AZ PIANO REVIEWS!: REVIEW - Yamaha P155 & Kawai EP3 Digital Pianos - Both nice in a similar price range but which one is BEST? - Digital Piano Reviews

Jun 22, 2011

REVIEW - Yamaha P155 & Kawai EP3 Digital Pianos - Both nice in a similar price range but which one is BEST?

UPDATED REVIEW - November 10, 2013 - RECOMMENDEDThe Yamaha P155 portable digital piano ($995 internet discount price, top left pic) is made by a company that knows  how to build pianos and has years of experience producing both acoustic and digital instruments. The same is true for the Kawai piano company in having produced world class acoustic and digital upright & grand pianos along with their very nice EP3 portable digital piano available only in the US ($999 internet discount price, above pic). Both of these fine piano companies have their world headquarters in Hamamatsu City, Japan and are strong competitors and recognized by musicians and piano teachers throughout the world as offering high quality piano products.

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 competitive and have a high quality piano touch & tone and easy to use features in a sturdy cabinet weighing in at under 50lbs. 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.

Kawai ES100
UPDATE: It is worth noting that Kawai has discontinued its EP3 and come out with a new portable 88-key weighted hammer action model called the ES100 ($699 internet price). The ES100 borrows some of the better features of the EP3 but with some notable improvements in piano sound realism, pedaling, and other functions. At $699, the new ES100 is less money than both the Yamaha P155 and the Kawai EP3 and easily competes with them for a very realistic piano playing experience. In fact, when I first played the ES100 I was amazed by its spectacular piano sound and action realism with impressive adjustable damper resonance, organic damper noise, excellent reverbs, and expressive graded hammer weighted key action. Although the internal speaker system and audio power is a bit better and stronger on the Kawai EP3 and Yamaha P155, the ES100 is still pretty good for its size, weight, and cost and when you listen to the new ES100 through stereo headphones or connect to a sub-woofer or external speakers, the piano sound realism is incredibly real....like a big grand piano. I would advise everyone who wants to save money and get a great product in a very low price range to consider the ES100 before you make a decision on either the discontinued Kawai EP3 (could still be some available on-line), or Yamaha P155. But as far as I'm concerned a person who is seeking high quality in a portable piano could be very happy with the new model Kawai ES100. Go to the following link to read my review on this new model: Kawai ES100 review.  

As far as which one of these two models is best, that is really a subjective choice. Some people will like the Kawai and others the Yamaha. However I have carefully played each one and compared them with each other (which most people have not) so I do have an educated personal choice and it would be the Kawai EP3 (pictured left with optional stand). Here are my top 10 reasons why I like the Kawai EP3 over the Yamaha P155:

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 more realistic sustain control for various kinds of music. It is important to know that the Kawai EP3 piano sound is in MONO and not STEREO. The better more expensive digital pianos have a more authentic stereo piano sound whereas the EP3 does not offer this type of piano tone and the difference is realism is very apparent.
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 (although they are MONO) as opposed to 2 stereo piano sounds on the Yamaha which are more realistic. 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 can be importantinstrument sounds are being used. 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 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.

Here are some things I like better about the Yamaha P155 (pictured left with optional stand) over the Kawai EP3:

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 unless you are a more advanced player and are using a real stereo piano sound. If the Yamaha or Kawai had closer to 200 notes of polyphony 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. 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 ES8 at $1999. It is a big upgrade in piano tone and key action touch as compared to anything else below it. Take a look a my blog review below when you have time.

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

15 comments:

  1. This comparison sounds very biased but thank you for the bit about the speakers and the pedals.

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  2. A "bias" is always natural and normal in life except when two things are completely equal in every possible way, then there can be no bias. When they are not totally equal, a person will normally prefer one over the other. And when one thing is simply designed and made better overall, (in this case the Kawai EP3), then my opinion IS biased towards the EP3 because it is better. I do like the Yamaha very much, but next to the Kawai, it comes in second.

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    1. I think full disclosure would help clear up any perceived bias too. As I've read through your blog posts, you seem to recommend everything Casio and everything Kawai.

      Is Arizona Piano Wholesale a Kawai and Casio dealer? And are you also a Roland and Yamaha dealer? Outlining the products that you do and don't sell would clear up any appearance that these are really advertisements, rather than unbiased product reviews.

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    2. I give my opinions based on my experience with the pianos no matter what they are. There are always going to be better products than others in various price ranges. In my opinion, overall, Yamaha is best with their CVP series over $5000 and AvantGrands, Kawai is best with portable piano stage pianos and regular cabinet models over $1900, Casio offers the best overall pianos under the $1500 range, and Roland has various products that are quite good and others not as good in various price ranges. Beyond those brands there are a few other brands that have one or two models that are good with rest not recommended. And then there are other brands that have nothing I would recommend at all. To be unbiased is to suggest that all pianos are of equal quality and achievement and are good for everyone at all times and therefore I should have no favorites. Favorite brands and/or models suggest bias and that would be true. I will always be biased based on what I like and don't like based on my music experience. Whatever piano someone wants, I will tell them how to get it for less money which I have done for almost every model in every brand. I wish you musical success.

