Tuesday, June 2, 2015

REVIEW - Yamaha CLP525 Digital Piano - Recommended - New entry level Yamaha Clavinova

UPDATED REVIEW - Novmber 1, 2016 - Yamaha CLP525 Clavinova Digital Piano - Recommended. The Yamaha piano company makes some great music products and I own some of them so I know about it first hand. I own a Yamaha acoustic piano, Yamaha guitars, Yamaha keyboards, and other Yamaha products. They have been reliable products and I have had them for many years. Yamaha is certainly not the only good name in digital pianos as there are other great brands out there such as Kawai, Roland, Casio, and a few others. However I think it's pretty safe to say that Yamaha is the most well known brand in digital pianos and that's partially because they produce thousands of acoustic pianos every year for students, recreational players, and professionals and have been doing it for decades.

Yamaha CLP525 digital piano
Yamaha Clavinova CLP525 rosewood
The Clavinova series model CLP525 is Yamaha's latest low price Clavinova digital piano and is only available at authorized piano stores in the US, and not on the internet or in pro music stores like Guitar Center, etc. In other countries the Yamaha Clavinova brand may be available on the internet and/or in piano stores. US retail price on the CLP525 $2200 and store discount selling price is normally somewhere between $1700-$1900US depending on the store and where you live based on my experience with their pricing. The CLP525 is basically the same as the new Yamaha Arius YDP163 ($1499US internet discount price) and has the same GH3 key action with 3 key sensors per key as opposed to two sensors per key in the YDP162. The CLP525 also has 256-note polyphony
Yamaha Arius YDP163 rosewood
processing power as opposed to the 192-note polyphony in the YDP163. Even though the CLP525 has the extra polyphony memory, 192-notes polyphony is usually more than enough even if you are an advanced player playing more complex music and doing layering or multitrack General MIDI recording. However, the CLP525 cannot do large multitrack playback and is more than sufficient for most people including advanced pianists, especially in this price range. There are other brands and models in this price range that also use at least 3 key sensors (Casio, Kawai, Roland) so Yamaha is not the only one to do it under $2000US. Both Yamaha pianos (CLP525/YDP163) look the same except with a different Yamaha logo on the front of the CLP525 and front legs were added to the CLP525 which does make it look more elegant and adds to the furniture look of the that piano as compared to the Arius YDP163 which is a pedestal style with no legs. The CLP525 comes in three attractive colors (with matching bench) including dark satin rosewood with simulated wood grain, satin black color, and polished ebony, just like the YDP163. The trim color of the key cover is different on the CLP525 as compared to the YDP163. I did notice that in certain lighting conditions the dark satin rosewood finish on the piano can look almost black. The polished ebony finish option of the CLP525 sells for approx $300-400US more than the satin colors, depending on the dealer and it is an attractive finish.

Yamaha CLP525 digital piano The physical key action movement on the new CLP525 feels the same to me as compared to the Yamaha YDP163. The key action is the #1 most important thing to look for in any piano and although the key action is solid, and quiet when it moves, admittedly I have not been a big fan of the GH/GH3 plastic key action because of the resistance of the key when pressing down on it from key resting position. The action is the GH series which stands for graded hammer. Nearly all good digital pianos in this price range have a graded hammer action which means the keys are weighted slightly heavier on the left side and get slightly lighter in weight as you go up the right side of the keyboard. However the overall weight or heaviness of all the keys when you push them down is what I don't particularly like as compared to other digital piano brands. This weight or extra resistance to finger pressure is called static touch weight. What I notice about this GH3 action is that the keys take a lot more pressure to push down whether your fingers are on the front part of the white keys or on the back of the white or black keys. As an example, if you were to go and press the keys on the higher priced Yamaha NU1 digital upright piano
Yamaha NU1
(approx $5000US store discount price - left pic) with a real wood key action movement in it, you would notice right away how much easier it is to press the keys. This is the way a good digital upright style key action should be but the Yamaha CLP525 as well as the lower priced Arius YDP163 have key actions that are much stiffer to the touch, even as compared to other brands I have played in this price range, especially when playing lighter or softer pieces of music. So with that in mind, I do not personally enjoy playing the GH/GH3 plastic key actions near as much as I do playing the keys on the newer Kawai, Roland, and Casio digital pianos. I certainly can play the GH/GH3 actions and make some good music with them, but I prefer a key action that allows for a quicker response and easier touch. Did you know that most good grand piano key actions are even easier and quicker to play than upright key actions? Yes...it's true, so with that in mind, the Yamaha GH/GH3 key action doesn't come anywhere close to a grand piano key action, but it obviously wasn't designed to do that either. Apart from that, I like the reliability & quietness of the key action as well as the feel of the keys because it has the ivory feel (simulated) key tops on the white keys, which is a nice touch, instead of just the white plastic tops. However, most acoustic pianos do not have simulated ivory feel keytops so that feature is nice but not a necessity to have a good playing experience.

