Whether you are a beginner or a pro, you should be familiar with the best digital piano and keyboard brands available in 2021. With so many different models available, choosing the perfect instrument can be a bit confusing. Getting to know the best brands, what they are good at, and sometimes what they aren’t good at, will help you avoid many unsuitable options. A little brand knowledge won’t only save you time in your search; it will help you make the right choice, whatever you need. So, let’s check out the best-loved manufacturers in the industry.
Here are the best digital piano and keyboard brands:
History that can’t be matched
The Yamaha corporation has a history in the musical instrument industry that is difficult to match. Founded in 1887, Yamaha has played a significant role in advancing musical technology, from innovative piano building techniques to some of the most powerful electronic instruments ever made. Yamaha’s 130+ year history includes many periods of major development for the company. For example, the 1960s seen Yamaha add digital instruments to their acoustic range, while the 1970s-1990s seen incredible evolution in synth technology.
One of the things that makes Yamaha such a giant in the music world is that they make something for everyone. Yamaha manufactures some of the cheapest keyboards to some of the world’s most expensive synths and pianos. Their range is too vast to list, but it includes beginner keyboards, arranger keyboards, stage pianos, digital pianos, and synthesizers.
Something that Yamaha does very well is not over-complicating the playing experience. From high-end pianos to sub $100 keyboards, the same commitment to being intuitive and user-friendly remains. Another mainstay has been their desire to stay on the cutting-edge of sampling and sound design throughout the years.
That brings us to some of Yamaha’s defining models, starting with the Clavinova digital piano line that optimizes the luxury piano feel. The Clavinova (CLP) range also led to the YDP line-up that includes some more budget-friendly options that are fantastic for beginners. There are two that stand out for the keyboards and synths, the DX7 and the Motif. These two spawned countless hit sings through the 1980s and 1990s from early synth-pop to new jack swing and hip-hop. For beginners through to advanced players, check out the Yamaha P-45, YDP-144, and the CP88 from Yamaha’s current line-up.
- Has something to offer everyone.
- Outstanding sound engines.
- Intuitive user-interfaces.
- Interactive apps and learning material.
- Beginner models can be outgrown fairly quickly.
Yamaha, more than any other manufacturer, caters for every level of musician with huge success. Whatever you need, whatever style you play, Yamaha is always a good place to start.
Roland is one of the best-known brands in the industry, and that’s because their keyboards have helped shape genres and periods in music. Roland was founded in 1972 with the sole purpose of building musical instruments. That’s an important fact because even titans like Yamaha and Casio came into music from different industries. Keyboards like the Jupiter 8 and Juno-6 put Roland on the map as a heavyweight brand.
Their range includes pretty much everything that has keys. It goes from synths, accordions, and stage pianos to stunningly realistic console digital pianos. Roland also makes some excellent MIDI controllers, something not all manufacturers on our list do. As far as digital pianos go, Roland’s FP series is one that students and aspiring artists loved. The FP series offers a great piano sound with a small section of other voices and no complications.
One of the more practical things that Roland always seems to get right is the build quality. Their RD stage pianos are some of the most trusted amongst touring musicians because they are built like tanks. How a keyboard feels will always be judged by personal preference, but in my opinion, hammer-action keys rarely feel better than they do on a Roland. They truly make some of the best weighted keyboards you will come across. The upper models even have a synthetic ivory feel that stops your fingers from slipping during performance.
At the beginner end, keyboards like the Roland Go are fantastic with their interactive learning functions. The FP range and the new RD-88 through to the RD-2000, covers the intermediate through to advanced levels with increasing price points.
- Innovative SuperNATURAL sound engine.
- Fantastic hammer-action keys.
- Something for most budgets.
- Iconic models.
- Sometimes over complicated at the very high-end.
For years I was a very happy Roland player, having owned multiple FP and RD pianos. I still love the feel of a Roland keybed over most others. Primarily aimed at intermediate to advanced players, but they do offer a few options for beginners.
The technology kings
Korg has been around since 1962, and unlike some other manufacturers, they didn’t start with acoustic pianos. Korg has always been a very technology-driven brand, meaning they are always looking to advance rather than recreate. In some ways, Korg shared a similar journey to Yamaha, albeit with a shorter history. Where Yamaha had the DX7, Korg had their M1 synths. Yamaha had the Motif, and Korg had their Trinity and Triton models.
