Yamaha P115 88-Key Digital Piano Review

Yamaha is a highly trusted brand when it comes to quality music equipment. Their new P115 88-key weighted action digital piano is a great feeling and sounding mid-ranged portable digital piano that does not disappoint. The P115 is set replace Yamaha’s highly popular–and now out of production–P105 as the piano of choice for both gigging and practicing pianists looking for the sound of a real grand piano in a portable instrument.

In the world of quality weighted digital pianos there are many options to choose from and many factors to consider such as sound quality, playability, and overall value. We believe that the Yamaha P-115 is a solid choice for serious musicians. However, there are many important factors to consider when buying a digital piano in this price range.

In this review we will be looking at all of the features of the P115 as well as discussing the pros and cons of this powerful machine. We will also be exploring how the P115 stacks up against its predecessor, the Yamaha P105, which can still be found secondhand for around 100 dollars cheaper–is the P115 worth the upgrade if you already own the P105?

Let’s take a look at what you need to know before purchasing the P115.

SIZE AND PORTABILITY (Yamaha P-115)

For the serious gigging musician two of the most important factors in a digital piano are its size and portability. Aside from price, one of the main reasons for choosing a digital piano over the real thing is the ability to move and set it up anywhere.

The P115 is a full sized piano in that it has 88 full sized keys. However, compared to any acoustic piano (upright or grand) this instrument is tiny! The piano has a slim design and can be carried under one arm and stowed in the trunk of your car for easy transport to performances.

It should be noted that the P115 can be heavy when carried for long periods of time. The piano weighs about 26 pounds, which also has its benefits: the weight of the piano gives it a more realistic feeling, making the player feel more like they are playing the acoustic instrument this piano emulates.

Alongside the P105 you will need to purchase a stand, which adds to the amount of gear that needs to be transported. We recommend getting a standard “x-style” stand that breaks down for portability; if you plan on keeping the piano stationary in your home, Yamaha makes the beautiful L85 stand that fits the classic look of the P115 while giving it more of an in-home upright piano feel.

Although the L85 is stunning we still recommend something like the Yamaha PKBX2, a double-braced, adjustable x-style stand that is far cheaper, lighter, and more portable than the L85.

Overall the P115 is about the size and weight you would expect from a quality digital piano. It is perfect for the gigging musician or someone looking to save space while playing piano at home.

FEEL OF THE KEYS (Yamaha P115)

The importance of a piano’s feel can’t be overstated: the pianist relies on the quality of their keys. A performance can be made or broken by a well functioning set of keys.

The Yamaha P115 has 88 fully weighted and full sized keys. The black keys feature a moisture absorbing matte finish that make them easy to touch even when your hands get sweaty over time. The white keys are made of plastic instead of synthetic ivory, which, while not exactly aesthetically pleasing, still play very well.

This piano features what Yamaha calls the “GHS” or Graded Hammer Standard system of key weighting. This isn’t their highest quality weighting (some of their more expensive digital models have keys made from real wood for non-emulated weighting) but it gets the job done.

For the most part the keys on the the P115 react like a real piano, requiring a heavier touch in the low end and a lighter touch for the high end. We did notice that the high end keys on the P115 have a “springy” or “jumpy” feeling; the keys recoil faster than those on an acoustic piano would. This is a minor criticism as the P115 still plays exceptionally well and the GHS weighting system is great training for a real grand piano.

SOUND QUALITY (Yamaha P-115)

Every musician knows that sound quality is the number one priority when looking to buy a new instrument. We are happy to report that in this category the P115 shines. The P115 faithfully reproduces the lush sounds of a famous Yamaha grand piano, the CFIIIS 9’ alongside many other sounds. The sound quality of the P115 is what sets this digital piano above your average “keyboard”.

The P115 uses what Yamaha calls the “Pure CF Sound Engine” in order to achieve its crystalline sound. Basically, what Yamaha refers to as a “sound engine” is just a collection of extremely high quality sound samples recorded straight from the CFIIS 9’. These sampled notes sound exactly like the real thing. The bass keys boom and the higher octaves shine like a true concert grand piano.

The grand piano samples on the P115 are incredibly dynamic and expressive. They react to the players touch–if you play hard the sample used is louder and if you play quietly the sample is soft. This intuitive system helps the player feel like they are using the real thing.

