AZ PIANO REVIEWS!: REVIEW - Yamaha YDP181 & YDP161 Digital Pianos - Nice, except for the Key Action - Digital Piano Reviews

Oct 4, 2011

REVIEW - Yamaha YDP181 & YDP161 Digital Pianos - Nice, except for the Key Action

UPDATED REVIEW - December 2, 2016 - RECOMMENDED - The Yamaha YDP161 has been long discontinued for a number of years and was replaced by the YDP162 which has now been replaced by the new YDP163 for $1499 internet discount price.
The Yamaha piano company makes some great pianos and they've been doing it for many years. I personally own a Yamaha acoustic piano and digital piano and have played professionally for years on many Yamaha acoustic & digital pianos as well as their pro keyboards, synths, and organs. My kids even play a Yamaha flute & clarinet. So it will come as no surprise that I like Yamaha musical instruments. I have followed their digital pianos for years and they have always had a very respected reputation for good quality instruments. As of this date the Yamaha YDP181 is still being produced and although it is quite old at this point in terms of technology compared to other Yamaha digital pianos, it is still their top Arius model. Even though I like the YDP181 I much prefer newer alternatives in other brands as compared to the YDP181 such as the Casio Celviano AP460 which you can read about from the link at the bottom of the page. For my previous review of the Yamaha YDP181 along with the much older and discontinued YDP161, please read below.

Previous review of YDP161 and YDP181: Yamaha builds a line of furniture style cabinet digital pianos called the Arius, and they sell for under $2000. They have five Arius models in the US but this review is on the older YDP161 ($1499 internet price, left pic) & the current YDP181 ($1699 internet price, below left pic). These models are nearing the 5-year old mark and are essentially these pianos are about the same in most ways with a few upgraded exceptions in the YDP181 such as slightly bigger speakers, 4 more instrument tones, a USB flash drive input for storage of recorded standard MIDI songs on the piano as well as playback of recorded piano songs from the flashdrive. Also, the YDP181 has a control panel across the front with a LED display which makes it much easier to navigate the various features on the piano. The YDP161 is more difficult to navigate the various features including the instrument sounds so I much prefer the YDP181 control panel for that reason as well as the other differences. The YDP181 is overall a basic digital piano when it comes to what it offers and it is my best guess this model will be discontinued soon for a newer version because it has been out for so long. My opinion is based on the fact that the lower priced Yamaha YDP141 and YDP161 just had major updates for 2013 (and are now called the YDP142 and YDP162) and the YDP181 did not have any upgrades for 2013. So in some ways the new lower priced models are better than the higher priced YDP181.

Both pianos have the same piano sound sampling with 3 dynamic levels, both have midi connectors but no USB (they should have had USB output connectors for connection to iPad and  computers, but they don't), same amount of polyphony (128 notes which is good), same upgraded quieter & heavier GH key action, same audio power rating of 40 watts total with two speakers, same layer functions along with reverb and basic 2-track standard MIDI recording, and same cabinet and pedals with (half-pedal) progressive sustain. Tone quality is better on the 181 because of the larger speakers (although the power is the same on both) and the overall touch movement is good with one exception on both instruments: the key touch when pressing keys down on the piano is somewhat stiff, in my opinion.

Here's what I mean; when you first apply pressure to the key and try to press very easily and softly as is required in many piano pieces as well as being important for younger beginner students, the GH action in both pianos reacts a bit stiff or overly resistant as compared with good acoustic pianos that I have played. There is an upward resistance to each key that requires a bigger amount of finger pressure to get the key to move downward. In other words, the key does not move as easily when playing lightly or softly especially when playing light legato or staccato style music and also when younger students with minimal finger strength try to press on the keys.

However I do like them overall and they do have a good piano tone with some other nice features. The key action itself is solid and has a quiet movement so that is good, but I just don't happen to like the playing experience on these models as well as I do other brands and other Yamaha models. Physical key touch is the most important thing in selecting a digital piano followed by the actual piano sound having a smooth dynamic range when playing the keys, which both Yamaha's do have. After that, then having a good speaker system and smooth pedal action with half-damper control. 

So that's my opinion for what it's worth, and although I am a big fan of Yamaha musical equipment, I would look at other options besides the YDP161 & 181 which would give you a bigger bang for the buck. One other thing, a good, experienced piano player can play almost any piano with almost any key action because excellent piano players know how to compensate for various types of key action movements and weight so it may not be as much of an issue for that kind of a player. Overall, the Yamaha YDP161 & YDP181 digital pianos are solidly built instruments, reliable, and sound good, although I would submit they are somewhat overpriced for the features you are getting as compared to the other good brands in their price range. In fact, a new 2013 Casio Privia digital piano has just come out for substantially less money than the Yamaha's I reviewed here and is a better piano in almost every way. See my info below as I believe it will help you make an informed buying decision.

UPDATE: The Casio digital piano company has a newer model digital piano called the AP460 for just $1499 internet price. I would not have thought this Casio piano could be as good as its lower price, but in many ways is better and more authentic than the new Yamaha YDP163 and certainly the older YDP181...and it's less money money than the YDP181 and the same price as the YDP163. Yes I know some people feel low price and a brand name like Casio (also known for making cheaper price keyboards, calculators, watches, etc) cannot equate to a higher quality digital piano that comes close to competing with something like a Yamaha piano name, but you would be wrong if you believe that. Do yourself a favor and read my review of this Casio (which I have played) and you'll likely be very impressed with what you read. Casio AP460 review

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 direct at 602-571-1864.

8 comments:

  1. Hi Tim,
    I am looking for a piano which can last till my kids got to Grade 8 (currently they are in Grade 2-3). Which should be better Casio/Yamaha and which model worth the buy?

    Thank you.

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  2. Which is better, YDP-162, or YDP-181? Is it still worth $200 more even without the synthetic ivory keys etc?

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    1. Exactly what I'm wondering...

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  3. The Yamaha 181 is an older model at this point and it would be my best guess that it will be replaced soon, perhaps very early next year. In my opinion the ivory feel keys are not essential for a good key action experience because if the ivory feel keys were essential, then most new acoustic pianos would have it, and they don't. I would personally opt for a newer model like the Yamaha YDP162 or the new upcoming Kawai KDP90 which will also be a nice piano for key action & sound, but for even less money than the Yamaha YDP162. If you want more info & detail on your questions, please email me directly.

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  4. Hi, Tim

    Could you compare YDP162 and KDP90 ?
    Which on is better in Sound , Touching and Material ?

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  5. is kawai cl26 II model good till grade 5 LCM,..??plz reply...hemantrock@gmail.com

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  6. yes, that piano should be fine and has a good key action and pedal function

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  7. Hi,
    We have been looking for a digital piano for my daughter ( She is 8 and in Level 2). We are not sure whether to pick Roland or Yamaha. Our budget is around $2000 range not more than $2500. Could you please give us some advise?

    ReplyDelete