Thursday, May 1, 2014

USED DIGITAL PIANOS - Should You Buy One? Be an informed shopper!

UPDATED REVIEW - October 15, 2014 - USED DIGITAL PIANOS...SHOULD YOU BUY ONE? What are they worth? Are they a better value than NEW Digital Pianos? Learn the answers HERE from an expert before you buy one!

I have worked with and played nearly all of the major brands of digital pianos (also known as electric pianos) throughout the years including Yamaha, Roland, Casio, Kawai, Kurzweil, Korg, Technics, Nord, Gem, Suzuki, and many more. I have played them professionally, recreationally, taught lessons on them and know how they work. There are always used digital pianos for sale on eBay, CraigsList, in various ads on-line and locally, in piano stores and various music stores. There seems to be no shortage of used digital pianos and a few are good and many are bad, and some are some in-between. Some models are newer, some are older, and some have useful technology, but many used digital pianos are outdated in terms of  not having a piano sound & key action along with having unseen internal wear, and therefore not worth owning.

Used digital piano
When it comes to used digital piano prices, there is no set standard of what they may be worth or what a good deal is...it's really whatever the market will bear or however the seller is motivated to sell it. Even if the used digital piano that's for sale looks like a "good deal," it may not be a good deal at all, especially when compared with a comparable new digital piano. As with all technology, new digital pianos keep on improving in nearly every way and with those improvements those new pianos can even come down in price, or at least the prices don't go up much. Although used computers or flat screen TV's are a bit different than used digital pianos, the end result is the same. As an example, just try selling a 5 year old used digital TV and see what you get for it? Not much and you probably paid twice as much as they sell for now and it probably isn't even half as good as what there is now. Over time the new ones get better and the old ones just become less desirable... unless you're willing to just about give it away. In the case of used digital pianos, what used to cost $2000 some years ago in terms trying to duplicate the key action & piano sound of an acoustic piano, has now been replaced by brand new digital pianos that are 3 to 4 times as good and cost about 1/2 the price in some cases. Even though the used digital piano may be a good trusted brand name (like Yamaha or Roland, etc) and the used piano may even be physically in good shape and have a nice looking cabinet, that does not mean it will be a good musical investment as compared to buying a new digital piano.

New digital piano technology
When it comes to higher quality, name brand new digital pianos, they are now closer than ever to duplicating the piano keyboard action and piano sound of an acoustic piano. People ask me all the time if they should consider buying a slightly used digital piano over a new one and my answer is "it all depends what you can be happy with?" If you want the best piano tone & touch for yourself and/or your children, then new name brand digital pianos are almost always going to be better in that way. Based on your personal piano playing experience or skill level, you or your children may not be able to tell the difference right away between and older used piano and a new one, but your ability to recreate the song you are playing (or trying to play) in the correct way will be significantly improved by the better and newer digital piano technology. Also, if you want the latest in music educational functions using a CoreMIDI compliant USB output to iPad/laptop, including wireless connectivity, then that is also super cool & helpful and many new digital pianos have that these days. You and your family should not miss out on fun and instructive things an iPad/tablet or laptop can do for you with the right apps or music education software programs. Go to the following link for an example of some new digital pianos that have this exciting new educational & fun technology for both beginners & advanced players. New Technology Digital Piano by Roland

There are MIDI connections on many used pianos which can connect to computers, however, many new digital pianos (not all) now have high speed USB to iPad (or computer) interface connections which are very important in today's world of music education for both kids and adults. Have you seen the available music education, composition, & notation apps for the iPad lately? They are fantastic and so useful in personal music development and understanding. Does the used piano have that ability and function?... maybe yes and maybe no. You should be sure it does because it will open up a much better world of music for you.

Other important considerations when shopping for a used digital piano are: how much polyphony piano sound memory/processing power does the used piano have? 32, 64, 128, or more and does that matter? Do the pedals support "half-pedaling" for more realistic pedal function and does that matter (yes, it does matter)? Are the keys using the latest in key sound sensors to achieve greater and smoother dynamic range in playing songs and does that matter? What is the piano sound pedal decay in the used piano as compared to a new one? Can you do recording on the piano and if so, what kind is it? Does the piano save recordings to an old floppy disk drive  or a newer technology USB flash drive or SD card, or does it save songs at all? If the used piano has an old floppy disk drive, then that is something I would suggest you stay away from. Is the key action lightweight, medium weight, heavy weight, progressive hammer, and is the key action quiet or is it noisy with loose keys. Perhaps the key contacts under the keys are starting to wear out (which they do), and that would be bad. These are things you need to know and questions that need to be asked.

