled after grand or baby grand pianos for a more elegant look. They are typically much shallower than traditional pianos, and are usually much lighter and easier to transport. Digital pianos are also often available in many more colors than their traditional counterparts. The style of the digital piano has no effect on its performance, and is largely up to personal preference.
DIGITAL OR ACOUSTIC?
Both traditional acoustic pianos and digital pianos have their benefits, and many musicians are unsure of which to choose. There are disadvantages and advantages to both types of pianos, which should be used to make a final decision:
- As with most investments, the price point is the first factor to consider when looking to make the right purchase. Digital pianos can become very expensive, however even the priciest models come in at a lower price point than their acoustic counterparts. While traditional grand pianos can go for tens of thousands of dollars, most high-end digital pianos are priced at just over $1,200, and intermediate models can be purchased for as little as $100.
- Traveling musicians will have to factor size and weight into their final decision. Acoustic pianos are amazing for playing at home or in a concert hall, however they can be very heavy and are nearly impossible to move without a team of people. Digital pianos are much smaller, and are designed for easy transportation, making them the best choice for performing musicians.
- Musicians should also consider the versatility of their instrument. Digital pianos often come equipped with stored sounds, a MIDI output, and a built-in song recorder, while acoustic pianos lack all of these features.
- One of the biggest inconveniences of owning an acoustic piano is that it must be tuned every so often. Tuning a piano requires a professional, and takes several hours to complete properly. Digital pianos never go out of tune, erasing the need to hire a tuner several times a year.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD DIGITAL PIANO?
Like any other musical instrument, the quality of a digital piano will have a great impact on its overall performance. There are many factors that define the quality and performance of a digital piano, and it’s important to know what to look for prior to making a purchase. Ultimately, the sound quality is the most important factor that makes a good digital piano, as digital pianos are known for having a lesser-quality sound than acoustic pianos. The difference is virtually unnoticeable by the average ear, however purists will want to keep this in mind, as it is the single drawback of choosing a digital piano over an acoustic piano.
After the sound quality, there are a number of other factors that make a great digital piano worth buying:
NUMBER OF TONES
Every digital keyboard is fitted with a variety of tones to choose from; the chosen tone will determine the timbre of the instrument’s sound, making it very important that a musician’s preferred tone be available on their instrument of choice. High quality digital pianos are equipped with many tones to choose from, making them highly versatile and fitting for many needs.
Digital pianos should be highly responsive, in order to achieve the greatest performance. High-quality digital pianos should feel and play like a traditional acoustic piano, and should be as responsive as one. Most digital pianos are equipped with weighted keys, which are designed to mimic the response of acoustic pianos.
NUMBER OF KEYS
Most musicians looking to purchase a digital piano will want to consider the number of keys in their final decision. Digital pianos can have anywhere from a dozen keys to a full set of 88, however buying a digital piano with less than 88-keys is typically unadvised.
INTERNAL SPEAKER SETUP
Digital pianos come with equipped with a number of other features that should be considered before making a purchase. One of these is the design and setup of the piano’s internal speaker. Some digital pianos require the use of an external amplifier to achieve the highest quality sound, but many others can use their internal speaker system to produce beautiful, high-quality sounds that rival that of a traditional acoustic pianos.
A piano’s range of tones is referred to as polyphony. Maximum polyphony refers to the number of tones that can be generated at any point in time. For example, toy pianos can produce only one tone at a time, while professional digital pianos can produce about 128 tones at a time. Anything past 128 is generally unnecessary, however any polyphony under 32 should not be considered for professional use.
There are three types of touch response for digital pianos:
- No touch
- Fully weighted
Most musicians agree that fully weighted digital pianos make the best choice, as the other two types of response are typically less ideal.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM AN EXPENSIVE DIGITAL PIANO
While getting a deal on some equipment can be a marvelous surprise and an excellent way to stay within a budget, digital pianos fall under the “you get what you pay for” category. This does not mean that all expensive digital pianos are worth the money, nor does it mean that cheap digital pianos aren’t worth buying, however it is a general guideline to remember when making a purchase.
You can expect the following out of an expensive digital piano:
- A wide range of available sounds, instruments, and beats that can be produced by the instrument without the need for external software.
- Accompaniment features are also something to expect from expensive digital pianos. Some offer the ability to record tracks for playback and accompaniment, and many offer drum and beat machines that can be used for accompaniment as well.
- Many expensive digital pianos come equipped with the ability to “split” the sound. Essentially, one half of the piano can be set to play in one tone, and the other half can be set to play in another.
LEADING DIGITAL PIANO MANUFACTURERS
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Casio is one of the newer digital piano brands to hit the market, and they have been plagued with an undeserved poor reputation for many years. Initially, the company produced only low-quality, cheap digital pianos that were best for beginners and children, but they have since changed their practices, and have begun creating better instruments over the past decade.
While Casio may have been considered a beginner brand at first, they are now largely seen as one of the best digital piano brands available. The brand combines excellent design, musical and technical innovation, and high-class aesthetics to produce the very best digital pianos available on the market today.
