GEAR EXPO SUMMER 2022: In recent years, we've seen a sizable shift in players looking for a straight-to-the-point learning instrument. Some people aren't all that interested in having access to an infinite amount of sounds and features, instead opting for a handful of top-quality voices, comfortable action and a few useful learning aids built-in.
There's been an upswell in home pianos, all trying to get the balance right between price, size and weight and features. 'Faking' a piano feel on a keyboard isn't easy, and all the big names have their own take on how to do it best. And the sound of your new keyboard is as much dependant on the amp and speakers on board as it is the quality of the sampling and sound source used.
And the faithful home keyboard - for those wanting more 'synthy' fun and a wider range of sounds - still lives on strong. We've dived into this crowded marked and plucked out something for every taste and budget. Here's our pick of 2022's best new home pianos and keyboards.
The Yamaha P-45 is already a popular choice for beginner and mid-level pianists, offering a decent set of features in a casing that isn't too room-dominating and just the right side of portable.
Of course, there's a genuine Yamaha 88-note keybed out front and there are 10 sounds on board. These cover a range of acoustic pianos, electric pianos and strings and you get a generous 64 notes of polyphony.
While perfect posture would require the mounting of the P-45 on its optional stand it is table top friendly and - thanks in part to its bulk - can be played fairly comfortably when placed on the ground/rug/lawn etc.
For those seeking a firmer action - more akin to an acoustic piano - the 'portable' P-45 pulls off the trick perfectly. So if that's your playing style then the P-45 has the one of the nicest 'heavy' 'genuine'-feeling actions we've tried, thanks to Yamaha's GHS key action, which attempts to recreate the graded feel of a real piano. In the most basic sense, this technology is used to vary the weight of the keys as you move from the heavier bass notes to the lighter treble notes.
Arguably, this gives more 'growing room' than lighter-fingered competitors as new players will perhaps progress from the Yamaha to one day playing the 'real thing'.
The Yamaha P-45 is priced from £399. Find out more at Yamaha's website.
Very much the perfect partner (read rival) to the P-45 above, the Casio CDP-S110 is a near feature identical, identically priced take on the exact same market. It too features 10 sounds, all the usual headphone, USB and pedal ports and a full-size 88-note weighted keybed.
Where the Casio scores large, however, is in it's slightly diminished form, looking for all the world like a simple MIDI controller but packing the sound engine and speakers you need inside a frame that's genuinely luggable from room to room (and house to house) rather than merely dispatching with legs and a stool.
It weighs in at only 10.5Kg and many will prefer its simpler, sleek looks. There is of course a slight price to pay and that's that the Casio's keyboard action – while weighted – is on the light side, being piano action, without particularly aping the heavy feel of the piano.
All this means that the Casio is perfectly suited for placing and playing on a desk, however, sounding almost as big and bold as its rivals while trimming off vital inches where it matters.
The CDP-S110 is available in black or white and is priced from £320. Find out more at Casio's website.
New arrival Donner's DDP-80 is all about the looks. Rather than shirk on bulk and play the portability card, the Donner strikes a great balance of being 'furniture' without taking over the room. With a 1268mm-wide full-size keyboard casing it'll fit in your alcoves perfectly.
If anything, the classy Donner is even simpler than its rivals, with a single piano sound on board and controls for volume and USB tucked round the back out of sight. And yes, you can use the DDP-80 as a high-class controller for your DAW or drive the piano sound (and speaker set up) via your computer.
Neatly, the DDP-80’s included floor-mounted full three-pedal unit offers all the versatility and control of a full-size piano, and the two built-in speakers (driven by a 2 x 20W amplifier) fire downwards from the piano’s lower chassis to fill the room with sound.
Of course, the DDP-80 also comes with an optional piano stool that perfectly matches it for size and aesthetics and – via the optional Customised Music Stand – Donner can even engrave the DDP-80’s stand with words of your choice – adding a little touch of personalisation that the owner will love.
The DDP-80 is at £480. Find out more at Donner's website.
As Roland’s newest entry-level, full-size digital piano, the standout feature on the FP-10 has to be its class-leading PHA-4 keyboard. Beautifully responsive and representing staggering value, it’s exactly the same action found on the pricier FP-30 model.
All 88 keys are individually weighted with different weights, as you’d find on an acoustic piano, delivering one of the most authentic-feeling keybeds in this price bracket.
