Are you looking to find a digital piano that doesn’t break the bank? Luckily, we live in an age where there is a lot of competition and many different options for those who are looking to buy an instrument. A $500 budget for a digital piano may not get you a model that is top-of-the-line, but you can expect a good quality instrument with plenty of features for this price.
In this guide, we’re looking at some of the key features to consider when you are evaluating which digital piano might be best to buy, and we’ve also provided reviews of some digital pianos under 500 dollars for you to make the right choice for your own needs.
In a hurry? Here are our top picks..
Buying Guide and Considerations
Keyboard vs Digital Piano
This is one of the most important things to consider. If you are looking for cheap keyboard pianos and aren’t looking for specific digital pianos then you will probably find that there are some very cheap options out there. A keyboard is usually lacking in some of the features and functions that a digital piano has, and they do not tend to feel anything like as realistic, so they may not be the best option for someone who wants to eventually switch to playing an acoustic piano.
Keyboards may have a lot of different sounds and offer USB connectivity and some other cool tech features, but it is the feel of the keys, and the size of the keyboard that are normally the vital differences.
If you are looking to become a pianist, rather than a keyboard player, a digital piano might be the best option. You can make progress on a keyboard, but may eventually find it restrictive.
Weighted Keys and Hammer Action
This is definitely one of the key differences between a keyboard and digital piano, but takes a little explaining.
With an acoustic piano, to strike a note harder you need to apply more pressure. Some keyboards do not alter the volume depending on how hard the keys are struck, which means they don’t allow for the same level of expression for musicians.
Finding the best digital pianos is often about finding the keys that suit. Hammer action keys are the best bet. These mimic the way an acoustic piano feels. Gentle playing and harsher playing are both mimicked by the sound engine which produces louder sounds with greater velocity when you hit the keys hard.
Alternatively, some offer “semi-weighted” keys. These give the feeling of touch sensitivity, but not the exact feeling of the tiny “hammers” that are used on an acoustic piano. Semi-weighted is better than not weighted at all.
In music, a lot of people make their buying decisions based on what brands are available, and there is nothing wrong with this. Brands like Casio and Yamaha have a strong track record of producing good digital pianos.
The good news is that most brands offer some sort of budget range, and as you will see from the list of digital pianos under $500 that we have created, there is a lot of choice for those who are brand-loyal.
You shouldn’t get too hung up on this, and you should make sure that you are buying the digital piano with the best features for your needs rather than just going for a brand everyone has heard of. Some of the budget brands produce some good quality cheap piano keyboards and digital pianos.
One of the key things for digital pianos under $500 (or at any price tag) is the sound engine. This is what is actually generating the sound within your digital piano. Obviously, as the sounds are not created in an acoustic way, they are sampled from other acoustic pianos, grand piano models and other instruments and then recreated by the sound engine.
High-quality engines give you a piano sound that is close to something an acoustic piano might offer, and that it is hard to tell the difference between when compared to a grand piano or upright piano. Sound engines are not just samplers, they are also tasked with providing the feel of an acoustic instrument so that it doesn’t sound like a toy keyboard.
The sound engine ties closely to the speaker system. There’s no point in having a great sound engine and terrible speakers, or amazing speakers but a poor engine to drive them. The best digital pianos will be able to offer both.
Compared to the options we had 10-20 years ago, we can do so much more in the modern age when it comes to affordable pianos and audio equipment. The technology continues to improve and become cheaper, and one thing that is undeniably improving is the connectivity.
Your digital piano or even a cheap piano keyboard might have the ability to connect with a lot of other hardware and software via USB or MIDI.
If you just want a digital piano that you can sit down at and practice a few songs then connectivity might not be a big issue, but if you are building a home studio, writing music or using your digital piano in conjunction with other instruments then we recommend looking for good connectivity.
Most of the best digital pianos have USB connectivity now, allowing you to control software synthesizers, VSTis and your DAW software. This means a world of opportunity to experiment with new sounds.
Some other functional connectivity for digital pianos to offer is a headphone output. Being able to hear what you are playing in private without impacting others or embarrassing yourself in those early practise sessions is a lifesaver for some people.
If you are stretching your budget already and just looking to find the cheapest piano with graded hammer action keys or a good sound engine, there might not be a lot of budget left for accessories. A little shopping around can go a long way, as even under a $500 budget there are options on the market that come with accessories.
