Digital Pianos (Yamaha, Casio, Roland, Kawai, Korg) - An introduction for Digital Piano Shoppers

Yamaha is the prolific manufacturer with over 200 different digital piano models that are being actively sold. Casio clocks in a distant second with fewer than fifty models. Roland, Kawai, and Korg are much more modest in their options. There are several other minor manufacturers, but these five manufacturers control more than 95% of the digital piano market in the US. Yamaha bags the undisputed brand premium, the fruit of extensive investment in research and development over a long period of time.

A note on pricing:

Most digital pianos are available either online or through national retailers. This convenience allows consumers to do comparison-shopping and realize better bargains compared to acoustic pianos purchased through a dealer. Of course, for acoustic pianos, dealers provide a valuable service – the weight of the instrument (upwards of 500 pounds) and the professional tuning and setup they require make online and national retailing impractical. On the other hand, the weight of digital pianos rarely exceed 150 pounds (even the cabinet models that look like an acoustic piano), and requires no special tuning or setup thereby diminishing the services of the dealer. That said, for the high-end cabinet digital piano models, some consumers prefer the services of a dealer for a hands-off transaction.

While the Internet and national retailing has allowed freewheeling for the consumer, the piano dealers have been hammered by revenue loss. With the market penetration achieved by the digital piano manufacturers, acoustic piano sales volumes declined. To stem the bleeding, piano dealers applied pressure on piano manufacturers for dealer-exclusivity. As a result, in the USA, only Yamaha’s portable piano models and the ARIUS/YDP cabinet piano models are available both online and through retailers. The remainder of Yamaha’s pianos (Clavinovas and MODUS) are available only through dealers. Similar agreements apply for higher end models of Roland and Kawai. In Europe and other parts of the world, this dealer-only policy is not applicable. 

Variety and choices are aplenty in the digital piano models. Yamaha has 200-odd and counting digital piano models. Casio, Roland, Kawai, and Korg also have several models. In general, the manufacturers use a few brands/series to classify the offerings. The series/brand choices from each manufacturer are:

Casio (Privia PX, Celviano AP, and CDP):

The Privia line debut in 2003. The key technologies that has made the line successful in the market place are: a) Multi-dimensional morphing AiR (Acoustic and Intelligent Resonator) sound source, and b) Tri-Sensor Scaled Hammer Action Keyboard II. The former captures the grand piano sound including effects such as sustain, length of reverberation, and simulating harmonics that resonate when the damper pedal is pressed. The latter does a great job reproducing sound accurately based on the force of keystrokes. Casio's Celviano line are premium products that strive to simulate the grand piano sound accurately under all playing conditions.
  1. The Casio Privia PX (current models - 5S, 160, 360, 760, and 860) series models are primarily portable digital pianos although a few come with integrated stands.The Casio Privia PX-5S and PX-560 are Digital Stage Pianos selling for upwards of $1000. The Casio Privia PX-160 is the low-end of Casio's standard full-sized portable digital piano selling for around $500 with the 360, 760, and 860 rounding out the current models. Several other models released within the last several years are also in the market and some of them sell at significant discounts: PX-130, PX-150, PX-350, PX-750, etc. For the ten-year anniversary of Privia, Casio also released PXA-100RD/BE (portable metallic design in Red or Blue) and PXA-800BN (cabinet design). The main feature additions were 10 Grand Piano Tones and a Hall Simulator Function with 10 Types of Concert Venues.
  2. The Casio Celviano AP (current models - 260, 460, 650, and 700) and GP (current models - 300, 400, and 500) are the Cabinet Digital Piano lines which are non-portable home digital pianos. Other models currently in the market include 220, 250, 420, and 620. 
  3. The CDP series has the CDP-130 as the last model. It forms the low-end of Casio's line of portable digital pianos and sells for around $400. Close-out deals may become available as Casio no longer lists this among its current models. 