Yamaha CLP525 digital piano
CLP525 rosewood
The pedaling is fairly realistic with 3 full size pedals at a reasonable height that respond to the normal acoustic pedal functions including damper/sustain with half-pedal control, sostenuto pedal, and soft pedal. Half-damper pedaling allows a more realistic piano sound to occur when pressing the damper sustain pedal because of additional sustain control rather than just having on or off sustain control as found in some other digital piano brands.The soft pedal also triggers other functions such as being able to speed up and slow down the simulated rotary speaker sound of the jazz organ tone when that tone is selected. That's a cool feature (if you like the jazz/rock organ sound) and it's also on some of the Kawai digital pianos I have played. The piano pedal decay sustain time is also good and that's important when playing in a legato or slower fashion. The pedal color on the rosewood finish piano is brass while the pedal color on the black finish is chrome, which is a nice touch and adds a bit of class to the pianos. So as far as pedals go, in this price range Yamaha does a good job.

There are 10 basic (but good) sounds on this CLP525 and 3 of them are acoustic piano sounds (brighter, more mellow, etc). There are a couple of very good organ sounds (church, Hammond B3 jazz/rock sound), strings, harpsichord with plucking (very nice), etc. The stereo acoustic piano sound reproduction is actually very nice and I liked it a lot. There is noticeably good dynamic range of tone and volume when striking the keys from soft to hard and there is good sustain and resonance coming through the piano. Yamaha also uses a feature they call "smooth release" which helps with producing a more natural sustain when releasing the keys more slowly as opposed to playing in a staccato fashion. Both pianos (CLP525 & YDP163) have their acoustic piano sounds sampled from Yamaha's CF series grand pianos (this is true for all of the lower priced Yamaha digital pianos I have played down to about $600US) and both pianos sounded the same to me in that way when I played them. 

Yamaha CLP525 digital piano
CLP525 left side control panel
Some of the features that are included in this model are being able to combine any 2 instrument sounds together to play live on the piano, record 2 instruments/tracks one at a time in the MIDI format for playback to hear your music and save 1 song into memory of the piano (there is no .wav audio recording), use key transpose function to shift into any pitch/key up or down and not change the physical keys you are playing, playing in a duet or duo mode so two people can play at the same time with the keyboard electronically split in half with the two sides playing the same notes & pitch with one person being on the left side and the other person being on the right side, select a digital metronome with different time signature settings & speeds to help with timing and counting, and being able to change key touch sensitivity from hard to light, although that does not change the actual physical key resistance and firmness. The CLP525 does let you transfer basic MIDI songs from a computer into some digital memories  in the the piano, but these MIDI songs are limited to basic standard MIDI files and most of the good MIDI file songs that are out there are in the General MIDI/multi-instrument format which cannot play back on the CLP525 correctly, so you would be limited to basic piano or organ type playback music.

