Yamaha has always been at the top of their game when it comes to musical instruments, be it acoustic ones or their digital counterparts.
Their digital piano lines have been bestsellers since their introduction in the late 1980s.
As you might expect, the technology behind each iteration of these instruments has improved by leaps and bounds.
The YDP-series digital pianos (also called the Arius series) is Yamaha’s answer for the beginners and intermediate players wanting a well-built instrument with all the features you’d need.
Unlike the more advanced CLP-series (also known as the Clavinova series), the YDP series leaves out the extra bells and whistles and focuses instead on delivering as much bang for your buck as possible.
In early 2019, Yamaha updated the YDP line with new models, including the YDP-144, YDP-164 and YDP-S54 (slim, modern style version of the YDP-164), replacing the previous YDP-143, YDP-163 and YDP-S52 models.
These updates came with an overhaul of the sound engine and a some other minor tweaks that enhance the overall experience.
Is the Yamaha YDP-164 worth the purchase? How does it compare with the competition? Is it worth the extra $$ over the YDP-144?
In this review, we’ll be covering these questions in detail, giving you all the info you need to make an informed purchase.
Yamaha YDP-164 Specs
- 88-key fully weighted keyboard with simulated Ivory & Ebony keytops
- Graded Hammer 3 (GH3) action
- Touch Sensitivity (Hard, Medium, Soft, Fixed)
- Sound: CFX Sampling
- Simulated Sound Nuances: Damper/String/Key off resonance, Smooth release
- 192-note polyphony
- 10 instrument sounds (3 pianos)
- 50 preset piano songs + 10 demo songs
- Modes: Duo, Dual
- Lesson Function (ability to practice each hand’s part separately)
- 2-track MIDI recorder
- Metronome, Transpose, Fine-tuning
- Intelligent Acoustic Control, Stereophonic Optimizer, Acoustic Optimizer
- Speakers: 20W + 20W (2 x 12cm)
- Connectors: USB to Host, Headphone jacks (2)
- USB Audio Interface function
- 135 x 42 x 85 cm (53.4” x 16.6” x 33.4”)
- 42 kg (92 lbs. 10 oz.)
- Release Date: March 2019
Check the availability and current price of the Yamaha YDP-164 in your region:
If you’re familiar with the YDP-163, you’ll feel right at home with the YDP-164. The design hasn’t changed much in terms of the externals, and that’s a pro in my books.
The YDP-series has always focused on playability first and foremost, and the YDP-164 (as well as its predecessor) continues the streamlined approach.
As expected from digital pianos, you’re getting a full-size, 88-key keyboard, and this includes a pair of stereo speakers built into the chassis.
For home-based use and practice, this is really all you need to start playing.
The YDP-164 weighs 92.6 lbs (42 kg), which seems heavy, but is perfectly in line with other digital pianos that come with a stand and cabinet speakers.
Size-wise, the dimensions are 53.4” x 16.6” x 33.4” (W x D x H). The YDP-164 is designed for home use. If you were looking for a digital piano for stage use, I’d recommend looking elsewhere.
The bulk isn’t just for show either. The YDP-164 is sturdy and can stand the test of time.
While it doesn’t compare to the slimmer, more portable design of other keyboards, it’s still slim enough to fit into most apartment rooms without much hassle.
However, I wouldn’t recommend moving this around on your own.
Technically, the body of the YDP-164 is made from particleboard, but the finish and density make it feel solid.
The matte coating also makes the YDP-164 resistant to fingerprints, which is encouraging news for people with sweaty palms.
The YDP-164 comes in 4 different colors: black, white, rosewood and a unique white ash color that isn’t commonly found.
I’m personally a fan of the rosewood color, though they all look fabulous and you can decide which one you like best.
The YDP-164 comes with a triple-pedal setup (soft, sostenuto and damper) built right into the body. The pedals are solid metal and feel great to play.
The damper pedal also supports half-pedaling, meaning you’ll have access to more realistic playing. There isn’t much to say about the foot pedals – they’re excellent all round.
Do remember to attach these to the pedal jack during assembly.
Owning a digital piano rather than an acoustic offers several benefits. Never going out of tune is one of them, and so is lower prices.
Besides these, control is another major advantage of digital pianos. Unfortunately, this is where the YDP-164 falters.
