Today, we’ll be covering one of Yamaha’s new offerings in their YDP-series lineup, otherwise known as the Arius series.
This product line is geared towards beginners and intermediate-level players who want a solid digital piano that can last, while still sticking to a price point that doesn’t break the bank.
In addition, we’ll also be covering the YDP-S55, an update to 2019’s YDP-S54.
While we conducted our main playtest session on the YDP-165, both instruments are practically identical apart from the YDP-S55’s slimmer design (hence the ‘S’ in the name). Thus, all of our comments do carry across both models.
Throughout the review, we’ll be using ‘YDP-165” as an umbrella term that encapsulates both the YDP-165 and the YDP-S55. Any differences will be highlighted whenever relevant.
Yamaha YDP-165 Specs
- 88-key fully weighted keyboard with simulated Ivory & Ebony keytops
- Graded Hammer 3 (GH3) action
- Touch Sensitivity (Hard, Medium, Soft, Fixed)
- Sound: Yamaha CFX
- Simulated Sound Elements: Virtual Resonance (VRM Lite), key off samples, smooth release
- 192-note polyphony
- 10 instrument sounds (3 pianos)
- 50 preset piano songs + 10 demo songs + 303 lesson songs
- Dual/Layers, Duo Mode
- 2-track MIDI recorder
- Speakers: 20W + 20W (2 x 12cm)
- Connectors: USB to Host, Headphone jacks (2)
- USB Audio Interface function
- 135.7 x 42.2 x 84.9 cm (53.4” x 16.6” x 33.4”)
- 42.0 kg (92 lbs., 10 oz.)
- Release Date: April 2022
Check the availability and current price of the Yamaha YDP-165 in your region:
The YDP-165’s design is essentially unchanged from its prior iteration (which also reused the same design from the YDP-163). If you’ve ever tried a YDP-series product before, you’ll feel right at home with the control scheme and build quality.
The YDP-165 manages to capture the essence of a conventional acoustic piano through its wooden chassis. The smooth surface texture and hefty weight helps give a sense of sturdiness and quality that you just can’t find with portable digital pianos, such as Yamaha’s own P-series.
As a console-style digital piano, the YDP-165 includes a triple-pedal setup (soft, sostenuto and sustain) built into the chassis, a definite plus for classically trained pianists. The pedals are made of metal and have a nice bit of resistive heft to them that further adds to the realistic playing experience.
The damper pedal also supports half-pedaling, where pressing down the sustain pedal halfway results in a softer sustain that further adds to the expressivity.
The YDP-165 is 53.4″ (W) x 16.6″ (D) x 33.4″ (H), and clocks in at a bulky 92.3 lbs (42.0 kg). The slim YDP-S55 is slightly more compact, coming in at 53.2″ (W) x 12.1″ (D) x 31.2″ (H) and 88.1 lbs (40.0 kg).
With regards to weight and dimensions, I wouldn’t think put too much stock into the differences between the two instruments. The difference in terms of sizes is functionally non-existent, and weight isn’t a concern for furniture-style digital pianos.
The big difference between the two comes from the chassis design.
The YDP-165 uses the conventional console-style piano design, with more depth that gives space for a solid built-in music rest. I also do like the lip-like design that is very reminiscent of real acoustic pianos.
Conversely, the YDP-S55 forgoes the extra z-axis dimensions for a boxy, minimalist design that truly delivers on the promise of the ‘S’ in the name. On the YDP-S55, the music rest is built-into the key cover, and is surprisingly usable despite the space-saving measures.
The YDP-165 also has 4 colors (Dark Rosewood, Black, White Ash and White) compared to the YDP-S55’s 2 (White and Black).
While my test YDP-165 unit was the conventional (and dare I say, boring) black, I am quite a fan of the White Ash model, as it’s just such an exotic yet pleasing hue.
Note that certain colours are only available in specific regions.
Personally, I prefer the classic, conventional design of the YDP-165. The familiarity offered by the bigger depth makes me feel right at home, likely due to its similarities to true acoustic convert grands.
In terms of build quality, I have practically zero complaints regarding either the YDP-165 or the YDP-S55. The experience of sitting down, and booting up either of these digital pianos was seamless, and ultimately quite enjoyable.
