So it comes as no surprise that even though both the Yamaha P155 and Kawai EP3 portable models are over 4 years old now based on when they first came out, both pianos are still the current models in the $1000-$1100 digital piano market. They have a very high quality piano touch & tone and easy to use features in a sturdy cabinet weighing in at under 50lbs, so they are not too heavy. Both the Kawai EP3 and Yamaha P155 have very good internal speaker systems that allow for a surprisingly full reproduction of a good quality piano sound as well as having solid weighted key actions. Both pianos are priced separately without the factory built piano style stand which would be an extra cost.
1. The EP3 has a better, more realistic key action which moves more smoothly and quickly like a regular acoustic upright piano. The Yamaha P155 key action is a little too heavy, especially on the upper octaves above middle C, and other people who have tried the P155 have mentioned this as well. Those octaves on the P155 have physically stiff touch resistance when playing (especially lightly or softly) which is unnatural as compared to a good acoustic upright or grand piano. This can be an issue when playing music where you need more finger speed or want a light subtle touch. I was surprised by this as Yamaha typically knows what they're doing, but this model does not live up to my expectations on authentic piano weighted key action and movement in that way, although some have suggested this unnatural heaviness is a good thing, but I would disagree. I have played a number of P155's and they are all the same. Both Yamaha and Kawai key actions are graded weighted hammer style, although as I mentioned above, the weight of the upper octaves on the P155 is heavier and unnatural on the upper octaves with too much upward pressure resistance based on my experience with acoustic pianos. There is a key velocity "sensitivity function" which allows for velocity curve changes, but this does little to change this issue on the P155.
2. The Kawai has a better built-in audio system including 2 main bass reflex speakers and 4 smaller speakers (total of 6 speakers) for an even fuller sound reproduction, as opposed to 2 speakers in the Yamaha which are smaller than the Kawai main speakers. The stereo amplifier power is also slightly less in the Yamaha (24 watts total) as opposed to 26 watts in the Kawai, although they are close.
3. Acoustic piano tone resonation and dynamics are better in the Kawai in my opinion. Both Yamaha and Kawai have various company words to describe the kind of action they use or the way the sound is produced or sampled. I understand the need for terminology but at the end of the day it's what you feel and hear that really counts. So I give both pianos a definite thumbs up for tone and resonance but even more so for the Kawai as far as coming closer to an acoustic piano in dynamic touch levels and fluid movement as well as very smooth half-pedaling on the damper pedal (both pianos have this) for realistic sustain control for various kinds of music.
5. Total amount of instrument tones on the Kawai is 21 as opposed to 17 on the Yamaha. The Kawai has 3 grand piano sounds (which can be edited and adjusted to your own tastes) as opposed to 2 piano sounds on the Yamaha, although the Yamaha piano sounds are very good and I do like them. The other instrument sounds including electric pianos, string symphonies, guitars, organs (with Leslie digital slow/fast speed control for B3 sounds which is very authentic), etc, are MUCH better and noticeably more realistic on the Kawai than the Yamaha.
6. The EP3 has a very cool pedal function called "pedal hold." This enables some of the more legato strings and choirs, and organs to have extended and continual sustain while being played as solo sounds or layered with piano sounds which normally decay. Without pedal hold, the legato sounds would decay and fade out like a piano normally does, which is not natural. Kawai has this feature but Yamaha does not. Some people may never need pedal hold because they are at a beginner level. But if you move up from there you'll wonder how you ever lived without it.
6. The stereo reverb effects are noticeably better on the Kawai and this is important in getting a bigger more elegant piano tone reproduction as well as being better at enhancing the other instrument tones. If you don't know what reverb effects can do for tone enhancement and how important they can be, then just know that good digital reverb effects can be very useful. Yamaha has them but they are very weak and limited.
7. There are 30 realistic drum rhythm patterns in the Kawai and none on the Yamaha. Yamaha does have a metronome for timing as does the Kawai, but no drum rhythm patterns such as jazz, rock, march, Latin, Gospel, funk, Country, ballad, waltz and so on. Not only do I love to have good built-in drum patterns for myself to play along with, but I frequently use them for student lesson training with timing issues and understanding how to interact with a real drum set.
