Best Intermediate Piano Review in 2018

The market for digital pianos can be confusing to navigate because of all the options. The right piano also hinges on your experience level. To make the selection more complicated, an intermediate piano means different things to different manufacturers. That is why we have put together a guide and list to help you navigate the fraught process of choosing which piano best suits your needs.

Value Section:

Best Intermediate Piano

With the plethora of digital pianos on the market, each with their own suite of features, it can be exceedingly difficult to parse what is the degree you need. While the piano with the most bells and whistles might seem like the obvious choice, your experience level will play a large factor in determining which of those features you are likely to use.

Unfortunately, the line between a beginner and advanced player is blurry--especially if you rely on the digital piano manufacturers

Unfortunately, the line between a beginner and advanced player is blurry--especially if you rely on the digital piano manufacturers to decide for you. Intermediate pianos have no set designation and instead require a smart assessment to identify what this level of player actually needs. To assist in your search, we have catalogued some of the primary features found on digital pianos that will matter most to intermediate pianists as well some features you can skip.

Key Count:

This is a fairly easy factor to determine. The standard number of keys on a piano is 88. Digital pianos, however, can come with a range of keys both fewer and more numerous than the standard set. Often, fewer keys can help beginners in the early stages of understanding the basics. They present a less intimidating front while focusing on the fundamentals--exactly where a beginner’s focus needs to be. These pianos can have as few as 49 keys in total, generally focused around the octaves that beginner scores will stay.

Counter-intuitively, advanced players will generally require a less-than-full key count as well, though for vastly different reasons. Advanced and professional players often play outside of their home and need a piano they take with them on the go. The full 88 key pianos can be too cumbersome to lug around from venue to venue. These players often prefer to settle on a 61 key count piano which provides the ease of transfer with an octave range still able to play advanced music.

As such, the intermediate piano is best suited with 88 keys to allow the intermediate player the tools needed to develop higher level skills while still maintaining a fundamental approach.

Voices:

Unlike with key count, the voices of an intermediate piano will generally want to fit between the beginner and advanced players, following a more intuitive scale. Beginners do not really need anything more than the basic piano sound. Of course, rarely will you find even the cheapest digital pianos that do not come with a fairly large suite of voices already installed. However, the beginner is unlikely to truly understand their purpose, and they may serve as a nice distraction more than anything else.

The advanced player, on the other hand, will often make use of a wider range of voices--many of them unrelated to pianos altogether. Professionals will incorporate woodwinds, brass, string, and even synthesized voices into their compositions, playing two different melodies with each voice simultaneously. Obviously, this is well beyond the intermediate player.

Still, an intermediate piano should at least come equipped with amazing replications of not only the piano voice, but other instruments that are similarly built and whose scores resemble the more traditional percussive instrument. Harpsichord and organs will be the two most prominent voices that need excellent reproduction quality after the piano. Depending on the player, multiple varieties of all three instruments should be included.

Key Quality:

Often a primary end goal of any budding pianist is to play a concert. This means an auditorium of people will listen to them play an acoustic piano. However, much of playing music is based on feel, and many beginner digital pianos do not truly attempt to recreate that quality. Once a player has progressed and is ready for an more advanced piano, this factor becomes far more important as they are likely either playing minor concerts or getting ready to.

The weighting of the keys and feel of the actual material matter more here. In fairness, you will likely want something as close to the real thing as possible. This is one of the few features where both intermediate and advanced players require the same degree of quality. It serves poorly to practice on an instrument at home that will throw off your rhythm and finesse on stage.

Portability:

This factor is either necessary or negligible. It really depends on the player in question. If the player intends to eventually play with a band or jam out with friends, portability will become a much bigger concern. However, the intermediate player may not yet be ready to take their skills on stage. That does not mean they should not, and it can be good for intermediate players to play with other musicians as part of their training. However, moving an piano to 3 or more venues is less likely to be a constant feature of their training.

Still, if the player finds himself in that position or needs to transport the piano as part of their basic instruction, portability will need to be considered. Unfortunately, 88 key pianos--which is the appropriate number at this skill level--do not move easily. They are often large and bulky. When looking for portability, weight will be one factor that can often distinguish competitors as can size dimensions.

Price:

An intermediate piano demonstrates that the player has invested serious time into learning their art, and the investment in tools should reflect that. However, this does not mean that you should throw caution to the wind and break the bank. Instead, you would be better served purchasing a digital piano that is under $1000, but more than the few hundred a beginner piano will generally run you.

