I have a bit of a strange relationship with Yamaha keyboards. I mean, this isn’t some kind of public confession, like a therapy group or anything, but I have a real love/hate response to their keyboards. I’ve owned a Clavinova CLP50 for more years than I’d care to admit to – it was my beloved practice piano when I was taking piano lessons all those years ago, and like Sampha said – nobody knows me like my piano. I loved it, and it served me exceptionally well. And many years later, it’s still going – pretty much.
You see Yamaha keyboards in music colleges all around the world. There’s something reassuring about the coffee rings embossed into the top surface. Yamaha makes unbelievably robust keyboards, and that’s what’s great about them.
I’ve fallen out of love with the Clavinova series though – at least the lower-end – I’ll explain later. I just think that Kawai and Roland make better digital pianos in the same price range.
So, I approached the Yamaha YDP-143 with a little trepidation. I wasn’t expecting much. But I was pleasantly surprised. And realized that I’d lost a couple of hours at the keyboard.
Who is the Yamaha YDP-143 for?
The YDP-143 is in Yamaha’s Arius range of digital pianos. There’s a distinct difference between the Clavinova and the Arius range – and it’s certainly in the price. The Arius range tend to be marketed towards the learner, although there’s absolutely no reason why a seasoned piano player wouldn’t enjoy playing this digital piano – it has three decent grand piano sounds, two lovely electric piano sounds and a smattering of harpsichords and strings that make this a pleasurable keyboard to play.
If you’re looking for a digital piano under $1000, then the Yamaha YDP-143 may very well be for you. It may lack some of the bells and whistles of some of the more expensive digital pianos on the market, but if you’re just after a reliable practice piano with weighted keys, you can’t really go wrong.[amazon box=”B01DW69ZTA”]
I find the Yamaha Clavinova range (CLP-535 & 645) rather artificial sounding – over-produced and lacking in true dynamic range. But I really loved the sound of the YDP-143. There’s something really authentic about it – it’s a very simple, pure sound, as opposed to the overly processed sound of the CLP535 & 645.
The grand piano sounds have a real clarity and purity that I really enjoy. I’d even go as far to say that there’s a very slight coldness in the tone that’s entirely lacking in the overly warmed-up CLP535 & 645. Cold sounds bad, sure – but, actually, it gives it some real authenticity.
The Grand Piano tones are driven by Yamaha’s CF sound engine, which is pretty acceptable as a grand piano emulator.
But the really big difference with the YDP-143 is the keyboard. The Clavinova keyboard is heavy – at least in the CLP535 & 645 models. There’s a lovely lightness to the rather smart CLP-685, but that comes with a rather hefty price tag.
The Yamaha YDP-143 has a keyboard that’s light under the fingers. It has fully weighted keys, and a graded hammer action that feels heavier at the bottom and lighter at the top. The weighted keys have a lovely key-off bounce that you’d usually expect from a Kawai, not a Yamaha.
Of course, the keyboard isn’t really anything to do with sound quality per-say, but it is the musician’s interface into the instrument. A digital piano could have the best sound in the world, but if the keyboard action is awful, you go no further.
The YDP-143, therefore, has a realistically pianistic weighted action in the keyboard, coupled with an excellent sound quality, making this my choice over both the CLP 535 & 645.
The user-interface is limited, confined to just seven buttons, which you use in combination with the piano keys to choose instrumental voices. There’s no digital display to confirm which instrumental voice is playing, or to provide any feedback on the feature that you’re using, such as the record function, or establishing the bpm of the metronome. So, this is, indeed, a little limited.
However, if you have an iPad, you can purchase an additional Bluetooth accessory that connects to the USB port at the back of the instrument, or use the Lightning cable to connect to USB. Once you’ve downloaded the free Digital Piano Controller app, you have a much-improved user interface, providing better access to all of the features of the YDP-143, including instrumental voices and acoustic settings.
USB MIDI gives the instrument an excellent expandability if you’re interested in using this to control a computer DAW and also allows you to control the many synth apps available on the iOS platform.
Ease of use
Without the iOS Digital Piano Controller app, the seven-button interface isn’t particularly intuitive and lacks some of the finesse of other digital pianos in this price range.
This is a plug-in-and-play keyboard with weighted keys that provides an excellent, pianistic experience, so if that’s what you’re looking for, then this is a great product. But the fact that you need an additional app to access a decent user-interface means that the out-of-the-box experience isn’t that wonderful.
If you’re looking for a relatively basic digital practice piano that sounds great and has a wonderfully light, pianistic keyboard with weighted keys, then this is definitely your keyboard. And the fact that you can buy this instrument for under $1000 is a significant bonus.
I’d certainly save yourself a couple of thousand dollars and plump for the Yamaha YDP-143 over the CLP 535 or 645.
I think that this digital piano represents excellent value for money. For less than $1000 you get a piano that will serve you well for many years to come.
- Wonderfully light weighted key action, with a great key-off bounce
- Some realistic sounding grand piano sounds from the CF sound engine
- Great value for money
- Good headphone sound
- Great practice piano
- iPad app brings a better user interface experience
- Optional Bluetooth connector allows for wireless access to iPad music apps
- User interface is distinctly lacking
The next model up from the YDP-143 is the Yamaha YDP-163. Many of the features are the same, but the keyboard build is different.
The YDP-143 has the GHS (Graded Hammer Standard) keyboard, while the Yamaha 163 has the GH3 (Graded Hammer 3) build. The main difference is in the dynamic sensors – the 143 has two sensors, while the 163 has three sensors, providing more realism in the instrument’s dynamic response.
The prices between the two keyboards is a matter of a couple of hundred dollars. I’d say that if you can stretch your budget a little further, you’d definitely benefit from the increased sensitivity of the YDP-163.
I think that, for the price, the Yamaha YDP-143 is a great piano for practice and for general playing. I love the sound and the keyboard action, and could spend many hours playing this instrument. The user interface is a little clunky, but you’ll learn how to use it reasonably quickly. If you just want a basic digital piano and don’t want to over-spend, this is a great instrument.
I don’t think the Clavinova range is worth looking at until the very beautiful CLP-685 which is over six times the price of the YDP143, so I’d save yourself several thousand dollars and plump for the 143.