AZ PIANO REVIEWS!: REVIEW - Yamaha P255 Digital Piano - Recommended - Portable pro piano with some nice features - Digital Piano Reviews

Mar 5, 2014

REVIEW - Yamaha P255 Digital Piano - Recommended - Portable pro piano with some nice features

Yamaha P255 digital piano UPDATED REVIEW - January 21, 2017 - Recommended - Yamaha P255 portable digital piano. The Yamaha piano company is well known for producing some great musical instruments and the P255 ($1299 internet discount price - furniture stand and triple pedals optional) is no exception. This current model portable digital piano is available in satin black or in satin white and takes the place as the top "P series" home/stage digital piano over the older P155. The older P155 came out 5 years ago which is a long time for a digital piano to be produced, so it was just a matter of time before it got upgraded and Yamaha definitely upgraded that model in a number of ways, most of them being a big improvement.

Yamaha P255 digital piano Essentially the P255 is a fairly easy to carry (approx 38lbs), self contained portable piano with a powerful built in speaker system and is made for people who want to primarily play piano although it does do many other cool things. The P255 also offers a very nice selection of other instrument sounds including the primary sounds that people are looking for such as electric pianos, organs, strings, harpsichords, etc. The additional instrument sounds, many of which are in stereo do sound great and I enjoyed playing them. The older Yamaha P155 did the same thing but the quality of sound realism for not only the piano sounds, but for all instruments, is much better on the P255 as compared to the older P155. So there is a noticeable difference there and I am happy to see that Yamaha has upgraded the piano in this way.

Yamaha P255 digital piano What sets this instrument apart from some of the other portable digital pianos is the sound, features, and design elements that it has for its $1299 price. The built-in speaker system has 30 watts of audio power going into 4 quality speakers including 2 round main speakers and 2 tweeters (speakers are in the back facing out) which is more audio power than in the typical portable pianos in this or lower price ranges. So for those people who want a bigger sound without connecting to external speakers, the Yamaha P255 would be able to do that and the overall volume is also fuller and louder through a good pair of stereo headphones. The next notable new element in this piano is the 256-note polyphony memory chip. This is double that of the older P155 (128-note polyphony) and allows for more advanced music playing complexity when layering & playing 2 sounds together as well as recording 2 sounds together while playing a third live sound over the top of that recording. The only other top name portable digital piano in this lower price range to have the 256-note polyphony memory chip is the new Casio PX560 pro stage piano ($1199 internet discount price). The piano sound of the new P255 is upgraded over the less expensive Yamaha P115 piano ($599 internet price) as well as the older P155. The piano sound on the P255 is just more realistic than on other Yamaha pianos in this price range and the added acoustic piano type elements such as string resonance in the piano sound are impressive and helps with producing a more realistic piano tone.

Yamaha P255 digital piano The piano key action in this model is what Yamaha calls "GH" graded hammer weighted key action with synthetic ivory keytops. The GH/GH3 key action is used in a variety of Yamaha digital pianos in higher price ranges, but the P255 is the lowest priced Yamaha digital piano (with internal speakers) that I know of in this lower price range ($1299) to have the GH action. The GH (graded hammer) action is an improvement over the lower priced GHS standard action in having a more realistic weight and movement of the keys, quieter key action, and more stability. The P255 GH action is a 2-senor key action as opposed to 3-sensor key action such as what is in the competitive new Casio PX560 portable pro stage piano. It's not until you get to the Yamaha GH3 (3-senor) key action that you get the next level of Yamaha's key action models which is found in their higher priced pro & home digital pianos. However, I am personally not a big fan of the GH key action because it is, in my opinion, somewhat heavy or resistant (as compared to many acoustic & digital pianos I have played) when pressing the keys lightly or softly. I like the keys to go down more easily when playing softly or lightly so it is not fatiguing and so that I can play more quickly. The GH key action just does not do that for me, but for other people they may like the playing experience of the GH key action. Don't get me wrong, I can certainly play the GH key action and can make good music, but I just don't enjoy the action near as much as I do on other top brands and models such as Roland, Casio, or Kawai.

Yamaha P255 digital piano
synthetic ivory keytops
As I just mentioned, Yamaha has included its "Synthetic Ivory Keytops" on the P255 keys themselves which simulates the feel of the real ivory of older acoustic pianos many years ago. It also cuts down on the white plastic look you get from the standard white plastic keys on some digital & acoustic pianos. I like this synthetic ivory key material and it also can help absorb sweat from the fingers when playing, but it is not absolutely necessary to get a great playing experience because most real pianos these days don't have have synthetic ivory or ebony keytops. They have shiny white plastic keytops and I don't hear pianists complaining about it too much:). But...the synthetic ivory is still nice to have and can be a benefit to some players..

