What’s the hardest thing about buying a digital piano?
For most people, it’s the sheer number of makes and models available. With all the options, selecting the right one can feel overwhelming.
But if you’re a beginner or intermediate piano player, the P-115 model from Yamaha may be a good choice.
Things To Consider Before Buying a Yamaha P-115 Digital Piano
The person who will love the Yamaha P-115 digital piano cares about quality, feel, and sound, but isn’t necessarily willing to pay thousands of dollars. He or she may be a beginner who’s serious about learning the craft on something that doesn’t feel like a toy.
The ideal player could even be an experienced musician who can’t accommodate or afford a “real” instrument. He or she will still appreciate the convenience and versatility that a digital keyboard like this offers.
In other words, this piano is probably not for you if you’re an advanced amateur with the money and room for an actual acoustic piano.
Yamaha P-115 Pros and Cons
The P-115 is the latest instrument from Yamaha’s P (portable) series. It offers many new features which aren’t available in its bestselling predecessor, the Yamaha P-105.
P-115 has a higher polyphony count, with 192-key polyphony instead of 128 as found on the P-105. This means you can play more keys together at the same time, enhancing the sound authenticity.
The P-115 also has 3 additional instrument sounds over the P-105 and more color finishes (satin black and satin white). Also included is a music stand, sustain pedal, and a PA150 power supply.
It also comes with an iOS compatible “digital piano controller” app. A player can change settings on the P-115 directly from their phone or tablet. The downside to this is that the keyboard doesn’t have wireless capability, so you have to plug your smart device into the instrument to use the app.
So, how does the Yamaha P-115 stack up to other brands?
It’s similar to (and about $100 less than) the Kawai ES-110, for example, although the competitor has Bluetooth capability and a more authentic sound according to some users.
The Casio PX-160 is a decent, slightly less expensive comparison, although some users note this brand has better key action. The Korg B1 88 version is a little cheaper, as well, but it seems to be lower in overall quality compared to the P-115.
Key Action and Playing Feel
The P-115 digital keyboard really feels like a grand piano, though its keys are a bit heavier than a Yamaha and lighter than a Steinway.
Like the acoustic version, lower keys are more heavily weighted. This allows the player get a better proprioceptive feel of “real” keys and helps develop proper finger strength and technique.
Like a traditional acoustic, the P-115’s keys are also velocity sensitive. So the harder you play them, the louder the sound is.
Not sure which sensitivity is best for you? Play around with the 4 pre-set settings:
- Hard gives you the greatest range, from pianissimo to fortissimo.
- Medium, which is the default setting, feels the most natural and realistic.
- On the Fixed setting, the volume won’t change no matter how hard you play.
- Soft is the final option
The 88 keys are made of a heavy quality plastic (minus the synthetic ivory and ebony found on higher-end versions). Your fingers probably won’t slip from the matte black keys, while the white keys are comfortable and glossy.
Reproduction and Authenticity
Overall, the P-115 gets two thumbs up for sound quality. It may be one of the best that you can get for a lower price digital keyboard. At a normal touch sensitivity you can turn volume up to max in a way that’s similar on an acoustic version. Just be cautious if using headphones, since the max volume can hurt your ears.
The sound is surprisingly realistic, clear, and responsive to touch throughout the most of the range. Experienced players have noted that the fortissimo probably isn’t as loud as it could be, and a bit lackluster in the timbre. Bass is also decent, especially when heard through headphones.
Plugging your P-115 into external speakers truly enhances the gorgeous sound (you know, just in case you’re really trying to impress people). But the onboard system works great on its own.
If you do decide to use external speakers or an amplifier, you can shut off or leave on the onboard speakers.
As mentioned, the P-115 has 192-key polyphony. This lets the players create multi-track recordings and layer multiple sounds with a capacity that’s satisfactory even for advanced players.
This Yamaha P series comes with 14 “voices” (instrument sounds):
- 3 Electric Pianos
- 3 Grand Pianos (including the CFIIIS 9′ concert grand sound)
- Jazz Organ
- Pipe Organ
- Rock Organ
- Wood Bass
- Electric Bass
Overall, each instrument voice sounds pretty authentic. Not bad for the overall price of the piano.
