01 Oct Yamaha Digital Pianos | REVIEW | 7 Models Under $1000 for 2020
Yamaha Digital Pianos | REVIEW | Under $1000 | for 2020 | LOWER PRICES HERE | The Yamaha piano company has 7 models of digital pianos under $1000 called the YDP-S34, YDP-103, DGX-660, P-125, P-121, P-45, and YPG-535. Yamaha is famous worldwide for making impressive acoustic and digital pianos and has been doing it for many decades. They are headquartered in Japan and have been there in business since the early 1887 which is well over 100 years. These digital piano models under $1000 are competitive and offer some up-to-date digital music technology. There will also likely be some new product surprises in 2021 from Yamaha as the months go on so stay tuned for that to happen. But for right now the following digital pianos are available now and most will likely be available and continue on in 2020 based on availability due to the pandemic and lower factory output. Take a look below.
– Yamaha P-45 Digital Piano – $499 internet price – Yamaha has had this entry level 88-key weighted key action digital piano out for awhile now and we do expect to see changes to this model in 2020 because the competition is offering more for the money in this same price range including Casio, Korg, and Roland. The Korg brand new B2 at $499 is especially popular right now and blows away the P45 in terms of piano sound, key action, and pedaling (and there’s a $50 instant rebate on that model right now why supplies last so the bottom price is just $449. Check out our review of that model on this blog. Yamaha needs to make changes here to this model and we see that happening in 2020 because if it does not then Yamaha is mostly hoping their good name carries this instrument further down the field. But once someone hears and plays the other $499 models out there, especially this Korg B2, there’s little reason to buy a P45 for about the same price.
– Yamaha YPG-535 Digital Piano– $549 internet price – The Yamaha YPG-535 was first brought to market almost 13 years ago back in 2007! In other words, it’s the oldest digital piano I know of anywhere that is still considered a current model and being sold on-line. So why is that? Why would Yamaha still have this piano made and sold in 2019 and 2020? The answer is simple, this model still sells OK and because of that Yamaha sees no reason to change it or stop production. I have played the YPG535 many times over the years and it has a lot of the fun features that we call “bells & whistles” that give this model some uniqueness along with the fact that it has 88 keys which regular lower priced keyboard don’t normally have. Regular lightweight portable keyboards have either 61 keys or 76 keys and also those keyboard actions are “spring loaded” and not hammer weighted like pianos are. This is the case with the YPG-535…the keyboard action is what Yamaha calls “soft-touch” which is another way of saying spring-loaded lightweight non-piano touch keyboard.
So not only does this model have no real piano key action in it, the piano sound chip is only 32-note polyphonic. What that means is that the most notes which can be played or heard at one time in this model including when you are using your sustain pedal and possibly adding a 2nd layered instrument sound to the piano sound, is 32 notes. But…the 32 notes is calculated in mono, not stereo. That means the most notes that can be played or heard with the stereo piano sound is just 16 notes. When you use a sustain pedal when playing piano, that typically reduces polyphony power up to another 50%. What I am trying to say is the computer chip in this 13 year old model cannot handle any real piano playing…you will have note drop-out, the piano sound itself is anemic and artificial, and the key action is like playing a cheap $200 keyboard. But…the YPG-535 is still fun to play with hundreds of nice instrument sounds, drum rhythms, accompaniments, MIDI recording & playback, editing functions, and some interactive learning software inside.
Basically the YPG-535 is a DGX660 (which I talk about later in this review) minus a few newer features but with a very old piano 32-note polyphony piano sound chip and very down-graded keyboard spring key action. I guess you could say the YPG535 is a big, fun, 88-key keyboard that just looks more like a piano but really is not a piano. If your goal is to take piano lessons, play piano, and have this instrument actually sound like a real piano, then my recommendation is to NOT buy the YPG-535 because for just a bit more money you would be way better off to get the much improved Yamaha DGX-660 or maybe just the P-125 which I talk about a little bit later here in this review. If you just want a “glorified keyboard” with 88 keys that looks more like a real digital piano and has some fun things you can do on it and you’re not as interested in actually playing piano and having a piano weighted key action and more realistic piano sound, then this model might be the perfect instrument for you. Personally, as a long-time piano teacher, I would not recommend it and would say “don’t waste your money on it”…get something you can grow into and not grow out of like this one.
– Yamaha P-121 Digital Piano– $599 internet price (shown with optional furniture stand & triple pedal unit) – The Yamaha P-121 came out about a year ago and is a 73-key version of their popular P125 88-key weighted key action digital piano. Having all the same features as the P125 and the same internal speakers system, the reason this model exists is because some people who travel a lot and want to practice while they are traveling take up to much room in the car, plane, etc, or they’re using the instrument to play professionally and are not playing “piano style” where they don’t need all 88 keys, so this model serves a purpose of having the same features as the P125 without taking up as much space.
Some people like this option and it’s a good idea, but I would never recommend it for anything other than for those reasons. The problem is, once you buy this model then if you ever play a song that requires more than 73 keys, which the bulk of piano music does, then your stuck. It doesn’t sound like much of a difference in keys because it’s literally 15 notes (a little over 1 octave) but it can and does make a difference for a lot of music when you play it. The P121 does sound good and the internal speaker system is more than adequate to handle the piano sound. The key action is the Yamaha GHS (standard) and it’s fine but when you go up in price these key actions can get a lot more realistic. I much prefer the key action in the new Korg B2…very responsive and very quiet with regard to the up & down key action movement.
