It has only been a few months since the P-115 was replaced by the next generation, the P-125, and Yamaha has already come out with the replacement for the P-255, the much awaited P-515. This new model in the P series is turning rapidly into one of the flagship models of the piano manufacturer. Besides the P-45 and the aforementioned P-125, the P-515 is the third in Yamaha’s portable range. In this Yamaha P515 review we’re going to try to discover how it fits in Yamaha’s portable range, and if it’s worthy of your consideration.
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Probably the biggest difference between the P-515 and its predecessor is in the key action department. The new version has a Natural Wood X, compared to its predecessor which has Graded Hammer. This is a significant improvement in the experience of playing this musical instrument.
Another big improvement in terms of experience are the grand piano samples. On the new version, P-515, you can find the Bosendorfer Imperial Grand and the CFX Concert Grand which are far superior to the former model with Yamaha CFIII Concert Grand samples.
Only these two differences already make the P-515 a better digital piano than the predecessor. At the same time, these differences place it among the best choices in its price range.
An interesting point, especially for all you composers out there, the P-515 has a built-in 16 track MIDI recorder, which enables you to make recordings right there on the piano. While looking at other options within the price range, there are not many models that have this feature.
Yamaha P515 Features
- Dimensions: 52.3 x 14.5 x 5.5 in;
- Weight: 48.5 lbs;
- Warranty: parts and labor – 3 years;
- Keys: 88 full-weighted wood keys with simulated Ebony and Ivory keytops;
- Natural Wood X with Escapement;
- Touch Sensitivity: 5 types;
- Sound: Bosendorfer Imperial; Yamaha CFX;
- Polyphony: 256;
- Instrument sounds: 40 (from which 11 acoustic pianos), 18 Drum kits, 480 XG Tones;
- 40 rythms;
- 12 effect types, 6 reverb types, 3 chorus types;
- Metronome, Fine-tuning, Transpose;
- Speakers: (15W + 5W) x 2;
- VRM: Aliquot Resonance, String Resonance, Damper Resonance;
- Intelligent Acoustic Control, Sound Boost, Master EQ, Stereophonic Optimizer;
- 16 Track MIDI Recorder, 250 songs;
- WAV audio recorder (44.1 KHz, 16 Bit, Stereo);
- Connectors: USB to Host (MIDI and Audio), USB to Device, MIDI in/out, 2 Headphone jacks, Line out R, L/ Mono, Line in, Bluetooth 4.1 (Audio only), Pedal Unit.
Design – How is the Yamaha P515 built?
Right from the start, it may be a good idea to have someone help you on the shipping day, if 60 pounds sounds pretty heavy for you.
The Yamaha P-515 digital piano is indeed designed to be portable, as in moving it to a vehicle back and forth. It’s certainly not designed to be carried around for long distances. But it’s a few pounds lighter that other comparable digital pianos.
The design is very nice; smooth and modern. It’s designed to be used with a normal keyboard stand in a comfortable way, but for the best experience, go for the console stand. You will have to buy that separately, but you will be able to pair the optional 3-pedal unit for a realistic piano playing experience. The piano comes with a single pedal unit, but it’s seriously worth buying the 3-pedal unit.
Don’t get this wrong; the quality of the single pedal unit that comes with the piano is very good. It’s pretty heavy and has an anti-slipping surface so that it stays in place when used.
From looks’ point of view, if you choose to buy the stand, together with the piano will look nice wherever you decide to place it. It gives the same decorative value to a room as a nice piece of furniture.
The dashboard features 23 buttons of rectangular shape that you can use to switch between effects and sounds. The blue screen on the dashboard measures 128 x 64 dots and integrates itself in the general design in a nice way. The buttons also light up with the blue light when pushed.
The buttons are not the only way of operating the settings of the Yamaha P-515. You can connect it to to a portable device via the Smart Pianist App and use that to navigate the settings. A weakness should be noted at this point concerning this pianos pianos inability to save certain settings combinations. This is a weak point when compared to other options in this category, like the Roland FP-90 and the Kawai ES8, which both have this possibility.