Korg has a wide range on offer, from MIDI controllers under $100 to workstations that will set you back thousands. Because Korg is so technology-driven, they have focused on synths and workstations more than anything else. However, they have successfully entered the console digital piano market with the likes of the C1 Air.
The thing that the C1 Air has in its favor is the sound quality it delivers at a relatively low price. Now, we are still talking around $1500, which isn’t cheap. But, compared to models from other manufacturers with similar sound quality, it’s good value for money.
Where Korg really shines is when it comes to stage pianos and workstations. In particular, the flagship Kronos and its more affordable relative, the Korg Krome. These performance powerhouses deliver a fast and creative workflow thanks to their large touchscreens and intuitive layout. If you want something a little more vintage that still has the modern workflow, you need to check out the SV-2S.
Not every Korg was a huge success, the Oasys in its day (around a decade ago) was an unnecessary, overpriced showcase of technology rather than the piano players’ dream it should have been (in my opinion). Since then, Korg has gone from strength to strength. Another area that Korg competes very well in is in arranger keyboards with their PA series instruments.
- Korg workstations and synths will compete with any.
- Very performance-friendly for the stage.
- Great hammer-action keys in their higher-end models.
- High-quality sound right across the price ranges.
- Not many console digital pianos on offer.
- More focused on intermediate to advanced players.
Korg’s beginner keyboards tend to be their MIDI controllers, so you may be disappointed if you want an entry-level piano. But, if you are looking for a digital piano over $1000, a Korg might be better valued than a Yamaha or Roland of the same price. It will be personal preference again, but in that price range, Korg competes very well, although they fall short of the most expensive Yamaha/Roland pianos. Stage pianos, workstations, and synths are a different story; if you have the money, a Korg is as good as any is this department.
The session musician’s choice
As a company, Nord started back in 1983 with their first instrument, the DPP1 (Digital Percussion Plate 1). The synths came a little over a decade later in 1995 with the first version of the popular Nord Lead. A couple of years later came the release of the Nord Modular, the first-ever digital modular synth. Entering the 2000s, Nord began to map out their future with the Nord Electro and Nord Stage introduction.
Unlike some other manufacturers that we have highlighted, Nord does not have a hugely varied selection available. Nord keyboards are very much aimed at the more advanced players, and their price tag reflects that. The Nord range is mostly built on fantastic piano and synth sounds, but includes the C2D organ, the Nord Drum, and Piano Monitors. Nord offers dedicated stage piano’s, piano/synth hybrids, and fully-fledged performance synths, all of which are very high-end.
The most striking thing about any Nord instrument is the iconic red color. The color is a very deliberate act to distinguish themselves from other manufacturers, and it works. At a glance, Nord keyboards can look a little complicated because the top panel looks very busy. However, looks are a bit deceiving here; everything is neatly grouped in specific sections. Nord likes to do things their own way, and a good example of that is the modulation peg. Rather than a wheel or a joystick, Nord keyboards have a little wooden modulation peg, shaped nicely for your thumb. It sounds like a small feature, but it’s fantastic to use, and it’ one of the things you come to expect from a Nord.
Because of the cost, these keyboards aren’t for beginners, but they are hugely popular amongst session musicians, producers, and performing artists. The most popular would be the Nord Stage 3, which is the ultimate hybrid of amazing piano voices, killer synth sounds, and a fantastic organ engine. It’s the keyboard that can do everything, and as far as sound quality goes, it’s hard to fault. The Nord Lead is also one of the most popular; it’s the one that started it all. Now, you have the Nord Wave 2 and the Nord Lead A1, which is a streamlined version of the classic synth.
Playing devil’s advocate, I’d have to point out that I’m not a massive fan of the weighted keys in the Stage 3 and Piano 4 models. There is no doubt they are premium keybeds, but my personal preference leans towards some of the other high-end brands in this area.
- Premium everything from sound engines to build quality.
- Specialized for advanced users/deeper functionality.
- Perfect keyboards for gigging.
- Prices start high and get higher.
- Not suitable for beginners.
The first thing that I should say is that Nord keyboards are incredible instruments, that’s not in doubt. When you start to move into the really top-rated pianos, you should be at a point in your playing where you notice the smaller details. It can’t just sound right, it has to feel right, and personally, I’ve always preferred the feel of some other manufacturers. But, please try one out because, like many, many others, you may feel differently. As for the sound, build quality, looks, and anything else worth mentioning, Nord’s are almost perfect.