If the player is a burgeoning prodigy and you know for certain will continue to play all the way to advanced and even professional levels, then feel free to splurge $1000 or more in their intermediate stage. If like most of us, however, your player shows sincere interest but has a long way to go before achieving an advanced status, finding a reasonably priced, yet fully capable, digital piano is probably the best move. This price range will generally be between $500-$1000.

Five Best Intermediate Piano

Roland RD-300NX

Best Intermediate Piano

Roland uses a patented SuperNATURAL technology for both recording and replicating a rich, natural sound. The mechanism uses phase correcting software to ensure the sound is authentically reproduced without losing the compression effect. The Sound Focus quality of SuperNATURAL provides the precision developing pianists require to produce a full range of tones.

The keys of the Roland are given the full treatment and provide amazing response. While not truly superior to the Korg, it does have a better tactile sensation with its Ivory Feel-G Keyboard with Escapement. Moreover, the Progressive Hammer Action allows you to continue training in a variety of situations. The only downside is that the function cannot be controlled to the same degree as with the Korg

The Wireless D-NX Editor is a wonderful addition in a world where connectivity is quickly becoming a necessity. This feature allows you to connect your Roland to a smart device or even a computer. From there, you can fine tune aspects, record, and analyze the piece you just played to get real-time feedback on corrections to be made.

  • Arguably its greatest strength, the Roland digital piano reproduces the sound of a genuine acoustic piano better than most--if not all--other competitors
  • The Roland offers an almost obscene number of voices for a digital piano in both acoustic and digital formats to provide whatever sounds you may need for whatever piece you want to play
  • Roland’s key are a thing of beauty. Where many other digital pianos do a solid job replicating the weight of the keys, Roland goes one step further while working to emulate the tactile feel as well
  • Size does not always matter, but in this instance, the best also happens to be the biggest. This means that moving the Roland is a bit of an ordeal
  • It is a rare situation when a digital piano provides no onboard way to produce the music, but Roland’s misses the mark and requires an amp to play sound outside of headphones
  • While the Roland offers a wide suite of advanced features that can come in handy, they are a bit difficult to navigate. This can make transitions on the fly cumbersome

Korg SP-280

best intermediate piano

In terms of the basic things you need a digital piano to do, the Korg does them all exceptionally well. The vocal quality of the sounds are exquisite. Korg has followed the example of other top end digital piano makers and recorded their piano voices using multiple sources which are layered to provide some of the richest and fullest voice qualities available. This process was then repeated for other instrumental voices like the harpsichord, clavichord, and organ.

Ultimately, you are provided with a suite of 10 instrumental voices that will satisfy whatever sound needs you may have when playing music designed for a keyed instrument.

Another feature that is fundamental and absolutely nailed by Korg is the key weighting. The importance of this cannot be overstressed. That is why Korg’s Natural Weighted Hammer Action, a proprietary technology, is a breath of fresh air. The keys are weighted in the same way they are with an acoustic piano. This ensures that your skillset will transfer from the digital to the analog without missing a beat.

  • The sounds themselves are spectacularly recorded and layered so that the tones shift smoothly. As the most important feature of a digital piano, Korg nailed it
  • An editing control system for the touch sensitivity allows you to control the key action which such an amazingly simple feature it is amazing others have not yet followed suit
  • If the high-quality sounds are not enough to satisfy your needs, the Korg offers an excellent recording system so you can actually import your own voices
  • Even though intermediate pianos do not need to be loaded with additional features, the Korg seems to take that as a challenge and provides so few extra features even intermediate players may be left wanting more
  • As technology advances, more and more products are becoming integrated into the internet of things, but without even USB connection, the Korg falls behind in this race to interconnectivity
  • While the weighted action of the keys is solid, the actual material is plastic. This can make playing the Korg a bit awkward that does not translate perfectly

Yamaha DGX-660

best intermediate piano

One thing that is decent but not great with the Yamaha is the key action. While it is far superior to beginner pianos and even most intermediates, someone who is trained and plays on primarily acoustic pianos will notice right away. The Graded Hammer Standard is good, but you will still have to noodle around with a the real thing to truly get a concert hall feel.

The sounds of the Yamaha, however, do not suffer from a lack of quality. The Pure CF Sound Engine is a tried and true mechanism that accurately reproduces the the tone of an acoustic piano to the preference of many users. The Yamaha will not lose polyphony, even if two people play both ranges simultaneously. The Damper Resonance is also noted for being an excellent quality, allowing multiple intensities.

However, when it comes right down to it, the area where the Yamaha truly shines is in the connectivity department. If you want to play with local artists, potentially in a band, or just jam out, the Yamaha offers a wide range of features designed to let you do just that.

