Top 3 Best Digital Pianos (Consoles) under $1000 USD
Updated: Aug 13, 2020
With more than a hundred different piano models out there, how does someone look to buy an affordable piano for the first time and decide on which piano to get and avoid a costly mistake? It's easy to be misled into spending way more than what you need to when you are regaled with slick marketing videos from smart-looking salesmen working for piano shops aiming to sell you pianos that give them the biggest profit margins.
In this article, I will cut out all the fluff and review my Top 3 Favourite Digital Console Pianos under $999 USD. Prices do fluctuate due to seasonal promotions so do check out the respective links for the latest prices. (As a bonus, do read till the very end where I will list some pianos you should absolutely avoid at all costs.)
Digital Console Piano #1
Launched in January 2018, the Yamaha Arius YDP-S34 comes with 88 full-sized, touch-sensitive and matte keys that comes with graded hammer action. It does still use Yamaha's oldest GHS key action which although not the latest, is still of high quality. This piano comes in three colour options you get black walnut, white, as well as white ash with a folding cover to keep dust away from your keys. As for the main piano voice, it is sampled from the iconic Yamaha CFX concert grand piano. On top of this fact, you get 9 additional voices such as electric pianos, harpsichord, strings, vibraphones and a few organ voices, coupled with the ability to layer these tones for a richer sound combination on a 16W speaker amplification. It also comes with a 192 notes polyphony so that you won’t risk sound drop-offs when playing lush complex piano repertoire. The Yamaha Arius YDP-S34 comes with standard features such as a 2-tracks song recorder, a built-in metronome, dual headphones port, as well as a USB MIDI port for connecting to your mobile devices and computer where you can use the free Yamaha Smart Pianist App. You also get 3 pedals for damper, sostenuto, and soft functions that supports half pedaling. In addition, the USB port does allows you to transmit and receive audio data without needing an external audio interface.
Unfortunately though, this digital piano does not come with the split voice function and it also does not come with wireless Bluetooth MIDI that allow you to connect to your iPad wirelessly. Lastly, there is also no built-in audio recorder on the piano itself.
Overall, the pros and cons of this piano are as follows:
Digital Console Piano #2
Released in August 2017, the PX-870 is the flagship in Casio’s Privia line of digital pianos. It features a conventional sliding key cover and comes in black, white and oak coloured finishing. On the PX-870, you will find Casio's second generation tri-sensor graded hammer action, which simulates the heavier keys on the lower registers and lighter keys on the higher registers of a traditional acoustic piano. The PX-870 boasts matte and textured, simulated ebony and ivory key tops and 256 notes of polyphony versus Yamaha’s 192 notes at the same price of USD $999. It also carries 19 voices which can be layered and split across the keyboard. There is also the usual triple panel system with half pedal support, a built-in metronome, a 2-track recorder, dual headphone ports and USB MIDI for connecting to external devices. In addition, you get loads of the latest expensive technologies such as string resonance, damper resonance, damper noise, hammer response, lid simulator, key off simulator, and key action noise which contributes significantly to the realism of the sample piano voice. This digital piano also uses the AiR sound engine which doesn't disappoint. Samples sound rich and have a satisfying deep bass resonance in the lower register which is done justice by their powerful 40W speaker amplification. While it is unfortunate that the Casio doesn't transmit audio via the USB port like the Yamaha, you are able to record audio directly onto a USB stick, which you can then transfer anywhere easily.
While the Casio is technically superior to the Yamaha YDP-S34, something to note is that Casio pianos do not retain their values as well as Yamaha. Yamaha builds traditional acoustic pianos, but Casio just doesn't. Therefore, this creates a halo effect on Yamaha digital pianos and you have to contend with paying more for Yamaha even though it has fewer features.
To compare apps, the Casio’s Chordana Play for Piano app has a number of useful features that make up for the PX-870's lack of LCD screen. While the Yamaha Smart Pianist App is clearly optimized for iOS devices, I had no problems using Casio’s app with both IOS and Android devices.
To sum up this piano,
Digital Console Piano #3
Released one month after the Casio’s PX-870 was announced, the Roland RP102 boasts 88, touch-sensitive, simulated ivory, full-sized keys with Roland’s triple sensor PHA-4 key action which feels significantly closer to an acoustic piano than Yamaha's entry level GHS key action. It also comes with its excellent SuperNatural sound engine with 15 voices and the ability to layer them. The RP102 does have damper resonance, string resonance and key off resonance, but these are fixed and cannot be adjusted, unlike those on the Casio. It consists of the usual triple pedals, supporting half pedaling, a dual headphones port, a built-in metronome and a USB MIDI. To a Roland piano neophyte, it might seem that the RP102 has no song recording facilities. However, the true strength of the RP102 comes from Roland's Piano Partner App 2 which allows you to select sounds, access lessons, games and an intuitive song recorder feature. The app also allows access to arranger features such as auto-accompaniment rhythms with intro and ending rhythmic variations and fills. Coupled with Roland's wireless Bluetooth capabilities, the only piano on this list that has this feature, the iOS and Android app supercharges the RP102 to another level without the hassle of wires.
The Roland RP102 unfortunately comes with just 128 notes of polyphony, the lowest in this list. Also, while the build quality of the Roland RP102 is not as polished as that of Yamaha or Casio, it should still provide many years of music making and is a strong contender in this list.
To sum up the Roland RP102,
A word of advice from me when looking for a digital piano is to avoid buying cheap digital pianos produced by China companies. Although significantly cheaper, these companies just cannot compare with the industry when it comes to sound quality and build quality. These brands include Lagrima and Donner.
Digital console pianos are still inherently better than portable pianos although it is much cheaper. Portable pianos usually compromise on the key action and sound system due to its compact size and it does not look as impressive as console pianos due to their small size. If you do not have the need to carry your piano around, I would always recommend digital console pianos over those portable ones as they are generally better-made and will last many more years compared to the cheaper, portable counterparts. I hope that this article has proven useful and informative for you in your decision to purchase a digital console piano. Do check out my other articles to find the piano that is best suited for your needs and objectives!