Pianos always had a certain aura of prestige around them, and, to be quite honest, such reputation was earned both by their sound and their hefty price. The arrival of digital technology changed everything and allowed pianos a way into every home.
There are a lot of models out there, and you can inspect our article on top digital pianos for 2017, but today we’re looking for best digital piano under 500$, and answering the questions is it actually possible to have a good digital piano for this money.
Let us see what is the best digital piano under 500 dollars out there.
How to Pick the Best Digital Piano?
The current digital piano landscape is more than colorful, and the manufacturers are doing their best to up the ante and enrich their products with attractive functions that may be appealing to potential customers. However, these functions very often stray into the gimmick territory, and the entry-level price range is especially vulnerable to crowd-pleasing, albeit not that useful buzzwords. Here are the features that count the most:
While on the acoustic piano high notes come from the right and the bass notes come from the left side of the instrument, digital pianos play their pre-recorded sound samples from the speakers. Digital pianos that use different speakers for different ranges of notes, which makes them sound acoustic, are a preferable option.
2. Sound Quality
The sound quality of a digital piano is largely determined by two main factors – the quality of the speakers and the quality of the samples. Out of the two, you can augment only the quality of the speakers. Lack of digital memory that results in lower-resolution sounds is not that easy to address. That is why you should double-check the quality of the sound – both with built in speakers, and with quality headphones. This is the area where manufacturers trim the quality when aiming for low-cost product, so be extra careful.
The word polyphony means “many sounds.” On the acoustic piano, the number of different tones the instrument will be able to play at the same time is limited only by the number of keys. In the world of digital pianos, this number depends on the quality of the built-in technology. If you are planning to spend up to 500$, you will find a number of models that feature 48-note polyphony, which is more than enough fort sufficiently “layered” sound.
4. How the Keys Feel
The keys of an acoustic piano have a certain resistance to them. That is because a key controls the hammer which produces the sound by hitting the string. Digital pianos play pre-recorded pitches, so their keys are much lighter to the touch. That may seem irrelevant, but the added resistance and the sense of tactility make playing easier. Digital pianos that emulate the sense of the resistance of the acoustic ones are considered of better quality.
For the same reasons mentioned above, when you press a key of an acoustic piano harder, the sound you are going to produce will be louder. In the digital world of zeroes and ones this effect has to be artificially created. Although not necessary (especially to beginners), this feature allows louder sound and more expressive playing experience, so it is always a welcome addition.
One of the few areas where digital pianos outshine the acoustic ones is an option to make playing funnier and efficient. Out of the two, you should prioritize the latter mention. Here are some of the interesting features:
- Multiple voices – They allow your piano to produce the sound of various instruments (organs, string instruments, etc.). Always prioritize quality over quantity.
- Layering – An option that allows your piano to play the sound of two different instruments at the same time.
- Key split – As the name suggests, this options enables you to effectively split your piano’s keys in half and play two voices at once.
- Learning tools – Things like built-in metronomes and light indicators (showing up which key you have to play next) that make playing more accessible to beginners.
In the world of pianos, you use pedals for damping (reducing the sound of the instrument). Although you can buy them separately, bundled products usually feature lower prices. Most of the entry-level pedals handle the damping effect in a binary manner (ON, OFF) The higher quality pedals dampen the sound at varying levels depending on how hard you press them.
Portability is another great advantage digital pianos have over their acoustic counterparts. However, the sleeker design doesn’t always result in better quality, so it is strongly advised to reconsider how often are you going to move the piano around before you make any decision based on its portability value.
Digital pianos are made with MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) functionality. That allows you to connect your keyboard to other musical instruments or even your PC. The instruments that feature a USB port allow simpler, more streamlined and standardized interaction between different components.
Taking all these features into account, we can find five instruments that offer the best value for the sub-500$ price tag.
The Best Digital Piano Under 500 Dollars Reviews
Pianos always had a certain aura of prestige around them, and, to be quite honest, such reputation was earned both by their sound and their hefty price. The arrival of digital technology changed everything and allowed pianos a way into every home. Let us see what is the best digital piano under 500 dollars out there.
Yamaha is one of the most renowned digital piano manufacturers, and P-45 seems like it can carry the weight of the brand. Building upon the foundation of the very solid, entry-level P-35, P-45 is not afraid to step up into to the mid-tier territory. For a start, this instrument boasts the full set of 88 keys. As opposed to other similarly priced five or six octave keyboards, P-45 is a full-sized eight octaves piano. There is more than enough room for playing the music sections that require both hands. The keyboard is very light without compromising neither the build quality nor the functionality, which is always a plus.
