Three best digital keyboards
There's never been a better time to make the switch from an acoustic piano to a digital keyboard. You just need to try one to understand why.
For many years, the sticking point was the quality of the sound and the feel of the keys. Most digital models just couldn't match the real thing. Thanks to advances in technology, however, the gap has closed considerably.
Today's professional-grade digital keyboards offer weighted keys with hammer action and touch sensitivity that convey the emotion and power of the music being played while coming close to duplicating the rich sound of a grand piano. On the other end of the spectrum, affordable entry-level keyboards are terrific learning instruments, often including built-in lessons, note and chord displays, and lighting schemes.
Read on to find out what you need to know before making a purchase.
Considerations when choosing digital keyboards
Advantages of digital keyboards
While it's impossible to surpass the beauty of a gleaming grand piano or ornate upright, digital keyboards offer many advantages that can't be matched.
Size: Digital pianos are compact, making them an excellent choice for smaller homes or apartments. Most are lightweight and easily transported. They are also far less expensive than their acoustic counterparts and don't require costly tuning or professional moving.
Volume control: Another advantage is volume control. It's impossible to play an acoustic piano silently, but with headphones, you can play a digital model at any hour without disturbing anyone. Add an amplifier and you can perform at concert levels.
Connectivity: Many digital pianos have built-in recording capabilities, allowing beginners to review their progress and aspiring songwriters to preserve their performances. Other models connect easily to computers and accept flash drives to transfer music.
Digital keyboard features
When looking for a digital keyboard, it's important to examine your skill level. Are you a professional looking for a quality stage model? Do you want a keyboard suited for a child or beginner? Something in between?
Feel: An acoustic piano has wooden hammers that strike the internal strings. The "hammers" in digital keyboards are mechanical to an extent; graded hammer action is designed to give greater weight to lower-octave keys, duplicating the heavier hammers and stringers in traditional pianos.
Sound: A quality digital keyboard has the ability to sense the pressure you exert on each key. The harder you hit a key, the higher the volume. The samples used to make the keyboard sounds affect sound quality. Better keyboards have a greater amount of digital memory for this purpose.
If your keyboard is intended for home use, make sure it has speakers that produce a clear, pleasant sound with sufficient volume. For live performances or studio work, your keyboard will need output options for connecting to external amplifiers or recording consoles.
Variety: Another key consideration is the number of sounds and tones available. A modern digital keyboard may have hundreds of sound samples from everything from the accordion to the flute. While that's fun to play with, keep in mind that you'll likely spend the bulk of your time using basic piano sounds.
Extras: Some digital pianos come with a stand, bench, and damper pedals. If your preferred model does not, be sure to price those accessories before making your purchase.
Digital keyboard prices: Quality beginner digital pianos range from $100 to $600, while advanced models start around $800 and can cost as much as $5,000.
Q. How large a keyboard do I need?
A. That depends in part on your skill level. If you're a pro, you will likely want the full 88 keys. If you're learning how to play, a smaller keyboard should meet your needs.
Q. How much maintenance will my digital keyboard require?
A. Almost none, beyond dusting. Unlike acoustic pianos, digital keyboards do not require tuning.
Digital keyboards we recommend
Best of the best: Yamaha Arius Digital Piano
Our take: Console piano offers remarkable sound quality. Ranks among the best keyboards on the market.
What we like: Excellent action and touch sensitivity on the 88 keys. Attractive cabinet and bench blend nicely with household furnishings.
What we dislike: A tad pricey compared to models with similar features.
Best bang for your buck: Alesis Recital Digital Piano
Our take: Bargain-priced keyboard from reputable company. Great choice for beginners.
What we like: Full keyboard with semi-weighted keys that are simple to use. Includes built-in speakers and learning features for novices.
What we dislike: Does not include stand or pedals. Only five voices.
Choice 3: Korg B1SP Digital Piano
Our take: Full-size keyboard looks great and produces natural sound comparable to the acoustic piano.
What we like: Nicely weighted keys with hammer action are a pleasure to play. Comes with adjustable stand base, pedals, and bench.
What we dislike: Built-in speakers aren't powerful. No USB or MIDI connections.
Wiliam Miller is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.