Nov 5, 2013

REVIEW - Yamaha DGX650 Digital Piano - Recommended for fun times and satisfying sound


Yamaha DGX650 digital piano
Yamaha DGX650
UPDATED REVIEW - November 15, 2015 - Yamaha DGX650 - Recommended - The Yamaha DGX650 portable digital piano ($799 internet discount price including matching stand - pedals optional) is the most recent update of the popular DGX series of lower priced Yamaha portable digital pianos. I say portable because you can play the piano without its stand and move it, but it is a bit large and heavy (approx 50lbs) for being a true portable piano as compared to other brands or models of portable pianos in this price range such as the Yamaha P115 and Casio PX360. However, it is still small and light enough overall to fit into many areas of your house or apt, so as far as size goes, it's still fairly compact.

Yamaha DGX650 digital piano
There have been a number of DGX models over the years and all of them have been popular with the newest DGX650 version replacing the former DGX640 with much needed and appreciated upgrades in including more polyphony processing power (128 notes vs 64 in previous model), better piano sound sample (more realistic piano tone), slightly better internal speaker system, and a nicer, more contemporary cabinet offered in black with dark brown rosewood side trim and an all satin white color with a bit of silver accents, instead of just the traditional wood tones from previous models (I didn't personally like those much) which are no longer offered. This new DGX model still does not offer any kind of built-in key cover. The best way for me to describe the new DGX650 is to say that it is really like putting together the new Yamaha P115 ($599 internet price) piano sound chip with pedal resonance & 128 note polyphony, and mixing it with some of the fun educational features of the former DGX640 along with some additional cool features, more connectivity, and as I mentioned earlier, a slightly upgraded speaker system and better cabinet colors. Copyright AZPianoNews.com

Yamaha DGX650 digital piano
Yamaha DGX650
However, the single most important part of any piano (digital or traditional) is the key action. The key action is like the transmission in a vehicle...the way it moves, behaves, sounds, and operates is "key" (haha) to playing a piano properly. The DGX series of pianos has not changed its key action in many years and uses what Yamaha calls its GHS (standard) key action. Although the GHS action has been around a long time and seems to hold up fine over time, it is not, in my opinion, a realistic reproduction of an actual acoustic piano key action. Yes, it is weighted across the keys and graduates in weight from left to right going up the keyboard and it feels much more like a piano than a keyboard does. However in my opinion, it it does not have the realism in movement or static key touch weight (when a key is first depressed from resting position) as compared to Casio or Kawai 88-key digital piano in the lower price range under $1000. Also the keys themselves make some plastic sounding noise at times when the keys go up & down. The upgraded Yamaha GH key action is definitely quieter in movement and gives a more solid and natural feel overall...but that key action is not in Yamaha models until a minimum of $1499. So just to be clear, if you want the best piano key action you could get in this lower price range, there are other piano choices although the DGX650 is enjoyable to play at the level it is at.

Yamaha DGX650 digital piano
The fun educational and musical features of the DGX650 cannot be overlooked on this new model and they are numerous. There is the very nice user digital display screen (left pic) which no other piano under $1000 has that is larger and displays musical notes, lyrics to songs, and general function information. The piano has over 500 individual instrument sounds built in (wow!) with different variations of some of those tones including some very realistic sounding instruments such as saxophones, trumpets, marimbas, electric pianos, synthesizers, and many others. The DGX650 has a ton of special effects including 35 different reverbs, 44 types of choruses, 235 types of DSP effects, and 5 types of EQ so that you can "tweak" the individual sounds using these effects. There are also 195 preset chord/drum pattern styles including jazz, Latin, rock, country, waltz, and just about anything you can think of. There are "easy-play features including auto chord play for 1 finger, 3 finger, and multi finger auto play, style drum intro, ending, fill-in, and variation, and so much more. The DGX650 (like its predecessor DGX640) has a 6-track MIDI player recorder which can play MIDI song files including General MIDI format songs which I use quite a bit with student training and learning lesson & popular music songs. General MIDI capability is also found on some other brands as well.