Keyboard – How does it feel when you play this piano?
Probably the most notable difference between the Yamaha P515 and its predecessor are the keys.
Here Yamaha has applied a feature previously found only on the the models in the Clavinova series. The keys are made out of wood and are covered with synthetic ebony and ivory. The playing experience is really smooth, very close to the way playing on the keyboard of an acoustic piano feels like. If you ever played one of the Clavinovas, then you know how it is. The keys are very responsive to over the entire board. But they also have a nice weight to them. For a more advanced piano players this kind of weight is usually more preferable but beginners can start learning on lighter response keys too.
Another nice feature of the Yamaha P-515 is a setting that lets you adjust in 5 increments the touch responsiveness of the keys. This is very helpful while playing various musical pieces that may need a faster tempo. Some musicians complain about the heaviness of the NWX, especially when playing those faster musical pieces we’re talking about. Some prefer a lighter touch, as they feel it’s less tiring in those cases. Especially children or beginners might feel a lighter touch being easier in the beginning. This is why this touch responsiveness feature that’s installed on the Yamaha P515 is so great. It lets everyone choose their referred resistance. I recommend, though, that the setting should be positioned on a heavier touch once some progress has been made, so that you can learn the proper finger technique that can be easily translated to an acoustic piano if necessary.
There’s another important talking point about digital pianos in general, and the Yamaha P515 in particular. A common weakness of most digital piano, especially when compared to acoustic pianos, is the feel of the keys. With many models of digital pianos, the keys might feel what could be called clunky. The pleasant surprise with the keys of the Yamaha P515 is that they feel least clunky when compared to most other digital pianos that you can find on the market.
Yes, there are chances that you will hear some sounds emitted by the keys, when mute down the sound, but it’s really minimal. When you turn up the volume, even for a bit, the sound of the keys disappears completely.
Another positive fact concerning the way the keys work is that they have somewhat of a depth when pressed. It contributes nicely to the overall realistic feel of the keys. And of course the materials used to manufacture the keys contribute a lot to the entire experience.
Generally speaking, it’s really hard to find a digital piano that brings together the best of both worlds, as in sound and touch. Usually people settle for one or the other. Most people will compromise on the feeling of the keys for a better sound. Well, with the Yamaha P515, the compromise is reduced as much as possible because it’s one of the digital pianos, currently on the market, that gets closest to the ideal.
Sound – Does it sound as well as it feels?
Sound is, according to most pianists, one of the most important aspects of the musical instrument. Digital pianos emit sound through a different process than acoustic pianos. During the last years, digital piano manufacturers succeeded in installing such high quality grand piano sounds on their instruments, getting so close to the sound of an acoustic piano like never before.
The Yamaha P515 has two grand piano sounds installed on it: the Yamaha CFX and the Bosendorfer Imperial, manufactured in Vienna. Both samples have some of the highest standards as far as piano sounds go. They both are rich sounding and sure to please even the most refined ears.
Both are great, but the subtle differences between them makes them good for different musical pieces. The Yamaha CFX has a sound that is a bit brighter, lending itself beautifully to contemporary music, blues and jazz. The Bosendorfer Imperial, on the other hand, has a somewhat richer sound, a perfect choice for classical pieces. But both of these sounds can be adjusted, so that you can perfectly match them to the type of musical piece you’re about to play.
A further sound that is very realistic for a couple of reasons, is the Yamaha CFX concert grand piano sound. It’s sampled by Binaural Sampling and is enhanced through Stereophonic Optimizer. This is a technology that gets into play once you put on your headphones. Usually, when you put on headphones the sound is in your ear, whereas with the technology on the P515, the sound seems to be coming from the piano itself. The headphones themselves make a big impact as well, in the entire equation. If you choose high quality headphones, then they will sustain the technology on the piano and offer you the most. The Binaural Sampling is only offered on the CFX concert grand sound, and it gets into play once you connect your headphones.
