Casio Casiotone CT-S200 - 61 Keys
Normally, digital pianos have streamlined features, but since the CT-S200 is from Casio, it comes packed with sounds and other functions. Together with its ability to run on 6 x AA batteries, the CT-S200 is more akin to a portable keyboard, the main difference being its piano style full-size keys and compact profile.
The Casiotone CT-S200 follows the usual digital piano interface with less buttons, but still allowing you to access its 400 tones and 77 rhythms. It also comes packed with built-in lessons and effects, and there's even a dance music mode for even more rhythms. Finally, it can be used as a MIDI keyboard thanks to having USB MIDI.
- Keys: 61 Standard Size Keys
- Touch Sensitivity: Not Specified
- Speaker System: 2 x 5.1", 4W amp
- Pedal: 1/4" Input for Sustain Pedal
- Presets: 400 tones, 77 rhythms
- Effects: 10 Reverb Types
- Polyphony: 48 Notes
- Functions: Dance Mode, MIDI compatibility, Lesson Function
- Audio Output: 1 x 1/8" (headphones/line out)
- MIDI I/O: USB Micro B
- Power: AC adapter (included) or 6 x AA batteries
- Stand: Not included
- Color: Black, Red, White
- Dimensions: 2.9" x 36.6" x 10.1"
- Weight: 7.3 lbs
For an entry level digital piano, there are quite a lot of positive comments about its sound, mostly coming from the students themselves, but also from their parents and teachers. Playability is also often commended, along with its versatility, which some describe as unprecedented given the CT-S200's price. There are also plenty of good comments about its sleek design.
There are a few nitpicks about some of the extra tones, as expected of a keyboard with many different sounds. It doesn't have the full 88 keys of a regular piano.
If you're looking for a budget friendly digital piano that's unabashedly versatile, then check out the Casiotone CT-S200.
Alesis Recital Pro - 88 Keys
This digital piano from Alesis gives you an 88-key hammer action keybed with adjustable touch response at a reasonable price. And to make this unit student friendly, it has a two-zone setting with same pitch and voice, so both the teacher and the student can play side by side on this one piano.
Sound options include 12 different voicings that can be layered or split as you prefer, including different kinds of piano sounds, organ, synth and more. It also comes with built-in effects that include modulation and reverb. Other nifty features include record mode, which lets you record and play back your performance and it has a built-in metronome.
- Keys: 88 Full-sized Hammer-action Keys
- Touch Sensitivity: Adjustable Touch Response
- Speaker System: 2 x 20W speakers, 2 x 10W tweeters
- Pedal: Sustain Pedal, 1/4" Pedal input
- Presets: 12 Voices
- Effects: Different types of Modulation, Reverb
- Polyphony: 128 Notes
- Functions: Record Mode, Metronome, Split Keyboard
- Audio Output: 2 x 1/4" (Line Out), 1 x 1/4" (Headphones)
- MIDI I/O: USB Type B
- Power: 12V DC power supply (included), can run on 6 x D batteries
- Stand: None
- Color: Black
- Dimensions: 13.8" x 51.6" x 5.5"
- Weight: 26 lbs
The Alesis Recital Pro continues to impress with its hammer-action piano keys, inspiring young and old pianists alike with its playing feel. More importantly, it does so while keeping the price tag manageable, which is why many consider this digital piano to be a great buy. There are also plenty of praises for its sound, especially its acoustic piano and electric piano voices. It is also highly recommended for being easy to setup and use.
With just 12 voices, sonic options are a bit limited, and this is reflected in a few reviews. There are also a few who wish for practical features like compatibility with more stable keyboard stands and improved sheet music holder.
If you're looking for a budget-friendly no-nonsense digital piano, then get the Alesis Recital Pro.
Casio CDP-S100 - 88 Keys
The Casio CDP-S100 is a portable digital piano that takes playing feel seriously. It features 88 hammer action keys with touch response and velocity sensitivity. And taking playability a bit further, the keybed is designed to simulate the surfaces of actual ebony and ivory keys.
Interestingly, Casio pulled their punches when it comes to sounds, giving this unit only 10 voices to choose from, most notable of which are variations of acoustic and electric pianos, and two organs. Another notable feature is the ability to control the settings of the piano via USB through an app.
- Keys: 88 Hammer Action Keys
- Touch Sensitivity: Touch Response, Velocity Sensitive
- Speaker System: 2 x 4.72", 2 x 8W
- Pedal: Sustain Pedal, 1/4" Pedal input
- Presets: 10 Voices
- Effects: Reverb (4 types), Chorus (4 types)
- Polyphony: 64 Notes
- Functions: Metronome, Recording/Playback, MIDI record
- Audio Output: 1 x 1/8" Headphones
- MIDI I/O: USB
- Power: 12 V DC Power Supply or 6 x AA Batteries
- Stand: Optional
- Color: Black
- Dimensions: 3.8" x 52" x 9.1"
- Weight: 24.3 lbs
The Casio CDP-S100 continues to rate highly in the market, thanks mostly to its playing feel, which many describe as being really close to a real acoustic piano. There are also plenty of good remarks regarding its piano voicings, which many describe as inspiring and authentic sounding. Ease of use and setup is also another important edge that it has over other similarly priced digital pianos.