What I did dislike about the YDP-165 and the YDP-S55’s shared design is the control scheme. The controls themselves are not the issue.
The buttons have a very nice tactile click to them, and the volume knob is surprisingly responsive despite its small size.
The problem is the limited number of dedicated buttons that mean you need to rely on button/key combinations. While this is a problem common in budget digital pianos, it’s just unfortunate that the YDP-165 doesn’t improve over its predecessor.
As an example, if you wanted to switch from the default CFX Grand preset to the DX E. Piano preset, you’d hold down the ‘Piano/Voice” button and the E1 key that corresponds to that preset.
The problems start once you try doing more complex modifications. Say you wanted to layer the Strings preset with the DX E.Piano for an 80s ballad accompaniment, where the strings play one octave up.
You’d need to hold down “Piano/Voice” while hitting both the E1 and A1 keys, let go, and then hold the “Piano/Voice” while simultaneously using the G5 key to transpose the strings. This gets very complicated, very quickly.
At the very least, I wish Yamaha opted to print the labels of functions above the corresponding keys, which would at least give some guidance.
I realize this is very much a personal gripe exacerbated by our short playtest time. You’ll undoubtedly get used to the button-key combinations over extended periods of use. Similarly, you could get around these issues by firing up the companion app on your smart device, which grants you a touchscreen for your control needs.
However, I do put quite a bit of stock on having a straightforward experience that I can dive straight into without the need for external hardware or a reference manual.
For what it’s worth, this is a non-issue if you’re someone who only primarily uses the default CFX concert grand preset, with infrequent dabbling with the other sounds.
Despite the negativity near the end of this section, I still consider the YDP-165 (and the YDP-S55) to be well designed, and my gripes with controls can easily be ignored as the ramblings of someone who enjoys tweaking settings a bit too much.
One of the two key components of any digital piano is the keyboard.
The YDP-165 features Yamaha’s Graded Hammer 3 (GH3) keyboard action, the exact same key action in the YDP-164 (and the YDP-163). This is considered to be one of Yamaha’s higher-end actions, as they were initially introduced in Yamaha’s older high-end Clavinova digital pianos.
(The same applies to the YDP-S55, which inherited its action from the YDP-S54.)
The GH3 key action is generally regarded as one of the more realistic keybeds available at the intermediate price level, as it has a more realistic response compared to other similarly priced key actions.
In fact, amongst Yamaha’s key action arsenal, it is only surpassed by the NWX and GrandTouch actions, which are only available on their current high-end Clavinovas.
Part of the inner-workings that contribute to the realistic playing experience is the triple-sensor configuration (the ‘3’ in the GH3 label).
As you press a key, the initial sensor detects the downwards motion, and the bottom sensor triggers the sample. The middle sensor helps keep track of key presses that happen before the return to the resting position, which helps with responsiveness. This is particularly noticeable when you play notes in quick succession.
The key surfaces have a synthetic ivory and ebony texture. If you’re someone who has sweaty palms, you’ll definitely appreciate having some extra grip on the keys.
Finally, as implied by the name, the GH3 keys are also graded. This means the keys at lower octaves are heavier than those at the higher registers. This emulates the difference in string thickness across the entire key range.
In terms of complaints, some people consider the GH3 action to be on the heavier end, which is a valid concern. In comparison to other competing key actions and real, well-maintained acoustic pianos, the GH3 keys are definitely heavier.
Overall, the GH3 action on the YDP-165 is great, and definitely one of the major selling points of this instrument. If you’re deliberating between the YDP-165 and the YDP-145, I highly recommend testing the key actions out in person, as it’s a significant enough difference that might affect your final decision.
Apart from the key action, how a digital piano sounds is equally important. After all, it doesn’t matter how good a digital piano feels if it sounds bad, as that disconnect can take you out of an otherwise seamless experience.
Thankfully, Yamaha is well-known for delivering excellent sounds in their digital instruments, and the YDP-165 obviously gets the same treatment.
The YDP-165 retains the CFX sound engine found on the YDP-164, which in turn was ported over from earlier Clavinova models, much like the GH3 keys.
While nothing was changed with this update cycle, the YDP-164 did change out the YDP-163’s aging Pure CF sound engine, and as per our original review, we did find a lot to like.
