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Published Jan 5, 2023 1:00 PM
The piano’s history may date back over 300 years, but today’s digital pianos have brought the instrument into the modern era. Some digital pianos simulate the feel of a traditional acoustic piano with wood or ivory keys. These weighted keys may deliver a traditional trigger mechanism, creating an acoustic piano feel. Others optimize the piano for stage-ready synth and organ, with filters for tone adjustments on the fly. Still others capitalize on the piano’s natural capabilities as a composer’s instrument and come outfitted for musical instrument digital interface (MIDI) compositions in a digital audio workstation (DAW).
Most digital pianos on this list are full 88-key keyboards meant to be used with a stand. However, digital pianos come in many sizes. We featured one full-body piano, which has an upright body that would trick you into believing it’s an acoustic at first glance. Digital keyboards with fewer octaves are also available. Digital pianos with 76 keys are common, while many MIDI keyboards and synthesizers use just 25 keys—often with the addition of some pads and control knobs. Whether you’re looking for a practice piano that you can plug into your headphones for endless arpeggio practice, a MIDI-capable piano for programming digital space orchestras, or a stage-ready touring keyboard that will fit in just as well playing the organ for a zydeco band, we’ve got the scoop on the best digital pianos.
How we picked the best digital pianos
Digital pianos come with many different tool sets, so we stuck to a few core qualities that add up to make a top contender. When researching our picks for the best pianos, we reviewed digital pianos from several manufacturers, diving deep into the specs and evaluating each piano based on our experience as tech reviewers and musicians.
Keyboard quality is one of the first things to think about when you’re looking for a great digital piano. If you grew up raiding your parents’ attic to play with the cheap, bouncy-keyed Casio from the 1980s, we’re here to tell you that digital pianos have come a long way. Contemporary keyboards vary in terms of their priorities. Weighted keys generally simulate the feel and responsiveness of an acoustic piano. Some digital pianos go so far as to grade the weight of the keys from lighter higher-octave keys to heavier lower-octaves keys. Many keyboards will allow you to adjust responsiveness further. While most “true” digital pianos feature a full 88 keys, many keyboards opt for 76 keys or less.
Voice is always key. Digital pianos that look to emulate acoustic pianos often use high-fidelity samples of grand pianos. Yamaha, for example, will often sample its highest-end concert-grade pianos. Most digital pianos focusing on simulating acoustics come with few voicings and tones. However, other digital pianos switch it up. They may come with hundreds of possible programmable voices, as well as built-in synthesizers that allow you to alter all aspects of your piano’s digital voice. Digital pianos meant for MIDI applications, on the other hand, usually focus on controlling a digital audio system DAW) and empower you to play any number of sounds, from sampled string sections to synth rhythms.
Polyphony is crucial in a high-quality digital piano. Referring to the number of notes that a keyboard can reproduce simultaneously, a keyboard’s polyphony as a metric tells a story about how well it will deal with chords and complex voices. The best digital keyboards have 64-note or 128-note polyphony. This allows them to sustain layered voices while continuing to introduce more notes without chopping off sustains.
Material is another factor in the quality of any instrument. Some traditionalist digital pianos are built to be furniture for your home. These full-bodied pieces might be adorned in rosewood and fill the space taken up by a cabinet. Other keyboards might be made of rigid plastic paired with metal components. Digital pianos must often balance mobility and structural integrity in their design. The best do this well.
The best digital pianos: Reviews & Recommendations
Best overall: Yamaha P515 88-Key Weighted Action Digital Piano
Why it made the cut: With wooden keys, 256-note polyphony, and all the connections you need, this is a great traditionalist digital piano that’s ready for the modern age.
- Keys: 88
- Polyphony: 256
- Key type: Wood, weighted
- Weight: 70.55 pounds
- Notable connections: MIDI, quarter-inch line, USB, Bluetooth
- Yamaha CFX and Bösendorfer Imperial samples
- Wooden keys feel amazing
- Compatible with DAWs via multiple connections for MIDI and audio
For the overall best digital piano on the market, most users should look to Yamaha’s P515 88-Key. This is a true pianist’s digital piano with real wood keys, weighted action, and subtle escapement. It has 256-note polyphony for sustained chords that even the fastest player’s prestissimo trills won’t disrupt. It features beautiful built-in voicings featuring samples from Yamaha CFX and Bösendorfer Imperial pianos that are ready for the subtlest classical treatments and the liveliest jazz.
While the P515 is quite heavy, it is portable enough for a traveling musician (with a van). It features many connectivity options, including amplifier-ready line connections, a jack for headphones, Bluetooth audio, MIDI, and USB. The USB connections make this a powerful digital controller for those working in DAWs such as Ableton Live and Sibelius. Altogether, the Yamaha P515 is an incredibly capable traditionalist’s digital piano that’s ready for the stage or digital programming and also simply sounds great in the living room. If you’re looking for an option packed with beginner-friendly features, Yamaha’s new P-S500 Portable Digital Smart Piano comes with red and blue lights that show what keys to play, among other learning tools.