The YDP-164 shares the somewhat lackluster control scheme found on the other YDP-series digital pianos.
It limits you to a volume knob and a small number of buttons on the left and right of the keyboard.
Most of the in-depth features of the YDP-164 are accessed via key combinations, which are especially cumbersome if you’re used to the displays and detailed controls found on other digital pianos and on practice keyboards like Yamaha’s PSR range.
To make the most of the YDP-164, you’ll need to rely on the user manual.
While this isn’t uncommon for budget-friendly digital pianos, it’s unfortunate that the YDP-164 doesn’t seek to improve on the lackluster controls of its predecessor.
Having some assistance in this regard would have done wonders for usability.
For example, the Casio PX-870 comes with the names of the tones and settings marked above the keys, making navigation much easier and less reliant on having the user manual by your side.
Fortunately, there isn’t too many built-in sounds and functions, so soon enough you will remember the combinations you use most often.
On a more positive note (no pun intended!), the buttons and knobs feel tactile.
The buttons have a noticeable click, which ensures that you’ll always know for certain that you’ve successfully pressed down on the buttons.
Apart from that, the YDP-164 comes with a sliding key cover and a music rest. As with the overall build quality, these feel excellent and durable.
The music rest even comes with a few score-holding pegs which were not part of the YDP-144. These are helpful inclusions that certainly help during sight-reading practice.
In general, the YDP-164 excels in build quality but lacks in controllability.
You get Yamaha’s consistently solid build quality, but you’re also stuck with the lackluster control scheme that carried over from the prior-generation YDP-163.
The exterior designs of a digital piano are relevant, but certainly not the only aspect worth considering. The main thing to look out for when choosing a piano, digital or acoustic, is the keyboard.
The YDP-164 is priced in the range commonly associated with intermediate pianos, so how does it stack up? Well, it doesn’t disappoint.
The instrument comes with Yamaha’s GH3 keyboard action, the same key action that was used in the YDP-163, except the YDP-164’s keyboard has synthetic ebony black keys as opposed to the matte black ones in the YDP-163.
It’s as a significant upgrade from the practice keyboards you might find in the more affordable price range, and one of the main reasons why you should consider the YDP-164 over the YDP-144, which has a more basic entry-level key action (GHS).
The keys of the YDP-164 are full-size, weighted and manage to emulate the feel of a real acoustic piano quite well.
The “GH” in the GH3 moniker stands for “graded hammer,” which means that keys on the lower end of the keyboard have a heavier touch than those at the higher end, offering a realistic playing experience.
As for touch-sensitivity, there are 4 different preset options: soft, medium, hard and off.
The default medium setting provides a close approximation of a real piano and is surprisingly realistic.
Soft helps with practicing your dynamic control, and hard helps you practice striking strength and velocity.
Speaking of close approximations, the GH3 is Yamaha’s well-liked piano action, previously appearing on the high-end CLP-series flagships.
While it’s since been replaced, there’s no denying the quality of the GH3 action.
The GH3 keys are plastic, but they’re made to feel like ivory and ebony keys, ensuring that your fingers won’t slide during play.
The keys achieve their heightened realism through a special 3-sensor configuration (that’s what the name implies GH3) that senses and interprets keyboard behavior to replicate the experience of playing a real digital piano.
This is particularly noticeable when playing the same note in rapid succession and enables expressive control.
In my review of the YDP-144, I noted how the keys were a let-down due to a plasticity feel and ‘springy’ feedback. The YDP-164 is a huge improvement, being a joy to play and use.
While the keys do have quite a bit of weight to them, I’d say they come close to the experience you’d expect from a real piano.
However, if you prefer lighter, more versatile key actions (for playing organ, synths and other types of music that require a lighter touch), there’s a good chance that the GH3 will not be very much to your liking.
Yamaha’s success in the music industry has certainly not been a fluke. Yamaha’s philosophy for their acoustic instruments has always been to make them sound high-quality.
The previous generation YDP-163 used Yamaha’s Pure CF sound engine, which was good when it was first introduced, but was slowly surpassed by its competitors.
Look to Roland’s consistently updated SuperNATURAL modeling/sampling hybrid sound engine and it’ll be easy to see why. Even so, Yamaha didn’t rest on its laurels.
