When you find yourself shopping for the best keyboard piano, will you be drawn to the newer technology? Or, will you choose what is tried and true among the best musicians on the planet? If you’ve been playing piano since you were old enough to sit on a piano bench like me, you know that sometimes a classic keyboard piano is all you need to create a beautiful piece of music.
It is absolutely true that a talented musician does not need the most expensive, gold-plated instruments to create the sounds we all live by. But, having the features, functions, and options available to a brilliant mind is certainly a very good way to get amazing music.
What To Look For In the Best Keyboard Piano
I’ve found three of the best keyboard piano options available today. One is better in regards to incorporating technology. Another has a better sound. I’ll break down their features to help you make the best choice for your goals and purposes.
The Winner Best Keyboard Piano:
This keyboard is one of the best keyboard piano options you can find. This product is built for professionals and those who wish to become a professional. Alesis has been a top contender in the music industry for many years. The quality and reputation are something that serious players can count on in any situation. Of all the features, the fact that a brand-new player can purchase this keyboard piano, learn and grow with it, and be able to use it in the studio, in concert, and for everyday recording sessions is the best feature of all.
The Alesis Recital Pro has a full 88-key design with full -response-adjustable hammer-action keys. Moving smoothly through the notes is super easy. It feels great in your hands. It does have an adjustable response, so you can have the feel of a grand piano without having to wear out your hands, so you can keep on playing longer sessions.
For New Players
The educational features of this product along with the classic design of a keyboard piano gives the user the best chance to achieve their musical goals in the fastest possible manner. If you are a new player, you will be taking advantage of these educational benefits. These include:
- Adjustable/universal response to any playing style
- Easy, standard play modes using sheet music
- Professional recording features
- Split and layer recordings without a computer software program
- A limited time offer free subscription to ‘Skoove’, a website dedicated to giving quality online, interactive keyboard piano lessons for players at any level
- Voices that are realistic that give the user the best sound quality at the start
- Lesson mode splits the keyboard into student/teacher so both may play together
A wise musician would rather have a few perfect features than a hundred mediocre features. That’s why this product fits snugly into the top spot.
Most keyboard pianos have mostly the same features, but Alesis has mastered them. Plus, they are so easy to use. At the top, you will find that there are several buttons for different ‘voices’, or electric instruments. These instruments can be cleverly layered together, which gives the user much more than the standard 12 unique voices to create quality music easily. The onboard screen displays everything you are doing in an easy-to-read fashion. The ease of use is one of the main reasons this is my best keyboard piano pick.
If you wish to go loud, the Alesis Recital Pro has 2x20w speakers. This is more than enough for anyone using it for any situation that wouldn’t require hooking up to larger equipment, such as a live show performance. If you wish for a more ‘personal’ sound quality with headphones, using the auxiliary jack is simple enough.
Input / Output
For the professional player, the Alesis Recital Pro has everything covered. You can power the machine with a 12v wall charger, or you can go mobile with a few ‘D’ sized batteries. In the back of the unit, you will find a sustain pedal input, right and left external output jacks, left for mono, a headphone jack, and a USB/MIDI jack. Any additional accessories or in-studio hookups are easily accessible through any one of these jacks.
Recording with this keyboard piano is as simple as plugging it in using the USB/MIDI output to a mixer, standalone recorder, or through a pathway device going to your computer. Having voices to layer is great, but there are three additional controls to truly master your sound the first time:
- Modulation – This control gives the user the ability to modify the sounds of the voice
- Reverb – This control echoes the sound of the voice as much or as little as the user prefers
- Chorus – This feature gives the voice a ‘live’, or concert sound that is great for background notes
Every feature can be used simultaneously, at once, or not at all, at any point during a recording or playing live. Simply hit the button and it will go directly to the last setting input. To reach the full potential of the playability of this keyboard piano, you can also use the sustain pedal for resonance. All the effect features can be split between the left and right sides of the keyboard or kept as a whole.
Don’t forget to set the metronome, which is adjustable from 30-280 bpm.
The Power of Alesis – The Best Keyboard Piano
I personally own a few Alesis products, so I can vouge for the quality and features at a professional level. No product that is manufactured by Alesis is going to be mediocre. This best keyboard piano sits directly in front of my mixer in my studio, where I record anything from commercial jingles to radio worthy songs.