Because of the brand’s previously poor reputation, they have been doing everything in their power to create instruments with the goal of overcoming their previously unfavorable reviews. Among these well-designed digital pianos include the highly-acclaimed Privia line, as well as the very reliable Celviano line.
Each of Casio’s digital pianos included hammer action technology, which is only available in the highest quality of instruments. In addition, Casio pianos have wave generation and sound technology, which help to produce life-like, beautiful sounds that rival the most expensive pianos in the world.
Perhaps the biggest draw to Casio digital pianos is the price of their instruments. From the most basic to advanced of models, this brand produces the most affordable, professional equipment available on the market today.
One of the lesser known high-quality digital piano brands is the Japanese manufacturer, Kawai. This company produces many different styles of digital pianos, and nearly every musician will find a piano that meets their needs among the many Kawai pianos available for sale.
Not only does Kawai produce upright digital pianos, they are also known for their stellar digital interpretation of the classic grand piano. These digital grand pianos are considered to closely match the traditional sound of an acoustic grand piano, making them some of the very best available today.
Most of Kawai’s available pianos are highly affordable, compared to other standard-setters, such as Yamaha or Roland, making them an excellent choice for those looking to save a little without compromising performance.
One of the best models available from Kawai is the CE220, which combines a piano-like feel with high-quality sound. It comes packed with features, while maintaining a high-standard of sound quality for purists.
While Korg pianos have been setting standards for high quality keyboards for the past several decades, their recent ventures into the production of digital pianos have been making waves in the music world. Korg is known for collaborating with professional musicians when making designing their equipment, which makes them highly sought after in professional circles.
In addition, because Korg is widely popular among professional musicians, their keyboards and digital pianos are also designed to withstand regular wear and tear that comes with traveling and performing.
Not only are Korg’s instruments designed with professionals in mind, many of their models are highly affordable for the quality of the instrument, and there is a model to fit nearly any budget without sacrificing quality, making them fantastic for beginners and professionals alike.
Perhaps the finest digital piano available from Korg is the SP 280, which is not only a top-of-the-line model, but one of the lightest and most affordable of its kind available today. While most digital pianos weigh between 60 and 80 pounds, the SP 280 comes in at just 42 pounds, making it ideal for traveling and performing musicians.
The SP 280 comes equipped with fully weighted keys, as well as the ability to use a standard three-pedal setup.
It’s no secret that Roland manufacturers some of the finest digital pianos in the world, and it’s no wonder why: all of Roland’s models are equipped with tracks recorded from a world-class Steinway piano – the finest brand of pianos in the world. Because of this, Roland’s produce a very realistic, high-quality sound that is rivaled by only the very best pianos available.
In addition, Roland is well-known for the high degree of professionalism that goes into designing and producing their instruments. Roland’s developers and designers are some of the best in the world, and after many dedicated hours of development, they have come up with the best known ways to sample sound and create lifelike tones.
Roland is well-known for their wide selection of digital pianos, with models available for the newest beginner to the most seasoned of professionals.
The Roland RD-300NX is a very portable instrument that has all the advantages of modern digital piano. It comes equipped with the SuperNATURAL engine that makes the experience of playing it very realistic, with many players reporting that it feels like playing a traditional acoustic piano.
In addition, the Roland RD-300NX comes preset with hundreds of popular songs that can be played along to without the need for external software. It also comes with Feel-G keys that are designed to mimic the look and feel of real ivory.
It’s no question that Yamaha is among the leading producers of musical instruments in the world, and their digital pianos live up to the world-renowned reputation of Yamaha’s products.
Yamaha offers a very large selection of digital and acoustic pianos, with models dedicated to every skill level, from the beginner to the master. Yamaha has been producing digital pianos for decades, and as a result their current models are among the very best in the world.
In fact, Yamaha’s reputation is so well upheld that the company’s competitors study their models in order to better their own. Many of today’s innovations in digital pianos have come from Yamaha, making them the leading digital piano brand in the world.
While Yamaha has many models, there are a few that stand out above the rest. One such model is the Yamaha Arius YDP 181, which offers a full set of 88 keys, weighted to perfection. This model feels and sounds so much like an acoustic, that it is often mistaken for its more traditional counterpart. In addition, it gives players the ability to play multiple notes at the same time due to its full 128-note polyphony – a highly sought after feature in a digital piano.
While purchasing an acoustic piano can be a costly investment, a digital piano is an affordable and effective alternative, as digital pianos are typically far cheaper, and are much more portable. Beginners have access to models designed and priced for their needs, and professionals can invest in a model that mimics the sound of an acoustic for a fraction of the price.
There are hundreds of digital piano models available today, however not all are created equal; the decision can be tough, but by reading the reviews and descriptions available on Digital Piano Reviews, you can make the decision that will work best for your needs.
A digital piano is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a versatile musical instrument today. It is portable, easy to use and comparable to acoustic pianos when it comes to sound quality. There are numerous options that are available in the market now for students and for professional musicians. All the top digital piano makers have several models that are designed to suit the needs of users from all levels. In going through the different options, using different sources such as online forums, digital piano reviews, and the opinion of more experienced musicians and users can go a long way.