There is no point in arguing: only an acoustic instrument allows a musician to fully express his emotions. But it’s on stage. And for home use, and especially learning, the digital piano is much better suited. The main thing is to choose an intelligent device!
It just so happened that music, high-quality sound and keyboard instruments occupy a rather significant place in my life, being a hobby and work at the same time. But someone is just beginning this way. And the first stumbling block is the choice of the piano. Some of the principle or the insistent advice of the teacher acquire acoustic piano. This is the most correct option, but provided that the choice falls on a sample of a well-known foreign brand, which in itself is not a cheap pleasure. After all, there is little to buy: it is necessary to carefully transport this colossus and then periodically set up, causing a professional tuner. In addition, residents of apartment buildings who have chosen an acoustic instrument will have to forget about using it at night.
As a rule, such instruments are idle for years and no longer hold the tension of the strings, or have cracks in the deck. Many need to be repaired with complicated wooden key mechanics, and some also need to breed cockroaches. And this is not to mention the need to restore the lacquer coating.
With an electronic (digital) piano everything is much simpler. It does not need to be adjusted, constructively simpler mechanics do not require attention, and its service life exceeds 10 years (for good branded tools). An electronic keyboard instrument takes up much less space than its string progenitor, and can be used around the clock due to the ability to connect headphones. In addition, most digital pianos offer additional features. Sometimes it’s just a dozen timbres and a metronome, and sometimes a whole workstation for composers and arrangers. But if this still “piano” characteristics are excellent, and the body is made in the form of a cabinet grand (and not a traditional piano), then the price can easily fly over the mark of 400-500 thousand rubles.
What really need
So what is required of a good digital piano if you drop the entertainment aspect? It will be: floor-standing with three stationary pedals, 88-key full-size keyboard with weighted hammer mechanics, realistic acoustic piano / piano timbre (it is formed by multi-layer stereo samples with imitation of resonance of strings and pedal damper). Useful attributes are the two outputs for headphones (for the performer and teacher), a powerful built-in speaker system, as well as a cover for the keyboard and a stand for notes. Pupils will also need the built-in metronome and the function of recording their game – preferably with the ability to drop the result to a USB flash drive or computer. The built-in tools for learning the game — sometimes quite sophisticated, with the use of a large display and computer graphics — I personally consider it a waste of money, since the ability to play and the ability to press the right keys at the right time are not the same thing. And if you want to learn how to play, that is, to perform a piece, and not to strum “for yourself,” then you cannot do without an experienced living teacher.
There are a dozen major manufacturers of digital pianos. Leads in this market the Japanese corporation Yamaha. More than a century of experience in the development and production of various musical instruments, a variety of models and finishes, balanced consumer qualities. This is almost a win-win option, although it is by no means uncontested. After all, their countrymen-competitors from Roland and Kawai offer no less quality products. Casio tools are also Japanese! – it is possible to compare with the models of the “golden three”, although more often they are inferior to classmates in terms of the quality of the mechanics and the realistic sound of the piano’s timbre. This is partly due to the lack of experience, because Yamaha and Kawai have produced and still produce first-class acoustic pianos that can be found on the best stages of the world. Although Roland doesn’t do acoustics, he knows a lot about electronic instruments. Casio is from another area. Her horse is electronic watches, calculators, dictionaries, terminals. Keyboard instruments have never been a priority for the company, until recently this product was frankly weak. But recent years can be traced positive dynamics. And if it continues, then equal competition with the giants is not far off. In the meantime, the company lures the buyer differently: a digital instrument of the same class offers less, or equips richer. And if the piano is acquired for the first years of study, when the prospects for creative growth are still hazy, and the level of skill is almost zero, then Casio will be the rational choice. The only exception to this portrait of the company is that the new flagship tools of the Celviano Grand Hybrid series are high-tech, beautiful, with decent mechanics. However, for 220,000 rubles (the younger model in the GP-300 series costs so much), competitors offer, in my opinion, a more realistic piano sound, not inferior in luxury of decoration. Finally, not to mention Kurzweil (USA) and Korg (Japan). In their catalogs often found interesting options. On this list of current brands can, perhaps, finish.