With the update to the YDP-line of instruments, Yamaha implemented their CFX sound sampling, which was previously a hallmark of the CLP-series digital pianos.
Getting the same sounds in the more affordable YDP-line of keyboards is a fantastic deal.
The CFX sound engine features a sampled version of Yamaha’s iconic 9’ CFX concert grand, which is a sound featured on countless records and stages thanks to its magnificent sound.
The CFX concert grand is known for its resonant bass and brilliant high-end. Many consider the CFX to be one of the greats of the modern era.
Take a listen:
The YDP-164 has the exact same set of sounds as the YDP-144, so you’ll hardly find any difference in this department.
The detailed sampling isn’t limited to the striking of the strings. Yamaha has also sampled the subtle nuances of a real piano. This includes damper resonance, key-off resonance and string resonance.
These details combine to further enhance the realism factor of the YDP-164, and were not part of the prior YDP-163 model, so their inclusion is certainly welcome.
The same sounds are featured on the YDP-144, but the YDP-164 comes with an additional feature, known as “smooth release.”
From what I can tell, this handles the interlacing between samples, making a subtle and barely noticeable difference when you release each key. It’s a minor bonus, but anything that improves the sound is definitely welcome.
To hit its price point, the YDP-164 does sacrifice some aspects, such as the options for sound shaping.
I personally don’t see this as a negative, as the sounds are great right out of the box; but the simplicity is certainly welcome for players wanting a straightforward experience without the hassle.
With that said, I’m sure we’d like the option to shape the sounds, even slightly. Many digital pianos in this price range allow the players to change the individual volumes of key and pedal noise, as well as the intensity of simulated resonance.
As it stands, the YDP-164 still sounds outstanding, so it’s a shame to lose some of the control that comes with other competitors.
The CFX grand piano isn’t the only highlight. Yamaha is also well known for their classic DX7 synthesizer, a mainstay in classic 80s music.
The 2nd electric piano voice captures the bright yet soft tone that comes from the DX7.
A sampled Fender Rhodes-style electric piano is also included.
Yamaha keyboards and digital pianos have always sampled the mellow tones of the classic Mark I, rather than the more distinct bite of the Mark II. It even comes with a sliver of chorus, adding to the character.
There are also harpsichord and vibraphone sounds included. Yamaha has always provided good sampled versions of these sounds, so it’s no surprise that these continue that tradition.
Finally, you have the string ensemble. This sound is clearly meant to be layered along with another main tone, as it does not sound good in isolation. We’ll discuss the layering in the Features section of the guide, so stay tuned.
All in all, the sounds are admirable, with Yamaha’s excellent sampling tech and sound engine combining to make a great experience.
The Yamaha YDP-164 comes with three built-in effects that can be modified slightly.
First, the Reverb comes in four different forms, and you can control the intensity of each reverb using the function keys. The algorithms included are:
- Recital Hall
- Concert Hall
- Chamber Reverb
- Club Reverb
Most sounds use the Hall reverb by default, and these are pretty realistic.
Yamaha has set up the reverbs with some light damping in the high end to avoid the overly ‘sparkly’ sounds you’d expect from a poorly tuned reverb.
The club reverb is a surprising highlight, being a more intimate “room” algorithm that captures the closeness of a large grand piano in an enclosed environment.
Reverb intensities can be modified in increments of one, affecting the room/hall size and decay times of the reverb to suit the needs of the song.
The Intelligent Acoustic Control (IAC) technology is another effect, with an intensity that you can tweak to suit your taste.
The IAC adjusts the sound quality dynamically during play, basing decisions on the overall volume and ensuring that you’ll always hear the necessary details of each sound.
The IAC is most noticeable when playing dynamic piano pieces that use a wide range of octaves. At a high intensity, the IAC serves as a compressor, ensuring that the overall volume is consistent throughout.
It’s far more transparent than a usual compressor, meaning it’s barely noticeable. Just know that the IAC makes your playing sound cleaner. Purists, of course, can turn it off.
The final effect is the Stereophonic Optimizer, which simulates the space you feel when playing a real piano.
This only functions when you’re using headphones. Real pianos are always a short space away from the player, but headphones play closely-mic’d samples near your ears.
