REVIEW - Yamaha YDP181 Digital Piano - Recommended

Yamaha YDP181
UPDATED REVIEW - March 20, 2018 - The YDP181 ($1699 internet price) has been out for a number of years in the Arius digital piano line for Yamaha. The YDP181 is a nice digital piano when it comes to what it offers, but it is my best guess this model will be discontinued in the near future for a newer version because the YDP181 has been out so long. My opinion is based on the fact that the lower priced Yamaha YDP142 and YDP162 had major updates and are now replaced with the newer YDP143 and YDP163. The YDP181 did not have any upgrades and in some ways the newer lower priced models are better than the higher priced YDP181. The Arius series of digital pianos has in the past been selling for under $2000. However, Yamaha just came out with a brand new 2018 model Arius YDP184 (lower left pic) which is discount priced on the internet for $2199. This new model has significant upgrades over the YDP181 and in my opinion is worth the additional cost although it may put you out of your price range. If you would like to learn more about this new upgraded model then please read my review of the YDP184 at the following link:  Yamaha YDP184 Review. The Arius YDP series (stands for Yamaha Digital Piano) are advertised locally in the US and on the internet. As far as an alternative for a regular upright acoustic piano in a lower price range, the more affordable YDP181 is Yamaha's answer to an acoustic piano replacement in a furniture cabinet style piano under $2000 and is currently at an internet discount price of $1699 (pictured upper left).

The YDP181 has a quiet and sturdy key action but it is also a bit too stiff when playing lightly or softly in my opinion. What I mean by that is the keys on the YDP181 do not press down easily as a good acoustic upright piano would, and that function is called the key action "down weight" which is the amount of initial pressure your fingers need to press the keys down. This is quite important in terms of reducing the fatigue that can be felt in the fingers pressing the keys, especially when younger children play the piano. If and when Yamaha can resolve this situation in this particular key action, then it will be much more enjoyable to play, in my opinion.

YDP181 control panel buttons
There are many impressive features on the YDP181 including voices/sounds (14 of them) including pianos and instruments, a 40 watt 2-speaker internal audio system, USB flash drive input feature to save or play recorded songs on the 2-track 3-song internal recorder (which is very useful), and other functions including reverb, brightness control, special EFX, transpose, and key-touch sensitivity control. With 128-note polyphony memory  and intuitive control panel layout, the YDP181 is simple but effective  along with having Yamaha's CF pure sampling which means that Yamaha samples its CF series acoustic piano to produce the pleasant piano tones in the YDP181. This sampling process increases the quality of the piano tone over some of the lower priced Yamaha models. However, in the years since this piano was first introduced, some of those features including the piano are dragging behind the competition, even those digital pianos priced at $1499 or less. So when it comes to its competition, although a person can certainly enjoy playing the YDP181, it does not give the best bang for the buck at its current discount price of $1699. 

Nevertheless, Yamaha makes some great digital pianos and keyboards and I've been playing them for over 35 years and like them very much. They are reliable, have good factory warranties and are an easy company to work with. Yamaha also makes a slightly less expensive Arius model called the YDP163 at $1499. However, spending the extra money for the YDP181 to get the upgrades such as the USB flashdrive input feature, more instrument sounds, and the larger built-in speakers along with a much more intuitive control panel may be something you should consider. Overall, the YDP181 is a good digital piano for under $2000, except for the stiffness of the keytouch when playing softly/lightly, the lack of some connectivity, the lower amount of polyphony and that the key action is only 2-sensor and not the standard 3-sensor found on nearly all of the other new digital pianos out there for under $1500 . I do like the piano cabinet design which is sturdy and attractive along with the included matching padded bench, but it would have been nice if a satin black color would have been an option since that color is quite popular now.

Casio AP460
I also recommend the following digital pianos as great alternatives to the Yamaha YDP181. The Casio AP460 for a $1499 internet discount price, Kawai CE220 for $1899 internet price, and the Roland RP501R at $1499 internet discount price. Although the Yamaha YDP181 is a good digital piano and can satisfy many piano playing needs, I believe it's always important to get the most for your money when shopping for a digital piano under $2000, and in my opinion the 3 piano alternatives I just mentioned may be better choices. I especially like what you get for the money on the upgraded Casio Celviano AP460 including an impressive piano sound with the "opening piano top sound projection." I recommend you read my reviews of those pianos before making any piano buying decisions just to be sure you are getting the best digital piano for your needs. Below are 2 links to my reviews on 2 of those models.

Kawai CE220 review
Casio AP460 Review

As with many things, piano tone and touch is a subjective experience because a person's music expectations and experiences may be different from others, so you may have a another opinion, and that's OK. As long as you enjoy playing piano music, that's what really counts!

For more info on digital pianos and how to get one of these models for LESS than any advertised US price on the internet or store, please contact me at or call direct at 602-571-1864 


  1. Can these pianos be connected to a computer in such a way as to send MIDI data to the computer in real time as the piano is played? For example, one might want to run music notation software on the computer and have the notes appear on the staves as they are played on the piano. Do these pianos support that?

  2. Hi, First off, thanks for your reviews! Your blog is very useful.

    I'm about to buy a YDP-181 (I think). However you now have me wondering about that Casio one.

    I rarely if ever touch all the extra voices on a piano, 2 or 3 piano/grande piano sounds are good enough for me. And I tend not to use built in rhythms very often.
    Keeping this in mind, do you think there is any real advantage to the Casio over the 181 for me???
    Your opinion would be appreciated.

  3. Thank you - very comprehensive and clarifying as I make my way through various sites.


  4. Does Yamaha make a piano similar to the YDP-181 without the cabinet? It seems the cabinet would add a lot of extra expense.

  5. The closest Yamaha portable piano to a YDP181 would be the P155. The P155 has a better sound and the same key action along with most of the features of the 181. I have a P155 review on this blog if you'd like to check it out.

  6. I have a p155 and i am looking to buy another digital piano for a second home and would like to upgrade from the 155 what would you recommend

  7. There can be many answers to your questions as there isn't just one specific piano that might work for you. It would be best if you contact me by email and I can then be more specific with you.

  8. I have 3 offers
    Yamaha CLP 330 new one it was in store with price 1200 $
    Yamaha YDP 142R new with price about 1300 $
    And CASIO AP- 650 new with price almost 1500 $
    My sun has 6 years old, he is starter but I need Piano for long time usage
    Thank you for your help