Because digital pianos rely on sampling technology, they only sound as good as the sources that the samples come from. Because the P115 samples the CFIIS 9’, an amazing sounding grand piano, that is the sound you hear when you play a note.

Some users may prefer the tones emitted from other grand pianos, or have a very specific instrument in mind that they want to emulate with their digital model. If this is the case, then the P115 may not be the right choice. At the end of this review we will mention a few other digital piano options that we will look into in further reviews.

At the end of the day, with this class of digital piano where the sample quality is superb, it comes down to subjective preference about the piano being sampled. If you love the sound of a classic Yamaha grand piano than you will love the sound of the Yamaha P115.

BUILT IN SPEAKERS (Yamaha P115)

The P115’s great sound quality is partially achieved through it’s built in speakers that sound fantastic out of the box. The tweeters on these speakers are positioned perfectly to line up with the player’s ears, making for a crisp and pleasurable tone. As always with digital pianos, the P115 will be louder when hooked up to external speakers, but the P115’s built in speakers are plenty loud on their own for at home practice.

HEADPHONE OPTION (Yamaha P115)

The headphone jack on the P115 is robust and sturdy. This is often a piece that breaks easily on digital pianos so it’s great that Yamaha has made sure to put care into this feature. The ability to use headphones is essential when practicing at home and it’s nice to see that Yamaha isn’t cutting corners.

It must be noted that the headphone jack takes a  ¼ inch plug instead of the 3.55 plug that most consumer headphones use. The ¼ inch headphone system is widely used in the world of pro sound. A converter is very cheap but will have to be purchased separately.

If you own a decent pair of headphones–we recommend something quality like Audio Technica’s ATH M50 studio monitor headphones–the P115’s sound can become even clearer. The audio reverberations and reflections of the room you are playing in are eliminated and you can hear the full spectrum of sound that the P115 has to offer.

INSTRUMENT SOUNDS/“VOICES” OF THE YAMAHA P-115

One of the benefits of a digital piano is that, unlike an acoustic instrument, they have the ability to produce a range of sounds. Alongside the main grand piano sound the P115 is able to emulate a plethora of different key based instruments–it boasts 14 different “voices”, aka the sounds made by various instruments.

Let’s take a look at these voices.

Grand Piano

An amazingly clear sounding grand piano sampled from Yamaha’s CFIIIS 9’ as discussed above.

Bright Grand

Yamaha has taken the sound samples from the CFIIIS 9’ and “brightened them up”, turning up the high end using a graphic equalizer. We think that this setting sounds a bit harsh in comparison to the standard Grand Piano sound, it wouldn’t sit well in a recording. However, the live setting is where the Bright Grand sound stands out–this voice gives the player the ability to take the lead and pop out from the mix when playing live with a band or ensemble. This setting is mostly obsolete unless you are playing the P115 at a louder concert alongside other musicians.

Mellow Grand

Similar to the Bright Grand, Yamaha has taken the CFIIIS 9’ samples and tailored them to a more specific sound using an equalizer. This time, the sound is darker. The Mellow Grand setting sounds smooth and sensual. This voice is suited for playing slower, softer songs. We think it sounds beautiful and would be perfect for setting the mood if you are playing live background music at a dinner party or classy bar or restaurant.

DX E. Piano

This setting is meant to be a standard electric piano sound, made using a process called FM-synthesis. Named after Yamaha’s classic DX series of synthesizers (such as the DX-7, a synthesizer used in tons of 80’s pop songs), this voice would sit well in a more electric sounding rock or pop band. We have to say that the synthetic DX E. Piano sound is slightly dated and would work best in a throwback or nostalgic musical situation.

Stage E. Piano

The stage electric piano sounds just like a Rhodes, which is a great thing if you ask us. The Rhodes is a popular electric piano instrument that was huge is in the 70’s and is still widely used by pop and rock bands to this day. Vintage Rhodes have become expensive collectors items in recent years so it’s a huge benefit that something replicating the Rhodes sound is included in the P115.

Vintage E. Piano

Similar to how the Stage E. Piano replicates a Rhodes, the Vintage E. Piano recreates the classic sounds of a Wurlitzer, an electric piano that was produced from the 1950s to the early 80s. The Wurlitzer electric piano is now considered a classic and has been used on many famous recordings by the likes of jazz pianists Sun Ra and Ray Charles. We think this sound is a fantastic addition to the P115.