Yamaha (P, DGX, CP, ARIUS YDP, Clavinova CLP, Clavinova CVP & MODUS) :

  1. Yamaha Contemporary Pianos (current models - P-45, P-115, and P-255) are portable digital pianos.The models offer authentic weighted action touch (Graded Hammer Standard - GHS) that has heavier touch in the low end and lighter touch at the high end just like the hammers inside an acoustic piano. Acoustic sound simulation is achieved using Yamaha's classic AWM (Advanced Wave Memory) sound engine that uses digital technology to record and reproduce the sound of an acoustic piano based on the force on the keystrokes.
  2. Yamaha ARIUS (current models - YDP103, YDP-S52, YDP-142, YDP-143, YDP-162, YDP-163, YDP-V240, and YDP-181) are home (non-portable cabinet) digital pianos and form Yamaha's low-end of the home piano line. These are the only non-portable Yamaha piano models that are available from nationwide retailers & online stores. The range offers Graded Hammer Standard (GHS) keyboard and Pure CF Sound Engine voices as base features and builds from there. Pure CF uses expressive recordings of Yamaha's CFIIIS 9-foot concert grand piano for sound simulation. Damper Resonance (recreation of acoustic piano depth when pedaling) and Intelligent Acoustic Control (complete tone balancing independent of volume) are other key technologies in ARIUS digital pianos.
  3. Yamaha Stage Pianos (current models: CP4 Stage, CP40 Stage, CP1, CP5, CP50, CP300, and CP33) are professional stage pianos and form Yamaha's high-end of the portable digital piano line. The base feature set that make them distinct include the Premium Grand Piano (GP) and Vintage Electric Piano (EP) sound reproduction, Change Voices feature that let you call up the sounds, and Layer & Split that allow sound layering and splitting.
  4. Yamaha Clavinova CLP Traditionals, CVP Ensembles, and MODUS Designer Pianos: The Clavinova CLP Traditionals are digital pianos in a non-portable cabinet design. They form Yamaha's low-end of home pianos sold exclusively through dealers. Current models are . The Clavinova CVP Ensembles are digital pianos in a non-portable cabinet design and are Yamaha's premium home pianos sold exclusively through dealers. Current models are . MODUS-series are designer pianos (non-portable designer cabinet) and form Yamaha's high-end of home pianos sold exclusively through dealers. Current models are . 
The following are also part of Yamaha's digital piano line: Yamaha Portable Grand DGX & YPG-series and Nocturne series. The former forms the high-end of their keyboard line and the 88-key models (YPG-535, DGX-650, and DGX-660) are very capable. Nocturne-series (no longer listed in their current models) are sleeker looking versions of their YDP line for a significant premium.


    Roland (V-Piano, RD, FP, HPi, HP, RP, DP, F, LX, and RG) :

    1. Stage Pianos (current models - V-Piano, RD-800, RD-300NX, RD-64, FP-90, FP-80, and FP-50): The top-end V-Piano is a revolutionary product that pioneered the technology ("living" piano core) to respond and evolve without requiring samples. It also offers customizable planos. At the other end, FP-50 is a compact, affordable stage piano with SuperNATURAL planar sound engine and Ivory Feel-G keyboard with escapement. 
    2. Upright Digital Pianos (current models - HPi-50e, HP504, RP501R, RP401R, RP603, DP90Se, DP90e, F-140R, and RP-302): The HPi-50e at the high-end has high-resolution color LCD with Roland's acclaimed interactive DigiScore training programs. The entry-level F-20 at the other end has the SuperNATURAL Plano sound engine, Apps that allow developing music listening, reading and play along skills, dual and split modes that allow tone layering, etc.
    3. Premium Upright Digital Pianos (current models - LX-17, Kiyola KF-10, LX-7, HP605, HP603): The new models feature an all-new keyboard, enhanced sound engine (SuperNATURAL Piano Modeling Technology for richer planar sound) and multi-channel speaker system (eight speaker acoustic projection system). The HP series offer a classically signed cabinet and concert-class sound while the LX series has more luxurious styling. The new Kiyola KF-10 is marketed as an artisan digital piano and features a hand-crafted solid wood cabinet.
    4. Digital Grand Pianos (current models - RG-1F, RG-3F, GP-607, and V-Piano Grand): V-Piano Grand has modeling technology in a grand cabinet with multi-channel sound. RG-1F, RG-3F, and GP-607 are mini-grand pianos with SuperNATURAL Modeling, Plano Designer, PHA III Technology with escapement. 