P-115 also offers one sound effect, reverberation. This is good for making your music more expressive and expansive (getting you closer to a “real” acoustic sound found in a variety of environments). Within the reverberation effect, you have 4 adjustable options to choose from:
- Concert hall
- Recital hall
The P-115 comes with a sustain pedal, although you can opt to purchase an upgraded version that gives you more pedaling control. Overall, the pedaling sound is pleasantly natural and authentic, thanks to the digital pedal resonance.
If you end up getting a furniture stand with your P-115, you can opt to purchase a triple pedal unit, as well, giving you even more realism.
Many users of the Yamaha P-115 comment on the instrument’s quality design. It looks sleek, elegant, and compact without feeling cramped. If you’re familiar with Yamaha’s P-45, then you’ll notice the two are very similar.
Without a stand, a P-115 is 52.2 inches wide by 11.6 inches deep by 6.4 inches high. For reference, you can easily fit this on a nice desk (especially since it can connect to a computer, anyway).
Worried about up-coming guests, curious kids, or nosy pets? The P-115 won’t take up too much space in a small room, and at a lightweight 26 lbs, it’s super simple to whisk away into storage as needed. One person can easily carry the instrument.
Many users even find the design, durability, and portability good for live gigs, since you can easily fit it into a standard keyboard bag.
Your keyboard comes with a user’s manual that will tell you the combinations you need to access functions and settings. It has 14 buttons specifically dedicated to useful tools like metronome, accompaniment styles, recording/playback, and even some of the voices. To use, simply follow the manual’s instructions.
There’s no display, but remember that it does come with an app specially designed for use with iOS phones and tablets.
So far, we’ve seen that the construction, function, and overall feel of the Yamaha P-115 is excellent for its relatively low price. But it also comes with a few features that makes playing even more enjoyable.
The P-115 has 3 modes:
- Split: divide your keyboard into 2 sections so you can play a different instrument sound in each one (you can change where this split occurs)
- Dual: layer two instrument sounds of your choosing so they simultaneously across the full dynamic range (try this: layering string sounds on top of the concert grand sound)
- Duo: play with a partner by splitting the keyboard in half; you can have identical pitch ranges (such as 2 middle C’s) so you can play the same notes together
Recording and Playback
You can record your performances and practice sessions on an internal memory system using a 2-track MIDI recorder.
Here’s how it works:
You can even record up to 2 separate tracks for each recording made. This makes it easier to do things like recording and then layering the right- and left-hand parts of a track. Plus, you can play these tracks back together as one song, or mute on while the other plays in order to rehearse a particular section.
The P-115 comes with music library full of 50 preset songs, which are customizable for your practice or playing needs. For instance, a beginner can practice the left-hand part of a piece while the right-hand part is playing.
You can also download MIDI-available user songs from the internet via a USB, though you can only load one at a time.
If you have any recorded performances, however, be sure to transfer it to a computer first before loading your MIDI file, so you won’t lose your data. You can always load the performance back onto your piano later, but just note that this will replace the user song you’ve stored in the internal memory system.
Transpose Function and Fine Tuning
One of the things beginners and casual musicians love about digital keyboards is that you don’t have to tune them.
But pitch can be adjusted using the transpose or fine tuning functions:
- Transpose: change the pitch of your whole keyboard in semitone steps (e.g., from F major to C major).
- Fine Tune: do this to change the pitch in smaller 0.2Hz steps. This is perfect for changing the pitch so it matches other instruments, in case you’re playing with band mates, for instance.
You just can’t change the standard “Equal Temperament” to other systems such as Pure Major and Pure Minor.
You’ll find 6.5mm headphone jacks on the front of the P-115, which most users find to be more convenient than the P-45 Yamaha version. There are actually 2 x ¼” headphone jacks, allowing you and your friend to both plug in headphones and play simultaneously without bugging each other.
