Yamaha P-115 Review
Yamaha has made the process of manufacturing affordable but dependable musical instruments an art form. They have in recent years expanded their expertise into the slightly more powerful but still reasonably priced digital piano segment. In fact the P105 was their best-seller for a long time. The Yamaha P115 is meant to replace the P105 and has some rather large shoes to fill. Yamaha had the tough choice of making this digital piano both feature-rich and high-quality. We gave this model a thorough examination and here is everything we found out from our scrutiny.
This is a typical modern digital piano that uses the long and slender layout of a full 88-key form factor to its advantage. It is rather stylish to look at. The top of the digital piano has two narrow speakers and a few buttons but it has still managed to look pretty decent. It is also very unintimidating which again gives away its target audience, the beginner and the early intermediate pianist.
The lack of a screen and a pitch bend wheel also tell us that this is a digital piano for the pianist and not an 88-key keyboard trying to be a jack of all trades. The back of the keyboard that will face the audience if you use this on a stage is a big let-down though. It looks cheap and plasticky and does not fit the image of the rest of the digital piano. The feel isn’t that bad though.
The P-series is all about portability and the P115 certainly lives up to that moniker quite nicely. The build quality seems good from afar but on closer examination you can see some signs of cost-cutting. Hopefully this means that this digital piano hasn’t wasted any of its focus on superfluous things and actually sounds and plays quite good. Let us dive deeper and find out how it does on fronts that really matter for a pianist.
The P115 boasts a polyphony of 192 keys and the tones sound deeper and have a better definition to them. The timbre is especially great. There are 14 tones available. Three of these are of the piano and three are electric piano. They sounds were a bit disappointing and sound just okayish for the price. The other tones include organs, strings, bass, vibraphone and harpsichord and the more versatile pianist can find some use for them. The sounds are all quite usable but somewhere the piano sounds felt a bit lacking. They aren’t bad, but aren’t all that great either which is disappointing for a product that feels like the piano has been its biggest focus.
The grand piano tone is by far the best. The bright piano is okayish while the mellow grand is way too muted to find any actual use. The other sounds are quite satisfactory but considering there are so few tones available, we expected a slightly higher quality with each of them.
The on-board speakers are also quite bad. They are limited by their size and shape and do not really do justice to the sound engine. Things do get a lot better once the Yamaha P115 is connected to an external sound system. You have to tinker a bit with the effects and EQ to get it to sound just right. It will not blow your mind but for $600 it does it just about does its job. Just that the sound could have been a bit better to justify it as a true digital piano. Only three piano tones also feel a bit too minimalistic in our opinion.
The keybed on the P115 employs Yamaha’s Graded Hammer Standard and is quite brilliant at this price. While it is not exactly like the real deal, it isn’t far off. Most pianists will not complaint too much about the way it feels. The keys are weighted and replicate the feel of an actual piano quite authentically. There is some disparity in the feel between the black and white keys but it is barely noticeable and something shared by every other digital piano in this segment.
The keys themselves are pretty normal. They look and feel like plastic but are of good quality. They do not become slippery even when played for long. The black keys have a matte finish which makes them look cooler but somewhat inhibit playing as fast runs on the black keys didn’t feel as smooth as they needed to be. There is nothing to brag about the feel here. It is pretty standard but is as good as it is going to get at this price. An ivory feel keybed would have been slightly better.
The hammer action is quite authentic and professional pianists can practice on this digital piano without having to worry about putting their technique at risk. This highlights its secondary use capabilities. It could make a great digital piano for professional musicians on the go.
We got a sense that Yamaha were in two minds when deciding the features on this digital piano. That is best evident in the additional capabilities of this digital piano. It offers four excellent reverb options. There is a sound boost option that improves the timbre response. However, the biggest addition is that of the Duelling piano partner. You have ten styles to choose from and it is quite easy to use. All you have to do is play a chord with your left hand and the Yamaha P115 will transform it into an intricate piano accompaniment based on the style you chose.
This is a fun feature and can be used to sound better than you actually are which is its biggest problem. We cannot think of any professional who would use this feature while it will only inhibit beginners as it will act like a crutch they can lean on instead of learning genuine piano techniques. Getting it to match a certain rhythm and other musicians can also be a pain sometimes.
Apart from this there is a pretty generic rhythm section. There is nothing to complaint here and it works like every other auto-accompaniment system offered on Yamaha’s digital pianos and keyboards. A metronome and a recording feature are great tools for the beginner and can help pianists starting out on their musical endeavour make big strides. You can connect it to a sustain pedal for a more nuanced performance. It comes with a very generic and crappy sustain pedal but we would suggest getting a better one for yourself if you intend to use the sustain-pedal feature.
Connectivity and ease of use
The Yamaha P115 is pretty barebones when it comes to connectivity. There are two headphone jacks which is great and. Standard audio jacks both for stereo and mono sound output are available. There is also a USB to host port. This allows you to connect the P115 to a computer and use it as a MIDI controller for a DAW. We did our standard test of checking it with all the popular DAWs and it worked without issues on all of them.
The hammer action also translated into the DAW data and while it was great to record piano pieces, playing other instrument sounds often felt a bit off. Thankfully, this can be fixed with a little bit of tinkering. The lack of a screen doesn’t feel like a big inhibition as everything is laid out neatly and controlling and changing stuff is quite easy. The lack of too many options also helps in this regards.
If you do feel the need for a screen then you can use Yamaha’s Digital Piano App to control every aspect about this instrument in real time provided you have an iPhone or an iPad. We found it quite useful and one cool feature is the ability to save a set of settings so you can quickly bring up a particular sound with all the effects and other settings you tweaked for that sound. This is a pretty easy to use digital piano and we have no complaints in this arena.
Final thoughts on the Yamaha P-115
The Yamaha P115 was one of those instruments that constantly left us wondering as to what its primary focus and intended purpose. At times it felt like a beginner’s digital piano while at others it felt like something meant as a practice tool for professionals. Let us analyse both these possibilities individually.
The sound quality or lack of it makes it feel like something more suited for beginners. It feels like Yamaha could have done better with the 192 key polyphony capabilities. The addition of a duelling feature while done with good intentions would always hold back aspiring pianists. On the other hand, its portability and feel suggest it was meant to be useable for even the most consummate professional out there when on the move.
The big question is should you buy it? The answer is a disappointing no as you can get better beginner digital pianos as well as better practice pianos for this price. It is okay on both fronts but doesn’t justify the $600 price tag. Yamaha should have focused on the sound a bit more and this could actually have been one of the best digital pianos in this segment but sadly, it falls short.
– Easy to use interface
– Great feeling keys with authentic hammer action
– Very portable
– Digital Piano App works quite well
– Stylish looks
– Duelling piano partner feels like a cheap replacement for hard-earned technique
– Only three piano sounds
– Piano sounds could have been better
– Matte black keys can add a bit of inhibition to fast runs
– Looks rather cheap at the back which could be significant if used on a stage
- Rated 3 stars
- Yamaha P-115
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