Bad keys - common problem
There are hundreds of used pianos in private ads all over the US and in other countries and there is no factory warranty on those pianos so you do take a risk in that purchase and that risk could cost you hundreds more dollars in repairs in the long run (I have seen this personally). Repairing a digital piano can get quite expensive depending on the problem if it should occur, and the cost of a repair can cancel out any savings you may get on a used digital piano. Also, depending on where you live, there may not be a digital piano technician in your area or parts may not be available anymore which does happen...I have seen this often. At that point you just have to throw out the piano. Occasionally there is a good deal out there, but not very often and how would you really know if the deal was good or not? Are you willing to take the risk in buying a used piano? Remember, there is no warranty and for many people, they think nothing will happen after they get the used piano home. But it only takes one "breakdown" with the piano to make things bad as a repair can easily cost hundreds of dollars depending on what is wrong, assuming it can be repaired at all! People don't last forever and neither do digital pianos. They can go out or have a problem without warning because eventually things start to wear out (on some more than others and some sooner than later). So be very careful when looking to buy a used digital piano because even though they may look good on the outside does not mean they are good on the inside.

Bad internal circuit board
One of the problems with used digital pianos for sale on the open market is that many sellers think their piano is worth a high price when in fact, it may have little or no value at all. This is typical of people who buy something (especially electronics) for a lot of money and then still think it's worth a lot of money later on, even after many years. The fact is, digital pianos over some years depreciate in a big way and they can and wear out and deteriorate. Also, older digital pianos just don't hold high values and in fact may be almost worthless in comparison to many of the newest lower price digital pianos. It really just depends on what the piano is, what functions it has, and how it plays and sounds as a piano and as compared to a real acoustic piano.

older digital piano internal parts
A false belief some people have is that if it's "used" it must be a better deal than new because it's less money, but that's just not the case any more. You can get a new digital piano now for under or near $1000 that is superior in keyboard action and piano sound quality of many older digital pianos that were selling for over $2000 just 5 or 6 years ago. Yet, I have seen some piano stores and/or general music stores (and private sellers) offer used pianos for sometimes nearly three times the price than they are worth because they think they can get away with it or they just don't realize what you can get for the same money in new digital pianos. When it comes to piano or music stores that sell used digital pianos, those same stores may offer free delivery, free lessons, free trade-up with your money back on a higher priced used digital piano, etc, but you just don't get something for nothing these days and the "free things" don't come close to how much you may have over-paid for that used digital piano as compared with getting a better new model for less money.

Broken-loose piano keys
Call or email me directly if you are in the US and I will be happy to help you and answer questions. But I don't give price info on individual used digital pianos nor can I judge if a specific piano is a good buy or not because they are all one-of-a-kind items subject to many variables as they will all differ in usage and wear along with being subject to individual conditions which can be hidden inside the keyboard actions or electronic parts. Establishing a general market value for a used digital piano can be very difficult because of these variables, including depreciation, and the used piano sellers on Craiglist and eBay, etc, not recognizing what their used piano is really worth and asking way too much for something that is worth a lot less. When you buy used, you also take a big risk (as I mentioned earlier) and there is no way to get around that. 

So, are good (and the word "good" is very important) used digital pianos better buys than getting a new one? The answer is..."occasionally," but it depends on many things and you definitely don't want to pay too much or get stuck with something that seems good on the outside but has problems on the inside which you may not see or know about! As I said before, it only takes one broken key or bad part on a used piano to potentially add up to hundreds of dollars in repairs (kind of like a used car). A good deal on a used piano is only good when you are absolutely sure the piano is in perfect working order and you have carefully compared it to new digital pianos in the same price range. In some cases a used digital piano in a lower price range can have a more attractive furniture cabinet than a new one in that same price range. However, the piano sound realism, proper key action movement, and pedal function realism in an older used digital piano may be much less realistic than a low priced new digital piano, so it depends on what is most important to you and your family (the looks or the actual playability of the piano), and what your piano playing expectations are? At the end of the day it's all about enjoying the piano playing experience for you and your family, so don't short change that experience by getting a used piano that may cause you headaches down the road, because making music and having fun, whether you are a beginner or advanced player, is what really counts. Just be sure you do it on a good piano that will last a while and offer the things which are important including a good factory warranty (with a new piano) from a good company who will stand behind it. For more info, you can contact me and I will answer your questions no charge. 