In total, the YDP-165 comes with 10 sounds, namely:
- 3 variations of the CFX concert grand (Normal, Mellow and Pop)
- 2 electric pianos
- 1 harpsichord
- 1 vibraphone
- 2 organs (Pipe and Jazz)
- 1 orchestral string ensemble.
CFX Grand Piano Presets
The main preset on the YDP-165 is a sampled version of Yamaha’s famous 9’ CFX concert grand. If I had to describe the actual CFX concert grand’s sound in a word, it would be ‘clean’.
The CFX grands are very versatile thanks to their balanced lows and smooth highs, fitting into just about anything, be it pop songs or renditions of classical pieces. Does the sampled variant actually capture the same sound/feel of the original? I’d say yes.
The sampled sounds on the YDP-165 are very responsive, with different samples being assigned to different playing velocities. This means that you’re not hearing the same sample being triggered when you move from pianissimo to fortissimo, and even intermediate intensities are covered.
On the default setting, there’s a sense of airiness that captures the sense of space, even without relying on an internal reverb simulator.
In comparison to the YDP-145, the YDP-165 comes with the additional ‘Smooth Release’ option. I believe this uses some software processing to help reduce potential sample artifacts after a key is released.
While the effect is barely noticable, any bonus that helps with sound fidelity is definitely welcome.
How about the upgrades over the original YDP-164?
The YDP-165 features yet another feature ported down from the Clavinova lineup, Virtual Resonance Modeling Lite (VRM Lite).
When playing a real piano, you’ll experience the phenomenon of sympathetic resonance, whereby the vibration of certain strings causes other strings to sympathetically vibrate. Using VRM Lite, the YDP-165 aims to model that sensation by reacting dynamically to your playing.
In practice, this effect is very subtle, but when A/B tested against the previous YDP-164, is certainly noticeable. There’s an added sense of richness to the piano tones of the YDP-165, and it arguably makes the experience even more enjoyable.
Note that the VRM Lite upgrade was also ported into the new YDP-145, which we’ll be reviewing soon.
Overall, the sampled CFX grand presets on the YDP-165 are great. There’s no doubt that Yamaha included some high quality, meticulously recorded samples on this instrument, and I am very satisfied with how they sound.
If I had to nitpick, I’d say that Yamaha’s sound engine lags behind the competition in terms of customizability.
For example, on Roland’s F701, the SuperNATURAL sound engine includes the Piano Designer menu, which allows you to finetune the simulated recording environment of the piano sound. Meanwhile, the VRM Lite physical modeling, as good as it sounds, only has a binary on/off state.
However, on that same note, you don’t really need to do much tweaking when the source sound is already excellent.
Apart from the concert grands, the YDP-165 includes some other presets. While none of these other sounds are as detailed as the main course that is the CFX grand, they are still very usable.
The electric pianos include a sampled Yamaha DX7-style FM synthesizer, and a mellow Fender Rhodes-style electric piano. Both of these sound great, and round out the need for some more exotic key-based sounds to practice your repertoire.
The YDP-165 also features harpsichord and vibraphone presets. While I don’t find myself using either of these sounds in daily use, I do like the way they sound. They should serve their purpose if you need them for era-specific pieces.
The organs are also quite good. The jazz organ preset in particular sounds great, as it features a nice simulated rotary speaker that nails the classic electric organ tone. It’s just a shame that you don’t get to tweak the rotary speeds.
Finally, there is the string ensemble, which is clearly meant to be layered with another sound using the Dual mode. On its own, the strings here are a bit overbearing, as your playing intensity only really affects the volume of the sample playback, and not the actual intensities of the ensemble.
You might notice the evident lack of bass sounds here, which is quite a shame. Certain keyboardists do want an electric/acoustic bass sound to practice left and right hand splits, though I this omission is understandable, given that the YDP-165 doesn’t even have a Split mode.
