The world of pianos – especially digital pianos – can be very confusing and overwhelming, not only for beginners but also for seasoned musicians!
Today we’re going to answer most (if not all) of the questions that may pop into your head when you’re looking for the “perfect” digital piano.
In this guide, we’ll cover all the important things you should know before buying a digital piano or keyboard.
Though I do believe that no digital piano is perfect, this guide will help you to better understand how to pick the instrument that’s right for YOU and to narrow your options to 1-2 models that suit you the best.
People often fail to do proper research, choosing instead to rely on the product with the most Amazon reviews.
While this may work with some products, it doesn’t work with digital pianos.
What make things even worse is that there are many unreliable online resources (not pointing fingers here) that write about this topic without having any experience with digital or acoustic pianos whatsoever.
This results in a ton of misleading and straight-up false information that makes me wanna laugh and cry at the same time when I read that.
So, be careful where you get your information from and see if those sites can be trusted BEFORE making any big decisions!
With that out of the way, let’s jump into the good stuff and talk about the magical world of digital pianos.
First, you should know how digital pianos differ from their acoustic counterparts and why you might prefer one over the other, so let’s address this first.
Digital vs Acoustic: The Magic of The Digital World
When it comes to digital pianos, the main challenge engineers face is to reproduce two things accurately: the sound and the feel of an acoustic piano.
Both tasks are very difficult because there’s too much going on inside this amazing musical instrument.
Strings, hammers, and keys are the elements that produce the sound in an acoustic piano.
When you press a key, the attached hammer strikes the corresponding string(s), which vibrates and makes a sound.
Digital pianos don’t have strings and hammers are used only to add weight to the keys and to recreate the mechanical movement found in the traditional instrument.
To reproduce the sound of an acoustic piano and other musical instruments, digital pianos use samples.
What are Samples?
A sample is a small audio recording of a musical instrument’s sound, or of any other sound (ocean waves, sirens, wind, etc.).
Samples can also be excerpts from recorded songs. For example, a five-second bass guitar riff from a funk song can be a sample.
In this article, we’ll focus on samples used to reproduce the sound of musical instruments.
Sampling is not limited to acoustic pianos. It is widely used for guitars, strings, organs, electric pianos, drums, flutes, strings, and many other musical instruments.
This article will focus on acoustic piano samples.
Usually, samples are recorded at different velocity levels (multi-samples) to naturally respond to the way you play the keys (from the softest pianissimo to the loudest fortissimo).
In recent years, technology has become so sophisticated that high-end digital pianos provide sound that’s almost indistinguishable from a real piano.
When it comes to major brands, the recording process usually looks like this…
In a professional recording studio with a perfectly tuned acoustic piano (a grand piano in many cases), manufacturers record each note played at different volumes using multiple high-fidelity microphones.
So if the process is roughly the same for all manufacturers, why don’t all digital pianos sound the same?
Well, there are still a lot of things that manufacturers do differently.
The ultimate sound you get depends on many factors:
- 1) The acoustic piano used to record the sound and the condition of the instrument.
- 2) The equipment used to capture the sound.
- 3) The placement of the mic(s) during the recording.
- 4) The acoustic environment where the sampling process occurred.
- 5) The post-processing and algorithms used to model complex tonal interactions, like string resonance, damper resonance, cabinet resonance, natural reverberation, etc.
- 6) The length of the samples and the amount of memory dedicated to them on a digital piano.
- 7) The number of velocity layers recorded for each note. The more velocity layers, the more natural volume transitions and better expressiveness you get.
Generally, more memory means that longer/higher-quality samples with more velocity layers can be stored on a digital piano.
Cheaper models have less memory, so manufacturers have to take a slightly different approach.
Rather than recording each individual key of an acoustic piano, they record every second or every third note and then stretch the samples using modeling technologies to fill the gaps.
Moreover, to avoid using gigabytes of sampling data, many manufacturers cut off a part of the sample to reduce its size.
For example, when you depress the sustain pedal and play, say, C3 on an acoustic piano, the note will continue to resonate for well over 10 seconds.
While this helps to create a perception of a longer decay, it’s not the same decay that you hear on an acoustic piano, which is much more complex and dynamic than a simple volume decrease.
The same applies to velocity layers.
If there’s only one or two layers recorded for each note on a digital piano, it becomes very difficult to reproduce the wide dynamic range of an acoustic piano.
In that case, to recreate the dynamics, the tone generator of the digital piano will just increase/decrease the volume of the same sample rather than using separate layers for different velocities, which is never ideal.
For an acoustic piano, depending on how hard or soft you press the keys, the sound changes not only in volume but also in character.
So it’s not just a matter of simple volume change.
Now, if you’re beginner, you may not even notice these nuances, since manufacturers do try to make those transitions as smooth and realistic as possible.
However, if you have a more trained ear, this could become an annoying thing that bothers you every time you play the instrument, which is never fun.
Another interesting technology that has been gaining popularity is called Physical Modeling.
Various modeling techniques and advanced software recreate the physical behavior of the acoustic instrument, in which hundreds of elements interact with each other, making up the ultimate “imperfect” sound that we hear.
While sampling remains the most popular technology in digital pianos today, you’ll hardly find a digital piano that doesn’t use some kind of modeling on top of its samples (e.g., for string resonance, damper resonance, etc.) to further improve the sound and make it sound more natural.
There are also some digital pianos that use purely modeled piano sound with no samples at all.
For example, most Roland high-end digital pianos today feature the SuperNATURAL Piano Modeling sound generator that uses only physical modeling to produce the sound.
There are also various VST plugins (Virtual Studio Technology) that provide piano modeled sounds and effects.
There’s a lot of debate today over which technology produces a more accurate, natural sound, but let’s leave that for another article.
I’ll only say that both technologies have pros and cons. It’s ultimately a mixture of both that yields the best results.
If you want a quick overview of the primary differences, please refer to the video below and to our table that shows the pros and cons of digital pianos.
- Never needs to be tuned
- Easier to move around
- No maintenance costs
- Indifferent to temperature & humidity fluctuations
- A variety of built-in sounds (not just piano tones)
- Play at any time without bothering others (by practicing with headphones and adjusting the volume)
- Recording features
- Learning features (metronome, built-in songs, etc.)