The safe choice for beginners
Casio is definitely one of the big players in the digital piano world and has been for some time. The company was founded in 1946, but known more for other consumer electricals than musical instruments. By the 1990s, Casio firmly established itself as a maker of great beginner keyboards, and into the 2000s, they were producing some of the best digital pianos around.
Casio shares something in common with Yamaha, and it’s that they produce instruments for all levels. Although, Casio is often unfairly looked at as being just for beginners. They always offer value for money, and sometimes value for money is looked down on in musical snobbery. Don’t be fooled, Casio may lean more towards the beginner market, but they make some stunning pianos.
The Privia range of digital pianos put Casio on the map because they sound great and are reasonably affordable. What the Privia range does best is offers a fantastic instrument for players to develop and improve. They don’t feel as real as the high-end Yamaha or Roland digital pianos, but they do feel good, they generally cost less, and you won’t outgrow it too quickly.
If you do want something a bit more upmarket, there is the Celviano range. The downside is that the keybed is the same as the Privia range; the upside is that it comes with Casio’s AiR sound engine, and it’s stunning. If you want to go one step further, you can look at the Grand Hybrid models with real wooden keys and a fantastic hammer action keybed.
The Privia range is the most popular, like the PX-770 and PX-870. We would give a special mention to the PX-S3000 as it’s likely still the slimmest 88-key hammer-action stage piano available. Which brings me to my next point, while Casio may lean towards beginners, the PX-S3000 is a solid choice for any gigging musician who wants a great-sounding, lightweight piano.
- Great value for money.
- Awesome for beginners.
- Better sound quality than some might expect.
- Hammer-action doesn’t match the top brands.
Casio has to be included in the top brands because it makes it easy for people to play and learn; that’s what it’s all about. Even if you are an intermediate to advanced player, but don’t want to overspend, you should check them out.
The piano specialists
Out of all the manufacturers on our list, Kawai is the piano specialists. They make some of the most beautiful acoustic and digital pianos in the world without the distraction of manufacturing countless other instruments. Founded in 1927, Kawai isn’t a brand that many beginners will become too familiar with unless you have money to burn. They are reassuringly expensive, to say the least.
To give you an idea of how expensive they can get, their CP series concert grand digital piano sells for over $20,000.
The entry-level to Kawai digital pianos is thankfully much lower than $20,000. Although, at the lower end with something like the Kawai ES110, you will still pay around $700. The trouble is that when you have $700 to spend, you will get far more value from another manufacturer than you will from Kawai. If you are able to go that next step, the ES8 is around $1600, and that’s where things start to get really interesting.
Kawai pianos deliver incredible sound and feel, especially at the mid to high-end; it’s hard to beat. Kawai offers two different types of hammer-action keys between their lower and higher-priced instruments. The lower-priced keyboards feature a fairly typical but very good triple sensor key action. The more expensive models sport Kawai’s Grand Feel real wooden keys, which are just gorgeous to play.
If I had to pick out a couple of Kawai models available at a realistic price for the average musician, I’d start with the ES8 mentioned above. I’d follow that with the MP11SE stage piano and CA49 console digital piano that comes in under $3000.
- Experts in all things piano.
- Incredible realism.
- Grand Feel keys are beautiful to play.
- Wide range of digital pianos.
- Very expensive.
- Limited sounds beyond piano.
- Not suitable for beginners.
If we could forget about price, Kawai is possibly the best digital piano makers around; they are beautiful. Sadly, we can’t ignore the price, and for that reason, it’s hard to choose Kawai. If you want versatility, then other manufacturers will almost certainly offer more at any given price range. However, if you are purely focused on the piano sound and feel, and don’t care about other voices or functions, that’s when you should look to Kawai.
The comeback story
It all began with the American inventor Ray Kurzweil who was a pioneer of speech recognition technology. His passion for technology soon combined with his love for music and Kurzweil keyboards weren’t far behind. Despite not being the best-known brand on our list, Kurzweil once dominated the digital piano market. In the 1980s, it was difficult to find a digital piano that sounded more realistic than a Kurzweil, and the backing of artists like Stevie Wonder didn’t hurt.