chord iPad app
Ultimately what the DGX650 is really all about and focused on, is playing the piano keyboard while interacting with a virtual band using ensemble chord style playing instead of bass clef/treble clef traditional method. A new smart chord feature and a new style recommender allows you to play in a certain rhythm style and then the piano will identify that style and pick the appropriate automatic chord/instrument arrangement. These new features are actually pretty cool and fun to use and I have tried them for myself many times. The piano will also display visual notation in the user display screen for a variety of playback songs as well as display the lyrics to selected songs for singalong. But playing by piano chords which is similar to playing chords on a guitar as far as learning chord patterns go, means you have to how to place 3 fingers or more in a visual pre-set pattern which then forms a chords such as C chord, D chord, A minor chord, and so on. Piano teachers usually do not teach this method to children although some piano instructors will teach it to adults as a faster easier way of playing piano without the work and time needed to learn and read traditional bass clef and then have to transfer that knowledge onto a piano. Usually once you get the fundamentals down of playing/reading music the correct way and being able to sight read that music, then a student or player can go on to play by the preset chord method with recognizing chord positions, inversions, & patterns when you see them on the sheet music, and that is ultimately the best way to use all of the automatic features on the DGX650. The chord method is also known as "fake music" by musicians & teachers and there are actually Fake music books that only have right hand notation along with left hand chord symbols above the melody treble staff.I personally use this kind of playing method when I just want to have fun with a band following me, but it does take some getting used to and as I said before, is not a good way for children to start out as it can create negative playing habits for those kids that cannot play piano.

Yamaha DGX650 digital piano
As far as connectivity (left pic), the DGX650 has USB to iPad/computer output which is good, USB flashdrive input to load and save songs, and an axillary input to run external sound through the piano speakers, which the previous model did not have. Although the DGX650 does not have separate audio outputs to run line outs to external speakers, you can connect an external speaker system to the stereo headphone jack and still use the internal speakers at the same time. That is something the previous DGX640 could not do. The DGX650 4-speaker system is improved with regard to the tweeters (small speakers) being 2 centimeters bigger than before (5cm each instead of 3cm) but the audio output is still 12 watts total which is on the low side of power, but because the speakers face upward instead of down, the sound feels louder for a lower wattage system.

Yamaha DGX650 digital piano
Another cool new feature on this DGX650 is its ability to record audio wav files and save them on a USB flash drive. This enables you to record your piano playing as a CD audio quality file and save it onto USB flash drive and then save it for later listening use, play along, or take it and put it into your computer to use with software or attach it to an email and send it to your friends and relatives. Other brands are also coming out with or now have audio wav recording on their digital pianos as that technology is getting much less expensive to include in digital pianos. But I am happy Yamaha includes this in the DGX650 and it is also useful in converting MIDI file recordings to an audio wav directly on the piano.

Yamaha DGX650 digital piano
The DGX650 has all the previous and popular (from the previous DGX640) digital features such as sound layering, sound splitting, octave changing, key transpose, individual volume controls, and lots of buttons and user functions to control the myriad of features on this piano. The DGX650 has some follow-along lessons which you can see in the user display screen with musical notation and you can follow along with it at your own speed. This has always been a fun way to use the piano although at the end of the day, you really don't want to get in the habit of looking down at the screen if you Yamaha DGX650 digital piano intend on learning to read or already read music. Looking down instead of looking straight ahead at the music book can turn into a negative habit and can be hard to break later on, especially for kids. The DGX650 is fairly intuitive to use overall with its display screen and there are lots of easy to see buttons. The piano seems to be sturdy and Yamaha products are very reliable, but I personally think this model is a bit too industrial looking with exposed speaker grills on either side of the piano top, white and gray buttons and knobs, and the open window cut-out style music rack with 2 square cutouts on either side. Yamaha also produces an optional 3-pedalboard unit ($75 internet price) to add on to make the piano look and function more like real piano with 3 pedals. However the pedalboard itself is just OK and has slightly awkward playability issues as compared to a real piano.