With just 10 voices, this digital piano is far from the usual plethora of sounds that portable keyboards provide. But this can be a good thing, especially if you're honing your piano playing skills, which is precisely what the CDP-S100 is all about.
If you're not into playing with different voicings, and genuine playing feel is important to you, then this should be high in your list.
Yamaha P-45 - 88 Keys
Yamaha has a strong reputation for producing student instruments and the P-45 is an affordable digital piano that consistently rates highly and does well in the market.
It comes with 88 full-size keys with Yamaha's Graded Hammer Standard (GHS) weighted action, which mimics the uneven key weight distribution of acoustic pianos, where the keys get lighter as the notes go higher. There are also three levels of touch sensitivity to match your playing style and preference.
To keep the production cost low, features are streamlined to meet the needs of piano students, so you won't get as many different sounds as you would on a workstation or arranger keyboard - but what's included is up to par with more expensive units in terms of quality. Finally, it has enough power and volume to fill the average room size. The Yamaha P-45 is available in black and white finish.
- Keys: 88 Fully Weighted Hammer Action Keys
- Touch Sensitivity: Hard/Medium/Soft/Fixed
- Speaker System: 2 x 6W Amplifier and 2 x 4.5" Speakers
- Pedal: Bundled Sustain Pedal, 1/4" Pedal input
- Presets: 10 x Demo, 10 x Piano
- Effects: 4 Types of Reverb
- Polyphony: 64 Notes
- Functions: Metronome, Transpose, Layer, Split
- Audio Output: 1 x TRS (Headphones)
- MIDI I/O: USB
- Power: DC IN 12V
- Stand: Optional
- Color: Black, White
- Dimensions: 6" x 52.25" x 11.5"
- Weight: 25.35 lbs
While the price is not the lowest, many consider the Yamaha P-45 as the best digital piano for beginners. Sound quality and playability gets commended a lot for surpassing the expectations of a good number of users. While most of the reviewers are students, there are also teachers who share good experiences, many of whom feel strongly enough to recommend it to their students.
There are some who wish for the price to be a bit more accessible, especially when considering its lack of features. Speaking of features, there are a few who wanted more sounds and student friendly functions like a built-in metronome.
If you're not into extra bells and whistles, and you just want to focus on improving your piano playing technique, then the Yamaha P-45 is highly recommended.
Roland FP-10 - 88 Keys
At publication time this was the Highest Rated 88-Key Digital Piano Under $500.
There's no denying Roland's reputation for quality, be it build, sound quality or even playability. The FP-10 is a great example of this with its 88-note hammer action keybed, adjustable touch sensitivity, and the inclusion of Roland's "SuperNATURAL" sound modeling technology.
And SuperNATURAL is not just about getting the sound right, it's also about getting the feel and dynamics as close to acoustic instruments as possible. And it's been working well enough for them that you can see the company rating highly in other markets, including electronic drum kits. Tone selection and effects are kept to minimum, with just 10 tones, 4 chorus types and 4 reverb types. This is contrasted by its wide selection of modern connectivity, including USB and Buetooth. You can even make changes to parameters via a smart phone app. And while this piano is stage and recording worthy, it also comes with student friendly features, one of which is the twin piano mode, which lets the teacher and student play side-by-side in the same octave.
- Keys: 88 keys with Ivory and Escapement Feel
- Touch Sensitivity: Adjustable
- Speaker System: 2 x 4.7", 2 x 6W Amp
- Pedal: Sustain Pedal, 1/4" Pedal input
- Presets: 4 Piano tones, 2 Electric piano tones and others
- Effects: 4 x Reverb, 4 x Chorus
- Polyphony: 96 Notes
- Functions: Bluetooth Connectivity, App control, Metronome, Twin Piano Mode
- Audio Output: 1 x 1/4" (dual purpose headphone jack), 1/8" (headphones)
- MIDI I/O: USB (Type A and Type B)
- Power: AC adapter
- Stand: Optional
- Color: White and Black
- Dimensions: 5.5" x 50.5" x 10.1"
- Weight: 27.1 lbs
Users of the Roland FP-10 rate this digital piano highly mostly for its tone, which many describe as authentic sounding. Some even compare it favorably over more expensive units from other brands. The ability to reproduce nuances of playing also impress many owners, including experienced musicians with its escapement emulation making the keys feel very much like that of acoustic pianos. Overall build quality also gets commended often.
For the price, some are looking for extra tones to play with, while a few simply deem this as out of budget for total beginners.
It's hard to go wrong with Roland, so if you're looking for no less than what's top rated in the upper tier of the sub $500 price range, then this is for you.
