Author Topic: I need help choosing a digital piano  (Read 185 times)

Offline Ilmeha

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I need help choosing a digital piano
« on: February 12, 2020, 02:23:58 PM »
I choose a digital piano, my budget is 1000 dollars. What can you advise within my budget. I found a review with suitable digital piano models, check. I liked the Kawai ES100 Digital Piano. What can you say about it?

Offline sean

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Re: I need help choosing a digital piano
« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2020, 11:46:09 PM »
Wow.  Wrong forum for that question, but... <pretending I have no interest in non-electromechanical instruments>


It all depends on what you want and what you NEED.  You are not allowed to buy a digital piano until you march down to the music store and play five or six of them.  Yeah, you will have to go to two or three stores to get a good variety.  Some will turn you off immediately, some will take some time.  For me, it is all about the action, the sounds, and then the layout and convenience.  Do not trust a single online review - go see the instrument in person.

Assuming you are focused more on Piano sounds than Organ sounds...  By all means, go for a weighted-graded hammer action that feels like a real piano.  I love my Yamaha P80 and CP300, but I wish their action were lighter.  Play a few "semi-weighted" actions, and you will quickly know what you don't want.

At a minimum, you will want a bright piano and a mellow piano sound that are top quality and perfect to your ear.  Be very critical.  I am bigoted in favor of Yamaha's Piano samples.  Korg sounds fine too.  I don't like Casio's or Roland's piano samples.  Try them yourself.  Audition your piano sounds with the reverb turned OFF.  My feeling is that the built-in heavy-handed reverb just slurs and muddies the piano sound.  Try them with the built-in speakers and try them with headphones (bring your own).  If you find at least two piano sounds that you really love for use on your favorite songs, then put that DP on your short list. 

You will also want a Rhodes sound.  A real-sounding Rhodes sound that isn't buried in chorus.  Some are good, some are hateful.  Yamaha always includes too many "FM-style" EPs.  Yeah, we know, the DX7 was great.  Get over yourself. 

I wish that good Wurlitzer piano voices were built-in to every DP, but I have never seen such a thing.  My CP300 has a few okay ones, but they definitely are no substitute for the real thing downstairs.  (But they get me through Hoyt Axton's JTTW.)  I wish clavinets were common too, but DPs show up with two lame harpsichord sounds instead.  (Not even hipsters and hip hop can bring harpsichord back into style.)  The next sound that I would want is an acoustic bass, or electric bass.  Then the organ sounds and strings.  I wish each DP had a brass ensemble.

My feeling is that if the DP has a few great acoustic pianos, a good Rhodes, a passable bass, and a jazz organ, then I can excuse the eight useless voices they always include.  (It makes me mad that crappy $100 toy pianos will include the full general MIDI set of 128 voices.  I think the Yamaha CP300 gets it right with a handful of high-quality voices, and then a ton of lower-quality-but-still-usefull voices (sometimes I want a bassoon, sometimes I want a trombone, but mostly I really want more choices for organ sounds.)

Then the next thing of importance is the playing experience - how easy is it to switch voices, turn off reverb and chorus, split or layer voices?  I want a row of buttons to choose voices (my Alesis QS6.1 is the holy grail in this regard).  I want a knob or slider for volume.  I want a split button.  I hate features buried in menus, and "I-can't-tell-if-I-pushed-it" mystery interfaces.  I want to be able to manually change sounds, setup, volume, whatever in the middle of the song.


Oh, and there is always the money.  The hammer action adds a lot to the pricetag, but I really think it is worth it.  For $500 or more, you better be getting an instrument that you really love and will want to keep for ten years.  I personally have had great luck with used instruments.  There are probably used instruments for $200 that will have most of the features that you need.  (But a new instrument might have a USB interface.)   I don't believe that DPs need more than 64-note polyphony.  Greater polyphony would be useful if you planned to layer four voices, but the only layers you are likely to really use are the strings behind a piano on a DP.  (If you were looking for a synth for sequencing your next album, then you would be more likely to use a lot of layers.)
 
When I was considering buying the CP300 (used), I compared it to a few other instruments in the less-than-$750 range.  There was nothing that beat the daylights out of my P80 for a reasonable price.  I think the Yamaha P45, P115, and P125 are absurdly overpriced, and the NP121 was junk.  So I decided to buy nothing, until two weeks went by and I couldn't get the CP300 out of my head.
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Take a quick look into the Kawaii ES100 manual.  The procedure for putting it into split mode and dual layer mode are pretty goofy.  I hate overloaded buttons (that have many different functions depending on the context in which they are pushed).  I want a separate SPLIT button.  The manual for the Kawaii ES110 says "When the Jazz Organ sound is selected, the fast/slow speed of the applied Rotary effect can be changed by pressing the FUNCTION and REC buttons simultaneously."  HA!  I will never remember that during a performance!!  Give me a MOD WHEEL!   Remember that the default effects may sound great in the showroom, but you might want to ditch the effects - you have to go through the same "hold-down-this-while-pressing-that" hassle.  Oops, sorry, I forgot a step, first you have to go find the manual and turn through the pages until you find out which magical key sequence you need.

TL;DR - Go to the music store and try them out live in person.

Sean
« Last Edit: February 13, 2020, 12:26:19 PM by sean »

Offline sean

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Re: I need help choosing a digital piano
« Reply #2 on: February 15, 2020, 10:10:51 PM »
Oh no!  I found a new toy that I want to get my hands on:  StudioLogic Numa Compact 2x.  Not a hammer action, but nine drawbars!!  Loads of built-in sounds, live access to effects changes, super light, very interesting.  It has piano and electric piano sounds, but the drawbar organ must be investigated.  Seven hundred bucks makes it way cheaper than a Nord... I wonder what it plays like in person.

https://studiologic-music.com/products/numa_compact2x/

Now I am on a quest to find a StudioLogic dealer....

Sean

Offline Ilmeha

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Re: I need help choosing a digital piano
« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2020, 12:59:16 PM »
Thank you so much for sharing your opinion on digital pianos. I am very surprised that you gave such a detailed and useful answer.

Offline pianotuner steveo

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Re: I need help choosing a digital piano
« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2020, 03:24:28 PM »
You can find slightly used Yamaha P115s or newer in your price range. I absolutely love my P255, mainly for the piano sounds and action.
1960 Wurlitzer model 700 EP
1968 Gibson G101 Combo organ
1975 Rhodes Piano Bass
1979 Wurlitzer 206A EP
1980 Wurlitzer 200A EP
1980 Wurlitzer 270 Butterfly Grand
2000 Yamaha acoustic piano
2004 Hammond XK3
2009 73A Rhodes Mark 7
2009 Korg SV-1 73
....and a few guitars...