USB to Host
As mentioned, this port option allows you to connect your Yamaha P-115 to computers, smartphones, and tablets. For a computer connection, just buy an inexpensive A to B USB cable. Then, you can exchange MIDI files (SMF 0 or 1 format), or even use your instrument as a MIDI controller with GarageBand, Mixcraft, and other music apps.
The Digital Piano Controller app, mentioned previously, is a Yamaha P-115 exclusive. It sort of acts like an adjunct display, allowing you to remotely control your piano.
No wireless capability on this model (maybe the next one).
Aux Out [R + L/L+R]
If you want to use an external amp or speakers for even more powerful sound, these 2 x ¼” jacks are perfect.
Use it to connect your sustain pedal, which comes with the P-115. Sustain pedals with 1/4″ plug from other brands also will work.
Pedal Unit Jack
This jack allows you to plug in the optional 3-pedal unit with Yamaha LP-5A/LP-5AWH plugs. As mentioned, you’ll just have to get the Yamaha L-85 furniture stand (sold separately), since the 3-pedal unit can only be assembled to that particular accessory.
Considering the Alternatives: A Look at Two Different Choices
Yamaha P-115 vs. Casio PX-160
These two digital pianos both offer fully-weighted keyboards, offering a great play feel. However, the PX-160 keyboard has a slightly more complex 3-sensor action mechanism (compared to the P-115’s 2-sensor mechanism). To some users, this may result in the former feeling a bit more realistic, although I like the matte look of the P-115 keys.
Both keyboards offer a Dual-layering option as well as Duo and Split modes. They also both have handy features like automatic power-off, a 2-track MIDI recorder, and fine-tuning and transposing functions. If you love P-115’s 50 song music library, you’ll definitely love the PX-160’s library with an additional 10 tracks saved. The PX-160 also allows you to load far more user songs to its memory compared to the P-115 (10 versus 1, respectively).
Size and weight are similar for both keyboards, and both offer a high-quality, internal speaker sound system. Like most portable digital pianos, the bass response is somewhat small on the PX-160, but it’s sufficient for most spaces (and probably great for musically-inclined apartment dwellers!).
The P-115 has a higher polyphony number with 192 notes (vs 128 on the Casio alternative), as well as sound boost functions, Intelligent Acoustic Control, and 10 accompaniment styles. However, the PX-160 has 18 unique sound instruments compared to 14 on Yamaha, giving you a bit more variety.
Overall, these are comparable keyboards that offer some desirable features for beginner and intermediate pianists.
Yamaha P-115 vs. Kawai ES-110
I’ve seen the Kawai ES-110 referred to as one of the best digital pianos under $1,000, which is a reasonable price although slightly more costly than the P-115 from Yamaha.
One thing I really like about the ES-110 is its Harmonic Imaging sourced instrument sounds—a full 19 to choose from, including 8 piano tones with reverb effect. The sound is rich and realistic, and if anything a bit more pleasing in some regards compared to the P-115 (though the Yamaha still sounds great, too).
With a 3-sensor Responsive Hammer Compact action, you may find the ES-110 has a more authentic feel compared to the GHS action of the Yamaha alternative. This Kawai also comes with the appealing matte black and white keys, and feels a lot like the acrylic acoustic pianos circulating around these days.
Unlike the P-115, however, the ES-110 only offers Split and Dual mode, not Duo. But it offers the same 192 note polyphony, which definitely comes in handy and adds a lot of auditory depth when playing with the split or layering functions. You’re also given a lot of customizability in sound with the Kawai ES-110 thanks to adjustable features like fall-back noise, damper noise, damper resonance, and temperament.
Overall, I feel like the Kawai ES-110 may be a reasonable alternative for you, especially if you’ve got a keen ear for sound quality and are willing to pay a little more for your keyboard.
Overall, the Yamaha P-115 review is positive. If you’re a beginner to intermediate-level pianist, if you play simply for fun, or even if you occasionally play at small gigs, this instrument may perfect for you.
With the P-115, you get portability, advanced technological features, and realistic feel of a high quality digital keyboard, but without the overwhelming price tag.