As for the sound, the piano features 64-note polyphony, meaning you will be able to play 64 notes at the same time. That makes P-48 suitable for a wide variety of chords as well as duets. Rich polyphony also means that you will be able to use sustain pedal heavily without the notes cutting out. Yamaha’s Advanced Wave Memory Stereo Sampling is there to make the sound as close to the one of an acoustic piano as possible.
Finally, sustain pedal and added power supply make a good job in justifying around 400$ and make this entry-level instrument a capable replacement for more feature-rich P-115.
- GHS (Graded Hammer Standard) – Yamaha’s weight mechanism that provides greater accuracy and faster playing.
- 64-note polyphony that enables playing dense piano passages even if you are using heavy sustain pedal – More than what we are used to seeing in this price range.
- Advanced Wave Memory Stereo Sampling that reproduces the stereo sound of a natural instrument.
- The USB to HOST port – This instrument can be connected with a variety of music, entertainment, and educational apps.
- Dual Mode that allows you to play another voice using a half of the keys.
- 88 keys (full set)
- Good build quality
- Two 6 W Speakers
- Realistic sound
- Dual layer
- 64-note polyphony is not meant for the advanced players
- At this price point, you can find more feature-rich packages
- Not too many voices
- No Recorder
LK280 is, by all means, a beginner’s instrument and Casio is not shying away from the fact. On the contrary – this piano takes much pride in its key light indicators, Step-teaching function (players are asked to repeat 152 built-in songs step by step until they are fully mastered), and a huge tone library. Also, unlike the previous mention, LK280 packs a five song, six-track recorder, various digital effects, and a mic input. Add into the mix a USB port that allows you to transfer MIDI files from your PC to piano and vice-versa and you will get a lot of value for the money. Once connected to PC, LK280 can also be used as a stereo speaker.
LK280’s build and design also make a very clear point for whom the keyboard is meant for. The keys are neither graded nor weighted. They will do the job only for the beginner and intermediate players. The piano features a large display in the middle of the lightweight, silver chassis, which is, unfortunately, not backlit. However, if the conditions are right, you will get all the necessary info on the progress of the playing sessions. The package lacks sustain pedal, but Casio made up for this by including the AC adaptor.
Although being on the market for quite a few years, LK280 still presents one of the better instruments in this price range. It’s good enough for music students and intermediate players, and it’s fun enough for absolute beginners.
- 61 keys
- 48-note polyphony
- Piano-type key size with built in lighting system
- AHL (Acoustic & Highly-compressed Large-waveform) sound source – Casio’s technology that enables realistic reproduction of acoustic instruments.
- Touch response of 2 sensitivity levels (soft and hard settings make playing loud much easier/harder)
- Library of 600 built in tones and 152 playable songs
- A lot of value for cheap price
- Recording capability
- Portability (the instrument doesn’t weigh more than 10lbs)
- Pre-recorded lessons and chord charts
- USB port and SD card slot are both present
- The instrument’s display is not backlit
- Two sensitivity levels raise the playing experience but they are essentially an ordinary ON/OFF switch
- Keys are neither weighted nor graded
- No pedal in the package
- The design and build quality show the entry-level orientation
Packed with a lot of equipment and featuring a very affordable price, PSRE253 seems even more oriented towards the first-time users than the previous mention. Yamaha made sure to make the offer even more appealing by offering more than $200 in rebate offers on Yamaha products and 2-year warranty. 385 instrument voices are diverse enough to keep the player’s attention for quite some time, and the light weight scores a point in regards to the instrument’s portability.
For a portable piano, PSRE253 the quality of the speakers is subpar, albeit somewhat on the quiet side. The sound they produce is crisp and of good quality. The keyboard is obviously aimed at amateur and learning musicians, but the keys are at least full-sized and offer enough resistance to produce a satisfying bounce-back effect. The control layout is not that intuitive, but this piano packs a lot of things, so the learning curve is to be expected. The provided manual is of tremendous help. On the back of the keyboard, you can find Aux-IN port for plugging the external sources like MP3 players that will help you to enrich already impressive library. Beside it are the ports for connecting the headphones or the sustain pedal that, unfortunately, has to be bought separately.