– Yamaha P-125 Digital Piano – $649 internet price – The P-125 has been out for a little while but is so new that we see this model continuing through 2020 with no changes. The P125 has what a lot of people expect out of Yamaha in this price range for 88-key GHS weighted key action model which is 192-note polyphony piano sound chip, satisfying stereo piano sound, a total of 24 nice instrument sounds accessed from buttons on the front panel and the ability to layer or split any tow of those sounds, some basic accompaniments with drum and bass patterns, a 2-track digital MIDI recorder, digital metronome, transpose feature, reverb sound effects, and electronic key touch sensitivity control and all being powered by a 14 watt internal sound system going through 4 speakers.
The P125 is lightweight at just 26 lbs and has good connectivity features including auxiliary outputs, and USB connectivity all in a compact cabinet. The P125 does not have any Bluetooth wireless connectivity or audio input but it does have a proprietary app called Smart Pianist which can be used on an iPad (mobile or tablet) which allows you to control the P125 from the color touch screen of your external device. This is pretty cool and fun to do and also has some other features in it that the piano itself does not have. As I mentioned earlier, all the features, functions, GHS key action, sound system, etc in the P125 are in the 73-key version P121.
– Yamaha DGX-660 Digital Piano – $799 internet price – The Yamaha DGX-660 which comes in either matte black or white finish has been out for quite awhile and is quite popular for the Yamaha company because it has a ton of interactive bells & whistles” on it with hundreds of instrument sounds, drum rhythms, accompaniment styles, 6-track MIDI recorder/player, audio recorder, and lots of sound layering/editing features. It’s basically a P125 on steroids for $200 more and it also includes the furniture type stand at the price.
The DGX660 also has a proprietary monochrome LCD graphic inset display screen which displays all functions and features you’ve selected in the piano so that you can easily see what you’re doing. The display screen gives this model away in terms of when you look at it you know it’s a DGX660 by that screen and the layout of the panel & buttons. It has a bunch of built in songs and displays notation sheet music in the display screen of those songs although the notes are small and a bit difficult to see, but at least they are there.
The DGX660 has a lot of features in it including some music education song instruction with follow-along music and that’s the reason someone would want this model, because it’s like having a 1-man band and little recording and learning studio at your fingertips along with many other musical things that you can do. The piano weighs 46 pounds so it’s not as light as the 26lb P125 not is it near as compact. The DGX660 is meant to be played at home or similar environment and has 2 x 6 watt speakers (12 watts total) going through 4 smaller speakers. The volume on this model is loud enough for most rooms although there’s not a lot of bass response, but I did not expect that.
There is no doubt this model is a lot of fun to play and you can also play regular piano on it just like the P125 because it has the same GHS key action and same 192-polyphony sound chip. We expect this model to go on through 2020 because it is still a good seller for Yamaha and other than the Casio CGP700 and Casio PXS3000, and also the Yamaha YGP535 that I mentioned earlier, there is no other digital piano in this price range from the other brands that does what this Yamaha DGX660 can do, and there is really no compelling reason to change it.
– Yamaha Arius YDP-103 Digital Piano – $899 internet price – The Yamaha YDP103 has been out for a while and is a very basic furniture cabinet model and the least expensive one for Yamaha in that way. The YDP103 has an older piano sound chip in it with just 64-notes of polyphony and it sounds fairly artificial going through a weak 2 speaker 12-watt sound system. It has 10 instrument sounds and a few other basic features including reverb effects, metronome, USB output, and some basic electronic key touch settings.
It’s an older model and we see this particular piano in need of a big update so we think it will be replaced very soon as the competition from Kawai, Roland Casio, and others offers a lot more for the same or less money. The YDP103 is certainly fine for beginners but given that it has an old piano sound chip which is very basic and artificial in tone with little expression or sustain time ability, you would likely be better off with the newer models in other brands or instead going up to the better Yamaha YDP144 at $1099 price. For another $200 that piano would be a much better investment.
Yamaha Arius YDP-S34 Digital Piano – $999 internet price – The Yamaha YDP-S34 combines newer Yamaha piano sound chip technology with a very compact furniture cabinet with a slow-close flat-top key cover. It’s a fairly basic piano with 10 instrument sounds and a stereo piano sound chip with 192-note maximum polyphony. It’s a very nice little piano but there is one drawback…the sound system in this model makes the piano sound thin and tinny, and even muffled in tone sometimes. The sound is better through headphones but through the speakers the volume is OK but the quality of piano sound is just too artificial. However, for some people you may not notice this because you may not know anything about how a real piano sounds and plays so it may not bother you at all.
When you’re spending $1000 on a new piano you would expect the internal sound system to be really good but on this model it’s just 16 watts of total power going into 2 speakers. However, as a comparison, the very popular Casio PX-870 has a total of 40 watts of power going through four speakers and it has a 256-note polyphony Steinway sampled piano sound chip. Even the new portable Korg B2 piano at $499 has a 30 watt internal sound system which is almost double that of the Yamaha YDP-S34 and that’s why I am mentioning this.
A 16 watt internal sound system in a new piano like this with a new piano sound chip is just not enough to give it a good, full sound and I am hoping Yamaha improves upon this issue in 2020 but I doubt it. In the meantime, it’s still a good product and can serve the musical needs of many people and it also has the proprietary Yamaha Smart Pianist interactive iOS app which allows you to connect with the YDP-S34 in some really cool, fun ways.