- Connect to other electronic musical instruments & devices
- Use as MIDI-controllers to create music on your computer
- Can’t beat the sound and touch of the real thing yet
- Requires a power source to operate
- Depreciates in value quicker than acoustic pianos (as new models are introduced)
- Don’t look as grand and beautiful as acoustic pianos (esp. compared to grand pianos)
- Lacks the “soul” of an acoustic piano
Keyboard vs Digital Piano
The difference between a digital piano and a keyboard easily causes confusion.
In fact, people often use these terms interchangeably, not realizing that these are two different instruments designed with different purposes in mind.
While every digital piano can be called a digital keyboard, not every keyboard should be called a digital piano.
Digital pianos come in all shapes, sizes, and forms, but a main goal unites them.
A digital piano aims to mimic the feel and sound of an acoustic piano as closely as possible.
The first thing you’ll notice is that all digital pianos come with a full set of 88 fully-weighted, hammer-action keys.
In fact, this is the most obvious distinction from keyboards, which usually have only 76 or 61 non-weighted or semi-weighted keys.
Another important aspect is the sound.
This is achieved by using high-quality multi-samples, as well as sophisticated modeling technologies that simulate organic elements of a piano’s sound, such as sympathetic resonance, damper resonance, key-off effect, etc.
Digital pianos are straightforward instruments designed as an alternative to their acoustic counterparts.
Generally, you won’t find hundreds of built-in sounds, songs, accompaniment styles, and interactive features on a digital piano.
However, some digital pianos (e.g. Yamaha’s DGX-660 and Casio’s PX-S3000) share many qualities of arranger keyboards, while still being full-fledged digital pianos.
Here is a quick overview of digital pianos and their main features:
Digital (aka electronic) keyboards are a slightly different beast.
Their most obvious difference from digital pianos is that they don’t try to replicate an acoustic piano, or this isn’t their main focus.
As with digital pianos, there are different types of electronic keyboards.
There are portable arranger keyboards, synthesizers, music workstations, MIDI-controllers, etc.
These days, it can be tricky to categorize a particular keyboard since they often share features with other keyboard types.
Now let’s take a quick look at each keyboard and digital piano type to point out their main differences. We’ll start with digital pianos.
Types of Digital Pianos
As I mentioned before, digital pianos aim to reproduce the feel and sound of an acoustic piano as closely as possible.
Yet not all digital pianos are created equal. There are different types of digital pianos, and depending on your needs and budget, you may prefer one over another.
Let’s go over each type and define their main features and usage scenarios.
Portable digital pianos are also known as “slab pianos” and are probably the most popular type of digital piano.
The biggest advantage of these instruments is their design.
They don’t come with a base (stand) and like portable keyboards, they can be moved around with ease and stored when not in use.
The main difference from portable keyboards is that portable digital pianos have a full range of 88 hammer-action keys, like an acoustic piano.
This makes them considerably heavier than non-weighted keyboards, though they’re still much lighter than acoustic ones.
The sound quality is also superior due to higher quality samples, a higher polyphony count, and a wider dynamic range.
Price is a big reason why portable pianos are popular.
At the same time, it’s important to remember that you’ll probably want to buy a stand for your portable piano, which can cost you an extra $30-$100, depending on the design (see the Accessories section).
- Yamaha P-45 | Review
- Yamaha P-125 | Review
- Casio CDP-S150 | Review
- Casio PX-S1000 | Review
- Kawai ES110 | Review
- Roland FP-30 | Review
- Roland FP-90 | Review
- Kawai ES8 | Review
- Casio PX-560 | Review
- Yamaha P-515 | Review
- Roland FP-60 | Review
Console digital pianos are the second most popular type of digital pianos.
They come closest to an acoustic piano in terms of the main elements such as sound, touch, and look.
Console digital pianos differ from their portable counterparts in that they come with a furniture-style cabinet and 3 pedals that resemble the feel and look of an acoustic piano.
Several things (good and bad) come from the console design.
You don’t need to buy a stand or pedals separately.
Thanks to an elegant, acoustic-like design, a console digital piano will be a beautiful addition to your home decor.
Even so, here are the main disadvantages of console pianos: size and weight.
Most console pianos weight from 70 to 150 lbs. and are meant to stay in one place.
Yes, you can move them around easier than traditional pianos, but they simply aren’t designed to be carried around a lot, so keep that in mind.
The prices of console digital pianos differ greatly, ranging from $700 to $5,000.
The price largely depends on how closely the digital piano resembles a real acoustic piano.
- Casio PX-870 | Review
- Yamaha YDP-144 | Review
- Roland F-140R | Review
- Kawai KDP110 | Review
- Korg G1 Air | Review
Upright digital pianos are a sub-type of console digital pianos. They feature big, fancy cabinets that are nearly identical to that of an upright piano.
This is the most expensive type of digital piano (not counting digital grands and hybrids).
You get not only the design of an acoustic piano but also a sophisticated hammer action (often with wooden keys), incredibly detailed samples, and a multi-speaker sound system.
Digital Grand Pianos
This is the least common and most expensive type of digital piano.
Many digital grand pianos from the big brands (e.g. Yamaha, Roland, and Kawai) cost more than a new upright.
Just as with upright-style digital pianos, these offer an uncompromising playing experience, delivering big, powerful sound via their state-of-the-art speaker systems.
The big body of a grand piano helps this instrument produce an impressively deep, resonant sound that resembles the sound of a real grand piano.
Prices start at $1,500 for the inferior ones (from Williams and Suzuki) and go up to a whopping $15,000 for superior brands like Yamaha and Kawai.
Formally, this is not a type of digital piano, but I have chosen to treat it as one.
To put it simply, an arranger digital piano is a digital piano (portable OR console) with features commonly found in arranger keyboards.
What makes them different is that in addition to all those extra features, they still have detailed piano samples and 88 hammer action keys.
Unlike classic digital pianos, these instruments come with a whole world of built-in sounds, rhythms, songs, effects, and recording features.
As a result, their control panels are often cluttered with buttons and dials, and also with displays to improve the user experience.
Casio and Yamaha dominate this segment of the market.
Popular models include the Yamaha DGX-660, Casio PX-S3000, Casio PX-780, and the Yamaha CSP-series.
In many cases, there is a stripped-down version of an “arranger” model that provides a very similar piano experience but lacks many of the extra features (e.g. Yamaha DGX-660 – P-125; Casio PX-S3000 – PX-S1000; Casio PX-780 – PX-770; Yamaha CSP-series – CLP-series).
