Nothing can truly compare to the rich, bold sound of an acoustic piano, but there are situations in which an acoustic piano is simply not appropriate. If you are strapped for cash or do not have the space to fit an acoustic piano, then a high-quality digital piano can be a great alternative.
On top of that, digital pianos also offer a number of unique advantages in a live setting that an acoustic piano cannot reproduce. To help you make a decision, we have a list of the 5 best digital pianos as well as a thorough buyer’s guide. We personally think that the Yamaha Arius is the best all-around value digital piano reviewed, but there are others with different features.
Best Digital Pianos of 2019
|Product||Type||Colors||Number of Keys||Features||Dimensions||Weight|
|Yamaha YDP-103 Arius (Editor's Choice)||Digital console piano||Black Walnut; Dark Rosewood||88||Three pedals and bench||53.4 x 32.1 x 16.6 in; 56.2 x 22.2 x 17 in; 57 x 22.9 x 18.9 in; 59 x 24.9 x 20.1 in; 57.5 x 18.1 x 36.5 in||115.7, 119.7, 136.6, 149, 180 pounds|
|Kawai MP11 Professional||Stage piano for advanced pianist||Black||88||Without stand||54.3 x 18 x 7.2 in||71.5 pounds|
|Casio Privia PX-160||Budget digital piano||Black; Gold||88||Furniture stand, furniture stand and pedal or adjustable stand and bench. Instructional music book, CD, and DVD included||58 x 16.5 x 16.5 in; 23 x 60 x 17 in; 58 x 17 x 17 in||40, 98 or 40 pounds|
|Korg B1SP||Digital piano for beginners with weighted keys under 1000||Black||88||Stand three pedal board and bench||58 x 17.6 x 11.8 in||70.8 pounds|
|Roland F-140R||Digital piano with weighted keys||Black||88||Three pedals, bench and piano learning guide||53.5 x 13.5 x 30.6 in||76 pounds|
1. Yamaha YDP-103 Arius – Best All-Around Digital Piano
Though Yamaha may have their hands in a multitude of pots, their products always seem to be well-received, regardless of their market or demographics. The Arius series has long been considered one of the better all-around values in the digital piano market due to its ability to adequately support different models suited for various stages of development. While it is not necessarily a “cheap” or budget-minded digital piano, the Arius Series generally has a tendency to be a bit more reasonably priced compared to its competitors. It is important to note that the Arius Series runs the gamut from a bare-bones model all the way up to a top-tier class product, but they all provide an excellent value.
One thing that really helps out the Arius in terms of all-around value is the ability to cater to different markets. For instance, the beginner model may only provide a 64-note polyphony, but the advanced model supports a list-leading 256-note polyphony. On top of that, the vocal range of the Arius series begins with a modest 10 and ends with a reasonable, though not impressive, 24 different voices. It is worth noting that the Yamaha does not really ‘wow’ when it comes to the audio quality of their voices. Instead, the company’s digital pianos as a whole are considered more of a good, not great reproduction, even with the Pure CF Sound Engine.
A Great Feel
While more than half of the Arius lineup uses the basic GHS key action, all of the other models in the line use the improved GH3 key action. The GH3 key action uses a 3-sensor model that is more in line with the industry standard when it comes to faithfully reproducing the key action of an acoustic piano. Another great feeling feature of the Yamaha digital piano comes from the keys which, while synthetic, still feel reasonably accurate with some models sporting synthetic ivory. As a finishing touch, this line of digital pianos also features some of the best iOS connectivity, though the app can be a bit hit or miss.
2. Kawai MP11 Professional – Best 88 Keys Portable Piano for Advanced Pianists
When it comes to pianos, there are few companies in the world with the kind of reputation as Kawai. The brand makes every type of piano you can think of, including acoustic pianos, as well as all of their requisite accessories. In fact, it is a commonly acknowledged sentiment within the community that Kawai makes the best-performing digital pianos that money can buy. However, it seems as if Kawai is well-aware of this reputation and milks it for what it’s worth. As such, while we definitely agree that the Kawai MP11 is the best professional digital piano, it also happens to be the most expensive by a fairly significant margin. Because of this, you likely need this digital piano to start paying for itself if you are going to opt for it.
Top of the Line
When it comes to replicating an acoustic piano, the Kawai’s complicated and digital interface does immediately strike one as “natural.” But if you can get past the busy exterior, you will find one of the truest feeling and sounding pianos, period. This is due to Kawai’s patented Grand Feel keybed and key action system. The system provides various weight, counterweights, and sensor spectrums to produce the most natural feel found on a digital piano. Even better, Kawai is also widely considered to provide the best sounding voice in a digital piano too, and this continues with the MP11. However, the quality of the voice is only the tip of the iceberg with this digital piano that can serve as a one-man band if need be.