In terms of effects, the YDP-165 includes 4 effects:
- Intelligent Acoustic Control
- Volume Limiter
- Stereophonic Optimizer
The Reverb will likely be your main point of interest, as they help give a sense of space to the YDP-165’s sounds by placing your sounds in a simulated room or hall. 4 different algorithms are included with the YDP-165:
- Recital Hall
- Concert Hall
- Chamber Reverb
- Club Reverb
In terms of sound, the reverb units are pretty pleasing to the ear. Yamaha’s built-in reverb emulations tend to be quite tame, with some damping used at the treble range to avoid the shimmering effect you’d get from a poorly tuned reverb.
Most presets use one of the Hall reverbs by default, and those sound great, further adding to the sense of ‘air’ present in the piano sample recordings. I also really like the Club algorithm, which is a small room reverb that really helps give the sense of ‘intimacy’ demanded by some songs.
Intelligent Acoustic Control (IAC) claims to automatically adjust the sound quality based on the overall volume of the instrument, and from what I can tell, it acts as a compressor that tries to ensure the volume of your playing is consistent across the whole key range.
The effects are very subtle, and I honestly struggled to hear any differences, even when listening through headphones.
The Volume Limiter was newly added in the YDP-165 refresh, and is primarily a safety feature that limits the maximum output volume to a predefined threshold. This might be relevant if you’re purchasing the YDP-165 for a child.
Finally, there’s the Stereophonic Optimizer. This is another space emulation effect that only comes into play when listening through headphones. When activated (it’s on by default), the YDP-165 adds a slight reverb to the headphone outputs.
The motivation behind this is the disconnect that happens with headphones, where the close-mic’d piano samples are being played back right next to your ears.
The same disconnect does not happen with the speakers, as you’re naturally some distance away from the speakers when sitting on the bench.
The YDP-165 comes with 192 notes of polyphony, which is perfectly sufficient for most, if not all, songs regardless of genre.
The YDP-165 retains the stereo, bottom-firing 20W speaker setup from the YDP-164, and much like its predecessor, there really isn’t anything to complain about.
The exact same speaker setup is also present on the YDP-S55, no small feat considering the smaller size.
The speakers are very capable of driving a lot of volume, and I didn’t hear any distortion even when pushed to high volumes, meaning the YDP-165 could be a valid choice for small- to medium-sized venues even without an external amplifier setup.
The sound quality itself is also quite good. The larger speaker cabinets when compared to the YDP-145 mean the YDP-165 gives a more balanced sound that is crisp across a larger frequency range.
While the YDP-165’s speakers can’t compare to Yamaha’s high-end Clavinovas in low-end solidness, they’re still very capable speakers. Considering the price, I’d still say these sound great.
Note that these speakers are identical to those on the YDP-164/YDP-S54. The pianos do sound better, but that’s more because of the improvements with the sample playback (such as the VRM Lite feature), rather than being a speaker redesign.
The YDP-165/YDP-S55’s feature set is essentially the same as the one found on the YDP-164/YDP-S54.
The YDP-165 comes with 2 modes, Dual and Duo mode.
Dual mode is typically referred to as Layer mode on other digital pianos, and as the name implies, involves layering two sounds such that each keypress triggers both simultaneously.
A common example of using dual mode would be to layer the piano sounds with strings for a richer ballad-inspired tone.
Similarly, you could also layer the DX7 E.Piano with the CFX grands for an ethereal sound. Despite the limited number of presets, you can get a lot of mileage with some creativity.
Duo mode splits the keyboard into two halves, each having the same octave range. This is an ideal setup for teachers who teach one-on-one lessons, where they can sit alongside their students for easier demonstrations.
Unfortunately, the YDP-165 does not come with a Split mode, where two different sounds are assigned to different halves of the keyboard. As previously mentioned, this would be important for players who want to practice bass/key splits.
The YDP-165 does have a decent selection of modifiable functions despite the limited control scheme. Some notable modifiable functions are:
- TRANSPOSING. This allows you to change the played key. Transpositions can be changed from -6 to +6 semitones in increments of 1 semitone.
- METRONOME. Pressing the metronome button activates the in-built metronome. Tempo, time signature and volume of metronome sound can be changed.
- 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.
Note that the YDP-165 doesn’t have temperament options if that matters for you. Only Equal temperament is available.
Song Recording and Playback
The YDP-165 comes with 10 voice-specific demo songs and 50 classical pieces. On top of that, you get 303 lesson songs that you can use for practicing.
