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The best digital piano for students

The best digital piano for students
From Engadget - January 19, 2018

Who this is for

If someone in the household is showing an interest in the piano and wants to begin taking lessons, a digital piano is a great option. Unlike acoustic pianos, digital pianos do not require tuning or maintenance, and can be used at low volumes or with headphones. They also tend to be smaller and less expensive than acoustic pianos.

How we picked and tested

In order to find the digital piano that best emulated a traditional piano playing experience, we looked for the following features:

We started by searching the Internet and reading editorial reviews of digital pianos, and looked into 89 models. After applying the above criteria and sampling a few pianos in a music store, we narrowed our list to nine pianos. We then ordered each piano, assembled it, and brought in a group of amateur and experienced players to test each model.

Our pick: Yamaha Arius YDP-181

Of all the pianos we tested, the Yamaha Arius YDP-181 felt most like an acoustic piano. The keyboard action is firm and responsive, and the pedals have nice sensitivity. The default Grand Piano 1 sound is good with a sparkly high end; and the panel controls are clearly marked and easy to navigate. The speakers do not envelop you in sound as much as those of some other pianos we tested, and it comes in only a dark rosewood finish, but it's the one piano I constantly go back to and would enjoy playing all day.

The YDP-181 has Yamaha's Graded Hammer action, one of the company's midrange quality actions, which emulates an acoustic grand piano by giving lower-range keys a heavier touch than higher-range. Our test's panelists thought the action felt good, though the amateur player found the action to be too quick. But overall, it was the easiest for controlling chord voicingmanipulating the relative volumes of notes within chordsof any piano we tested. The pedal sensitivity is impressive as well, and even allows for half pedaling.

Runner-up: Roland RP501R

The Roland RP501R is another great choice for a developing musician. The action is pretty good, and the damper pedal has Progressive Damper Action, Roland's name for its half pedaling response that is similar to the Yamaha's. The piano sound was decent, but not as realistic as the Yamaha's. The Roland comes with 300 sounds and 72 rhythmic accompaniments. It's available in black, rosewood, and white, and comes with a matching bench.

The RP501R also has the ability to connect a music score display app on a smart device via Bluetooth, so that you can assign one of the keyboard pedals to turn the page. It also has an internal interface that lets you connect the Roland directly to your computer.

Budget pick: Korg LP-380

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