Stage pianos are designed with live performances in mind.
Rather than try looking like an acoustic piano, they aim to be a compact, gig-friendly alternative for use on stage or in studio.
Like digital pianos, stage pianos focus on acoustic piano sounds and realistic touch response.
That said, you’ll commonly find a good selection of electric piano tones, organs, and a simple synth section.
The front panel is also a lot more streamlined, focusing on hands-on control, which allows you to make quick changes on the fly.
Speaking of controls, stage pianos are more adept at sound shaping, providing various sound effects and parameters that you can adjust to get the “right” sound.
The most obvious difference from classic digital pianos is that stage pianos don’t normally have built-in speakers.
This is because they are designed for use with an external amplifier or PA system.
- Roland RD-2000 | Review
- Yamaha CP88 | Review
- Nord Stage 3 | Review
- Nord Piano 4 | Review
- Nord Grand | Review
- Korg SV-2 | Review
- Korg Grandstage | Review
- Kawai MP11SE
[Comparison Table of Digital Piano Types]
Types of Keyboards
Now that the digital pianos types are out of the way, let’s quickly go over the main keyboard types.
Portable Arranger Keyboards
Portable keyboards (a.k.a. portable arrangers) are what many people confuse with digital pianos.
A portable keyboard is usually the first thing beginners consider as their first instrument for learning the piano. The main reason for this is the affordability of portable keyboards.
For a beginner who is not 100% committed to mastering the piano, it’s an appealing option since it doesn’t risk overspending before a person knows whether they’ll stick with piano or not.
The trade-off is that you won’t be able to fully understand or experience what it’s like to play a real piano because portable keyboards hardly provide a comparable level of realism in terms of sound, but especially touch.
A typical portable keyboard cost anywhere from $100 to $300 and comes with 76, 73, or 61 semi-weighted or non-weighted keys.
Unlike the fully-weighted action on digital pianos, semi-weighted action doesn’t use hammers to recreate the feel of an acoustic piano.
There are a few other advantages of portable keyboards, aside from price.
First of all, as you can tell from their name that they’re portable.
Most of these keyboards are only 10-15 lbs., so you can drag them around with ease. You can put them on a table and stow them away when not in use.
Another advantage of portable keyboards is all the extra features and functions they provide.
Most portable keyboards are loaded with hundreds of sounds, songs, rhythms, and other so-called bells and whistles.
While I prefer quality over quantity, and many of the built-in tones sound plasticky and unrealistic, these features are definitely a plus for those who want to explore various instruments and styles and to have fun with interactive features.
That’s why portable keyboards are a popular choice for kids and people beginning their musical journey.
As I said before, it all comes down to your personal needs and the goal you hope to achieve.
The comparison table below sums up the main differences between digital pianos and portable keyboards.
A synthesizer is an electronic keyboard that generates or copies a wide variety of sounds and is commonly used in music production.
Synths allow you to create virtually any kind of sound you can imagine, including sounds of musical instruments, voices, the wind, a burst, a siren, a car, and the list can go on forever.
How is this possible?
Well, synthesizers come with a set of basic waveforms and pre-recorded sounds, which you can mix together, as well as alter the sound’s attack, sustain, decay, and release time, add filters and effects to get the exact sound you need.
Arranger Keyboards / Workstations
Arrangers are designed primarily for professional musicians and a wide variety of backing tracks (chord and rhythm patterns) that will match the style, rhythm, and tempo of whatever you’re playing.
This allows composers and songwriters to create an accompaniment for a song quickly and easily without calling in musicians to play all instruments live.
A keyboard workstation is like a computer built into a keyboard.
Workstations combine a wide range of tools and allow users to perform a wide variety of tasks, including sound synthesis, sequencing, audio recording, working with sound effects/filters, etc.
They usually come with hundreds if not thousands of top-notch sound samples, which can be customized with knobs and sliders that allow you to control various sound parameters on the fly.
Watch the video below to better understand the difference between keyboard workstations and professional arrangers:
A MIDI controller (aka MIDI keyboard) is a device that generates and transmits MIDI data to other electronic devices that can interpret the data and can trigger sounds or control sound parameters accordingly.
A typical MIDI controller is a piano-style keyboard, which connects to a computer and sends MIDI data to it via USB or MIDI ports.
MIDI controllers can’t produce any sounds on their own (there’s no sound engine inside).
They only track your key presses (velocity, length, pressure) and various control elements (knobs, sliders, pads, etc.). That data is then sent to your computer or another musical keyboard that generates the actual sound.
Most MIDI-controllers have non-weighted keys and are not designed to mimic the feel of an acoustic piano. The non-weighted action facilitates non-piano sounds, like synths, organs, electric pianos, etc.
Some MIDI controllers target piano players such as the M-Audio Hammer 88 or the more premium Kawai VPC1, which features the incredibly realistic RM3II keyboard, which is ideal for playing piano sounds.
Refer to our MIDI Connection Guide to learn more about how to use your keyboard as a MIDI controller and about what you can do when connected.
Best Digital Piano Brands
When it comes to digital pianos I recommend sticking with the following brands:
- Yamaha | Full Brand Overview
- Roland | Full Brand Overview
- Casio | Full Brand Overview
These are giants in the world of digital musical instruments. They are proven, reliable brands that provide the best technology in the industry that other brands can’t offer right now.
Buying a digital piano from one these 7 brands will save you the time and headache of dealing with lesser-known brands that deliver poor build quality and provide an unrealistic sound and feel.
While this may not always be the case, do you really want to take that chance?
Brands to Avoid
There are many more I could mention, but these are the most popular ones.
Digital pianos from these manufacturers usually look good and are very affordable, but their sound realism and key action leaves a lot to be desired.
Types of Keyboard Actions
There are 3 main types of keyboard actions you’ll likely encounter:
- 1) Non-weighted
- 2) Semi-weighted
- 3) Fully weighted (Hammer Action)
The difference between these actions comes from the type of mechanisms they use.
This, in turn, determines how much force is needed to press a key and how realistic the action will be compared to the feel of an acoustic piano keyboard.
Depending on your needs and playing style, you may prefer one type more than the others.
This is the most lightweight action and is found commonly in organs, synthesizers, entry-level keyboards, and many other keyboard-based instruments that don’t aim to mimic the feel of an acoustic piano.