Below are examples of noteworthy models in each class. In the lists they are arranged in order of my personal priority. I do not intend to argue with ardently disagreeing people in any way, I propose to them in advance to stroll through the nearest musical instrument stores and form their own preferences.
I will begin with decisions combining excellent musical qualities and reasonably adequate functional equipment. Such instruments can be recommended even for experienced performers of complex classical music. Because the mechanics of these digital pianos are very similar to the piano one, including the size and materials, in order to completely recreate the tactile sensations during the game. And it is the long heavy keys with pushers, hammers and return mechanics, rather than the desire for status design, that force the manufacturers of these high-end electronic pianos to make their models at a depth of only 10–15 cm less than those of analog progenitors. After all, in fact, there is not only a deck with strings.
Its function is performed by sensors, a sound processor, an amplifier, and acoustic system emitters — usually two-way, with resonators. As for the imitation of the piano timbre, then in the models listed below a complex set of samples is used. The so-called multi-layer sampling, when a real grand piano is scrupulously “digitized”. In the recording studio, the sound of each key is recorded with different pressing force. In addition, pedal sounds, string dampers, case resonances and other overtones are recorded, adding realism to the originally “sterile” sound of a digital instrument. While playing an electronic piano on the keyboard, the real-time processor switches on the necessary fragments with the required volume, depending on what and how the performer pressed. As a result, the tool recreates a whole picture from small pieces. Today this technology is so worked out that only the gurus, and even that is not all, can distinguish between the recordings of the grounded and acoustic grand pianos by ear. How much is such a pleasure?
And another 10-15 thousand may be required on the bench (a special piano bench for the pianist) and headphones – always full-sized, so-called monitor, closed type.
More than 200 thousand models of digital pianos offer a more developed and powerful speaker system, elegant finishes and additional features for entertainment and learning. However, the accuracy of imitation of an acoustic grand piano, in terms of key mechanics and recreating the timbre, is no higher. That is why I included not the most expensive models in the list of top-class tools. Each of them is offered in 3-6 finishing options, including light colors and piano lacquer, which increases the price.
Yamaha Clavinova CLP-545 (from 130,000 rubles)
The Clavinova series is a kind of industry standard. At the same time, the optimal balance of qualities is offered by the model relating to the initial ones in the series. The CLP-545 has few entertaining functions, but there is a great keyboard made of natural wood with an imitation of ivory finish (not for pathos, but to recreate the key surface texture familiar to pianists) and a very realistic nuance-rich concert grand piano. More precisely two: Yamaha CFX and Bösendorfer Imperial. A graphical management interface and additional features are available when connecting an iPad with proprietary applications.
Roland HP-603 (from 150,000 rubles)
A good instrument with a classic design, rich sound and realistic key mechanics. In my opinion, the price is slightly too high, but not enough to move the device from the second place of my subjective rating. Moreover, at the buyer’s service there is a close integration with the tablet, with which you can not only adjust the instrument’s parameters, but also use a very pleasant auto accompaniment to entertain or practice your ensemble skills. By the way, this is the functionality of the proprietary application, and not the piano. But all sound is output through the HP-603 speaker system. However, the same scheme is used by competitors.
Kawai CA17 (from 170 000 rub.)
Another serious instrument with a strong emphasis on musical potential. Own functions at least, but through the tablet, you can adjust the parameters of the piano and play with the accompaniment. The main thing here is a cool mechanic with long wooden keys, the response is very similar to an acoustic concert grand piano, and a very reliable imitation of the sound of an analog instrument. The built-in acoustics is approximately at the level of competitors, but it’s impossible to say about the price
Further – compromise, but still complete solutions. They are inferior to the models from the first group in almost all indicators. First, the quality of the mechanics: shorter keys are pressed a little easier, and smaller hammers provide less reliable tactile similarities with the mechanics of an acoustic grand piano. It should be clarified that in the reasoning about the length of the keys only that part of them is mentioned that goes into the case. The visible key length for all instruments is standard. Secondly, the quality of timbres. Models are simpler than “mechanical” sounds, which add realism to the sound, are not imitated in such detail. Often, fewer layers are used at the stage of sampling the piano tone, or not every key is sampled (spaces are filled in by the instrument processor, completing the intermediate values). As a result, the musical canvas is woven from larger patches, which reduces the flexibility of the sound and the imitation of the acoustic instrument as a whole, although “classical” pianists with a skill level lower than a graduate of the conservatory and most of even professional pop artists will hardly notice the catch. Thirdly, the quality of the built-in speaker system: less power and more compact speakers, which affects the depth of the bass notes and the overall volume.
