While the simplest piano will suffice for those wishing simply to learn the ropes, those looking to perform on stage would often find themselves coordinating with other players, some of whom the person may not know at all. In such circumstances, it makes sense to practise a range of sounds with features like Sound Boost and Dueling turned on. Unfortunately, till date most of the best digital pianos that have offered this feature have also provided a range of extras that would be required only by those actually composing music (as opposed to playing it at a professional level). Therefore, it is refreshing but also somewhat unnerving to find a reputed company like Yamaha offering these pro features without adding unnecessary features and raising the price tag to excessive levels. Our own experience tells us that the product in question, the Yamaha P115, lives up to the vast majority of claims made by Yamaha without forcing the user to navigate complex controls mazes. Yet like all good products, perfection is a note too far because of some minor flaws. What are the good and bad points? Let’s find out through a detailed review!
Set Up and Build Quality
Yamaha claims that the Yamaha P115 is one of the few products that can be carried around by the professional performer without forcing him/her to make lengthy and complex arrangements. Hence, the unit comes with just the keyboard itself, a music stand for holding your sheet music and some accessories.
As you’d expect, setting up the unit is very simple. Once the keyboard has been placed on a desk or an optional double X stand, you simply have to attach thee foot pedal and the music sheet. Some users preferred to buy the optional LP5A foot pedal and thus achieve better control over their music.
Once these are done, the only step that remains is to attach the power cable and the unit is ready to produce the music you want it to.
As you’d notice once the unit has been properly set up, Yahama has left no stops to achieve the perfectly rugged but elegant build quality. We were particularly impressed by the material used in creating the body of the unit and if the majority of users are to be believed, cases of breakage are exceedingly rare.
The ability of the unit to withstand damage has led to the company providing no kit bag with the unit. While a few users found this to be a nuisance, they also agreed that it could be remedied without much cost. One user found the KACES PKB18 kit bag and when we followed this suggestion, we found that she had been correct in assessing the bag’s capabilities.
Ease of Playing
Given that professionals are used to playing on high-end Clavinovas and grand pianos, it is nice to see Yamaha staking a place for this product in our list of best Yamaha piano reviews by providing a truly premium keyboard. Many users praised the authentic feel of the keyboard. The keys proved to be wide enough to accommodate those who may occasionally stray and thus prevents accidental pressing or wrong notes.
Furthermore, the keys come with differential weighting that mimics the different weights of the chords in a grand piano. Some of the users who had moved from other keyboards complained that the keys seemed to be somewhat unresponsive but some later edited their reviews to suggest that the responsiveness was more a matter of individual preference than general quality.
While opinions may differ, we also found that the use of a matte instead of gloss finish on the keys made the product appear more premium and helped it avoid scratches arising out of poor handling and inadequate knowledge about key usage.
Finally, the lack of complex controls allows the Yamaha P115 to match the excellent spacing of the Yamaha P45 as far as the music sheet is concerned. This makes the unit ideal for those with marginal eye power and/or those with music notations in small fonts.
Sound and Acoustic Features
If there is one feature on which virtually all users agreed, it was the excellent sound reproduction offered by this unit. In our own experience, we discovered that all of the 14 voices offered on the machine proved to be crisp and more or less accurate. Some users found the jazz organ and rock organ to be an octave higher than what they would have liked, but others would point out that this again was a matter of taste more than technical precision.
Speaking of technical precision, the unit contains meticulously recorded pieces from Yamaha’s own grand piano CFIIIS and users found the sound reproduction to be overwhelmingly accurate. While users suggested purchasing a costlier unit to get hold of better instrument recordings and better sound reproduction in general, such arguments were directed at established professionals who are perhaps looking to move from the basic performance units to more sophisticated ones.
Coming to acoustic features, the most noticeable of this is the duelling piano partner feature. This allows users to play with one hand (typically the left hand) and allow the product to play the music as an accompaniment with the other hand. This leaves one hand free to carry out embellishments to the accompaniment and/or set controls even as the song progresses.
Some users however had expectations beyond duelling. One common expectation was of MIDI functionality, with one user commenting that he had hoped to play the unit with his Korg. In our – and most users’ – experience, however, MIDI was not a feature that was sorely missed and therefore, is unlikely to be a deal breaker for most users.
On a more positive note, users were mildly impressed to see Yamaha offering 192-note compatibility as opposed to the current 128 standard.
Controls and Connectivity
Yamaha has tried to keep the frills to a minimum and for this reason, we are treated to a rather Spartan piano top. The controls present are few but they manage to cover a remarkably large range of functions including setting of default tones, duelling, etc. A few users were not amused by the company requiring users to press two buttons simultaneously to achieve some of the more complex tasks but we faced no such encumbrances in our playing sessions.
Quite interestingly, the unit comes with an iPhone/iPad app that allows users to control the unit without actually using an LCD display. Those who used the app noted the rich detail provided in it and argued that the aforesaid app more than made up for the lack of an LCD display. Indeed, some said that it allowed users to try out varied ways of learning the piano without fearing loss of ideal settings. Others however wished that despite the development of this app, Yamaha could keep the price of the optional LCD display (to be purchased separately) lower than the $200-400 that it currently retails at.
Finally, we must add that the connectivity features of this digital piano are limited to connecting earphones and certain other basic devices. Earphones/headphones were deemed a necessity for truly appreciating the sounds of the grand piano since the speakers, just like the ones on the Yamaha P45, were not of a very high quality.
Connecting the iPhone app provides additional controls, including controls for the volume of the unit and a simpler interface for handling the various features that have been made parts of the unit.
- Light and sturdy build for professional performances
- Premium matte finish on black keys and superior feel of all keys
- Superior sound quality reproduction, especially of the Yamaha grand piano
- Dueling feature allows users to practice coordination without hiring an additional pianist
- iOS app allows for additional controls without encumbrance of an LCD screen
- Range of 14 voices superior to most other products in this category
- MIDI feature not supported
- Lack of LCD display not liked by some users
Given the constraints of price and sound quality, it is difficult to satisfy everyone and so we find that the Yamaha P115 falls short of expectations when expectations include MIDI, good speakers and some other advanced features. If we leave aside these advanced and somewhat specialized features, however, we find that the Yamaha P115 provides all the specifications needed by a professional player on the move. Whether it be the excellent sound reproduction or the simple and light design, these features make the unit ideal for anyone who wishes to keep his/her wallet heavy, bags light and still get awesome sound when he/she gets on the stage.