While a beginner or immediate pianist may clumsily fumble around with extra features included in digital pianos, professionals not only make full use of them but often are required to do so as part of their performance. With this in mind, the Kawai MP11 provides the user with a feature called the Virtual Technician. The Virtual Technician is essentially a suite of tools which allow you to fine-tune virtually every “physical” quality of the MP11’s sound to replicate virtually any piano in the world. The Kawai attempts to make this process a bit easier with harmonic imaging functions on an LCD display, but the fact remains that the MP11 can be a tough nut to crack for those unfamiliar with Kawai digital pianos.
3. Casio Privia PX-160 – Best Cheap Piano for Beginners
Casio as an electronics brand has been around for a while, but it has always squarely been considered a mid-tier brand. While this may not be too terribly exciting, it does offer the opportunity to find a good deal on a digital piano for beginners what will also allow them to grow with the instrument, giving you enough time to prepare for the next step in the tools required to continue expanding a once beginners skill set. The Casio Privia is our pick for the best digital piano for beginners not only because it offers good initial value but it also provides plenty of room to grow into an intermediate player.
In the Beginning
One of the primary concerns with a beginner piano is the price specifically because few beginners are initially dedicated to the craft. Generally, that kind of dedication is developed over time as a pianist’s skill improve, so making sure that the digital piano does not cost you an arm and a leg makes that a more bearable gamble. Another great thing about this particular product as well as the inclusion of a complete beginner’s kit to help you get started. Aside from the stand and the bench, which are both fairly standard, the Casio Privia PX-160 also comes with an Austin Bazaar instructional CD and 2 months worth of free lessons on the Austin Bazaar website.
Room to Grow
One thing that a digital piano for beginners needs is a quality replication, or else the consumer is better off going with a much cheaper synth keyboard. While there may be a number of synth pianos that are marketed as digital pianos, the quality of their action and voice betrays that claim. Thankfully, the PX-160 still uses Casio’s Multi-Dimensional AiR Sound Source sampling to give you a rich, clean sound regardless of the voice being used. On top of that, this digital piano also has Casio’s Tri-sensor Scaled Hammer Action II key action which, while not the best, is certainly more than suitable for a beginner who is still learning about feel.
4. Korg B1SP – Best Budget Option for Learning
Though Korg itself is one of the most well-known and respected names in the digital piano market, it is important to note that this particular product is not backed by the manufacturer. This means that any issues or disputes will have to be handled with the distributor, so any Korg-backed warranties or guarantees may not apply. That said, getting a solid Korg digital piano at this price is difficult to find easily making this our best budget digital piano. In terms of the budgetary balance, the Korg falls short in some secondary ways but is altogether an excellent value for a beginner or institutional situations.
For such an inexpensive digital piano, the Korg B1SP does a surprisingly good job of reproducing the sound and feel of an acoustic piano. Granted, it is still a second-tier quality compared to some of the other products on our list, but the value is in the quality to price ratio. Most importantly, the Korg supports an excellent natural voice as well as 7 additional voices which can be layered into a surprisingly complex 120-note polyphony. The Korg is also the only digital piano on our list that takes the onboard sound quality seriously and demonstrates this fact with the inclusion of servo-assisted motional feedback. This feature allows the B1SP to use the speakers and its housing to mimic the acoustic quality of an acoustic piano’s sound as it reverberates through the body.
One of the biggest issues with the B1SP digital piano is a fairly common one among digital pianos that have a sparse interface with numerous features: complexity. Basically, the necessity of pressing one of the few panel buttons while also pressing an unmarked piano key is just ludicrously complicated. Of course, budget-minded digital pianos are rarely used for experimental or advanced purposes, so the need for those options in this market are questionable, to begin with. Another potential issue is that the Korg digital piano has no real connectivity options which is fast becoming a standard. Being able to connect to a secondary controlling device expands the options of even the simplest digital pianos by whole factors.
5. Roland F-140R – Best Intermediate Piano with Weighted Keys
Though all styles of music, instruments, and even artistic mediums have no end to the level of mastery you can achieve, few of them have graded levels of tools. This is not the case with digital pianos as their compositional ability expands the boundaries of what we think of as pianist skill levels. As such, piano is one of the few instruments that have industry defined standards for a beginner, intermediate, and advanced players. An intermediate digital piano needs to be able to perform accurately with challenging pieces, but it does not necessarily need to be able to handle more symphonic works or the difficulties of live performances. With this in mind and the legitimately great features that the Roland F-140R provides, we feel this is the best intermediate digital piano on our list.