Sounds are an aspect where Yamaha P515 excels. Besides the sounds already discussed, there are 9 further acoustic piano sounds as diverse as you can imagine. There are also 7 electric piano sounds along with a number of organ sounds. Adding to the list of sounds are: 2 harpsichords, strings, choir, vibraphone, bass, guitars, drums and many many others. And so that you get a clearer picture on the vastness of sound options you get, there are 480 further sounds in the others sounds category. With the P515 it’s almost like having an entire orchestra at your fingertips. To put it black on white, check out the entire list of sounds:
11 pianos; 7 electric pianos; 7 strings; 6 organs; 4 basses; 2 harpsichords; 2 guitars; vibraphone; clavichord; 18 drum kits; 480 XG voices.
Before being more specific, I would like to answer the question: what is polyphony?
Put simply, polyphony represents the number of musical notes a digital piano can render at the same time. But let me explain what stands behind this concept so that you get a better understanding of this characteristic.
The majority of digital pianos, today, have a polyphony of 64, 128, 192 or 256. What most people are unaware about, especially beginners, is how it’s possible to reach such a high number of notes played at the same time. Just adding to most people confusion is the 88 keys that are on the keyboard, which can’t be played at the same time, and even if they would, theoretically, they couldn’t reach such a high number of notes. Well, that’s not quite right. Let me explain why.
First and foremost, the majority of the digital pianos that you can find today use stereo samples. These need some of the times more than 1 note for each key that you play. Further, when you use the sustain pedal and apply different sound effects, plus layer two sounds, all of these will need more polyphony. The digital piano needs more memory in order to maintain all the sounds when, for example, you use the sustain pedal and then press further keys to add notes to that initial sustained note. This is not an issue for acoustic pianos, because the inner mechanics of producing sound vs a digital piano are very different. Plus, there are so many effects that just can’t be reproduced on an acoustic piano, due to its nature.
In most cases, when trying to create complex sounds, or interpret diverse musical pieces, there’s a need for more polyphony. Another example of a case where polyphony is used is when you play along with a song playback. In this case the piano will not only need polyphony to interpret the piece that is on playback, but also the sounds that you play along.
What happens when you reach the polyphony limit on any given digital piano? When that happens the piano will start to drop the first notes played in order to be able to interpret the next ones. In other words, your performance loses the intended complexity, and ultimately sound effect that you want to transmit.
The good news is that you will probably never surpass the need for more than 128-note polyphony. Especially if you are a beginner, you should be looking for a digital piano that has anything above a 64-note polyphony.
In our case, the Yamaha P515 has a 256-note polyphony, which is well above the recommended minimum. I would be inclined to say that most of the people who play piano will never or rarely ever reach anywhere near this value with their interpretations or creations.
There are so many ways and angles in which you can adjust the sound of your P515. After you select the voice or instrument that you want to play, you then can add a number of effects to that instrument to perfectly adjust for the intended performance. On this model, you need to press the Piano Room button to access that part of the settings. This is like a master switch from where several options arise, as follows.
You can adjust the brightness of the sound. You can adjust the level of resistance of the keys. It’s set by default on Medium but there are 2 lower and two higher resistance options. From the Piano Room setting you can change the position of the lid. In this case a virtual lid, but the effect is the same as if you were to open or close an actual lid. The sound will differ according to the settings you choose. You can also adjust the master tune, which is pretty helpful in case you want to play along another instrument.
Still from this section, the Piano Room, you’re able to adjust the reverb. There are 6 options in of reverb that you choose from: recital hall, concert hall, chamber, cathedral, club and plate. They all are fantastic, and have names that explain the effect quite well.
Virtual Resonance Modeling
On an acoustic piano, the final sound that reaches your ears is affected by some characteristics of the built of acoustic piano. In digital pianos this aspect has to be virtually re-made in order for the sound to be realistic.
