Yamaha P-125 Review: 88-Key Weighted Action Digital Piano
The first electronic instrument that I ever played was my dad's old Casio PT-30, it was a compact electronic keyboard that opened me up to the world of music. Keyboards has since been a staple instrument at home, and even now that I have my own family - there are still a bunch of them lying around the house. The most recent ones that we have include a Yamaha P-125 Digital Piano, and a Yamaha PSR-E373, which I already reviewed here.
The Yamaha P-125 was a bigger investment compared to our other keyboards, but it sure is worth it. It has been with us for almost a year, yet it still looks, sounds and plays like new. It is currently my son's main instrument for his piano lessons. Here I'll share our experience with the P-125, along with tips on how to make the most out of this digital piano.
88 Full-size Weighted Keys
For me, the best trait of the Yamaha P-125 is the quality and feel of its 88 weighted action keys. While the keys are still made of plastic, they feature Yamaha's Graded Hammer Standard (GHS) action, which gives them weight and bounce similar to acoustic pianos - low keys are heavier, and the high keys are lighter. This allows for tactile control, dynamic variations and expressive playing. Compared to synth style keys that I'm used to, there's truly a world of difference in terms of feel.
Yamaha P-125 Digital Piano
The keys are full size, and are meticulously arranged to provide traditional finger spacing. They don't feel cheap at all, and have a solid reputation for being reliable. The keys on our P-125 still feel as good as they did back when we tested the unit at the store. Since it has 88 keys, all the low and high notes are at my disposal, removing the need for transposing octave positions.
The downside to weighted keys is that they require more effort to press. My fingers were aching within the first few hours of use, but I eventually got used to it. My son had the same experience, but also got over it after a few days. It also helps that we've played occasionally on my dad's acoustic piano, so technique adjustments are minimal.
Adjustable Touch Sensitivity
There are four touch sensitivity settings available: Soft, Medium, Hard and Fixed. I'm currently happy with the default medium setting, but those who want fewer volume changes will appreciate the Soft setting, while acoustic pianists will find the more sensitive Hard setting to their liking. There is even an option to personalize the touch sensitivity curve, but this can only be done via the Yamaha Smart Pianist app, which I'll discus in detail below. Since this piano does not have an LCD display, there is no visual queue that shows how hard hard the keys are hit. But I can definitely hear and feel the touch sensitivity working, I can soften the volume from normal playing to pianissimo, and build back up to fortissimo in a manner similar to acoustic pianos.
88 Full Size Weighted Keys
Voice and Sound Quality
The P-125 has a total of 24 voicings, grouped in to 6 main types which include Piano, Electric Piano, Organ, Clavinova/Vibraphone, Strings and Bass. These options are limited compared to portable keyboards with hundreds of voices, but what it lacks in quantity, it makes up for with good sound quality. The piano sounds are all top notch, they sound and respond like the real thing. I especially love the warm voicing of "Ballad Grand" piano, it sounds fuller, and is very responsive to how hard or how soft I play. My son prefers the default "Grand Piano" voice, which has a balanced voicing. He uses this setting to play classical pieces and to practice his lessons. My dad on the other hand are more into electric piano sounds, especially the DX E. Piano, which he uses to emulate the sound of songs from the '70s and 80s. I don't use the other voicings as much, but I like what I hear when I use them. While voicing options are fewer, they do cover most of the needs of traditional pianists and keyboardists, and do so with less fluff voices and distractions. For an 88-key digital piano, the speaker system seems to be a bit small, but it has good enough projection for use at home. On stage, the P-125 can plug into a keyboard amp, or PA system, and so far I've had good results.
Yamaha designed the P-125 with a very minimalist control interface - no LCD screen, no knobs, very few buttons, just one fader. This gives the keyboard a streamlined look and allows for a slimmer profile. It also makes it a good plug-and-play instrument, which I initially liked. Since there are dedicated buttons for each voice type, switching voices and layering are easy to do. But after reading the manual, I soon learned that the physical controls are very limited.
The downside to its streamlined interface is that other useful features are hard to access, they require complex combinations of button and key presses. For example, the built-in reverb sounds really nice, but to activate the effect, I'll have to press and hold the Piano button, while pressing the C2 key for "Recital Hall"... and it doesn't stop there because changing reverb type and depth requires a different combination of key presses. These complex commands are hard to memorize, so I ended up having to look at the manual from time to time.