Though they may not be the cheapest models on the market, they certainly offer good value for money, as brands try to include added extras to make their offering better value.
Some of the added accessories include:
- Sustain pedal.
- Learning materials.
There are many different ways that brands try to improve their offering and encourage people to buy their digital piano.
If you are not new to playing the piano or keyboard then you won’t need to worry about this section, but features that can be incredibly helpful for newcomers include any learning modes.
Some digital pianos come with options such as lighted keys which can show you specifically which notes to play. Others include access to learning courses such as Flowkey or other online piano lessons. Flowkey is partnered with Yamaha, and many of their digital pianos give access to these lessons.
Other learning functions include split mode, which effectively turns your 88-key keyboard into two smaller, identical models. This is easy to use in a lesson environment so that a tutor can show you what to do and you can simply copy on the other half of the keyboard.
Where To Buy a Digital Piano?
A lot of people are unsure of where the best place to purchase the best digital piano. Some people like to be able to play in person, but with an amazing array of YouTube videos out there this is not always essential to get an idea of the feel and sound of the best digital pianos.
A good method is to decide upon the model you want, and the accessories you are looking for, and compare the price at some of the top retailers such as Sweetwater and Amazon. Once you’ve made your choice of which piano you want, it will all boil down to price.
Digital Pianos Under 500 Dollars
1. Yamaha P45, 88-Key Weighted Action Digital Piano – Best Overall Digital Piano Under 500 Dollars
The P45 is one of the most popular digital pianos on the market. It has the bonus of being made by the prolific and trusted brand, Yamaha, but also just about fits the 500 dollar budget.
One of the best things about this digital piano is that, in spite of the lower price, you still get Yamaha’s AWM sampling and sound engine, meaning that you are given access to the brilliant sounds of some of the Yamaha acoustic piano sounds and other instruments that they have sampled. It gives a very professional overall feel.
This, combined with the hammer action weighted keys gives the feeling of playing an acoustic instrument, and provides you with plenty of space for expression on stage. The P45 is relatively lightweight, so it can be used as a stage piano and taken out and about with you, too.
Though it doesn’t come with a sustain pedal, it is compatible with Yamaha sustain pedals that can be bought separately.
One aside that should definitely be considered is the fact that you can buy an identical piano elsewhere. The P71 is the Amazon exclusive made by Yamaha, but they also sell the P45 model, identical in every way except for the name of the instrument.
If you aren’t too bothered about getting piano accessories that come with your instrument, and value portability as well as playability, the Yamaha P45 can be a very good choice for a digital piano to suit your lifestyle. The only real downside is the fact that it might restrict some classical musicians due to the lower polyphony that it has on offer. Dense and complex passages of songs may not play as nicely.
2. Alesis Recital | 88 Key Beginner Digital Piano / Keyboard – Best Value
Alesis is a brand that manufactures a lot of budget audio equipment, including digital pianos. The fact that they don’t have the same history producing pianos as a brand like Yamaha shouldn’t put you off, and if you really are looking for a cheap option then the Alesis Recital might be the obvious choice to make.
It has one downside in the fact that the keys are semi-weighted. So, if you are looking for hammer action which feels just like an acoustic model then you might want to look elsewhere, but this is no cheap keyboard piano, it offers a lot of different functions and features that make it an ideal choice for beginners and those who just want a portable model with 88-keys that they can use on the go.
The keys are touch-sensitive and even adjustable. You can set the velocity to the level you want and which suits your playing.
There are five voices built-in. This is not very many, but for the price tag, this is more or less what we would expect. Acoustic Piano, Electric Piano, Organ, Synth, and Bass are the different sounds that can all be controlled by the Recital. Also, unlike many of the models from Yamaha and other brands, this features effects that can be controlled on board, including a very rich reverb sound.
Another big bonus is the fact that you can power the Alesis using 6D batteries, if you don’t have access to a power supply, so it is a good choice for busking or playing in public. There’s no sustain pedal included, but there is a 1/4 inch input for one, so this can always be bought separately.
So, it could do with hammer action and a few more piano sounds to choose from, but for digital pianos under 500, this is a pretty good model. The huge benefit of the Alesis Recital is the fact that it comes in well below the $500 budget we set, meaning extra money for use buying accessories (or just a great saving).
