Review: The Japan Hand-Crafted Digital Piano That Costs Less than an iPhone.
In order to keep costs down and prices low, most digital pianos under $5,000, even those from established brands such as Yamaha, Kawai, and Casio, are manufactured in lower-wage countries such as China, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
It is therefore refreshing to see this digital piano which is made in Kyoto, Japan but priced less than the latest iPhone. Japan is a country synonymous with exquisite craftsmanship. I am going to review the key-action, build quality, various features, and functionalities of this made-in-Japan digital piano and demonstrate the onboard sounds in order to help you make a better buying decision.
A big selling point of the Korg LP-380U is the RH3 key action. This is the exact same key action found on their $4,000 flagship Kronos workstation and their professional stage piano which cost many times more than this digital piano.
The 88 hammer action full-size keys are progressively weighted just like a traditional acoustic piano with 3 velocity curves ensuring the best fit for your playing technique.
Key noise is well dampened and one of the quietest among its competition. The red felt liner at the key pivots also helps keep key noise to a minimum.
I am extremely fussy with regard to noisy keys and these are a godsend.
The keys are heavy, just like those on an acoustic grand piano, making this an excellent professional practice piano for those studying for a music diploma.
It was easy to express both pianissimo and fortissimo with ease and playing quick musical trills was effortless. It would have been perfect if the keys were made of wood, but that would mean paying a significantly higher price. In my opinion, you cannot get a better key action at this price point. Less serious piano players who prefer a softer action should look elsewhere.
You can find out more about the RH3 Key actions here.
I cannot recall another keyboard or digital piano at this price category that is hand-built in small batches in Japan by a team of Japanese master craftsmen.
The high level of craftsmanship is evident. All components feel tightly put together. The knob and buttons on the panel are high quality with zero free-play.
The hinges are silent and the opening and closing mechanism of the cover is smooth like butter.
The piano cover, which doubles as a music rest, has a soft close mechanism ensuring the safety of your fingers.
With a depth of just 11 inches, the Korg LP-380U would not take up too much space in your home which is an important consideration for those like me who live in a small city apartment.
At this price, it is inevitable that the furniture stand is covered with a wood grain laminate and is not actually solid wood, but the construction and quality of the laminate are top-notch with no exposed or peeling boards which I often observe in other premium brands.
It is this hand-building process that allows Korg to offer the Korg LP-380U in 135 different color combinations. However, this service is only available in Japan and the rest of the world has to contend with a small selection of white, black, and rosewood cabinets.
You can find out which color combination is available in your region here.
There is no point in having a solidly built digital piano and one of the best key actions if it does not sound good. Fortunately, Korg, renowned for their Italian and German grand piano samples, packed 30 of the best sounds from their library.
6 acoustic pianos, 6 electric pianos, and 6 jazz and pipe organs ensure that any repertoire you play is covered. The remaining 12 voices consist of strings, guitars, and choir voices, which are great for layering with other sounds for a richer timbre.
A bunch of configurable reverb, chorus, and brilliance effects allow you to tweak the samples to sound exactly the way your ears prefer. If you are not a technical person, fret not. The sound engineers have programmed various effects which are automatically applied based on the voice you select.
I wish there was a way to save user settings, but there is none. It is not really a deal-breaker for me as the voices and effects can be quickly and easily selected with a few buttons on the panel.
120 note polyphony might sound low, but I was not able to get sound dropouts even after I layered and sustained a piano patch with a strings section.
While the sounds that matter, such as the acoustic and electric pianos and the organ voices, sound good, I did not fancy the guitar and harpsichord patch which is, frankly, due for an update.
For advanced music producers who need more than the 30 onboard sounds, Korg included their studio-quality Korg Module and Korg Gadget 2 iOS app with the Korg LP-380U
Every imaginable feature that a seasoned piano player needs is on the Korg LP-380U. You get triple pedals for damper, sostenuto, and soft including the critical half-pedal feature not found on many home digital pianos at this price.
A metronome helps students keep time and 9 tunings are available if you want to play Bach’s Preludes and Fugues on your Well-Tempered Clavier.
In addition, a transpose function is available for those who need to accompany a singer who is more comfortable singing in a different key.
If you need to practice quietly or if you need to take lessons with a teacher without disturbing your housemates, there are two 3.5mm headphone jacks.
That being said, I would prefer to have one 3.5mm headphone jack and another headphone jack to be ¼” ensuring I can use any pair of headphones I need.
A good pair of studio-quality headphones makes a massive difference to the sound of a keyboard, especially a high-quality one like the Korg LP-380U. You can find a pair of affordable studio headphones that I recommend.
While there are 30 onboard demo tunes for you to listen to and relax to, I would have liked a basic onboard song recorder which there is not one. Thankfully, the USB MIDI port of the Korg LP-380U not only transmits and receives MIDI signals but is also a full-fledged audio interface.
You can send and receive digital audio on this piano using many of the free music production software on the internet.
A pair of 22 watts amplifiers on the Korg LP-380U pumps out a powerful 44 watts of peak power with more than sufficient for you to entertain a small crowd without needing further external amplification. With the massive soundbar below the digital piano, I was able to crank up the volume to an uncomfortably loud level with zero distortion.
You can find out more detailed specifications of this hand-built in Japan digital piano here.
In view of rising, labor and production cost globally, I am absolutely amazed that Korg can produce a high-quality digital piano that is hand-built by Japanese master craftsmen for such an affordable price.
For the price-sensitive who prioritizes having one of the best key actions coupled with an excellent sound sample, you cannot go wrong with the Korg LP-380U
If you need more bells and whistles, this is not the keyboard for you.
Instead, you can find my recommended digital pianos, keyboards, and music learning apps here. You can check out my beginner piano app as well as some beginners video courses and course materials available for you. Also, do check out this free 25 Piano lesson too
I hope you found my review of the Korg LP-380U useful. Do check out the links provided in this article for the latest and most updated information and prices of the Korg LP-380U. Do also take a look at my other articles to find the best and most suited instrument for your personal need.