Tuesday, January 14, 2014

REVIEW - DIGITAL PIANO vs ACOUSTIC PIANO - Which is better?

UPDATED REVIEW - October 26, 2016 - Digital Pianos vs Acoustic Pianos - Which is Better? - My name is Tim Praskins and I have played & performed on just about every digital & acoustic piano for well over 35 years and understand how they work just about better than anybody. I spend more time playing the digital pianos in my music studio as opposed to my acoustic upright and grand pianos for a few reasons; the built-in headphone jacks which allows me to plug in stereo headphones for private practice, the fact that my digital pianos allow me to do things musically that my acoustic pianos cannot do, and... digital pianos do not go out of tune like my acoustics. Personally, I don't like playing an "out-of-tune" acoustic piano, it's just not enjoyable for me. Acoustic pianos (no matter what the brand, model, or size) do go out of tune, and sometimes often because of larger fluctuations in local weather and humidity levels. Good top name digital pianos are not affected like that and they stay in tune. Yes, I know I can call a piano tuner to tune my piano, but the cost of that service (with a tuner who knows what they're doing) is at least $100US or more each time it is tuned, depending on the area and technician. A good piano really needs to be tuned at least once or twice a year to be in good tune, unless you do not care or cannot tell the difference...then you can tune it whenever you want:). But if you don not have it tuned for a long time then it will be more difficult and more expensive to tune up when you do finally get your acoustic piano tuned.

However, I do love playing great, in-tune acoustic grand pianos because they still do allow for an organic pure piano playing experience not yet found in any digital piano. So there are good reasons for some people to enjoy playing and owning great acoustic pianos. However, those reasons are starting to disappear fast for the younger generation because they want their piano to give them a complete interactive music playing and listening experience which only digital pianos can really do to a full extent. In days gone by, I was limited to the amount of time I could play my acoustic piano as I was growing up and even now because it competes with other family activities in the home and studio. Playing an acoustic piano in a typical living room, family room, or bedroom is a "loud" thing to do. That's OK if no one else is home, you live alone, if no one is watching TV nearby, or sleeping, etc. But for all practical purposes, for most families, good digital pianos offer so much more in terms of flexibility and interactive enjoyment.

As far as comparing quality piano tone and key touch between a digital piano vs an acoustic piano, that's really a matter of personal preference, and for most people who have not grown up playing an acoustic piano, it's very difficult to tell the difference between the two (assuming the digital piano is a good one). I like the touch and tone better on some acoustics and better on some digitals. They are not all the same but a few things are for sure; a digital (home cabinet style) piano is lighter and easier to move, requires no tuning EVER which will save hundreds of dollars over the life of the piano, and also has a master volume knob so you can turn down the volume when not wearing headphones (that can be a very good thing).

It is true that a digital piano has to be "plugged in" to an electrical outlet where an acoustic piano doesn't. I've heard the argument that a digital piano won't work if the power goes out but an acoustic piano will. While that is a true statement, how often does that really happen? Not often unless there is a severe storm that knocks out power or blew your home away. But then you'd be in the dark and couldn't see much anyway and you probably would be busy cleaning up the mess from the storm! In fact, once in a while our power goes out here in the Phoenix, AZ area in the middle of summer when everyone is cranking up their A/C to stay cool. When that happens, you do not want to stay in your home very long because without A/C, you start to heat up pretty fast:) So playing piano at that point is not the first thing you think of. Also, if you don't have electricity where you live or the electricity you have is not dependable, then DON'T purchase a digital piano. That's a logical choice.

Many digital pianos have USB flashdrive options for saving your song recordings or playing songs, or connecting to a computer or iPad (using inexpensive music software, which I use and enjoy). With computer music software, you can play your piano music and then see it in sheet music form on your computer. You can take that sheet music from your computer and print it out, edit it, or even play it back automatically. Music education and interactive software for digital pianos is pretty incredible these days and can help speed up the learning process by not only making piano practice more fun, but also more intuitive. Young students really like it as do many adults and it is a great motivational practice tool.

Vertical & Baby Grand digital pianos are also becoming more refined in their design and more attractive in their cabinetry. In other words, they look good. Acoustic pianos have generally always looked good so that hasn't changed. But why would anyone want an acoustic piano over a digital piano? The fact is, a good acoustic piano (especially good acoustic grands) is still superior in tone and touch to many digital pianos. But I'm talking about a good and potentially higher price acoustic piano. There are many worn out or mistreated used acoustic pianos out there that are not in good shape, don't sound good, and don't play correctly, don't stay in tune and to repair them costs more than they're worth. Also, nearly all acoustic pianos do depreciate in value over the years, some more than others. It's not unusual for an acoustic piano (vertical or grand) to be worth less than 50% of it's original cost over time. Depreciation in a digital piano is also guaranteed to be large over the years. So I suggest you need to buy a piano for what it can do and how it makes you feel emotionally when playing it, as opposed to how much of a resale value it might have.


Generally speaking, if you're a piano student, you want to have fun with your music and enjoy it, and be motivated to play it. You may like & need the headphone feature on a digital piano and you don't want to pay hundreds of dollars in piano tuning maintenance over the years. Perhaps you like the idea of using computer music software or iPad apps to enhance your playing and learning experience? If so, then a purchase a good new digital piano is a great idea regardless if you are an advanced or pro piano player, or just a beginner student. Some very nice new digital pianos that I like include the Roland LX17, Roland HP605, Kawai CA97, Kawai CE220, Kawai CA67, ES8, Yamaha CLP535, NU1, AvantGrand, Casio AP460, GP500, and other digital pianos. They are impressive instruments for what they do and how good they do it and they range in price from under $1000US to above $7000US. Good new acoustic pianos sell for approx $4000US to well abover $10,000US so they are a lot more expensive and take more upkeep which costs additional money.

Many of my piano teacher friends (who are excellent pianists) own digital pianos along with an acoustic piano and they love and use both of them. For a piano teacher, having an acoustic & digital piano can meet a variety of student needs as well as expanding the musical horizons of piano teachers. As far as mechanical and electronic reliability goes, my experiences have been very good for both acoustic and digital pianos, as long as they are the higher quality brands. You just have to be sure it's a good name brand and that you take care of your piano. Off-brand pianos can sometimes be high maintenance and unreliable based on my experience with them, so be careful to stay away from those brands which include Williams, Suzuki, Artesia, Adagio, and others.

Three of my favorite lower priced digital furniture cabinet pianos right now is the Casio Celviano AP460 digital piano, Roland DP603, and Kawai CE220 (left pic). All three piano brands offer very good quality in their price ranges and the pianos play & sound very nice and have many features a family could want, all for under $2000US. I have written reviews on these instruments here on this blog so check them out when you have time  and look for other piano reviews and news by using the search bar on the right side of this review. Regardless of which type and model piano you buy, it is a wonderful thing that you will be getting one for you and/or your family because there is nothing like music to fill a home with beautiful sound, beautiful memories, and a gift that keeps on giving.

If you want more info on pianos or would like to find out about purchasing one for LOWER than internet or store price, please contact me at tim@azpianowholesale.com or call direct at 602-571-1864

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