The synth action uses a basic spring-loaded mechanism. The keys are usually thin and small with a light plastic feel.
The action will likely feel uncomfortable to piano players as it’s just too quick, lacks resistance, and feels springy.
At the same time, for some types of music (other than the piano) synth action is preferred for its playability and light feel, which is perfect for playing synth leads, organ tunes, etc.
- Great for playing music other than piano
- Allows for fast note repetitions
- Most non-weighted keyboards are very portable
- Doesn’t feel like an acoustic piano keyboard (at all)
- Not the best choice for piano players
- May be hard to transition to an acoustic piano after practicing on this type of action
A semi-weighted action feels similar to the synth action, yet it offers slightly more resistance and better control.
It uses the same spring-loaded mechanism, but compared to synth action, the keys feel heavier thanks to either stiffer springs or additional weights.
As a result, the keys return to their “up” position a bit more slowly. Even so, the action is far from what you get on an acoustic piano and is not recommended if you want to focus on piano playing.
It’s a basically a middle ground between synth action and fully weighted action, making it perfect for those who don’t want the heavier feel of hammer action or those who constantly switch between piano and non-piano sounds.
Non-weighted action commonly appears in music/synth workstations, arranger keyboards, and some stage pianos (usually versions with less than 88 keys)
- Feels closer to an acoustic piano than a non-weighted action
- Great for playing organ and electric piano sounds
- Relatively light and portable
- Still lacks realism and piano-like feedback, despite being heavier than synth action
- Not the best choice for piano players
- May be hard to transition to an acoustic piano after practicing on this type of action
Fully Weighted (Hammer Action)
A hammer action keyboard is designed to replicate the touch and feel of an acoustic piano.
To achieve this goal, manufacturers have added little hammers under (or behind) each key to recreate mechanical movement similar to a real piano.
However, not all hammer action keyboards are created equal.
A $500 entry-level piano and a $5,000 high-end piano can both have hammer action keys, but each will be completely different actions with different feels and levels of realism.
As a general rule, the higher the price of the instrument, the more sophisticated the hammer system it uses.
High-end models often have real wooden keys with an escapement mechanism that recreate every nuance of an acoustic piano action, including the design of the hammers themselves.
Also, the total length of each key (including the part behind the fallboard that you don’t see) is usually much longer compared to that of entry-level digital pianos.
This becomes more important as you develop your playing skills. The longer the length of the keys, the further back you can have the pivot point, which makes it much easier to play further up the keys.
If your goal is to learn to play the piano, I can’t stress enough how important it is to practice on a fully-weighted keyboard as opposed to a semi-weighted or non-weighted one.
This is the only type of key action that facilitates developing proper finger strength and technique. Moreover, it will make it much easier to transition to an acoustic piano further down the line (if you decide to do so).
- The most realistic type of keyboard actions
- Helps develop proper finger strength and technique
- The best choice for piano players
- Relatively heavy and not as portable
- More expensive than non-weighted and semi-weighted actions
- Not as versatile due to its heavier feel
Popular Features of Hammer Action Keyboards
The Definitive Glossary
There are many new terms and names of technologies that you will encounter when looking for a digital keyboard.
Here are some of the most common and important ones that you should know and understand to make an informed buying decision.
Functions and Features
Not only do digital pianos provide versatility and convenience not available with acoustic pianos, but they also come with a bunch of extra features that make playing and learning more enjoyable and fun.
The tone of an acoustic piano is quite complex and consists of many different elements.
Depending on the model, digital pianos reproduce various nuances of an acoustic piano sound to get even closer to the sound of a real acoustic piano.
Some digital pianos also allow you to adjust these parameters to better suit your preferences (more resonance, less hammer noise, etc.)
Other elements of piano sound reproduced in some digital pianos (typically higher-end models) include:
- Hammer Noise
- Key On/Off Noise
- Damper Noise
- Cabinet Resonance
- Aliquot Resonance
- Undamped String Resonance
While some of these elements are subtle and obscure, they add to the overall realism and produce a more organic sound.
The ability to connect to other music gear and smart devices is another important advantage of digital pianos and keyboards.
By connecting your instrument to external devices you can open up a world of possibilities when it comes to learning, music creation, and performing.
How Long Do Digital Pianos Last?
While digital pianos can serve you for a long time (sometimes 10 or more years), their lifespan tends to be shorter than acoustic pianos, and this is not necessarily due to wear and tear (though this also can be the case)
The digital piano market today is very active and is still in its development stage.
New models (with new features and technologies) come out every year, bringing even more realistic piano playing experiences.
This situation is similar to the electronics market in general (smartphones, laptops, etc. )
Consequently, a digital piano you bought, say, 10 years ago, will have a hard time competing with models introduced only a few years ago. That’s why you’ll likely find very few people using a 20-year-old digital piano today.
The technology available back then is much inferior to what you can get today for the same (or less) money.
And since digital pianos haven’t been around for that long, it’s kind of hard to predict the future direction of the industry and if such trends will continue.
That being said, for just $1,000 today you can buy a decent digital piano that sounds and feels close to an upright piano, and which won’t lose its actuality in the future.
One reason is the obsolescence we just talked about, and another one is wear and tear.
While digital pianos are electric instruments with fewer elements that can break or wear out compared to acoustic pianos, there will still be some mechanical wear and tear, and your digital piano may need a repair eventually. This is especially true for the key action.
Over time, it can develop more noise (the felt under the keys wear out, the keys become clunkier and looser, etc.), which can make the playing experience much less enjoyable.
How fast will that happen? It depends.
First, it will come down to the key action itself.
It should come as no surprise that higher-end digital pianos with higher-quality and more sophisticated action mechanics will serve for more years than a $300 keyboard.
Perhaps you’ll play it for an hour or two several times a week, or perhaps you’ll have a big family and all your kiddos will play the piano daily for hours.
Either way, by the time that happens, there will probably be newer, better models available on the market, and the question is, “Will you be willing to invest money into repair?”
In some cases, repairs can be half as expensive as the piano itself, or in other cases, it is easier to get a new model instead.
Getting parts can also be difficult, especially if your digital piano is more than 10 years old.
When it comes to acoustic pianos, the situation is different because they tend to cost considerably more than digital pianos and “obsolescence” is not really a thing for them.
So it makes much more sense to repair an acoustic piano than to repair a digital one.
