The Yamaha DGX660: Get the best out of your fingers

Yamaha DGX660
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The Yamaha DGX660 is an 88 key digital piano, with fully weighted keys and an excellent level of touch sensitivity, providing a realistic, pianistic play-feel.

This is a keyboard aimed at an adult market that may have had piano lessons as a child, but have lost touch with their musical legacy. They want a keyboard to relive the joy of playing, without the stuffiness of the weekly piano lesson. Equally, this is a Yamaha keyboard full of great features focused towards helping the learner get the most out of their practice.

Packed full of fun features, the DGX660 is a versatile Yamaha piano with an onboard microphone pre-amp, providing plenty of professional sounding digital effects; including reverb, chorus and compression; that make the most of your vocal sound. This is an excellent keyboard for a budding singer-songwriter.

With an excellent array of instrumental voices, accompaniments and learning aids, the Yamaha DGX660 is perfect for the home musician hoping to rediscover their love for the piano, and an instrument that will provide a decent learning canvas, with features to keep the monotony of practice at bay.

Who is the Yamaha DGX660 for?

Yamaha has gone to great lengths to design a product that provides a convincing keyboard action – light to the touch, with a pleasing key-off bounce – but with an array of features that will satisfy the home musician and the learner alike.

The Graded Hammer Standard keyboard provides a realistic portable grand piano playing action -with a heavier feel at the bottom of the instrument and a lighter play-feel around the high notes – perfectly emulating the action of a genuine, acoustic grand. This is important for learners who need to develop the touch-sensitive muscle memory required to express dynamic play on an acoustic instrument. It’s also essential for the seasoned player with lots of experience on acoustic pianos, who want to feel in total control of the keyboard.

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Sound Quality

The digital grand piano sounds are sampled from Yamaha’s acoustic CF 3S grand which, combined with the graded hammer action keyboard, make the Yamaha DGX660 a real pleasure to play. One of my main criticisms of Yamaha’s higher-end Clavinova range is the heavily-processed piano sound – it feels a little artificial to me. Although this instrument is utilizing the same Yamaha CF Sound Engine (which is the engine used for the lower-end Clavinovas), the sound of the DGX660 has a distinct clarity and richness of tone that stands out from its more expensive cousins.

The main digital grand piano sounds are rich, warm and full of tonal color. There’s a real immediacy to the response between the realistic keyboard action and the upfront presence of tone in the sampled digital pianos. The monitor speakers deliver a crisp, unfettered sound that drives into the room with a color that demands attention.

There is a selection of electric pianos (of the Fender Rhodes school) that have a fantastic stereo tremolo effect that’s rather dizzying; while being a total pleasure to play. The string sounds are fine – I’m never particularly impressed by the string sounds on digital pianos – I think you have to delve into Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) like Logic Pro to find anything that closely resembles a decent string collection. However, you can combine instrumental voices and, in combination with a digital grand or electric piano, the strings add quite a satisfying fullness of tone.

There are 151 instrumental voices in total, which range in quality – the horns and saxes are particularly unconvincing, but the pianos, at least, are warm and characterful.

Features

The DGX series of keyboards have impressive user interfaces, and that’s no exception with the DGX660. Other digital pianos in this price range (Yamaha P115, for example) have rather basic user interfaces, so it’s refreshing to see an instrument with a large digital display at this price point. Perhaps it’s an unfair comparison to pit the Yamaha DGX660 vs P115 because they’re catering to different markets, but the DGX660 wins hands-down with its interface.

The large, backlit LCD display offers access to the Piano Room “ambiance” settings, affecting the main piano sounds by controlling the piano lid position – changing the touch sensitivity of the keyboard; and adjusting various resonances of different performance spaces, including concert halls and rehearsal rooms.

Yamaha markets the DGX660 as a powerful music production instrument, with a 6-track onboard sequencer and sound recorder. The microphone input is an exciting feature of this keyboard, and quite a rarity in instruments at this price point. The digital vocal effects sound good, and the ability to record your performance, both instrumentally and vocally, then export your audio recordings via USB, make this quite a desirable portable recording studio.