You can connect the piano to an iPad or computer using the USB output on the piano which is helpful for using software or a variety of music educational iPad apps which I like and use in my studio. There are no audio output or input jacks so the piano cannot be connected to external audio systems except through the stereo headphone jacks (there are two of them)...which I do not particularly like because of limitations connecting it that way. It is important to note that when using an iPad connected with this piano, you would need to rely on the internal iPad speaker oe go through a blue-tooth speaker from an iPad to hear the music or sounds coming out of the apps on an iPad. Unfortunately in most cases, the iPad sound through it's tiny speaker is small and gets drowned out by the Yamaha piano when your playing on it. If the piano had an audio input jack(s) built into it, then you could run the iPad sound through the piano speaker system and hear the iPad at a good volume and in stereo, which would be very helpful. If you could do that then you could also plug in stereo headphones into the piano and hear the iPad sound coming through the headphones as well as the piano for private practice using iPad apps. This is not the case with the CLP525 since it does not have an audio input jack and it's an unfortunate omission in this day & age of technology in my opinion, especially at this price. Also, the additional extra built-in features/functions of the CLP525 need to be accessed with a special function button on the piano while referring to a menu inside the owners manual so it makes using those functions more complex. But this is true of some other brands and models as well in this price range, but I would have expected a more intuitive and extensive control panel on the CLP525 in this way. However the lack of controls and buttons is a way for the manufacturers to reduce cost on these pianos and make the piano control panel look more minimalistic. But this is not necessarily a good thing for the player when trying to figure out how to access the functions. 

Yamaha CLP525 digital piano The internal sound system of the CLP525 with 40 watts of power (20x2 stereo) into 2 separate internal speakers is more than enough for most rooms and this model can get pretty loud if you want it to. The lower priced Arius YDP163 has the same internal speaker system so there is no difference there. There are also good digital pianos in this lower price range (under $2000US selling price) with 40 watts of audio power, however one of those models sounds much more like a real piano because it has 4 speakers as opposed to two speakers in the CLP525 and it has better sound dispersion in a more natural ways. This model is by Casio and is called the Celviano AP460 which is just $1499US internet price and in my opinion offers more for much less money than does the Yamaha CLP525. It's a very impressive model and don't let its low price suggest it cannot compete with the Yamaha because based on all my playing with this model, it definitely can. Take a look at my review at the following link: Casio Celviano AP460 Review

Yamaha CLP525 digital piano
CLP525 with closed key cover
As I mentioned earlier, this new Clavinova CLP525 is really a combination of the Arius YDP163 in a slightly nicer looking cabinet with the front legs along with the slightly upgraded piano polyphony memory chip of other Yamaha Clavinova digital pianos. It's a more affordable Clavinova digital piano available at less money than previous Clavinova models, but overall it's very basic in its features but is quite good for what it does. It's for people who mainly want to play piano and want something minimalistic in appearance with just a few additional features combined with a basic but fairly easy to use control panel at a selling price under $2000, which is where most digital piano shoppers want to be. The minimalistic look of the CLP525 with only a few buttons on the left side and no LCD/LED screen on the piano does appeal to some people, but I personally prefer a small LED screen along with buttons in front of me above the keys which allows me to access more functions more quickly and more intuitively.