Nevertheless, the simplification of all these characteristics cannot be called a landslide; therefore, the digital tools of the middle class can also be considered quite universal. They are closer to the piano than to the concert grand piano, but more compact and cheaper than their older brothers. Is that the choice of color design of the case is either missing or limited to two or three options.
Casio Privia PX-860 (from 52,000 rubles)
Spectacular for this class design, a good speaker system, extensive features, the main of which are the built-in 2-track recorder and the function of playing with an orchestra. In memory of the instrument, 10 ready-made “backing tracks” are performed by a sampled symphony orchestra, in which you can change the tempo at your own discretion. And it is available without any tablet! However, the PX-860 is mostly less impressive, because the piano tone is simplified in its overtone palette and seems slightly “plastic” with an expressive performance. But the tasty price partly compensates for this. At present, a new model PX-870 is being prepared for entry into the market, which has received some minor improvements.
Yamaha Arius YDP-163 (from 81,000 rubles)
A peculiar antagonist of the 860th Casio model. There is more modest and design, and features, and the price is much higher. But the timbre of the piano seems more realistic. Yes, and the keyboard is good – both the response and the coating of the keys. On the role of an entertainment device, I would advise Casio, but as a “workhorse” for learning and home music, definitely Yamaha. A little to reduce the disorder of the relatively high cost will help integrate into the device with the iPad to expand functionality. True, the means of pairing (USB-wire or wireless dongle) will have to be bought separately.
Korg LP-380 (from 70,000 rubles)
This device stands out from the competitors of the classic form factor. It is inferior to them in the power of the built-in speaker system, it looks very specific with the lid lifted, and its capabilities are minimal. But then there are 30 timbres, among which there are already 5 pianos – and they are quite “usable”. A key advantage of the tool – the size. With a body depth of only 35 cm, it has both stationary pedals, and a full-fledged lid with a stand for notes, and a good hammer mechanics. So if size has priority, it’s your choice.
Finally, the most simple options suitable for any serious use are the entry-level desktop pianos. They should be considered only as a temporary house for the first years of study. Such devices have everything you need, although the quality of implementation is basic. For example, the key mechanics, although it is a hammer, but it is lighter than that of larger floor pianos, that is, it is already difficult to reach acoustic instruments. The quality of imitation of the piano’s timbre strongly depends on the model, however, in any case, it will range from “sad” to “acceptable”. The pedals are no longer stationary (which is fraught with displacement with a particularly energetic performance), the built-in acoustics are low-power, and there is no cover at all, which will require buying or sewing a case to protect the keys from dust. On the other side of the scale is enviable compactness, transportability and relatively low price. Please note that all tools of this type need an additional floor stand, which is charged separately. Branded will cost 4500-7000 rubles, but you can build a homemade U-shaped from a wood stove, or use any suitable desk with clipped legs. The main thing is that the design is stable, does not interfere with the legs and allows the keyboard of the instrument to be positioned at a height of 73-75 cm (up to the surface of the white keys). In view of these recommendations, I strongly advise against using “synthesizer” X-shaped folding racks for the desktop piano. They are wobbly – even with a double frame – and make it difficult to correctly position the legs.
As for the pedals, for some models, complete with the piano, one is delivered – the most necessary sustain (prolonging the sound even with the key released). It is usually the simplest, but conditionally free. More solid, resembling a piano (in the photo below), will cost 2000-3000 rubles.