Everything You Need
For an intermediate pianist, the most important thing they need out of their digital piano is for it to accurately represent an acoustic instrument. This applies for both sound and feel as intermediate players are generally not yet ready to freelance the same way that an advanced player might. Thankfully, the Roland F-140R provides some of the most realistic qualities that we saw, topped only by our professional digital piano. For one, the Roland uses the same high-end sampling for this model that they do on their high-end models, the SuperNATURAL Piano. On top of that, the F-140R digital piano also provides Roland’s patented progressive hammer action, which is considered the second-most accurate digital key action on the market.
And Then Some
Outside of the well above average standard fare, the Roland digital piano also comes through with sonic variety as well. First, this digital piano comes with 11 different piano voices and another 305 non-piano voices including multiple drum kits and sound effects. You can then adjust these voices in a multitude of ways with Roland’s 34 different effects including a true sostenuto pedal. In order to get the most out of both of these features, the Roland digital piano provides up to a 128-note polyphony that allows for complex, layered compositions.
If you have made it this far, then it is because you are well aware of the common limitations of the standard digital piano. As such, when someone chooses to get a digital piano over a workstation or other alternative, they do so because they are looking for a quality of tone and voice you cannot find with the alternatives. That said, it is important to be sure you know exactly what kind of tone you are looking for, as even the difference between a grand and an upright piano is enough to change the complexion of a piece.
Most digital pianos will provide at least one or the other between the upright and grand piano, though many will provide both. Where things can get a bit more tricky in terms of value are the other voices commonly included in a digital piano. A good example of this is the organ of which is often easy to obtain a reasonably high-quality voice. On the other hand, if you do not play spiritual or other niche styles of music, the organ voice will likely go mostly unused. Other voices that fit into this mold are the harpsichord and the synth keyboard, though it is easier to justify a standard synth.
Because a digital piano is meant to appeal to a different type of musician than a digital keyboard or an even more impressive workstation, the key action will likely play an outsized role in your decision-making process. Remember, a digital piano is meant to simply substitute an acoustic piano, not provide a full suite of instruments and effects, though some of them do. As such, the most important quality of a digital piano beyond its tone will be the key action and how close to real it feels.
This is the lowest grade of key action and the least natural feeling, though it does have some indicated uses. If you are playing a song or section that is meant to be played as fast as you can, the lack of resistance from synth action piano keys will allow you to do so at top tempo. However, if you are looking for something to provide tactile feedback as you play for mood and style, then this is the worst type of key action.
This key action, as the name implies, sits somewhere between synth and fully weighted. This is actually one of the more common types of digital piano key actions due to the fact that it is not terribly difficult or expensive to configure semi-weighted keys. Fully weighted keys require a level of precision and engineering that many manufacturers stay away from. This key action will provide some tactile feedback, though it will not be true to form for an acoustic piano. Still, the feedback provided does allow you to play a bit more expressively and with a personal style that synth key action lacks.
This is the holy grail of digital piano key actions as it is nearly as close to the real things as you are liable to get. While few digital pianos actually provide the unimpeded play that an acoustic keybed can offer, they can still manage to balance the weights such that you are provided true to life feedback. This will allow you to play with a nuanced and idiosyncratic style that is all your own as well as faithfully play even the great works of art from throughout history. It is worth noting that the price jump to a fully weighted key action is significantly more than from synth action to semi-weighted.
This refers to how the keys physically feel to your finger in a tactile manner and is more of a tie-breaker than anything else. Granted, some players loathe using cheap plastic keys, regardless of how they are weighted. In this instance, there are some digital pianos that either use a high-grade plastic or even a “grand feel” that is meant to emulate the actual feeling of a grand piano.
It is also important to remember that this can have functional and performance impacts depending on how true to life the feel of the key is. This is because subtle variations in how a key behaves at the points in between playing a note and not can completely throw off a highly trained pianist. That said, few digital pianos, even amongst the top tier models, provide this level of precision and realism.
Aftertouch and escapement are two common features that heavily influence how the digital piano feels to play, even though they are precision features. Both of those features are tied to another feature that ultimately determines how a digital piano’s keybed feels to play. Specifically, the key velocity of the digital piano configures how the keys respond to pressure, both as you are playing the key and the subtle nuances of release. A number of digital pianos actually allow you to set the velocity and even the aftertouch or escapement on some of the higher-end models.