Best full-body: Yamaha YDP144 Arius
Why it made the cut: Compatible with the Smart Pianist app via wire, this beautiful rosewood console piano is a perfect home piano that sounds great through its speakers or headphones (even if you’re sitting through your kid’s fiftieth run-through of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”).
- Keys: 88
- Polyphony: 192
- Key type: Synthetic ebony and ivory
- Weight: 83 pounds
- Notable connections: 2 headphone jacks, USB
- Beautiful rosewood finish looks great
- Synthetic ivory and ebony weighted keys have that real piano feel
- Two headphone jacks make this an unobtrusive practice piano, even with a teacher
- Doesn’t include a quarter-inch line out for an amplifier
With a rosewood body and weighted keys, the Yamaha YDP144 Arius will be mistaken for an upright acoustic piano at first glance. It capitalizes on its traditional design in many ways. With three pedals and 192-note polyphony, this is a digital piano that plays like an acoustic. It uses synthetic ivory and ebony keys that feel like the real deal and really sing under the hands.
Like the selections under “Best Overall,” this piano is compatible with the Smart Pianist iOS app (making it great for beginners). The Smart Pianist app allows you to control your piano’s tone with added voices and even customizable weighting of the keys. In addition, the app can access your music library and create chord charts from your favorite songs. However, it should be noted that connection to the app does require a wire.
It features two headphone jacks, so you (and your piano teacher) can play away without worrying about the whole house hearing your first attempts at “Hallelujah.” When you are ready to show off, the piano has 8-watt speakers that sound crisp, even in the bass range. All in all, the YDP144 Arius is a beautifully designed home electric piano that does a great job of replacing the acoustic piano in the house with something that has headphone jacks and volume controls, making it an excellent practice piano.
Best synth: Korg Krome EX 73
Why it made the cut: With a legendary library of digital sounds, pads, arpeggiators, and drum tracks, plus an internal mixer and a touchscreen editor, this is a synth powerhouse that also does a great job with the basics.
- Keys: 73
- Polyphony: 120 (120 oscillators)
- Key type: Semi-weighted
- Weight: 18 pounds
- Notable connections: USB-MIDI, line
- Astounding array of sounds, pads, and fully customizable arpeggiators
- Rhythm library and arpeggiators auto sync with easy control
- Responsive keyboard
- Traditionalists will prefer a fully weighted 88-key keyboard
While so many digital pianos model their form and sound delivery on traditional pianos, the Korg Kreme EX 73 orients itself firmly toward the future. With a stunning array of editable sound samples, pads, arpeggiators, effects, and rhythms built in, the Krome EX series is a solid choice for any artist working with keys. Further, its versatility doesn’t handicap it from also operating as an excellent piano. While its keys are only partially weighted and might not have the responsiveness you’ll find in the wooden keys of a Yamaha P515, the Krome is certainly ready for pianists. It includes several piano samples that rival traditionalist Yamaha digital pianos in tone.
With so many pads, voice samples, and arpeggiators on board, your DAW’s MIDI synth library might feel redundant, but it’s there with the Krome’s MIDI connections. The Krome syncs with your DAW in a host of useful ways, making it an invaluable addition to any digital producer’s toolkit and providing a host of sounds that will prove useful no matter your genre.
Best MIDI: Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol
Why it made the cut: With a fully weighted Fatar keypad that feels like an acoustic piano, the Komplete Kontrol brings all the tools a pianist needs for full DAW immersion.
- Keys: 88
- Polyphony: Variable as DAW capabilities will be factored
- Key type: Weighted Fatar keys
- Weight: 27.9 pounds
- Notable connections: MIDI in/out
- Excellent weighted 88-key keyboard
- Deep connectivity to your DAW
- Doesn’t match other keyboards as a stand-alone instrument without a DAW
A musical baby of the 21st century, the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol is a digital piano that perfectly syncs with all aspects of your DAW for total control of your workstation. Native Instruments has made a name for itself by branching out of its foundations as a production suite and into instruments that perfectly bridge the divide between digital workstations and tactile control.
Make no mistake: Komplete Kontrol is a producer’s digital piano. Dedicated pianists might not want a piano natively connected to a computer. However, they will have to respect its design. With an 88-key weighted Fatar-designed keypad, the Komplete Kontrol plays like an acoustic piano.
Komplete Kontrol isn’t just a piano, though. Linking in with your DAW, Kontrol’s two screens allow you to navigate quickly through instruments, presets, and filters, selecting instruments and editing them as you play. Its additional buttons control all aspects of the DAW’s recording process, from starting and stopping recording to quantizing loops. Any serious digital producer who uses keys will find a home for the Komplete Kontrol at the center of their workstation.
