Digital Pianos: As Good as the Real Thing? (Bonus: My Top Recommendations for All Budgets) by mark barkan
This is a guest contribution from Mark Barkan.
The first digital piano was released in 1986, and since that momentous year, digital pianos have only improved. The more recent models are sleek and stylish, and they lend themselves to a variety of uses. Advancements like weighted keys, increased polyphony, and recording capabilities have all helped the digital piano carve a niche for itself in the music world. In the past five years, improvements to digital pianos have centered around more closely mimicking acoustic pianos and developing greater connectivity.
digital piano breakthroughs in the last 10 years!
In 2008, Yamaha released the CLP-S308PE which offered musicians direct access to the Internet. This was a revolutionary development because it cut out the middleman – the computer. In 2009, Roland released the V-Piano, an innovative digital piano that can be tuned and adjusted just like an acoustic piano. Two years later, the company released the V-Piano Grand, its flagship model for the digital piano products. The V-Piano Grand was an improvement over the V-Piano in sound quality and richness, and it gave musicians greater freedom of expression with improved touch keys.
In 2011, the same year Roland rolled out the V-Piano Grand, musicians could finally connect their digital pianos to their iPads with a USB MIDI adapter. This unlocked an entirely new set of opportunities, including a better interface. In 2012, Roland rolled out its newest technological advancement: Roland Wireless Connect, a network that allowed digital pianos to connect with iPhones through Wi-Fi. That same year, Yamaha released the Clavinova CVP-605, which wirelessly connects to musicians’ iPads, eliminating the need for a USB MIDI adapter.
Earlier in 2014, Yamaha announced the release of P255, the first digital piano that has a control app. Devices equipped with iOS can extend the digital piano’s interface by allowing musicians to save their settings, customize their sound, and organize and sort song content. All users need is an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch. As digital pianos continue to improve, musicians will reap the benefits of better sound quality, and especially better connectivity. These technological advancements ensure that digital pianos adapt to changing times, and they enable musicians to remain relevant, taking advantage of the latest technology.
my top recommendations for all budgets...
Quality digital pianos are available in every budget, so whether you want to splurge or economize, you’re sure to find a piano to fit the bill.
If you want a digital piano but can’t afford the occasionally hefty price tags, the Yamaha P-35 and the Korg SP-280 are your best choices.
The Yamaha P-35 is an affordable 88-key digital piano that works well for beginners. The Graded Hammer Standard keyboard has 4 levels of touch sensitivity, so musicians can customize their dynamics. The P-35 has a maximum polyphony of 32, but it produces clear, quality sound. One of the benefits of owning the P-35 is duo mode, which splits the keyboard in half. This allows teachers and students to play in the same octave simultaneously. This keyboard only has MIDI connectivity, but musicians can connect it to their laptops or smartphones, increasing the piano’s uses.
The Korg SP-280 features 88 Natural Weighted Hammer Action keys, so the key response becomes lighter the farther up the keyboard musicians play. With three levels of touch response, the Korg is less customizable than the Yamaha, but the SP-280 makes up for it with a polyphony of 120. The piano doesn’t have a built in recording system or USB connectivity, but it does have standard MIDI plugins. The benefits of this piano are both economic and musical; it’s energy efficient, using only 15W instead of the average 40W. It also offers artists a large range of sounds, enabling them to unlock their creativity.
If you have some extra money to spare, consider purchasing the Casio PX-150, or the Korg LP-380, both mid level pianos that offer great quality without breaking the bank.
The Casio PX-150 offers musicians 88 medium weighted keys that use Scaled Hammer Action. With three levels of touch sensitivity and a polyphony of 128, users can easily customize their playing. The piano has USB and MIDI connectivity, so musicians can store files on a flash drive and transfer them to a computer. However, the Casio PX-150 can also be directly connected to computers, iPhones, and iPads. One of the advantages of the PX-150 is its Ebony and Ivory Feel Keys. Some digital pianos have keys that feel like plastic, but the Casio PX-150 has keys that closely imitate natural ivory. Additionally, the PX-150 has excellent sound quality with an impressive polyphony for its price range.
A more stylish option, the Korg LP-380 looks great in any environment. It has 88 Real Weighted Hammer Action 3 keys that flawlessly reproduce the sound and feel of a grand piano. Like the Casio, it has three levels of touch sensitivity. With a polyphony of 120, the LP-380 is a viable option for musicians who want some variability in their sound. It has standard MIDI connectivity but lacks a USB port. The best benefit the Korg LP-380 offers is the close imitation of a grand piano. It is one of the few digital pianos that can truly recreate the touch and sound of an acoustic piano.
If you want premier sound quality and superior touch imitations, you’re in the right price range. The Yamaha P-255 and the Casio PX-850 are the best high-end digital pianos available.
The Yamaha P-255 has the first-of-its-kind Controller App for iOS. Musicians can now customize the piano’s settings and sounds and save them for later, all with their iPhones or iPads. The 88 keys are made from Synthetic Ivory, providing users with a similar touch experience that they would get from a grand piano. Furthermore, the Graded Hammer Keyboard and four levels of touch sensitivity enhance this experience. The P-255 has the maximum number of polyphony at 256, providing a virtually limitless arrangement of sounds. One of the money-saving benefits of the P-255 is it doesn’t require external amplification. However, the most advantageous aspect of this piano is musicians don’t have to remember their settings because they can save them to their iPhones or iPads. Furthermore, the P-255 offers an unprecedented two ways to record audio.
As far as sound quality goes, the Casio PX-850 blows other digital pianos out of the water. It has unsurpassable sound quality, thanks to its Acoustic and Intelligent Resonator (AiR) system. The AiR system uses over three times the memory than previous models in Casio’s Privia line. The PX-850 has seamless dynamics and some of the cleanest sounds ever produced by a digital piano. It has 88 Scaled Hammer Action keys and three levels of touch sensitivity. Not surprisingly, it has a maximum polyphony of 256, and the keyboard can be split, enabling two users to play in the same octave simultaneously. The PX-850 has both USB and MIDI connectivity. The benefit to purchasing this digital piano is the exceptional sound quality; other digital pianos are hard pressed to match the quality produced by the PX-850.
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