    Kawai (CL, CN, EP, ES, CA, MP, and CP): 

    Kawai is known to have the finest tone and touch in the digital piano arena. Wooden-key actions, Harmonic Imaging sound technology, and Soundboard Speaker System are other features that make their offerings distinct.
    1. Portable Digital Pianos (current models - ES8 and ES100): The ES100 offers graded hammer key action and 88-note piano sampling. The musician grade ES8 captures the tone of Kawai's flagship acoustic grand pianos (SK-EX, SK-5, and EX) accurately.  Other features include professionally arranged backing accompaniments, USB connectivity, digital audio recording, and an industry-leading keyboard (Ivory Touch Responsive Hammer III action with Let-Off, Triple Sensor, and Counterweights.
    2. Economical Digital Pianos (current models - CL26, KCP90, KDP90, CE220, CN25, and CN35): The CL26 is an upright in a slim design with harmonic imaging sound technology, graded hammer action, 88-key piano sampling, and 96-note polyphony as standard features. In the mid-range, the CE220 offers Progressive Harmonic Imaging sound technology with 88-key piano sampling, 88-key wooden-key GHA with counterbalancing, 192-note polyphony, and US to Device. At the high-end, the CN35 offers 256-note polyphony, 16-track recorder, and grand feel pedal system as top features.  
    3. Professional Stage Pianos (current models - MP7 and MP11): MP7 performer's stage piano offers acoustic, vintage electric, and classic tonewheel organ sounds. It also features Harmonic Imaging XL, MIDI controller, full-featured RH2 action, and 256 note polyphony. The MP11 professional musician's stage piano has grand feel wooden key action along with customizable 6 reverbs and 129 effects. USB Recorder, 40 voices, and 208 user memories are also standard.
    4. Classic Series Luxury Digital Pianos (current models - CS4, CS7, CS8, CS10, and CS11): The CS4 and CS7 are classic series upright digital pianos while the CS10 is a hybrid. Built-in Alfred Piano lessons is standard with these models. CS8 and CS11 are the newest offerings in this line up.
    5. Concert Artist Digital Uprights (current models - CA67 and CA97): Offers true acoustic piano feel, samples of Shigeru Kawai Concert and Chamber Grand Pianos, Grand Feel II Wooden-key Action, USB to Device, USB to Host, 256 polyphony, built-in 2 hour classical piano music, and built-in Alfred, Czemy, Beyer, and Burmuller Lesson Songs.
    6. Concert Performer Digital Premium Uprights & Grands (current models - CP1 Grand, CP2 Grand, and CP3): large color touch display, music player input, 100s of sounds, hours of piano music, and all other state-of-the-art Kawai technologies (see above) are incorporated in this top-end Kawai line.


    Korg (SP, LP, SV, and HAVIAN):
    1. Portable Digital Pianos ( SP-170, SP-280, B1, and B1SP): SP-170 is the most popular among the Korg models. It features Natural Weighted Hammer Action (NH) keyboard, sounds including grand piano, reverb and chorus effects, and Sound and Piano Play buttons. B1 and B1SP are the new models in the line.
    2. Digital Stage Piano (SV-1): The SV-1 Vintage Stage Piano features retro styling (vintage knob controls) coupled with advanced connectivity (XLR, MIDI, USB, and 3 pedal) and comes with a full-featured Librarian/Editor software.
    3. Cabinet Digital Pianos (LP-180, LP-380, and HAVIAN 30):  LP-180 has a slim cabinet design, Natural Weighted Hammer Action (NH) keyboard, ten sounds, reverb and chorus effects, and a three-pedal unit (damper, soft, and sostenuto). The LP-380 retains the slim cabinet design and adds a Real Weighted Hammer Action 3 keyboard, premium pedal, metronome, MIDI capability, and 30 sounds. HAVIAN 30 is a digital ensemble piano with 88 velocity sensitive weighted hammer keys, complete sound library, 5" TFT color TouchView display, auto-accompaniment, chord sequencer with full editing, MIDI/MP3 play and record, Limiter and 4 band parametric EQ.

    Summary & Recommendation:



    Some of the Kawai models (CP, CA, CS, and CN) have the best warranty in the business - 5 years parts and labor. Roland home pianos (non-portable) also have a very good warranty - 5 year parts and 1 year labor. The Yamaha's have a 3-year warranty and that compares very well with the Casio's, Korg's, and the Roland portable digital piano models which have just a one-year warranty. The Roland's and Korg's enjoy good reputation among piano enthusiasts. Yamaha's & Kawai's are the popular choice among institutions. The Casio's have excellent market share because of their value pricing.