Naturally, you can also record your own songs using the dedicated record button. Each recording can consist of two parts per song, which allows you to record individual left- and right-hand parts for practice.
The recorder itself is based on MIDI, which means you can change the sound settings after the initial recording, and have said changes reflected immediately.
Unfortunately, you can only save one song on the YDP-165 at any given time. If you want to retain more scores at any given time, you need to use an external storage system.
Thankfully, you’re not limited to using the built-in recorder, as the YDP-165 has a good selection of connectivity options.
The YDP-165 doesn’t have a ton of connectivity options, but most of the essentials for home-based use (and some cool bonuses) are available.
Two 1/4″ headphone jacks are available, though these can pull double duty as line outputs if you require an external amplifier for on-venue performances where the speakers don’t cut it.
There is also a USB to Host port below the keybed, which allows you to link the YDP-165 to a PC or smart device. This allows for MIDI recording via USB, which is way more convenient than using the built-in song recorder.
Finally, there is a pedal jack, which is designed for the 3-pedal setup that comes with the casing. If you’re wondering why your damper pedals aren’t working, don’t be me, and remember to plug it in.
USB Audio Interface
The YDP-165 includes a built-in USB audio interface, which is something that sets it apart from the competition.
This allows you to directly record the excellent built-in samples via the USB to Host connector, rather than relying on an external audio interface which may be susceptible to noise and distortion.
As someone who occasionally dabbles in recording, I’m always glad to see this feature, as it means I’ll be able to record piano sounds with very little hassle.
Smart Pianist Companion App
All products in Yamaha’s Arius YDP lineup support the Smart Pianist companion app on iOS and Android.
This allows you to tweak parameters and control the keyboard with a well-designed user interface, rather than relying on the button/key combinations built into the instrument.
If you share my sentiments regarding the YDP-165’s complicated control scheme, you’ll likely be very happy to work with the touchscreen controls offered by your supported smart devices.
However, the YDP-165 does not support Bluetooth natively. If you do want to use the app, you’ll need to find a compatible adapter to link the YDP-165’s host port to your smart device.
I do understand that the YDP-165 is quite limited in terms of available ports, but a Casio PX-S1100-style bundled wireless Bluetooth adapter is definitely something Yamaha could have considered.
You’ll also receive the screws and parts required for assembling the complete YDP-165. This is everything you’ll need to start playing.
Here are a few additional recommended purchases.
Wireless USB MIDI Adapter
We previously discussed the lack of wireless smart app connectivity as a downside. It turns out that Yamaha does sell the UD-BT01 Wireless MIDI Adapter as a separate purchase, which allows you to connect to smart devices and laptops via Bluetooth.
However, there are some caveats. First, this is designed and tested for Apple devices only. People have reported that Windows detects things seamlessly, though I’ve seen many complaints from Android users about the Bluetooth hosts being undetected.
Personally, I didn’t get a chance to test the UD-BT01. However, my Android device worked seamlessly with a wired connection, meaning these issues are likely related to the UD-BT01 adapter itself.
If you’re an Apple user who doesn’t want to deal with the hassle of cable management, I’d say the UD-BT01 wireless adapter is well worth considering. If you’re an Android user, I’d stick to the wired connections or the onboard controls instead.
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.
Check out this guide to learn how to choose the best-sounding headphones for your keyboard.
While there are only incremental upgrades over the YDP-164 (with the VRM Lite modeling and Volume Limiter being the only notable differences), they are still welcome improvements to the already excellent baseline product.
In fact, if you look closely at my list of cons, you’ll likely realize that a lot of the gripes I’ve shared amount to nitpicks. If you’re simply looking for a digital piano that sounds and feels like the real thing, the YDP-165 won’t disappoint.
If you’re interested in the YDP-165, I’d recommend trying it out in person to get a feel for things. If you do get the opportunity to do so (or if you’re fortunate enough to have generous return policies for online shipping), do take note of these common gripes.
- The GH3 keys are generally accepted to be really good, but some people do find them to be a tad bit heavy, even when compared to real acoustic piano keys.
- The control scheme is a hassle. While the app mitigates the issues, not everyone likes adding extra steps to an otherwise straightforward practice session.
