Most music students don’t begin with lessons on a grand piano. They usually start playing on an upright piano, a much more economical option. The same principle is true for digital pianos. While these three models from Yamaha and Casio have a lot of quality features, they are less expensive than stage pianos used by pro musicians. But since it can be a little difficult to choose between them, we created this review to help you decide which is best for you.
Yamaha P45 88-Key Weighted Action Digital Piano with Sustain Pedal and Power Supply
Yamaha is a well-known manufacturer of musical instruments, from the humble recorder to the concert grand piano. The P45 may be an entry-level digital piano, but it has a lot of value for its price.
For one, it has 88 full-size keys that are weighted to simulate the feel of playing an acoustic piano. This is the result of Yamaha’s GHS key action with two sensors per key, the same feature that’s on the higher-priced P115 reviewed below. Each key is plastic, but has a satin finish.
Along with the 88 keys, the P45 has 64-note polyphony. This level of processing power makes most pieces of music sound good, without a lot of note-stretching. If you have a fine ear for music, you may prefer the P115, which has 192-note polyphony. The P45 uses Yamaha’s AWM program which doesn’t sound quite as clean and authentic as the P115, which uses Pure CF, newer software. You can probably hear the difference between these two keyboards when playing a loud, dynamic song.
But don’t worry—the P45 can play two sounds at once, which is essential for chords. There are several effects to choose from, like reverb, plus other sounds like jazz organ or bass. The keyboard can be split into right hand and left hand parts. The Dual Mode lets two people play at once on two identical 44-note keyboards, complete with individual metronomes and even separate voices, like piano and strings. This is nice for duets, or for student and teacher activities. If you use the USB connection, you can link an iPad or other device to use music apps.
More features of the Yamaha P45 digital piano:
- Comes with sustain pedal, and is compatible with an upgraded sustain pedal with half-damper capability
Yamaha P115 88-Key Weighted Action Digital Piano with Sustain Pedal and Power Supply, Black
The Yamaha P115 is superior to the Yamaha P45 in a few ways. It has 192-note polyphony, three times what the P45 has, so that complicated music sounds authentic, not digitally stretched. It sounds good with its four built-in speakers that offer better bass response. You can also output sound to external amps by using the two ¼-inch audio jacks.
The pedal effect is also better on the P115 versus the P45. You can sustain string sounds and enjoy resonance just like an acoustic piano. The Pure CF Sound Engine can even reproduce the tone of the CFIIS concert grand piano.
The key action while you play feels as real as possible for a digital piano in this price range. The 88 keys are equipped with sensors and weighted to play with heavier action on the low end and lighter on the higher notes. While you perform, you can also record your music on two tracks for playback—one for left hand and one for right. If you play chords, take advantage of the Pianist Style feature to enjoy full piano accompaniment.
If you have an Apple device like an iPad, you can use the Yamaha Controller App for iOS for the P115. This program gives you a graphical user interface to manage the pianowith all of its features.
More features of the Yamaha P115 digital piano:
- Covered by a 3-year limited warranty
Casio PX160 – Privia Digital Piano with Free Casio ARDX Deluxe Double Braced Stand, Casio ARBench Folding Keyboard Bench, & Instrumentpro Polishing Cloth
The Casio PX160 is the entry-level model of the Privia series of digital pianos. In some ways it’s superior to the Yamaha P45 and P115. One of those defining features is its key action. Instead of two sensors per key like the Yamaha pianos have, the PX160 has three. This means the Casio has better note repetition and the grand piano sound is more expressive. Sensitive listeners can hear the difference because the Casio has damper noise and resonance plus hammer response.
Another nice addition is that each key, besides being weighted to reflect their position on the keyboard, also has a synthetic ivory top for realistic feel. Unfortunately, this level of attention to detail didn’t make it to the pedal that comes with the PX160. It can’t do half-damper effects and it’s rather small and lightweight. It is possible to purchase a different pedal from Casio and use that one instead.
As for sound samples and voices, the PX160 has a wide range of traditional instruments like strings, organs, and choirs. You can play two sounds at once, one with the right hand and one with the left. You can also record two parts at a time and play them back together, even transposing them to another key. With 128-note polyphony, the PX160 sounds very good indeed.
The PX160 has two built-in speakers as well as a headphone jack. There are separate right and left channel outputs for connecting to external amplifiers if you desire. You can also connect this digital piano to a computer or tablet to transfer MIDI files.
More features of the Casio PX160 digital piano:
- Comes with sustain pedal
All three of these digital pianos will provide a lot of enjoyment for budding musicians. Beginners, young children, and casual players may do best with the simpler Yamaha P45. It has plenty of easy to use features, and it sounds and feels nicer than many other brands within the same price range.
More advanced and more discerning musicians may have a hard time deciding between the Yamaha P115 and the Casio PX160 Privia. While the Yamaha has better polyphony, the Casio has slightly more realistic sound and feel. Both pianos have USB connectivity to record and playback performances and interact with music apps. In this case, the choice may come down to price. If possible, listen to and even try out both of these digital pianos for yourself.