The Yamaha P515 has been fitted with virtual resonance modeling (vrm), which in effect recreate the particularities of the sound of acoustic pianos. It renders the interaction of the strings, dampers and the case of the piano. This technology lends depth to the sound produced by the digital piano.
You can practically tweak every aspect of the resonance, until you obtain the desired quality of sound. You can separately set the amount of damper resonance, string resonance, aliquot resonance and body resonance.
For piano, electric piano, harpsichord and clavichord voices, the Yamaha P515 has key-off samples. These are standing for the sound that you can hear once you release the keys; depending on how quick you release the keys.
Speakers – Are they powerful and clear enough?
The Yamaha P515 has a speaker system that is sure to suffice for home use or in front of friends and family. It’s equipped with two 12 by 6 cm, 15W speakers that have enough power to fill a room. Along these two speakers there are two more 5W tweeters meant to lend the sound clearness and accuracy.
Another interesting feature of the speaker system, meant to stabilize the sound and make it more accurate is a technology, called by Yamaha, Twisted Flare Port. How this works is that a component inside the speakers twists the air flow in such a way as to reduce turbulence. Turbulence that is created on both ends of the port generates unwanted noise. This way the low frequencies are more accurate and clearer.
Compared to the alternatives of the P515, the speakers aren’t bad at all. They’re almost the same sound and technology as the competition. For example, the Roland FP-90 has speakers more powerful by ten watts each, also having the five watt tweeters; whereas the Kawai ES8 has 15W speakers, just like the Yamaha, but lack the tweeters. So, as you can see, it’s positioning itself comfortably among the competition.
The quality of the speakers is also very good, not just the power. When turned up, the sound is clear without any distortions.
Although there are digital pianos with more powerful speakers than the Yamaha P515, it doesn’t make for a disadvantage on its part because if you feel they’re not powerful enough for performances you can always connect them to amplified speakers.
But if you really want to amplify the sound of the digital piano, without connecting it to any type of amplification, then there’s a setting called ‘sound boost’ that will give your sound even more amplitude without trading it for quality. There are 3 options under this sound boost setting. The first one is great for fast playing, the second one is clearer than the first one, and the third is more powerful than the second type. Depending on the environment and type of music creation you’re involved in you can adjust this setting accordingly.
Modes – What functionalities does the P515 come with?
Using the ‘layer’ mode means layering two sounds one over the other and playing them mixed over the entire keyboard. Most digital pianos nowadays have this feature.
This is a feature that is still concerning two different voices but it works a bit different than the layer mode. To enter this mode you would have to press the split button and then press a any key that you would like to be the splitting point between the two instruments. For example, you can choose piano and strings and set piano on the upper half and strings on the lower half, with the splitting point of your choice. The screen on the dashboard will show the two voices very intuitively displayed. The voice displayed on top represents the top half of the keyboard and the lower one represents the lower half.
The duo mode is also found on many other digital pianos of today under the name ‘lesson mode’. This is because of the functionality of the duo mode. What it does is split the keyboard in two equal halves. Both will have a middle C. The big advantage with this mode is that it gives teachers and students the ability to practice together. It makes piano lessons a lot more interactive and efficient. This is a clear advantage of digital pianos compared to acoustic pianos.
The Yamaha P515 comes with a number of preset songs. 21 songs are set as a demonstration of the various musical instrument voices installed. Further 50 classic musical pieces, some of the most well known and beloved musical pieces by humanities greatest composers are also installed on the digital piano. This is an interesting feature from multiple points of view.
First you can listen to some music if you hang out with friends and family, by the simple push of a certain button on the dashboard.
Second, learning to play these great musical pieces is very intuitive because the part of each hand is separately accessible. So, if you start learning the right hand, the part played by the left hand can play along so that it’s easier for you to learn each part and see how they come together.
Audio & MIDI
The Yamaha P515 has also been fitted with a 16 track sequencer. This feature is not as common as most people would think, on a digital piano. You would usually find features like this on a music workstation.