The same control interface limitation plagues other useful functions like accessing its 50 built-in "Songs", changing Touch Sensitivity, Metronome, Rhythm settings, and more. This for me is the biggest let down of the Yamaha P-125. Here's another bummer, since there is no LCD screen, there is no way to visually monitor parameter changes.
On the flipside, this limitation is also a hidden blessing, because with it, my son focuses more on playing and practicing, instead of wasting time on different voices and settings. Thankfully, it's not all doom and gloom, because there is an intuitive way to access all the features - via the Yamaha Smart Pianist app.
Yamaha Smart Pianist App
The Yamaha Smart Pianist app gives intuitive visual control over the features of the Yamaha P-125. This app is available for both iOS and Android devices, so compatible USB cables and adapters are needed. In my case I used a "USB to USB-C" adapter to connect to my son's iPad Mini. Once connected, the app makes it easier to access all the features, including voices, layers, effects, rhythms and more. It also enables preset management, which lets me instantly store and load voicings and settings that I've made. I also use the app to record my playing in audio format, or in MIDI if I want to.
What makes this app truly "Smart" is its "Song" feature - it analyzes the chord structure of songs, and produces a handy chord chat that runs along with the track. It even allows for tempo changes (slow down or speed up), and I can use it transpose songs to another key. This is definitely handy when studying and practicing songs. Note that this feature only works on songs that I've downloaded on the device, it doesn't work with songs from streaming libraries like Apple Music. It would have been VERY convenient if it worked with streaming audio platforms, here's hoping that Yamaha update this feature of the app.
Another cool feature of this app is saving and loading of MIDI files via the Music Database section. With this, you can save and load your playing in MIDI format, more importantly, the app displays the MIDI files in proper notation format, so you get a visual as the song is played back.
Given all these advantages - this app is a must have to make the most out of the P-125. Initial setup is quite a hassle, but once you have the cables ready - the functionality and convenience it provides is more than worth the effort.
Being an older release, this one doesn't come with Bluetooth connectivity, which would've been a perfect partner for the Smart Pianist App. Still, it does provide essential output options, including USB and stereo aux output. When plugged into a computer via USB, the unit also functions as an audio interface, which makes it easier to directly capture audio, and playback audio through the P-125's speakers.
There's a lot of good feedback from other musicians regarding the P-125's build quality, and based on our year long experience with the unit, they seem to be right. While it is made mostly of plastic, everything about it feels solid. There's also no question about its reliability, having survived hours upon hours of use from my dad, my son and myself. Note that while it has a slim profile, it is still a heavy and long instrument. I actually had a difficult time fitting it inside my car, and carrying it up some stairs is quite the chore. I'd definitely think twice before bringing this unit elsewhere.
The package includes an AC adapter, a music rest and a footswitch. I had everything I needed to get the keyboard up and running right out of the box. It also comes with an owner's manual, and a not so "Quick" operation guide that shows the complex button and key combinations needed to access features right on the keyboard.
Below is a quick hands-on demo of the P-125, all the audio parts are recorded via the Smart Pianist App.
- Keys: 88 Full-Size Graded Hammer Standard Action Keys
- Touch Sensitivity: Soft, Medium, Hard, Fixed, Custom Curve
- Speaker System: 2 x 4.7" Woofer, 2 x 1.5" Tweeter, 14W amp
- Pedal: 1/4" Sustain (Pedal Included)
- Presets: 24 voices, 20 Rhythms, 21 demo songs, 50 piano songs
- Effects: Reverb, Intelligent Acoustic Control, Damper Resonance, Sound Boost
- Polyphony: 192 Notes
- Functions: Split Mode, Duo Mode, Stereophonic Optimizer, Damper Resonance, String Resonance, Sound Boost, MIDI compatibility, Smart Accompaniment with Chord Chart and Notation (via App)
- Audio Output: 2 x 1/4" (headphones/line out)
- MIDI I/O: USB Type B
- Power: 12V DC adapter (included)
- Stand: Not included
- Color: Black, White
- Dimensions: 6.56" x 52.18" x 11.62"
- Weight: 26 lbs
The Yamaha P-125 has exceeded most of my expectations, and it truly is instrumental in developing my son's playing and love for music - definitely worth getting.
- Bulky and heavy
- Limited physical controls
- 88 full-size keys
- Superb graded weight action
- Great sounding piano and e. piano
- Versatile features via Smart Piano App