Thursday, February 20, 2014

REVIEW - Digital Pianos Under $2000 for 2014 - Yamaha YDP181, Yamaha YDP162, Yamaha YDPC71, Roland RP301, Kawai KDP90, Samick SG110, Kawai CE220, Casio PX850, Yamaha YDP142, Kurzweil MP10, Kawai CN24, Roland F120 - "Traditional Style Piano Cabinet"


UPDATED REVIEW - July 19, 2014 - BEST CABINET DIGITAL PIANOS Between $1000US to $2000US - I am an expert when it comes to playing, teaching on, and knowing about digital pianos. I have been working with all the brands and models for over 40 years and offer free consultations no matter where you live. Just email me with your questions and I'll be happy to get back to you. I do not have a store or warehouse, but I work out of a large music studio that I own, and I play & teach on acoustic & digital pianos, keyboards, synthesizer, organ, and a variety of guitars. I understand what digital pianos are supposed to do and which ones that will give you a realistic piano playing experience (based on my vast experience with acoustic pianos including concert grands as well as all the name brand digital pianos). There are many new model digital pianos being offered by the top piano manufacturers these days and sometimes it can be very confusing as to what the best digital piano is for a particular price range. So I have written this blog article (and others) to help out people looking for good furniture cabinet digital pianos between $1000US - $2000US. There are also nice portable style digital pianos available that I also recommend and can tell you about. I also have done a review comparison of new digital pianos under $1000US which you can also read about on my blog at the following link: Digital Pianos under $1000US

I consider the top digital piano manufacturers to include Kawai, Casio, Yamaha, and Roland. In the $1000-$2000 price range, the Korg digital piano company makes one cabinet piano called the LP380 ($999 internet price) which is OK but not up to the quality of the top brands in my opinion. Go to the following link to read my review on that model:  Korg LP380 review. The Kurzweil piano/keyboard company makes nice looking furniture style digital pianos and although they sound pretty good, in my opinion they are not very good when it comes to higher quality key actions and pedaling components and electronics in the under $2000US price range. I will be doing some detailed reviews on all the Kurzweil cabinet models soon but if you should have any questions in the meantime, please contact me.

Almost all other brands of digital pianos (with a couple of exceptions) that may be available in some piano stores, on-line web sites, or consumer store web sites (like Costco in the US) are what I consider to be off brands. I would not recommend these brands by such names as Artesia, Suzuki, Williams, Adams, Adagio, and a few others that I have seen. Stay away from them regardless of how inexpensive the price may be or how attractive the piano may look if you want a good piano playing experience, especially in these mini/micro digital baby grands that are out there. Most of them are just plain bad when it comes to key action response, dynamics, key action noise, durability, etc. I have written reviews on many of these brands and models so if you want more info, take a look at some of my other blog reviews.

In this blog article I will be referring only to furniture cabinet style models (including portable pianos with nice furniture stands & pedals) and only those that have an internet or regular store discount price for $1000-$2000US which is where most consumers want to be when shopping for a new digital piano.

Roland digital pianos are generally fine instruments and that company has three furniture cabinet models that sell for under $2000 and they're called the RP301R ($1999 approx store discount price), RP301 ($1699 internet price), and F120 compact cabinet version of the RP301 ($1699 internet price - $1399 sale price at Costco). All three pianos are the same as far as key action, piano sound, and speaker system, and all three pianos have 128-notes of polyphony. The key action (ivory feel-G) is nicely weighted but has a somewhat sluggish movement as compared to the other digital piano brands as well as real acoustic pianos. The key action unfortunately is also noisy and distracting as the keys go down and touch bottom when playing in a harder more dynamic manner. It's like the keys don't have enough felt underneath them. The other brands here do not have this issue as the keys hit the keybed underneath, and I have played all the brands and models. Most of the other Roland cabinet model pianos (they're all well over $2000) have a key action touch that is much more realistic than the RP301 and also quieter when the keys touch bottom. I do like the piano tone overall although it's a bit thin and tinny in the middle to higher octaves of these pianos. The RP301 and 301R piano have buttons across the front panel so it's easy to operate and has a nice selection of realistic instrument and percussion tones which is good although their stereo amplifier speaker system puts out a total of just 24 watts which OK but the sound in the middle octaves is a bit tinny as I mentioned. The RP301 & F120 do not have a USB output connector (just standard MIDI connectors), and although USB would be more convenient, a MIDI to USB adapter can be purchased to make the connection. Overall I think these Roland pianos are good in some ways but are a bit overpriced for what they're offering as compared to other brands. I have detailed blog reviews of these Roland models here on my blogsite if you want to read more.