There is a selection of accompaniment styles which intelligently follow the chord sequence you play, providing a reasonably realistic backing band. I’d class the accompaniments as “demo-quality” over a more professional studio sound. There are 200 preset “styles”, and even a “Style Recommender” which chooses an appropriate backing accompaniment if you play a couple of lines of the melody or chord sequence.

The DGX660 can also connect to a range of iOS apps, providing active sheet music control that helps you learn a chosen piece of music. You can even buy an optional wireless adapter, which plugs into the front-facing USB port that allows you to connect to your app via Bluetooth.

Ease of Use

There are lots of features on this keyboard, but they’re all refreshingly easy to access, thanks to the digital display screen. The recording facilities are relatively basic, with limited editability once a track has been recorded – think of it as an old-school 6-track recorder over a DAW.

It won’t take you long to get your head around the interface, experimenting with sound combinations and accompaniments. The whole interface is clearly laid out with an intuitive button-access system.

Quality-Price ratio

I think that, for the price point, this is an excellent buy. If you’re looking for a keyboard that provides realistic sounds with a combination of features that will satisfy the budding composer/singer, you can’t really go wrong. There are very few other keyboards in this price range that offer such a wide variety of quality features.

You can buy this keyboard as a stand-alone machine, or as part of a bundle, which I’d definitely recommend. This bundle offers the DGX660, with a permanent piano bench, foot pedal (for damper), a dust cover, songbook, and a practice DVD. You can additionally purchase a foot-pedal unit which attaches directly to the piano bench, offering a soft, sostenuto and a damper pedal, in common with acoustic grand pianos.

PROs

  • The wide range of instrumental voices make this an excellent instrument for piano players and songwriters alike
  • The onboard 6-track recorder allows you to create CD-quality recordings, and export them via a USB stick
  • The Portable Grand Piano sounds are clear, warm and deliver bite
  • 151 instrumental voices offer a good variety of tonal color and texture to your recordings
  • Intelligent accompaniment, offering 200 styles of backing, is excellent for lifting the playing experience to a whole new level
  • The microphone input and pre-amp with digital effects are a brilliant feature for aspiring singers, accompanying themselves on the piano
  • Additional Bluetooth connectivity offers wireless connection to iOS and Android apps
  • Each of the piano sounds is editable, according to Piano Room resonance settings

CONs

  • The standard unit comes with just a single foot pedal. An optional foot pedal unit, offering three pedals, can be purchased separately
  • Some of the instrumental voices in the “orchestral” category are a little electronic sounding
  • The accompaniments are “demo” quality, rather than professional studio quality – they don’t sound hugely realistic

Comparisons

If you were to pit the DGX660 against the DGX650, there are many similarities, with a couple of minor differences. The DGX650 has the same keyboard action and build, but 128 note polyphony, while the DGX660 has 192 note polyphony. This means that long, sustained notes may drop out if you exceed 128 simultaneous notes with the DGX650 – but, to be honest, I wouldn’t consider that to be a real deal-breaker because you’re unlikely to really notice unless you’re playing really complex piano music.

The DGX650 has fewer instrumental voices, but again, whether you’re going to miss what you don’t have is a bit of a moot point. In the battle of the Yamaha DGX 650 vs 660, I don’t think there’s a great deal in it.

The Yamaha DGX660 vs P115 is a battle that really crosses the boundary of preference. The Yamaha P115 is a stage piano, designed for the gigging musician – it offers a great selection of realistic grand and electric piano sounds, and is light and portable enough to take out onto the road. The P115 has fewer of the “gimmicky” features of the DGX660, so is considered a professional level instrument, but when you pit the play-feel of the DGX660 against the P115, I think that the 660 wins. The P115, while feeling sturdy and built for long periods of battering and transportation, is a heavier-feel keyboard than the pleasingly light DGX660.

Verdict

 The DGX660 is a perfect companion for the home musician and the learner. It’s a great instrument for developing demo recordings and brilliant for the singer. There are enough features to keep any home player occupied, as well as a range of high-end instrumental sounds that will provide all the instrumental color you’ll need.