  • This is the keyboard you want to take to jam sessions or amateur recording sessions. The ability to plug in external instruments cannot be underestimated
  • The Pure CF Sound Engine is well-respected among intermediate and professional players alike. While the realism may be limited to only certain voices, it is a rich, true sound
  • The Yamaha is loaded to the gills with additional features that provide nifty experimentation. While not strictly a primary concern, it is certainly a welcome addition in a product market that often lacks frills
  • The Yamaha’s key action could be a bit better, with different users reporting different issues, but the primary takeaway being that something just does not quite feel right
  • Outside of the standard acoustic piano--especially the grand setting--the voices rarely feel true to form. They are not terrible, but are generally limited to being only pretty good
  • While a wealth of features can be nice, navigating them is no easy task, and it requires a fair amount of time and effort just to figure out what each feature does and how it works

Casio PX-860

best intermediate piano

The Casio is the only compact furniture cabinet on our list. This means that the Casio is not at all portable without far more work and effort than it is worth. If you want a piano you can transport, you are better off buying one of the other options on this list. However, if you want an piano that looks great in your home while you continue to develop your skills, the Casio is a great option.

The Acoustic and intelligent Resonator feature of the Casio produces acoustic voices that are only okay. However, there is a bit of a good news/bad news situation with this. The good news is that professional quality sounds are available. The bad news is that you have to update the voices to get them.

The key action is surprisingly good considering Casio’s generally have about the same quality as Yamahas meaning that something just does not feel right. However, this Casio can provide a better key action due to its cabinet. With this quality, the Casio uses equally weighted keys and a tri-sensor scaled hammer to replicate the feel of an acoustic piano’s keys.

  • The keyboard can be customized in numerous formatting ways that allows your development to continue through the early stages of advanced learning
  • The key action is a welcome surprise in a field with a brand that has a spotty reputation. The tri-sensor scaled hammer provides as close to an authentic feel as can be expected
  • With direct USB connectivity, you can use your personal smart device to update the software, which is regularly being updated often enough
  • The voices of the Casio are less than ideal. They are not horrible by any measure of the word, and a quick update can vastly improve them. Still, it is an unnecessary hassle
  • This is a digital piano that stays put. You cannot take it to a jam session or a concert hall. On the upside, the cabinet furniture is stable and looks fairly nice
  • The interactivity and extra features are a bit underwhelming. With this is acceptable for the feature side, you would want the connection to be more meaningful than Casio sponsored updates

Kawai ES-110

best intermediate piano

The Kawai fits in nicely in with the Yamaha and Casio, potentially even bettering them. However, it still has a ways to go in terms of truly separating itself from the pack. For example, the Kawai features bluetooth connectivity, which is almost unheard of in the digital piano market, let alone the intermediate piano market. However, bluetooth is notoriously fickle, so while it is a nice thought, it simply pads the stats to justify a higher price tag for a feature that would be better served with a different format altogether.

Still, the Harmonic Imaging sound technology provides nice replication of the acoustic piano, though some of the other voices could be better reproduced. One area where the Kawai shines is with its pedals which feature dampening and half-dampening. In fact, the pedals themselves offer far more versatility that what is normally found in a digital piano.

Unfortunately, the key responsiveness is not quite top of the line. Keep in mind, it is still exceptionally good, especially considering how the company is playing catch up. Still, when you compare it to the Roland or the Korg, it becomes clear that good simply is not good enough.

  • If you do purchase the peripheral pedals extra, you will be rewarded with a pedal mechanism that functions along multiple levels
  • Since it cannot compete at the highest levels with the core functions of a digital piano with top of the line models, it compensates with amazing connectivity
  • The Responsive Hammer Compact Action is incredibly responsive all things considered, though it is not the best in the market.
  • The speakers are a relatively poor quality. However, connecting to external amps does not provide a superior experience to competitors. This is primarily an at home practicing piano
  • All of the peripherals are sold separately. This means if you want a stand, so you can actually play it, or pedals, which are required for proper practice, you will have to spend more
  • The voices outside of the basic acoustic piano leaves a bit to be desired. The other voices are still clear, but they generally run a bit muddy or tinny compared to the real thing

Conclusion:

While there are clear winners in the intermediate piano market, a lot of which one is right for you comes down to personal need. If you want something to take with you on the go, then you will likely skip the top two options and go with the Yamaha. However, if you want a dedicated home piano to practice on that will also look great, then the Casio is a better fit.

Granted, neither of those provide the best playing experience, but that simply highlights that not all consumer needs are served equally. If you want the best intermediate piano money can buy, then you should look no further than the Roland. Its sounds are exquisite and the key action is a dream. Its extra features allow you to grow as your skills progress, while its one touch LCD display and control panel allow easy use of all it has to offer.

Stephanie Su
 

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