I have never used it to its full capacity (and I use it daily) – it has more than what is needed to get the job done. Of course, it is hooked up to my Bose speakers which sit high atop the walls beside the TV monitors that display my recording software. However, I have used the built-in speakers and was blown away by the quality of the sound and how loud it can get. Those speakers can really hit. It pairs perfectly with my Alesis equalizer and compressor I frequently use in the cabinet under the desk.
Flaws But Not Dealbreakers
The weight of the keyboard piano alone is 32.6 lbs. That could be a con to some who want a more mobile unit. But weight usually means quality materials were used.
The keys aren’t exactly like a piano, which is how most perceive the advertisements. They are more like an organ, but with a little more weight. How the keys feel to you is what matters. When you buy a keyboard piano, you should expect to have a bit more bounce. You should not have that fully depressed key sound and feel of a grand piano, mostly because it’s not a grand piano.
The sound of the speakers is great, but the low end just is not there. Smaller speakers are obviously notorious for having a much better high-end sound, so expect that with this product. This flaw can easily be fixed with an external sound output, which should be used anyways.
It doesn’t come with a sustain pedal, which didn’t bother me because I use one that I already had. But for a new player, it can be a bit of a hassle to shop for yet another accessory that could’ve just came with the unit.
The advanced features of the best keyboard piano pick are going to be completely lost on a new player at first. The mapping of the buttons to enter certain functions could have been better designed. But the user manual is very easy to follow. Allow some time to learn your instrument in an advanced capacity.
The Runner-Up Best Keyboard Piano:
Be ready to have your mind blown. This is a professional keyboard piano with features flying at you in all directions. While I prefer instruments without too many features that make them too complicated, this best keyboard piano pick can be used in whichever capacity the user prefers. It is easy to simply move from note to note, reveling in the quality keyboard piano sounds it gracefully emits, but it can also do more than most users bargain for.
The ONE is a newer company that specializes in ‘smart’ instruments. They have won many awards for their innovation, quality, and design all over the world. The best feature that this product has is the connectivity through the apps. Beginner modes can be used to help them learn how to play the best way they know how. It even has apps that are enticing for kids like keyboard piano games that create a positive experience with a keyboard piano at a young age. While The ONE Smart Keyboard Pro may sound like a kid’s toy (although, anything can be a toy for kids), it is so much more than that.
The ONE Smart Keyboard Pro is a full 88-key unit with fully adjustable, full-sized touch sensitive hammer-action keys that feel great and are weighted perfectly. Most everything on the unit is digital and interacts with whichever supported device you decide to use with it. The only buttons you’ll find on it are the volume knob and the power button. Just above the keys is a thin panel of LED lights that are designed to be used as light indicators for learning when played along with apps, games, or the song bank.
The ONE Smart Keyboard Pro is offered in an all-black design or a more elegant white design. The major and minor keys stay the same white and black colors, respectively.
The speakers are built-in and have a good sound to them. They are certainly better than other cheaper keyboards, but this keyboard is still one of the best keyboard piano options. Just like any other keyboard piano, it sounds better when used with headphones or another external sound source.
Like with other similar products, this keyboard sports a 128-note polyphony, which is notes and sounds that can be played in unison. This increases the sound quality tremendously, especially considering most other keyboards have a standard 64-note polyphony.
This keyboard is compatible with:
- iOS 9.0+
- Android 4.4+
- USB MIDI Cable
The keyboard comes with all the cables necessary to be able to plug into iOS, Android, and any computer or other pathway devices that support a USB MIDI cable.
The features are nearly endless, mostly because the apps and accessories are always going to be upgraded and invented the longer this product is produced. The ONE offers a free app that anyone can download on any iOS or Android device that unlocks the full potential of this keyboard. The company is known for integrating advanced learning features into a professional and innovative design. This keyboard delivers every bit of that.
With any app or other features used with the keyboard, the user can get extra help from the LED lights that sync to the music just above the keys. New players greatly benefit from having a visual aide helping them with which notes to hit, sustain, and sensitivity.