And in this sense, the savings when buying a desktop piano is becoming less and less obvious, because the purchase of a floor stand and a good pedal reduces the difference from simple, but initially floor instruments, equipped with pedals, to 10-20 thousand rubles. But this money is difficult to attribute to the prize, because in return you get the key mechanics worse, the built-in speakers are weaker, and you also lose the lid that protects the keyboard from dust and damage. Therefore – advice:
Yamaha P-45 (from 32 000 rub. Without a floor stand)
This is the simplest model of the entire line of Yamaha digital pianos, equipped with conditionally complete hammer mechanics and 88 keys. The model is produced not the first year and managed to become a classic. The timbre of the piano itself is not bad, but the instrument is almost devoid of sound imitations of the mechanisms of the acoustic instrument, so the solo parts are not reliable enough. But for learning in the initial stages and playing simple P-45 pieces, it is quite suitable. Especially if you connect external speakers to it, since the built-in speaker system is designed only to indicate the height of the notes. A modest polyphony (the maximum number of simultaneously sounding notes; determined by electronics performance) hints at the lack of professional ambitions, whereas for more expensive pianos this value is 128-256 notes, which removes any restrictions on the performance of complex compositions. However, polyphony, even in 64 notes, will be enough for any student of the music school. Pedal and stand for notes attached. The instrument features the simplest: there are 10 timbres (including two pianos) and a metronome. Case design no alternative black.
An alternative to the Yamaha family is the P-115. The key mechanics and the speaker system are the same, but the tone generator is more abrupt, so the sound of the piano is more convincing, and the polyphony of 192 notes is enough for any situation. Such a tool is 8,000 rubles more expensive, and this surcharge is justified. As a bonus, there is a choice between black and white body paint.
Casio CDP-130 (from 25 000 rub. Without a floor stand)
Another extremely popular entry-level desktop digital piano. But popular, above all, because of the price: there is nothing cheaper if we talk about products of famous brands. It is important that the floor stand is offered at a reasonable price, and the pedal is included. It turns out that even the Casio CDP-130 is less expensive than the Yamaha P-45 as standard. And this Casio has more functions: in addition to 10 timbres and a metronome, there are custom effects (reverb and chorus), as well as the layering mode of the instruments. There would be joy, but only in terms of the mechanics and sound of the piano timbre of the CDP-130, even the Yamaha P-45 lags behind quite noticeably. If you can play for the soul in the absence of a more decent instrument on hand, then the primitively recreated piano sound and the “cheap” rumble of the Casio CDP-130 hammer mechanics evaporate with lightning speed. In addition, with 48 notes in polyphony (and in the layering mode of timbres, the value drops to 24!), There is no reason to speak of serious performance in principle. So, take this device only as an accessible means at the initial stage of training. If things are not going well, the cost of the error is not so great. The case of the device can be silver, as in the photo, or black.
The Casio model with the CDP-230R index has much more features: 700 timbres, automatic accompaniment (200 styles), a function to record the game and improved effects. But on the mechanics of the keys, the sound of the piano, the polyphony parameter and the built-in speakers, the CDP-130 is no different. Therefore, the surcharge of 7,500 rubles is taken exclusively for the entertainment component. Casio Privia PX-160 is a completely different thing. This is a very “adult” desktop piano, but it will cost at least 34,000 rubles without taking into account the floor stand. By its qualities, the PX-160 is slightly ahead of the Yamaha P-45, but inferior to a pair of Roland FP-30 / Yamaha P-115. By the way, the price tags fairly accurately reflect this balance of power.
Roland FP-30 (from 44 000 rub. Without a floor stand)
One could tell about comfortable mechanics and pleasant for this class piano timbre with additional imitations of damper and resonance, but I will not do that. Because the more logical step I see is buying another model of the same brand with the RP-102 index, which is the most expensive at 15,000 rubles. In essence, this is the same instrument, but in a floor casing with a lid and stationary pedals, albeit with a smaller number of timbres: the FP-30 has 35 of them, including 6 grand pianos, and the RP-102 has only 15, including 4 grand pianos. In the arsenal of both models, 128-note polyphony and a simple acoustic system. From the pleasant moments I will note the built-in Bluetooth module for a significant expansion of the functionality using a tablet or smartphone through Roland’s proprietary applications. However, if you plan to periodically transport the piano, it is better to choose the FP-30. In addition to the standard black finish, the tool comes in a spectacular white version.
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