Yamaha DGX650 digital piano
In summing up this new model, I see it as an instrument that is very cool if you will be mostly be using the automatic chord playing functions and new features that go along with those functions instead of playing traditional bass clef/treble clef piano style. In other words, if you or a family member is taking lessons or plays piano in a more traditional (normal) way, this piano may not be for you because the primary features of the DGX650 has to do with using this piano in a non-traditional way including staring down at the display screen instead of straight ahead at music. As for a "portable piano", the DGX650 model is really a bit too big and heavy to carry around on a regular basis (as compared to other models in this price range) and it has dimensions closer to a full size digital piano cabinet. Finally the all important key action in a digital piano that everyone wants is not in this model as compared to higher priced Yamaha digital pianos (GH action) and lower priced Casio and Kawai digital pianos, as I mentioned earlier. So if you really want the best piano playing experience, then realistic key action movement and behavior should be at the top of your list. Also, if you or a family member (adult or child) will be taking lessons from a piano teacher, it is extremely doubtful that teacher will be using or teaching the auto-chord easy-play fun features very much, if at all. It would be a shame to get all of this cool technology and not really use it much:(. But that's OK because there are other piano choices out there too. Copyright AZPianoNews.com 2015

A better solution in my opinion to playing piano in a more realistic way assuming you still want some great interactive technology built in would be to consider either the new Casio CGP700 ($799 internet price - left pic) portable digital piano or the Kawai ES100 ($799 internet price - lower left pic) portable digital piano. Both of these pianos have much better and more realistic piano hammer weighted key actions and nicer looking cabinets with a cleaner look. The Casio CGP700 also has ivory & ebony feel keys and a more powerful 6-speaker 40-watt speaker system along with some very cool educational features using General MIDI and wav files for interactive learning. It even has the automatic chord/rhythm styles like the DGX650 but utilizes an all new large color touch screen for much better usability. To add even more fun and learning technology that some people may want or need, I would suggest you connect a digital piano to an iPad utilizing the exciting new iPad piano & music apps that are out there which are amazing! I use these apps in my studio all the time to motivate and help students visualize music in a more personal way along with the more traditional teaching methods that I use. The iPad would be placed on the piano music rack directly in front of you where it should go, and then the visual interaction with these apps enables you to learn in ways that are super fun but yet help you with fundamentals of music. You can learn to read and understand music, timing & rhythm, playing along with and learning  your favorite songs while interacting with them, and having fun in ways that makes learning piano seem like it's not boring and demanding because you want to do it instead of being forced to do it! The iPad (or computer piano software) is not the total solution because piano teachers are still important, especially good local piano teachers who can guide you and hold you accountable, although there are some nice on-line and CD interactive piano learning courses (using a piano MIDI connection to computer) which are also quite educational and helpful.

Yamaha DGX650 digital piano
The Yamaha DGX650 is a great instrument for the right purposes and offers fun entertainment for the entire family. When shopping for a new digital piano in any price range, do your digital piano research, think about how you want to and likely will be using the piano, and what your piano playing priorities and expectations will be. At the end of the day you could be happy with many digital piano models including the new Yamaha DGX650 because it's all about playing music, expressing yourself, doing something good with your time, and giving you something rewarding that you can do for the rest of your life. Playing music can be extremely relaxing, fulfilling, fun, inspirational, emotional, and joyful...so don't wait too long to make it happen because you will not regret it for yourself, for family, and/or for your children:). Also, please take a look at the links below that go to my reviews of what I consider to be the two best new portable digital pianos for what they do and how they play at their respective price points under $1000.

Kawai ES100 review
Casio CGP700 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.

* 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!

3 comments:

  1. I just got one of these (the DGX-650), and I absolutely love it. I play piano in a traditional way mostly, but I wanted to branch out and do some more improvisational playing. The accompaniment and recording features as well as the large number of instrument voices and styles make it a tremendous bargain. It might not be the most realistic-sounding digital piano on the market, but for $799 it was a great combination of 88 weighted hammer action keys and a variety of voices and styles (plus the ability to sample and record). It's a lot of fun to use, and I have a feeling I'll be exploring its functionality for a long time to come.

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  2. Hi Tim, when I play on a GHS type keyboard, such as this DGX, I have trouble with the space between the black keys. I don't have extreme big hands, but when I play a D, the two black keys directly next to it C# & D# go also down. That doesn't sound so good :)

    Is this a problem of to narrow spaces, or is my technique not very good ?

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  3. The DGX 660 just got released today at NAMM. Any improvements from the 650?

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