Also, with supported apps, you can find over a thousand sheet music downloads, all for free. The user can choose between a staggering 128 different voices with additional effects and modulation. For a new player, this keyboard gives everything one would need to learn how to play and more.
The ONE app has over a hundred videos that are synced with the built-in LED lights that cover every piece of information needed to learn how to play the keyboard piano. The video playback feature in the app is very convenient. You can slow down the lesson, pause it to practice, and rewind it at your leisure.
The sheet music portion of the app is very cool because it gives you the classics, the incredible jazz and blues hits, along with new pop songs that are updated frequently. Learning Mozart for a beginner isn’t the most fun, so they ensured this product would help younger folks by giving them piano representations of their favorite songs.
The Crash Course feature is a visual representation as seen from above in an online application that resembles the popular game ‘Piano Tiles’, or even ‘Guitar Hero’. The idea is to learn an entire song, front to back, in just a couple of hours. The idea is simple enough. Follow the lines shown on the screen, and along with the help of the LED lights above the keys, players can learn even the more complex works in a matter of days instead of weeks or even months.
The games are the coolest part of the product. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that games are just for kids. The most talented and experienced professionals can learn and maintain their skills and have a ton of fun while doing it. But, that’s not to say that kids won’t love to play the games as well. The more fun a kid can have learning something, the more they will invest their focus into that activity.
Learning how to play the keyboard piano is arguably one of the most focus-draining instruments to learn how to play. The bar is set quite high, and the challenge is difficult, so looking forward to a future of endless practice with failure and not much fun is no way to go about learning how to play. The games are organized by difficulty so one can choose their songs easily. Moving up a level is a really good feeling.
The value of the product, to me, just rockets itself into the atmosphere because of the educational benefits of the app and how easy it all is to use. Most people know how to get around a tablet or phone, so navigating the app and other supporting software is super easy. I can’t think of any other feature that could make learning how to play the keyboard piano easier that the ONE Smart Keyboard Pro doesn’t have.
If you think about it, a grand piano and some sheet music were all there was when the brilliant minds of history took to creating incredible pieces that are still worshipped today and will be forever. You can still use this keyboard in the same manner. It works just as well, if not better, than other keyboards out there. Having the fun games, the app with free sheet music, and the visual aids that help guide your hands to the correct notes are just a bonus. The educational opportunities make this one of the best keyboard piano picks for beginners and kids.
Flaws But Not Dealbreakers
Someone that isn’t tech savvy could get really lost in all the capabilities of the applications. This sort of keyboard is still quite new to the world, so getting used to something with such connectivity and advanced learning, playing, and practicing experiences will have to adapt to the entire experience of this design. You can play it just like any other keyboard, but doing so would be extremely silly. The waste of capabilities and functions are one reason. There are other keyboards out there for much cheaper that will get that job done just as well or maybe even better, depending on what your personal preferences are.
The ONE app does have a store for which people can buy songs to have and play. This could be a problem for parents who aren’t aware of that, and if their kids buy songs, it could get costly very fast. Some have also complained about how there isn’t a preview feature for any of the songs available for download on the app. There are keyboard piano variations of songs that are different. But playing a song you like in any variation should be fine.
The Honorable Mention Best Keyboard Piano:
Yamaha is a company that makes just about, if not all, instruments you can find in an orchestra, and they have quite the reputation for doing so for many decades. Any Yamaha product can be safely categorized in the ‘reliable’ and ‘especially well-made’ columns. The P71 is a simple, yet elegant keyboard that fits functionality and style into the design that gives the user all the necessary components to build or maintain talent and skills.
This keyboard has a full 88-key design with weighted keys that do feel good but still retain the classic keyboard feel. The playing experience is exceptional though. Compared to other keyboards within the same price range, or even higher, it plays comparatively well, regarding the responsiveness, the ease of moving from note to note, and the quality of the features of sensitivity. This is definitely one of the best keyboard piano options whith it’s strength in sound.
