Thursday, June 19, 2008

Furniture-Style Digital Pianos

I've been thinking a lot about last week's Guitar Center visit. Up until recently, I have always assumed I was going to buy a stage-style digital piano. Something that looks like this:

Casio PX-120 (going retail price: $499)

Pretty simple, huh? It's just a keyboard. The main reason why something like this appealed to me is that it's cheaper. (Did I mention we're building a new house? I did, right?) And in the case of the Casio Privias, I believe they represent good value. At $500, the PX-120 is the base model of the Privia line, and is the cheapest weighted-key keyboard currently on the market. (Of course, you can find some other discontinued models out there, like the Casio PX-110 and Yamaha P70, for less.)

I am very interested in a digital piano that feels and sounds (insofar as is possible) like an acoustic piano. The closer the resemblance, the more I'm interested. I am somewhat interested in being able to record from my digital piano onto my laptop. But with the little research I've put into how to do this, I am sufficiently persuaded that it's a pretty trivial thing to do. I am completely disinterested in other features, like using it as a MIDI controller, synthesizing sounds, using hundreds of voices, etc. So any digital piano that brings these extra features to the table (and of course charges for them) is pretty much out of consideration, for me.

Here's the problem. A stage-style digital piano needs a stand and three pedals if it is going to be a reasonable replacement for an acoustic. (Yes, I know that one pedal might suffice, but I am not at all impressed with the single pedal units I have seen.) Throw in these extras, plus some headphones, some chords, and a bench, and suddenly the $500 PX-120 (the cheapest weighted-key unit on the market) is now $700. At that price point, you're getting close to the entry fee into furniture style digital pianos. Something that looks more like this:

Casio AP-200 (going retail price: $799)

Then there is the sturdiness factor. Ole Bessie, our piano, doesn't bounce around when we play her; neither do the pedals don't slide around all over the floor. I don't want a digital piano that bounces and slides around, either, but unless you have a large, sturdy stand, it will. What's more, I believe that if your keyboard looks like a toy, young children will treat it as such. (I read it on the Internet, it must be true.) Conversely, if your keyboard looks like a piano, kids will treat it like one. Our kids beat up on Ole Bessie, sure, but she's up to the task. That a furniture-style digital piano looks sturdy means something to me. A stage-style digital piano, even on a factory stand, looks like a piece of equipment. A furniture-style one looks like, well, a piece of furniture. This is a meaningful difference to me.

So next time I find myself at a Guitar Center or Sam Ash, I am going to see if they have one of these lying around. (Headline from this link: "Basic CELVIANO wiht grand piano level sound quality." Doesn't anyone proofread any more?)

If Ole Bessie makes it to the new house (cracked soundboard and all), I will want to forestall a digital piano purchase for a little while longer, in order to get something like an AP-200.

If any of you have (or have tried) a furniture-style digital piano, I'll take your recommendations.


sawtooth said...

If I had gone the console digital piano route I would have ended up pretty high end. Something around the HP-203. I'm not sure I would have gotten the pretty expensive 207. I bought the fp-7 that I got for under $1500 with the furniture style stand. The stand is pretty overpriced by itself as it's only a stand and doesn't have speakers or pedals on it. I considered where the piano was going to be (my bedroom) and I was going to be the primary user. The problem once you start getting into the expensive console digital realm is when do you just give up on the digital side and get a real upright instead?

I can't comment much on those lower end console pianos and don't recall playing with the casio ap series either. I know I touched the yamaha's but I couldn't stand the rosewood finishes most of them had.

It will be interesting to hear what you think of the various models when you get a chance at them in the future!

Bill said...

As I planned to put the digital piano in my living room I never really considered a stage model. In my opinion, my Yamaha Clavinova looks pretty good and does not look out of place in a public area of the home.

I do, however, agree with sawtooth that the Yamaha rosewood finish is not that attractive. I choose the cherry finish as it is lighter in color and fits in better with our other furnishing (you can see it HERE in one of my Youtube videos).

In terms of stability, the Yamaha is steady as a rock even under my relentless pounding (I agree with Billy Joel that a piano is a percussion instrument and should be treated as such).

For me a digital makes much more sense than a "real upright". I have listed my reasons in an earlier post and still believe that in some cases a "furniture-style" digital can be an excellent choice.

Anonymous said...

I have not had much experience with the console digitals. I have a very nice (if old) acoustic upright, so I really didn't want another "furniture" piano. I wanted a really good digital and for me, that means stage piano, so that's what I got.

That said, in the studio where my teacher used to teach, they had an older Celviano and I hated it. Super heavy action (and my upright has a pretty heavy action, so that's saying something), the piano sounds were really bad and the pedals were basically useless. Newer ones may be different, of course.