Jazz Organ

This voice is exactly as the name says, an organ designed specifically for jazz. We think the sound quality on this setting is lacking. While fun to play, this voice does not sound like a real organ. It is easy to tell that this sound is the product of synthesis trying to emulate the real deal.

Pipe Organ

Unlike the Jazz Organ voice, this Pipe Organ setting sounds like the a real organ and will make you feel like you’re at a Sunday service–or a droning rock concert! This sound is perfect for creating spiritual sounding tones and meditative music. The P115 Pipe Organ voice would sit well as the bedrock foundation for a lush ambient recording project.

Rock Organ

We would call this voice more of a “funk organ” than rock, but it is certainly a good sound. The P115’s Rock Organ voice will place you smack dab in the middle of the 70s and get you grooving in no time. It’s a fun setting that’s easy to get lost in–you’ll find yourself jamming for hours.

Vibraphone

This is one of our favorite voices on the P115. The Vibraphone is a beautiful sounding instrument that is very hard to recreate digitally. Because of its size and reliance on air movement to get its distinct timbre, digital replications of the Vibraphone often miss the mark. We are happy to report that the P115 nails this sound, faithfully recreating one of the most distinct instruments around.

Strings

Like most digital replications of stringed instruments, the strings on the P115 sound very synthetic. This voice sounds more like a preset on an 80s synthesizer than a real robust string section. This is not without its merits: although you won’t be making your P115 sound like an orchestra any time soon, this voice is great for lush dream pop pad sounds or noir style soundtrack music like the score for ‘Twin Peaks’. Although it’s not an accurate recreation of the instrument(s) this voice is still a fun addition.

Harpsi-chord

Unlike the Vibraphone voice, this Harpsi-chord recreation fails in capturing the sound of its source material. Harpsi-chords are notoriously hard to reproduce digitally and the P115’s Harpsi-chord voice is no exception. This setting sound tinny and fake, we think this is by far the worst voice setting on the P115.

Wood Bass

The Wood Bass voice sounds good but cannot replicate the large, low, forceful sound of a real stand up bass. That being said, this voice has a unique bass tone of it’s own that can sound almost like a lead instrument at times. The Wood Bass voice would fit great as the bass section in a latin or jazz ensemble.

Bass

Again, the Electric Bass setting on the Yamaha P115 doesn’t exactly match the instrument it is trying to emulate, but can still stand on its own merit. This voice has more of a synthesizer or keyboard feel than a real electric bass; the P115’s Electric Bass could provide a unique bass section for an adventurous rock or pop band.

One of the coolest aspects of the P115’s various voices is the ability to play two of them at once or set the keyboard to have one sound in the higher octaves and another filling out the low end. This means that you could potentially play a piano backed by a string section or do a jazz organ solo with your right hand while holding down an electric bassline with your left. These features open up tons of possibilities for the solo-pianist. They are yet another thing that makes Yamaha’s P115 an amazing piece of equipment.

EFFECTS (Yamaha P115)

Right out of the box the P115 has some incredible built in effects. It can also be run through various effects pedals when connected to external speakers through the aux out.  

The three main effects on the P115 are built in digital reverb the “Rhythms” and “Pianist Style” feature. Here’s what they do:

Reverb

Most pianists love reverb–the reverberation of sound in a room–because it often makes their instrument sound bigger and more full. When playing in a concert hall the natural room reverb gives the piano an extra dimension because of the way the sound bounces around the giant room.

The P115 comes packed with 4 digital reverb options to emulate the sound of a piano in different spaces: Recital Hall, Concert Hall, Chamber and Club. These reverb sounds are rich and realistic and will add a whole new expressive aspect to your playing.

Rhythms

This effect adds rhythmic accompaniment to your music, be it in the form of built in metronomic drum samples or beautiful arpeggiated rhythmic patterns that mimic the key you are playing in. These rhythmic effects function as metronomes, although the P115 comes with a generic metronome as well.