Roland’s patented SuperNatural piano technology delivers an amazingly detailed and nuanced sound, while split mode gives you a four-octave piano at each end of the keyboard - great for teaching. The amp and speakers – while adequate – aren't as powerful and full sounding as larger rivals, however, though with a decent pair of headphones you'll skip any worries.
MIDI via both USB and Bluetooth means that the FP-10 plays nicely with Roland’s excellent Piano Partner 2 app, and also makes a great MIDI controller keyboard.
The FP-10 is priced from £440. Find out more at Roland's website.
Yamaha Piaggero NP-12
If size really is at a premium (or perhaps you're looking for something that does a little more than basic piano emulation) then the Yamaha Piaggero NP-12 fills a much-needed gap in the market.
We're in 'home keyboard' territory here and the Piaggero is Yamaha's attempt to corner every need, offering sufficient piano performance with enough variety of sound and a keyboard action for those looking to get into broader keyboard/organ/synth playing, too.
It's still super simple to use. Gone are the banks and banks of redundant sounds, in favour of 10 very usable voices (Piano1, Piano2, E.Piano1, E.Piano2, Organ1, Organ2, Strings, Vibes, Harpsichord1, Harpsichord2) with the two grand piano options being sampled from one of Yamaha's most iconic concert grand pianos.
The NP-12 features 61 keys, making it considerably more portable. Also, these keys – while nicely actioned – aren't piano weighted, being a good half-way between piano feel and organ/synth action. Arguably that's easier (and faster) to play than a full piano action.
The NP-12 is priced from £190. Find out more at Yamaha's website.
Yamaha PSR-EW425 and PSR-E473
For those looking for piano and a whole lot more besides, Yamaha has recently updated its offering with the PSR-EW425 and PSR-E473 promising “pro-quality sound for the first time” at their price points.
Both of the new PSRs offer “high resolution” voices, and are the only models in the PSR-E range to feature two channels for insert effects. Like the sounds, these effects are said to be “top-quality”.
The PSR-EW425 and PSR-E473 have 76- and 61-note touch-sensitive keyboards respectively, and offer an impressive and all-encompassing 820 voices apiece. They also come with a Super Articulation Lite feature, with compatible voices promising to simulate the tone, resonance, and material characteristics of the instruments they’re emulating.
Both keyboards have redesigned control panels and LCD displays for a better workflow, and the numeric keyboard has been replaced by direct category access. This should make it easier to get to the voices, styles and other features that you’re looking for.
There’s also a mic input, so you can sing along to your playing, along with vocal effects, quick sampling and motion effects. The Rec’n’Share and MusicSoft Manager apps, meanwhile, enable you to share your music, exchange data and communicate.
The PSR-EW425 and PSR-E473 are price at £545 and £412 respectively.
Launched in January 2022, Casio’s latest offering features a pretty unique selling point in the shape of vocal synthesis. In a feature not found on any other keyboard at this price – or indeed any other keyboard full stop – the CT-S1000V will ‘sing’ lyrics typed into it via an app on your mobile device in one of 20 different voices.
Even without the vocal trickery, this is an extremely capable arranger keyboard, with 800 AIX instrument tones, a great-feeling 61-key velocity-sensitive keyboard, and some slick-sounding auto-accompaniment grooves.
Three controller knobs will enable you to tweak sounds as they’re playing, and there’s also a pitchbend wheel, a rudimentary built-in sampler, plus Bluetooth audio streaming and wireless MIDI support with the included WU-BT10 Bluetooth dongle. Phew!
The CT-S1000C is priced from £390. Find out more at Casio's website.
Enter keyboard giant Korg's take on the home keyboard/piano stage, the new B2 being its upgrade of the B1, coming in B2SP form (with a stand and pedals) and B2N which opts for a lighter keyboard and different speaker set.
Coming with 88 fully weighted keys and Korg's Natural Weighted Hammer Action (NH) keyboard, the keys are graded, meaning they are weighted differently with the lower notes feeling heavier than the keys at the higher register. It's certainly a great action on a slim keyboard.
At the heart of this instrument are 12 unique voices that cover just about every style you'd need. From five fresh piano sounds - courtesy of the new piano engine - to electric piano, organ, harpsichord, and strings. There's a headphone output for silent practice, audio in for jamming with your favourite songs and a piano-style sustain pedal.
The B2 is available in black or white and is priced around £340. Find out more at Korg's website.