Things to Consider When Buying a Digital Piano
Key Action and Weighting
To be labeled as a digital piano, the main requirement is to have keys that replicate the feel and action of an acoustic piano. Manufacturers have their own designs and call them different names, but they all attempt to make the keys heavier and feel like the real thing. Many digital pianos even replicate the different weights of each key, making the lower notes heavier, and gradually reducing the weight as you get higher up the keyboard, much like an acoustic piano - this type of action is highly recommend if you're going for authenticity. Some manufacturers go so far as to change the skin of the keys to make them "feel" like real ivory and ebony. Note that some lower priced units come with semi-weighted keys, some even synth style keys which don't replicate a piano feel.
Sound Quantity and Quality
Unlike portable keyboards which can have hundreds of sound presets, digital pianos are usually limited to just a few, with the aim of focusing all processing power and memory into better replicating the acoustic piano sound. The most important sound is the acoustic piano and its variants like the Grand Piano, Baby Grand, Closed Lid, Open Lid, Upright and more. The Electric Piano sound is also important, mainly because it continues to be widely used in pop, rock and other styles of music. Other sounds that are sometimes included are organ, strings, synths, guitar and many more. If you're looking to diversify your sound, you'll want those with more presets. But if you're just into the piano sound then the number of presets take the back seat in your consideration.
All these digital pianos do a good job of emulating the tone of pianos and judging which sounds 'best' is a highly subjective topic, but ratings and reviews from multiple users can help quantify them into numbers. Layering and split mode are also important features to look for if you're looking for more sonic versatility. We've included video demos for each listing so you can hear and decide for yourself.
Speaker Volume and Quality
Ideally, the higher the amplifier power rating, and the bigger the speaker, the more headroom you have to go louder without sacrificing clarity. In particular the bass notes will tend to sound fuller with larger speakers. This is the reason why we've listed this specification where available. While there are other factors to consider like component quality, these specifications can be a practical guide in case you are looking for something that can play louder or softer. If you think you might need a bigger sound than the inbuilt speakers can provide (such as for performing on stage) then look out for units that feature an auxiliary output so you can connect to a dedicated Keyboard Amplifier.
Most digital pianos come with just one sustain pedal, and this pedal is used to sustain all the notes of your keyboard. Others allow for two or more pedal connections, but you'll often have to buy the extra pedals separately. There are also furniture stands that come with built-in piano-like pedals, allowing for traditional 3-pedal operation that include the Una Corda (Soft) pedal, Sostenuto Pedal (Half-Damper), and Sustain (Damper). The names of the two extra pedals are somewhat self explanatory, the Una Corda being a pedal used for soft notes and phrases, while the Sostenuto pedal is used to sustain specific notes that you're playing, instead of sustaining everything. Click Here for a more detailed explanation on what acoustic piano pedals do.
Form Factor and Stand
Most digital pianos come in the same shape and form as portable keyboards, with some important differences, the most obvious of which is the lack of extra controls and buttons. The most common color is black, but there are keyboards offered in white and other colors. There are manufacturers who make digital pianos that look like acoustic pianos, complete with wood-like finish and furniture style stands although good examples are priced above $500. While not as important as sound and playability, you want a digital piano that will inspire you to play when you look at it. Speaking of stands, some digital pianos come bundled with a metal stand, but most require you to pay extra for them, so this is an important budget consideration. Others offer furniture stands as an option, which look better but tend to be more expensive. We have a separate guide to metal Keyboard Stands
Digital Pianos are meant to be stand alone units that can produce sound on their own, which explains their streamlined connection options and built-in speakers. Still, it is a nice plus to have extras like a Line Out port for plugging into an external amplifier or a PA system. If the keyboard is used for learning or teaching, having two headphone outs will let both the teacher and student listen in without disturbing others. Other connectivity options that you want to look at include MIDI for connecting to computers.
While not as feature packed as portable keyboards, some digital pianos come with nifty functions that help in practice, songwriting and performances. Those with built-in rhythm and metronome will help keep your timing in tiptop shape. Ironically, there are some who don't want rhythm features because they are the first thing to distract students and non-piano players. Built-in effects let you add color and texture to your sound, which can spice up practice and performances. Another feature to watch out for is recording, sometimes you don't want to miss out a song idea just because you have to setup a separate recording gear. It is also useful for self evaluation, to make adjustments to your playing and correct mistakes where necessary.
Digital Piano Selection Methodology
This guide was first published on February 14, 2017 and the most recent comprehensive update was published on .
For this April 2020 update, we decided to narrow down our research to sub $500 digital pianos and widened our scope to include those with less than 88 keys, and semi-weighted keys. And like we often do, we limited our search to those that can be easily bought from retailers based in the USA.
With this new price range limit set, we ended up with a short list of 17 digital pianos and 2,400+ ratings, reviews and forum discussions about them. These data were then fed into the Gearank Algorithm, resulting in scores that allowed us to numerically rank each instrument and feature the best of them here in this guide. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.