If you want more info on these and other pianos and lower prices than internet or store discounts on new digital pianos, please email me at... tim@azpianowholesale.com or call me 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!

20 comments:

  1. What do you think of the GEM Baby Grand Digital Stage Piano GRP800 GRP 800 General Music Keyboard

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  2. Tim, thank you for a thorough analysis of the factors to consider. I've been looking at used digital pianos until it occurred to me that the electronics should be viewed in similar ways to other electronic devices. So glad to have found your blog! Thanks again! Theresa W.

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  3. Thank you. I am now sure I will buy a new one. The only question is wich one. J. Zamarro

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  4. is it worth to buy a used yamaha cvp 79a for 2500?

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  5. all used digital pianos can be risky to buy because they are used, you don't know for sure if there will be problems or not, and there is no warranty and they can be quite expensive to repair

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  6. GREAT Blog...thanks so much. I will contact you

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  7. I'm considering a used Baldwin MCX - 1 for $350 obo… but I can't find ANY info or reviews on this thing! Any help or links would be greatly appreciated.

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  8. I don't not recommend older digital pianos, especially ones where parts are no longer available as would be the case for the Baldwin. Other than that I have no other info to share with you

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  9. I have a Wurlitzer 200 that needs speakers and power cord replaced. Where in northeast AZ can I take it to get refurbished?

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  10. I would not know. You would need to contact the nearest local technician or contact a tech in Phx.

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  11. Hi Tim, would you share some thoughts on digital piano reliability? I see your point of buying new but even for an entry level "good" piano it still costs 1k or more easy. How long can they stay trouble free generally? Like you said it only takes one bad key to ruin the whole keyboard would more expensive digital pianos better built and hence more reliable?

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  12. Mr. Praskins, I - as an engineer dealing also with reliability questions of electric goods - have the same question on the reliability and life expectancy of new digital pianos.

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  13. I have owned digital pianos and keyboards for over 30 years and still have a few that work fine (with some basic wear) after owning them for 10 and 20 years or more. Typical things that can wear out are buttons and key actions...things that move. The new pianos are built to last but it is primarily the key actions and key electronics that will wear out before anything else. So it's always wise to get a digital piano that has a quality key action to begin with from a manufacturer who can service it if necessary. And always keep dust and humidity out of the piano by covering it or storing it when not in use.

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    1. Thank you for your answer!

      To tell the truth, I would have bet on the sound-generating electronics and not the moving parts as the first wearing out components of a digital piano.

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  14. Hi Tim,
    What are your thoughts on a used Roland, KR-3000? I came across one that has been serviced by the owner and I have played on it as well. Not quite a piano but not bad. I am concerned that it is limited to 31 polyphony but I am looking for a digital piano mainly for piano only solos, and maybe occasional "fun sounds".

    Thanks!

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  15. As I mentioned in my review of buying used digital pianos, they are a risk to buy because there is no warranty, many are quite old, and they don't last forever. This Roland you speak of is approx 30 years old (that is VERY old). If you are sure it works, like it, and want it, then price on it should definitely be well under $500. If you can spend more than that, then there are far better options in new digital pianos. If you want more info please email me directly. I wish you musical happiness.

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  16. Hi Tim,
    I have a Suzuki GP3, 9 years old, paid $2k for it, had the keyboard replaced 4 years ago, great exterior condition, looking for an acoustic now, would you consider it to be an "old" piano?
    Thanks!

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  17. What do you think about repairing a 20 yr old GEM baby grand digital piano that we already own? Sometimes it works fine, but then all of a sudden it will make a bad noise. It doesn't matter which key you hit. Nothing in particular causes the malfunction. The only way to get it to stop us to turn it off and back on.

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  18. Thanks for some expert advise here! I am looking to buy a digital piano for our son and will look into buying new ones now... I learned a lot reading this :)

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  19. Is it worth to buy Yamaha P 95 for $300, thank you

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