But it all depends on your situation of course, and if you’re a happy owner of the Kawai Novus NV10 (~ $10,000) or the Yamaha AvantGrand NU1X (~ $6,000), it will probably make more sense to repair your instrument than to get a new one. But that’s a different story…
There are a number of accessories you may want purchase in addition to a digital piano.
What accessories you choose depends on what you get with your digital piano out of the box and also on your personal needs.
Nearly all console digital pianos come with an integral stand (cabinet) and 3 pedals, so you don’t need to spend extra money on that.
Most portable pianos don’t come with a stand of any kind and only include a small plastic sustain pedal (footswitch). So with portable models, you’ll likely to spend more money on additional accessories than with console ones.
When it comes to stands, you basically have two options.
The first is to buy a portable Z- or X-type stand that is portable and easy to stow when not in use. Such stands are usually collapsible and adjustable, making them even more versatile.
The second option is to buy a furniture-style stand that manufacturers often offer for their portable digital pianos. Such stands are sturdier than X-type stands and best suited for home use.
They’re easy to move around, but you probably wouldn’t use them for gigs as they’re not as portable as X-style stands.
The price of furniture-style stands can be as much as $100-$150.
When it comes to piano pedals, there are three options to consider.
The first one, is to use the sustain pedal that comes with your instrument.
Most entry-level digital pianos come with a flimsy, plastic footswitch that feels nothing like an acoustic piano pedal. But it still does its job, and for a beginner, it would be a satisfactory solution.
On the other hand, if you’re a more experienced player and want a more substantial and realistic sustain pedal, you may want to consider a piano-style chrome pedal that feels and looks like a real piano pedal.
Luckily they aren’t very expensive, and I always recommend the M-Audio SP-2, which has proven to be a reliable, high-quality sustain pedal that will work with any digital piano or keyboard with a sustain jack (most of them have one).
Those who don’t just need a sustain pedal (the most used piano pedal), but need all three pedals found on an acoustic piano (sustain, soft, and sostenuto), should consider buying a 3-pedal unit that manufacturers offer for their digital pianos.
Usually, those 3-pedal units are designed to be fastened to a furniture-style stand (both should be compatible with your specific piano model).
Choosing a good pair of headphones for your digital pianos is probably as important as choosing a digital piano itself, especially if you’re going to spend a lot of time using them.
It’s your headphones that deliver the sound, so if they are one of those subpar, generic $15 ones, you won’t experience a full and rich depth of sound or enjoy your playing as much as you could.
A good pair of headphones, on the other hand, will provide a clear and detailed sound that onboard speakers can’t offer.
Check out our guide to learn how to choose the best-sounding headphones for your digital piano.
Alright, you’ve bought a digital piano, but you need to sit on something, right?
Luckily, this isn’t a huge problem. You can find a good bench for your digital piano.
There are a variety of options on the market, so it’s relatively easy to find the one that catches your eye and fits your budget.
There are basically two types of benches:
The price of a bench varies from about $20 to $60+ depending on type, brand name, and materials.
There several types of external speakers that you can use with your keyboard or digital piano.
A keyboard amp is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about amplifying the keyboard.
A keyboard amp usually consists of a power amp and a speaker housed in one unit.
They are designed to provide a more powerful, higher-quality sound, with a better bass response compared to onboard speakers.
Amps are quite versatile and can be used in a variety of situations, starting from a small band rehearsal and ending with big performances and live events.
There are a few factors you need to consider before buying external speakers including portability, power, input and output channels, extra features, etc.
If your home isn’t the only place where you’ll use your piano, you should definitely consider buying a keyboard bag to protect your instrument during transport and to make it easier to carry around.
Some manufacturers offer their own branded keyboard bags, while others don’t. Regardless, you have many options from other trusted brands like Gator, Kaces, etc.
Here are my two favorite protective cases for long-distance travel:
For light travel, you don’t need those heavy-duty plastic cases, which are quite expensive.
However, if you’re traveling by plane or train, one of those cases is a must if you want to keep your instrument safe.
For car travel, you’ll be better off with something lightweight and less expensive.
Here are the three keyboard bags I recommend for light travel:
- 1. Gator Padded Gig Bags
- 2. Gator Pro-Go Gig Bags (with removable backpack straps)
- 3. Casio PRIVCASE Privia Case
- 4. Yamaha Soft Case for 88-Key Keyboards
Buying a Digital Piano: My Recommendations
When it comes to buying a digital piano, there are two ways you can go – order online or buy in a physical store. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.
While I always recommend playing a digital piano in-person to ensure that YOU like how it sounds and feels, this may not always be possible.
Let’s look at each option in detail so you can decide which one is best for you.
Despite strong competition from online retailers, brick and mortar stores are a popular place to buy musical instruments and digital pianos in particular.
- 1) You can try out the instrument in person to find out what you like or don’t like about it.
- 2) It’s much easier to make a decision and be confident about it when you have actually played the piano yourself.
- 3) You receive personalized attention from the sales staff. You can get a recommendation from a sale’s person for your particular situation (needs and experience), as well as a demonstration of how the instrument sounds from a listener’s perspective.
- 4) You can pick up your piano immediately, without having to wait for delivery (in most cases).
- 1) A sale’s person influences your decision and can talk you into buying a piano you’re hesitant about or not in love with.
- 2) Prices in physical stores tend to be higher than online, especially in small local ones.
- 3) You’re usually stuck with a very limited selection of models (usually the ones that make the retailer the most money).
Online sales for musical instruments are growing each year, and people are definitely growing in confidence about buying a digital piano online today over, say, 5 years ago.
This is actually not surprising considering the many advantages of buying online.
- 1) Save time and effort (saving on gas, no parking hassles, no need to wait for a sale’s person, etc.)
- 2) Enjoy the convenience of shopping at home, 24/7.
- 3) A wide range of models is available. Almost any digital piano or keyboard can be purchased online.
- 4) Benefit from consumer & expert reviews, forum discussions, and video demonstrations, which are more trustworthy sources of information than the opinion of a salesperson.
- 5) There’s no pressure. You can take your time and weigh all the pros and cons to make a thought-out decision, avoiding the salesperson influence.
- 7) The “price + shipping (usually free)” price is usually lower compared to brick-and-mortar stores.
- 8) If you have some issues with the piano and it’s still under warranty, you don’t need to bring it back to the store you bought it from. In most cases, an online retailer will collect, repair, and return the piano free of charge.