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  3. I am so glad I stumbled across your blog....I had decided on the Yamaha P155 as the most "Bang for the buck" for what I had to spend. I have played only Korg pianos for the last 15 years and was making my decision based on what I had researched on the internet.
    I just received my Kawai P-3....and could not be happier with my decision! The action is awesome! Very fluid and responsive. The additional voices...particularly the strings and acoustic guitar are extremely musical....for both live and recording situations. Because of your insightful review....I really feel like I purchased the most musical instrument that could be purchased for the amount of money that I had to spend. The buying experience was simple and hassle free. Thank you. Larry M. Wright

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  4. Thank you for sharing your shopping & buying experience, Larry. I am glad I could help you with your decision as well as getting you the Kawai EP3 at a very low price. I wish you much musical success.

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  5. Greetings and thank you from New Jersey, Mr Praskins. Your comparison of the Kawai EP3 was very helpful. I bought one for my 15 year old daughter (to replace an old Roland eP7. My apology for not getting price from you. However, I am interested educational software that might help her learn how to play. She is proficient at guitar (fingerpicking). She has taught herself songs on piano viewing finger movements on You Tube/by ear. Any suggestions or products that you can offer? Thanks again. Cheers! Tknoth@verizon.net

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  6. Great review. Just one point. You mention that the EP3 has a line in jack to connect CD players etc. to listen to music and play along. Can the Yamaha not do this thru it's USB drive?

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  7. No, it cannot. Standard USB drive MIDI input on digital pianos will not play audio files

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  8. Good morning. Just I want to inform you that I am very glad to read your comparison between Yamaha and Kawai, indeed, I have to take a decision within 24 hours to buy digital piano for me (I love to play piano as a hoppy not a profession ) so I am confused between Yamaha CLP 340 & Kawai CL35, thanks to you in case you have something to me as advice
    Nawar

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  9. I just put $100 down on a Korg SP350. After seeing your report on the Kawai EP3, I'll have to go back to the store and change my order to a Kawai SP3. What a big difference! I hope I catch the dealer in time.

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  10. I bought a Kawai EP3 in July, and have been enjoying it very much. I've been playing for around 3 1/2 years mainly for eye/hand coordination. I have a balance and coordination issue, so I taught myself how to play by watching YouTube instructional videos. I'll never get really good at it, but all the same, I love playing piano.

    When I hear the demo's of the EP3 it sounds so rich and full. My playing sounds best If I overlay the strings to fill in my playing, since I can't play fast. I have the effects and reverb buttons on which seems to help somewhat.

    I also have the left button of the touch/transpose on. Without this button on the sound is softer even with the volumn turned all the way up, and more mellow, which I like. However, when this button is on, the sound is much louder and crisper, which I guess is OK.

    My question is this.

    I was thinking of maybe hooking up an external speaker e.g. a subwoofer. Would this help?

    Could you give me any advice on this? Would this make a difference in the sound quality?

    Are there any other recomendations you could make?

    Thanks for your time.

    Dennis

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  11. Thank you for the comparison between the Kawai EP3 and Yamaha P155. I had been trying to decide between the P155 and Korg LP350, and was leaning toward the LP350 because I prefer a darker tone to a brighter tone.

    I happened to stumble across your site through a link someone posted at pianoworld.com, and did a search for the P155. I'm glad the review you have for it compares it to the EP3, because the thing I've noticed in all the sound clips and youtube videos on all the digital pianos I've researched is that the Rhodes and B3's sound awful. Naturally the Yamaha's have the DX7 electric piano down, but that's about it as far as anything besides the grand piano goes.

    The quality of the Rhodes, pipe organ, harpsichord and B3's in your sound clips has easily made up my mind. I've been researching for over a month, and now I know the EP3 is what I'm looking for.

    Thank you for the review and great site. I've added your site to my favorites menu.

    Kevin McGuire
    Hamilton, OH

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  12. Thank you for the review!

    Would you recommend Kawai ES100 over Yamaha P155?
    I am interested in a digital piano that comes
    very close to a real acoustic piano but doesn't cost a fortune.
    I also don't care much about speakers because
    I will be using headphones.

    Thanks,

    Iris K.
    Boston, MA

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  13. The short answer would be "Yes." With the exception of the internal speaker system, the new Kawai ES100 is significantly upgraded in piano sound realism as well as key action over the much older model Yamaha P155. If you want more details as well as knowing lowest price you should be able to purchase these pianos for, please contact me by email.

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