The Yamaha P71 is quite simple. All you will find on the exterior, besides the keys, is a power button, a volume control slider, and a function button that lets you choose all the different functions and features that are mapped and associated with certain keys. The keys are mapped from left-to-right:
- Metronome toggle
- 10 keys that are numbered from 0-9, which toggle other functions, including tempo
- A default button that will quickly switch back to a default setting
- Two left and right keys are mapped as ‘beat’
The last two buttons in the sequence are a bit confusing because they are labeled “volume”. I am sure the question already went through your head, “Isn’t there a volume slider directly above the two alternate function buttons on the keys?” Yes, there is.
The volume slider is a master volume that will increase the sound of everything being played, while as the volume function keys are intended to give the player the ability to toggle the volume of song playback, the song bank, etc. It gives a little more control over the individual volume.
Ten voices are mapped to the function button. They have a rich sound, especially from the acoustic and grand piano voices. Yamaha recorded those voices with their larger Yamaha acoustic and grand pianos – some of the best keyboard pianos on the planet. You basically get a super expensive keyboard piano that sounds incredible in one package. That is the advantage of buying a brand that produces such great products.
This keyboard has a dual mode, so you can put two voices together. The function works well, and it is quite interesting to experiment with putting different voices together while you play. It does a good job of inspiring players to be creative. They can think outside the box and experiment with the voices and styles the keyboard provides.
The best part about this best keyboard piano is the style and feel of playing it. This particular model has weighted keys. But they are special in a way. On the low end, the keys are heavier, just like in a grand or acoustic piano. The higher notes require a lighter touch.
Experienced keyboard piano players need these features in their keyboards because it is one less thing to worry about assimilating to their style. Finding the groove in playing a song is the most important thing about playing it. This keyboard ensures that it gives players the easiest possible way to achieve that.
The sound is obviously incredible because it is a Yamaha. But again, there is something special about this particular model. I did not know what it was until I found that Yamaha used AWM technology to record the sounds of their best acoustic models to use for this keyboard. AWS is an ‘advanced wave memory’ system that records samples from two microphones. It then uses futuristic software to enhance the sound in the best way possible.
This sound engine exploits the wonderful uses of AWM to play a sample/key at every volume level and timbre. That is quite a bit to take in, so in a layman’s definition of the sound of the P71: It is absolutely awesome.
The P71 has a USB MIDI port to connect to any pathway or computer directly. You can also find two ¼” jacks to plug headphones or other external sound amplifiers into. The product also comes with a sustain pedal jack, with a sustain pedal included. But any player is welcome to use another sustain pedal, as almost all others are compatible with this keyboard.
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Flaws But Not Dealbreakers
The sustain pedal included has a tendency to do exactly the opposite of what it is supposed to do. Many people have found that plugging the sustain pedal in before the keyboard is on ensures the sustain pedal works properly. Many electronics like to have the input set while powering on. This is not an uncommon problem regarding any type of electronics.
The features are there. But for some who want more out of their keyboard piano, other options would obviously be better. It is also a bit weird having to navigate through the functions and getting to understand how the alternate buttons/keys and functions work. Having a nice LED screen on the keyboard that helps the player track what they have chosen would be ideal. However, if someone is using this just as a keyboard piano, there is not a better one to have because of the sound, style, and quality of the build.
The Bottom Line When Looking For the Best Keyboard Piano
When you want to find the best keyboard piano, you should first figure out what matters most to you. Does technology have a need for simplicity? For a beginner, perhaps that is the case. But for the more experienced, the honorable mention might be the one you love the most. Or maybe the experienced would like to learn more and venture out into the unknown world of ever-evolving technology in hopes of creating something new by finding a middle ground in all the options available.
What matters most to me is playability and sound. A keyboard that does not allow for experienced fingers to do their best work and exude that perfect keyboard piano sound is absolutely worthless, especially for any sort of professional. Most keyboards are fine to use for practice. But if playing the keyboard piano is a part of your life, then those two criteria must never let mediocrity take hold.
There are obviously many more keyboard pianos that are not on this list. If you can find one that does have all the cool, new features and great sound, you have found yourself the best keyboard piano.
In fact, in light of playing these products and having a wonderful experience with all of them, I may choose to have another in my studio. When you venture out of your comfort zone, chances are you will find something even better. It was such an enjoyable experience, and it certainly will not be the last. There will be more keyboard pianos with new technology and better sounds. But, that is the fun in it all, right?