Yamaha CLP525 digital piano
Yamaha CLP525 & bench
This is the first time in quite awhile that Yamaha Clavinovas have been competitive in this lower price range so that is a big step for Yamaha with this model. I do recommend the new CLP525 as a good instrument and it can satisfy many people at many skill levels with its high quality features, although as I mentioned earlier, I do not personally enjoy playing the key action movement as compared to other brands and models of cabinet digital pianos under $2000 selling price such as the Kawai CE220 ($1899US), Kawai CN25 ($1899US), Kawai KDP90 ($1149US), the Casio AP460 ($1499US), and the Roland RP401R ($1599US). In my opinion for its price, the CLP525 also could have had a lot more useful technology built in to it such as audio recording, USB flashdrive input, audio connections, multi-instrument MIDI lesson song playback from flashdrive, rhythm Yamaha CLP525 digital piano accompaniments to help with timing & rhythm practice (very nice), and keyboard split function like some of the other popular models under $2000. Those features and functions can be quite helpful because I have seen these things motivate piano students and players alike. This would have made the piano much more competitive and given it an advantage over some other brands. As it is now, the CLP525 is nice, but it could have been much better for its price, especially with regard to key action movement which is a bit stiff (called touch weight/down weight) as far as I am concerned. To get some of the extra upgraded digital features you could always move up to the next model in the Clavinova line but that would put you above the $2000US selling price. Or you could use some interactive iPad apps with the CLP525 with are always fun, or you could go to another brand with more digital features and more realistic piano key action.

However, at the end of the day it's really about what you want, what satisfies your musical and/or piano learning needs, what type of piano cabinet you want, and the amount of money you can or want to spend. The Yamaha CLP525 is a fine piano overall so it should definitely be a consideration when you are comparing various brands & models. Although there are many good options out there and I know it can be confusing sometimes, just do your homework and research and if you have specific questions you are welcome to contact me as I am happy to help answer them for you. Also, Yamaha has an entire line of CLP pianos above the CLP525 and I have done a review of those pianos. Please go to the following link to read my review of the higher priced Yamaha Clavinova digital pianos: Yamaha CLP535, 545, 575, 585, 565GP Piano Review

One more thing to consider: Casio now has their latest Celviano digital piano under $2000 available for sale at $1899US, and of all the digital pianos out there under $2000, I believe this model offers the biggest bang for the buck when it comes to a combination of good looks, big organic piano sound with 256-note polyphony, large internal speaker system with unique sound dispersion technology, and a huge array of useful digital features that no other digital piano offers in this price range. Beyond all that, the Casio company offers the longest factory warranty on any piano under $2000 which is 5 years parts & labor in-home service in the US. For some people it may be hard to believe that a company like Casio who is not known a s a piano company because they don't produce acoustic pianos, to be taken seriously up against a famous piano company like Yamaha. But nothing could be further from the truth...you can taken this one very seriously. Read my review at the following link to learn  more about this impressive model: Casio Celviano AP650 Review

If you want more info on new digital pianos and LOWER PRICES than internet discounts, please email me at tim@azpianowholesale.com or call direct at 602-571-1864.

16 comments:

  1. Have you had a chance to play with the new Yamaha CLP 545, 575 or 585 models? These models have the newer keyboard action and I was wondering what you thought of them.

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  2. Have you played the new Roland RP401r? You recommend their s action. Is the pha4 standard action as good as the s action? Is it better than the g action which I know you do not like? Is it better than Yamaha's GH action? Thank you

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  3. No I have not played it as of this moment but will be doing that very soon within the next couple of weeks and will write a detailed review on it. I anticipate the key action on the new model will be much improved over the 301 and be much better than the Yamaha GH key action (I hope:)

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  4. Hello Tim! we are considering Clavinova CLP525 and Yarius YDPS51 for beginner...First we would like to buy used one but after your review we start to look at new ones)) what is you advice about these two models,please? Victoria

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  5. I have read your reviews and you are quite knowledgeable no matter what the forums might say about you. I want your opinion on which action you like better: Kawai's RH2 or the new Yamaha GH3X as these seem to be the only plastic actions that I will be able to get. I have tested both of them but need an experts say on the matter.

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  6. Hello, do you think it's better for a serious piano student to buy a CLP 585 or a Yamaha b3 silent?
    Keep in mind that this student is actually at 4th level of conservatory (10 levels)
    Greetings from Italy!

    Carlo

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  7. Carlo. A serious piano player can enjoy playing many types of pianos. The b3 is a good one and is an acoustic upright (with digital sound module) so it would have a real acoustic upright key action. However, as good as upright key actions are, they are not grand piano key actions. It just depends on what your musical goals are and if you will be playing in advanced piano competitions. If it is just for home enjoyment and improving skills, you could be happy on the Yamaha CLP585 as well as the Kawai CA95, CS7, or the new Roland HP508 or LX15e digital pianos.