Yamaha YDP181
Yamaha offers 6 furniture cabinet digital pianos starting at $1099 and going to just under $2000 and they're called the YDP142, YDP162, YDPS51, YDPC71PE (left pic), YDP181 (below left pic), and YDPV240. The Yamaha Arius YDP141 & YDP161 are now discontinued. The Yamaha Arius YDP181 piano (left pic) has been one of the more popular Yamaha pianos under $2000 and sells at an US internet discount price for $1699. This piano is carried in many music stores and on-line internet dealers throughout the country and the piano key action is a bit more realistic than the Roland RP301 series in my opinion. When it comes to comparing any digital piano including Yamaha to real pianos, acoustic pianos are organic instruments made mostly of wood parts so that's why many acoustic piano shoppers will try out two or three of the same model acoustic piano in a store as each one can be slightly different in feel or tone. The feel and tone is different from one brand to the next, so "true piano tone" is relative, but the YDP181 does have a very good piano tone although a bit muffled and mid-rangy because of the speaker system design (the sound is much better through a good pair of headphones). The YDP181 offers 14 instruments on a nicely laid out control panel with easy access buttons, and the acoustic piano tone is fairly realistic, especially through good
Yamaha YDP162
headphones as I mentioned (with 128 notes of polyphony). It also has a layering feature but no split or duet play, but the piano does not have a high speed USB output which would have been a convenient option. It does have a USB flashdrive input so basic MIDI song recordings can be saved and stored to flashdrive (it does not play General MIDI files). The YDP181 has a 2-track  basic MIDI recorder for separate right and left hand recording and playback. As far as looks, it might be slightly better looking than the Roland, but not much better and it is offered in the simulated dark rosewood finish as opposed to some models which also offer a black color.  The Yamaha pianos are very good but in my opinion just don't compete right now with what Casio or Kawai has to offer under $2000, especially in the key action movement. The Yamaha Arius key actions are a bit stiff when you press down the keys from a resting position (static touch weight), especially when playing lightly or softly and Casio & Kawai are noticeably better in that way. The internet selling prices for these Yamaha pianos, in my opinion, are still too high these days given the competition out there.

Kawai CE220
Kawai produces four digital furniture cabinet pianos under $2000 called the CE220 (1899US internet price), the ES7 compact, portable piano ($1999US without optional furniture stand & pedals), the CN24 ($1799US internet price), and the newest model called the KDP90 ($1149 internet price), with the KDP90 in dark brown rosewood & CE220 piano in satin black finish being (by far) the most popular. The CE220 has real wood acoustic piano keys and great acoustic piano style key action movement. This is a feature not found on any other top name digital pianos under selling for $3000. The keys themselves are actually made out of real wood (direct from Kawai acoustic upright pianos) and are created to emulate an acoustic piano more closely in that way. The piano tone is, in my opinion, arguably the best of all the traditional upright furniture cabinet digital pianos under $2000 and it has a large 192-notes of polyphony piano sound memory which is plenty for nearly all
playing situations and skill levels, including for advanced players. The features that Kawai offers on the CE220 piano are impressive as well. All of the control buttons are across the front of the piano (where they should be) and they're easy to see and use. The CE220 is capable of layering and splitting two tones and it also has some other cools things like octave shift when layering two sounds together which none of the others can do. The CE220 has duet 4-hand play which means two people can play the piano at the same time by splitting the piano keyboard into 2 equal keyboards playing in the same octaves which is very cool. It has 22 very realistic instrument tones (22 is good and better than Yamaha), has 100 realistic drum rhythm patterns for rhythm & timing practice, a layer relative volume balance slider control (the only piano to have that), and a 2-track recorder for separate right and left hand recording and playback. The CE220 also has a USB output to connect to computer for interfacing with music software and a USB flashdrive input for storing recorded songs as well as loading in MIDI piano song files for playback. And as far as looks, I think the Kawai CE220 is quite attractive and looks more substantial and more like a piano than some other pianos. I would definitely recommend the CE220 as a winner for what it offers. 

Kawai KDP90
Kawai continued - The Kawai ES7 (above left pic) is an exceptional piano for the price and I have done a review of that piano at the following link: Kawai ES7 Review. With its new triple sensor ivory key grand piano key action and exceptional 256-note polyphony acoustic piano in a nice compact polished ebony or polished white cabinet, the ES7 piano not only looks cool, it performs great for any playing skill level and I would recommend it. The CN24 ($1799) has a very good key action which is realistically weighted with the "let-off" function (which simulates a grand piano key movement) along with 192-note polyphony, ivory touch keys, and great piano sound and  some other good instrument tones. Although the CN24 is a minimalistic designed piano, it still has some cool functions and sounds & plays great through its 40 watt internal sound system. Go to the following link to read my review on the CN24: Kawai CN24 review. The KDP90 is very similar to the CN24 in many ways but uses a different key action which simulates an upright piano as opposed to a grand piano and it has a realistic key action response with great dynamic range, and I like it a lot. I think most people would be happy with the KDP90 especially in its lower price range. Go to the following link for my KDP90 review: Kawai KDP90 Review. In my opinion all of four Kawai pianos outperform what Yamaha, Roland, Kurzweil, or Samick offers right now under $2000. Once you are over $2000 then the other brands offer some very nice pianos too.