Best budget: Casio CT-X700
Why it made the cut: With 600 tones and a host of built-in rhythms, this 61-key Casio is ready to get you jamming.
- Keys: 61
- Polyphony: 48
- Key type: Plastic, unweighted
- Weight: 9.48 pounds
- Notable connections: USB-MIDI, line
- A huge tone library
- Doubles as a MIDI controller
- The lack of weighted keys keeps this from feeling like a piano
- 61 keys make for a reduced-size keyboard
Budget prices don’t have to compromise expressive options. With the Casio CT-X700, you’ll have a huge selection of creative tools at your fingertips. The CT-X700 is a descendant of some classic Casio portable keyboards that have been a ubiquitous part of American music for a few generations. This one comes packed with 600 tones and a host of preprogrammed rhythms.
Perhaps the CT-X700’s most exciting feature for contemporary creators is its USB-MIDI port. This means that, for the price you’d pay for many MIDI-only keyboards on the market, the Casio gets you an electronic keyboard controller combo that works just as well playing one of its 600 tones as it does controlling the ones native to your DAW.
The CT-X700’s keyboard isn’t anything to brag about. It features only 61 keys, and they aren’t weighted to feel like a piano’s. When you factor in playability, it won’t compare to a starter piano like the Yamaha P45. However, for the price, the value is unbeatable. This is a great piano for beginners, folks looking for a MIDI controller, or keyboard players looking for a truly portable device with heaps of flavor.
Things to consider before buying a digital piano
Before buying a digital piano, you must consider a few factors to clarify what you want out of your new instrument.
Traditional or modern
Before you buy a digital piano, consider whether you’re looking for a piano that highlights the traditional qualities of a great piano, such as weighted wooden keys with great response and samples taken from world-class grand pianos and uprights, or rather if you want a piano with lots of different synth tones, pads, and MIDI control. While it is possible to find pianos with all, most digital pianos focus more on traditional piano qualities, synth, or MIDI control. A Yamaha P515 does have a MIDI connection, but it lacks the DAW control you’ll get from a Komplete Kontrol or the unbridled synth of a Korg Krome EX series.
Weight isn’t the only metric that factors into portability. If you’re looking for a digital piano for gigging, make sure you find one that’s light enough to carry and has the proper connections required for hooking into an amplifier or PA. Some digital pianos feature full consoles that are hard to move and lack the line connections required for loud shows.
While it can seem as though you must spend close to a thousand dollars for a solid digital piano, you needn’t necessarily do so. You can get a capable digital piano with a wide variety of sounds for just a couple hundred dollars, while a little more will get you an excellent starter piano like the Casio CT-X700.
Q: What is the difference between keyboards and digital pianos?
Digital pianos are usually built to look and feel more like real pianos. They usually feature weighted keys and more accurate piano voice modeling and sometimes include full consoles like acoustic pianos. Keyboards often feature wider arrays of sounds and put less of a priority on their keys feeling like an acoustic piano’s. The distinction can be fine, however, and the Casio CT-X700 on this list is arguably a keyboard while still functioning well as a great low-cost digital piano.
Q: What is the best digital piano?
The Yamaha P15 is the best digital piano for most users. It has excellent weighted wooden keys, wonderful voices, and good connectivity. However, top-line digital pianos like the Yamaha Clavinova series are worth a look for those with deep pockets.
Q: Are 88 weighted keys important?
While you can save money by choosing a piano with unweighted keys and fewer octaves, you will be limited in your playing. Lots of traditional piano music uses the entire keyboard. If you want to learn piano classics, you should get an 88-key piano.
Q: What is polyphony, and why is it important?
A digital piano’s polyphony describes how many notes it can play at the same time. While most pianists won’t manage to trigger up to 256 notes simultaneously, wide polyphony can become important with sustain and pads. Even without bringing oscillators and multi-voice synth tones into a mix, sustain pedals with chords can activate many notes simultaneously. Pianos with great polyphony can model all these sustained notes simultaneously, so atmospheric sustain won’t fall off as more notes are played.
Final thoughts on the best digital pianos
Digital pianos are versatile instruments that expand on one of the most revolutionary instruments in Western music and usher it into the digital age. These instruments model the tones in top-notch acoustic pianos and often expand on those voices with broad synth sets. Some of them use perfectly weighted wooden keys that feel just like acoustic pianos of yore, while others focus on connectivity. For a synth piano with lush traditional tones and a vast library of possibilities, the Korg Krome EX series is a stunning synthesizer digital piano that will be the darling of any contemporary producer. For a budget digital piano with an impressive voice library and good connectivity, the Casio CT-X700 delivers. However, for the best all-around digital piano for most users, the Yamaha P515 has an exceptional wooden weighted keyboard and a delicious traditional voice library sampled from some of Yamaha’s flagship acoustics.