what (ugh) electronic piano should I buy?
October 28, 2012 1:38 PM   Subscribe

thinking of buying a piano: getting a real one is logistically impossible, but I hate most electronic pianos. recommendations?

I'm living in the Boston area for the next year or two, and I've been thinking of buying a piano. The previous piano I owned was a warm-toned Yamaha silent piano, which is my absolute gold standard, and which I'll want to own again once I move somewhere more permanent. Because I'm only temporarily here, though, and also because of my present apartment's space and stairwell constraints, I'm not looking to buy a real one right now, and have therefore (reluctantly) started to consider electric pianos. Of the few that I've tried - some Clavinova/Yamaha models and one or two low-range Rolands - I've really hated the way the keys feel. I'm extremely touch- and tone-sensitive and the weight of the keys really matters to me. I want an electronic piano which feels as close to a real piano as it is at all possible to get.

So my question is: is there anyone who has similar persnickety views of electronic pianos who has also successfully found one they're happy with and would recommend? Within reason, budget is not too much of an issue - under $1000 would be nice, and I'm happy to buy second-hand. Bonus points for directing me to specific sale or rental options in the Boston area, but mostly I'd be thrilled with just some solid model recommendations which I can hunt down on my own. Thanks in advance!
posted by idlethink to Shopping (14 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If you have not seen them already - here are some pretty thoughtful and comprehensive answers to this question on Quora:

What is the best 88-key electronic piano available?

Note- the top recs are well above your suggested $1000 price point. But there are a number of recommendations around that price, too...
posted by ManInSuit at 2:00 PM on October 28, 2012

Best answer: I just tried out a bunch of these at the store (Guitar Center) yesterday, and the only one I liked was the Casio CDP120 - it really, truly felt like a real piano, and runs around $450 to $500 without the pedals, bench, or stand. I played on a Yamaha baby grand for about 10 years and I thought I was too spoiled to ever switch to an electronic keyboard, but for space reasons I have to do the same thing that you do.

I messed with Rolands, Yamahas, Casios, and Wurlitzers in a variety of price ranges - and this one was by far the best, feel-wise. I really loved it, and I'm in the same boat as you: I really, really hate the idea of an electronic piano, and am hugely picky, but the CDP120 - man, I would totally get one if it wasn't about $100 over my budget right now.

As it stands, I'm looking at the Casio PX150, which had an OK feel that I got used to after a few minutes of playing. It had a nicer sound, but didn't feel as great as the CDP120. It was, however, about $100 less expensive, so it fits my budget.
posted by sockermom at 2:14 PM on October 28, 2012

Best answer: With the caveat that this was almost 10 years ago, I had very similar opinions and parameters as you in choosing my digital piano. If you are used to a Yamaha, you may disagree with me, but in general my feeling about the Yamaha line was that the action felt really good, but the piano tones were a little bright for my taste. On the other hand, I liked the tones on most of the Rolands and Korgs I tried, but the action was too light and the keys felt plasticky.

I ended up going with the Technics SX P50, which satisfied me on both counts, and I've been very happy with it. This model appears to be long discontinued, but at the time I'm pretty sure it cost around $900. I also once had a roommate who had a pretty similar Kawai piano that I really liked; I don't remember the model but I ended up not getting it because it was a good bit more expensive. In any case, I recommend you look at both of these brands. In my experience, all-around places like Guitar Center may not carry them—when I got to an actual piano dealer, I was much happier with the offerings.

Again, I haven't been there in years, and this is not where I purchased the Technics, but I have had good experiences at Boston Organ and Piano on Route 9 in Natick.
posted by zadermatermorts at 3:16 PM on October 28, 2012

I bought a Korg Sp-250 on the recommendation of several pianist friends, and I've been very happy. The weight feels very good to me.
posted by stray at 3:43 PM on October 28, 2012

Best answer: I have a Casio PX830 Privia and I like the feel of it. I like the feel more than the sound, which is sometimes kind of tinny/electronicy. It feels a lot like a real piano to me. I paid ~$1000 for it. Also: I really tried to find a used piano, but the market seems really messed up - people want *way* too much for their old-ass digital pianos.
posted by mskyle at 3:58 PM on October 28, 2012