Number of Keys
This may be important depending on the range of songs that you either intend to play or compose on your digital piano. The standard piano has 88 keys, but there are actually pianos with more than that, extending their octaves beyond standard. That said, digital pianos are far more likely to have fewer keys than a standard acoustic piano rather than more. This can make playing certain songs challenging if not outright impossible, though the list is definitely a small by comparison. One thing fewer keys offers is the ability to position the digital piano in smaller spaces than a full-sized model.
Because digital pianos are not constrained by traditional physical engineering, a wide variety of keybeds exist. Outside of the standard model, there are digital pianos with 44, 49, 61, 76, 97, and 108 keys which makes choosing one a bit tricky. It is worth noting that many musicians do not actually consider keybeds with fewer than 61 keys to be anything more than keyboards. On top of that, the 61 key keybed is actually based on the organ, though this seems to cause less controversy.
A huge part of the reason people get a digital piano often has to do with the limitations placed on the user, either personally or objectively. While the cost is definitely one of the more prominent driving motivators, the ability to quickly and easily transport the digital piano from one location to another is often just as, if not more, important. That said, some digital pianos are designed to be more portable than others as is designated primarily by the frame’s design.
Specifically, if the keybed is built into the frame, then it will generally require you to disassemble it to move, making it more difficult to transport. That said, even if the keybed separates into a roughly distinct digital keyboard, that does not mean the frame itself is all that easy to disassemble either. As such, if you are looking for a digital piano with the intent that you will take it to different places to play, then you will want to make sure that the keybed is separate from the stand and that the stand itself is fairly easy to breakdown and transport as well.
This is either an incredibly important feature or completely meaningless depending on how you intend to use the digital piano. If the piano will be used by highly-skilled pianists or for formal or competitive events, then you will want to make sure that your digital piano has robust memory. The live musician is the most likely to benefit from a digital piano with more than minimal memory either on board or, preferably, in a card. This is because many high-level songs will require the use of backup tracks and live pianists often work on the fly, especially jazz pianists.
When it comes to formal or competitive events, the pianists are generally at least somewhat accomplished, though they may not actually be players of any real note. That said, a merely proficient player is often the most likely to take risks which can include attempting some variation of the techniques used by more accomplished players. Of course, if the digital piano will be used for competitions of master-level players, you would be better off using an acoustic piano instead.
Ease of Use
Depending on how many extra features a digital piano has, how well the interface is marked and arranged, and how self-contained the programming is, a digital piano will be more or less complicated to use. Some digital pianos are fairly simple, requiring little more than plugging in an AC adapter to a wall outlet and turning on the power. Others can be incredibly complex with so many features and functions that the possibilities are nearly limitless and remembering everything nearly impossible.
Considering digital pianos are generally meant to replace an acoustic piano in a setting where the acoustic piano simply is not appropriate, most manufacturers opt to go the simple route. You can still use a quick rule of thumb in that the more things a digital piano can do, the more difficult it will be to use. If the digital piano is complicated enough to run separate software, then you better be prepared for the intricacy of knowledge often required to use those functions without at least some frustrations.
Depending on how closely your digital piano mirrors a real piano, there may not actually be too many extra features. Granted, if everything with the keys and voice is good, then there is a good chance you may not necessarily be worried about extra features. That said, there are plenty of additional features that come with various digital pianos that add genuine value. This is especially true of musicians looking to get a digital piano to play during a live performance where the extra features can often add expression or effects that acoustic pianos lack.
The most common type of extra features that come with a digital piano involve the pedals commonly found on acoustic pianos. Though it is worth noting that most digital pianos will only use the two most common acoustic pedals, the mute and the sustain, while the sostenuto pedal, which requires more skill to incorporate and use, are absent. This does provide some implicit insight into which digital pianos are marketed towards the more skilled players and are likely higher quality as an effect.
In the end, the Yamaha Arius combines an amazing sounding voice with just enough new features at an incredibly reasonable price point. With one of the most accurate representations, inside and out, this piano was difficult to ignore. The rich dark wood finish combined with the brass-plated triple pedals is another nice touch. Altogether, it is a package that is simply too difficult to beat, hence why we rated it our Editor’s Choice. The fact that this is also still a fairly easy digital piano to use while also presenting a sleek and sturdy design is icing on the cake.
Of course, some people might prefer spending a bit more to get a product with a higher ceiling. In this case, we recommend the Kawai MP11 with its near-workstation like suite of features, this is a live pianists dream. That said, dreams do not come cheap, and the Kawai MP11 digital piano is by and far the most expensive product that we reviewed. However, the attention to detail concerning the keybed is so exquisite that a professional pianist may give up acoustic pianos altogether. Still, it will take time and effort to master this beast if you have the patience.