Within the industry, and amongst more advanced players, Kurzweil still holds some of that reputation as a fantastic-sounding piano. But, we will warn you now, they have not aged as well as some of their competitors. It could be down to new ownership of the company or a lack of enthusiasm to lead the way as they once did.
So, why are they on our list? It’s simple, the overall quality has slipped, but the high-end Kurzweil’s are still up there with the best of them. The Kurzweil range starts around $600 with the SP1, which is an 88-key stage piano. The high-end of their stage piano range caps at about $5000 with the Kurzweil Forte. There are various models between those, but in my opinion, it’s not worth looking too much at the lower end of the range. The PC4 synth workstation at around $2000 is a good indication of where the range starts to find that Kurzweil quality of old. Anything under that doesn’t seem to be made with the same pride in the Kurzweil name.
The console digital pianos are a different story; they remain pretty expensive and very impressive. Kurzweil’s CUP1 is available for around $3000, and it’s one of the best-looking digital pianos you will ever see. It looks like the real thing, the hammer-action feel, is as good as it gets, and the sound is stunning.
Kurzweil manufacture arranger keyboards, too, like the KP110, and it’s certainly worth a look. The problem is that they are likely still some way behind Yamaha and Korg in that area.
- Remarkable realism.
- Stunning sound.
- Beautiful console/cabinets.
- Great feel.
- Lesser quality control at the beginner end.
Kurzweil is a slightly confusing one to judge; on the one hand, it’s easy to dismiss them; on the other, they make some of the best digital pianos available. We will keep it simple; if you are spending less than $1000, you should avoid Kurzweil. But, if you’re spending upwards of $1600, you should check them out at the least. Finally, if you’re spending $3000 or more, you must consider Kurzweil, especially for a console digital piano.
New kid on the block
Dexibell is the newcomer on the list, but they haven’t done much wrong in their short history so far. As far as we understand, this Italian manufacturer recruited a team of designers and engineers who had previously worked with Roland. The result is a mix of that Roland know-how with Dexibell’s modern approach to processing.
The processing that we are referring to is the CORTEX-Quadcore processor that powers the VIVO piano range. This kind of processor is more often found in desktop or laptop computers, so there is no brain power shortage. Dexibell’s range covers stage pianos, portable keyboards, home digital pianos, and digital organs.
Having such a powerful processor is only a good thing if it’s being used properly, that’s where Dexibell’s True to Life (T2L) sound engine comes in. The piano sound engine has been optimized for use with the quad-core processor, and together they deliver a very precise and articulate piano performance. It works with 24-bit sampling bit depth, so the dynamic range and subtle detail in your playing is something quite special.
For stage pianos, you should check out Dexibell’s VIVO S-line keyboards. They might not be the most fashionable yet, but there are few complaints from buyers. If I had one small complaint, it’s that I’m not in love with the feel, and for $4000, I should be. The home digital piano range is the Dexibell H-line, and I have a similar opinion on them. They sound amazing, but I don’t love the feel – remember, this is just my opinion, you might not agree.
Dexibell is also looking to challenge Nord’s dominance in the digital organ market with their Classico L3 and Combo J7 organs.
- Incredible piano sound engine.
- Well laid out design.
- Built to last.
- Feel could be better.
Dexibell, in my opinion, is not quite there yet. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t love to own the VIVO S9, I absolutely would. My feeling is that the Dexibell team has done a lot in a short time, and still have a few small things to improve to compete with the big players. If they do so, they will be a force, because the piano sounds on their keyboards are absolutely gorgeous.
As you can see, we haven’t gone too technical on specific keyboards here; it’s not the place to do so. We want to give you an understanding, in simple terms, of what each manufacturer has to offer. The reality is that every manufacturer on our list has something good to offer, the key is finding out if it’s good for you.
Once you identify the brands that offer what you are looking for, then it’s time to dive deeper into the technical detail. When you get to that point, please make sure you check out our reviews on some of the various models that we highlighted in this article.
Some brands offer great value for money but don’t reach the same quality as others. Some brands provide amazing quality but will cost you an arm and a leg to own it. As always, our goal is to help you maximize your budget and find the keyboard or piano that will get the best out of your playing. We hope that this article has given you the foundation you need to start your search and find the one. We are here to help. Good luck.