- 1) You can’t personally try out the instrument and may potentially buy one you don’t love (though you can still visit a showroom before ordering online).
- 2) You don’t get your piano immediately (usually takes 2-5 days), and in some cases, delivery can be delayed.
- 3) There is a security risk (payment fraud, personal information). That’s why I recommend only using well-known, reliable online retailers.
List of Retailers
Here are the most popular and trusted online retailers I recommend:
This giant needs no introduction.
As one of the largest online retailers in the world, Amazon provides a wide selection of keyboards and digital pianos, with special discounts and bundle deals (more discounts and next-day delivery is available for Prime Members).
- Reliable and trusted
- Tons of verified customer reviews
- Secured payments
- Sales and special offerings
- Fast and cheap shipping (often free)
Sweetwater is one of the largest and highest-rated music retailers in the US. It’s known for its excellent customer service, well-designed and intuitive website, a variety of payment options and financing plans.
Many of my US-based friends who play music name Sweetwater as their favorite music store.
- Nearly every order received by 3 p.m. Eastern ships the SAME DAY
- FREE shipping to lower 48 states
- 99.95% warehouse accuracy
- Expedited shipping available
- Their central location reaches most states in 1-4 business days
- Exclusive free 2-year warranty (Total Confidence Coverage™) with most products they offer
Guitar Center / Musician’s Friend
These 2 music retailers are owned by one company and offer similar if not identical products and prices. Even their websites seem to operate on the same (slightly modified) platform.
It’s the largest and most well-known chain of musical instrument retailers in the US and probably in the world.
- Free Shipping applies to most orders shipped within the 48 contiguous U.S. states & D.C.
- Price Match. See a better price? They’ll match any verified price from any authorized U.S. dealer for the identical new item up to 45 days after purchase.
- 45-day return policy. If you’re not 100% happy with your purchase, send it back. You’ve got up to 45 days. No hassles.
- The largest selection of music gear in the world. Over 1,700,000 items in stock and ready to ship.
UK & Europe:
There are two online retailers that I absolutely recommend for those who live in the UK and Europe:
- Online since 1996
- The largest online retailer of musical instruments in Europe (based in Germany)
- Purchases at Thomann are backed up by their 3-year warranty, i.e. they extend the manufacturer’s warranty period (usually 12 months) to a full 36 months – at their own cost
- Free shipping from €398 euros (Worldwide)
- Europe’s largest warehouse = best possible prices
- Online since 2003
- One of the largest retailers of musical instruments and equipment in the UK & Europe
- Local websites in 19 countries
- Delivery to 196 countries worldwide
- 30-day money back guarantee on everything, with FREE returns (can be expanded to up to 120 days)
You might also like:
Digital Piano vs Keyboard vs Synthesizer (Full Comparison)
Digital vs Acoustic Piano: In-depth Comparison (+ Infographic)
Best Digital Pianos & Keyboards (All Price Points)
The Worst | Best Digital Piano & Keyboard Brands (The Definitive Guide)
I can’t believe the effort you toke to create this post. It is the ultimate Bible for non acoustic piano buyers. Thanks for sharing all this knowledge.
I’d love to hear your opinion about the casio px 560m as an option instead of the marvellous casio px870.
If the “acustic” experience with the px560m is similar to the px870, i wouldn’t mind to buy the stand separately and get all the fun that goes with it. I have tried the yamaha gdx660 in the store but the keys are far from a real piano on it.
Anyway, thanks for all the posts you have written! Keep the energy.. Best regards
Hi Jesus, thanks for the kind words! Indeed, I’ve put a lot of work into it, and I’m glad to hear it has been helpful to you.
Yeah, the PX-560 is great. In fact, it’s the most advanced model in the Privia line and a solid choice if you want an instrument not just for piano playing.
The PX-560 is very similar to the PX-870 as far as piano playing goes, but the PX-870 does have an upgraded piano sound and better onboard speakers, which results in a slightly better piano playing expirience.
On the other hand, the PX-870 is nowhere near as good as the PX-560 is terms of all the extra features that come with it. I talk about the PX-560 in a bit more detail here (comparison with the CGP700).
You deserved it! You did a great job, because this is the ultimate Bible for non acoustic piano buyers.
Thank you, April, I appreciate your kind words.
Hi, Thanks for this Post, This has been very helpful. I am trying to by something under $300 as I am beginner and I am not sure if I am going to stick to it for long for sure. I was leaning towards YPG 235 but it looks like EW300 is also a similar one . not sure which one to choose and which one is better as I don t have much idea to it except for the semi weighted Keys etc, my concern is if I buy YPG235 will it support modern connectivity features as the latest models does ( I am not sure how much important that is down the row for learning). Kindly provide a suggestion, I am open to other brands/Models as well with in $300 range. Thanks!
Hi Yuvi, thanks for your comment!
I don’t think connectivity will be an issue with either of these keyboards. In fact, most portable keyboards and digital pianos today have all the main connectors including a headphone jack, sustain jack and USB to Host port, which will be enough for most players, not just beginners.
The reason why the EW300 might not be the best choice is that it has synth type keys, while the YPG-235 has semi-weighted keys, which will feel slightly heavier and more realistic than the EW300’s.
In this price range the Yamaha YPG-235 and the Casio WK-245 provide the most value for the money, in my opinion. If piano is your focus and you don’t care much about extra sounds/features, I’d also recommend taking a look at the Yamaha NP-32, to me, it would be the optimal choice for piano playing at this price point.
And if you’re ready to stretch your budget just a little bit, I encourage you to check out the Alesis Coda Pro, which has hammer action keys, great piano sound, and 128-note polyphony. So overall it will provide a considerably more realistic playing experience than the keyboards I mentioned above.
More info about the Coda Pro and other good digital pianos under $500 here.
Thank you very much for your time and suggestions Lucas. Much appreciated 🙂
I was checking online for digital piano reviews and came across your review, and I most say it was very comprehensive, thank you for sharing it.
I bought a used Yamaha DGX640 but noticed after playing it for a while that the keys make a noise when played as you described in your review. I usually use headphones to avoid hearing the noise and have started to consider purchasing another piano. What do you think of the Alesis Coda Pro? I have never played it but have seen online reviews of it on YouTube, I will like your opinion of it. Thanks!
It’s a fine keyboard for a beginner. If you’re a more seasoned player, I’d recommend sticking with brands like Roland, Yamaha, Kawai. Take a look at the Roland FP-30, Yamaha P-125, and Kawai ES-110.