Casio PX850 digital piano
Casio PX850
Casio has 5 cabinet pianos right now under $2000 (and under $1000) including the very popular PX850 at $1099 internet price (left pic), which is without a doubt the one that is my pick for "best bang for the buck" between $1000 - $2000. After getting a chance to play this piano many times, in my opinion the keyboard touch, response, and key movement is surprisingly good and provides a fairly realistic acoustic piano playing experience along with the keytops having the new synthetic ivory & ebony material for the smoother finger movement and control. There are five acoustic piano sounds utilizing 256 notes of polyphony for advanced piano sound reproduction (no other brand offers that until you are over $2000), along with a wav file audio recorder and playback feature which you can save and load to a USB flashdrive. The pedal movement and sustain/decay time is good in this price range and the piano even has damper resonance which
produces the natural echo found in a real acoustic piano when pressing down on the damper pedal and hearing the strings vibrate. Other features include duet four hand play, layering, splitting, transpose, and some other cool things. The control buttons are across the front of the piano so it's user friendly. Casio has also included some advanced tech features like USB CoreMIDI connectivity (very nice for plug & play connection to iPad and computer) as well as having audio outputs. The PX850 audio speaker system is surprisingly powerful at this price and includes four speakers going through 40 watts of stereo power with a lid opening feature which allows the sound to project in an acoustic piano fashion. The PX850 gives you the sense you're sitting in front of a real piano and looks attractive in its compact cabinet and sliding key cover. So for $1099 internet price, this piano is a very impressive package and a great "bang for the buck." 

My 1st choice in this digital piano comparison for overall winner in versatility, quality, and lower price would be the new Casio PX850 (left pic) at $1099 discount internet price. With a very realistic graded weighted key movement and resonate acoustic piano tone (has better tonal dynamics & color with a 3-sensor key electronics - Yamaha Arius does not have this) along with its many other useful educational features, this one is definitely worth the money in the lower price range and people are saying very good things about this piano. My 2nd choice, which is in the higher price range, would be the Kawai CE220 at $1899 discount internet price followed by the Kawai KDP90 in 3rd place. The Kawai CE220 key action is
better than the Casio PX850 in my opinion as well as their acoustic piano sound, but it is another $800 more, so it should be better and the higher price is the only reason I put in in 2nd place:) My 4rd choice would be the Yamaha YDP162 or YDPS51 because they are just under $1500, have nice updated features over the previous models and are good pianos from Yamaha. The Yamaha YDP162 also comes in a polished ebony cabinet and is available in selected US Yamaha piano stores (approx $2000 selling price or more). The YDP162 is also a very good choice, but the Kawai & Casio pianos seem to offer more bang for the buck right now based on what I and owners of these pianos have experienced. Also, getting any good digital piano in the polished ebony finish (assuming it's available) usually adds a big premium to the price.

I always recommend that you do your homework before you buy because ultimately any of these pianos may be a good choice for you. However there are definitely some models that offer more for the money and if you would like my help in making your decision, please contact me as I do not charge for my advice:)

If you want more info on these pianos and lower prices than internet or store discounts, please email me at tim@azpianowholesale.com or call direct at 602-571-1864

* I recommend eMedia educational software. If you decide to make a purchase after clicking on link below, I have arranged a big discount for you direct with eMedia for their educational software and that discount price is displayed through this link only! I want to see everyone learn to play and enjoy piano!

21 comments:

  1. Thanks, Tim, for the super analysis of these different brands and models. I am looking for a digital piano and your information is very helpful.

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  2. Could you tell me which of these you would recommend for a choir? I am in an elementary school but I have always had a Roland digital in the schools I have taught in. I would like one that has a good quality decent speakers and recording capabilities so that I can record myself and they playback so I can conduct choir.

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  3. Hi Tim,

    I am a serious amateur pianist looking to sell my Yamaha acoustic piano (P22) and buy a digital piano instead due to my living situation (apartment with thin walls). I'm a fairly advanced pianist (I'm working on the 2nd ballade (chopin) currently) and need the best possible realistic digital piano under $2000. Is the CE220 still your recommendation (for 2013 March)?