Yamaha P255 digital piano
 FC4 sustain pedal
The P255 comes with one piano style sustain pedal which is nice and works well for basic sustain function. When it comes to piano pedaling and achieving a realistic pedal playing experience, the P255 is very good at that, especially with regard to note decay time. Decay time is how long the note sustain time will last when playing a key (or keys) and holding the pedal down without letting go and listening to how long you can hear the piano sound until it naturally fades away. Some digital pianos do this well and others don't. The lower notes of the piano keyboard always have longer pedal sustain times than higher notes, and the higher note sustain times on digital pianos are always more difficult to recreate, but the P255 does a good job and I was quite impressed although it is still not like a real acoustic piano in terms of a real organic pedaling experience, but that is also difficult to do in this price range. As a long time piano teacher I believe that good, authentic pedaling is important to have, especially if you are a more advanced player so this is an area that should not be overlooked.

There is also a piano pedal sustain feature called half-pedaling which the P255 does offer as do other piano brands and models. Half-pedaling means that rather than just having on or off pedal sustain, there is a middle amount of sustain based on the pedal being pressed about half way down. This feature, which is quite useful for higher skill level piano players, is more realistic especially when comparing to what a real acoustic can do, but unfortunately the included sustain FC4 pedal cannot trigger this function. You would need to purchase a special optional Yamaha piano style pedal (FC3) for about $45 to make that happen and get a similar designed pedal or the optional triple pedal unit for those that want the upgraded system. Why Yamaha didn't just include the upgraded single pedal is beyond me because there is no reason not to have it, and in the $1299 price range, I don't know anyone who wouldn't want that kind of pedal. As an example, Kawai includes a deluxe sustain/half-damper pedal with its ES100 portable digital piano ($799 internet price) so if they can do it in my opinion Yamaha be able to do that. I call that just a way to get you to spend more money on something Yamaha should have already included (that's my guess). As you can tell I am bothered by small details, but to me as someone who plays piano well and expects the little things to be there, Yamaha dropped the ball on this one. 

Yamaha P255 digital piano When it comes to the P255 control panel and functions, Yamaha has nicely redesigned and upgraded it from the older P155 piano. There are a total of 24 instrument sounds including the acoustic pianos as opposed to 17 on the P155. The layout and design is less cluttered and more classy/simple sleek looking and a bit easier to navigate and use. You can layer any two sounds together for simultaneous play or split two sounds for left hand/right hand which is nice. Although the older P155 had editing controls for setting brightness, reverb, effects, touch Yamaha P255 digital piano sensitivity, etc, the P255 is not only simpler and more efficient to use, the effects themselves have been much improved including the reverb/echos, and a new 3 band graphic EQ has been included for incremental custom changes to the overall sound including treble, mid range, and bass. The older P155 had this but the changes are preset and not near as functional and changeable. The reverbs and effects such as chorus, phasers, etc are quite good and a nice upgrade and some players, especially pro players, will like these better special effects. Each sound can memorize the effects that you put on it so you can have different effects applied to different sounds and they will be recalled when you go back to that sound, which is very nice.

Yamaha P255 digital piano iPad app Yamaha has also developed an iPad app that can be used to access the various functions on the control panel in an easy and intuitive way. So if you have an iPad you can use with the P255, the P255 app (left pic) is a great help in getting through the various piano functions. Roland piano company also has an app for many of its digital pianos so it is beginning to become more common to see but definitely a plus, especially for digital pianos that otherwise may not be as intuitive to use on their own. I am disappointed in the fact that Yamaha did not put in a LCD display screen in place of the older basic LED user display screen. LCD screens allow for Yamaha P255 digital piano displaying the actual function or feature such as "grand piano," "live grand", "DX E Piano," "Pipe Organ Principal," "Vibraphone," etc. Instead, the older style LED display has simple character displays like GP1, GP2, OR3, CL4, etc. You just cannot know what the actual sound or feature name is of the function you are using, and to me, that is a big oversight on Yamaha's part and an inconvenience for the user. Even lower price portable digital pianos like Casio PX350 ($699) has a LCD display screen and I suspect that Yamaha believes the solution for that is to use its P255 iPad app for a much better user interface. However, even though the iPad app control panel user interface is very nice, I don't want to have to dedicate an iPad to the P255 just to have more intuitive control over my piano. So I am disappointed Yamaha did not upgrade its built-in LED display to a more user friendly LCD. A better solution is what the Casio company did with their new PX560 portable pro digital piano. Not only does the PX560 have some impressive features packed into a lightweight 88-key portable piano at $100 less than the Yamaha P255, all of the user controls are accessed by a 5.3" color touch screen (left pic) which intuitively accesses all of the PX560 features. This makes for a dedicated user interface that has no rival at the moment in this price range and the results in my opinion are outstanding for piano sound, key action, and a multitude of useful features which makes the playing experience even more enjoyable.