I've been delighted with my Roland HP203, but I paid something like $2,600 for it. Good key action is one of the reasons why more expensive digital pianos are more expensive. It's still cheaper than a decent upright, new. (I do not group the inexpensive pianos among the decent.)
posted by mcwetboy at 4:02 PM on October 28, 2012

My wife must've tried every keyboard in the Boston area before she, too, settled on a Casio CDP120. She's been very happy.
posted by 1adam12 at 4:54 PM on October 28, 2012

Best answer: I didn't like the touch of the yamahas either.
We ended up with a Korg when we went digital piano shopping a couple of year ago. Our (concert pianist/ college piano professor) piano teacher thought it was a great piano, too. It was right around $1000.
posted by LittleMy at 5:25 PM on October 28, 2012

I made several trips to Sam Ash and played several keyboards and took notes and talked to the salespeople. I went with a Casio PX-130. 88 keys, weighted, and decent sound. Not top of the line but adequate for my purposes and not too expensive. I've been very happy with it.
posted by bunderful at 8:19 PM on October 28, 2012

Response by poster: thanks so much for all these! I've decided I'm looking for one that's more than just a keyboard on a flimsy stand, i.e. it doesn't have to be portable. I want a piano-like non-piano with a backboard and pedals attached by more than a wire: it will sit permanently in my dining room. I will happily take further recommendations along these lines, but here are my takeaways from here as well as the Quora thread:

- try things in a piano shop, e.g. for Boston: Boston guitar center, Boston Organ and Piano (though this seems far out of the metro area)
- ask about "graded hammer action" - variations in weight between keys at the bottom and top of the keyboard
- good headphones are important
- second hand pianos may not be much cheaper; corollary: may not be able to sell mine for too much when I leave

my list of models to try out:

- Casio CDP120 (many +1s in this thread)
- Korg SP250 (seems recommended by high-level pianists)
- Roland HP203 and Roland RD700
- Roland V-Piano (top of the range, entirely improbable at $6000 but worth playing for a sense of the quality ceiling for electronic pianos)
posted by idlethink at 9:21 PM on October 28, 2012

My friend really loves his Yamaha P-155 $999 - 88key fully weighted. Worth trying out at your price point.
posted by j03 at 10:22 PM on October 28, 2012

I know nothing about pianos, but I do know that in the Fenway area you've got both Berklee and the New England Conservatory — lots of serious music students living in apartments on a low budget. Maybe just contact them and ask if they can recommend resources?
posted by benito.strauss at 12:12 AM on October 29, 2012

Best answer: Seconding the Korg SP250. I have one, and both its weight and its sound are wonderful. The tones even taper off realistically, and different attacks are interpreted very, very well, which I hardly believed possible with digital pianos. You can actually choose from a few piano sounds on it, I prefer the more Steinway-like one, but there's also a beautiful somewhat-bright sound similar to Schimmels that's good for brighter pieces. The pedal is only attached by a wire, but it's set onto the stand, so it doesn't actually move around like others can.

Background: studied piano from age 3 all the way through one year in a piano performance program at the U of Oregon School of Music. Couldn't stand the vast majority of electric/digital pianos until coming across this Korg. It is really perfect when you can't have a real piano (I live in an apartment, so being able to plug in headphones was a must).
posted by fraula at 12:36 AM on October 29, 2012

Best answer: Note that the Roland RD700 is a stage piano which comes with a lot of bells and whistles that you might not need or want. If you just want 'a piano' then the Roland FP-7F uses the same physical keyboard & is a bit cheaper as it drops a lot of the extraneous features. There's also an integrated stand available for the FP-7F which is very sturdy: the RD700s need an external stand. (Or you can buy one of the 'living room pianos' which use the same internals, but put them in a nice box for those who view a piano as a piece of furniture as well as an instrument!)

The V-Piano is lovely, but was way out of my price range :)

The best possible sound is probably from a physical piano simulator paired with a high quality weighted keyboard: a copy of PianoTeq is only $99 for the basic package and will give fantastic sound. Sadly I don't think it's possible to get a really high quality piano action midi keyboard with just MIDI out: the manufacturers want you to pay for all the bells and whistles.
posted by pharm at 2:58 AM on October 29, 2012

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