The Stereophonic Optimizer simulates distance and space, placing individual samples in a digital space away from you and making the experience more realistic. However, you can only toggle this between on and off.
The YDP-164 comes with 192 notes of polyphony, which is sufficient to cover any song across any genre. Some digital pianos and keyboards suffer from sample cut off during play, and a high polyphony count prevents that.
The Yamaha YDP-164 comes with dual 20W amplified speakers, which are extremely powerful and also provide a wide stereo image.
The power isn’t just about delivering more volume either. The YDP-164 sounds clean and crisp at any volume setting.
The speakers are downward-facing, but they are clearly optimized to sound good despite being reflected.
There are also narrow speaker grills across the entire keyboard (right above the keys), which allows the sound generated by the speakers to come out from different parts of the instrument, creating a more realistic and immersive listening experience.
The sounds are comparable to the CLP-series piano I own at home, with a barely noticeable reduction in the low-end frequencies and “boldness” of the sound (probably due to the smaller cabinet size).
To get a better idea of how the YDP164 sounds through the onboard speakers, take a look at the video below:
The speakers sound great and manage to recreate the harmonic heft that comes with a real piano.
When pushed to higher volumes, I didn’t notice any distortion, which makes the YDP-164 a valid choice for use in larger venues as well.
Do remember that higher volumes might cause hearing damage (and annoy your neighbors too).
Sound quality has definitely been enhanced through the YDP-line update, but overall the YDP-164 retains the exact same feature set as its predecessor, the YDP-163.
The YDP-164 comes with 2 modes, the Layer mode and the Duo mode.
Layer mode allows you to play 2 sounds at the same time, with each keypress triggering two sounds simultaneously. This is standard on most keyboards and digital pianos, and the YDP-164 is no different.
Most people use pianos layered with the strings for ballad style playing, and the recorded legato strings certainly lend themselves to this idea.
Yamaha’s DX7 sounds are also quite excellent when layered to get an 80s-style tone. Despite the limited number of sounds, there’s a lot of variation to be had with the Layer mode.
Duo mode allows two different players to play the same instrument, with one on the left and the other on the right. This is a great feature for piano lessons, where the teacher can demonstrate alongside the student.
In duo mode, the pedal functionality changes as well, with the soft and damper pedals applying sustain to one side each, and the sostenuto pedal applying sustain to both sides simultaneously.
The volumes of each side in duo mode can be tweaked individually.
Sadly, the YDP-164 does not come with a Split mode, which allows you to play two different sounds on both ends of the keyboard.
Digital pianos often allow their users to change settings on the fly, making edits using the onboard controls.
Some of the functions discussed here are not accessible via the Smart Pianist app, but in general, those are some lesser used options which you won’t commonly need.
The modifiable functions are:
1) Damper Resonance. Allows you to choose whether damper response simulation is on or off for the piano sounds.
2) Metronome. Pressing the metronome button activates the built-in metronome. You can change the metronome’s tempo, time signature and volume.
3) Transpose Function. This allows you to change the played key. Transpositions can be changed from -6 to +6 semitones in increments of one semitone.
4) Master Tuning. The central tuning of the keyboard can be changed in steps of 0.2 Hz. The default pitch is the standard 440.0Hz for Middle A.
5) Speaker On/Off. Allows you to choose if the speakers are enabled or not, regardless of whether headphones are connected.
6) Auto Power Off. Enabled by default and allows the instrument to power down automatically after 30 minutes of no operation.
You may notice that there are no temperament options on the YDP-164. By default, the YDP-164 uses equal temperament, which comes as a standard on modern acoustic pianos.
Song Recording and Playback
The YDP-164 comes with 10 voice demo songs and 50 classical pieces. You can also record your own songs using the record button found to the left of the keys.
You can record up to two parts per song. This is particularly helpful when you want to record individual left- or right-hand parts for practice. You can even turn off individual recorded parts using key combinations.
Since we’re only recording MIDI here as opposed to audio, you can change the voice, volume balance, reverb depth, damper resonance, tempo and reverb algorithm after the recording is done, which is very convenient.
You can save your songs as MIDI files to a connected computer or app (as discussed in the Connectivity section).
