Product Type: Yamaha keyboards and synthesizers
Newest Review: ... np-30, despite having 10 voices, had touch-sensitive keys and a longer keyboard length (76 keys), perfect for learning piano on. The pian... more
Yamaha NP30 - The 'Portable Grand' for a less-than-grand budget, but does it hit the right notes?
Member Name: litangmu
Date: 08/10/10, updated on 08/10/10 (499 review reads)
Advantages: 76 keys, 10 voices, dual voice, lightweight, metronome, music stand, box-keys
Disadvantages: not full keyboard, 32 note polyphony restrictive, long length, complex to set voices etc.
Well, the NP30 is your near-perfect solution!
Let's have a look at some of the main features of the Yamaha NP30 and assess them as we go along!
I personally opted for the black casing, as I felt the silver looked a little too jazzy for my liking. The design overall is very solid, surprisingly so for the weight of the instrument - less than 5.5kg! An unbelievable achievement on Yamaha's part! This makes it relatively easy to pick up and move around, and of course, put away if it is taking up too much space! And it may well do that... I'm not sure what I expected, but the instrument is particularly long... at 1 1/4 metres long, you need to be very careful when you are moving this around - it is very easy to smack this instrument into a wall/something else! This length however is a necessity, which I shall soon explain! All of the controls for the NP30 are found at the top left of the instrument, and there are only 7 of them to choose from. You may think this is a blessing in disguise - a simple piano! I am afraid you are sorely mistaken.
For many of the features which I will outline below, these buttons need to be used in combination with one of the other buttons, and a keyboard key or two! The whole process of changing the reverb setting or changing metronome tempo can be fiendishly confusing to a novice - even changing voice will cause you some consternation in the beginning! I am not sure whether removing such control buttons from the top of the instrument has saved any space - what it has done is turned some very simple operations into needlessly complex ones.
On the back of the instrument you will find the ubiquitous selection of output and input options - AC adapter, 1/4" stereo output, pedal jack, and a MIDI in/out port. There is nothing special here, but at least nothing has been omitted.
One handy little addition to this instrument is the inclusion of a neat, grey Yamaha music stand which slots very nicely into the back of the instrument. Fabulous touch - just a shame Yamaha didn't include an AC adaptor with the instrument... Then again, this item can run on 6x AA batteries. A feature I hesitate to say I haven't tried, but an absolutely amazing achievement considering what this instrument can do!
76 note box-style graded keyboard
With a very sleek strip of red felt material running across the 'back' of the keyboard, Yamaha have really tried to make this instrument feel you're playing a Portable Grand - the name Yamaha actually gives to this instrument. Maybe I should have said 'look' like a Portable Grand, not 'feel'.
There are 76 keys, which is a step up from 60-something, but it is still not quite the 80-odd you will need to play more advanced pieces. It always seems that the sacrifice is in the bass - you will always be wanting an extra key for your left hand, but I can assure you, you will never run out of keys in the right hand! I'm never sure why this problem has never been rectified, I'm sure advanced musicians will let me know!
The keys look like those you will find on a piano, but they are of course plastic and, most importantly, are not 100% the same size. The keys are just that little bit smaller than a regular piano, a compromise I assume which has been made so as to keep size down. It is a bit of a shame however - you will notice the difference when you move back to a regular piano, or even to a full sized keyboard. The biggest difference however is in key weighting.
Ok let's be honest. The keys on the NP30 aren't as hideous as those awful things you find on a regular keyboard. Yamaha have developed the 'Graded Touch' system which means you will feel resistance in your left hand, and as you move up the keyboard, the resistance becomes less and less. This is a lovely feature that goes some way to emulating playing on a regular instrument. However, the technology is far from perfect. The keys 'spring' back in quite an unnatural fashion, and the weighting still leaves a lot to be desired. All in all, it's a step up from a keyboard, but a whole staircase down from the fully-weighted Goliaths of the digital piano world.
The voices that come with this instrument consist of:
2 x Piano
2 x Electric Piano
2 x Organ
2 x Harpsichord
1 x Strings
1 x Vibraphone
You will notice that you do not have the huge array of voices that you will find on many good keyboards around or below this price point. I would suggest that those buying this instrument would have no need for such an eclectic choice of voices. This is a digital piano, and the flexibility to have as many as 6 unique voices is still quite a boon. Piano 1 is a lovely voice, based on a stereo sampled grand that sounds out of this world. The electric piano voices are pleasant, and so too are the harpsichord voices. The choice of pipe or church organ is adequate, although the church organ seems far too overpowering and melodies seem to get lost with the addition of any meaningful bass line. The big disappointment comes in the strings voice - the strings are extremely slow and quite quiet, making it difficult to play any meaningful melody whilst using this voice. The vibraphone lacks depth in the bass and lacks volume overall, but is still more than acceptable.
You may give yourself premature arthritis and a severe headache working out how to program variations in reverb but when you do, the reverb produces a wonderful echo sound that excellently emulates either a room, hall, or stage. I often use this feature to bring to life my playing and to make the instrument sound a little more 'real'.
This is an excellent feature I use quite a lot on the NP30. You can choose any two of the voices and have them play together. You can also adjust how loud each voice is, and which octave each voice rests on. After contorting your hands (again) to achieve such a feat, you will be pleasantly surprised by the gorgeous tones which come from the piano and strings combination, and for me, the rich theatre-organ tones which come from combining the church organ and strings. There however is one massive downside to this functionality...
32 note polyphony
32 note polyphony, in my mind, is woefully inadequate for an instrument such as this. In general this restriction will not bother you but, start using a pedal and you may soon find notes 'cutting' out after a certain point - you've gone over 32 simultaneous notes, and the early ones are simply cut off violently, a jarring effect which is aurally unpleasant. This problem is even worse when Dual Voice is activated. Think about it - 32 note polyphony with dual voice meaning only 16 keys can be pressed/be held by the pedal at once. You will quickly lose some earlier key presses and the result is a very unsatisfactory playing experience. You can work around this by learning how to 'cheat' the polyphony limit and keep keys depressed for longer etc., but why would you want to? This instrument is supposed to serve you, not the other way around.
6W x 2 amplification
With a combined output of 12W, you will find the sound generated by the speakers of the NP30 to be generally adequate. On a very loud setting however, the whole keyboard will shake with the vibrations caused, and the sound will become far too distorted and blurred. These speakers are adequate enough for home and perhaps playing in a small hall, but anything larger will require an amp.
In conclusion therefore, with a price point of around £250 the NP30 is an absolute steal in the world of portable digital pianos. With such a bargain price however, there are inevitably concessions that need to be made, in this case in terms of the keyboard itself and the issue of polyphony. Overall however, you could do a lot worse than invest in this portable instrument that, with any luck, may just rekindle one of those pleasures you lost many years ago...
Summary: A lot of digital piano for the money with only a handful of compromises - can you handle a handful?