Digital piano recommendations for touch and dynamics
September 2, 2009 2:05 AM   Subscribe

Digital piano recommendations? My priority is realistic touch and being able to produce sounds for as many dynamic levels as possible. I don't want to pay for "pretty" features to have like screens, sound effects, powerful speakers etc..etc..

I have an upright piano and I live in an apartment and it is disturbing my neighbors. So I am looking to get a digital piano.

What I am looking for :

1. Realistic touch,
2. Being able to give many dynamic levels from ppppp to ffffff :)

I don't want to pay for things like pretty features like :

1. pianos with screens,
2. sound effects,
3. powerful speakers
4. midi, digital stuff etc..etcc

Although these features don't hurt to have, if there is a cheaper option with similar touch and dynamics I would definitely go for the cheaper one.

Considering all this, I appreciate any recommendations, or your experience with digital pianos, or how it is like to go from acoustic to digital or any comments.

Thank you
posted by neworder7 to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
The Korg SP-250 is an excellent alternative to an acoustic upright piano.

The Korg has a very simple layout, with more emphasis on high-quality performance than "pretty features."

It has 88 weighted keys, adjustable volume, two headphone jackplugs (great for your situation), and a built-in metronome. The keys feel great to the touch, and because they're weighted, they have a more realistic feel. There are several timbres you can toy around with, including electric piano, vibraphone, harpsichord, etc. but nothing superfluous like "gunshot" or "spaceship" sounds. Speakers are built in so you won't need an amp if you're looking to perform in front of others.
and offer the Korg SP-250 for around $699 (Musiciansfriend has free shipping). The keyboard comes with a very sturdy, easy-to-setup stand (a good quality stand is really important), a damper pedal that actually looks like a pedal, and an attachable music stand for you to place your sheet music. For $699, it's hard to find a better deal than this.

I got the Korg SP-250 because I play a lot of piano (FWIW, I play classical, jazz, and pop music) and I needed to practice. Like you, an acoustic piano was logistically difficult for me to continue to use, but I wanted something as close to a real piano as possible. I did some research and got the Korg, and thus far it's been fantastic.

I highly recommend it.
posted by matticulate at 3:05 AM on September 2, 2009

Maybe I should have specified a budget but I am not necessarily looking for a cheap one, I really want to find out what's out there first then I will consider a budget. My focus right now is to identify good pianos with good touch/dynamics regardless of the price.
posted by neworder7 at 3:32 AM on September 2, 2009

I have a Yamaha CLP-400 series Clavinova that I bought 10 years ago. It is fairly simple, 88 weighted keys, good piano sound, headphone, real pedals. It has built-in speakers that point downward and it splits the upper and lower registers between them so sound doesn't get too muddy. It's more or less the form factor of a console piano. While I am not a deeply discriminating pianist, the action is far better than what you would get in most small acoustic pianos, but nothing compared to a good grand. Older Yamaha (CLP-200/300/400) can be found in the $300-800 range.
posted by plinth at 3:40 AM on September 2, 2009

Seconding the Yamaha CLP series. They definitely seem to fit what you're looking for -- nicely weighted keys, responsive action, excellent polyphony, and a full range of dynamic levels.

While they do have fancy-ish features like USB ports and direct internet access, depending on the model, they're not overwhelmed by crazy buttons and ghostly glowing readouts. Like plinth, I've had mine for close to a decade, and I've been very happy with it. I think I spend somewhere close to $800 for it.

The CLP is a pretty popular line, as it gives really nice sound without a big footprint, so music teachers love them. If you go to a Guitar Center or local piano store, they probably will have a couple of models for you to try out.
posted by shiu mai baby at 5:29 AM on September 2, 2009

Studiologic makes excellent keyboard controllers. Their keys actually have hammer actions in them. With the right sample, the illusion is quite realistic.