    Below is a summary of our best value recommendations from each category:
    1. Best Value Portable Digital Piano: Yamaha P45B (~$450).
    2. Best Value Non-Portable Digital Piano: Yamaha ARIUS YDP-162 (~$1300).

    Note: The Yamaha ARIUS YDP-163 is the latest model and that goes for a $200 premium compared to the YDP-162.

    For more research, please check out our comparative reviews of Portable and Home Digital Pianos by following the links below.




    Related Posts:

    1. Portable Digital Pianos - A Comparative Review.
    2. Non Portable (Home) Digital Pianos - A Comparative Review.
    3. Digital Pianos (Yamaha, Casio, Roland, Kawai, Korg) - An introduction for Digital Piano Shoppers (this post).
    4. Portable Yamaha Digital Pianos - A Comparative Review.
    5. Non Portable (Home) Yamaha Digital Pianos - A Comparative Review.
    6. Yamaha Digital Pianos - An Introduction to Different Models.
    7. Acoustic Piano (Yamaha M-460, Cable Nelson Yamaha CN-116, Kawai K-15, etc.) - Review, Best Values, Pricing, & Shopping Experience.
    8. Yamaha P65 & the new Yamaha P45 Digital Piano Review.
    9. Teach your kids Piano with learn piano online for free – well, almost!!

    Last Updated: 04/2017.

    11 comments :

    The Soul Donkey said...

    Thanks very much! This information was extremely useful in helping me decide on an acceptable digital piano.

    Anonymous said...

    This is an incredibly detailed comparison, thanks very much.

    Out of curiosity, for the cabinet piano, what factors made you choose the Kawai over the Yamaha or Roland? In particular, how does the action compare?

    ks said...

    Hi:

    As we mentioned in the review, our choices were the Yamaha P65 (http://www.onefamilysblog.com/2007/09/yamaha-p65-digital-piano-review.html) portable digital piano and the Kawai K15 acoustic (http://www.onefamilysblog.com/2008/05/shopping-for-acoustic-piano-in-bay-area.html). So, we did not get to choose between the ones you mentioned.

    While choosing the acoustic, we had to decide between the Kawai K15 and some Yamaha's and the decision basically came down to the fact that the Kawai's pitch was a little more pleasing to our ears...

    Regards,

    Anonymous said...

    Sorry, I was referring to this recommendation:

    Best Cabinet Digital Piano (non-portable):
    Budget: Korg EC150.
    Feature Rich: Kawai CE200.

    Was the "feature rich" recommendation based on trying them, or essentially on the specs?

    ks said...

    Hi:

    We have not tried all the pianos mentioned in the review. It is more of an exhaustive list that one can use as reference for feature/price comparison.

    Good luck with your research/purchase...

    Regards,

    Babygrand said...

    Hey there, this is really detailed one-stop info site for someone looking for a digital piano. I like Kawai CE too.

    Anonymous said...

    Awesome review. This was better than anything else I have come across on the net.

    JY (from Canada)

    Anonymous said...

    I was deciding between the Yamaha YDP-V240 and the Casio AP620.
    I seem to be reading that this particular casio is better than the yamaha?
    What is your opinion?
    Thanks.

    ks said...

    Casio always have had better feature set and lower pricing for the same class of piano compared to Yamaha. Once you have tried the Yamaha ARIUS YDP-v240 and Casio Celviano AP-620, points to also consider are:

    a) Yamaha warranty is 3 years (parts & labor) while Casio's is 1 year parts and 90 days labor, and
    b) Yamaha is around $400 pricier.

    Jahid Hasan said...

    Udemy Course
    The OMG Piano course is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. I’ve condensed years of piano training into a step-by-step system that shows you exactly how to start playing, by ear, your favorite songs on the piano in a matter of days. This course, gives you the skills to sound like a polished piano player without having to spend years studying the piano.
    Go To here for more info:>> https://www.udemy.com/learn-to-play-the-piano-using-pop-rb-and-gospel-chords/

    Md Jasim said...

    The digital piano is a modern day musical instrument as the alternative of the standard piano. The reviews of digital pianos in this post is awesome. I like the Casio brands digital pianos.Because Casio provides better feature at the low price. Best digital piano brands

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