Pianist Style

The Pianist Style function on the P115 really sets this machine apart from others in its class and is incredibly fun to use. Pianist Style automatically adds well thought out and in key accompaniment to whatever you are playing–it sounds like there are two players jamming with each other! When using this effect the P115 becomes more than your instrument: it becomes your musical partner.

USB, APP, AND RECORDING CAPABILITIES (Yamaha P-115)

With all of the amazing sounds and effects that the P115 can produce you are going to want to record your creations. The P115 comes with a USB out so that you can plug straight into a computer and record direct to the Digital Audio Workstation software of your choice.

There is also a Yamaha digital piano app that can be downloaded to an Ipad to enhance your P115 experience.

USER GUIDE (Yamaha P115)

The included user guide is 30 pages and is relatively easy to read as far as technical writing goes. The P115 is user friendly and isn’t overly complicated so you shouldn’t have to refer to the guide very often. You will be able to plugin and get incredible sounds from the P115 right out of the box.

WHO IS THE YAMAHA P115 88-KEY WEIGHTED ACTION DIGITAL PIANO MEANT FOR?

In short: everyone. Beginners to advanced players will be able to use and enjoy the P115. The weighted keys make this a fantastic piano to learn on while the superior sound quality will keep the discerning pianist satisfied.

There are other models that Yamaha makes in higher price ranges that would be better suited for serious pros. We believe the P115 will satisfy most players.

We especially recommend the P115 to gigging musicians, as its portability, sound quality, and wealth of tones make it ideal for a band or live concert setting.

PRICE POINT (Yamaha P115)

The P115 is in the mid-range for digital pianos although it is cheaper than some of its mid ranged competitors such as the Kawai ES110 Portable Digital Piano. The P115 is very affordable considering the quality of this instrument. The jump from a lower range Yamaha piano to this is vast and we think the extra money spent is well worth it. This piano is cheap enough to be affordable for many different players. We recommend buying this over a lower price range piano if you are just starting out as the weighted keys will help you vastly improve your playing.

P115 VS. P105

Before looking at the overall pros and cons of this piano we must acknowledge the fact that the P115 is very similar to its predecessor, the P105, which can still be bought secondhand at a cheaper price point.

Yamaha claims that the P115 has better sound than the P105. We think the sound has been slightly improved although most players won’t notice much of a difference.

Both pianos have the same weighted keys and almost identical specs in terms of physical quality.

The things that place the P115 a cut above the P105 are mostly internal:

The P115 boast more voices than the P105 such as the Vintage E. Piano (Wurlitzer) and Stage E. Piano (Rhodes), has more built in effects and rhythms, and has a higher polyphony–the number of samples that can be played at once.

If you are a beginner we recommend buying the cheaper P105 as the quality of the grand piano function on this digital piano is virtually the same. However, if you are a more serious musician the P115 is the way to go; the P115 gives you far more options and is clearly superior to the the P105.  

IN SUMMARY (Yamaha P115)

Before we share our final opinions about the Yamaha P115 lets do a quick recap of the instruments pros and cons.

PROS

Fantastic sound quality: This piano is built with sound in mind, the “Pure CF Sound Engine” really makes the P115 shine.

Playability: The keys on this instrument are built in the player’s interest. The weighted keys realistically replicate an acoustic piano and the matte finish on the black keys is a classy touch.

Diversity of sounds: The P115 is loaded with awesome sounds and effects that are creatively stimulating and quite simply a joy to play.

Price: This is an high quality instrument at a mid-level price range.

CONS

Synthetic or unrealistic voicing: Some of the sounds on the P115, such as the Harpsi-chord, are nearly unusable as a result of their badly replicated sound.

Key weighting: The action on this piano is good but it could be a bit better–as noted the higher keys have a “springy” feel to them.

Weight: At about 26 pounds this digital piano can start to feel pretty heavy if you are an actively gigging musician.

CONCLUSION (Yamaha P115)

Overall we think that the P115 is a fantastic digital piano with a few minor flaws. There are other really good digital pianos in this price range that are worth looking into as well such as the Casio Privia PX150 and the aforementioned Kawai ES110 Portable Digital Piano. We will be breaking down these other options in future reviews and seeing how they stack up against the P115. However, here at Instrument Pro we believe that the Yamaha P115 88-Key Weighted Action Digital Piano is the way to go if you want that classic Yamaha grand piano sound in a portable and affordable instrument!