It’s quite unfortunate that you can only save one song in the onboard memory at a time, so external media is a must. At the same time, you can load up to 10 User Songs (MIDI) into the instrument for playback and practice.
The YDP-164 is quite sparse when it comes to connectivity options. This isn’t a major issue, since its geared towards home-use over stage-use. However, all of the essentials are included.
You get two 1/4” stereo jacks, which are designed for headphones. However, the same outputs can serve as line-outs if you need to plug the keys into an external amplifier.
You can even use these to capture the CFX concert grand sound through your audio interface in full stereo.
You also get a USB to Host port below the piano, which allows you to connect the YDP-164 to supported devices and use it as a MIDI controller.
The wireless option might be less cumbersome, but there could be an issue with latency.
A pedal jack is included, though this is designed to connect to the three-pedal setup that comes with the casing, which explains the proprietary nature of the connectors.
USB Audio Interface
Something that sets the YDP-164 apart from the competition is the USB audio interface functionality. This allows you to transfer not only MIDI data (as with most digital pianos) but also audio data.
The cool thing about this function is that you can record the actual sound of the YDP-164 without the need for a separate audio interface.
This means you’ll get high-quality stereo CFX Concert Grand samples without the potential of audio degradation through the usual analog-to-digital conversion processes.
If you like recording pianos in your DAW, this is a major plus and a great alternative to relying on VST instruments, like XLN Audio’s Addictive Keys.
The Smart Pianist app really streamlines the overall experience of playing the YDP-164.
The application is available on iOS (Android version is coming in June, 2019), and it supports both phones and tablets alike.
The Smart Pianist application allows you to tweak parameters and control the keyboard through a well-designed graphical user interface.
This is many times better than the experience you’d get from the cumbersome controls I’ve previously discussed.
For example, you can change the current selected sound with a few presses. You can set the metronome tempo with a numerical keypad input instead of dialing it in with key presses.
You can even view scores and turn pages with the pedals. The application makes playing the YDP-164 a great experience, instead of one marred by bad controls.
Of course, the screws required for assembly also come in the box, and this is pretty much everything you need to begin playing immediately once you’ve assembled the YDP-164.
Headphones come in very handy when you want to practice in private, focusing solely on your playing and not disturbing others nearby.
Moreover, a good pair of headphones will provide a clearer and more detailed sound compared to the onboard speakers.
For a guide on how to choose best-sounding headphones, check out our in-depth guide.
USB MIDI Adapter
If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of cabling, you can consider the Yamaha UD-BT01 wireless MIDI adapter.
Do note that the adapter still needs to be connected to a wall socket for charging. This leaves your smart device available for charging though, since the USB port isn’t used.
I feel that Yamaha really missed a great opportunity to offer built-in Bluetooth support, especially since many of their competitors often offer this as a standard feature.
The requirement of a separate dongle to access the well-designed Smart Pianist app also hampers the experience somewhat.
Much like the YDP-144, the YDP-164 is a good digital piano, diminished slightly by its less-than-stellar controls.
We might have given the YDP-163 a pass in our review, but it’s been three years since its release, and music tech has developed significantly within this timespan.
It’s true that you can use the Smart Pianist app to improve the experience, but the integration isn’t seamless, requiring a separate dongle or connector to work. Meanwhile, competitors like Roland and Kawai offer Bluetooth support right out of the box.
That’s a bummer, because the YDP-164 is a superb digital piano, with good sounds and excellent keyboard.
Even so, the updated YDP-series digital pianos have amped up the value on offer.
The new CFX concert grand sound is impressive, and the powerful speakers and amplifiers really help it shine through. The YDP-164 sounds excellent, and if that’s what you’re after, it’s definitely worth considering.
The GH3 action is top-notch and a significant upgrade over the GHS keyboard found on the YDP-144.
This is a very similar experience to a real acoustic piano, and I strongly believe that everyone can learn to like these. My previous CLP-series piano included the GH3 keys, and they’re still performing well today.
If you’re looking for something that works for practice, the YDP-164 is a decent choice. The CFX concert grand is worth the price of admission, and the GH3 action means your fingers will get a similar weight and response as you would get on a real piano.
Overall, I’m satisfied with the YDP-164. It’s a solid digital piano that everyone can appreciate. The only true downside is that alternatives exist and most of them provide better experiences overall.