With the P515 you have the possibility of recording a maximum of 250 MIDI songs to the internal memory of the piano. The limitation memory-wise towards each song is a maximum of 500KB. When you’re finished recording, you can transfer all of your recordings to a computer via USB (flash drive or USB to host port), ans then if you want further refine your recordings with software on your computer.
But this is not the only possibility of making recordings. The Yamaha P515 is also capable of making audio recordings, in WAV format. With the help of a USB flash drive you can then transfer the recordings to your computer. From there you can either share it on social media or make a CD for your car. And the good part is that you can go ‘backwards’ too, meaning you can upload through a USB flash drive music onto your Yamaha P515.
The lack of the need to tune your digital piano is one of the many differences, better said advantages over acoustic pianos. In fact, most digital pianos are tuned the same way when you get them, which is called ‘equal temperament’. This type of pre-tuning, if you will, is found on most digital pianos, but some models, that are considered to be of higher refinement offer several options of tuning, which used to be a choice in the past, when tuning acoustic pianos. Besides the ‘standard’ tuning type, the Yamaha P515 gives you the choice of six further types: Pure Major, Pure Minor, Kirnberger, Werckmeister, Meantone and Pythagorean. A further advantage of the P515, especially if you want to play along other musical instruments, is the fact that you can fine-tune it in increments of 0.2 Hz, in such a way that you get in tune with the rest of the instruments. This is a more advanced feature which is very useful for people who want to make more complex recordings or plan on performing along other musicians.
This is another feature for the more advanced pianists. What it does is giving you the possibility to transpose any song or live performance to plus or minus 12 in half-tone increments. This means that if you want to play along a recorded song and the pitch is too high or low, to refrain from having to re-learn the entire piece in the different key, you can transpose the piece in the needed key. The same is true for a live performance, you can change the key in which the song is played and it will sound the way you want to without having to physically play it in a different key.
The metronome feature is slowly turning into a standard feature among most digital pianos these days. The metronome is very user friendly whose speed can be adjusted between 5 and 500.
But your not tide down to using the metronome for a certain rhythm. You can always use one of the forty drum tracks provided by the Yamaha P515. Or, you can select a type of music, for instance Jazz, as the foundation of creating a new song. You can use that instead of a metronome to transform exercising the piano in an even funner activity.
Connectivity – How easy is it to establish connections?
From the point of view of connectivity, the Yamaha P515 is designed with the user experience in mind. The digital piano offers several possibilities of connection to other devices. Two standard headphone jacks, of 1/4 inches in size, on the left side of the keyboard are easy to use to plug in headphones. The fact that they’re 2 means a teacher and a student can use them at the same time, of the need arises.
On the upper side of the digital piano, a USB port is in easy reach as opposed to other models that have all of the ports at the back of the unit. This is a very convenient feature, due to the fact that you don’t have to extend over the digital piano to connect your laptop or tablet. This is a USB type A.
There are further jacks at the back of the piano, where they usually are found on a digital piano. The USB to Host ports are found here and can be used to connect your piano to portable devices. The USB audio interface that can be found on the P515 gives you the liberty of moving audio files through the USB connection. This is quite uncommon, because you can usually transfer MIDI file through USB. The necessity of an audio interface that is external doesn’t exist in this case due to this USB audio interface.
In the case you’re interested in live performances and need to connect amplification, for example, to your digital piano, this is perfectly achievable with the Aux Out ports. These are especially helpful if you need to connect mixers or different audio interfaces too. There’s also an Aux In port, which you can use to connect your computer to the Yamaha P515 and play back any songs on that device through the speakers of the digital piano.
If you try to avoid using cables as much as possible, there is the possibility of connecting your computer or mobile device to the piano through Bluetooth. Please note that you can’t send any MIDI files through Bluetooth. This includes any apps that need MIDI transfer in order to work properly. You can only send audio via this wireless way.
The MIDI in and out ports present in this area at the back of the keyboard can be used to connect the piano to computers and other external audio interfaces, instead of the USB connection. This is a feature that many intermediate and advanced pianists will appreciate a lot.