3. Roland GO:PIANO 61-key Digital Piano – Best Portable Option
Roland is another fantastic brand when it comes to the best digital keyboards, synths and other musical equipment. The fact that they have ventured into cheaper audio equipment and affordable digital pianos means that you can experience the benefits of this exceptional manufacturer without having to part with too much cash.
As well as fitting the criteria of “digital pianos under 500 dollars” this is one of the best digital pianos for those who need an instrument they can take out and about with them. It has 61-keys, instead of the standard 88. This means that it takes up a lot less space in your car or in an instrument carry case.
This isn’t just on the list because it is smaller and affordable, though. There are some very impressive features, and modern upgrades on some of the other piano models.
For a start, the Bluetooth functionality and voice control. You can connect to your phone or tablet and even use Siri to start or stop recording or to play backing tracks for you.
While the keys are not weighted in the same way as some other digital pianos, Roland offers what they describe as an “authentic touch response” which is designed to provide the feel of playing a real piano with the same resistance from the keys.
You can use battery power if you do not wish to take your power supply out and about with you, or if you do not have access to power where you are going. It’s very compact and lightweight, so great for taking on trips or just to your band practice.
The onboard Roland piano sounds are good quality, and the speakers are more than adequate considering the price. 128-voice polyphony means you can play complex melodies and passages and not have to worry about this piano cutting out or not being able to keep up with your fast playing.
Generally speaking, people who are in the market for an affordable option and don’t mind that their piano only has 61 keys will find the Roland GO range to be portable and still high-quality.
4. Alesis Recital Pro | Digital Piano – Best Inbuilt Speakers
We’ve already recommended the Recital, but we couldn’t ignore the Recital Pro, which is another brilliant piano option under $500. It is very similar to its sibling product, but it has some impressive upgrades, so if you are happy to spend a little bit extra to get your hands on something with more of a “pro” feeling, this is worth the extra investment.
The Pro model includes keys with a hammer action, which are a big upgrade on the more affordable option and are realistic. They also have an adjustable touch to suit your playing style.
There are some different sounds included, too, as the Pro features 12 different tones that you can play in total. There are different modes for different playing styles and situations including a split mode and a layer mode. You can further extend the sounds by adding reverb and chorus and adjusting them to suit the style of music you are playing.
One of the most impressive things about this is the fact that it offers the best speakers we’ve seen on digital pianos at this price tag. A 20W speaker system gives plenty of power and allows all of the inbuilt sounds to reach their full potential. You won’t need to worry about an amplifier if you are playing at home or to small crowds.
In an ideal world, this might include some more high-fidelity sounds that would mean people could enjoy a slightly non-professional experience, but you can always connect via USB and control other sound modules and VSTis if needed. You will struggle to find a digital piano with such impressive features for cheaper, and the loud, clear speakers are a big plus point.
5. Best Choice Products 88-Key Full Size Digital Piano – Best Affordable Digital Piano Bundle
Though “Best Choice Products” is not a brand that too many people would associate with music equipment, it is hard to argue with the bundle they have put together here for beginners. If you need a piano under 500, you will still have plenty of money left over after purchasing this, plus it comes with a number of accessories.
The piano has semi-weighted keys, similar to the cheaper of the Recital models. These are fine for beginners though do not have the most professional feel to them.
The accessories are a huge plus point. Not only do you get a sustain pedal, but you also get a portable folding stand which can easily be taken to gigs or practices.
In total there are six inbuilt sounds, which is okay for beginners, and though it doesn’t compete with the best digital pianos on the market, it is still pretty great for anyone just getting started. You can always upgrade in the future, or use the USB connectivity to control music software.
There is an element of “you get what you pay for” here. We won’t lie and say that this is as good as the Yamaha or Casio models you can buy, but it is still a very good choice if you are looking for something a bit better than a cheap keyboard, which gives a rough estimation of the feel and playability of a piano. It’s 5th on our list, but for certain people who are on a budget, this could be a viable choice.
If you are looking for the best digital pianos under a $500 budget the Yamaha P71/P45 (remember they are the same Yamaha model underneath) might be the best bet for you. However, you can buy some even more affordable options, two of which are made by Alesis, and these still offer plenty of quality. It is about choosing the features most important to you.