Before I close things out, let’s discuss how the YDP-165 stacks up against the YDP-164. The upgrades on the YDP-165 are nice, but they don’t change our positive evaluations of the original. If you somehow manage to find a YDP-164 or YDP-S54 at a good price, I’d take the deal in a heartbeat.
In summary, the YDP-165 and YDP-S55 are really good digital pianos. Whether you’re a player looking for an upgrade, or someone who wants a good digital piano with a non-intrusive but stylish furniture-like outlook, I’d definitely put both of these on your lists for consideration.
Check the availability and current price of the Yamaha YDP-165 in your region:
Yamaha YDP-165 vs Yamaha YDP-145 (Full Review)
The Yamaha YDP-145 is the other update in the 2022 Arius line refresh. The YDP-145 is the YDP-165’s sibling product, and the same goes for the YDP-S35 and the YDP-S55. As per the main text of this review, any reference to the YDP-145 will apply to both the YDP-145 and the YDP-S35.
The main downgrades that differentiate the YDP-145 from its more expensive counterpart are the keys and the speakers.
The YDP-145’s stereo speakers are 8W each, contrasting greatly with the 20W speakers on the YDP-165. In practice, this means the sounds produced on the YDP-145 just don’t hit the same quality you’d get on the YDP-165. Of course, this doesn’t matter much if you use headphones.
The keys are the more contentious aspect of the YDP-145. The keybed here is Yahama’s entry-level Graded Hammer Standard (GHS) action, which is a significant step down from the excellent GH3 action on the YDP-165.
The problem with the GHS action is its less than stellar responsiveness. I have no complaints about how the GHS keys feel from the initial keypress, it’s the downward travel and how it bottoms out that gives it the bad reputation. It also tends to have trouble when playing fast repetitions, which is where the GH3 action wins out.
As per the original review, I’d suggest testing the YDP-145 out in person if its lower price takes your fancy. The comments regarding the speakers and keys are valid concerns, but they might not hold as much weight in your own decision-making process.
Apart from the issues described above, which are explainable as tricks used to hit the lower price point, the YDP-145 nails the same high points as the YDP-165.
Yamaha YDP-165 vs Roland RP701 (Full Review)
While Yamaha is undoubtedly the most recognizable name in the piano business as a whole, Roland might be the king of recognizability in the digital music space.
Roland’s RP701 is Roland’s contemporary to the YDP-165. In fact, there’s even the Roland F701, which is a slim version that targets the YDP-S55. I’ll be using the RP701 as the main reference here, but both versions share the same internals.
In terms of sound, the RP701 uses Roland’s SuperNATURAL sound engine, which combines conventional sampling with software modeling to produce its piano sounds. In play, these sounds are very clean and ‘in-your-face’, which contrasts with the airy, natural sound of the YDP-165’s CFX grand.
For general use, I’d go with the YDP-165’s CFX piano preset, though I would prefer Roland’s pianos for practice purposes. Roland’s pianos are commonly criticized as being noticeably brighter, though this also means any mistakes you might make during practice will be easier to catch.
It should also be noted that the RP701 only has dual 12W speakers, which gives slightly less headroom than Yamaha’s 20W on the YDP-165.
In terms of feel, the RP701 uses Roland’s PHA-4 Standard key action, which is featured on most of Roland’s low- to mid-range digital pianos. Roland’s marketing copy makes them out to be natural and realistic, which is a promise I believe they deliver on.
When pitted against the GH3 keys on the YDP-165, I’d give the victory to Yamaha, but only by a small margin. Both of these key actions are very good, and the GH3 keys only edge out a victory due to the PHA-4 Standard’s slightly louder key noise.
So far, it seems like the RP701 only matches the YDP-165, and never truly takes a convincing lead. Let’s actually discuss the aspects where the RP701 excels.
The RP701 also runs circles around the YDP-165 with its control scheme, which features an encoder knob and an OLED screen. This means navigation is a breeze, and you’ll be able to switch between the 69 tones (with 255 General MIDI tones) without needing an app (though it does support Roland’s control app).
To sum it up, if you’re someone who favors versatility or convenience, you’ll likely prefer the RP701. On the other hand, if you fell in love with the natural sound of the YDP-165’s pianos, the RP701’s comparatively sterile sound just might not cut it.