Yamaha P155 digital piano
older P155 sound buttons
One of the things I like to do when playing portable digital pianos (or any digital piano) of this caliber and price range is to switch from a piano sound to another instrument sound while playing a song, or combining two sounds together quickly. Sometimes it's nice to have an instrument variety as you are playing. Unfortunately on the Yamaha P255, when you switch from a piano sound (and there are 4 of them) to another instrument sound, the piano sound immediately drops out until you play another key with the new sound. This makes for choppy piano playing and transition to a new sound assuming you want to switch sounds while you play, which many people do...and I for one like to do that. On the older P155 this issue did not exist as far as I know, but on the new P255 it does exist and I am disappointed by that. For some people this will not be a problem at all because they don't switch sounds while playing, but for others it may be a bother especially in a live situation like stage, church, recording, etc, You can't learn to live with it....but you shouldn't have to.

Yamaha P255 digital piano
P255 instrument sound buttons
As with many other Yamaha models, the legato/sustaining instrument sounds such as Choir, Organ, and strings do not sustain when holding the sustain pedal down but instead decay and fade out like the piano sounds. In this price and for this new model being able to keep the sustained sound of these instruments going would have been more natural, especially when combined with the piano sounds. Other brands in this price range like Kawai, Roland, and Casio do not have this issue, and for me I would have much preferred the instruments sounds to sustain as long as I held down the sustain pedal, but they do not. The Kawai company even gives you the option of having it both ways with a function that activates continual sustain hold or cancels it. Once again, it is a relatively small issue but still inconvenient, at least it is for me.

Yamaha P255 digital piano There are other new features in this model that I like and they include the addition of 10 realistic sound drum rhythm patterns so that you can play along with a drummer which can help with rhythm and timing. The Yamaha P115 portable piano ($599 internet price) has this feature as well. The P255 drum patterns are basic but do include Latin, Rock, Swing, Waltz, etc, along with an intro and ending so that it sounds more natural when you are using that feature. But once again, you don't know what rhythm you are getting from the drum button because there is only a LED display screen which reads Yamaha P255 digital piano out simple things like drum pattern 1, 2, 3, 4, etc... definitely not intuitive. The P255 can also record audio wav files of you playing the piano and save it to a USB flashdrive along with being able to sing through the piano with a microphone plugged in to the audio input and save your vocal performance along with the piano playing. I like this feature and although it's not the only brand that can do this, in this price range, it's pretty cool. Another useful new digital feature offered is what Yamaha calls sound boost which gives you the ability to have an instant increase in volume, brightness, and/or power when you want it rather than doing it manually by adjusting the master volume or using the 3 band EQ. This is good for live playing situations where you think this may help your overall piano sound when playing solo or singing at the same time.

Yamaha P255 digital piano
back connections
As far as connectivity is concerned, as with previous Yamaha portable pianos the P255 has a USB flashdrive input on the front (as I just mentioned) to play and save 2-track MIDI recordings one at a time or simultaneously as well as record your own performances and play them back. Unfortunately the P255 cannot record or playback General MIDI song files of which there are thousands on the internet in just about any music category of song title you can think of. In this price range I would have preferred to see that type of feature included because it is very useful to have that kind of MIDI technology but the P255 does not have it. There is USB output to iPad and laptop computer so you can use useful iPad apps and computer software to enhance your playing experience and help with music education. This feature was not previously on the older P155 and the P255 actually has its own app that can be accessed on an IPad so that you can control a number of P255 functions from an iPad touch screen. This is a very cool feature and can be useful but of course you would need to have an extra iPad at your disposal to take advantage of it. There is also 2 stereo headphone jacks on the left of the piano and audio outputs which is great to have, MIDI in/out connectors, USB output jack, and stereo audio input on the back of the piano to plug in an external device like a microphone.
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Yamaha P255 digital piano
new EQ sliders
As far as the way the piano looks, the physical design, music rack, and even cabinet colors of the P255 has been redesigned and upgraded. Gone are the wood tone finishes and in its place are either satin black or satin white cabinet colors which give the piano a more contemporary, sleek look to it. The music rack is bigger & longer and holds more music than before, and the control panel buttons and controls (as I mentioned earlier) are overall easier to use. Even the LED light inside the buttons have changed and are a bright white color instead of red like on the P155 so the entire piano looks classier and better laid out and buttons are easy to see even in darker light When it comes to design, Yamaha does a good job overall.