AC Power adaptor and adjustable keyboard bench round this package very nicely, making it an obvious choice for all the first-time users that don’t want to bother buying the additional equipment separately.
- 61 full-sized keys
- Duo Mode that allows splitting keyboard into two halves
- The Aux Line input that enables you to connect your piano with any music device with a headphone output and play it through the instrument’s internal speakers
- 32-note polyphony
- 385 instrument voices, 100 styles and 100 built-in songs
- Yamaha PKBS1 Adjustable X-Style Keyboard Stand
- Yamaha PA130 120 Volt Keyboard AC Power Adaptor (DC12V 1.0A output)
- Yamaha PKBB1 Adjustable Padded Keyboard Bench (3-position height adjustment)
- Very generous package
- Responsive and touch sensitive keys
- Realistic Sound
- Good for the first instrument
- A lot of options and pre-recorded music
- Low polyphony compared to other products in the same price-range
- The option to split keyboard into two halves is nice, but you will not use it too often with just 61 keys
- No recorder
Unlike Korg’s other miniature products aimed at adults, tinyPiano is without any doubt a toy aimed at very young children (ages 1-6) which makes it an odd addition to this list. The card Korg plays this time the doubt that the kids that are interested in music won’t find regular entry-level pianos appealing enough to pursue their interests any further.
Korg tinyPiano does a lot to spark their attention. It looks great; its build is solid, and the general feeling is that it can take a lot of abuse. The instrument is also quite heavy, so it won’t be dragged around so easily. 25 built-in sounds are a cut above of what you can expect from the other toy pianos, but, to be honest, so is the price. Besides that, tinyPiano can play 50 demo songs that are simplified, family-friendly versions of the timeless classics. The keyboard features only 25 keys, but that’s more than enough for the age group it’s meant to.
Unfortunately, the instrument is riddled with some curious problems. Without a screen or labeling, the kids will have to memorize where their favorite sounds and demos are. The absence of the learning tools like voice lessons or light indicators somewhat defeats the purpose of this toy being the kids’ first step into the world of music. Once the kids grow up, the keys will become too tiny for them. Although of high quality, the sound is not that loud, but the mono audio output allows you to connect the instrument to a set of speakers.
- 25 sounds and 50 built-in demo songs
- 25 mini keys
- Built in speakers
- Small and easily transportable
- Low energy consumption (powered by two AA batteries)
- For a toy, it looks and sounds great
- tinyPiano is extremely well-built
- It may keep the kids’ attention more than a straightforward entry-level alternative
- tinyPiano is a toy and an expensive one
- Limited lifespan
- Learning tools are absent
Very similar to the first mention on this list, Yamaha’s repacked P-45 package combines the instrument with leisure-oriented upgrades in the form of the keyboard stand and the adjustable bench. The keyboard stand is very good-looking, and it is also compatible with P-45’s more potent cousin P-115 which gives this whole package more versatile and long-lasting appeal. The padded seat is made out of steel construction, allows three height adjustments, and can be folded for easy storage. The inclusion of these items in the package makes it a very lucrative proposition.
As for the instrument, P-45 is still a capable digital piano, with the excellent graded keyboard. However, its price and the lack of beginner-friendly position this piano more towards the mid-tier product range, where P-45 can do the job, but can’t seriously compete. Finally, although they bring up a lot of value in the package, it’s hard to escape the feeling that items like keyboard stands and padded benches do little to improve the actual playing experience.
- GHS weighted action
- Advanced Wave Memory Stereo Sampling
- Full keyboard and 64-note polyphony
- Yamaha L85 Keyboard Stand
- Yamaha PKBB1 Adjustable Padded Keyboard Bench
- Yamaha P-45 is a very capable instrument
- Additions in the form of adjustable seat and keyboard bench are oriented towards first-time users
- Excellent build quality of the entire package
- Yamaha P-45 could probably benefit more from the performance-oriented additions from the previously mentioned package.
All these instruments have their distinct advantages and disadvantages and are aimed at different types of users (with Casio LK280 and Yamaha PSRE253 being aimed primarily at the first-time users). Still, Yamaha P-45 excels where it matters the most, and those are the build quality, full keyboard, polyphony and ease of play.
The performance-driven package that features sustain pedal gets an advantage because it better complements this instrument’s potential. Yamaha P-45 may be more expensive than other entries, and the beginners would probably appreciate the features like learning tools, but that doesn’t change the fact that we are talking about a very valuable instrument with an aspiration for competing with products out of the entry-level price range.