    Thanks,
    Vishnu

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  4. With regard to being under $2000, yes I recommend the Kawai CE220 over other new digital pianos in that price range for your needs.

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  5. tim please i need your help !! im just starting to play the piano, and i dont know anything about pianos, but after saving some money for a long time i have 2.000 us to spend, is a great investment for me so im afraid of buying something wrong, in my country there is a used samick js-15 owner says is in perfect condition about 3 years usage, he is asking 2.000 us, and the other option is the Kawai CE220 that you recommended, i will be playing classical music, which one is the better option?, i appreciate your help thanks very much.

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  6. Thanks for putting all of this information together, Tim! It's exactly what I needed :) I'm looking for an upgrade from my Casio Privia PX700 (which has lasted me about 8+ years and counting!)

    I'm going to take your notes shopping with me :)

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  7. Hey, Tim. Thanks for all the hard-work; Much appreciated. I was wondering if you had a 2013-update on digital-pianos under $3000?

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  8. Hello Tim,

    How does the Casio PX850 compare to the Casio AP 650 and the Yamaha DGX 650?
    Thank you.

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  9. Tim, How about a review of the Casio AP 650? Are you not mentioning it because it is not yet available?

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    1. The AP650 is available only in a select few pianos stores in the US and not on-line. It is the upgraded traditional cabinet version of the lower priced Casio PX780 but with 256 note polyphony and a slightly more powerful speaker system. The PX780 is actually the better value and is available on-line too.

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  10. Tim,
    Would you Please comment on how the Casio AP650 stacks up against the Kawai CE220?
    Thanks

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  11. The Casio AP650 is a much higher priced version of the Casio PX780 with identical functions and key action but with 256-note polyphony instead of 128. As far as how the AP650 compares with the CE220 directly, please email me and I would be happy to give you a detailed explanation.

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  12. Tim, I was looking for a piano for my three kids and me. Thanks to your reviews I am now feeling comfortable to choose one although I have never played a piano. This is a very passionate page and I really admire your engagement.

    Best regards,
    Jakub

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  13. How does the sound of the PX-850 compare to the AP-650? If money was not a consideration, which of the two would you recommend?

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  14. Tim, Thanks a lot for your reviews. actually I was very confused which digital piano is best for me within my budget under $2000 and after reading your review , I decided to buy Casio privia 850. I ordered it from Costco.ca and can not wait to receive it and play

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  15. Tim, Thank you very much for your great reviews and comparisons. I'm deciding between the Yamaha YDP-V240 and Kawai CE220. Since I haven't seen either one in real life, would you mind briefly comparing their cabinetry detail, finish, keyboard cover and overall elegance? Which would look best in your living room or den?

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  16. They are two totally different instruments and in my opinion the Kawai is far superior in almost every way incl cabinet, structure, design, color, and realistic playability. If you want more info and live in the US you may contact me direct by email

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  17. Hi Tim, great blogs. Keep them coming. Now that Roland rolled their FP-80. Which has the closest true piano feel/best key action between Kawai CE220, ES7 and Roland's ? An upright piano is out of question since access to our attic is a narrow circular stair.

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  18. There is no "true" piano feel in the world of pianos. Even high quality concert grand pianos differ in key action feel and sound, that's why there are a variety of brands. One is not necessarily better than the other...just different...like green vs blue, oranges vs apples. All three of those pianos you mentioned are quite good but they are different from each other with one offering something different than the other. You could likely be happy on any of them so it's just a matter of taste, budget, cabinet design or portable, functions/features, etc. I personally could be happy playing on any of them. If you have other specific questions you can email me directly.

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  19. I have an old 1990s yamaha clp142. My daughter is almost 7, been playing almost a year, I can play a bit myself as well although I never performed and prefer other instruments.

    Today we tried the kawai ce220, cn24, casio px750, roland rp301r. The store salesman said the cn24 is by far and away the best seller there. I definitely preferred the action feel to the ce220 myself. I thought the roland was fairly nice action wise, my wife didn't like the sound much. Something about the px750 (the px series in general even) doesn't feel quite right. Something about the key return? The only yamaha I've tried that felt like an upgrade over my clp142 is a yaris ydp181.

    My daughter didn't really have much of an opinion about any of them. With other kids starting in a couple of years we may need to add a second piano for practice time. Living in desert conditions I'm not really thrilled with getting something acoustic even though our aging piano teacher insists that acoustic is a must have (I don't totally agree and I learned on an acoustic).

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    Replies
    1. Please email me directly and I can give you specific advice based on my years as a piano teacher and pro musician.

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