Regardless, that’s just my opinion, so be sure to give the YDP-164 a shot to see if it’s for you.
Below you can see the main difference between the YDP-164 and YDP-144 (next model down):
Check the availability and current price of the Yamaha YDP-164 in your region:
Yamaha YDP-164 vs Korg C1 Air (Full Review)
Korg may not be the most well-known piano maker out there, but their achievements in music tech are nothing to scoff at.
Korg has always been more focused on the workstation and synthesizer market, but their forays into the digital piano space are definitely viable offerings.
The Korg C1’s highlight is the RH3 key action, ripped straight from Korg’s flagship stage pianos and workstations (like the ubiquitous Korg Kronos). This is arguably the best key action on digital pianos up to the intermediate price range.
The RH3 keys are slightly lighter when compared to the GH3 action, but not in the cheap and flimsy sense. They feel great to play and are surprisingly realistic, despite not having the synthetic ivory or ebony keytops found on the YDP-164.
You also get thirty sounds (to the YDP-164’s ten), dual 25W speakers (to the Yamaha’s 20W), MIDI In/Out jacks, a chorus effect (great for electric piano tones), Bluetooth support for audio, and three different temperament types.
All this comes in a more compact package as well, with a depth of 13.6” (to the Yamaha’s 16.6”), and a weight of 77.1 lbs.
The Korg C1 Air even comes with a display, which makes navigation much more bearable. You won’t need a dedicated app to use the C1 Air.
It seems grim for the YDP-164 in this comparison, but the main thing to remember is that the sound is king. The YDP-164 comes with Yamaha’s CFX samples, which makes up one of the best concert grand sounds on the market.
I’m a fan of the Korg sounds (I use the Korg Kronos consistently), but there’s just a certain magic to Yamaha’s detailed sampling.
The Korg C1 Air comes with two main grand piano tones, a German grand and a Japanese grand. The Japanese grand feels very reminiscent of Yamaha’s C-series concert grands.
Both keyboards are similarly priced and it’s hard to choose between the two.
Yamaha YDP-164 vs Yamaha CLP-625
The Yamaha CLP-series, also known as the Clavinova series, is Yamaha’s high-end digital piano line, and the CLP-625 is the most affordable model in this series.
Coming from the same manufacturer, the CLP-625 shares many similarities with the YDP-164, though the CLP-625 comes with a slightly higher price tag. Even so, I’d say it’s worth considering either way.
For one thing, the CLP-625 comes with Yamaha’s GH3X keyboard action. This is an upgraded version of the GH3 found on the YDP-164 that comes with escapement simulation, making for an even more realistic playing experience.
That said, the overall feel of the keys are extremely similar, and I probably would have missed the different action if I didn’t know what to look for.
We’ve covered how great the GH3 keys feel, and the GH3X just adds on to that excellent quality.
Apart from that, the Yamaha CLP-625 also features the CFX sampled concert grand as well, but it also includes a sampled Bösendorfer concert grand.
If the CFX provides a modern sound, the Bösendorfer adds the mellow, detailed sound we associate with classical songs.
Binaural sampling also ensures simulates a sense of space, and Yamaha does this very well, even better than their competitors.
With the added sounds, you also get a higher polyphony count on the CLP-625, potentially removing the risk of cut-off sounds. Though you generally won’t need more than 100 notes of polyphony, even on demanding pieces, it’s a nice bonus to have.
Here’s a nice demonstration of what the CLP-625 is capable of (note that the sound is recorded from the speakers as opposed to the line outs):
Not everything is a straight upgrade though. In terms of size, the CLP-625 is slightly smaller in depth, but it still weighs more (94.8 lbs. to the YDP’s 92.6 lbs.).
The speakers are also 2 x 10 cm, rather than the 2 x 12 cm speakers found on the YDP-164. The speakers are both 40W dual speakers, though the CLP-625 theoretically loses some of the low-end due to the difference in size. In practice, I didn’t really notice this too much.
The cabinet seems to resonate with the speakers, making for a rich tone even with the slightly reduced size.
Finally, you lose the USB audio interface tech from the YDP-164, which means you can’t easily record without an external interface.
Control-wise, you’re still better off with the Smart Pianist app, but things are pretty much the same in this regard.