Yamaha DGX 230 Review
Yamaha is a brand that is known to make affordable entry-level musical instruments that offers excellent bang for the buck. The Yamaha DGX 230 fits that mould perfectly. In this review we’ll take a look at this 76-key digital piano that is targeted mainly at the budget-conscious beginner to early intermediate players.
The overall look and feel
There is nothing striking going on here. The Yamaha DGX-230 tries very hard to look like a premium product and it does so from a distance but up-close, you can see that there have been a few corners cut when it comes to the quality of the materials used. Do not get us wrong. It is reasonably sturdy and more than makes up for the price you pay for it. It a product on the cheaper end of the spectrum and that is quite apparent. Coming to the feel, there are no big complaints but again it lacks that smoothness you would get from a more expensive keyboard. The keys do move sideways a bit which can get annoying when doing fast runs up and down the keyboard but apart from that the keys are of pretty good quality. All the knobs and buttons respond really well and they should last a long time if treated with a bit of care. The overall look and feel won’t turn heads but exceeds expectations from a product of this price range.
The sound samples
One avenue where budget keyboards overdo it is in the sound sample area. There are over 400 sounds but most of them are unusable unless you are into something way off the beaten track. Most players will be able make use of about 20 or so of the sounds in their performances with the rest being there just to make up the numbers. As a beginner though it is nice to think that you have lots of options and the Yamaha DGX-230 achieves that. The sounds that you will be able to use are pretty decent and while they might not stand up to the sound samples found on a top shelf product, it still is very useable. In most cases only people with a trained ear will be able to make out any discernible difference. As long as you are playing to a casual audience or practicing by yourself, the quality of the on-board samples should not bother you that much.
Since this Yamaha instrument is marketed as a digital piano, it is only natural to expect it to feel like a real piano but like most entry-level options, it fails. The good thing though is that the DGX-230 is the closest you will come to a replacement for a real piano at this price. The keys of the Yamaha DGX-230 don’t feel as heavy as they would on a normal piano, but it is quite close. The feel is more akin to vintage synths and you can make it sound like an acoustic piano with a bit of effort. It is not a true replacement for a piano but at this price you really cannot expect it to be. What it can do really well is give beginners a fair idea of how the real thing might feel like. It is a great stepping stone and making the transition from this keyboard to a more genuine feeling digital piano or an actual piano is quite easy and can be done quite effortlessly.
Connectivity and extra features
Just like any other digital piano in this segment, the Yamaha DGX-230 is packed to the brim with features. Whether these features are useful is a different matter. Let us start with the various connectivity features. It can be hooked up to a computer via a USB type B cable and be used as MIDI controller. Can it replace a purpose built midi controller? Probably not. The velocity curve of the keys isn’t very precise and that can lead to inaccurate sound production in your DAW. What it can be used for is playing parts that require the full length of the 76 keys like a backing piano arrangement.
There is a 6-track recorder on board which can come in handy for practicing and some light-hearted performances but seems a bit under-equipped if you have something like a one-man-band type of performance in mind. The bass boost is great if you are into trance or disco type of music but for normal piano playing it can actually be a hindrance as it tends to drown the mids and stifle highs. The master EQ is also more of a gimmick. It is not a true EQ as all you get are 5 preset EQ settings which can either be a hit or a miss depending on the sound samples you are using and the sound system you are playing through. These work okay with the on-board speakers but begin to falter when the keyboard is plugged into a PA system or a set of amps.
The full keyboard mode: Is it just a gimmick?
This is another feature that is heavily mentioned in the feature description of the Yamaha DGX-230 keyboard and is definitely something that is not offered by its peers. We were a bit sceptical about it from the get go as features like these on entry-level keyboards end up being nothing more than flashy gimmicks that are rarely useable. This one though is quite useful if you want to use the auto-accompaniment and are a piano player accustomed to just fingering a single note with the left hand and playing chord with the right hand.
Normally, keyboards require you to play the entire chord with left hand for the auto-accompaniment to work properly and while you can get away with playing just a single note for major chords, every other chord has to be articulated with at least three notes if you want to get the right chord playing in the auto-accompaniment. What this feature does is that it detects the chords from the right hand instead allowing pianists to play like they normally do with the auto-accompaniment working in perfect sync. Is this useful? That depends on how much auto-accompaniment you use and how accustomed you are to just playing single notes with your left hand. If you do not belong in this group then this is one feature you will never engage in your life.
Sound quality and ease of operation
While you cannot expect earth shattering sound quality from a digital piano in this range, the Yamaha DGX-230 manages to do a pretty decent job. Through a professional sound setup, the samples sound pretty great and is comparable to more expensive digital pianos but the on-board speakers do feel like a bit of a let-down. It lacks punch in the mids and highs and can spoil the feel of a performance if your piece has strong bass lines as the bass can drown out the higher frequencies. This does make the auto-accompaniment a bit punchier but as a digital piano, the frequency response of the speakers are a failure.
The Yamaha DGX 230 is quite easy to use as it is primarily targeted towards beginners. It hardly takes a few hours to get acquainted with all the various features allowing you to concentrate on the actual playing without getting distracted by trying to remember where a certain feature is.
The Yamaha Education Suite
Like every other entry-level keyboard, this one too comes with an education suite that claims it can help you master playing the piano. This is nothing more than a glorified gimmick. Like every other similar system, it can at best help you learn a few songs but it can barely impress upon anyone the subtle nuances of music. This is just one of those things that manufacturers such as Yamaha put on their products as everyone else is also doing the same. The reality is that this is probably one of the most useless features on this digital piano and you will still need a teacher or a music school to help you become a true musician.
Effects and auto-accompaniment
This was one area that pleasantly surprised us. Generally, the on-board effects are worthless and you are better off using an external processor or something found on your amp. Many of the reverb options on this piano were quite useable. The chorus effects were a bit underwhelming and the harmony effects were quite mediocre though.
If you are someone who uses the auto-accompaniment feature a lot then the Yamaha DGX-230 is the best keyboard you can get at this price point. Not only are some of the styles really great, you also have the option of adding more styles through a computer. The “Full Keyboard Mode” is especially handy and allows even hardcore pianists to dabble their hands in some auto-accompaniment. While no auto-accompaniment system can replace a true band, the one found on this digital piano is as good as this system can get.
When shopping in this price range, it is best to keep expectations low and realistic. If you look at this digital piano from that viewpoint then you will be pleasantly surprised quite a few times. You get bucket loads of features, pretty decent build-quality and a passable sound quality and feel. It is a great first or second keyboard. Experienced players and pros should stay away from this product as it won’t satisfy you even as a practice keyboard. However, for those who are still in the early parts of their journey to becoming a pianist or a keyboardist, the DGX 230 is a godsend as it is one of best starting points that is very forgiving and makes the learning curve quite bearable.
- Excellent value for money
- Great connectivity options
- Great reverb effects
- Superb auto-accompaniment features
- On-board speakers drown out the mids and highs
- Limited EQ options
- Lacks the feel of a true piano
- Rated 2.5 stars
- Yamaha DGX 230
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