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    1. Thank you, Tim
      The plan for the next year is starting to participate in some national piano competitions. My son is actually playing on a Yamaha b1 Silent, but the sound is not good. He's not able to play "pianissimo", due to the poor key actions. This is the real reason for us to considerate other alternatives, like a very good digital piano. Unfortunately for some reasons we are not able to test the new Yamaha clp 585 that has key counterweights. It seems that the speaker sounds is quite good. I have to do a long trip to try it
      In short, my budget is around $ 5.000 and I'd like to spend this money with the right instrument

      Carlo

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  8. Hi, my name is Tim and I currently have a Yamaha P155. I am a late intermediate player and am starting to do a lot of trills. I want a piano in a cabinet with proper pedals. I am only considering the Arius 162 and the Clavinova 525, which I will probably purchase from the store where I take lessons. I do know the differences between the two but am concerned about the 3rd sensor in the Clavinova. Can having that 3rd sensor lead to sloppy technique. I am studying to be a concert pianist - of some degree - and don't want to develop any bad skills. Of course, the store wants to sell me the Clavinova, but I want an opinion from you. Thank you!

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  9. Wow, I'm quite shocked to read that you haven't noticed any difference between the key action of the YDP162 and the CLP525, because today I tested exactly these two instruments and to me there was a striking difference. I will go back and check it again to see if I was fooled by my senses, but I really felt the Clavinova has a much softer feel to it, more yielding, and as such closer to the key action of an acousting grand piano.

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  10. i don't want to insult you or anything like that, but you must have little to no experience playing a real grand piano if you are suggesting that a Yamaha CLP525 can come anywhere close to the key action on a good acoustic grand piano. That would be like saying a Toyota Corolla can drive like a Mercedes Benz...it's that far apart. As for the difference in key action between the CLP525 and Arius 162, your perception may be that way because the CLP525 has 3 key sensors per key which make the response key repetition more sensitive on that model than on the YDP162. But as far a touch weight and key movement goes, they are both GH actions.

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  11. Hello Tim you have some comentary about the Yamaha CP4?
    I' have a yamaha P70 the key are plastic and noise I think change it
    What is the better action and feel under the range under 2 000. The Cp4 is good?
    Yamaha say the best stage piano from Yamaha

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  12. Hi Tim ! Could you tell me the reason you dislike Yamaha's GH action so much? I am deciding between the Yamaha CLP 545 and the Kawai CA65. On the CLP 545, Yamaha uses their "Natural Wood X" key action with synthetic ivory key tops and escapement. Would you recommend that action, or Kawai's "Grand Feel" action? Which is closer to an acoustic grand?

    Blaine

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    1. I prefer Kawai CA65 / 95, its closer to acoustic grand. Yamaha CLP 545 only have white wooden keys.

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  13. Hi Tim,
    I am picking up the piano again after a little more than 20 years so I am essentially a beginner (but I hope it comes back to me quickly!). I live in South Africa and after reading your reviews I've checked out a few of the models in the price range that are available here and that I can afford.
    Here the Kawai's and Rolands are more expensive than the Yamaha's, so it is very difficult to weigh up which features are worth the extra money here. I'm looking at the Yamaha YDP 162, however, yesterday one of the music stores offered me the CLP 525 for the SAME PRICE as the YDP 162 - because of financial year end, nothing wrong with the item. Would you recommend the CLP 525 over the YDP 162 in this case?
    I'm looking at the Roland RP401R later today, which is the same price as the two models above.
    Thanks so much for your advice and for your great reviews!
    Kerri

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  14. I would also be interested in your reply on this - I am also in South Africa, a rusty pianist and looking at CLP525 and RP401R. Please advise on your thoughts. Helen

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