Yamaha P255 digital piano
plastic sides
However, there is one thing I noticed which, in my opinion, is clearly undesirable. For some reason Yamaha decided to use black plastic plexiglass type material (plastic) adjacent to each side of the keyboard rather than extend the mat finish of piano onto that area.  On the white P255 case the plastic is shiny white color plastic. Although the shiny white plastic doesn't look quite as cheap to me, the shiny black plastic really shows up as looking cheap and it scratches easily too. If Yamaha went to all the trouble to improve the visual aspect of their new P series piano, why did they choose this plastic, easy to scratch plastic material? Was it to save money or did someone at Yamaha really think this was a good thing? If the material was on a very small area of the case then that may not be as bad. But it occupies the entire top end piece on either side of the 88 keys. Plastic  can also crack and break easily if it takes a big hit, although I don't know what would happen on this model as I obviously can't test it for that:). Oh well, and just when I thought the redesign was perfect!

Yamaha P255 digital piano
 triple pedal & furniture stand
In the final analysis the P255 in both the satin black and satin white colors is a major upgrade from the older P155, and it shows in mostly very good ways. However as I mentioned earlier, I am personally not a fan of the Yamaha GH key action with regard to the key weight and static touch weight (a bit stiff) when initially touching the keys, although it is built well and durable and for many people will be good. The other negatives I mentioned are the lack of LCD screen which almost forces you to use an iPad to better navigate the P255 because it has a lot of functions (some that I have not mentioned in this review) which are much more difficult to understand and/or use without the P255 iPad app navigation. The other noticeable negative to me is the plastic sides which could eventually get scratched up if you take the piano places and don't have that area protected inside and outside of a carrying case, or if your cat walks across that area:). For the $1299 price, the P255 is overall a very good step up from the lower under $1000 price range for a lot of people who are looking for a portable piano with built-in speakers to take with them or to put in small spaces. An optional furniture stand ($129.99) and triple foot pedal assembly ($89.99) are available for those people who want the P255 to look and function more like a actual piano and those options do come in handy for that purpose and function well too.

Another great option for a portable professional type digital piano in a lightweight self-contained cabinet in this lower price range is the very impressive new 2016 Casio PX560 as I mentioned earlier. At just $1199US internet discount price, this piano is incredible for what it offers and how it performs in this price range. It has so many great features I almost don't know where to start. But I will say that just playing piano on it is impressive enough not counting all the other cool features it has plus it only weighs about 26lbs, so carrying it around is a breeze:). This model may be difficult to find in stores right now but check out my review of the new Casio Privia PX560 portable digital piano at the following link and you'll get a better idea of what this piano can do and for $100US less than the Yamaha P255: Casio PX560 Review



Kawai ES8 
One more interesting option to the Yamaha P255 is the higher priced Kawai ES8 pro portable piano. Kawai is also a well respected piano company and their products are played by musicians all over the world. This ES8 is substantially upgraded in almost every way over the P255 and the piano playing experience on this model is as good as it gets compared to any new digital piano under $3000. The internet discount price on this model right now is $1999US but is worth every penny in my opinion. Be sure to contact me to find out more about the ES8 and some direct factory specials right now that I know about for quite a bit less than internet price and also how to get one...assuming they are not sold out. Go to the following link for my review of the Kawai ES8: Kawai ES8 Review

*Before you make any purchase decision you should always do your research and home work, especially in this price range because you want to make the right decision for your musical goals and long terms needs in a price range you can afford.

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.

2 comments:

  1. I have just brought home a P155, and after playing it for a few hours I’m disappointed by three problems. I’m wondering whether the P255 addresses any of them.

    1. The decay on any note held down is way too fast.

    2. To get an adequate range of possible volumes in a piano voice (I just mean adequate, not so great as to be comparable to an acoustic piano) I have to set the touch at softest, turn the volume up, and usually play at the low-volume end of the range. Staying at one end of the range exaggerates the problem that the variation of brightness by attack speed is stepwise. The result is to make the instrument sound a bit like a defective electric.

    3. The “electric piano” voices seem to cycle through a series of voices as I play. (None of them much good, and I don’t really care about “electric piano.”)

    Thank you very much for any information you can offer on whether the P255 does a better job than the P155 on any of these matters!

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  2. This is a good review. I just tried out the P255 vs. Roland FP50 and HP504 and would like to reinforce the comments in this review about the P255 GH key action. It is noticeably heavier and more resistant than the Roland action and to me much closer to an acoustic piano action. Personally I found that a very *positive* difference and am considering buying the P255 for that reason even though the Rolands offer many more sounds at a similar price.

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