Why You Can Trust Me
- There are no affiliate links in this article. Unlike most keyboard review sites, I have nothing to gain by recommending a specific brand or model.
- I’ve played hundreds of instruments, from the cheapest electronic keyboards to the priciest grand pianos.
- As a piano player and teacher, I’m very picky.
The best digital pianos for beginner adults are those that offer the most realistic experience for learning to play at a reasonable price. Realistic means they provide an experience as similar to a real piano as possible.
Digital pianos are a distinct group of electronic keyboards that sound, feel and look like a real piano. They have:
- High-quality piano sounds (they sound like a real piano)
- Weighted action (they feel like a real piano)
- 88 keys (they look like a real piano)
Types of Digital Pianos
There are four types of digital pianos. They can be distinguished by their appearance, purpose, sound source, portability and acoustic elements:
There are two main digital piano “looks.” One has a cabinet simulating a real piano:
The other is a keyboard by itself (separate stand required):
The different types are designed primarily for recreational use (playing and learning) or professional use (performing).
Instruments either have built-in speakers or require an external amplifier. Headphones may be used with any digital piano.
The portability of the different types ranges from low to high.
One digital piano type has acoustic elements.
The Four Types of Digital Pianos
By necessity, the above table is a generalization: portable instruments are used by some professionals; stage pianos are used by some recreational players; nearly any digital piano can be connected to an external amplifier for better sound; portability is dependent on weight and bulk, etc.
Only instruments between $500 to $3,500 are considered in this article. (This leaves out pricey hybrids altogether.) For the purposes of playing and learning, it’s debatable whether paying more than $3,500 for a digital piano is worth the additional expense. Likewise, it’s questionable whether paying less than $500 for a low-quality instrument is worth the money saved.
When making a buying decision, some things are more important to consider than others.
Action and Sound
The two most important considerations when choosing a digital piano are its action (the feel of the keyboard as you play it) and the quality of its sounds, particularly its piano sounds.
A digital piano’s action refers to the keyboard’s “touch” – how it feels as you play it. (More precisely, it’s the mechanism that transforms movement into sound.)
The best digital pianos have a graded hammer action like real pianos. Yet actions vary. Some players prefer a relatively “light” action that requires less force/weight to depress the keys. Others prefer a relatively “heavy” action that requires more force/weight.
A digital piano’s sounds are sampled from real instruments. Most models also include non-piano sounds such as electric piano, organ etc. Many also include non-keyboard sounds such as strings.
For learning to play though, the most important sounds, and the ones you’ll use most often, are the piano sounds.
Digital piano sounds have only gotten better and more realistic. Unless you have very perceptive ears, you probably won’t notice major differences among the top manufacturers and models. The more important difference is between digital and acoustic (real) pianos. That’s to say that as good as they are, digital pianos will never sound and resonate like a real piano, because they aren’t real, acoustic instruments. Nonetheless, for millions of people they provide a good enough imitation. Digital pianos are completely acceptable for adult beginners who plan to eventually transition to playing a real piano.
While you may be satisfied with a digital piano’s built-in speakers, you’ll almost always get a better sound by using high-quality headphones, an external keyboard amplifier, and/or high-end studio monitors like these.
Features and Appearance
For most adult beginners, features and appearance are (or should be) less important considerations than action and sound.
As explained below, features such as a metronome, recorder or drum patterns may be very useful. Fortunately, if a model you otherwise like lacks a feature you want, there is usually a workaround. For example, if a model doesn’t have a metronome function (which is very unusual) or drum patterns, there are smartphone apps that provide those functions. No recorder? It’s easy to connect a digital piano to a computer and use free recording software.
A USB port allows you to easily connect your instrument to a computer. Alternatively, many of the newest models have Bluetooth. But the most reliable connection is provided by USB.
A metronome is essential for practicing, though you won’t use it all the time. Useful aspects include a digital readout that shows the metronome speed, an agreeable metronome sound, and the ability to adjust the time signature.
A recorder that allows you to document your playing (and easily share it with others like a teacher) is very useful when learning to play.
Other features to consider include:
- LCD display (digital readout). This is very useful (cheaper instruments may not have one).
- Drum patterns
While you may desire one or more of the following features, for learning to play they’re not essential:
- Light up keys
- Non-keyboard sounds
- Octave shifting
- Song banks
- Split mode
You may have a preference for a home-type instrument that looks more like a real piano. Or you may prefer the more “pro” appearance of a portable or stage piano. Either way, appearance should be secondary to action and sound.
The Best Brands, Series and Models
Best Digital Piano Brands
The best digital piano brands are Kawai and Yamaha. Why? They’re the only digital piano manufacturers with a storied history of manufacturing high-quality acoustic pianos.
The following brand rankings are for digital pianos. For synthesizers and other music hardware, many lower-rated brands (some of which don’t appear on this list) would rank higher, even above Kawai and Yamaha.
- Kawai, Yamaha
- Casio, Roland
- Korg, Dexibell
- Nord, Alesis, Kurzweil, Studiologic
Avoid digital piano brands not listed above.
Best Digital Piano Series
Since Kawai and Yamaha are the best digital piano brands, and between them provide a variety of excellent home, portable and stage models, only Kawai and Yamaha series (i.e. product lines) are included in the following table. Only series that have at least one model that retails for less than $3,500 are included (other models in the same series may cost more than that). All models in all series shown below have 88 keys and graded hammer action. The table is arranged from least to most expensive.
Best Digital Piano Models
The following are select recommended models in three different price ranges, including two standouts from second-tier brands:
Best Digital Pianos Under $1,000
Best Digital Pianos Under $2,000
Best Digital Pianos Under $3,500
Buying Tips and Reminders
If you want an instrument that closely resembles an acoustic piano in both sound and action, choose a brand that builds acoustic pianos. This excludes all manufacturers except Kawai and Yamaha.
You may wish to consult reviews about specific models. I particularly recommend:
Try and buy digital pianos at your local piano store. To compare action and sound in particular, also play the best acoustic pianos on the floor.
Ask a friend who plays, or a piano teacher or technician, to accompany you to the store. Offer to pay them if necessary. Salespeople may offer relatively objective advice, but of course their ultimate goal is to sell you a more expensive instrument.
The best digital piano for beginners is the one that provides the most realistic sound and action (and any other must-have features) at an affordable price. It’s the one that you’ll enjoy playing today and for many years to come. May you find yours soon!