Thanks, Great information. My oldest son, 14, liked the Roland FP-50 the best of the limited electric pianos he has tried so far (he has yet to try the FP-30). I did listen to a Roland FP-30 and it did sound very good to me from the built in speakers. We do have a medium grand at home and I’m looking for a keyboard so both boys can practice at the same time and for a unit we can bring on extended trips for practice and for small local performances. My boys are quite advanced, my oldest plays chamber music at a local university program, and I was wondering if it would be worth looking into a Nord Piano 3. Yes, you need external speakers, but does it really give you significantly better sound and action compared to a Roland FP-30 for an advanced kid? I have yet to find a Nord Piano 3 in a local store to try out.
Hi Karl, well these are two quite different instruments you’re comparing here.
The Nord Piano 3 although focuses on providing an authentic piano experience, it’s a performance-oriented piano. It has no built-in speakers and has various knobs for changing sound effects on the fly, which is very handy for a performer.
It wouldn’t be very fair to compare it to the entry-level FP-30, which cost four times less than the Nord. But if you’re looking for a realistic piano playing experience, there are much more realistic keyboards than the Nord Piano 3 in this price range.
I’d recommend taking a look at the Kawai ES8 and the Roland FP-90, which are currently the best digital pianos under $2000 on the market.
With a $3000 price tag, the Nord Piano 3 won’t give you a better sound or feel than those two keyboards, but for gigs, it would be a very nice option since it’s lighter and smaller than the other two.
You also mentioned the FP-50, which is also a very capable instrument, but there’s actually a newer model called the FP-60, which was released just a few months ago and replaced the FP-50.
So for piano playing, I’d recommend considering the following digital pianos:
$500-1000: Kawai ES110, Roland FP-30, Yamaha P-125
$1000-1500: Roland FP-60, Yamaha P-515, Casio PX-560
$1500-2000: Kawai ES8, Roland FP-90
You’ll hardly find more realistic portable digital pianos in these price ranges.
Fantastic site. Thank you for all of the time and thought you’ve put into this. Always nice to read someone else’s thoughts/experiences, especially when they’re well-communicated. Question for you: do you have a “Top 10 list” somewhere on your site? When I click on Top 5 – Intermediate, it takes me to “Best Pianos for Under $1000/$800” and not an Intermediate list. I’m willing to pay up to $1500 for a nice digital piano for home playing/practicing and would love your opinion as to which 1 or 2 I should look at. Sounds like the Korg G1 Air may be your #1 pick, but please let me know your thoughts in the $1000-$2000 (or $1.5K) price range.
Hey Andy, I’m glad you enjoyed reading the site. For now, I only have 3 “top list” articles.
Since price usually correlates with the level of player the keyboard is intended for, I decided not to create a separate list for, say, intermediate players, because it would contain the same instruments as the “Best under $800” list.
There is actually no strict division into “levels”, and these terms are mostly used to help people understand at which segment/price range to look at depending on their level of experience.
People use different criteria when looking for a digital piano. Some people doing their research depending on the price, others on their level of experience, some are looking for a particular type of digital pianos (portable, console, stage).
So in order to not duplicate my articles (strictly saying) and write about every type, every price range, and every level separately, I try to combine at least two criteria in each article, since they often correlate with each other.
For example, the “6 Best Digital Pianos Under $800 for Intermediate Players” article combines price and level factor.
The “5 Best Digital Pianos Under $1000 for Home Use” combines price and type factor.
That’s why you when you clicked on Intermediate in the menu you saw two articles “Under $800” and “Under $1000“. Both articles list best digital pianos intended for intermediate players.
But while the “Under 800” article list mainly portable digital pianos, the “Under 1000” lists console digital pianos intended for home use.
By the way, in each of “Top List” articles, right after the title you can see tags that specify the type of digital pianos listed there (console, portable, stage) and the level they’re intended for (beginner, intermediate, advanced)
In the future, I also plan to make lists for advanced players, and $1000-2000 price range.
Now back to your question. If you’re looking for a console digital piano in the $1000-1500 range I’d recommend looking at:
1) Casio PX-870
2) Korg G1 Air
3) Yamaha YDP-163
4) Roland F140-R
5) Kawai KDP-110
If we’re talking about portable digital pianos:
$1000-1500: Roland FP-60 , Yamaha P-515 , Casio PX-560
$1500-2000: Kawai ES8, Roland FP-90
Yeah no fault here…
Only issue, why not give physically modeled piano sounds some love in this article?
Hi Pete, thanks for your suggestion! Yeah physical modeling definitely deserves to be in the article, will add it ASAP!
Hi, thank you so much for the reviews. It is very helpful in guiding me to learn more about digital pianos and be able to make a wiser decision. I am mainly thinking between KDP 110, ROLAND RP-102 and CASIO PX-870. I understand the price range is quite different and KDP is about $300 more expensive than CASIO PX 870at least in nearby stores where I live but I want to choose the best digital piano below $2000 and $300 is not a big deal in my opinion and I am only going to use the piano sound not other features. So considering that, which one would you recommend the most? and thank you so much for sharing your expertise.
Hey there, you’ve picked really good instruments, so regardless of what you choose you’ll be happy with any of these. My personal pick would probably be the Kawai, although the RP-102 is also a very successful model, in my opinion. I’d choose the RP-102 for the action, KDP-110 for the sound, and Casio for overall price/value ratio.
Hi Lucas, thank you very much for all the useful information here. I have an acoustic piano at home but as I’m now a college student I’m looking for a good and affordable digital piano.I’ve done a lil bit research and found Yamaha p45 and Roland Go Piano.I’d love to hear your opinion on both pianos as I’m looking for a good and if possible under $500 and I’m open to your suggestions. Thanks so much!!
Hey Grace, if you’re looking for as much authentic experience as possible, look for keyboards that have fully-weighted keys. Roland Go Piano is not one of them. Within your budget, I’d recommend taking a look at the Yamaha P-45, Casio PX-160, and if could stretch your budget a little bit, I’d encourage you to consider the Roland FP-30 and Kawai ES-110 which I think overall provide a more realistic playing experience in terms of piano sound and feel.
Lucas, this is the best site ever!! good job!
Thanks for the kind words, Fabio 🙂
Thank you for your realy helpful post. I’m sure this is the most accurate guide on the internet.
