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Yamaha P80 Piano
Digital Pianos & Portable Keyboards in general
Member Name: Skunkworks
Digital Pianos & Portable Keyboards in general
Date: 13/06/03, updated on 13/06/03 (5448 review reads)
Advantages: Great feel, Great sound, Compact
Disadvantages: Sucky pedal action, No organ sounds to mention, Should concentrate on piano sounds
It's a stage-oriented electronic piano. In English, that means its almost as wide as a grand, as deep as twice the length of the keys (think dimensions of chewing gum), weighs as much as a holiday suitcase, and if you need to carry it, you can. No, I don't want to carry it, but if I needed to, I could.
The P-80 concentrates on things that people want from a piano: good sound, good action. It does not concentrate on things people want from a good synth - for example: it hasn't got a huge bank of preset sounds but the limited palette it offers is well chosen and almost okay.
The pedal will do sustain. To me, that's not enough. A new version of the pedal does 4 levels of damping and some more stuff beyond that. This is a Good Idea(tm). If you are a piano anorak, ensure that the pedal is a variable something wotsit, rather than the on-off switch provided as standard.
If you want a master keyboard for MIDI, and you didn't learn piano as a sprog, stop right now. The P-80 is not a synth keyboard. You will develop tendonitis, Thingy-Carpal-Syndrome and whatever. You WILL hate it, so stop right now. Hit the back button.
I was in the market for a piano. I'm set to inherit a Bechstein, but gave up lessons as a teen because I hated playing scales out loud on it. That's the problem with learning the piano: everyone gets to hear just how bad you are. Here's the wonderful thing about electronic pianos: HEADPHONES!
There are plenty of pseudo-pianos available that purport to sound and feel like a proper Grand. I wanted something that I could throw a cover over and forget, switch on in an instant should the mood take, and get the feel of a proper piano (remember I was raised with a Bechstein).
Feel is subjective, but keyboard and organ players are often surprised at how heavy a piano keyboard is. Well, they're often surprised at how heavy an electron
ic keyboard is when it's trying to be a piano. That's why you MUST try one in the flesh.
The market is wide. There's Yamaha out front, but there are specialists - Kurzweil is virtually unheard of outside this market but proclaim their sound is best. Korg and Roland fight a reputation for stunning electronic sounds, albeit IMHO behind plastic keyboards. The list goes on, and if you are a diligent shopper, look them up.
I did, I played a lot of them. Not very well, mind you, but their ivories were well tinkled.
Tip: bring your own headphones.
I BOUGHT A P-80
Following a series of visits Chez Skunk, my father, who could have followed his father into being a professional pianist, has also decided to purchase a P-80 because of the subtlty of touch and (very important for someone going deaf) loud headphone output. He also rates the harpsichord and suddenly has come all-over white on black. I don't like the harpsichord sounds so much, because the touch and the sound mate like Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. He's right, she's right, just not under the same duvet, please.
I tried a great many keyboards. Only Yamaha and Korg really had a chance at my price point (under £800).
Some interesting stuff: Korg was really heavy in action. There wasn't as much subtlty in the action. The sound, though, was tremendous - so long as you judge it by one note played over and over again. A few great samples, lots of lousy implementation, keyboard weighted for Conan the Barbarian.
Roland was close, but the keyboard was just a little fluffy. The sounds weren't quite right. It was the next best thing to a P-80, but it didn't whisper 'buy me'.
Any other Yamaha other than the P-80 was a bit tarty or a bit too expensive. There were some absoloutely great Yamahas that had touch and sound to die for, all wrapped up in a Liberace wet dream with a bit of Close Encounters th
rown in. But who wants to pay for so much MDF with a bit of fancy lacquer and a Radio Shack display?
Okay, so I tell a lie. There are Yamahas higher up the food chain that sound better. But if you can tell the difference, you'd be wearing an Anorak with a keyboad motif on it. I won't tell if you won't.
The rest had either floppy or stiff action, poor sound, or stupid price and styling.
Look up the specs. It does everything you need a practice keyboard to do. It also does everything a baby grand is expected to do except look pretty and amplify its self.
The keyboard feel is bang-on for any mid-range piano. Not too stiff, not too floppy.
The samples are decent for a piano:
- Two Grand pianos: one bright, one a little fruitier
- Two Upright pianos: one very very good, one probably a baby grand
- Two Jazz pianos: one very dry, one with a subtle soundboard defect
- Rock piano: first= ELO Mr Blue Sky, second is a little too Elton John
- EP Fender Rhodes pastiches, don't play the Taxi theme tune Puhleez
- Only consider Harpsichord 1. No Lurch impressions. Keyboard WAY TOO HEAVY for proper harpsichord stuff - try a trill. It's like tapdancing with wellies.
- Strings remind me of Soylent Green. I can't go there.
- Pipe organ is great for pretending to play carols and amusing 6-year olds, but it isn't church... Well, it is about as church as the p-80 gets...
- Church organ - all I can say is that I am glad I don't go to that church
- Jazz organ - I can't do this justice as I am not a fan of this instrument (all I hear is porn film). It doesn't strip paint at 100 paces like a wurlitzer, it doesn't have that wheezy breath of a proper valve amped organ, it's just a transplant.
- Bass has a great chiff of a cymbal as a variation. Used sparingly, it's a lovely cheesy topping to your rendition
Yes, the P-80 has some real stinkers.
- The pedal sucks! Get the new version with variable pedal action. Sustain is just a Keyboard thing. The Loud pedal on a grand is not a sustain pedal, it is a glove of cashimir that can caress the strings with subtlty. The P-80 pedal is either on or off. The new pedal has about 8 different states, and is the one to get.
- Some of the presets contain bum notes. If you have perfect pitch or think you can tune a P-80, please spend lots of time with it AND the competitors before you buy one. A couple of notes are real zonkers for us piano anoraks. Yes, I still bought one, but I wince with some scales. No, 99.99% of audience will not notice.
- Unlike the Roland, you can't vary temperament. Okay, so you may not need to, but anoraks like tempered organs, 'kay?
- Oh yes, the P-80 offers measely check-box features like a 2 track recorder et al, but you won't use them. If you need a recorder, quantisiation, score transcription et al, get Cubase or similar.
- You will need a stand for the P-80 and a connection to your hi-fi. Big deal. The stand is a bit of a downer and could be replaced by an ironing board if you enjoy a touch of the Dada. The hi-fi connection is cured by a length of phono-phono connectors and a compliant amplifier.
For the money, your best bet for piano nirvana for less than a clapped out upright. If you had more money, there are others, some of which may be better, but you can write that review. My P-80 is a very welcome addition to our family.