In this same region of the piano you can find inputs for pedal units as well.
Yamaha Smart Pianist App
The Smart Pianist App from Yamaha is one of the most interesting and interactive apps that can be used in connection with digital pianos. You just have to download the app onto your iOs device (don’t worry Android users, the proper version for you is coming soon), and an entire user friendly control panel is at your fingertips.
Your mobile device’s screen will show the type of piano your instruments is set on. By swiping, the imagine of the next types will show. It’s very interesting how you can open or close the lid by swiping over the image of the selected type of piano. And this is just the beginning.
You can virtually control every setting of the Yamaha P515 through the Smart Pianist App. From setting volume to recording audio directly to your iOs device, many different features are possible with this App.
An aspect that I would like to highlight, which in my opinion is a tremendous advantage, is the ability of the App to show chord charts for any given song that you install on it. This way you can easily learn how to play your favorite songs on the piano. It makes practicing piano that much more fun.
There are some accessories that come with the Yamaha P515. These are:
- Owner’s manual;
- Sustain pedal;
- AC power adapter;
- Music rest.
Besides these, you can consider buying the following accessories too, as they complete and extend your overall user experience:
Because the Yamaha P515 doesn’t come with any stand whatsoever, most people who decide to buy this digital piano, also buy a stand that matches it. Most people, select the L515 stand, that fits the piano perfectly. Besides giving the entire setup more stability, it looks great and has, together with the piano, a furniture type look and quality to it.
But there are also other options for people who may need something more portable, and those are x or z type stands. These types are easier to carry around because they can usually fold. They are less stable than the aforementioned stand, but that’s the trade-off in this case. A good quality x-style stand is RockJam Xfinity Double X Stand, and a good z-style stand is Plixio Z-style stand. They both offer a good quality at a fair price.
The pedal that the Yamaha P515 comes with is nice quality and it gets the job done pretty nicely. The downside of it is that it doesn’t support half pedaling. If you want a closer experience to the real thing, then you have to buy a pedal, or a pedal unit that behaves like that on an acoustic piano.
There are two ways to go at this point: one would be to go for a one pedal unit that permit half-pedaling. In this case I recommend the Yamaha FC3A. This is probably the best match for this digital piano that covers the discussed need.
The other way would be to go for a more realistic, 3-pedal unit, as that found on acoustic pianos. The recommendation for this would be the LP1. This tripe pedal unit attaches to the L515 stand, together forming an entire package. Honestly, this is the combination for the most authentic experience. Even if there are options that are more price efficient, it’s just not the same thing. I think if you decide to go with a digital piano of this caliber, then you should also get the best possible accessories.
There are some advantages to using headphones with your digital piano. One of the advantages is the quality of sound. In many cases the sound you will hear through the headphones will be clearer and higher quality than that coming from the speaker system. This is not necessarily the case with the Yamaha P515, as it’s speaker system is of very good quality, but some people might still find the sound in the headphones better. It also depends a lot on the headphones you use.
The second advantage is that you don’t disturb anyone in your household or neighborhood. Playing piano takes a lot of practice which involves much repetition. It can get pretty annoying for other ears that are forced to hear along. Especially if you are a beginner and your practice doesn’t sound all that harmonious, the need for some good headphones is meant to keep your relationships in good order.
USB Wireless Adapter
An aspect that might seem like a major inconvenience for more advanced pianists is the fact that the Yamaha P515 doesn’t support a wireless MIDI connectivity. It can only make an audio over Bluetooth connection. This mean you will not be able to control any MIDI apps without physically connecting to the USB to host port.
For those of you that wonder if it is possible in any way to realize a MIDI wireless connectivity, there’s still hope. You can do that by using a USB wireless adapter. There are a number of products that are compatible with the Yamaha P515 and can solve the problem we’re discussing. From all of those products, in order to keep everything as wireless as possible, I recommend using the MD-BT01. You have to connect it to the MIDI ports. The big advantage of this adapter, over other competing products is that it doesn’t need a separate power source. This way you eliminate as many cables as possible, and still solve the situation in an elegant manner.