8. The Kawai has a "4 hands mode" which allows the keyboard to be specially electronically split into two identical smaller keyboards for duet playing or teacher-student simultaneous play. This can be very useful depending on the situation. I use this feature for student piano lessons and recitals. Yamaha does not have this feature.
9 The Kawai EP3 has a USB output connection to computer. Many people these days are connecting their digital pianos to their home computer or iPad as I do. There is a large amount of great interactive music software out there that make the piano playing and learning experience even better. The Yamaha only has the older MIDI output connections which still allows for connection, but it's not as user friendly and requires a special USB adapter box for conversion to USB.
10. When you sit down to a higher quality piano like these 2 models from Kawai and Yamaha, you just want to play it with the grand piano sounds and perhaps a few other instruments and "connect with it." I feel I have more of a "connection" when playing the Kawai EP3 than I do with the Yamaha P155. But that's just me. You may feel differently.
1. The Yamaha looks a bit nicer including its music rack (although that's a still subjective). It comes in a few different colors whereas the Kawai only comes in black and is a bit more sterile looking, although it still looks nice and is fine for my needs.
2. The P155 can take a USB flash drive for storing piano recordings that you may have done on the piano. That is an advantage if you need to store your recordings for later playback or you can put the flashdrive into your computer to download into music software. The Kawai cannot do that.
3. The Yamaha has 128 notes of polyphony as opposed to 96 in the Kawai which can help with the overall piano tone and instrument playing especially for larger more complex scores and when layering two sound together. Although 128 notes of polyphony is better, 96 is generally sufficient and the difference is not an issue or really noticeable. If the Yamaha or Kawai had closer to 200 notes of polyphony (which is more of an expense to do) then that would be a very significant increase and a good thing.
As far as comparing the other features on both pianos including editing features, 2-track recording, layering & splitting two tones which they both do, transpose, and other functions, both pianos are very close in that way and either would be just fine. Both pianos can have external speakers (powered or unpowered) connected to them using the piano audio outputs, and the Kawai has an on/off switch to turn off the internal speaker system whenever desired which is a very nice feature. And finally, the Kawai EP3 has a very handy stereo line in jack for CD players and iPods, etc so that you can listen to your favorite audio song files through the piano speakers or a pair of headphones and play along with them live with the piano...that is very cool and the Yamaha does not have that feature. The Kawai EP3 is $100 more than the Yamaha P155 but I think that is a small difference to pay for what the Kawai EP3 offers. However I believe you could be very happy with either piano. People want to know if there are advantages of one over the other and there are, but I believe the Kawai EP3 in this case comes out on top.
And speaking of Kawai, if you want to go to the next step up as far as a quality portable digital piano, then you should also take a look at the Kawai MP6 at $1499. It is a big upgrade in piano tone and key action touch as compared to the EP3 or the Yamaha P155. Take a look a my blog review below when you have time.
Kawai MP6 Review
If you want more info on these and other pianos and lower prices than internet discounts, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me direct at 602-571-1864
Here are some Kawai EP3 demos below to give you an idea of what this instrument really sounds like and why I think it's a "best buy" for its $1099 internet discount price.
JazzMan (Modern Grand Piano, Bass player, Drummer)
Jazz Trio Jammin' (traditional jazz group)
Classical Zone (Classical Piano Solo)
Romantic Grand Strings (Grand Piano and Symphonic String orchestra)
Concert String Symphony (Famous Classical String Symphony)
PIPE Organ Movie (Impressive Full Classical Pipe Organ)
Digital River (The famous Yamaha DX7 digital piano sound)
DigiPiano Groove (Famous Fender Rhodes Sound in Action)
You've got the Vibe (Dual Mallet Stereo Vibraphone)
Cool B3 (Jimmy Smith Full Hammond B3)
Hot Hammond & Leslie (The Joey D sound)
Harpsichord Heaven (Mozart Himself would love this)
Guitar Folk Scene (The James Taylor Sound)