Anyway, I have a realy low budget that Yamaha p-45 is considered realy expensive for me, And I’m so much into classical music that I can’t stop thinking about it! I’m also looking for a digital piano that can meet my needs forever! (literaly)!!!
I only want to play for fun. I will never choose “music-related” jobs for a living! Is Yamaha p-45 enough for my whole life?!!!!!! Seeing that i can use a VST while playing, whenever I wanted a more accurate sound, or String Resonance.
How about roland fp-30? It has String Resonance, even if it’s way more expensive…but I think maybe the metalic sound does’t fit to classical music.
I’ve been playing on a too-cheap, fake 61 keyboard for about 2 monthes(non-weighted keys, no velocity control, sound decay: less than 1 sec!), that’s why I’m realy scared about p-45. I don’t know if it’s enough or not. I’m gonna use a lot of reverb, but only mellow piano sound and no aditional features.
(Sorry for my English, I’m not realy good at it.)
Hey, even though digital pianos last for quite a long time, it’s very unlikely that you’ll be playing one instrument for your whole life. Inevitably, there will be some mechanical wear, keys will become clunkier and noisier over time, so you’ll want to get an upgrade, especially considering how fast technologies are evolving nowadays. Between the Yamaha P-45 and Roland FP-30, I’d definitely pick Roland. It has a much better keyboard, richer, more realistic sound, and some nice features like Bluetooth, WAV/MIDI playback, etc.
The sound of the FP-30 can hardly be called metallic, the instrument will handle classical music just fine. Plus, you can always make the sound “less metallic” by adjusting Brilliance.
Thank you so much for the wonderful info in this article. I have always had an acoustic piano, the last one for about 45 years. Since I was planning to move into a condo, I was concerned about possibly having to move it into a second story dwelling. I also felt that I should have the ability to use headphones out of consideration of possible neighbors. It was harder to sell my piano than to sell the home my children grew up in! As a music teacher, I have always been impressed with Yamaha’s quality and consistency. I’m interested in a portable digital piano with a sound that is as close to acoustic as I can get. I’ve looked at the DGX-660 and decided it has many more bells and whistles than I want or need. I’ve looked at the P125 and the P255. I’m not sure the P125 offers all I want, and I’m not sure I want to spend the $ for the P255. Whichever way I end up going, I truly appreciate the knowledge you’ve shared. If you have any additional thoughts or recommendations, I’d love to hear them. Many thanks!
Ivamae, thank you for the kind words! Since you have a lot of experience and want to get an instrument that feels and sound as realistic as possible, I’d encourage you to take a look at the Kawai ES8 and Roland FP-90, if you don’t mind investing $1500+ in an instrument like this. If you’re on a tighter budget, definitely take a look at the Kawai ES110, Roland FP-30, and Yamaha P-125 that you’ve already mentioned. As for the P-255, there’s an updated version of this model called P-515. I’m going to do a review of P-515 soon.
Thanks for the very helpful guide. I’m wondering if there’s any digital piano console model for the home that also allows the keyboard to be removed easily, so that it can be used at another location temporarily?
Hi Norm, usually console digital pianos come with a wooden stand that supports the keyboard, which makes it trickier to move around (you’ll need to unscrew the keyboard and remove it from the stand, but they’re not supposed to be used without their “body”). On the other hand, a lot of portable digital pianos are easily transportable, and in most cases, you can separately buy a furniture-style wooden stand designed just for that particular model, which in your case would probably be a better option.
Thanks for this post but i was wondering if you had a sub $400 digital piano that had full weighted keys?
Sure, check out this guide, all digital pianos listed there are fully-weighted and budget friendly. I particularly recommend taking a look at the Casio Privia PX-160. Hope this helps.
I am a novice. I am 80 years old. Want a hobby to work at full time. I don’t hunt, fish or golf. My only current hobby is ball room dancing. I want to buy a good Baby Grand Digital Piano. The information above is great. However I am still lost. Costco currently is offer a Artesia AG-50 at $2399.00, however Artesia is on your avoid list. I am looking for other options. Will you provide other options. Thanks
So in depth! Great 🙂 Is a digital piano a fit for a beginner?
Hi Elaine, of course! In fact, I always recommend getting a proper digital piano with fully-weighted keyboard for all of my students (including those who are just starting out).
Thanks for the helpful guide. I’m wondering about a new piano KURZWEIL SP1.
I’m completely missing any review of the digital pianos from a new company: Dexibell
I looked at their Vivo H7 and from the specs it looks very interesting.
Any plans to include this new company in your reviews?
Hey Andreas, thanks for the suggestion! Yeah, I heard some good things about Dexibell instruments, though they seem pretty expensive, and with Fatar action I’m not fully convinced they are worth their price tag. Anyway, I should definitely try them out and talk about them in more detail, so I’ll make sure to put them on my list.
Hi Lucas, this website is very helpful but I want a suggest from you if there are no problem, I’ll buy a digital piano, but I’m still undecided, what do you suggest me? Korg B1 bundle in amazon with it bench and furniture stand for 600 dollars or Casio Privia PX 160 bundle also in amazon, with the bench and stand as well, I really love the design of Korg B1 but I want an expert opinion. Thank you for this very helpful post ??
Hey Ramses, personally, I’d probably choose the Casio. But it doesn’t matter because you might have a different opinion after playing them side by side, which I recommend you do. Both are great instruments though, especially for beginner/intermediate players.
Also check out my comparison on these two here and here.
Thank you so much for this review. It helps a lot. The one thing I didn’t see covered is a general “life span” of a console digital piano. My used upright lasted over 30 years. What can I expect from a digital and what are things that can go wrong which can or cannot be fixed?
Hi Gracelyn, appreciate your comment! I’ve just added this to the guide. Here is the link or just add #lifespan to the URL of this page. I hope this helps.
Thank you. This is exactly what I needed to learn. I appreciate your help.
You’re very welcome, Gracelyn, that’s exactly what this guide was missing. So thank you!
I will buy a piano with the pitch bend and modulation wheel.
I´m thinking about Privia 560 or Kurzweil SP1.
Could you suggest which the best is?
While I haven’t played the SP1, I’d still go with the Casio. To be honest, not a big fan of Kurzweil lower end digital pianos (their key actions in particular), so I may be a little biased here but who knows maybe the SP1 will prove me wrong.