Alternatives – How does it compare to the competition?
The Yamaha P515 is, by all means, a great digital piano. The competitors that are close enough to be considered as viable alternatives are somewhat more expensive. Let’s see how they compare to the P515:
Yamaha P515 vs Kawai ES8
Kawai is a brand in the piano industry that stands for high quality products. As you might have already guessed it, they didn’t lower the bar on this contender of the P515. Actually, the Kawai ES8 is one of the flagship pianos, and a representative in their portable line.
The key action of is called RH3, Kawai’s best plastic action. Compared to the P515’s wooden keys, these are still plastic, but they offer a very realistic feeling due to an enhancement in form of weights found in every key that outbalance the hammers. As for how easy it is to play fast parts of a musical piece, the Kawai ES8 has a lighter actin than the NWX action of the Yamaha. If this is an advantage or a disadvantage is up to debate, as some pianists prefer a lighter touch and others a heavier one.
The sound of the ES8 is created by a sound engine which is called Harmonic Imaging XL. 3 piano voices are the main sounds. They come from extraordinary grand pianos. The first two, are recorded from the EX and the SK-EX, two of Kawai’s flagship 9-foot concert grand pianos. The third is recorded from one of Kawai’s SK-5 grand piano. You can imagine the quality of the piano sounds if Kawai has sampled the same ones for their high end CA series. You can set to your liking multiple aspects of these voices until you obtain the perfect sound you desire. The Kawai ES8 offers more more details for adjustment than the Yamaha does.
These are the main differences when looking at Yamaha P515 vs Kawai ES8. They both are high quality digital pianos that offer realistic touch and sound. The truth is that aspects of sound, for example, are arguable. Some would swear the Kawai to sound better, others may be of the opposite opinion. There are some aspects that are probably a matter of personal perspective rather than of clear difference.
Going further in our comparison, it’s important to note few clear differences. For example, the Yamaha P515 has USB to Audio function and wireless connectivity through Bluetooth. These are two features not found in the Kawai. With the Kawai, recording is a somewhat more restricted feature. Whereas the P515 can record 16 MIDI tracks, the ES8 can only record two by using a flash drive.
As far as portability is concerned, both have similar dimensions and weight. The ES8 is about a pound heavier than the P515. There’s not much wiggle room when it comes to weight of a digital piano having all of these features.
If you want to find out more, read our full Kawai ES8 review.
Yamaha P515 vs Roland FP-90
When looking at the Yamaha P515 vs Roland FP-90, there are many similarities but also major differences that are easily noticed. The FP-90 is the pinnacle of the FP series and contains the best of what Roland has to offer. It’s definitely not a weak competitor for the P515.
The FP-90 has weighted key action as well, as you would expect, but the technology beneath the surface differs from that of the P515. It’s a hybrid wooden action, called PHA-50, that is a high end technology of the manufacturer. It offers a realistic experience, somewhat lighter than the NWX action of Yamaha, but very realistic indeed. Some pianists might find it even closer to the real thing than Yamaha’s key action. On the other hand there are pianists who prefer a heavier action, so there are arguments for and against. It’s a good thing, though, when the arguments are about which is more refined and not which is good or bad. The materials used for the keys are the same for both: wooden keys with plastic tops and escapement action.
A big difference must be noted in the aspect of sound. Here, the reality about the two pianos is quite different. Whereas the P515 has its grand piano sound sampled from Yamaha’s great concert grands, just as Kawai for that matter from their concert grands, Roland uses what they call supernatural sound modeling engine. Practically the sound is not sampled from any grand piano, but is created in the moment that you press the keys.
The result is that you can kind of better control the sound, but some pianists complain that the sound lacks essence and sounds somehow artificial. Again, a debate about refinement. The average person playing on one of these instruments will not find the differences to be as observable.
