Yamaha YPG-535 Review
Yamaha has a knack of making some great digital pianos at the affordable price range. If you are looking for a decent digital piano in the $500 range then you would be spoilt for choice. Yamaha has introduced another variable to this equation in the form of the Yamaha YPG-535. We put this 88-key digital piano through the grinder to see if it is indeed a great digital piano as Yamaha claim or just another affordable option that comes up short.
Digital pianos are not musical instruments that generally tend to look good. They are rather disproportioned and that often tends to give them a gawky appearance. The Yamaha YPG 535 is one of those rare instruments that actually looks quite striking. The digital piano is predominately silver in color with black accents surrounding the keys and a blue backlit screen that all combines well to give the Yamaha YPG 535 a rather distinguished look. The buttons and knobs are also a combination of black and white making it quite visually appealing. The speaker grilles are a darker shade of silver and it looks quite good on a stand making this at home on a stage at least from a visual standpoint.
It isn’t too big and does not look complicated clearly suggesting that it has been targeted towards beginners and intermediates however, the more accomplished pianists might not find any use for it. You can tell that a lot of attention has been given to the way this digital piano looks and that pays dividends in the form of being a unique instrument. Almost every other digital piano in this price segment looks very similar and there is little to choose from when it comes to the aesthetics. The Yamaha YPG 535 rewrites this part of the game and gives pianists who are visual connoisseurs something to cheer about.
It is also not a very deep digital piano keeping it from looking bulky and gaudy from the sides.
The biggest concern anyone would have at this price range would be the sound. The sounds on the Yamaha YPG 535 left us with mixed emotions. They aren’t ground-breaking but they aren’t unusable either. It uses the same sampling technology found on the P-45 and the piano sounds are quite usable even in a professional setting. Where the Yamaha YPG 535 goes wrong is a crime that almost every other digital piano in this segment is guilty of and that is focusing on quantity rather than quality. There are eight piano sounds out of which only three seemed satisfactorily good enough to be played in public. Almost all the electric piano sounds are good and a couple of organ and string sounds are good. The rest of the sounds, however, are a big letdown.
Some of the sounds seem so phony that they appear to be making a parody of the real instruments. A pianist would not need these sounds but it does bring up the question of whether Yamaha could have made the piano sounds even better. That is, however, a pitfall of this segment. Yamaha wants to cater to a wider audience that includes keyboardists in the mix. If you are a pianist who occasionally needs the use of other sounds then the Yamaha YPG 535 will feel like a bit of a compromise.
The sounds are okay but not magnificent. The middle keys sound fine but the sound starts to lose its punch at the upper and lower extremities of the keyboard. As a keyboardist, you can find a use for this digital piano but you will soon outgrow this instrument. This again highlights the fact that somewhere down the line, you will need a more expensive digital piano or a keyboard if you want to reach the upper echelons of the musical world.
There are a total of 127 instrument sounds complemented by 12 Drum and SFX kits and an additional 361 XGlite sounds. The additional sounds feel more weird than funky and most of them are useless for normal sort of music. A lot of this inferior quality can be attributed to the 32-note polyphony when most other digital pianos in this segment offer at least 64-note polyphony.
The onboard speakers are quite okay though they lack a great bass response. They also tend to distort at high volumes. An external sound system will be needed if you plan to perform with this in public though we would not recommend performing in public with the Yamaha YPG-535 at all.
This is another big giveaway of the fact that this is a digital piano primary meant for a beginner. It uses the Graded Soft Touch method which makes it quite light to the touch. While this can be a great thing for the beginner, it can lead to the development of wrong techniques and the transition from this digital piano to a more expensive version or an actual piano can be quite difficult. It is graded which makes it is similar to the real deal but not in a convincing enough manner. It is, however, good news for keyboardists and music creators who aren’t accomplished pianists as it provides them with a full 88-key layout that is relatively easier and more forgiving to use.
Another annoying issue with the Yamaha YPG 535 is that the keybed is quite noisy. At low volumes, you can hear a distinctive clicking noise which can be incredibly annoying and distracting. The keys are also quite slippery and while they do not look cheap, they certainly feel and sound cheap. At under $500 it might be asking for too much but the way this digital piano feels is a big disappointment. It shows that Yamaha focused on all the wrong areas. At least that is what it feels from the perspective of a pianist.
The additional features
This area is a mixed bag. Normally we do not hold high hopes for the onboard effects but the Yamaha YPG 535 managed to pleasantly surprise us. There are 9 types of reverbs, 4 types of choruses and 26 type of harmonies. The reverbs are all very useful and add a lot of presence to the sounds. A couple of the choruses and nearly half of the harmonies are quite good and this makes the effects section on the Yamaha YPG 535 quite versatile. We were even able to get some of the otherwise plain sounding tones to sound nice but that did take a lot of tinkering and trial and error.
The pitch bend wheel is placed at the normal position and works quite well. There is a master EQ that allows you to calibrate the sound for onboard speakers, external speakers, and headphone. You cannot really get into the sound characteristics and have to accept one of the standard settings. These EQ setting are a gamble and they worked with some systems while making the sound worse with others. We also encountered situations where the headphone preset worked best with an external speaker while the external speaker setting worked better with a particular set of headphones.
The standard dual and split mode are available. We did run into trouble in the dual mode. When playing intricate pieces with strings or a similarly heavy sound as one of the layers we could hear the earliest note dropping out possibly due to the Yamaha YPG 535 running out of memory, again highlighting its 32-note polyphony limitations. We do not expect beginners to run into this problem but it is something that will always restrict the Yamaha YPG 535 from ever being considered a serious digital piano.
There is an auto-accompaniment and learning section and these seem more like gimmicks and something you can just play around with.
You can also do some light recording thanks to the 6-track recording option. You can save these recordings on an external USB drive too which is quite a great feature at this price point.
The portability and connectivity
With a stand, the Yamaha YPG 535 weighs in at 37 pounds which is quite good. That and the ability to work on batteries makes it quite the portable customer. Connectivity wise you get all the standard options. You get a sustain pedal port and an audio port at the back. A USB drive port and a USB to host port is available that allows you to connect this to a computer and use it as a MIDI controller. It worked quite satisfactorily in this regards. There is also a knob at the back that controls the contrast of the screen. It does come bundled with a sustain pedal but it is a cheap piece of plastic and not meant for any serious levels of playing.
Final thoughts Yamaha YPG-535
A common theme of the sub-$500 segment is that there will be some level of cost-cutting. The Yamaha YPG 535 sadly does this cost-cutting in all the wrong areas. It is really good in areas where you would not expect it such as the quality of the onboard effects and the multi-track recording capabilities. However, there are too many compromises in the areas that really matter such as the sound and the feel.
Normally, digital pianos in this segment are strictly meant for beginners and often do that job quite well. The Yamaha YPG 535 is one of those rare examples that even beginners will find inadequate. The only people we would recommend this digital piano is for DAW users and even they have other better options. It does have a few good qualities but the flaws are too big to ignore. It is a classic case of a beauty without substance.
– Attractive looks
– Huge collection of sounds
– Easy to use interface
– Decent selection of usable effects
– Multi-track recording and USB flash drive compatibility
– Most of the sounds are terrible
– One of the worst feeling keys
– Graded Soft Touch too light for a pianist
– Poor quality sustain pedal
– 32-note polyphony leading to poor sound quality
- Rated 2.5 stars
- Yamaha YPG-535
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