When you’re shopping for a digital piano that delivers great sound and value, check out the Casio Privia PX-350. If you’re thinking “Ew Casio makes toys” you’re behind the times, because they’re making great keyboards that equal and surpass the snooty brands.
(You may be interested in reading
Resurrecting Creativity With a Piano and Returning Piano to the Store– Bye Yamaha, Hello Casio.)
The world of synthesizers, arranger workstations, and digital pianos is rather confusing with a lot of overlapping functionality. Ideally you can visit a store that has lots to choose from and try them out, because what matters is what pleases you. I bought an 88-key digital piano for these reasons:
- I’m playing both digital and acoustic pianos
- Digital pianos include synth features such as drum rhythms, strings, bass, woodwinds, organs, and horns
- At least some recording capability so you can accompany yourself
- Onboard speakers (external sound not required)
All but the most basic budget digital pianos can be connected to an external sound system, mixer, or a computer. This opens a world of expansion possibilities such as playing with a band, making good recordings of your performances, making multi-track accompaniments (one-woman orchestra!), and adding other keyboards and synths.
In my needlessly-humble opinion the best budget digital piano available today is the Casio Privia PX-150, which costs $499. This little sweetheart has 88 keys, realistic key action comparable to an acoustic piano, and great sound. It weighs about 25 pounds so you can tote this little powerhouse anywhere.
I bought its big sister Casio Privia PX-350. Big sis weighs the same, has the same key and audio processing technology, and a slightly better speaker and amp system. The PX-350 costs $200 more, so what does that buy you? That buys you an LCD display so you know which of its hundreds of settings you’re on, a full complement of connection ports including two headphone, two pairs of line in/out, USB to host, and two, count ’em, two real MIDI ports. It also buys you a handy little USB port for recording to a USB stick (or plugging in any USB device like a little light or a little fan), and a 17-track recorder. Hey I’m a nerd, I need all that stuff!
There are many more features that you can read about for yourself online. The Privias come with 3-year warranties (1 year + 2 more that you get by registering online). If you are like me and have to mail order because there are no music stores you can visit, shop B&H Photo and Kraft Music. They are both authorized Casio dealers and have great prices and the best service. Kraft Music has a lot of YouTube videos demonstrating their instruments, and you should also look for Piano Man Chuck. Piano Man Chuck is professional musician who reviews musical instruments, and shares a lot of great information and demos on YouTube.
When you’re reading online reviews of digital pianos you’re going to see an awful lot of agonizing over key action and feel, and how you have to spend a zillion dollars to replicate the sound of an acoustic piano, and all kinds of nitpicky stuff. Ignore all that. No digital piano sounds exactly like an acoustic piano. Digital pianos may have the awesomest sound processing engines of all time, but they’re at the mercy of their onboard sound systems, which are pretty good but not fabulous, or whatever external sound system you might plug them into. They don’t create physical vibrations like an acoustic piano; you can’t feel them in your chest and gut. Acoustic pianos change with use and age, wear out, fall apart, and fall out of tune, so if authenticity is important to you, you might want to be explicit about which authentic features you want.
The whole idea of playing a musical instrument is for fun and joy. You can get great little keyboards for under $200 that sound fine and come with lots of extra voices. If you like playing a budget keyboard with a smaller keyboard and no snootery, then be happy and don’t worry about shopping til you drop and buying the exactly right instrument, because what is exactly right is what you enjoy.