I must say, though, that Yamaha and Kawai are not relying solely on the grand piano samples, they also use modeling technology. Yamaha uses a technology they call VRM to tweak the resonance of the sound and Kawai uses the Virtual Technician, which gives you even more in-depth possibilities of adjusting the sound through the ability to change aspects such as damper and string resonances. As you can see, the majority of digital pianos nowadays use some sort of technology that tweaks the sound, along with the piano samples.
In the sound department, the difference between the Yamaha P515 and the Roland FP-90 is existent but not really a deciding factor, I would say. Fact is that the FP-90 has a more powerful speaker system, by 10 Watts in total. Can this make a significant difference? I’m not sure. Especially because the P515 has the sound boost function, which may give you an edge when performing along other musical instruments.
On the other hand, the Roland FP-90 has 8 sliders that give you the ability to adjust multiple aspects of the sound, like frequency ranges and mic volume, during play. This is surely an attractive feature for musicians that have frequent performances.
When looking at the sound libraries, you can’t point out major differences. But nevertheless, there are some differences that are definitely worth mentioning. The P515 has 40 voices, 18 drum types and 480 GX sounds. The FP-90 is equipped with 72 voices, 8 drum types and 270 extra sounds. Comparing them from birds eye view, it’s safe to say that if the number of voices is of utmost importance to you, the P515 would probably be the winner for you, but all in all, they are very close together in this matter.
From the point of view of connectivity options, the P515 and the FP-90 are pretty close together as well. Generally they offer the same types of jacks. There are some differences in this department too. For all of those interested in adding voice to the music, the FP-90 has a mic jack. This is a function that you can usually find in workstations, a rarer case with digital pianos. It’s still possible to add vocals with the P515 as well, but you would have to do that through a mixer. Another advantage for the FP-90 is the audio capability not only over Bluetooth but also MIDI. In other words, you can control different music apps by connecting the FP-90 directly to your smart device.
Because judging by the last paragraph, you may be tempted to incline towards the FP-90 as being the better digital piano, we should balance the situation out a bit. Two features that the Yamaha P515 is blessed with that the FP-90 doesn’t have, are the 16 track sequencer and the USB audio interface, features that are not very common among this class of digital pianos.
The last comparison that some of you may be wondering about is portability. Both pianos are designed to be portable, despite being packed with so many features. Their weights are pretty close by as well, slightly in favor of the P515: 48 to 52. Truth is at this weight, 4 pounds don’t represent such a big difference. But still, a weight around 50 pounds is on the border of what I would call portable. You definitely can’t take it under your arm and stroll to the nearest park to play.
If you want to find out more about this digital piano, read our full Roland FP-90 review.
More than a conclusion, I would like this final section of our Yamaha P515 review to be a summary of the discussed points.
Is the Yamaha P515 a good choice for you? I would dare to say that it is, whatever your current proficiency level in playing the instrument. And I base my recommendation on a number of facts.
First and foremost, it’s a high quality built digital piano with great sounding piano voices that can be adjusted in virtually an infinity of ways. This actually gives you countless variations of piano sounds from those two initial samples. The other tens and hundreds of sounds and effects only enrich further the options. So, if you like having many sounds to choose from, this is something you should consider.
Another important talking point about digital pianos is the key action. In this case you get a weighted wooden key action, normally present on higher priced digital piano. In fact, the Yamaha P515 is the most price efficient model from Yamaha that has this feature. In other words, it’s the most inexpensive wooden key action money can buy.
It has powerful enough speakers to fill a room, but you will probably need amplification if you play in a band or in larger spaces.
Practicing is also great with this digital piano, especially if you like using headphones, because a feature, called binaural sampling, is responsible for enhancing the sound in your headphones. This might be as attractive for beginners as for professionals.
As for portability, well, they say it’s portable, and it is, but it will not be a walk in the park. But, putting things into perspective, other comparable digital pianos are not lighter than the Yamaha P515.