See one here:
posted by SNACKeR at 5:48 AM on September 2, 2009

nthing the Yamaha Clavinova-- I like mine for it's weighted keys and the dynamics are pretty realistic. No fancy digital screen or anything and I like that it looks fairly close to a real upright piano, and as previously stated, it is relatively small in terms of its footprint and not nearly as heavy as a true upright, but you'll definitely need 2 people to carry it out of the store in its box. Two strongish folks managed to get it up 3 winding flights of stairs into my bedroom with only a very minor ding (they were not professionals). FWIW, it does seem to be a dust-magnet on par with my other electronics, even if regularly played and wiped down, unlike my actual non-electronic upright piano.

The best part is the volume control is really good without losing the dynamics, and the headphones that come with the piano are amazing for not-waking the neighbors-- when they're plugged in, you can wake up at 3 AM and play as hard and ferociously as you want and to you it sounds like you could fill the world with sound, and all anyone else can hear is some quiet tapping of each key.

I've had my CLP 240 for 3 years and it's still playing well without any problems, ever. and no tuning needed is the great.
posted by potatopeople at 5:58 AM on September 2, 2009

If price is not your primary concern, you should check out the digital pianos from Roland. I personally prefer their sound the the Yamaha's linked here.

Because the sound is very much a matter of personal preference, you should go to a music store (like a Sam Ash) and play a few for yourself.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:18 AM on September 2, 2009

I just got the Casio PX-330, which is the new version of the favorably reviewed PX-320 . I'm happy with the feel and sound. And you can get them at discounted prices if you shop around.
posted by blueyellow at 9:26 AM on September 2, 2009

I have a Korg SP-250 as well, and for all intents and purposes, I'm quite happy with it. I know you said price isn't an issue, but why spend more if you don't have to?

That said, seconding the Roland. You should also check out some Kurzweils. Those tend to be the two top stage pianos, in my humble opinion. You really need to go to your local music store and try some out, however. Generally, if you get a stage piano sans internal speakers
and buy separate amps, the sound quality is usually a bit better.

Be careful with the Kurzweil though, it may become part of you by 2060.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:09 AM on September 2, 2009

Nthing the Clavinova CLP line. I have a CLP-270, which is fantastic for my shared wall. Discerning pianists will balk at the action compared to the "real thing," but the new Graded Hammer 3 (GH-3) system in some of the higher-end CLPs is heads and tails above your typical digital piano, and even my family's previous Clavinova.

The CLP-270 (and probably some others) also has a sometimes-uncanny soundboard simulation. You can hear sympathetic vibrations in the "strings" when you play a note while pressing the sustain pedal, and it even has microphones which pick up ambient noise in the room (e.g. if you clap loudly while it's on, you can hear an "echo" in the "soundboard").

I can't speak to other models/brands, but I'm very happy with what I have and gladly recommend it. It should serve me just fine until I get a Steinway Model B and a house to keep it in :-)
posted by stufflebean at 12:36 PM on September 2, 2009

I have a Kawai CN22, which I got a couple years ago for just over $1000. I love it, though I really should upgrade my headphones as I'm still using the awful freebie ones. I grew up playing a Kawai upright grand, though, so it makes sense that I would prefer the sound and feel of the Kawai digital over the Roland or Yamaha.

It has something like 8 sounds, a metronome I have yet to figure out, and a hilarious amount of "Concert Magic" songs which are fascinating to any child who has pressed that button at my house. In any case, it has awesome bang for the buck.
posted by Maarika at 2:42 PM on September 2, 2009

Please go to a local instrument vendor -- or several -- and PLAY the demo instruments. For god's sake don't buy a musical instrument through the mail. This is one of those times when hands on play testing really counts. And when it comes time to buy, don't forget to reward your local shops' investment in inventory with your patronage.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:14 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

I made my decision. It will be either Yamaha CLP 340 or CLP 370 depending on the price the dealer will give me.

Thank you all for your comments.
posted by neworder7 at 3:33 AM on September 24, 2009

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